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Old 12-05-2015, 06:29 AM   #1
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Rivet Engine 12V system improvements

I just installed a new Teleflex volt meter for the coach batteries and watched in awe how the voltage stayed at a constant 14.x volts, while the engine voltage was around 12v or less once the headlights were turned on. Not to mentioned the fluctuation when turning i.e. the turn signal on.
I am moving non essential items to the coach batteries, like the fog lights I recently installed and i am considering moving the Air compressor as well
I have replaced all the roof marker lights with LED's.
What have you done to remedy or improve this situation?
Would it be worth it to replace the tail light assembly with LED's?
How can we bypass all the loads going through the light switch?
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Old 12-05-2015, 08:31 AM   #2
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Peter, the p30 chassis basically uses the electrical system of the C/K Truck. You can find the headlamp bypass kits from many suppliers. LMC Truck as well as Painless Wiring and others.
Converting to LED's will help. I swapped my sidemarker bulbs too. I hear that you need to change electronic flasher unit with the direction indicator bulbs for them to work.
One thing I did was paint all the cans in the tail lamp assembly satin chrome. Huge difference in light output.
One truck I learned is to look up the light output of each original incandescent bulb and match it to the output of thecLED.
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Old 12-05-2015, 08:36 AM   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by PeterH-Airstreamer View Post
I just installed a new Teleflex volt meter for the coach batteries and watched in awe how the voltage stayed at a constant 14.x volts, while the engine voltage was around 12v or less once the headlights were turned on. Not to mentioned the fluctuation when turning i.e. the turn signal on.
I am moving non essential items to the coach batteries, like the fog lights I recently installed and i am considering moving the Air compressor as well
That seems to be a recipe for shooting yourself in the foot. All electrical systems used while driving should draw power from the engine alternator, not from the house batteries. House batteries should be used only for electrical components used while you are parked. If your alternator isn't up to the task of powering all of the electrical components used while driving, a larger alternator might be the solution— especially since you've added things like fog lights that didn't come with the vehicle and weren't included in the alternator's original electrical load.

So for fog lights, leave them as they are, drawing from the alternator. Air compressor, probably leave it as-is as well, since you probably don't need the compressor while camping, only while in transit— you can run the engine to run the air compressor when you need it.
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Old 12-05-2015, 09:10 AM   #4
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Engine 12v system improvements

Are you monitoring the vehicle 12vdc and coach 12vdc with the same meter? (even two meters of the same make and model will read slightly different from each other unless calibrated, different make or models even more so - for example the meter built in to the vehicle, and the one you installed likely do not read the same when measuring the same thing)
Do both circuits have the same storage capacity, type of storage, load, and charging systems?
Have you observed what happens to the coach 12vdc when the fridge or furnace runs, or when using appliances?
Have you observed what happens with most any vehicle that has a battery volmeter in it when you turn on the headlights, fog lights, etc.
If you change vehicle things over to the coach system, what keeps the coach system charged as you're driving down the road?
Personally I wouldn't change anything.
Signed,
A stationary engineer and electronics technician
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Old 12-05-2015, 09:23 AM   #5
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That seems to be a recipe for shooting yourself in the foot. All electrical systems used while driving should draw power from the engine alternator, not from the house batteries. House batteries should be used only for electrical components used while you are parked. If your alternator isn't up to the task of powering all of the electrical components used while driving, a larger alternator might be the solution— especially since you've added things like fog lights that didn't come with the vehicle and weren't included in the alternator's original electrical load.

So for fog lights, leave them as they are, drawing from the alternator. Air compressor, probably leave it as-is as well, since you probably don't need the compressor while camping, only while in transit— you can run the engine to run the air compressor when you need it.
I may not have been clear or there is not a clear understanding how these systems work.
Both the engine battery and the coach Batteries are being charged by the alternator via an Isolator to keep them separate at all times. Alternator output does not appear to be my (our) problem.
In addition to the alternator, I travel almost always with the generator running, which charges the coach batteries.
Old circuits and small contact points (i.e. the light switch), old fuseboxes and corrosion will alter the load that used to be sufficient when it was designed and new.
My reason for making this thread was to collectively explore the weak spots and look for improvements.
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Old 12-05-2015, 09:30 AM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by PeterH-Airstreamer View Post
I may not have been clear or there is not a clear understanding how these systems work.
Both the engine battery and the coach Batteries are being charged by the alternator via an Isolator to keep them separate at all times. Alternator output does not appear to be my (our) problem.
In addition to the alternator, I travel almost always with the generator running, which charges the coach batteries.
Old circuits and small contact points (i.e. the light switch), old fuseboxes and corrosion will alter the load that used to be sufficient when it was designed and new.
My reason for making this thread was to collectively explore the weak spots and look for improvements.
Okay. Forget I said anything.
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Old 12-05-2015, 09:50 AM   #7
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Peter, by all means switch to LEDS for the tail lights. I bought this kit for my Argosy. The parts seem to be well made and the owner of the company tries hard to support the Airstream community.

