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It’s true that I do a lot of tinkering with our RV. But I’d like to think that much of my tinkering – though onerous in the moment – actually makes things simpler and easier for me in the long run. And that brings us to this project, where I installed an Amp-L-Start battery maintainer in our Lithium-powered Winnebago EKKO.
I’ll just say up front that I don’t ever want to have to attach a battery charger to our Ford Transit chassis. Like, ever. That’s where this device comes in. The concept behind the Amp-L-Start (and it’s older-but-smaller brother, the Trik-L-Start) is pretty simple. When you’re charging your RV’s house batteries, the Amp-L-Start senses this, and opens a pathway to your engine starting battery so that can charge as well. It will charge your engine starting battery regardless of what charging source you happen to be using (solar, shore power, generator, nuclear fission, cat on a treadmill, whatever), and it all happens more or less automatically once you’ve got it installed.
We aren’t full timers, so there are some times that we’re not using our RV and it sits idle. This is when I’ve noticed that our engine starting battery can start to slowly lose its charge. That problem isn’t unique to the EKKO; our last RV, Lance, had the same issue. In Lance, I solved this problem by installing a solar charge controller that could charge two batteries at once. The Amp-L-Start is an improvement on that solution because it will work if the battery is being charged by solar, but it will ALSO work if the RV is plugged into shore power.
So How Was The Install?
Not too bad, actually. There are literally only three wires required to install it. I elected to add a fourth wire to a circuit breaker that I installed. Finding locations to access the two battery banks and physically running the wire will be your biggest challenges if you want to try this yourself.
The only hiccup I hit on the install was that the protective terminal covers supplied with the Amp-L-Start don’t have big enough openings to fit over the crimp-on connectors that are supplied. I wound up cutting the supplied connectors off and using some smaller ones I had on hand to get them to fit.
Other than that, I completed the install with no blood, no sparks, and no smoke. So if you’re reasonably handy, you should be able to pull this one off yourself (as long as you have some good crimp-on connectors).
How Has It Been Working Out?
Very uneventful, actually – which is my kind of mod. I’ve done spot checks here and there, and our engine starting battery always seems to be at about 12.6 volts. I don’t think I’ve seen it less than that since the Amp-L-Start install. At home, we keep the RV under a carport that has solar panels on top – so most of the time, we can count on a reasonable solar charge keeping both house and chassis batteries topped up. There was a period during the shortest daylinght months – mainly December – when I wasn’t getting quite enough charge to keep our house batteries topped off. But even during those months, the chassis batteries were always ready to go.
I’ve also done spot checks when we’ve been camping in spots with electrical hookups, and each time I did, I found the Amp-L-Start to be charging as designed. So I can confidently say it works with both solar and shore power. We’ve had no issues with it at all.
And finally, here’s a collection of random links that I think people will ask me for. (I really do try to anticipate.)
The Amp-L-Start: This one has the jumpers to get it to work with Lithium house batteries
The Trik-L-Start: The original, less powerful sibling to the Amp-L-Start.
My Retro Radio Shack Multimeter: Obviously, this is quite old, since it’s actually from Radio Shack. I can’t find this model still sold, but the link is something that looks like its descendant.
Self-Resetting Circuit Breaker: This is the one I went with for this install. There are others.
Victron Lynx Bus Bars: I love these things, and my wiring would be even more of a mess without them. I have two in Number One.
My Wire Terminal Crimpers: I have so many of these things, but this is the actual pair you see in the video.
And that’s going to do it for this one. If you have questions, or if I left out a link to that one thing you really wanted, sound off in the comments below!