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Old 08-03-2019, 10:24 AM   #1
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1966 17' Caravel
PINE PLAINS , New York
Join Date: Mar 2019
Posts: 31
Caravel Conundrum - Electrical in "Brown-Down" Mode

So after a last-minute, trailer fully loaded, hitched and ready to Flo[w], camping trip abandonment due to a severe weather, I tried it again this weekend...when I arrived at Schodack Island Park [a nice facility with wooded trailer sites], and plugged in, my Fantastic Fan, the lights and the water pump all were in brown-down mode. The diminished current was not enough to run the refrig, and made restroom use a challenge. Another camping trip aborted. I packed up at 5 am this morning and headed back home. Because the electrical has been working fine plugged into the house, I was certain that the issue was at the campground end...not mine. [Though I did take note as I pulled away that all the other big guy trailers seemed to have enough juice.]

When I got home and plugged in, the trailer was still in "brown-down" mode. Any suggestions for what I might do to troubleshoot? [local Camping World saying at least 2 weeks for an appointment]. Thanking the Caravel community in advance for any insight you might have to share.
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Old 08-03-2019, 08:36 PM   #2
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First get yourself a decent volt-ohm meter. With the trailer plugged into nothing at all and all DC items (lights, water pump, fridge, fantastic fans) turned off, check the voltage in your battery. I assume your expression "brown-down" means that stuff sort of weakly works, lights dim, fans turning slowly, etc. I would expect you to see something less than 12V on the battery.

Next, plug the trailer into the house and check the "charge" voltage coming from the converter. This should be 12V+. If you aren't getting any voltage, then check for a thrown AC breaker or a popped fuse on the converter itself. Take note of the brand and model of the converter. If it is the big blue, humming box known as a Univolt, then it is just good sense to replace it out of spite. If it is less than 12V, then it may be the converter itself. If it is 0, then you are going to have to troubleshoot your circuits between the converter and the power coming into the trailer. If you are luck, your converterwill actually have a plug that plugs into an outlet, and you can check the AC voltage at the outlet. Ultimately, you should be able to figure out if the converter has failed, or if the system just isn't getting power to the converter.

Good luck!
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Old 08-04-2019, 12:52 AM   #3
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1966 17' Caravel
PINE PLAINS , New York
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Bel, thank you for this detailed response. Super helpful. Yes, you are correct. Brown-down means very low current. The inverter is called "the Wizard". Do you know anything about that brand? In case it needs to be replaced, I was wondering why you are not a Univolt fan.

Before receiving your reply, I pulled apart the street-side gaucho. One of the wires going into the battery is very frayed, right at the connection point, and the other has a lot of corrosion. See attached. So I am going to start by addressing this.

I also plan on checking the inverter fuses...we had a pretty wicked storm roll thru. So I decided to abandon these efforts temporarily. Thanks again.
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Old 08-04-2019, 05:37 AM   #4
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Hilltop Lakes , Texas
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No one is a fan of the Univolt because it is old technology and there is much better available these days. One of the faults of the Univolt is that it will continue to charge a battery that is already fully charged. This boils the battery dry and ruins it. Modern units sense the level of charge and "back off" when the battery is "full."

Terminology check....

Inverter--a device that makes 120v AC out of 12v DC power so you can run things like TV sets while boon docking.

