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Old 08-26-2022, 09:22 PM   #1
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12V AGM coach battery recommendations?

The 5+-year-old coach batteries in our 2016 ERA (class B, MB Sprinter 3500 platform) appear to be wearing out. The batteries are 12V NAPA Commercial 105AH AGM Group 31 batteries and there are 2 of them. They are NOT labeled deep cycle, which is a bit surprising to me.

I'm inclined to replace them with the same brand and type of batteries if available, but am open to recommendations for other brands as well.

As noted in the thread linked below, the batteries are located under the chassis and behind the rear wheels, 1 on each side, and given the access issues and my physical limitations I'm unable to replace them myself (I would if I could).

https://www.winnieowners.com/forums/...ns-364706.html

I looked into replacing them with LiFePO4 batteries, but it appears that would require replacing the current converter with a model that supports LiFePO4 batteries, which is more than I want to tackle at this point. I'm also unsure if charging from the alternator would be affected by the change and perhaps require additional work and/or components.

(NOTE: I did watch a YouTube video posted by Battleborn that said a converter for flooded / gel / AGM batteries would charge LiFePO4 batteries, but at an unspecified slower rate. I don't know if that meant a little slower or a lot slower).

And due to the access problems cited above, I'm not interested in converting to 6V golf cart batteries, just in case anyone wants to suggest that.

Any recommendations for other brands of batteries, and particular battery models, would be appreciated.

BTW, the local Winnebago dealer quoted me $450 just for the labor of replacing the batteries, in addition to the cost of the batteries. I thought that was a bit much. The access is a pain, but the actual work for replacing each battery is removing 2 screws that lock them into the tray, remove the battery, disconnect the cables, connect the cables to the new battery, put the new battery in the tray and replace the 2 screws that lock them in. The actual labor is probably an hour or less to do both and $450 seems pretty high to me.
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Old 08-26-2022, 09:36 PM   #2
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Battery replacement

I had a similar issue with my 2017 Winn. Travato. The Napa batteries didnít last but 3 years. I went to Bend Battery in Bend, Oregon and replaced with 2 Lifeline AGMís. They cost 425.00 each plus labor. I donít recall the labor cost but it is a job getting underneath and the weight of the batteries. I have been happy with the batteries. I have 190 watts of solar and a Zamp controller. Consider having your controller match your batteries if it doesnít already. Mine has a setting to adjust. Travato John
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Old 08-27-2022, 06:34 AM   #3
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The simple no brainer answer to me are the vMax Tanks 125ah AGM

You can search my name and vMax tanks and find more than you care to know about them. Absolute best thing dollar for dollar I ever bought. ( I paid $500 for both, installed myself a few years ago) My NAPAs were still working and only 18 months old. I hated them with a passion. FLA is NOT for me. They were corroding all the time, needed water, and could barely make it through the night. Just too much drama for me. It you have gone 5 years with your NAPA you may never need your charger with the vMax Tanks.

https://www.amazon.com/VMAXSLR125-2-...00276770&psc=1

FWIW, I will get lithium's if I ever buy a Lithium coach.

Don't pay $450 to have installed. Go to any side service shop, auto lube place with service or schedule with them and they will do for well under that. Make sure they or you take pictures BEFORE and AFTER. Took me 30 minutes.
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Old 08-27-2022, 08:44 AM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by dkoldman View Post
The simple no brainer answer to me are the vMax Tanks 125ah AGM

You can search my name and vMax tanks and find more than you care to know about them. Absolute best thing dollar for dollar I ever bought. ( I paid $500 for both, installed myself a few years ago) My NAPAs were still working and only 18 months old. I hated them with a passion. FLA is NOT for me. They were corroding all the time, needed water, and could barely make it through the night. Just too much drama for me. It you have gone 5 years with your NAPA you may never need your charger with the vMax Tanks.

https://www.amazon.com/VMAXSLR125-2-...00276770&psc=1

FWIW, I will get lithium's if I ever buy a Lithium coach.

Don't pay $450 to have installed. Go to any side service shop, auto lube place with service or schedule with them and they will do for well under that. Make sure they or you take pictures BEFORE and AFTER. Took me 30 minutes.
I'm not involved directly but this is something that many would like to know more about.Can you tell us how you managed the swap as it seems very difficult for me, even if I had one???
How to access and lift the weight involved?

