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Old 25-02-2015, 17:29   #1
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Boat batteries for dummies resources?

I've been reading the electrical chapters of Nigel Calder's book, and they're great stuff - with some pretty advanced material in there. But in a way it's too advanced for where I'm at now (someone starting out with no electrical experience).

I topped up the water in my wet cell batteries this week (survey said they needed it), and it went fine, but I had lots of basic questions about the best practices to follow and safety that aren't clearly answered in the Calder book. Like:
  • Is moisture on top of the battery inside the vent caps just water or acid?
  • Do I need to wear gloves? (I wore latex gloves, and afterwards noticed a blister developed on the knuckle of my thumb, but not sure if that was a scrape from moving things around or acid)
  • Do I need to disconnect the batteries from power when adding water? (I did, both at the shore power connection, main switch, and disconnected the terminal cables.) But it sounds like some people don't bother disconnecting the cables, are there any risks with that?
  • When I reconnected the positive cable to the engine battery post, the Xantex alternator regulator made a clicking noise each time the terminal touched. Is that anything to be worried about? I had the negative cable already attached (since my understanding is the proper order is to always disconnect negative last and reconnect it first).

If you know of any "Marine Batteries for Dummies" books or something like that I'd be happy to hear it (or if you know the answers to the above questions that would help too!).
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Old 25-02-2015, 17:36   #2
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Re: Boat batteries for dummies resources?

- Everything on or around the battery can be considered acidic. I don't wear gloves but they won't hurt - the issue can be wiping your hands on your pants and then they disintigrate - LOL

- I would not disconnect the batteries to add water but I would have the master switches off

- You should always disconnect the negative first and install it last. This is a safety item. When you are "wrenching" the positive cable and accidentally touch a ground you get big sparks. Installing the positive first means there is no ground path.
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Old 25-02-2015, 17:41   #3
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Re: Boat batteries for dummies resources?

I only take one safety precaution when adding water to my batteries. When I remove the battery cap (or caps) I turn my head away. Just on the unlikely possibility that there is some pressure inside the cell that might spurt out the acid solution into my eyes. I don't do any of the other things like disconnecting the wires or wearing gloves.

Also be sure to add water to the correct level, which is NOT up to the top of the filler cap like my moron friend insists is correct....
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Old 25-02-2015, 17:59   #4
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Re: Boat batteries for dummies resources?

Good advice from 2 previous posts. I would add that to be careful with the "wet" spots on the battery and be sure to treat as acid. Always wear glasses...safety glasses even better...to protect your eyes. Wash your hands after working around the battery. Be aware that sulfuric acid will eat holes in jeans and other cotton fabrics.

You don't want to have acid on your hands when you touch the admirals new quilt!
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Old 25-02-2015, 18:00   #5
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Re: Boat batteries for dummies resources?

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Originally Posted by Ex-Calif View Post
-

- You should always disconnect the negative first and install it last. This is a safety item. When you are "wrenching" the positive cable and accidentally touch a ground you get big sparks. Installing the positive first means there is no ground path.
Did you mean disconnect the positive first? (The 1st sentence seems to contradict the 3rd sentence).

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Old 25-02-2015, 23:14   #6
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Re: Boat batteries for dummies resources?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Tessellate View Post
Did you mean disconnect the positive first? (The 1st sentence seems to contradict the 3rd sentence).

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Nope he is right th neg cable disconnect first reconnect last
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Old 25-02-2015, 23:49   #7
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Re: Boat batteries for dummies resources?

One thing you should always do, is turn off any battery charger. Batteries under charge can produce hydrogen, which is explosive.
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Old 26-02-2015, 00:03   #8
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Re: Boat batteries for dummies resources?

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Nope he is right th neg cable disconnect first reconnect last
Oh, I read some more on this and I had it mixed up. I was thinking you wanted to have the neg cable on the battery as long as possible, because the neg is the ground cable, and if I had just the positive cable attached then it could use my body as the ground. But I think that's backwards / the wrong way of thinking about it.
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Old 26-02-2015, 01:21   #9
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Re: Boat batteries for dummies resources?

