Bad Belly or Bad Battery?

How to tell when your leisure battery needs replacing.

One deep dark night, as we slept, all snug and warm in Barri, a massively loud and penetrating alarm sounded. We jolted awake. What was it? Where was it?

The Wailing Wallys

We had to scramble; it was so loud that it felt as if it was inside our heads, stopping our minds from functioning. Naked and disorientated, we fumbled for light switches, both horrified that the neighbours must be waking up too, and unstintingly cursing us. There was no way they could sleep through this, as the teeming noise forced it’s way, pell-mell, out of our open windows and ricocheted into every crevice in the campsite. We had to track down the source of the noise; and kill it.

We grabbed the obvious suspect, a carbon monoxide (CO) sensor from it’s home on the shelf. Held it close to our ears. No. It was not that one. We had another one at floor level. We grabbed it. Yes! Turned it off. Put it down and it started screaming at us again. We ripped out the battery and opened all the windows and cracked open the door, just a little. Back to bed. The next morning, we replaced the battery. Over the next couple of weeks it went off a couple of times.

The final straw? We returned from a night out, it was 2am, and the windows were closed. Even before we saw the van, we heard it. Some poor soul had gone into Barri and shut the windows. That bloody alarm. Those poor neighbours. Our shame. We let ourselves in and gutted the alarm, again.

The next morning Wally consulted Dr Google. Batteries can give off hydrogen and CO alarms will sound when they sense this gas. Well, that was news to us. We have no bottled gas in the van when we are parked up and we do not burn gas in Barri, so we knew our problem was not CO. So why had our alarm gone off? The batteries are leisure ones and should be sealed. Barris batteries live inside the vehicle, unlike most modern motorhomes, where the batteries are held in an outside compartment. As hydrogen is explosive in air, we decided we definitely wanted this gas out of our Barri. Wally vented the battery cupboard to the outside air. 

Everything was fine. We thought we had solved the problem, until one evening, as sat in Barri happily sketching and writing, we were hit by an appalling odour; rotten eggs. It floated across my nose in waves. Wally said he felt fine. Really? Were we breathing pure methane? Better not strike a match.

The smell was still drifting around the next day. Once again we asked Dr Google for a diagnosis and it turned out that the distinctive smell of stink bombs is a sign of a battery breaking down. A few checks later with a multimeter and we had our answer; one dead-ish battery. 

We teamed up with another person on site who also needed to replace his battery and secure a minute discount for a ‘bulk’ purchase. 

Bargain Leisure Batteries

I guess we learned a few things here that might be handy for all happy motorhomers.

Keep a CO sensor low down in your vehicle (CO is a heavy gas) and consider leaving one in the battery compartment.

Carry a multimeter. Never used one? Google for instructions. 

When you go to bed, consider opening a window at head level or lower.

If your CO alarm sounds, never assume it is faulty, ask yourself why it is sounding and sort out the problem.

Always wear bed clothes as you never know when you might be alarmed.

If you smell bad eggs, you have a problem. Try changing your diet, your partner, or your battery.

One Shiny New Leisure Battery

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