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When to replace a starter battery
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useraandy
Posted: 11 June 2018 4:49 PM
Subject: When to replace a starter battery
 
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My van is now approaching five years old and still has the original battery. I've never noticed any reluctance on the part of the starter motor, but a week after charging the battery generally shows 0.1v less than the two-year old habitation batteries, despite all three having been charged at the same time. I've heard that batteries on modern vehicles do not give the same warning of imminent demise that I'm used to and tend just to die suddenly. Any tips as to how to decide when to replace it would be welcome.

Andy
usertonyishuk
Posted: 11 June 2018 6:13 PM
Subject: RE: When to replace a starter battery
 


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From my experience in summer months, the cranking gets longer before the starting of the engine, as weather gets colder, this becomes more probmatical.

Cold (as in frosty) , a couple grunts, a wheeze,then nothing.

Others may have a more scientific approach !

Rgds
userDeffheads
Posted: 11 June 2018 6:51 PM
Subject: RE: When to replace a starter battery
 
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Hi, Have you ever checked the acid level in your battery? I would think most vehicle starter batteries are now ' maintenance free ' which means your discouraged from looking at them. However most modern batteries have a Green light system, which if green light shows suggests your battery is in good order. DON'T BELIEVE IT!! all it means is one cell of your battery is ok. It's worth having a look at levels.
I had a battery fail in just 2 days in Spain, and when I extracted it from my A class engine compartment the green light was glowing happily, but all the other cells were almost empty of acid.

Edited by Deffheads 2018-06-11 6:52 PM
userAlanb
Posted: 11 June 2018 8:27 PM
Subject: RE: When to replace a starter battery
 
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aandy - 2018-06-11 4:49 PM

My van is now approaching five years old and still has the original battery. I've never noticed any reluctance on the part of the starter motor, but a week after charging the battery generally shows 0.1v less than the two-year old habitation batteries, despite all three having been charged at the same time. I've heard that batteries on modern vehicles do not give the same warning of imminent demise that I'm used to and tend just to die suddenly. Any tips as to how to decide when to replace it would be welcome.

Andy


I would expect that the starter and habitation batteries would be of different types. There is probably a constant drain on the starter battery from alarms and ecu etc. which will not be present on the habitation battery. This could account for the small difference in voltage.

I changed the starter battery on our 2006 MH, last year when it would have been over 11 years old. This was purely a precautionary measure and the battery has been added to our domestic emergency battery bank. I recall at least one other contributor to this forum taking similar action.

Perhaps it is pertinant to relate our experience with my wifes former vehicle a "Y" registered Astra Estate, which was in regular use. At ten years old I considered the situation, and resolved to change the battery at the first hint of any problem. In July 2015 we were unable to restart after visiting a store. The battery was suspected, but it turned out to be the starter motor. Due to restricted access behind the engine, I opted not to carry out the repair myself, so I do not have post mortem results, however worn and or stuck brushes were the probable cause. 3 months later the battery would not crank the engine, after less than a week since the last run, and was duly replaced.

Based on my experiences above, it is possible to get over ten years life from starter batteries, but it does depend on the usage. If any flooded lead acid battery is discharged below about 50%, its life will be significantly shortened.

Alan
userernst
Posted: 11 June 2018 8:53 PM
Subject: RE: When to replace a starter battery
 
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hi andy
if its not let you down,as they say if it ain,t broke dont fix it,our bailey mh has just let me down two weeks
in a row so i thought like yours ours its coming up five year old i will fit a new one and retire the old one to
my solar set up in the shed,not cheap though ,£95,but going to france in august for two weeks so
dont wont any problems,i always carry jump leads just in case ,have helped others more than using
them myself ,

ernie
userjjsbc
Posted: 11 June 2018 11:24 PM
Subject: RE: When to replace a starter battery
 
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I have a fiat based mh bought at 7 years and now 11 it has always cranked like the battery is almost dead I replaced the battery recently and it cranks the exactly the same,the original I use as a spare for the tractor etc.
As for batteries losing acid they only lose water ,like to see anyone try adding that to a fully sealed battery?
just keep using it until it dies it is a waste throwing money away.
userWasn't Me
Posted: 12 June 2018 8:38 AM
Subject: RE: When to replace a starter battery
 
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Hi I worked as an RAC patrol for a few years and found that batteries could last up to 10 years and generally are ok to start the vehicle, if everything is working ok.