I do fully agree that going almost anywhere other than RV specific shops is far better choice but it may take some calling or driving around to let the shop look at what you have.
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Old 08-27-2022, 10:11 AM   #5
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I'm not involved directly but this is something that many would like to know more about.Can you tell us how you managed the swap as it seems very difficult for me, even if I had one???
How to access and lift the weight involved?

I do fully agree that going almost anywhere other than RV specific shops is far better choice but it may take some calling or driving around to let the shop look at what you have.
To be honest, I assumed it would be too difficult for me as well. What may be missing here are pictures from OP on his setup. I am sure each coach design may be different, fundamentally it is all the same.

My original plan was to buy the Duracell Batteries from Sam's until I learned more about what some call true deep cycle batteries. I was actually at a Sam's to buy two Duracell's to take to a local shop; but Sam's would not allow me to buy without exchange So I go home to see how hard could it be to get out?

Step 1. I took good pictures of the BEFORE. Step 2 Disconnected both batteries wrapping ends with black tape; so I would not accidentally screw something up.

Step 3 Lifted batteries out and I felt; hey this ain't too bad.

Same day and by coincidence I read on this forum more about true deep cycle batteries. Especially the part about why my Napa had automotive posts ( excess metal on the post IMO and an accident just waiting to happen) So I do some more research going back to the more expensive vMax Tanks. I try to call the Mfg directly and was surprised that I got a Technician on the phone. He was no salesman; but he answered everyone of my questions. I said thanks I will see if I can order and he said he could take my order right now Step 4 But before finalizing the order, he gave me the exact dimensions (L x W x H) I made a cardboard box prototype of the exact same size. Since my batteries were already out, I was able to play that it would fit, so the weight would be the only issue.

I ordered and left my old batteries out until the new arrived.

By then I had exact plan of how to orient and slide to get both in. Step 5 In my case I had to move the chassis battery temporarily to the right. I didn't disconnect it, but I did have to remove the mounting hardwired to slide it over. I was able to push it back and remount when new batteries were added.

Step 6 reconnect all of the wires
Step 7 verify against BEFORE pictures
Step 8 Flip on House power and presto!!! I have never been below 12.4vdc since with these vMax Tanks

Took me 30 minutes. If I absolutely could not lift the 70 lb battery, I could have easily got someone to help to drop it in.

No more corrosion
No more watering
No more worry about ah capacity in the middle of the night
No more need to go in the battery compartment
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Old 08-27-2022, 10:40 AM   #6
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Okay, I thought maybe you had worked out answers to a big problem on another recent post.

On some of the newish Mercedes chassis, there is no outside to the coach batteries. They are built in between the frame rails on each side and just below the floor plus weighting about 70 pounds!
The problem is that they are heavy but without a lift, one is looking at laying on your back, reaching up into a dark hole above the battery tops and likely not being able to see your hands. Then you have to remove the tiedowns by feel, lift the battery enough to slide it toward the frame where there is just enough space to drop it down. Hoping that there are enough cables to let you drop it without disconnecting them!
Then to get them back, you get to lift 70 pounds overhead while laying on your back!~

I think this was the 2016 ERA but it does look like this one has a way to unlatch the bottom of the tray toletit drop down but going back looks like a killer for folks who do not lift a few hundred pounds!

I think the best idea we found was to let somebody else do it!

Glad not to have one of those!
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Old 08-27-2022, 11:23 AM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Morich View Post
Okay, I thought maybe you had worked out answers to a big problem on another recent post.

On some of the newish Mercedes chassis, there is no outside to the coach batteries. They are built in between the frame rails on each side and just below the floor plus weighting about 70 pounds!
The problem is that they are heavy but without a lift, one is looking at laying on your back, reaching up into a dark hole above the battery tops and likely not being able to see your hands. Then you have to remove the tiedowns by feel, lift the battery enough to slide it toward the frame where there is just enough space to drop it down. Hoping that there are enough cables to let you drop it without disconnecting them!
Then to get them back, you get to lift 70 pounds overhead while laying on your back!~

I think this was the 2016 ERA but it does look like this one has a way to unlatch the bottom of the tray toletit drop down but going back looks like a killer for folks who do not lift a few hundred pounds!

I think the best idea we found was to let somebody else do it!

Glad not to have one of those!
Yes, I missed that completely, and that diagram speaks volume. All I can say is I have been skeptical to buy one of the newer Navigator because they come with a bottom engine cover so it is a PITA to remove just to drain the oil and replace the filter. Some Thor models RV (Axis) you have have a cutout in dashboard I assume on passenger side under desk and/or remove right front wheel or turn it very sharply and the dog house just to get access to the battery.

