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Old 09-06-2015, 12:27 PM   #1
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House batteries/generator issue

Yes, another thread on the house batteries/generator, I'm sad to say. I have read most of the other threads and I'm fearful that I will be counted among those who end up having to spend $800 or so to replace our house batteries.

We have a 2014.5 AI, took delivery in late March of this year.

I scheduled a service/warranty call with RBM of Alpharetta for Tuesday, 9/15. I sent the info to the dealer in advance along with pics (we have a variety of small warranty service repairs, nothing major other than the batteries/generator issue). The Service Advisor (Victoria Cunningham) called me along with someone in service (not sure of his name, but it wasn't Randy Bacon, whom I have spoken with prior). He mentioned that Airstream is no longer replacing the house batteries that are "swollen" from "misuse" by the owner.

I have been trying to get the generator started and have only had it started successfully two times--once at delivery in March and once in August after being on shore power for 18 hours. I have not been able to start the generator on its own without shore power (which pretty much negates the point of having a generator). My batteries show 100% when I try starting, but after a few cranks (and eventual fail) in starting, they show 20%, then 0%. A couple days later they appear to be topped off back to 100%. We store the AI in an open lot with plenty of direct sunlight, but no power available.

I know that the recommendation is now to put the AI on shore power for 24-48 hours each month, but that's simply not practical for us (and apparently many others, from reading the forum threads). We live in a condo (half the year), do not have 30 amp service and, even if we did, the homeowners association prohibits overnight parking. I had been dutifully disconnecting all of what I thought (I know better now) were all parasitic draws and the battery always topped up to 100% on solar when I checked on the RV, so I thought we were fine.

So since we're now facing an unforeseen potential $800 expense, I pulled both batteries from the RV and brought them to our condo. On a side note, if anyone needs help on where they are located or how to pull them, I would be happy to assist. It was fairly straightforward with the right tools and some patience. And yes, there were only 4 screws in the 6 screw slots (the four corners had screws, the other 2 did not), per the inquiry in a different thread. I bought a couple more screws at the hardware store to complete what Airstream apparently did not feel is necessary (but then why have the screw holes in the first place?).

I put one battery onto a multi-stage trickle charger (which goes into maintenance mode when the full charge is reached). I am hoping that this will somehow give the batteries a full charge which they can hold. No, I don't really think it will work, but I'm willing to try just about anything to avoid paying $800 for batteries I have never used. In looking at the batteries, they are slightly bowed out on the sides. Is this what the service tech was referring to as being "swelled" (which is not covered by the warranty)?

Any suggestions on what I might do over the next 8-9 days before bringing the AI in for service? And how to handle the service call with RBM and/or Airstream?

Frankly, I would not have bought the AI knowing what I have learned about the house batteries on this forum. I wish I had found this forum before buying the unit. I was told by the dealer that the solar would top off the house batteries as long as we have sun. We've had plenty of sun. And the batteries always appear to be topped up when I went to visit the RV. It is only in trying to crank the generator that there appears to be any problem.

Any help or advice to a newbie (both to RVing and to Airstream) would be appreciated.

P.S. I was going to attach two pics of the batteries and charger, but it appears that the forum only allows the ability to insert images from a URL? But it does allow attaching a video, so I took a quick video of the setup I have for charging the ATMs in our garage. I noticed others posting pics within their posts, if there is a way to do this without uploading them to another website (to generate the URL to link to them), I would appreciate the forum advice as well. But the video actually gives a better 3D perspective on what appears to be the "swell" of the batteries.
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Old 09-06-2015, 12:38 PM   #2
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Contact your nearest Lifeline battery retailer. Airstream may not warrant the batteries, but Lifeline almost certainly will, considering how new they are.

Of course that completely ignores the issue of exactly how you could "misuse" the batteries to cause them to bulge on the sides. Perhaps you could get your Airstream service adviser to explain that one to you, so you could tell us? You could always tell her you want to know so that "it doesn't happen again."
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Old 09-06-2015, 12:52 PM   #3
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The damage to the batteries may have already occurred at the dealer's lot; some dealers are notoriously bad at ensuring the batteries are correctly maintained, particularly if it's been sitting on their lot for several weeks.


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Old 09-06-2015, 12:55 PM   #4
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I always start my engine to start the generator.....just seems to give the batteries a boost for this big job.

This starts the generator every time. Have you tried this?

Driving your Interstate should also bring your batteries to full charge....although I don't know the time frame, this is what I have been told here.



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Old 09-06-2015, 04:25 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by BrianKrueger View Post


P.S. I was going to attach two pics of the batteries and charger, but it appears that the forum only allows the ability to insert images from a URL?
To attach pics, go to "Advanced" and then "Manage Attachments" That will pop up a window that allows you to browse your computer for pic files and upload them. You can also upload a video or file from a URL here.
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Old 09-06-2015, 05:16 PM   #6
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Engine running while attempting generator startup

Quote:
Originally Posted by Lily&Me View Post
I always start my engine to start the generator.....just seems to give the batteries a boost for this big job.

