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Old 08-07-2012, 10:55 PM   #1
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Dead battery or electrical problem?

We brought our Bambi 16' International home three weeks ago, on a Friday. We took it to Mt. Rainier the first weekend, Sunday, and discovered the battery was dead. The 16' has only one battery. It's a three-hour drive. We assumed we hadn't charged it completely before we left home. We don't know how long it should take the charge the battery from the truck, but we've heard a long time.

Weekend before last, we stayed at an RV park with electric. When we parked the trailer on Sunday night, the battery was fully charged. By Friday (5 days), the battery was extremely low, and by today (9 days), it was was completely dead.

As far as we can tell by calculation and internet reports, the battery should last much longer than that. We have come up with a few scenarios. The battery is bad. (The trailer was on the lot for several months.) Something is draining the battery. (Yes, we have it on Store.) The electric system is confused and the battery is fine.

We are taking it in next week for diagnosis and repair. But we're curious what the most likely problem is.

Also, how long does it take to charge from driving? And how long should it last if you are using the lights and water pump? We would really like to know before we head out for more than a weekend.
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Old 08-07-2012, 11:05 PM   #2
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If you are plugged into shore power and have it in STORE the battery will not charge.

How long can you use the battery without shore power? Depends on how much you use whatever is drawing power from the battery. Just lights and water you should be fine for a week-end turn on the furnace and one night will pretty well drain the battery.
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Old 08-07-2012, 11:11 PM   #3
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I wasn't clear on that. We have it in Store when it is parked. Not while we are plugged into the eletric. I can't remember where we had it set while driving. From our research, the only draw when on Store should be the LP detector. When we parked it, the status indicator reported the battery was fully charged.

It would be great to have lights and water for a weekend. We're OK without heat. We're trying to plan for a longer trip with 4 days of no eletric hookups. Since the battery is always dead, it's kind of hard to test our plans!
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Old 08-07-2012, 11:31 PM   #4
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Oh, gosh, we had this sort of thing happen a lot when we first got our Bambi. We had 5 nights in Bandolier NM with no battery power at all, and then one memorable morning when the Bambi drained all the power out of our truck just from hooking it up prior to departure. We had to get jumper cables, and then detached the electrical on the car ferry ride home for fear it would happen again. Once at Yellowstone NP I asked a fellow Airstreamer for advice, but he had none to give, as he was converting all his lights to little battery pacs!

You've probably figured out the following already, but if not it may help:

1. When the Bambi is parked out-of-service, the battery goes on Store. When you are driving, it goes on Use.

2. See if you've got the beefiest battery available. We found that the one given to us by the dealer (and its subsequent duplicates) weren't the biggest RV batteries going. This made a big difference. Also, if a battery is down for a long time, it shortens its lifespan.

3. Do you have a generator? We have a Honda 2000 and have been pleased with it. It should recharge your battery.

4. The problem may be in your electrical system. Our local RV service center (not Airstream) were able to locate and fix our problem.

We boondock often, and with careful conservation we can go about two full days on the battery alone. Then usually running the generator for an hour or so per day after that recharges it.

We are replacing our halogen lights with LED lights next week, and hopefully installing a second battery.

Wish us luck.
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Old 08-07-2012, 11:44 PM   #5
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Hi quilter...welcome to the Forums. There are some variables that make it difficult to say how long it should take your battery to charge while being towed ...how badly discharged the battery is, for one, and what the general health of the battery is, for another...and you are right, it is not the most efficient way to charge a battery. You can charge it directly with a stand-alone battery charger or you can let the converter charge it through the rig's converter...

If you have the battery isolation switch set to "store" and it is not plugged into shore power you should have no power to the rig's 12v system (no lights, etc). You are correct that the LP detector is the only draw when in the "store" position.

If you have it plugged into shore power and it is set to "use" the converter should charge the battery, and at the same time you will have both 12v DC power to lights, etc and 110v AC power in outlets.

Is your battery a sealed battery that requires no maintenance or the the type of battery that needs to have distilled water added periodically? If it's the latter and it's low on water, it will not perform well, and left at low levels will eventually die. Also, the more often a bettery is allowed to completely drained the more its life will be shortened.

Even if your battery is fully charged, the real test of its health is how long it will hold a charge with no load...it may say it's fully charged but if it loses is charge rapidly, the battery is failing.

If it were me I'd first look at the battery and either test it yourself or have it tested to see if it is capable of holding a decent charge. It the battery appears to be relatively healthy then I'd be looking for a draw of some kind...

Good luck!
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Old 08-07-2012, 11:58 PM   #6
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Good luck on switching out the lights. They are nice. We are shopping for a generator and thinking of getting the Honda 1000. We don't need to run anything, just charge the battery. I can't lift the 2000. My husband has suggested we carry a second battery in the truck.

We are hoping it's not the eletrical system. But we don't think the battery should run down in five days when it's parked in Store. Any idea what your eletrical problem was? Ours hasn't killed our truck battery. Yet. So far, we've always run the truck while hitching up.
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Old 08-08-2012, 12:14 AM   #7
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Frankly, my guess is that the battery is the culprit...at least theat's the first place to investigate... I agree with you that a good battery should last longer than what you are experiencing. From your post, I presume you do not have solar, correct?

RE 1000w Honda Generator...great little generators for keeping your battery charged and lights burning. If you are ever going to need AC, though (and you very well may not in your location), you might want to consideer two 2000w Hondas. They are about 45# each.
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Old 08-08-2012, 02:39 AM   #8
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I think your problems would eased, if you added a second battery and a marine battery isolator switch. This would double your 12-volt electrical capacity and allow you to completely disconnect your batteries from your Airstream when not in use. That way, your batteries could go for months in storage without going dead.

