Installing Flow-Rite battery watering on a Polaris Ranger EV

Definitely a narrow-audience scratchpad post.  We love our electric Polaris Ranger EV utility vehicle here at Prairie Haven.  But putting water in the batteries is not a lot of fun.  Messy, tedious, slow, etc.  So today’s project was to put a battery watering system in.


Everything is fine and we still heartily endorse this gizmo.  Battery watering now happens once a month.

Winter tip (and correction):  We do water the batteries in the winter after all.  I use the EV to plow snow which is pretty tough on the batteries and makes them use more water than in the summer.  It works fine in winter, but here’s the tip — don’t do this when the EV has been below freezing for a while.  Sometimes the couplers freeze.  It’s easier just to wait for a few days of above-freezing temps in the garage than it is to coax the couplers into doing their thing when they’re frozen.

We did forget to charge the batteries before we watered them once.  THAT was a pain the neck because we had to go back to the “old way” of watering to siphon off the water at the top of the batteries.  Never again!  We’ve added this handy reminder-sign to the business end of the filler hose so we’ll never forget again.

UPDATE: one month later and the results are in

Wow.  This is a complete success.  We just watered the batteries for the first time and several things stand out.  First, the batteries required dramatically less water — only a few ounces on each bank of four batteries.  Second, the batteries didn’t require any cleaning because there was no spillage at all — unlike before where the battery tops were always covered with battery acid and needed extensive work before starting to do the watering.  Third, as a result the job only took 5 minutes instead of the 3 hours we used to spend.  Pry these out of our cold dead hands.  Now, back to the original post…

Project start: 3pm

Standing on the driver’s side.  There’s the diagram of the finished system (see below), an example of the gizmo that’s going to go into the batteries, the battery compartment and the really-useful ratchet box wrench for loosening the battery hold downs.

Bag of watering gizmos

The kit came disassembled, which I really liked because we only needed to loosen the battery hold downs, not take them off.  We could thread the hoses under the hold downs and wires before hooking them to the watering gizmos.

First couple watering gizmos

We picked the easiest ones to learn on (the hardest ones are at the back – you owners already know this).  Having the hold downs loose was helpful for wiggling the gizmos in, but the breakthrough came when we started twisting the lockdown handles of the battery caps a bit.  The little handles are what really collide with the hold downs, twisting them out of the way made a big difference.

Cutting and installing the tubing was easy — we mostly used the measurements on the diagram, especially the 8-inch lengths.  Some of the longer runs (10-14 inches) had to be custom measured because the diagram didn’t match the layout of our batteries.  We’d just stick one end of the tube on, hold it close to its destination and then snip it to fit.  We wound up with about a foot of tubing left over, but we were prepared to steal some from the water hook-up hoses if we ran short.

It goes a lot faster with two people splitting the tasks

Here’s Marcie dropping gizmos into the batteries.  It’s way more than twice as fast when two people can each be concentrating on half the job at hand.  Otherwise there’s lots of changing position/tools.

All done: 5pm

This is the way the finished product looked.  This is the first side, just to keep things straight.  The whole project took a couple hours and we could do it much faster now that we’ve done it once and learned some tricks.

Layout diagram

I know, the copyright notice is pretty intimidating — but hey, this diagram’s on their web site for all to see.  Here’s the link to their site:

The part number for this rig is BG-U96V-1G

You also need the little squeeze-bottle filler that drops into a gallon of distilled water.

Results:  The next morning

We watered the batteries (and cleaned them) this morning, remembering to charge the batteries before filling them.  What used to be an “all morning project” was a short job that fit in before Marcie headed off for her real all-morning project.

Here’s an action shot — showing off my battery-watering pants.  They’re more like a battery-watering apron these days.  I think they can now be retired.

We splurged and spent a few minutes cleaning the batteries so they’d look spiffy for this final photo.  Compressed air to spray off the debris, liberal dose of battery cleaner, rinsed them off with the hose and another round of compressed air to dry things off.

We were wondering if we’d be able to tell when to quit pumping water and accidentally overfill the batteries.  No worries there — the little squeeze bulb just quits, we could both feel the really abrupt transition to “no more room” as we went to full-batteries.  Those little floating shut off valves work great.

Today’s watering took about a gallon of water (pretty normal) and 15 minutes (pretty nifty!).

The EV

Here’s a picture of the compleat EV — purple collecting bags, wide/smooth tires and a watering system.

Winter Tips:

I talked to the folks who sold us the kit about what to do in winter.  My main concern was that trapped water would freeze and rupture the tubing.  They told me that the water finds its way into the batteries as the water level drops enough to open those valves back up.  My plan is not to water the batteries in winter, just to play it safe.

Electrical repair of Power Trac PT-1850

A scratchpad post as I diagnose and repair an electrical fault in our Power Trac PT-1850.  Pretty sparse right now, just starting.

