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Old 11-22-2014, 10:31 PM   #1
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sulfur smell from dying battery?

Hey everyone
Went down to the boat today and first thing I noticed is horrible rotten egg smell when I walked inside the boat. I initially thought it was coming from my holding tank vent so I crawled into the ER take a look around where I noticed the battery box holding my 4D start battery was really warm.
1.So my first question is can a bad battery be causing a sulpher/rotten egg smell?
The boat would not start due to a dead batterie.
2. Is it normal for the battery box to be warm to the touch?
3. I currently have a 4D. What's the difference between a 4D and 8D?
4.I plan on replacing it tomorrow. Any advice or suggestions?

Thanks!
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Old 11-22-2014, 10:33 PM   #2
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Yes dead overcharged batteries smell of rotten eggs. I would think you might want to check your charger to see if it is overcharging.
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Old 11-22-2014, 11:07 PM   #3
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The start battery is 5 yrs old, so it's probably time to replace it. And the charger seems to be doing an ok job with the house batteries. No issue there.
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Old 11-22-2014, 11:13 PM   #4
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Originally Posted by Tunajoe View Post
Hey everyone
Went down to the boat today and first thing I noticed is horrible rotten egg smell when I walked inside the boat. I initially thought it was coming from my holding tank vent so I crawled into the ER take a look around where I noticed the battery box holding my 4D start battery was really warm.
1.So my first question is can a bad battery be causing a sulpher/rotten egg smell?
The boat would not start due to a dead batterie.
2. Is it normal for the battery box to be warm to the touch?
3. I currently have a 4D. What's the difference between a 4D and 8D?
4.I plan on replacing it tomorrow. Any advice or suggestions?

Thanks!
I take it your batts are wet cell?? In adition to checking your charger for correct operation... I recommend you check your batt cells at least once every six months and keep them close or exactly at correct level with distilled water only. Even if charger is working well when a batt's water level drops below its lead plates much can occur regarding sulfer smell, sulfating crystals forming, and excessive battery heat occurring. I've heard of, but not personally seen, wet batts with exposed plates that when still receiving a charge burst into flame.

I recommend you get new batts!

Good Luck! - Art
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Old 11-23-2014, 07:09 AM   #5
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Do you have two batteries in parallel?
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Old 11-23-2014, 08:05 AM   #6
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1.So my first question is can a bad battery be causing a sulpher/rotten egg smell?
Yep sulfuric acid. You may find acid in your box. Have a box of baking soda to neutralize the fluid in the box.
2. Is it normal for the battery box to be warm to the touch?
Batteries will heat up under heavy charge. They will get very hot with shorted cells and boil dry.
3. I currently have a 4D. What's the difference between a 4D and 8D?
A 4D is 125 lbs and 190-200 amp-hrs. The 8D is 165 lbs and 220-230 amp-hrs.
4.I plan on replacing it tomorrow. Any advice or suggestions?
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Old 11-23-2014, 08:07 AM   #7
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This is a typical thing to happen. The battery or batteries get a little warm and some of the water evaporates. Then the charger keeps them on charge because the voltage is low. Then the battery or batteries cook. That is one reason that I don't stay plugged in. I plug in when my battery monitor tells me I need to. Once you develop a pattern, you will know. Every 3 days, or whatever it is, I need to plug in for 24 hours. A good solar panel is great to keep a trickle charge on the batteries. I have cooked a few batteries myself. Be careful, if they are those maintenance free batteries, they get all swolled up (as Danny DeVito says in Twins) and could explode. Wet cells will vent, that's why you smell them and that's why the water level is below the plates. Once the batteries cook, they are done. I did get another season from my cooked batteries. I had a Link 2000 and they have a descaling feature that takes 8 - 10 hrs. You MUST follow the owners manual exactly and the boat will smell. But, like I said, I did get 1 more season out of the house bank. Maybe your charger or monitor has that feature?
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Old 11-23-2014, 08:51 AM   #8
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Sounds like you were lucky to not have an onboard fire.

This is a new to you boat. It has been neglected for awhile and appreciates the TLC it is now receiving. Many systems to learn and things to verify including the charging system. Check the battery for electrolyte level and a dead cell, if level OK and no dead cell dig deeper than a worn out battery. Have your charger and overall electrical systems checked out by a very good certified marine electrical tech.

Were the batteries disconnected for the overland journey? What brand and age is the charger?
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Old 11-23-2014, 10:13 AM   #9
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Replace the battery with a 4D. Most likely a bad battery. Watch the new battery for a few days to make sure the new battery water is not boiling or the battery is not hot to touch. Warm is ok while charging. It's not rocket science.
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Old 11-23-2014, 10:24 AM   #10
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Replace the battery with a 4D. Most likely a bad battery. Watch the new battery for a few days to make sure the new battery water is not boiling or the battery is not hot to touch. Warm is ok while charging. It's not rocket science.
Quite correct Steve!