My 1st thought of seeing the pictures is saying.... they can't be that dumb? My brother has a MB chassis for a Custom Midwest RV and was helping to winterize one day so he could stop paying to do/ I could not find the bypass valve for hot water heater. Found a drawing that showed it to be under cupholder and under floor!!! Took me 10 minutes and I finally found how they had a rear seat velcro'd in, I took it out scaring the crap out of my brother because it was like you were breaking something but, oops.... there it was

I would need to see a video of OPs battery compartment. From what you describe, it may that only a dealer can do. $450 suggest they charge 1 hour / battery which seems reasonable in this case given that is what you own.
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Old 08-27-2022, 11:30 AM   #8
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Thanks for all the feedback so far.

I will look into the Lifeline and VMaxTanks batteries.

Richard (Morich) outlined the access problems, and as noted there is no way I can wrestle the batteries in and out myself.

I don't believe there is an option to drop the batteries straight down, but I'll crawl under there in the morning when it's cooler and see if I overlooked it. Previously, I unbolted the tray on one of them and slid it out horizontally onto a floor jack modified with a wide-enough platform to accommodate the battery. I was fairly dicey and I wouldn't look forward to trying that again. I don't recall seeing an option to drop it straight down.

The access and weight of the batteries tells me the ERA should either be on a lift or perhaps have access via a floor pit (not sure what you call it, where there is a person-sized pit in the floor where you can stand below the vehicle to work on it).

I did stop at a local shop yesterday and they said they should be able to do it with no problem. I told them the RV weighs just over 10K pounds (loaded, probably closer to 9K without anyone in it, no water, no gear we take on trips, etc.) and he said his heavy-duty lift should be able to lift it without any problem. He estimated an hour or two @ $150 per hour, so significantly less than the local Winnebago dealer.

I have used a different location of the same small company to do some work on the ERA previously, including installing metal valve stems, installing front tires and a couple of other small tasks.
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Old 08-27-2022, 11:35 AM   #9
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I'll see about taking some photos and video while I'm under there tomorrow (assuming it's not raining as I have no covered storage for it) and posting them.

I suppose either they figured that servicing the batteries was a once every 5+ years item and difficultly of access didn't matter, or they simply couldn't find another place to put them.
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Old 08-27-2022, 11:40 AM   #10
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2016 ERA battery photo

Quote:
Originally Posted by RV-Travelers View Post
I'll see about taking some photos and video while I'm under there tomorrow (assuming it's not raining as I have no covered storage for it) and posting them.

I suppose either they figured that servicing the batteries was a once every 5+ years item and difficultly of access didn't matter, or they simply couldn't find another place to put them.
I've tried attaching an older cell phone image but previewing it the image is rendering upside down (it displays fine on the phone and computer). Hopefully it will display properly when I save the post.
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Old 08-27-2022, 11:41 AM   #11
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Attach photo attempt # 2

Quote:
Originally Posted by RV-Travelers View Post
I've tried attaching an older cell phone image but previewing it the image is rendering upside down (it displays fine on the phone and computer). Hopefully it will display properly when I save the post.
See if this works...
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Old 08-27-2022, 11:43 AM   #12
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Sigh...

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See if this works...
It really shouldn't be this difficult to attach an image. And in addition to allowing entry of a URL, it should also allow getting it from your computer.

And rotating it if necessary...
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Old 08-27-2022, 12:33 PM   #13
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I am assuming this is the picture right side up?

It certainly clarifies the question / problem.

I don't know how far the bottom is off the ground, but if it were mine, I would pull out my 3 ton jack with a board top may it fit on top of lift to hold battery fixture so when you remove bolts you could slowly drop it down and out, put in new battery an use same jack to lift back up to hold while you put bolts back on.

In a sense, it may be easier than trying to get under steps if you can use the lift to do the work.

Some lifts at Harbor Freight have attachments that fit right on the jack lift for doing stuff similar to this.
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Old 08-27-2022, 02:52 PM   #14
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The trick to get the picture right side up is due to cell phone cameras and the way we turn them. They have gizmos to tell them which way is up but when we move the picture to a computer, there is info on the picture that tells up but the computer does not work on up/down, so just shows it the way we were holding the camera / cellphone. One of those points they seem to have missed making things fully compatible ?