The Problem:

  1. Reset circuit breaker
  2. Turn ignition on without starting motor — I get the normal beeps, flashing strobe and 12.4 volts on the gauge (normal for a 12 volt battery at rest)
  3. Crank and start the motor
  4. Voltage drops to around 11 volts (indicating to me that something is really pulling hard, maybe a short) and stays there for about 15 to 30 seconds, then the breaker pops and the voltage jumps up to 13.2 (pretty normal alternator-charging voltage, battery seems to be getting charged up).
  5. With the breaker open/popped the strobe stops flashing. But tilt seat, emergency seat switch and draft control are still operational and the tractor made it back to the barn (about a mile).
  6. Use the ignition switch to shut off the engine (which is weird because the breaker is right in front of the ignition switch in the wiring diagram, so why does it still work?)
  7. The ignition switch is dead *after* I shut the engine off — no strobe, no beeps, no voltage on the gauge when I key it on.
  8. Return to number 1 above

My current theory is that I have a short (first project — see if I can figure out which circuit it’s in, and where). One option is to replace the alternator (I have one coming, but at $600 I’d like to avoid opening the box if I can).

Wiring Diagrams

Here’s a PDF I got from Power Trac (which is newer than my machine and doesn’t match up as the next one – figuring out which one is right is another task for today)

1850 Wiring diagram 6-1-20110001

Here’s an older GIF (I need to retrace my steps to figure out where I found this on the ‘net)


UPDATE: 2018

Here’s a pretty good example of how a lot of Power Trac puzzlers get solved by the gang on TractorByNet.  This long thread talked all around the issue, which was eventually solved by replacing the alternator. Here’s a link to that thread.

But in addition I a) bought a second PT-1850 so that time-critical projects could continue during breakdown times and b) sent this guy back to PowerTrac for repair plus an 800-hour

Mike’s Idiot’s Guide to the Truax Seed Drill

We planted the last prairie field this weekend — here’s Marcie’s post about the whole thing.

We rassled with the manual for the Truax Flex style drill — the model number of the one we were messing with was FLX-88, but I think these comments apply to any FLX model grass drill made by Truax. The problem I had was that the manual for that drill is written for people who aren’t idiots. The audience for the manual probably care about the stuff that’s in it, but all I wanted to do was hook up the drill, put seed in and plant. The manual doesn’t help with that at all, so this is my replacement — mostly for the next time I use the drill, but maybe it will help you too.

Puzzle Number One – What are the “transport locks” they’re talking about?

The manual has a dreadful picture (and only one) of the transport locks. So here are a few more, that make it obvious what’s going on.

This picture mirrors the one in the manual;


This picture shows the lock turned so that you can see it. Ok, so those have to come off before you start using the drill. Hook up hydraulics, raise the drill a little, take the blocks out. I get that.


Puzzle Number Two – Storing the trailer jack

Here’s just a stupid thing — I found it was a lot easier to rotate the jack and leave it on the drill than to pull it off. All the holes are set up for that. Here are two pictures to show you what I’m talking about.

Jack down;


Jack stored;


Puzzle Number Three – Making the drill actually work

I had a heck of a time figuring this out. Fortunately Dan Olson was home and clued me in. But the manual provided no hint. Here’s the deal.

There’s a little pin on the drive wheel that makes this happen. Here’s a photo of the pin the way we got the trailer. See? It’s pulled further out;


And here’s a picture of it in the position where the chains and gears and stuff will actually do something. It’s further in;


Here are pictures of the back side of the wheel that shows the opposite end of that pin. This first photo is in the non-engaged position (the one you would use to tow the drill to a new place). When the wheel goes around, the pin missed that ratchet thingy and as a result none of the gears turn;


Here’s a picture of the engaged position. Now the pin sticks out far enough to catch that ratchet thingy and the gears and bobbins and whatchacallits all go round and round;


Warning Number One — Check the seeding rate that the drill is set up for

Sheesh. We didn’t check this before we started. The lads at the DNR told us that the drill was set up for the lowest seeding rate, and we believed them. Not. It was set for the MAXIMUM rate, so we dumped about a jillion dollars worth of seed into about a quarter mile of furrows before we realized what was going on. Moral to the story — ALWAYS check.

Here’s where to look — behind this here silvery dingus. It swings forward;


Here’s the little decoder-ring that tells you which way the gears work. Ours came with the chain on the far LEFT set of sprockets. For planting prairies you’ll probably want them on the far RIGHT set of sprockets;


We tried the drill on the far right side for a while and concluded that it was too light, so we moved up one notch. Here’s a picture of the way we had it set up;


You change the chain by lifting that little idler-wheel up off the chain, fiddling with the chain until it’s on the right pair of sprockets and then moving the idler over so that it centers on the chain in it’s new position. This is a picture showing how the idler swings up away from the chain;


Warning Number Two — Beware of the “small seed” box, it overfeeds

We wound up using the drill ONLY on fluffy seeds. The small-seed box fed the seeds WAY too fast, even on the slowest gearbox setting. If I wanted to make a lifetime hobby out of this drill, I would have fiddled with that adjustment too. But I don’t. If anybody has messed with that set-up and wants to add a comment to this, feel free. But we just skipped it.

Editorial Comment — None of this information is in the manual

I know that for farm-equipment hotrods, this looks like the ravings of an idiot. But me I’m just a weekend warrior and figure maybe you are too. In which case, this little write-up might save you some time and aggravation.

The big reward — here’s a picture of the field as I’m dragging the drill behind TracDor.