Using LEDS for tail lights can affect the operation of the cruise control. LEDS provide different signal levels to the cruise control module compared to incandescent lights. Fortunately adding a relay in the brake circuit makes for an easy fix.

Pretty much all of the driving loads should be connected to the engine battery. Whether the loads are on the engine battery or the coach batteries the alternator is still charging them when the engine is running so the alternator still see the same amount of load.

Chevy P30 wiring is marginal at best especially in the lighting circuits. Switching to LEDS whenever possible and fixing all the ground connections is ine of the better things you can do. I also bought some of this paste to seal the ground connections. I think I read obout this stuff on Airforums but can't remember for sure.

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Old 12-05-2015, 09:57 AM   #8
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How and where are you reading 2 different voltages? 2 different meters at the same point or different points?

The fact that there is an isolater between the alternate and the coach batteries you will get different voltages because most isolaters have a diode as the isolation factor and that drops the voltage by about .9 volts.

If your rig is on a GM chassis and using a GM headlight switch you will see a big difference across the switch. GM grossly undersized the headlight switch and when a trailer or large box is in the equation they have a tendency to melt the switch and the harness just before the switch.

After melting mine I run ALL trailer lighting, completely LED, on my 34 off the trailer batteries.
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Old 12-05-2015, 10:55 AM   #9
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You said the coach batteries stay at 14+ volts with the headlights on and the engine battery drops to 12 volts or less.

Not sure if you have engine running at the time or plugged into shore power but if the engine is running then you have a bad alternator, electrical problem or bad battery.

If the engine is not running then the converter is supplying power to the house batteries and you battery may not be fully charged.
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Old 12-05-2015, 11:11 AM   #10
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This is on a 1982 Airstream MOTORHOME.
1 Volt meter for the engine circuit #1
1 volt meter for the coach batteries circuit #2
both charged by the same alternator via an Isolator that is know to have voltrage drops across the Isolator.

As I understand it, most of us see Voltage drops on the engine circuit down to below 12 V with the engine running and all lights on.
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Old 12-05-2015, 11:11 AM   #11
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If you search online for C/K truck headlamp relay, you not only find products but also DIY info with wiring diagrams and instructions. They will take the load off the headlamp switch, as well as improve performance due to shorter wire runs etc. It will not lessen the load tho...
Another improvement that I had on my '87 Suburban that had the same stacked rectangular headlamps was the Sylvania silver headlamps, as well as the lowbeam relay... this keeps the low beams on even when the highbeams are on... this is huge as it improves foreground illumination.
On a side note, I looked at going with a HID conversion, which improves lighting as well as using less current... these come with relays and ballasts, and so bypass the switch as well.
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Old 12-05-2015, 11:17 AM   #12
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Quote:
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If you search online for C/K truck headlamp relay, you not only find products but also DIY info with wiring diagrams and instructions. They will take the load off the headlamp switch, as well as improve performance due to shorter wire runs etc. It will not lessen the load tho...
Another improvement that I had on my '87 Suburban that had the same stacked rectangular headlamps was the Sylvania silver headlamps, as well as the lowbeam relay... this keeps the low beams on even when the highbeams are on... this is huge as it improves foreground illumination.
On a side note, I looked at going with a HID conversion, which improves lighting as well as using less current... these come with relays and ballasts, and so bypass the switch as well.
Steve, thanks for the on the point info and suggestions.
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Old 12-05-2015, 11:49 AM   #13
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I share the same concerns Peter. The most significant changes Ive made so far is replacing all the running/marker lights to LEDs and replacing the compressor and rewiring with a direct battery feed through a relay. I also changed out my fog lamps to LEDs. At some point I will investigate what Steve mentioned about using a relay system for the headlamps. The light switch seems to be the weakest link in the chassis wiring. (And the original wiring for the compressor).

Ill continue to show my lack of knowledge here, but are there LED replacement headlights for our rigs? I thought I saw a thread on these forums where somebody replaced their headlghts with LEDs. Wouldnt that be a logical next step in reducing the amperage draw through that lght switch?

When I was rewiring the new compressor I considerred running it off the coach batteries but in the end kept it on the chassis battery. Keeping with the idea of everything driving or chassis related should stay on the chassis battery. So did you add a switch on the dash somewhere for your compressor? To prevent you from wetting the bed in the middle of the night should your air bags bleed down enough to kick the compressor on?
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Old 12-05-2015, 12:11 PM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by PeterH-Airstreamer View Post
This is on a 1982 Airstream MOTORHOME.
1 Volt meter for the engine circuit #1
1 volt meter for the coach batteries circuit #2
both charged by the same alternator via an Isolator that is know to have voltrage drops across the Isolator.

As I understand it, most of us see Voltage drops on the engine circuit down to below 12 V with the engine running and all lights on.
Your MH's alternator should be of sufficient size to charge both systems at greater than 13v with the engine running regardless of load. You either have a bad alternator, voltage regulator or the alternator is to small. The things you want to do are fine, but you need to fix the underlying issues with the charging system first.
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