It was generally when someone left the lights or hazards on for a 20 mins, of there was a problem with the engine not starting properly. This then can kill a battery.

My suggestion would be to go to a trusted garage, that has no great interest in selling you a battery and ask them to test it. Most garages will have a digital tester and this will give you a comprehensive result about the state of your battery.

Alternatively make sure you have breakdown cover and be prepared to use.

Hope this helps
useraandy
Posted: 12 June 2018 8:56 AM
Subject: RE: When to replace a starter battery
 
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Thanks for all the replies. I didn't phrase the original question too well as what I was really trying to establish was whether it is the case that batteries on modern vehicles, with electronic everything, simply give up without warning and whether five years is old in battery terms. Despite my failing you've answered the questions I meant to ask. I shall leave well alone.

Andy
userDerek Uzzell
Posted: 12 June 2018 9:01 AM
Subject: RE: When to replace a starter battery
 


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Deffheads - 2018-06-11 6:51 PM

Hi, Have you ever checked the acid level in your battery? I would think most vehicle starter batteries are now ' maintenance free ' which means your discouraged from looking at them. However most modern batteries have a Green light system, which if green light shows suggests your battery is in good order. DON'T BELIEVE IT!! all it means is one cell of your battery is ok. It's worth having a look at levels.
I had a battery fail in just 2 days in Spain, and when I extracted it from my A class engine compartment the green light was glowing happily, but all the other cells were almost empty of acid.


It may be the case that most vehicles now have ’non-maintainable' starter-batteries, but the starter-battery fitted to Fiat Ducatos (and, presumably, also to Peugeot Boxers and Citroen Relays) continues to be ‘maintainable’ in that the battery’s cell-caps can be unscrewed and the electrolyte-level checked and topped up if necessary (and, Yes, I know that this task is not easy-peasy!). The Ducato/Boxer/Relay battery also does not have a ‘magic eye’ indicator (mentioned in 2008 here)

https://www.rac.co.uk/forum/showthread.php?4151-Motorcraft-battery-eye-indicator-colour
userStuartO
Posted: 12 June 2018 9:21 AM
Subject: RE: When to replace a starter battery
 
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Starter batteries can "give up without warning" and my original Fiat-provided starter batter did precisely that one morning on an Aire in France; the previous day the MH had been starting quite normally but on the fateful day it wouldn't turn the engine over at all.  There had been a failure of one of the cells and it was fatal.

A breakdown truck got my engine started by jump starting from his truck's batteries but it was noteworthy that his professional-type jump start packs wouldn't do the job, he had to jump start from his own installed bank of batteries.  It was a Sunday morning and a French public holiday but I was able to drive to a supermarket and buy a suitable replacement, which  I changed myself.  I was very lucky to be able to walk in and buy a replacement battery of the correct type and of good quality ( a Fulmen Battery); it cost over 150€ but it would have cost a lot more from a garage, had the French garages been open for business..

The OP's concern is perhaps whether the risk of breakdown of this sort is predictable enough to warrant pre-emptive replacement of an ageing starter battery before it actually packs up.  My battery failed at about seven years, so maybe I could usefully have replaced it before that trip to France.  There are probably bench tests of a battery which would give some indication of an impending cell failure but I doubt they are the sort of thing you can easily do yourself.

So the motorhomer's choice is to replace the starter battery on time, perhaps at five years routinely, rather than wait until it  fails - as one way or another, it inevitably will.

My replacement starter battery has now done five or six years service, so perhaps it's time for me to make that decision.