This starts the generator every time. Have you tried this?

Driving your Interstate should also bring your batteries to full charge....although I don't know the time frame, this is what I have been told here.

Maggie
Hi Maggie,

Thanks for the feedback.

Yes, I do have the engine running each time I try the generator startup. The one time I was successful in starting the generator was at a campground after 18 hours on shore power and with the engine running. Yet off shore power with the engine running, no luck so far.

I have not tried to do the battery boost from the cockpit, my arms are not long enough to do both. I guess I could ask my wife to assist when she is with me next, but most of the times I've tried doing the startup, it is just me and the RV in a big open lot.

Also, I tried to start the generator after driving the RV for 2 hours (and it showed 100% charge) when we arrived at a campground, wouldn't start. I also tried it after 12 hours at the campground, came close, but wouldn't start. It was only after 18 hours of shore power and the engine running that I was able to start the generator. Not a good combination for wanting the generator for when the generator is actually needed.

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Old 09-06-2015, 05:29 PM   #7
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Originally Posted by 73shark View Post
To attach pics, go to "Advanced" and then "Manage Attachments" That will pop up a window that allows you to browse your computer for pic files and upload them. You can also upload a video or file from a URL here.
Thanks for the info, I do see that link now. I tried several times to upload two different pics, both from my SD card and direct from my laptop hard drive, both times got a message "Upload of file failed." Tried to do just one at a time, same error. Tried compressing the files from 3MB to 250K, same error. I even tried compressing down to 25K, same error.

Both are basic .JPG files, nothing special or unusual. I was, ironically, able to upload the 80MB video in the original post with no issues.

I'm a tech guy and normally I'd be able to solve this, but for some reason cannot find a workaround that will work.
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Old 09-06-2015, 05:46 PM   #8
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The easiest way is to upload the photos to a site like Photobucket and then insert the IMG file. I actually prefer this arrangement as you can insert the photo where it fits with the text.
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Old 09-06-2015, 06:00 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by BrianKrueger View Post
Hi Maggie,

Thanks for the feedback.

Yes, I do have the engine running each time I try the generator startup. The one time I was successful in starting the generator was at a campground after 18 hours on shore power and with the engine running. Yet off shore power with the engine running, no luck so far.

I have not tried to do the battery boost from the cockpit, my arms are not long enough to do both. I guess I could ask my wife to assist when she is with me next, but most of the times I've tried doing the startup, it is just me and the RV in a big open lot.

Also, I tried to start the generator after driving the RV for 2 hours (and it showed 100% charge) when we arrived at a campground, wouldn't start. I also tried it after 12 hours at the campground, came close, but wouldn't start. It was only after 18 hours of shore power and the engine running that I was able to start the generator. Not a good combination for wanting the generator for when the generator is actually needed.

Brian
The problem may well be your generator, rather than your battery, for whatever reason....not getting an adequate fuel supply???

The only chronic problem we had with ours was due to wasps building a nest in the intake line...if that is the correct term, and it may not be.

Protag's suggestion about how to address the issue with your dealer sounds good.

Everything is under warranty for you. It needs to be resolved without cost to you.

Keep us posted, and don't give up.


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Old 09-07-2015, 02:00 AM   #10
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Have you tried to do an equalization charge to your batteries? I'm no battery expert but I would suspect they've been in a discharged state often enough cause damage. By performing an equalization charge it supposed to remove sulfation from the internal plates. The magnum charger in your AI should (may) have the equalization option. You will need to read the proper steps from the owners manual (Magnum) for the procedure. It may be worth a try considering the expense of these batteries. I'm attaching a document from a Lifeline battery dealer regarding care of the Lifeline batteries.


Lifeline and Sun Xtender Battery Care
Here are a few abbreviated tips to help you get a long life from your Lifeline batteries. We strongly
recommend reading the Technical Manual for full information, in order to maximize battery life.
Your batteries need to be partially discharged and re
charged several times in order to reach full

capacity. There is no special procedure, just use them normally. These batteries do not need to be
deeply cycled in order to stay healthy. In fact, fully discharging them is specifically not recommended.
After you have discharged your batteries, be sure you fully recharge them. Never let your batteries rest in

a discharged state as they will begin to sulfate.
You should always fully charge your batteries prior to

storing them. We recommend putting a maintenance charge on your batteries every 6
8 weeks for best

results.
Your battery is fully charged when it will only accept 0.5amp/100 amp hr into them at the proper

charging voltage. Example: A 12v, 400 amp hour battery bank is fully charged only when it draws 2 amps
while charging at 14.2v. Terminating charging before this point, will result in undercharging.
Your 12v battery bank is fully discharged when it reaches 10.5v. Discharging to this point and lower causes

damage. Set your automatic generator start or low voltage disconnect well above this point.
Chronically failing to complete charge cycles will gradually cause sulfation and thereby damage the

batteries. In fact, undercharging is the number one cause that we see for reduced battery life.
Make sure that all battery charging devices are adjusted to the required charging values. 12 volt batteries
must be charged at 14.2v to 14.4v, and a “Float” charge setting between at 13.2v to 13.4v. These
numbers are critical. Your charging system must incorporate temperature compensation!
Trouble Shooting
• Checking the open circuit voltage should always be step one. The best time to take a voltage
reading is 12
24 hours after any charging or discharging of the battery.

