The 20k Project: Part 2 – Electrical System Tearout!


Well, this video is not nearly as long as the last one, where I detail the project plan.  Watch here as I get down to it and start ripping electrical components out of our Winnebago EKKO!

 

The first part of this video will be very valuable for anyone who ever wants to remove or service their EKKO battery for any reason.  There are definitely a couple tricks here. My basic notes on that process are:

  • The front of the inverter/battery compartment needs to be removed to take the batteries out.
  • You can’t remove the retaining bolts cleanly unless you jack the vehicle up about 4 to 5 inches.
  • Be careful with the silver insulation material… it’s sharp.
  • The positive terminal holds the main positive lead and a temperature sensor.
  • There are a few more items attached to the negative battery terminal.
  • The harness for the Lithionics battery data connections may be wired through a hole in such a way that you’d have to cut it to remove it.
  • Safety first – shut down ALL power sources: Alternator, battery, solar, shore power.
  • Even if you do that, you may want to disconnect the engine batteries, because that’s still live in there as well.

 

On the inside, removing the seats is pretty straight forward.  The seats are held down with U-bolts and 8 heavy duty bolts into nuts welded t the frame.  If you reassemble all the parts of just the seat pedestal, you’ll find that they weigh 114 lbs combined.  After removing it, I would have no hesitation in putting infants, souffles, whatever into those seats without fear of damage.

Also – I don’t recommend anyone actually try to follow me.  But if you do, remember to label literally everything!  It’s very confusing to see what’s what once it’s been disconnected

Beyond those few tips, I do a fairly thorough job explaining it all in the video, so enjoy!

 

James

 



James is a former rocket scientist, a USA Cycling coach, and lifelong fitness buff. When he's not driving the RV, or modifying the RV (or - that one time - doing both at once), you can find him racing bicycles, or building furniture, or making music. In his spare time, he works for a large IT company.


    34 thoughts on “The 20k Project: Part 2 – Electrical System Tearout!

    1. Patrick Broos

      Hi James,
      I’m vaguely uneasy about Winnebago’s “battery boost” solenoid in a coach with two battery chemistries (as you were in https://www.thefitrv.com/rv-tips/our-generator-free-rv-lithium-battery-solar-alternator-and-inverter/).

      I’m referring to the stock Ekko, not your 20k Ekko.

      When battery boost is engaged in the intended situation (depleted starter battery, charged house battery) all seems fine—the lithium battery can easily supply all the current the lead acid batteries (and starter) will accept.

      However, what would happen in the opposite situation—charged starter battery, depleted house battery? Seems like the depleted lithium battery would accept all the current the starter battery could produce (i.e. the starter battery would see a virtual short circuit). That sounds like a bad day …

      And of course if some innovative owner forced the battery boost to remain engaged while driving (or if the solenoid stuck closed), two alternators and two battery chemistries would be dancing on the same circuit. That sounds like a potentially expensive day …

      Reply
      1. James - Post author

        Well, in our EKKO, the battery boost is fused, so I don’t worry too much about shorting out the starter battery. Plus, I can’t imagine depleting our battery bank. Ever.
        As for a stock EKKO, I don’t remember if there was a fuse or not.
        In any case, I wouldn’t worry that much about damaging the Lithionics batteries. They’re smart enough to shut down and protect themselves if something weird happens.

        Reply
    2. Ron G.

      Great work! I have just a single suggestion and perhaps you can share with me another thought?
      Battery balancing when pulling or pushing current:
      In my setup (4 250 ah LiPo’s) I put one positive and negative lug from the inverter/charger on the center-left and center right batteries. This way they only have a single hop to the outer most batteries for charging and supply. Hope that made sense. I see it as keeping the furthest battery from receiving less amps during charging and inversely, causing the closest battery to feed the load at a much higher rate than the others down the line, which can cause it to age much quicker than the rest.
      Keep up the awesome work!

      Reply
      1. James - Post author

        I get what you’re saying.
        Since a number of people have mentioned the battery configuration, let me lay out my thoughts on the matter.
        I agree that the theoretical best configuration for 5 batteries would have been equal length leads to positive and negative busses. But the diagonal take-off does a decent enough job of evening out the load between the batteries, while requiring less cabling, less equipment, less weight, and is generally easier to manage in the limited space I had available. The best choice isn’t always the one that adheres to theoretical purity.

        Besides… my Lithionics batteries provide detailed telemetry, that includes total cumulative Amp hours deilvered! After a year, I can check on the throughput and rearrange my block of 5 to even out the load. Less elegant than a double bus-bar solution, but just as effective.

        Reply
    3. Bob S

      You mentioned your plan to use 3D printed spacers for battery hold downs. I suspect they will eventually vibrate loose. I would suggest semi-hard rubber on top of the batteries to prevent slippage and provide self-conforming spacers between the batteries and the hold down bars.

      Too bad you are not in Florida. You could use my Air Conditioned RV garage since it is empty waiting for my EKKO to be delivered.

      Reply
    4. Don Kane

      I get the impression you are going to put some of the batteries under the seats? (or just sit on the batteries…). How are you, or maybe I should ask, are you reusing the metal supports for the seats? Those seemed pretty solid.

