Battery equalising

Some battery manufacturers recommend equalising their batteries a couple of times a year. You can do this with a dedicated device, or a function on your charger if it has one. 

Equalising means charging them fully, then charging it again at a 10% higher voltage than normal. What this does is removes the sulfation that is a normal part of battery use and helps the battery achieve a longer working life at a greater efficiency. 

Remember your battery will vent much more during this process so good ventilation is necessary due to the risk of explosion. Also it should only be done in cooler temperatures. 

It’s recommended that once fully charged you check with an SG (Specific gravity) meter if your battery is OLA (Open Lead Acid) and only equalise if the SG difference between the cells is 0.030.

You also have to check the SG of the battery during the equalisation process, if you don’t you could damage it when it no longer requires the higher charge. The voltage also should be about 10% of the charging voltage. So if you normally boost at 14.4 the equalising charge should be +10%, ie: 15.8 volts. 

DON’T leave anything connected to the batteries while equalising and only do it in a very cool environment. 

Check with the manufacturer for dedicated advice.

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Looking after your rubber with red rubber grease

We invest a lot of money in our vans and most of us keep them for a very long time. For this reason maintenance and repair is important to ensure things last as long as they can and operate as they should. 

One thing that should be done at least every second winter is checking and caring for your rubber window seals. They are very large and have to put up with detergents, polishes and other chemicals on the inside, and road dirt, washing chemicals, harsh sunlight and freezing on the outside. In addition with the window closed the rubber is lightly compressed for very long periods of time. All of this takes it’s toll on the rubber so a maintenance routine is important and mine is very simple. 

Firstly I wash the rubber seals with nothing but warm water and a microfibre cloth. I make sure I give them a good rub to ensure any surface dirt is gone. Then a rub with a dry cloth to encourage drying. 

Red Rubber Grease
Red Rubber Grease

Then I use Castrol’s Red Rubber Grease and rub it in as if I was rubbing an ointment into skin. I almost massage the rubber to ensure the grease is worked into it as best I can. It takes very little grease to achieve this and it’s not too expensive anyway. 
I use latex gloves simply to prevent myself getting all oily and once all of the rubber is done, I leave it for an hour or so to ‘dry off’ before closing the windows. 

I did have a leak in two windows some time ago which was what started me off researching how to look after rubber. During very heavy rain I found the water would somehow seep through between rubber and window and pool on the inside. It even pooled so much one time in the bathroom that it leaked over the edge and ran down the wall. Since greasing the rubbers though it has never happened again. 

Many people say use Petroleum jelly but I’ve also read that you should not use any petroleum based product on natural rubber. I’ve also seen photos of rubber that was allegedly destroyed by using WD40 on it. On one forum a bloke told how he’d used KY jelly to lube his rubber products but as he never stated what products they were…I ignored his advice! Some say petroleum jelly dissolves latex, which is a form of rubber.

I’ve no idea of the veracity of these claims but as mentioned, the grease I use is Castrol Red Rubber Grease. Castrol red rubber grease is made essentially from vegetable oil, and certainly olive oil is claimed to be the closest product to the oils in natural rubber but any vegetable or plant based oil is considered safe or “rubber friendly” as rubber is actually a product direct from a plant. 
I think the compatibility of red rubber grease is based on its properties for use in braking and hydraulic systems where it works well but does not interfere with braking and hydraulic fluids, as some greases do. 

The primary purpose of red rubber grease is preserving natural rubber parts but here are a list of properties I found on this web site

  • Fully compatible with natural and synthetic rubbers
  • Compatible with brake fluids and some hydraulic oils.
  • Rust inhibitor (protects from oxidation and rust).
  • RRG is water resistant. 
  • Hight temperarure. The grease can be used in applications with temperatures up to 210-230F. It will not melt and will not contaminate brake pads.
  • Petrol resistant. Although it will get contaminated in contact with gasoline, but still it will protect rubber parts from it.
  • High chemical and structural(mechanical) stability.
  • High resistance against water washing (will stay on after a rain, or car wash).
  • Has high wear protecting quality.

So you can see it passes way more tests than it needs to to protect your window rubbers and it’s not prohibitively expensive at around £11 per half a kilo. I’ve been using it every other year now for about 6 years and judging by how much I’ve used I’d say it will last my lifetime easily.

Interestingly, it is red because it is dyed so as to differentiate it from other grease during manufacture. And I thought at first it was just a cool and trendy name…

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Doing a bit of DIY

DIY on a brand new £30,000 van?? Well, here’s the story.

When I first bought this van new in 2004 I was quite perplexed to find that the water heater in it was very different to the one in my very old previous camper. My previous one was a combi type: your turn the tap on and it heats water as you need it, all the way to almost boiling if you want. Brilliant, if you need a cupful or enough for a shower, the heater would work away for as long as the water and gas would last. 