Converter--a device that makes 12v DC out of 120v AC shore power. This charges your trailer battery as well as running all the DC powered equipment while shore power is available. This is what the Univolt does that its more modern replacements do better.
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Old 08-04-2019, 06:08 AM   #5
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I have found previous DC problems related to the ground part of the system. The pic shows a potential problem for sure. It would show evidence of heat if the frayed wires was a high resistance-low amp choke point. That corrosion is not that bad. I would also check ground connections at your univolt and chassis. Good luck, too bad this ruined your trip!
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Old 08-04-2019, 06:25 AM   #6
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There are at least a couple of different "wizard"s that could be in your trailer. Neither are stock. First is the Intellipower with charge wizard, the second is a battery charger marketed by Western Auto with the Wizard brand name. The former is a relatively modern device, the second was probably new around the time your Caravel was.
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Old 08-04-2019, 12:49 PM   #7
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Hi, all. Thanks so much for the helpful feedback. I have a 9200 intelli-power Convertex with the charge Wizard. I checked the owners manual for the system (yes, I've been known to read directions now and again), and it listed a poor battery as one of the key reasons. So cleaned the corrosion. KV, you were right...did nothing. So I decided to get a new battery, and as I was hauling it out of its cubby, I noticed that the date read "12/05"...ORK. I went and got a new Bosch battery and everything is working like it should, including refrig. I left the wires as they were, though I pushed them back into the connectors. I plan to ask a buddy of mine about the fraying (esp after your comment KV - thanks!), and then cut and soldier them onto the new copper clips I bought. While I had everything torn out, I also greased the slides and fixed the screws. Works ever so much better now...inch x inch...thanks again to those of you who provided such helpful commentary. Me, I am basking in the glow of my newly-honed mechanical skills. Happy Sunday!
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Old 08-05-2019, 01:32 PM   #8
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1968 17' Caravel
Los Osos , California
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This is the basic electric kit for my 68 Caravel.

I use a Surge Guard to analyze and approve/disapprove an RV park/campsite power source. It also lets you monitor the voltage available to your trailer. https://www.campingworld.com/southwi...or-118086.html. I usually buy the 2 or 3 year no questions asked replacement coverage. It's been worth it.

I've also installed this directly to the battery in my 68 Caravel. I can constantly monitor the battery charge and also have 12volt outputs for charging phones etc. https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0...?ie=UTF8&psc=1

This plugs into any AC outlet in the trailer and lets you constantly monitor the AC feed. Green good, red avoid the using AC connection. https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0...?ie=UTF8&psc=1

In addition I use a ZAMP 140 watt solar panel, connected via my 7-way TV umbilical plug. This keeps my Optima Bluetop D31M, 75ah AGM battery topped off.

Also, 9100 Inteli Power Converter, PD9145A with attached Charge Wizard.
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Old 08-08-2019, 05:32 AM   #9
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1966 17' Caravel
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Silverwind, thank you for this detailed information - I have ordered most of these things now -- except for the Intelli-Power, which I already have. Is there a way to "top off" your battery without solar? I thought that was one of the purposes of the converter, but apparently not. Thanks.
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Old 08-08-2019, 05:47 AM   #10
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The converter should top off your battery while the trailer is connected to shore power. If there is no shore power, solar or a generator are the two options.

Check the voltage anywhere in your DC system while shore power is connected. If it reads above 13 volts, then the charger is working. After it has had an hour or so to stabilize with the charger disconnected (i.e. no shore power on the trailer), a fully charged battery with nothing drawing power should show approx. 12.7 volts.

Chargers do their work by pushing current through the battery, so they must operate at higher than battery voltage.
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Old 08-08-2019, 10:24 AM   #11
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Thanks for this, Mimi. I was surprised to read in the FAQ's from the Intelli-Power that charging could take up to 70 hours, if the battery was completely depleted as mine was. [the new one]. Going to try my hand at camping again this weekend. I am hoping that third time's a charm!
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Old 08-08-2019, 12:27 PM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by lakemaiden View Post
Thanks for this, Mimi. I was surprised to read in the FAQ's from the Intelli-Power that charging could take up to 70 hours, if the battery was completely depleted as mine was. [the new one]. Going to try my hand at camping again this weekend. I am hoping that third time's a charm!
Be careful not to let your new battery get below 50% charged. 70% is ideal to preserve battery life.
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Old 08-08-2019, 02:43 PM   #13
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1966 17' Caravel
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This makes me think something is wrong with the battery because when I went out and read it yesterday morning, I set the multi-meter on 20v setting [per instructions] and it read ".01" This morning, it read 12.54, but the Wizard attached to the converter has a slow green blinking light, which means the battery is still charging. Thoughts?
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Old 08-08-2019, 04:05 PM   #14
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If the trailer is connected to shore power when you use the test meter, the reading will be the output from the converter (which should be about 13 volts. Disconnecting the power cord the meter should read about 12.6 volts if fully charged. I would trust the charge wizard. Green light is good.
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