But then we might come up with a better idea on the battery!!!

What if we went with the idea that Winnebago is not totally stupid? Sorry, We sometimes have a bad habit of assuming the world is that bad but it turns out we may just not understand?

I noticed one small point on the battery rack, it has what look like studs down through the floor and the holes to meet those "studs" are oval shaped for the studs instead of simple round holes. Drawings do mess with our mind sometimes!

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This made me think it might be bolts and nuts!
So looking at your picture, We see nuts!

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So if we were a shop with lift or pit, had acess to something like a tranny jack, etc. to press up on the battery rack, took an air rachet to remove the four nuts, drop the battery far enough to see and work on the tie downs and cables, before rolling the jack and battery out and away!
Doesn't really sound like two hours when you get a better plan??

OR for the young and strong who love to roll around on the ground? None of us, I'm sure!!

Lift the RV on good jack stands and level concrete. Use a few blocks on top of a floor jack, release the nuts, maybe needing longer ratchet extention than we have, let it down, take the tie downs and cables off to then let the battery fully down and roll away?

Maybe even bolt a "box" to the jack if it makes saving $400 possible? Since we have no water in the battery to worry spilling, things seem better if we do need to tilt or tip it?

Maybe all we really need is a stong young guy wanting to make a hundred bucks in a couple hours! Us to do the thinking/coaching while they do the work?

Isn't that what all this experience is supposed to do for us!!
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Old 08-27-2022, 03:36 PM   #15
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The trick to get the picture right side up is due to cell phone cameras and the way we turn them. They have gizmos to tell them which way is up but when we move the picture to a computer, there is info on the picture that tells up but the computer does not work on up/down, so just shows it the way we were holding the camera / cellphone. One of those points they seem to have missed making things fully compatible ?

But then we might come up with a better idea on the battery!!!

What if we went with the idea that Winnebago is not totally stupid? Sorry, We sometimes have a bad habit of assuming the world is that bad but it turns out we may just not understand?

I noticed one small point on the battery rack, it has what look like studs down through the floor and the holes to meet those "studs" are oval shaped for the studs instead of simple round holes. Drawings do mess with our mind sometimes!

Attachment 183975

This made me think it might be bolts and nuts!
So looking at your picture, We see nuts!

Attachment 183976

So if we were a shop with lift or pit, had acess to something like a tranny jack, etc. to press up on the battery rack, took an air rachet to remove the four nuts, drop the battery far enough to see and work on the tie downs and cables, before rolling the jack and battery out and away!
Doesn't really sound like two hours when you get a better plan??

OR for the young and strong who love to roll around on the ground? None of us, I'm sure!!

Lift the RV on good jack stands and level concrete. Use a few blocks on top of a floor jack, release the nuts, maybe needing longer ratchet extention than we have, let it down, take the tie downs and cables off to then let the battery fully down and roll away?

Maybe even bolt a "box" to the jack if it makes saving $400 possible? Since we have no water in the battery to worry spilling, things seem better if we do need to tilt or tip it?

Maybe all we really need is a stong young guy wanting to make a hundred bucks in a couple hours! Us to do the thinking/coaching while they do the work?

Isn't that what all this experience is supposed to do for us!!
Exactly, and if you have cross bar / plate thatr sits on top of your current floor jack you are in business to hold it.

https://www.harborfreight.com/steel-...eam-64051.html

But the 3D rendering says that may not be necessary. Looks to be 3 nuts on each side. The bottom hole mount on the battery rack is slotted open!!! So you could just lift it enough to get on the thosre two bottom bolts, pivot up and take screws to get started to hold on both sides of the top. The screws will help hold while you tighten down.

Like I said, this battery change may be easier than mine. My steps were in the way, and I had very tight spot, I have to lift and twist the battery to orient. One thing for sure, you best damn well test it before remounting and UNDER ZERO circumstances do you by FLA batteries
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Old 08-27-2022, 03:42 PM   #16
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I did stop at a local shop yesterday and they said they should be able to do it with no problem. He estimated an hour or two @ $150 per hour, so significantly less than the local Winnebago dealer.
I believe the estimate for effort is fair and so is the rate; given you do not wish to do yourself.

I have to be honest I am impressed you made 5 years on your stock, I assume you never watered them or they were at least maintenance free?

