Engine Battery

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NOTE - For information about the interior coach batteries, visit the Winnebago Coach Battery page.

 

 


 

 

Specifications:

On the 1999 and later models of the VR-6 Rialtas, the OEM battery is a BCI Group 47 with 480 amps of Cold Cranking Power (CCA).  The original VW part number is 1J0-915-105AC and its official description is "BATTERY WITH CHARGE STATE 60AH/280A".

Don't let the relative small "280 Amp" figure fool you; that's the DIN equivalent of our SAE 480Amps.  Yes, for some stupid reason, our Americanized standard describe an amperage much greater than the same battery described in the European DIN system.  In fact, if you still have an OEM battery, look closely at the label and you'll see its description in both DIN 280A and "EN/SAE" (English/Society of Automotive Engineers) 480A.

There are a few other BCI Group numbers in which the sizes are similar but not identical.  You'll note that on the OEM Group 47, the terminal posts are recessed down on each side.  Other similar group batteries may not have the terminal recesses.  The only important thing other than appearance is that the battery width of 6-7/8" not be deviated from too much, otherwise the hold down clamp may not properly secure the battery.  If your dealer does not have a Group 47 but wants to sell you another size along with some special hold-down attachments and maybe different cables or adapters, leave the store immediately and seek another dealer.

BCI Group Size Chart

How Lead Acid Batteries Work

Exide Application Guide (2002) (PDF)

Exide Battery Specifications (April 2003) (PDF)

 

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General Information:

The original battery that was supplied by Volkswagen was more than likely a "Varta" brand made in Germany.  The battery is fairly well protected against road and engine debris by the use of formed plastic covers that are easily removed for maintenance.  Unfortunately, with the battery located in the engine compartment, excessive heat generated by the engine means that the battery will last less than five years.

In spite of what appears to be a "maintenance free" battery, the OEM battery needs to have the electrolyte levels checked at least every 6 months.  Upon first viewing this battery, you may think that there is no way to add water to the battery.  Volkswagen has played a dirty trick on its owners by having a solid black decal applied over the cell covers so that it would appear there is no way to check the electrolyte level.  But by peeling back and removing this non-essential decal, the standard screw-on caps for each cell of the battery are revealed.  Use only distilled water to add to each cell if needed.

This is a relatively small battery but when you think about it, the engine battery serves no other purpose than to start the engine and all of the vehicle accessories other than the radio are powered by the Winnebago coach batteries.  Therefore, its small size and power rating are more than ample for the task.  Replacing it with a larger battery with much more amperage serves little purpose and is probably a waste of money.  For example, Sears markets the Group 47 only in its Die-Hard International line where the price is about $109.00.  For comparison purposes, Wal-Mart markets its Ever-Start Group 47 which exceeds the OEM CCAs and it sells for $39.95 with a full 2 year full replacement guarantee.  You can spend the extra money for peace of mind but the extra power does you absolutely no good and the battery won't last any longer than the Wal-Mart brand.

One thing to watch for in comparing batteries is a trick now being used by many manufacturers in quoting their power as "Cranking Amps" instead of the standardized "Cold Cranking Amps".  What's the difference?  COLD Cranking Amps is a measure of the battery power at 0 degrees.  The other "Cranking Amps" is a non-standard unit of measurement but probably foot-noted as 32 degrees.  The warmer temperature allows a much greater amount of available power so be careful to not get fooled.

For a more information about batteries, check these links:

  •  How Lead Acid Batteries Work: http://www.vonwentzel.net/Battery/index.html

  •  Car and Deep Cycle Battery FAQ

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    Maintenance:

    SPECIAL NOTE: Car batteries contain acid which can cause severe burns or damage to the eyes.  Always wear eye goggles for protection.  Wear old clothing or a rubber apron and gloves.  Any rags used to clean off the battery or tray area should be disposed of when finished.

    1. Check electrolyte level every 6 months, especially in hot climates or before long trips of several weeks or longer.

    2. Check cables and connections for corrosion and tightness.

    3. Check battery tray and surrounding area for corrosion.

      Recommended tools:

      Battery hydrometer (about $3)

      Battery wire brush post cleaner (about $3)

    Unfortunately, it is practically impossible to check the electrolyte level because the battery is located so far into the engine compartment.  To do a complete check it is necessary to remove the battery and examine the acid levels in a more convenient location.  No thanks to Volkswagen for making this design error and adding a difficulty level to what should be simple maintenance.  But this now has a blessing in disguise.  By removing the battery, you get to do a thorough and complete check of all the other items.  You can even invest in an in-expensive battery hydrometer to check the specific gravity of each cell.  And once you get used to the method, it doesn't take any longer than 15-20 minutes for the complete procedure.  Simply use the following steps for battery replacement.  While you have the battery out, if you find any problems such as one dead cell, you can then take the battery to your nearest auto parts store and get a free battery test performed.