But, after all... it is... The "Science" of Owning a Boat!

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Old 11-23-2014, 10:51 AM   #11
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My charger used to charge two banks of different capacities and the smaller bank always died much faster. I've since disconnected the smaller bank from the charger and have used a Xantrex Echo charger with great success. What I found out is that even though my smart charger is a 3-bank charger, it doesn't stop charging banks independently - making it not very smart. The smaller bank is constantly overcharged since the charger keeps charging until the bigger bank is full. Another option that I considered was to install another charger but the echo charger was cheaper and less work to install.
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Old 11-23-2014, 11:22 AM   #12
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Do you need a battery that big to start your main?

I get by just fine with 2 Group 27 1000 amp cranking batteries (paralleled) and that's over twice the required power per the engine manufactures recommendation. Cheaper, lighter, easier to replace. My house is 8X6v golf cart, Genset is also a group 27.

I understand the need with 12+ liter trucks and heavy equipment the need for a 4 or 8 D but only the really large engines starting up on winter days require that much power imho.
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Old 11-23-2014, 12:10 PM   #13
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I take it your batts are wet cell?? In adition to checking your charger for correct operation... I recommend you check your batt cells at least once every six months and keep them close or exactly at correct level with distilled water only. Even if charger is working well when a batt's water level drops below its lead plates much can occur regarding sulfer smell, sulfating crystals forming, and excessive battery heat occurring. I've heard of, but not personally seen, wet batts with exposed plates that when still receiving a charge burst into flame.

I recommend you get new batts!

Good Luck! - Art
Thank you Art.
Yes they are wet cell.
You scared me about the fire, so I drove back to the boat and turned off the charger.

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Do you have two batteries in parallel?
No sir. My battery bank is one 4D start and (2) 6volt batteries in series for the house.
Quote:
Originally Posted by fryedaze View Post
1.So my first question is can a bad battery be causing a sulpher/rotten egg smell?
Yep sulfuric acid. You may find acid in your box. Have a box of baking soda to neutralize the fluid in the box.
2. Is it normal for the battery box to be warm to the touch?
Batteries will heat up under heavy charge. They will get very hot with shorted cells and boil dry.
3. I currently have a 4D. What's the difference between a 4D and 8D?
A 4D is 125 lbs and 190-200 amp-hrs. The 8D is 165 lbs and 220-230 amp-hrs.
4.I plan on replacing it tomorrow. Any advice or suggestions?
Thank you!

Quote:
Originally Posted by sunchaser View Post
Sounds like you were lucky to not have an onboard fire.

This is a new to you boat. It has been neglected for awhile and appreciates the TLC it is now receiving. Many systems to learn and things to verify including the charging system. Check the battery for electrolyte level and a dead cell, if level OK and no dead cell dig deeper than a worn out battery. Have your charger and overall electrical systems checked out by a very good certified marine electrical tech.

Were the batteries disconnected for the overland journey? What brand and age is the charger?
I initially checked the Electrolyte levels on all the batteries and they were good.
Boat started first few weeks no problem and then one day it didn't.
So I checked levels again (good) and terminals to see if they were loose (they were). I tightened them up and then 2 days later, boat started normal.
I figured problem solved.
Then the smell started, which I thought was the holding tank.
No wonder the tank deodorizer didn't work
Batteries were not disconnected for the transport.
I believe the charger is a xantrex? It is original to the boat so that puts it at 10 years old.
Today, I'll put a meter to it and see what it's putting out.
Thank you!
Quote:
Originally Posted by SCOTTEDAVIS View Post
Do you need a battery that big to start your main?

I get by just fine with 2 Group 27 1000 amp cranking batteries (paralleled) and that's over twice the required power per the engine manufactures recommendation. Cheaper, lighter, easier to replace. My house is 8X6v golf cart, Genset is also a group 27.

I understand the need with 12+ liter trucks and heavy equipment the need for a 4 or 8 D but only the really large engines starting up on winter days require that much power imho.
Ford/Sabre 120
I have no idea if I could start threading with a smaller battery.
Probably. It sure would make things a lot easier to instal a smaller, lighter , batterie!
Of course, I still have to hump the 4d out of the engine room by myself today.
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Old 11-23-2014, 12:18 PM   #14
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I downsized to a (for lack of a better number as this had a goofy number I never heard of) Group 31 to start my 120 Lehman.

It had something like 900 CCA so I wasn't worried and it has been fine for the last 700 hours of ops.