      My first car, a ’59 VW, had the battery under the back seat, and when I would go over a bump with my 6’1″ brother in the back seat, he would some times spark the battery with the metal springs in the seat…but nothing bad ever happened because we were still kids…

      Reply
      1. James - Post author

        I won’t be reusing the giant seat supports… or the seats.
        I build something else to sit on.
        (no sparking though. hopefully)

        Reply
        1. Don Kane

          In your build, aren’t there two batteries under the driver’s side seat? They fit fine. So I am guessing the 320 Ah batteries are taller? And then the seats would be too high? Seems a waste and certainly a disappointment to loose those seats. Means you always haf to reverse the drivers seat, which is the more difficult of the two to reverse (unless you plan to get rid of the steering wheel.) (Opps, I don’t mean to put ideas into your head…)

        2. James - Post author

          Oh. You were talking about the cab seats!
          We didn’t touch those in this project, and I didn’t put any of the Lithionics batteries there. There are still two batteries under the driver’s seat as delivered.
          Sorry for the confusion!

        3. don kane

          No no no, your had it right the first time. I am disappointed that you could not save your back seats. I was just trying to compare them to the drivers seat, which DOES have batteries underwards.

          You can build seats over the batteries (hey, we have a seat over our toilet) but it will never be as nice as those nice seats you threw out.

          IMO

        4. James - Post author

          Those back seats didn’t work out for us at all. The seat belts and extra-passenger security were something we didn’t need at all. But “lounging space” is something we did need.

        5. Don Kane

          Okay, I get it.
          So, not having seen your third video, I am guessing box wooden things over the batteries with cushions from the sixties. Like ours.

    5. G Mee

      Those connectors are called WAGGO connectors. As noted previously they are primarily used to splice romex behind walls. The intent for these is to replace wire nuts. FWIW

      Reply
    6. Greg

      Oops, I think you forgot to disconnect the main chassis battery? That hot line at the end of your video is for the Winnebago battery boost feature. In case your chassis battery goes dead you can jump it via the house. I upgraded my 2015 View to Lithionics batteries a couple of years ago. On the View (Sprinter), there is a chassis battery disconnect right next to the gas pedal.

      Reply
      1. James - Post author

        Yes, that was from the battery boost, and I did preserve that function at the end of the day.
        There is no Chassis battery disconnect switch in the Transit-based EKKO. (At least, not on ours.)

        Reply
    7. Brent Parks

      Hi James and Stef,
      Thank you for the great video on the deconstruction of #1 in anticipation of the Li upgrades!
      I need one clarification, are you not worried that the infants and souffles will damage the seat or the other way around:)

      Again, thank you!

      Reply
    8. Graham Smith

      A few years ago, an electrician put in some recessed lighting for me. The cans were pre-wired with what he called non-metalic splice connectors that looked like a small version of the ones you were looking at. He admitted they were more expensive but he said they were so fast to use and so secure that they paid for themselves. The ones I have seen are for 14g – they have them at Grainger or similar stores.

      BTW, I expected at least one incidence of heat stroke or at least profuse sweating. And one little pin-prick isn’t “blood” – we want Freddy Krueger level bleeding like happens to “normal” people.

      Reply
      1. James - Post author

        Yep. “Non-metallic Splice Connector” seems to be what everyone is coming up with for the name of those things. I was hoping that they’d have a more snazzy name, like a “Zardex connector” or something, but alas…

        And the project is still young! Plenty of time left for heat stroke!

        Reply
      1. James - Post author

        Well, uh… everything I yanked out is obviously out of warranty!
        Seriously though, in case anyone is wondering, anything I remove or replace is not covered by warranty. But for anything I haven’t messed with, the warranty is still fully in effect. If I were to develop a leak from a window, for example, that would still be covered.
        I’d never let an RV repair place work on the electrical system anyway. But a window leak I might let them deal with. 🙂

        Reply
    9. Adam

      Did anyone else get a definite Red Green vibe from the most recent narrated video? You know, ‘here’s Harold, playing with electricity…’?

      Reply
      1. James - Post author

        There was one part where I actually got my head stuck in one of the compartments! Unfortunately, we didn’t get it on video. It would have been hilarious!

        Reply
      1. James - Post author

        A-ha! It’s interesting they used that, because in other places, they use outlet boxes to be able to splice wires.

        Reply
    10. Luc

      Interesting project, I have a couple of questions: First, did you have a wiring diagram for your RV or did you trace the cables to see how it was wired? Second, with 20KAh, how long do you think it will take you to charge the batteries; have you considered installing a special charger at home? I am purchasing a lightly used Coachmen Beyond and I’m planning to upgrade the electrical system from AGM to LiFePo4 and install additional solar and the info from available on the electrical system is not very detailed.

      Reply
      1. James - Post author

        I did have a wiring diagram which helped, but some things (where two cables that look identical tie to the same ground plate, for example), I still had to trace by sight.
        As far as charge times, it will probably take me less time than someone else who uses the same amount of energy.

        I don’t see fully depleting the batteries as a common practice for us. With 20kWH of batteries, we’ve so far been unable to discharge them completely.

        Reply
    11. Bill Phillip

      I’m at approximately the same point in my update to 9k watt hours. I do have the advantage of living in a much cooler environment though. Also not near as much work involved on my Win. View 24D.

      Reply

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