When I bought, I was looking for maximum amp hours in Group 31 that would fit my RV. I got 125 ah in a SLR battery. Lots of good battery brands.
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Old 08-27-2022, 06:44 PM   #17
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Thanks to everyone (so far)

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Originally Posted by dkoldman View Post
I believe the estimate for effort is fair and so is the rate; given you do not wish to do yourself.

I have to be honest I am impressed you made 5 years on your stock, I assume you never watered them or they were at least maintenance free?

When I bought, I was looking for maximum amp hours in Group 31 that would fit my RV. I got 125 ah in a SLR battery. Lots of good battery brands.
Thanks for all the feedback, tips, recommendations, etc. from everyone so far.

Our current batteries are maintenance-free AGM. The original owner purchased the ERA in June 2017, so the batteries are at least 5 years and a couple of months old, and perhaps a bit older depending on when they were installed (I'm guessing at the factory; I can't imagine the dealer would install them when they sold the vehicle).

On our 1st trip (3+ years ago) I didn't have any idea what we could run and for how long with the coach batteries (1st RV and no good data available) and I ran them down until nearly everything shut down about 2 am (when we were boondocking in a Walmart parking lot, so not plugged in). From what I've read about batteries, that could have damaged them severely and I'm surprised they have continued working reliably for the subsequent 3+ years.

As noted in a previous post in this thread (#8), I had previously mounted a piece of wood on an old floor jack to get the batteries in and out. Doing so wasn't easy; I got one of them half-way to the ground and disconnected the battery, trying to disconnect the power to the battery mode solenoid (under the front seat) that I was replacing. That didn't work as I didn't think things through very well. I eventually replaced the solenoid and put the battery back in place and didn't give it much further thought.

Unfortunately health issues have made doing stuff like this a lot more difficult and perhaps impossible. If you are young enough to be able to handle stuff like this, enjoy it while you can.

Anyways, I'll try to get some better photos and perhaps a short video tomorrow.
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Old 08-27-2022, 07:02 PM   #18
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It really shouldn't be this difficult to attach an image.
Getting photos correctly uploaded is not difficult... it's just different than your phone.

Take any photo with your phone and no matter how you spin your phone around the photo looks right side up. That's what your cell phone does because of the gyro inside the phone.

But your camera is a real camera and it puts hidden data (called EXIF) in the photo file that tells non-phones how to display the photo.

The truth is... you took the photo upside down and so of course when you upload it here it is upside down.

You have two choices. Take the photo right side up. Or view the photo in a photo editor on your computer and rotate it right side up and save it.

The easy way is to take it right side up. Hold your phone horizontally, with the home button or area on the right hand side. Then when you take the photo it will always be right side up.

If you can't remember, or have already taken the photo then download it to your computer, open it in a basic photo editor. Rotate it so it's right side up and save it. Then when you upload it it will be correct.

An even simpler way... is to view the photo on your phone and take a screenshot of the screen (you'll have to figure out how to do that) then just upload the screenshot and it will be correct.
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Old 08-27-2022, 09:57 PM   #19
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Thanks for the feedback on images.
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Old 08-28-2022, 02:19 PM   #20
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The post with the battery box diagram got me to thinking a bit. When I removed one of the batteries previously (and prior to some health issues) I slid the battery sideways out of the tray and lowered it part-way down, leaving the tray bolted to the chassis. I never thought about unbolting the entire battery box tray and dropping it down. If I decide to try swapping the batteries myself (still unlikely) I may try that.

I did crawl under the ERA today and took a few more photos, but none were any better than the image I posted previously. Very little room to work and very little clearance between the tops of the batteries and the chassis, maybe 2" at best.

One thing I was wondering about (and had forgotten since the last time I tried removing one of the batteries) is the type of connection. It looks like the cables are bolted down over a threaded post, as opposed to the kind of connection often seen on cars where a clamp is tightened around a round post. Makes sense as the threaded connection is probably more secure. Just wanted to make sure how things were hooked up so I'd buy the right type of batteries.

I didn't measure it, but the bottom of the battery box is probably 15-18" above the ground.

There is perhaps 12" of clearance from the ground to the bottom of the spare tire, which you have to crawl under to get further back (towards the front of the RV) where the battery boxes are located. Pretty tight quarters and not much room to work.

Our driveway is gravel and slopes down towards the front of the RV.

All in all, not great working conditions for maintenance of this nature.

Thanks to everyone that has taken the time to contribute to this thread, it's been very helpful to me.
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