So picking up this shiny new posh motorhome I kind of expected similar wonderful things but more modern. Nooo…not the case. In their wisdom what I had now was a water heater which was fixed under the bed and could heat 10 litres at a time.  No more, no less. 10 litres or nothing. So if you want a half a litre to wash some plates? Sorry, gotta do 10 litres.  If you want to shower then wash up then wash some clothes so you need more than 10 litres, well you have to use what there is then heat some more. On gas that would take about 20-30 minutes to heat the water depending on ambient temperatures. Granted it was slightly faster on mains electric but not greatly so and anyway, who wants a half hour break in between doing things? Well actually sometimes I do lol  but you know what I mean. 

 I did use it a couple of times, but mostly to make sure it worked. After that I found it incredibly time consuming and very wasteful. So I stopped using it and simply boiled the water I needed in my kettle which was invariably a half litre or so to wash a plate and a cup. The odd time I needed a bucket of hot water it only took 5 minutes to boil a 3 litre pan full of water. So there it languished, taking up space, until one winter…

…I forgot to empty it and it froze and there must have been a hairline crack because while it still worked, it leaked ever so slowly. Maybe a couple of drops per day but, how long before it gave up the ghost completely? How long before it burst and sent 10 litres of water all over the floor? So I made a fairly radical decision to take it out. 

The flue grid, broken into pieces but repaired with Gorilla glue
The flue grid, broken into pieces but repaired with Gorilla glue

It wasn’t as easy as you’d think. The gas pipe had to be taken off and a stop end put on. I didn’t want to rely on just the tap to keep the pipe closed so a stop end made sense. Then I had to disconnect all the electrics and make them safe. Then of course I had to reroute the water so that the cold inlet was rerouted and the hot pipe would simply come to a stop end. Finally I had to get it out. It was a bugger to dismantle but I got it out and realised it was made of a very thin metal with a cardboard sheath and a plastic top cover as insulation. Hugely inefficient and not very robust at all. 

So, that was out of the way but it left a gaping hole in the back wall of the van where the flue was. I decided that I’d leave the flue assembly in place which was a metal plate, a plastic grid and a plastic weather cover. To discard these means a very large hole to fill so it made no sense and would look awful. So after some thought I came up with a plan. 
I covered the hole on the inside with a square plastic rubble sack glued into place. I then taped the metal flue plate to cover all of the holes in it but cut 2 small holes less than the size of a 5p at the top and bottom. 

Once that was resealed into place with silicone sealant (using the screws for the plastic grid to locate it in correct position for now) I used some expanding foam, directing the nozzle through first the bottom and then the top holes I’d made to ensure the cavity in the wall was completely filled. People claim that this stuff can burst concrete but it simply isn’t true. It does expand rapidly and sets very quickly. But here’s how strong it is: I had cut a small square about 6mm square in the duct tape that I used to wrap the metal plate. I cut 3 sides so that it acted like a flap. Once the cavity was full and the foam was beginning to come back out of both holes I wiped the excess and quickly put a small square of duct tape over the bottom flap. It stuck instantly and stayed there. Once the flow of foam had slowed through the top flap I also taped that. No more came out. The plastic on the inside stayed there without problem and barely curved outward there was so little pressure from the foam. 

So, the foam appears from what I can tell to expand rapidly and get in all the corners, but without much pressure. It sets fairly quickly although I’m sure it’s best left for some time to fully cure. 

The amazing Gorilla glue
The amazing Gorilla glue

Next step was to take the screws back out and use them to screw the plastic grid in place. The plastic grid had been broken literally into pieces. It’s 14 years old and constant sun and freezing makes plastic brittle, but these things cost a ridiculous £30 to replace. So I got the 8 pieces that I had and used the amazing Gorilla glue to piece it back together. After 24 hours the grid was flexing but solidly repaired so I squirted some silicone sealant into each screw hole in the van wall and then fixed the grid into place. 
Originally I’d used mastic tape and although I think mastic tape is a brilliant material and works perfectly, it’s simply too thick so ends up making the majority of jobs look incredibly untidy and of course…screws don’t fit anymore. So tried and tested silicone sealant it is. 

The outer cover was clean and unbroken anyway, so I simply pushed that on when everything was set the next day. 

Now I have tons more storage space because the water heater took up a full half of the under bed storage. I have a nice neat job on the rear of the van and there’s no chance of that large flue hole letting cold or water in. I’m chuffed with the result. 

PS: One thing to note with this particular glue is that it sets rock hard. It’s perfect for joining things and even for filling because it sets almost like epoxy. However that means for things that would bend slightly or flex it won’t be any good. 

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