Downsized from an 8D.
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Old 11-23-2014, 01:32 PM   #15
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Group 31 are a common start battery in the trucking industry. Pretty common set up on a truck with a 15 liter engine (915 cubic inches) would be 3 group 31 batteries which will crank and start the engine even in fairly cold temperatures. Your Lehman is (at most I think) 380 cubic inches and so I am not surprised that a single group 31 does the job. In my view the best part is the 31 s are such a common size that the price stays reasonable.and they are available almost everywhere- even your local Wal-Mart probably carries them.
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Old 11-23-2014, 03:20 PM   #16
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As house bank and engine starters... Been using four (4) wet cell Group 31 Deep Cell Marine Batts from "BatteryPlus" store for years. East Penn built, high quality, inexpensive, no problems, easy to maintain, charge quickly, and... collectively supply plenty of power. Also have a gen set Group 27 starter batt... and... a completely independent Group 27 deep-cell/starter combo batt that's in separate batt box. I keep it 100% charged in wait for if all else fails; basically it acts as a fool-proof safety feature!

We're very efficient on how elect power is used aboard boat. At anchor for long as we want gen set usually runs about .75 hr in morn and .75 hr in eve. That keeps all batts charged, AC refrigerator/freezer cool, food cooked, coffee perked, water hot, 2 computers/2 cell-phones charged, recharged batts on low level cabin lights... and what ever else we need... like occasionally portable power tool batts charged. Oh, and that includes our 5 mile walkie talkies.

Cost for whole set up from BatteriesPlus was under $650... inc all batts, 2 battery testers, a trickle charger for independent safety batt and its seperate batt box. Over 5 years now and it all is still going strong!

BTW...

I never leave my boat plugged into dock when away from boat for any extended periods (i.e. one 24 hour day or longer). Always keeping boat completely isolated from any contact with dock and making sure that batts aboard are isolated from boat via Perko mains. This makes certain boat gets little as possible corrosion/galvanization/electrolysis to metal portions; I do keep a float switched bilge pump direct-wired to house bank. The only down side to this is that "if" boat suddenly sprung a consistent and sizable leak the batts would eventually go dead, direct wired pump would go quiet... sinking boat sounds such as Blub, Blub, Blub might be heard if no person on dock took actions before boat sunk - That's why I carry insurance!

In my experience of many decades... Wet cell batts do NOT need to constantly be kept to 100% charge. Especially deep cell type. Long as bats are not left long enough that they go below 50% +/- charge, and they have plenty electrolyte in each cell, they are just fine to let stand. Then when visiting boat - turn on charger and bring batts up to 100%. I have gone up to 4 months between visits and found that batts remained at 60 to 70 percent charged. Upon visit I always make certain all batts are at 100%. I'd guess that even six or a little more months would not be way too long between recharge. Because batts do loose charge even while sitting isolated and dormant... there is a limited period of time between which recharge should be accommodated.

Matter of fact, I believe the constant hookup to chargers, therefore non stop charging and recharging of batts (at least wet cell type - which I use) reduces their overall life span.

For even more safety value I've solar panel on front of fly bridge that trickle charges to gen set batt when out and about. That way if all else failed I could restart batt charger. And, as last step caution, I keep sturdy jumper cables aboard too.
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Old 11-23-2014, 07:55 PM   #17
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A sulphur smell coming from a battery is a strong indication of coming disaster ... Turn off the charger, don protective gear and disconnect immediately.
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Old 11-23-2014, 10:19 PM   #18
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In my experience of many decades... Wet cell batts do NOT need to constantly be kept to 100% charge.

Ditto here Art. When I arrive at the boat I turn the engine room blowers on first to "hear" how charged the batteries are- then turn on the charger. For me it's a quick way to prove the batteries are still holding up.


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Old 11-23-2014, 11:17 PM   #19
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Well, I changed out the 4D battery today and it was easier than I thought.
I was able to muscle the old one out and not make a mess of anything. I then cleaned the battery box carefully.

I ran down the local chandlery and purchased a new 4D for $189.00. Installed it and I'm back up and running.

My good friend who also has a 32' NT came down to the boat and was able to clarify a few questions I had regarding the house and start batterie.

It was interesting that the old start battery had dry cells. I had checked them a week before the smell and before I tightened the terminals. At that time they were all normal.
I do wonder if the charger is working correct. I know the settings are correct because NT has a sticker telling you what they should be.

I did turn on the charger before I left today, but regret that now.
I think I'll run down tomorrow and turn it off.
I think I'll just leave it off and develop a system like Forkliftt.

Thanks for everyone's help!
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Old 11-24-2014, 08:05 AM   #20
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While modest "off the charger" time can be tolerated....marine batteries are usually a good example of what I have experienced that "over charging" and "under charging whether voltage or storage without trickle" cause their early demise.


Lead acid batteries must always be stored in a charged state. A topping charge should be applied every six months to prevent the voltage from dropping below 2.10V/cell. With AGM, these requirements can be somewhat relaxed.
Charging Information For Lead Acid Batteries – Battery University


The problem with boats is there always seems to be stray current floating around....if you disconnected your batteries every time you topped them off...it may not be an issue. Otherwise the gads of devices to keep your batts topped off all the time would become just anther form of "snake oil"...and yet I rarely hear it discussed that "good" trickle or auto weekly charger checking and topping chargers as "snake oil".
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