• A new, fully charged 12v battery will have a resting voltage of 12.9v to 13.0v. As the battery
ages, 12.8v “or higher” can be considered fully charged.
• If the battery won’t return to a full charge through normal charging procedures, it may be
sulfated and will require equalizing or a conditioning charge. (See technical manual)
If the battery displays a high voltage, but significantly drops under a load, it is likely that is has been
overcharged. A capacity test can determine how severe the damage may be.
Please note that many battery chargers need to see a nominal voltage of 8.5v (on a 12v battery) before
functioning properly. If your batteries have been discharged below this level, you may need to utilize a
manual charger that can function, no matter how low the battery voltage.
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Old 09-07-2015, 05:35 AM   #11
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Just FYI, you don't need 30A power to charge the batteries. If you can manage a 15A extension cord with a 30A/15A adapter, that's all the Magnum needs to charge the batteries.
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Old 09-07-2015, 08:13 AM   #12
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Welcome to the forum, and welcome to the Bulging Battery Club. I've attached a photo of our next-to-last Lifeline (we have an older Interstate, so there is only one coach battery). BTW, the forum seems to have good days and bad days re: photo posting. Even though it should, sometimes it will and sometimes it won't, in my experience.

FWIW, my husband was told by the person who sold us the new Lifeline that, once it gets to looking like this one in the photo does, there's nothing that can be done but replace it. We live in a coastal area so there's a lot of marine experience claimed where batteries are concerned.

If you have read the lithium battery thread, you probably heard me extolling the virtues of garaging with power hook-up. I think you said that you don't have that option, but for anyone else who is weighing the pros and cons, it solved our battery issues for us (knock wood). It's just a regular power supply that is provided in it, not a 30 amp connection, but it still seems to do right by the battery.
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Old 09-07-2015, 08:49 AM   #13
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Electricity

Quote:
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Just FYI, you don't need 30A power to charge the batteries. If you can manage a 15A extension cord with a 30A/15A adapter, that's all the Magnum needs to charge the batteries.
OK, so showing my ignorance of electricity (especially volts vs. amps), is plugging into a normal 110V outlet 15A? If yes then I guess all I would need is a 15A adapter and make sure my extension cord is rated to 15A (not sure how I would do that, it does have three prongs, but I don't have any documentation on it). All of our breakers are rated 15A with some combined for things like the dryer to 30A. So I guess technically I do have a 30A connect behind my dryer, although that doesn't really help me, since I can't park our RV in front of our condo (nor would our 30A cord reach upstairs to the laundry room).

The current storage lot where we are parking does not have any electrical anywhere in the lot. So I would have to find a storage lot that has some type of electrical supply, not sure if that is possible or not.

In the meantime, I pulled both batteries from the RV, they are presently in my garage with one of them on a multi-stage trickle charger since yesterday. It is still showing as charging, so not yet to 80%. The charger will show status at 80% and then 100%. It usually takes 2-3 days to fully charge our car battery from depleted to 100% using this charger, so not sure if it will be the same/similar with these batteries.

Brian
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Old 09-07-2015, 08:55 AM   #14
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Bulging Battery Club

Quote:
Originally Posted by InterBlog View Post
Welcome to the forum, and welcome to the Bulging Battery Club. I've attached a photo of our next-to-last Lifeline (we have an older Interstate, so there is only one coach battery). BTW, the forum seems to have good days and bad days re: photo posting. Even though it should, sometimes it will and sometimes it won't, in my experience.

FWIW, my husband was told by the person who sold us the new Lifeline that, once it gets to looking like this one in the photo does, there's nothing that can be done but replace it. We live in a coastal area so there's a lot of marine experience claimed where batteries are concerned.

If you have read the lithium battery thread, you probably heard me extolling the virtues of garaging with power hook-up. I think you said that you don't have that option, but for anyone else who is weighing the pros and cons, it solved our battery issues for us (knock wood). It's just a regular power supply that is provided in it, not a 30 amp connection, but it still seems to do right by the battery.
Yep, that looks suspiciously close to what we have. Maybe not quite that much bulging, but there is a definite bulge on the side of the battery.

Sigh. I probably wouldn't have bought this rig if I had known that it was going to be such a hassle keeping it ready and available. Or is this just the world of RVing? We owned a boat for a few years, had some typical boat issues, but never had this type of issue in storing it...

Brian
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