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Mod #1: 6-Volt Battery Upgrade

Posted By Mark Corgan On June 5, 2008 @ 8:15 pm In electrical | 36 Comments

The most popular and perhaps the most controversial mod is the 6-volt golf cart battery upgrade. There has long been a debate within the RV community over what the “right” kind of battery you should choose when upgrading from the “standard” dealer-supplied 12-volt battery. Generally speaking, most RVs come with either 1 or 2 12-volt “deep cycle marine” type batteries. While these batteries are fine for general use, their performance tends to degrade quickly when deeply discharged frequently, drastically shortening their lives.

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To compound the issue, most RV charging systems (part of which is referred to as the converter/charger) are inadequate for recharging batteries in a reasonable amount of time. If you dry-camp (no hookups) a lot, you probably have experienced that your single 12-volt battery lasts for only 1 or possibly 2 days even with frugal use of lights, heater, water pump, fans, etc. Without electrical hookups, your battery cannot be recharged unless you have a generator or solar power. And even then, you must run the generator for a long time before bringing the battery up to a state of charge adequate for the next cycle of use.

Enter the 6-volt battery. While not a panacea for your battery woes, upgrading from a single 12-volt deep cycle marine type battery to a pair of 6-volt golf cart batteries (you need 2 to make 12 volts) can make your dry-camping time last quite a bit longer between recharges. Comparing a 6-volt battery to a “standard” 12-volt battery, you will find that the 6-volt golf cart battery will have much thicker lead plates inside, as well as more electrolyte (battery acid) capacity. These batteries can take much more abuse, i.e., deep discharges, and provide much more capacity, durability, and longer life. You still have the issue of recharging time but you might not have to perform a single recharge over a typical weekend of 12-volt power usage.

This mod is pretty straightforward. If you have a towable RV, like a travel trailer or tent trailer, your battery is likely located on the tongue of the trailer. Since a 6-volt golf cart battery has the same footprint as the “standard” 12-volt battery (they are an inch or so taller though), there is generally enough room on the tongue to accommodate 2 6-volt batteries. However, since they are taller, you will need to replace the battery box with 2 specifically made for 6-volt batteries. Simply remove the 12-volt battery, and replace with the 2 6-volt batteries, placing them either end-to-end or side-by-side. Carefully wire them according to the image shown above.

5th wheels will likely have the battery located in the front compartment in a sealed box that is vented to the outside via a hose. This presents somewhat of a problem in that the sealed and vented battery box used for the 12-volt battery will not fit a 6-volt golf cart battery. Your options are to buy a purpose-built box that can accommodate 2 (or more) 6-volt batteries, or fabricate your own box, being careful to ensure that the box is sealed and vented in the same way as the original box. Wiring is the same as described above.

Most motorhomes generally will have 2 12-volt “standard” batteries. However, there are a multitude of factory and dealer options for some of the higher-end models, with some having up to 8 6-volt golf cart batteries. You can still benefit from 6-volt batteries however if your motorhome has 12-volt batteries for the reasons already discussed. Some motorhomes, like class C’s, will have the batteries under the steps in the side entrance way, and might not be able to accommodate the taller 6-volt batteries. If this is the case, you will have to relocate the batteries. Alternative locations are the engine compartment behind the front bumper, a side door compartment (vented of course), or in a custom-built rack under the motorhome.

ModMyRV recommends these parts for this mod:

Batteries
Trojan 6-volt Golf Cart Batteries
Sams Club - they really do carry golf cart batteries - cheap too!
Interstate Batteries Golf Cart Batteries

Battery Boxes
Allied Battery Golf Cart Battery Boxes
Blue Seas Twin Golf Cart battery Box

General Reference
Wikipedia Entry for Lead Acid Battery


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