Edited by StuartO 2018-06-12 9:24 AM
userblaven
Posted: 12 June 2018 11:21 AM
Subject: RE: When to replace a starter battery
 
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I’m struggling here to understand why contributors to this forum who presumably own and run motorhomes/campervans costing many thousands of pounds baulk at replacing a starter battery costing maybe £120 at most (other than possibly stop/start batteries), and try to wring every last amp out of it.
This despite aandncaravans oft repeated advice that a failing battery puts enormous strain on the charging system and can lead to early failure of the far more expensive alternator.
Obviously there are occasional cell failures which one can’t predict, but there seems to be an element of ‘one upmanship’ about how old one’s battery is.
I view a battery as a consumable with a finite optimum lifespan, say 5 years max. and maybe that’s pushing it?
userTracker
Posted: 12 June 2018 12:11 PM
Subject: RE: When to replace a starter battery
 


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Being averse to pushing 3 and a half tonnes of van meant that starter motor sound was always something I listened to every time the van started and at the first signs of slowing down or reluctance an investigation was carried out.
Sometimes it was a dirty battery or lead contact, especially earth, but as these issues were easily preventable that was very rare.
Starter motors too can, and did, fail and the easiest way to tell was to try a different and known good battery and listen to the results as it turned the engine over.
Alternator output is easily checked as that too plays it's vital part.
In my experience replacement batteries rarely last as long as OE fitted from new batteries so be sure it is the battery before replacing it and if all else fails and you are at an inconvenient location a leisure battery will always get you going often via jump leads - assuming it is sound and well charged. I would isolate the leisure battery from the rest of the van before doing this to avoid risk to the electronic gubbins.
Having decided the battery is kaput it was well worth a hinded quid or so NOT to have to faff about!
useraandy
Posted: 12 June 2018 2:31 PM
Subject: RE: When to replace a starter battery
 
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blaven - 2018-06-12 11:21 AM

I’m struggling here to understand why contributors to this forum who presumably own and run motorhomes/campervans costing many thousands of pounds baulk at replacing a starter battery costing maybe £120 at most (other than possibly stop/start batteries), and try to wring every last amp out of it.
This despite aandncaravans oft repeated advice that a failing battery puts enormous strain on the charging system and can lead to early failure of the far more expensive alternator.
Obviously there are occasional cell failures which one can’t predict, but there seems to be an element of ‘one upmanship’ about how old one’s battery is.
I view a battery as a consumable with a finite optimum lifespan, say 5 years max. and maybe that’s pushing it?


No reluctance on my part to replace any component that has reached - or is approaching - the end of its useful life. The issue for me is that, in the case of a battery, I don't know when that point is reached. I have no desire to wring every last ounce out of it, but neither do I see the sense in scrapping something that has years of trouble free life left in it, particularly when, as Tracker says, it is likely to be of better quality than anything that might replace it.

Both of my cars are very much old technology, so not only is it easy to tell when a battery is getting a bit tired but it is also simpler to deal with if one does fail unexpectedly (particularly the one with the starting handle). The van is the first vehicle I've owned with electronic everything and is technically very different from anything I've had before. While I do most of the maintenance and repairs on the cars, the van takes me way outside of my comfort zone. That is why I asked the question.

Edited by aandy 2018-06-12 2:32 PM
userblaven
Posted: 12 June 2018 3:18 PM
Subject: RE: When to replace a starter battery
 
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aandy - 2018-06-12 2:31 PM

blaven - 2018-06-12 11:21 AM

I’m struggling here to understand why contributors to this forum who presumably own and run motorhomes/campervans costing many thousands of pounds baulk at replacing a starter battery costing maybe £120 at most (other than possibly stop/start batteries), and try to wring every last amp out of it.
This despite aandncaravans oft repeated advice that a failing battery puts enormous strain on the charging system and can lead to early failure of the far more expensive alternator.
Obviously there are occasional cell failures which one can’t predict, but there seems to be an element of ‘one upmanship’ about how old one’s battery is.
I view a battery as a consumable with a finite optimum lifespan, say 5 years max. and maybe that’s pushing it?

No reluctance on my part to replace any component that has reached - or is approaching - the end of its useful life. The issue for me is that, in the case of a battery, I don't know when that point is reached. I have no desire to wring every last ounce out of it, but neither do I see the sense in scrapping something that has years of trouble free life left in it, particularly when, as Tracker says, it is likely to be of better quality than anything that might replace it.

