I am a member of a Foretravel owners online forum. https://www.foreforums.com/index.php It is an interesting mix of owners, past owners and hope-to-be owners and just interested folks. Some of it is more socially oriented (Facebookish sort of stuff) off in one forum, some is technical stuff, some renovations, some is general discussion but RV related stuff, some is buy and sell, each loosely contained in separate forums. There have been over 7,000 users over time and more than 400,000 posts. People join, people depart, at any one time there may be a few hundred active users.
A new owner from Washington struck up a virtual conversation with me some months ago and it continues on line and by phone. He is an older fellow (which means he is older than I am) and originally from Germany. His name is Klaus. When I talk to him he sounds just like my cousin Sandy’s husband, Claus, also originally from Germany. Klaus was on his way from NE Washington to Nacogdoches, TX to get some work done, look for a new couch and ask questions. On the way there and back he was stopping in Houston and Dallas to see friends. He found out we were in Fredericksburg so he adjusted plans to stop here to meet us.
I didn’t know this was his first trip in his coach and that he was by himself. He called me from Utah with a battery issue which was quickly diagnosed as old and dying batteries in need of replacement. So in his few days here in Fredericksburg I got to help swap coach batteries.
I ordered three new batteries at an O’Reilly’s here in town so that when he got here we could make the switch. This isn’t quite like changing the 3 AA batteries in your remote control. Each one of these AGM lead acid batteries weigh in at 167 lbs each. They are about 22 inches long, 12 inches wide and 10 inches tall. And did I mention they weigh 167 lbs each.
In our coach you just open up a side bay door and the batteries are right there. In Klaus’s coach the batteries are in a tight space in the middle of the basement. There was a slide out cargo tray and a big cover panel that we had to remove to get access to the battery space. It was a metal box about 24″ wide and about 36″ in from the side of the coach. The height of the basement ceiling from the floor is about 27″. So crawling into this small space and wrestling out 167 lb batteries got left to the young (and reluctantly willing) … me.
There were two batteries in a rack at floor level and a third on a second rack half way to the ceiling. The cables got disconnected and the ends covered to prevent any shorts. The batteries on the floor level were swollen and jammed into the rack. I got my pry bar and with some effort got the first battery loose and up over the 1″ tall lip of the lower rack. It took about 15 minutes to work it back and forth and over the edge of the rack out into the basement space (where I was all knotted up). We hooked a strap to it and pulled it to the edge of the basement opening and out onto the ground. And then we did the same with the second battery. This one was no easier but it finally came out and on to the ground.
The upper battery was wedged in as well. We had some access to the underneath part of the rack so we were able to pry it up and move it forward onto the edge of the rack. The plus and minus battery posts were very close to the steel framing of the opening so we wedged in a few layers of cardboard over the plus post and worked it out past the framing. Then we set up a folding step in line with the battery and slid it out on to the step, turned the battery 90°, and then off the step onto the floor and then out onto the ground. I crawled out of the basement cave and gave it my best shot to stand up. Tough, creaky and stiff.
A young fellow, way younger than either Klaus or me, volunteered to help us get the three batteries (more than 500 lbs total) into Klaus’s Jeep so we could go get the new batteries and get rid of the old ones. He thought he could just hoist one up and get it in by himself. He was surprised when he tried that. It is a two person job.
We assumed that at the battery store there would be a strapping youngster to get the batteries out and the new ones back in. So much for assumptions, there was one middle aged guy there who recently had shoulder surgery. So the old and now 1/2 pooped team had another 500 lbs out and 500 lbs back into the Jeep
Back at the RV park our younger neighbor lent another hand and got all three batteries out of the Jeep and helped get the two lower batteries in and in place. Much easier when they are not all swollen. And then the third one up on the middle shelf. We used one of the folding steps on the ground to get the battery about even with the basement floor. Then a second step just inside the door of the basement on the basement floor which got the battery close to the right height. Then the first step in the cave next to the step with the battery on it and slid it over to that step. Once more with a piece of plywood onto the first step further in the cave and rotated the battery 90° so it was aligned pretty well with where it had to go. A bit of pushing and some pry bar help over the edge of the rack and slid it into place.
Then I reconnected all of the cables and double checked everything. No sparks! After four hours of grunting and groaning we turned on the charger and engaged the power. All was good. We reinstalled the sliding tray, I put away my tools, ate some ibuprofen for lunch and took a shower.
Our friends Douglas and Amanda were coming to the Fredericksburg RV Park on the same day we had the battery rodeo. I think they knew what was happening and managed to arrive after we were done. More on this visit in the next blog post.
I am pooped thinking about what we did and grateful we got it done with no one getting hurt. Susan was too. I was pretty stiff in the mornings for a couple days but happy to have been able to help out.
More Later, Much Love,
Roger and Susan