Our need for a dual-battery setup was born out of a want for cool snacks out on the trail. Have you ever had to power through a soggy sandwich at a trail’s lunch stop? Or run out of ice on an overnight camping trip? Or wished you had an ice cream sandwich while enjoying a comforting campfire? An Engel fridge/freezer — available in several sizes — can cure all three (it can even make ice for the other guys in your group).
Engel combination refrigerator/freezers use electricity — both 120VAC and 12VDC — to cool and to maintain their low temperatures. Every Engel fridge/freezer is capable of keeping contents fresh or frozen. You may freeze food to last you on long trips, or set the temperature control to keep fresh food and drinks chilled. All Engel fridge/freezers feature the Engel Swing Motor Compressor, which typically draws around 1 to 2 amps per hour. It’s vibration resistant for extreme conditions and will operate approximately 80 degrees (f) below the ambient temperature. It’s strongly suggested that you keep your Jeep cool and keep the Engel out of direct sunlight.
Since an Engel operates on both 120VAC and 12VDC, you can cool down the fridge prior to a trip with household current and then switch over to 12VDC after you’re all packed for the road. Author’s hint: We found that just before hitting the sack while on a trip (no more opening the fridge for the day) we’d turn up the temperature to reduce battery drain overnight. When you get up in the morning, you can turn the temp back down when you grab the eggs and bacon.
But what if you don’t want to worry? If you ever do run your fridge too long, your rig will no longer be able to start in the morning. We’re certainly not willing to trade the ability to run our Jeep just for a cold drink. That’s where are dual-battery setup comes in.
Our setup of choice are two Odyssey PC925 series batteries from Summit Racing as they can mount side-by-side in the stock location utilizing the Wrangler NW dual battery tray.
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Wrangler NW Power Products battery tray kits are available as single trays and double trays, as well as universal or vehicle-speciﬁc. We chose the vehicle-specific tray kit for our 2005 Jeep Rubicon (PN 100-120). Each Wrangler NW Power Products 100-120 battery tray kit contains the tray with hold-downs, a battery manager system, and an isolation relay with cables. The battery tray is precision cut 12-gauge steel and powder-coated for durability. The battery manager system is pre-wired for fast and no-hassle installation, and the switch can be placed where you can easily see the LEDs and control the three switch positions: dual on, dual off, and emergency.
Dual On: This is the normal operating position; the switch is always in this position unless you need to change it. In Dual On, the vehicle starts only with the main battery. Once the engine is running, the relay connects and both batteries are being charged. However, the batteries are isolated by the relay from each other when the ignition switch is in off, start, or accessory position. The LED is green.
Dual Off: When the switch is placed in this position, only the main battery is being charged; however, the circuits connected to the auxiliary battery still function. If the auxiliary battery becomes dead or defective, it is disconnected from the main battery, avoiding potential damage to the alternator or to the main battery.
Emergency On: When the switch is in this position, both batteries are connected directly to the Jeep’s electrical system. If the engine is disabled, both batteries can be used for winching, battery boosting, etc. If the main battery is low, you can even jump-start your engine without getting out of the vehicle.
Rugged Ridge; www.ruggedridge.com
Summit Racing; www.summitracing.com
Wrangler NW Power Products, 18930 59th Ave. NE, Arlington, WA 98223; 800-962-2616; www.wranglerpower.com
How to Install Dual Batteries in a Jeep
Being able to remain on the trail for days without buying ice or worrying about soggy food – not to mention never having to dump the waste water – is the advantage of having an Engle fridge/freezer, a pair of Odyssey batteries, and a Wrangler NW Power Products dual-battery kit.
The Jeep’s engine compartment is tight, with just enough room for the OEM battery. Remove the battery.
Mounted on its Engel lock-down platform, the fridge is secure and stationary.
Clean up the OEM battery plate with a solution of water and baking soda. It neutralizes any battery acid residue that may have accumulated over the years. Rinse thoroughly after applying the solution.
Here is the entire dual battery kit. Two Odyssey batteries, higher-output alternator, new tray with hold-downs, wiring, relay, switch, etc.
On the left is the kit’s new battery tray, which replaces the OEM tray on the left. Clean the old tray before removing it.
The new tray is installed and the two Odyssey batteries are resting on it.
Next step is to install the new hold-down brackets and rods.
Odyssey batteries have all-thread posts that must be inserted. You’ll also have to change your battery cables to match the Odyssey posts.
Busy, ain’t it? We mounted the relay, as suggested by the Wrangler instructions, on one of the hold-down brackets. We also protected the plus-side cable connections.
This is the included switch. Its three positions are explained in the text.
As we said earlier, the Jeep’s engine compartment is tight and stuffed full, and the alternator is buried on the passenger’s side of the engine.
Nestled into place, the Rugged Ridge higher-output alternator is ready for its fan belt. (Author’s note: We also replaced the fan belt – even though the older one was still good – while we were replacing the alternator and then kept the removed fan belt in our toolkit for an emergency on-trail replacement, should it ever be necessary.)
One of the many reasons we chose an LJ over a TJ Rubicon is its extended wheelbase. The added room gives us more space for cargo and our large dogs (a blue tick hound and a Catahoula leopard dog).
The text on the tray’s box is a bit misleading. The tray doesn’t slide in and out of the vehicle to ease access to the fridge. The fridge actually locks into the tray for safe and secure transportation.
A mounting template is printed on the inside of the box, along with the instructions.
Decide where you want the fridge located – making sure that its handles and latches clear all obstacles. (Author’s note: After measuring several times, we actually mounted the fridge too close to the tailgate and fender – we had to remove the handle and it’s so close to the fender we can’t release the catch in order to remove the fridge from the Jeep.) Tape the template in place and drill the pilot holes for the mounting screws.
The tray is in two pieces, which are exactly alike, and join together to make one tray. All four fridge feet slip into the brackets, which then lock them into place. The slot next to the screwdriver is equipped with a sliding release lever that releases the two feet on that edge. Diagonally to the right, the far corner slot is also equipped with the release lever for that edge. We mounted to tray too close to the fender, causing us great difficulty in releasing the fridge at that point. Make sure you don’t make the same mistake.
On the left is the original fridge “foot”, while on the right is the new higher foot with a rib that locks it into the slot on the tray.
Replace the original feet with the tray’s new taller feet.
Locked into place, the Engel fridge/freezer eliminates ice and soggy sandwiches forever, just plug it in (either 120VAC or 12VDC).
We ran a fused 12ga. wire from the new dual Odyssey batteries back to the right rear roll bar brace and mounted this multi-port receptacle. It not only supplies the fridge with juice, we can use it for lights while camping.
Hitting the trail through the New Mexico mountains along the Continental Divide with no worries about chillin’ our chow.