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Old 08-07-2011, 12:55 AM   #1
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1981 28' Airstream 280
Santa Barbara , California
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Electric System Mystery

We've got a little mystery on our hands. We've been working on our first rig for a month or so now. It's a 1981 28' Excella Motorhome which -when we're not working - we have been getting ready for a real road/camping test. So far, we've just taken it 30 miles here or there.

We recently noticed that the (still relatively new) house batteries aren't powering much of anything when we're not running the gen or plugged into shore power. All the lights dim, fans slow, stuff fails. etc.

This after a full night of charging, too.

Additionally. The control system panel, when only on house batteries, shows tanks being 'much less full' than they were only moments earlier (when shored) - in addition to the expected 'lower battery' indication.

The previous owner installed two solar panels, which are meant to trickle charge the house batteries via a Pro-Star 15.

Another perplexing thing, is that the after-market jacks that the previous owner added, are weak when we try to put them down. The engine usually has to be running to make them work (which they normally do), but this today, they were sluggish, until we plugged into shore *and* had the engine running. Weird?

We've also installed a BatteryMinder for charging the chassy battery recently, (not too long before we noticed these problems). Just for being awesome-sake.

When shored, the ProStar shows the solar charge (btwn 3&7), then the battery/shore charge (12.3), and the load (lud) (which has nothing plugged into it).

Any idea what is causing all of this? Or what we might want to troubleshoot? We have a feeling it's something simple, that we've dumbly overlooked.

Very open to suggestions. Thanks :)

-Warren & Rachel
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Old 08-07-2011, 06:19 AM   #2
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Electric System Mystery

My experience with motorhomes is not great, but my suggestions would include:
  • Check for bad grounds . . . . clean and tighten all ground connections, and there are likely several with the number of additions and changes that it sounds like your coach has likely received.
  • Check for the output of your Univolt/power converter/battery charging system. If your coach still has its Univolt or its power converter is several years old, there may be an issue with its operation.
  • Look for a weak fusible link, automatic resetting circuit breaker, or inline fuse holder that may be impeding the flow of electricity and slowing the rate of charge.
  • Have the house batteries checked under load to see if one or more of the house batteries might be having difficulties accepting a full charge.
  • Check for a problem with the charge isolator that separates the starting battery from the coach batteries. There could also be an issues with the boost starting switch that places the house batteries in line with the starting battery when the coach doesn't want to start.
From your description, it sounds like an errant ground might be among the more likely culprits.

Good luck with your investigation!

Kevin
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Old 08-07-2011, 08:59 AM   #3
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Sounds to me like bad house batteries that won't take or hold a charge.

You have an onboard converter that should be charging the batteries anytime you are plugged in or on generator.

Check the battery voltage when plugged in should be around 13.2 volts then check the battery voltage when un plugged for an hour or so they should be above 12.6V

If less than 13V plugged in bad converter.

If less than 12.5V unplugged bad battery.

All test with the engine not running as the engine also charges the battery.
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Old 08-07-2011, 03:47 PM   #4
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Thanks Kevin & Gary for the suggestions. We'll do a little poking around and report back.
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Old 08-07-2011, 05:10 PM   #5
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1981 28' Airstream 280
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Here's an update:

We tested the battery charge while plugged-in to shore - and we got 12.3.

Then we turned off the fridge and we got 13.4. Cool. Inverter probably ok (?).

THEN, we unplugged the coach from shore and turned on a few lights, fans.. and it only took a few minutes for it to drop to 10 volts, then to 8.1.

We also hunted around for a bad ground, and found a slightly loose battery connection, and tightened it down.. But it didn't seem to change anything.

So if I'm not mistaken.. this looks like a case of bad house batteries? They are 2006's, so it may be time..

Unless somehow we didn't allow them enough time to charge? (they had been plugged in to shore all night long/ at least 10hours). How long does it typically take to charge two house batteries via shore?

Thoughts?

-Warren
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Old 08-07-2011, 06:58 PM   #6
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Sure sounds like bad batteries they won't take a charge and won't hold a charge.

You can take them in for a free test but be prepared to buy new ones.
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