The big thing with lead acid batteries is that they generate Hydrogen during the charging process. Hydrogen and oxygen together make a very fiery mix if they are exposed to a flame OR a spark. The acid is very corrosive as you have been warned. Gloves and glasses are the standard safety practice. You are pouring filtered or distilled water and so the liquid you're handling is OK, but there can be traces of acid on the cap and on the top of the battery especially if you've been through high seas.
I wouldn't remove the battery leads at the battery but would turn off the master switches 1/2 an hour before I start and back on say 1/2 an hour after filling. But don't forget that the hydrogen is already there if you have been charging the batteries or operating generators of any form. Open up the battery compartment and let it "breathe" for a while. and do this before you turn off the batteries. It is unlikely that there will be large volumes of Hydrogen but when you turn off a switch, it usually does spark

So gloves and glasses if you want to be cautious, absolutely nothing that might generate a spark (need I remind you No Smoking) and plenty of ventilation.
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Old 26-02-2015, 01:32   #10
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Re: Boat batteries for dummies resources?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Tessellate View Post
Oh, I read some more on this and I had it mixed up. I was thinking you wanted to have the neg cable on the battery as long as possible, because the neg is the ground cable, and if I had just the positive cable attached then it could use my body as the ground. But I think that's backwards / the wrong way of thinking about it.
You had me second guess myself for a nano-second.

You want the negative off first (be careful wrenching not to hit the positive terminal). Once the negative is off the positive terminals have no path to ground so won't spark.

12 volts (even 24 volts) DC is not enough to use you as a ground path. Very high voltage DC is another matter.
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Old 26-02-2015, 08:41   #11
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Re: Boat batteries for dummies resources?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Ex-Calif View Post
You had me second guess myself for a nano-second.

You want the negative off first (be careful wrenching not to hit the positive terminal). Once the negative is off the positive terminals have no path to ground so won't spark.

12 volts (even 24 volts) DC is not enough to use you as a ground path. Very high voltage DC is another matter.
CORRECT. Use AGM.
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Old 26-02-2015, 08:52   #12
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Re: Boat batteries for dummies resources?

I have all of Nigel Calder's books (and a power system designed by him on my boat). They're great. For a more basic introduction, try Don Casey's, "Sailboat Electrics Simplified" or his "Sailboat Maintenance Manual" (which contains the Electrics). Amazon links are here:

Sailboat Electrics Simplified: Don Casey: 0639785800361: Amazon.com: Books

http://www.amazon.com/Caseys-Complet...ords=don+casey
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Old 26-02-2015, 08:53   #13
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Re: Boat batteries for dummies resources?

Just remember if you disconnect your batteries some electronics might revert to factory defaults. Especially smart regulators. Don't ask how I know this


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Old 26-02-2015, 09:13   #14
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Re: Boat batteries for dummies resources?

Years ago when gas stations were service stations, I saw a pickup battery blowup! I don't remember exactly what the kid was doing, but heard the "boom" and ran in to see the smoking battery, minus the top, and the kid covered with battery acid. He was lucky he was wearing glasses. We grabbed a water hose and hosed him down. I stopped by for gas a couple of days later and we laughed at his blue shirt and pants with numerous acid holes.

Anyone else remember the blue "Dickey" outfits at many service stations? :-)
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Old 26-02-2015, 09:28   #15
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Re: Boat batteries for dummies resources?

Battery maintenance.


Here are my standard procedures when servicing batteries.


1. Remove all rings and jewellery. (A short from a terminal through a tool, through a gold wedding band, to the other terminal can burn your finger off in short order, let alone make a loud snap, blinding light, whoof of ozone, and possible injure you when you recoil.)


2. Turn on battery compartment area ventilation for a few minutes. (Bilge blower, opening ports, etc.) This will help purge explosive gases.


3. Disconnect all loads and charging sources. (Eliminate spark on terminal removal.)


4. Wear old clothes, goggles, and rubber gloves.


5. Open battery boxes, remove insulating terminal covers, and check terminal for tightness and corrosion. (If you can twist the terminal by yanking firmly on the cable, it is too loose. If there is any sign of corrosion, remove the terminals, and clean.)


6. Clean battery tops with a paper towel and dispose in plastic bag. (If wet, neutralize with baking soda, and keep handy in case of a spill.)


7. Check bottom of battery box to ensure there is no liquid. (If there is, slowly pour backing soda down the sides before removing the battery, to neutralize the acid.)


8. Remove all traces of baking soda before next step.


9. Remove caps and fill with distilled or de-ionized water (one cell at a time, unless caps cover all cells). Fill just to the bottom of the slats (with slits in them) that protrude down.


10. Return everything back to normal and turn the charger on.


11. Bring the battery up to full charge, remove all charge sources and put on a small load (some cabin lights) for 10 minutes.


12. Check the battery voltage. (Should be 2.15Vdc per cell +/-0.05 volts/cell).


13. Perform a load test. (Special tester.)


14. When all is well, reinstall terminal and battery box covers. (Ensure battery boxes are secure and can withstand a knockdown and turtle.)


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