Both of my cars are very much old technology, so not only is it easy to tell when a battery is getting a bit tired but it is also simpler to deal with if one does fail unexpectedly (particularly the one with the starting handle). The van is the first vehicle I've owned with electronic everything and is technically very different from anything I've had before. While I do most of the maintenance and repairs on the cars, the van takes me way outside of my comfort zone. That is why I asked the question.

Forgive me, aandy, I meant no disrespect. I suppose I was musing on the general impressions I’ve picked up on reading the posts here on this forum. Mercifully I have only the basic electronics on my old X244 Ducato.
user747Heavy
Posted: 12 June 2018 4:02 PM
Subject: RE: When to replace a starter battery
 
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For my two-penn'th - born of some experience of a Ducato refusing to start:
Probably the only way you will know is to get it tested properly. Short of a cell failure or other damage, I think the natural decline is fairly slow but a proper test would show it.
In the case of a cell failure/open circuit battery, it's not that common and it could happen anytime. Age doesn't necessarily define when but obviously the older the battery, the more chance it has.
If it's of any comfort, I've had well maintained batteries last for well over 10 years. One Varta still runs my computer UPS, aged 15.
It always helps to make sure the terminals are really clean, no corrosion inside (add a smear of vaseline) and earth leads/straps are OK. They have a habit of failing without any visual indication at all on a Ducato and there is a thread on here regarding just that.
Will
useraandy
Posted: 12 June 2018 6:12 PM
Subject: RE: When to replace a starter battery
 
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No offence taken. I previously had an X244, and while I wouldn't go so far as to say that I regret changing I'm still not entirely comfortable with the technology on the current van, both in respect of the engine and the habitation. I've only had two significant (expensive) problems, one with the boiler and one with the emission control, neither of which would have happened with the old technology.
userhallii
Posted: 13 June 2018 11:35 AM
Subject: RE: When to replace a starter battery
 


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I have had a couple of batteries fail in the last 12 months or so. Both failed in "sudden death" made. No warning, no slow starting, just working one day dead (completely) the next.

I believe that modern batteries are prone to this type of failure, so I can't see what precautions you could take apart from carrying a spare battery. One battery was 5 years old and the other 9 years old, both Varta.

H
userTracker
Posted: 13 June 2018 12:58 PM
Subject: RE: When to replace a starter battery
 


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So far as I am concerned the ONLY advantage of an X250 over an X244 is cab air con.
Everything else is a step too far and unreliable and unrepairable technology for it's own sake does nothing to attract me.
Starter batteries are a case in point.
With the X250 the battery quickly goes flat when not used daily but with theX244 the battery took a few weeks to go flat when not used daily, not a problem for white van man who uses the van daily, but quite an issue for motor homers who do not.
You need to start and use most X250 vans at least once a fortnight, preferably once a week, to keep the battery sane and that is not always convenient or even posssible.
Gone are the days you could leave a van for months and it would always start.
Once a battery is drained to exhaustion it's life is dramatically shortened and when this happens several times, as well it might do whilst the van is awaiting delivery or being converted or being at a dealer as well as parked at home or in storage.
The unseen damage is inherited by the unfortunate and unknowing buyer be it new or used only to cause more grief as the months unfold.
Alternatively disconnect the starter battery or use an isolating switch when not in use.
Similarly with leisure batteries, the best way to preserve them is to isolate them when not in use.
This, so they tell me, is progress?

Edited by Tracker 2018-06-13 1:04 PM
userDerek Uzzell
Posted: 13 June 2018 1:43 PM
Subject: RE: When to replace a starter battery
 


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aandy - 2018-06-11 4:49 PM

My van is now approaching five years old and still has the original battery. I've never noticed any reluctance on the part of the starter motor, but a week after charging the battery generally shows 0.1v less than the two-year old habitation batteries, despite all three having been charged at the same time. I've heard that batteries on modern vehicles do not give the same warning of imminent demise that I'm used to and tend just to die suddenly. Any tips as to how to decide when to replace it would be welcome.