Also, a generator is another option, especially since it appears you enjoy boondocking. The Honda EU2000i Companion costs a little more than the "standard" model, and a couple of hundred dollars more than the EU1000i. However, it would allow you to easily add a 2000i "standard" model at a later date, if you decide you want to run your air conditioner. Also, it's easier to find another camper with a "standard" 2000i that might allow you to hook your generator in parallel and share the cool, rather than trying to find someone with a "Companion" model.

Note: Yamaha and other brands offer similar and equally good solutions.

==============

Link provided for reference only:

http://www.amazon.com/Perko-8501DP-M.../dp/B00144B6AE
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Old 08-08-2012, 10:35 AM   #9
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Thanks for all the replies! We think it's probably the battery. We brought it home and put it on the charger yesterday. Took it off the charger overnight and now it's reading as dead. That would be the best case scenario. We are going to get a replacement before the weekend and then see how we do.

Great info on the generators. A tough choice between the 1000 and the 2000. As you say, the price difference is minimal. And we could add the companion later. It's the weight that's holding me back. I want to go camping by myself sometimes and no way I could move the 2000 around. I'm not sure about running it from the truck bed. We will probably rarely use the AC. It's hardly needed in Western Washington and our work schedules won't allow for extended trips to the east for a few years.
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Old 08-08-2012, 11:46 AM   #10
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Camping in the Pacific Northwest, I'd not rush into buying a generator.

Sounds like your battery is bad and replacing it will probably solve much of the problem without changing anything else.

In our part of the world, we don't really need a lot of power for camping. I'm a huge fan of LED lighting. You can add more batteries, a couple of generators, and all kinds of stuff to make more power, but looking on the consumption side works too. My trailer can easily boondock for a week or so without any charge other than the solar on the roof.

cheers,
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Old 08-08-2012, 12:36 PM   #11
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If you have the time try the overnight charge again with the ground leg off the battery. If it the battery fails the next day after an overnight charge and the ground still off it is the battery.

Sounds like a shorted cell in the battery but the test will tell you.
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Old 08-08-2012, 01:49 PM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by quilter View Post
We have it in Store when it is parked. Not while we are plugged into the eletric. I can't remember where we had it set while driving.
Doesn't matter, when you're driving. The battery charges through the 7-pin connector whether it's on "Use" or "store." See page G-1 of the owner's manual.

Dumb question, but just in case it's not the battery that's at fault, have you checked the converter fuses on the 12vDC distribution fuse block? See page G-5 of the owner's manual. If the fuses are blown, then no power will get from the converter to the battery, and the battery won't recharge.
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Old 08-08-2012, 03:20 PM   #13
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Good advice from those who know what they're talking about.

We are not, sadly, technologically inclined, but we have "been there, done that" so far as bad batteries are concerned.

I don't recall what exactly our electrical problem was. However, the following bits of advice from Phoenix, TBR, and Garry were very relevant in our case.

You may have a dud battery. If you replace it, I would suggest buying one at an RV service center because our local shop carried heavier-duty batteries than the big box stores. Ours comes with a year warranty, besides.

Our battery does require distilled water, and it can draw down, needing periodic top-ups.

When camping, we try not to draw down the battery into the "red" zone on your diagnostic. But normally we can tell if the battery is getting weak by the stove exhaust fan, radio lights kicking out, &c.

Is your trailer parked where you can periodically plug it into the house when it is at home? This should keep your battery going.

A generator is pretty important for boondocking for more than a couple of nights in one site. The new Hondas are relatively quiet. (Can't speak to other brands, but Yamaha seems to be good, as well.)

We've not carried a second fully charged battery in our truck and swapped it out, but this seems like a sensible option.

We checked into solar panels for our sixteen-footer, but our nearest AS mechanic said it would cost $1500 and then we wouldn't get more than a trickle of power since the roof area is so small, once you deduct the space for the hatch, AC, and antenna. Also, in the Pacific NW and camping in wooded areas, you may or may not get a lot of sunshine on the roof. Portable panels might be a solution, but judging from the threads on solar panels, they don't seem to be an option of choice.

One other thing I might mention is that we use several of those blue cold packs, and when our freezer/fridge is running, we refreeze any that have melted. Then at night or if we are away for the day, we can put them in the fridge with our food to keep it cold, and turn the battery on "store" so we are not running the fridge fan or other power when we don't use it.

I recall how disappointing it was to get our new AS and then find out that we had some real problems with our "quality" trailer that none of the campers in cheaper RVs seem to have. But after working at the battery issue, we now (knock on wood) seem to have a functional system.

But it is still one of the most rewarding purchases we ever made.
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Old 08-08-2012, 03:21 PM   #14
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From what I have read I suspect the battery. Some places will load test it, but it sure sounds bad. I also would hold off buying the generator. We have one. Got it for a caravan. Have used it twice. Mostly it just rides in the truck and many times we leave it at home.
Get a good battery and try again. I would not get a AGM if you have the standard converter that Airstream used for a long time. If you do have the 3 stage converter that is good for AGM that would be the way to go. If the battery you have now is an AGM, I have been told they are very hard to recharge if they have been fully drained.
Driving the truck will bring a discharged battey back up to half or maybe 3/4 charged. You really have to charge the battery to get it up to a good, usable charge.
We have 2 batteries in our 25'. I run a CPAP and we can go 3 days pretty easily running everything but the furnace. (Frig, fantastic fan, CPAP, water pump).
I have traveled with people who carry a spare, usually AGM, battery just in case. Also a charger for it. That would be lots cheaper than a generator but troublsome to hook up. One of them had added a reliable (read properly sized wires) 12 volt outlet in the trailer and he could just plug the battery into it if he needed it. Been thinking about doing that and maybe selling my generator. Of course you have to keep the spare charged.
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