    Cleanliness is important for the battery, cables, and surrounding metal areas.  With the battery removed from the vehicle, it makes it very easy to use a garden hose to clean off and dirt and corrosion from the battery.  Some people advocate using baking soda which neutralizes the acid which may be found on the battery but if you do, BE VERY CAREFUL TO NOT GET ANY BAKING SODA OR RINSE WATER SOLUTION INTO THE FILLER CAPS!

    Use a battery post cleaning tool to clean the lead terminal posts until you see bright shiny metal.  Use the same tool or similar wire brush to clean the insides of the cable connectors.

    Examine the painted battery tray and surrounding area in the engine compartment.  Use a garden hose and cleaning rag to remove any dirt or corrosion.  If you see a build-up of acid or corrosion in one spot, wet the area thoroughly and sprinkle liberally with baking soda to neutralize any remaining acid.  Use a soft scrub brush or even an old tooth brush to insure the baking soda solution enters any seams or hard-to-get areas.  Flood liberally with water.  Any areas in which the paint has been corroded away should be sanded smooth, primed, and re-painted as necessary.

    Before re-installing the battery, remove the small brown wires that are attached to the negative cable.  Use sandpaper or emery cloth to remove any corrosion or oxidation.  The spade terminals should be bright shiny metal before reattaching them.  Do the same for the small red wire connected to the positive cable.

     

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    Replacement Procedure

    1. Purchase your replacement battery first.  You may wish to remove the old battery ahead of time by following the procedure below to insure that you get the same exact size and BCI Group number.  Usually you will have to pay a core charge of about $8 if you don't have the old battery to exchange at the time of purchase but you can always return it later for a refund of your core charges.

    2. Decide if you want to save engine computer and radio settings.  If you disconnect the battery, all engine control settings are lost as are your saved radio channels.

    You can purchase or fabricate a tool similar to the one pictured which plugs into the cigarette lighter and provides enough power through a 9 volt alkaline battery to maintain those computer settings while you change the battery.  Or connect another battery using jumper cables which will supply the power while you change out the actual car battery.  If you use an adapter which plugs into the cigarette lighter to provide enough power through a 9 volt alkaline battery to maintain those computer settings while you change the battery, you should remove that adapter soon after you connect the new battery to avoid overheating that little 9V battery.  Even if you use a rechargeable 9 Volt battery, it's taking an overcharge connected to the 12V battery & may pop if left connected too long.

    But there is good news for you Rialta owners.  You already have a backup battery: namely, the coach batteries.  You just have to know how to connect them all together at the same time while you replace the engine battery.  One method would be to hire somebody to sit in the driver's seat and hold down the overhead button that is supposed to do this just in case you need to start the vehicle and your engine battery is dead.  On a more practical manner, just follow this procedure.  Open the coach battery compartment and connect one end of a clip lead to the positive post of either battery and the other end to the small terminal on the solenoid.  The solenoid will click on.  All three batteries are now connected together and 12 volts are supplied to all functions in the engine compartment.

    Even if you don't bother with saving all the computer data, no harm is done and the engine will quickly adapt to your driving habits and fully restore the necessary information all within a few hours of driving.  You will have to manually reset your radio channels.

    1. Remove the negative cable first.  This is done first so that while removing the positive cable, if your wrench accidentally touches the metal body or other ground point, you won't create a huge shower of sparks.

    2. Remove the positive cable.

    3. Remove the hex head hold down bolt that is located towards the bottom center just underneath the black plastic fuse box that is in the way.  Note that with the bolt removed, the hold down clamp is part of the bracket assembly that holds the fuse box.  It is not necessary to remove the fuse box or the bracket.  They will move slightly out of the way to allow access to the battery.

    4. Lift and remove old battery.  Be careful not to tip and spill any acid while moving it.

    5. Inspect battery tray and surrounding area.  Clean if necessary as detailed in the maintenance section above.

    6. Insert new battery into tray in the same alignment as the old one.  The positive terminal always connects to the red cable.

    7. Connect hold down bolt.  This make take some fidgeting to get the bracket and clamp in the right position.

    8. Connect positive cable.

    9. Connect negative cable.

    Other things to do while you're in there: clean the battery terminal posts and the insides of the cable connector until you see bright shiny metal.  Remove all the accessory wires with the spade terminal that are connected to either cable and use sandpaper or emery cloth to clean the terminal contacts making sure that all corrosion is removed.  Inspect and clean the ends of all cables.  Apply a light coat of petroleum jelly on any exposed copper stands to keep them from corroding.  I recommend the use of those 99 cent anti-corrosion cloth washers colored red and green as shown in this picture.  You should periodically check the battery terminals and posts for corrosion or a lead oxide build-up which will weaken the electrical contact.  Sometimes you may find that the vehicle just won't crank over even though everything supposedly checks out.  In that case, try removing the terminals, clean away all deposits, and re-attach the terminals bringing the bolt up to proper tension.  You'd be surprised at how many times this little step solves major problems.

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    Page Updated: 30 March 2013