Andy


Returning to your original question, as (realistically) it will be difficult to test whether your around-5-years-old battery should be replaced now, you’ve got two choices - either pick a rigid ‘lifespan’ for a starter-battery (say the 5 years blaven mentions) and change it at that age even if the battery shows absolutely no signs of deterioration, or wait until the battery does show signs of deterioration and then replace it immediately.

One thing you might (probably should) do after 5 years of use is check that the battery’s electrolyte level does not need topping up.

Although it should be relatively simple to access a Ducato X250’s starter-battery (in a compartment in the passenger footwell on a RHD vehicle) checking the electrolyte level of all six cells cannot be carried out merely by unscrewing the six cell caps. This was discussed here

http://forums.outandaboutlive.co.uk/forums/Motorhomes/Motorhome-Matters/Fiat-vehicle-battery-access/45861/
userTracker
Posted: 13 June 2018 2:07 PM
Subject: RE: When to replace a starter battery
 


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Very simply - wait till it fails - but always carry a set of jump leads and know how to use them.
userGeeco
Posted: 13 June 2018 4:14 PM
Subject: RE: When to replace a starter battery
 


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Rich, my AT Tracker has a solar panel factory fitted. It is set up to alternate between starter battery and habitation battery as required. My MH is left outside when not in use. So far after 3 odd years when I arrive to take it home to prepare for a trip both batteries are fully charged and ready to go. Sorry a little off the original topic but thought I would respond to your post. Cheers,
userTracker
Posted: 13 June 2018 5:03 PM
Subject: RE: When to replace a starter battery
 


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Cheers Gary, one big difference between the UK and Oz is sunshine or at the very least strong daylight which is kinda essential for solar panels to work efficiently and not exactly generous in winter over here!
userBulletguy
Posted: 13 June 2018 5:34 PM
Subject: RE: When to replace a starter battery
 


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I replaced my van starter battery in winter - the usual time for batteries to give up! It was on a 3yr warranty but had given me just over 5yrs service so couldn't complain.

Some years ago i had a battery showing signs of failing on a car. When i looked out the receipt (which was the warranty) i found it had just expired that week! I went back to the place i'd bought from with receipt in hand, he found a couple of cells had died, and told me "no problem, we aren't going to quibble over a few days" and handed me a brand new battery foc!
userblaven
Posted: 13 June 2018 7:12 PM
Subject: RE: When to replace a starter battery
 
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Tracker - 2018-06-13 12:58 PM

So far as I am concerned the ONLY advantage of an X250 over an X244 is cab air con.
Everything else is a step too far and unreliable and unrepairable technology for it's own sake does nothing to attract me.
Starter batteries are a case in point.
With the X250 the battery quickly goes flat when not used daily but with theX244 the battery took a few weeks to go flat when not used daily, not a problem for white van man who uses the van daily, but quite an issue for motor homers who do not.
You need to start and use most X250 vans at least once a fortnight, preferably once a week, to keep the battery sane and that is not always convenient or even posssible.
Gone are the days you could leave a van for months and it would always start.
Once a battery is drained to exhaustion it's life is dramatically shortened and when this happens several times, as well it might do whilst the van is awaiting delivery or being converted or being at a dealer as well as parked at home or in storage.
The unseen damage is inherited by the unfortunate and unknowing buyer be it new or used only to cause more grief as the months unfold.
Alternatively disconnect the starter battery or use an isolating switch when not in use.
Similarly with leisure batteries, the best way to preserve them is to isolate them when not in use.
This, so they tell me, is progress?

My X244 has cab air con as a factory option. I think the last time it was in action was about 4-5 years ago just after re-gassing for the second time. We all know that aircon should be run all through the winter months for periods of about 15 mins. to allow the lubricant oil to circulate, but this is impossible if the van’s decommissioned for 6 months over the winter, batteries out and jacked up on logs as mine is.
I’d love to get it back in action for my month’s September jaunt to Spain, but I fear that even a diagnosis from a specialist would be prohibitive, let alone possible repairs to the expensive bits. Not cost effective for a month and then garaging over the winter until April during which time it can’t be run.
useraandy
Posted: 13 June 2018 8:15 PM
Subject: RE: When to replace a starter battery
 
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"We all know that aircon should be run all through the winter months for periods of about 15 mins. to allow the lubricant oil to circulate"

I didn't, but I do now.
userJohn52
Posted: 13 June 2018 8:43 PM
Subject: RE: When to replace a starter battery
 


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Easy enough to get started and home with a flat starter battery - especially when you have a separate leisure battery to jump start it with.
I'm more worried about overworking the alternator through charging old inefficient batteries. Wouldn't be able to drive far with a duff alternator on a modern engine - everything is electric.
So I replace my batteries about every 4 years - for the sake of the alternator.
The alternator already has more work than it was intended for with the addition of leisure batteries to charge.
useraandncaravan
Posted: 13 June 2018 8:48 PM
Subject: RE: When to replace a starter battery
 
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"Returning to your original question, as (realistically) it will be difficult to test whether your around-5-years-old battery should be replaced now, you’ve got two choices - either pick a rigid ‘lifespan’ for a starter-battery (say the 5 years blaven mentions) and change it at that age even if the battery shows absolutely no signs of deterioration, or wait until the battery does show signs of deterioration and then replace it immediately".




I agree with Derek on the two options.
If it was me, I would leave the battery and listen to the Starter Motor turning speed at start-up. At the slightest sign of trouble, I would replace it, before any damage occurs.

A car Starter battery can have an 8 year life. So can a Motorhome Starter battery.
However if you have an 'after market' stereo that draws power from the Starter battery to maintain the Station, etc. memory, or has a Tracker or has an 'after market alarm' or is allowed to drop below around 12.5v on a regular basis or has constant Solar charging then you are less likely to get even 5 years.
If you have all 5 going on you should probably consider yourself lucky if you get 3 years.

The life of a Starter battery in a motorhome will be directly proportional to the work it does and how low the voltage is allowed to drop between each start.




Edited by aandncaravan 2018-06-13 8:53 PM
userDerek Uzzell
Posted: 14 June 2018 9:49 AM
Subject: RE: When to replace a starter battery
 


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I don’t know if it’s worth mentioning but, although a battery’s ‘labelled’ guarantee-duration should be relevant when the battery has been bought as a replacement, this may well not be the case when the battery has been factory-fitted when the motorhome’s base-vehicle was built.

I recall a letter in a motorhome magazine complaining that a starter-battery carrying a label stating that it had (say) a 4-year guarantee had failed early and the battery’s manufacturer had refused to replace it.

The reason given was that the battery had been sold to the base-vehicle manufacturer (no doubt at a huge quantity-discount) and it was the base-vehicle manufacturer that thus ‘owned’ the battery’s guarantee, not the eventual purchaser of the completed motorhome.

If the base-vehicle manufacturer’s guarantee was shorter than that shown on the battery’s label it was the shorter period that applied, and any claim for replacement must be made using the base-vehicle's guarantee procedure not direct to the the battery’s manufacturer.

user747Heavy
Posted: 14 June 2018 11:54 AM
Subject: RE: When to replace a starter battery
 
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aandncaravan - 2018-06-13 8:48 PM
............... or has constant Solar charging then you are less likely to get even 5 years ..............


Allan: I can see how an uncontrolled, stand alone solar charger for the starter battery could/would damage it but would that case apply to a solar charger that regulates a starter battery charge circuit as a secondary function of a leisure battery charging system?

You can probably guess, from that, I have such a system and also that I'm going to dig out the paperwork and see just what it supplies to the starter battery ............

Will
useraandncaravan
Posted: 14 June 2018 9:36 PM
Subject: RE: When to replace a starter battery
 
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Maybe, depends on the solution.
But yes, if it a proper Motorhome regulator with a low 13.4v Float, the damage should be minimal.
.

The worst might be a fixed split, like 50/50, with the Habitation battery set up as AGM because the Starter may get the AGM's 14.8v charge.



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