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Old 08-26-2009, 05:43 PM   #1
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1960 18' Traveler
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Question Basic battery question

Once again I'll raise my rookie flag and ask a question before I do something stupid. (Of course my wife say's that never stopped me in the past...)

I'm almost ready to put my 1960 18' Traveler on the road for the first time, after a summer of getting to know it intimately. I bought a new battery to replace the ancient one on the trailer and noted that the positive pole was hooked up to the black ground wire. Upon inspection, I tracked the red wire and it turns out red is the ground wire on this trailer. I'm assuming that's not normal in the Airstream world so I'll have to convert them to the proper colors.

After hooking up the battery and testing all the electrics, it turns out that not everything runs off the battery. Is it common to run only a few of the lights off the battery? All of the electrics work when hooked up to an external power cord to my house. I'm testing the refrigerator now (combo propane/electric works on gas and house current). Do these commonly run off the battery?

Thanks,

Bob
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Old 08-26-2009, 05:56 PM   #2
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Originally Posted by Woodywhite View Post
noted that the positive pole was hooked up to the black ground wire. Upon inspection, I tracked the red wire and it turns out red is the ground wire on this trailer. I'm assuming that's not normal in the Airstream world so I'll have to convert them to the proper colors.

Thanks,

Bob
Paint the red one black and paint the black one red.........Prob. solved... he he he !!!
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Old 08-26-2009, 06:03 PM   #3
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"Normal" colors in a vehicle battery is white for the ground and black or red for positive. This holds true for most RV's as well. Once you get off the battery, white typically stays ground, and red or black are typically positive, but various colors of wires are used to identify different circuits at times, so you can't rely on the color coding 100% of the time. As you notices on your battery connections. That's the 12 volt wiring. The 120 VAC wiring typically follow normal household standards, where black is 110 VAC, white is neutral, and green is ground.

I think in older airstreams, they had lights that ran either off 12 volts, or 110 AC. I vaguely remember reading that somewhere in a thread, but didn't really pay that much attention since it didn’t affect my trailer.

You mention some things do not work. What things exactly? There is a 12 volt distribution panel with fuses for different 12 volt circuits. I have no idea how many your trailer might have, but if some things are not working, you might want to start checking fuses. But then, if everything works while plugged in, it could be that’s just the way it’s designed. Someone with a same vintage trailer as yours can probably be more helpful in specifics.

A 2 way fridge should run off 110 VAC while plugged in, or propane while boondocking. Depending on the age of your fridge, it may or may not require a 12 volt supply to run on propane. Older fridges did not. If you have a pushbutton clicker to light the propane, then your fridge is old enough that 12 volts is not required. If it just has a button to turn it on, and maybe select gas or electric, then it does require 12 volts to run on propane.

Chris
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Old 08-26-2009, 11:52 PM   #4
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1960 18' Traveler
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Thanks for the input. Since I'm taking the Traveler on the road next week, I won't have time to change wires, but I will put a label on the ground wire. That's even easier than painting the wire.

I have now tested the whole system. It appears that I only have two lights that run off the battery. One in the front and one in the back of the cabin. So, my battery should last a long time.

What doesn't work off the battery? Fridge, water heater, oven vent, water pump, four lights, and all power outlets. Everything works off the house power which runs through a breaker box. There is a separate fuse box with four fuses near the "volt-a-verter" in a compartment under my fridge. Only four wires come off it and all four fuses are intact. The wires go to a 12 volt plug (which I just discovered when I was tracking wires), the "volt-a-verter" and two that disappear into the walls and I presume go to the two working lights.

The refrigerator appears to be a 1960 original. As you indicate, it appears designed to run propane or external plug only. It does have the clicker to start it so is independent of the 12 volt system.

So, for the future, I think I want to rewire the system to include at least one outlet and the water pump to allow them to run off the battery. Is there any reason I wouldn't want to do this? I guess I'll be running the generator next week.

Thanks,
Bob
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Old 08-27-2009, 07:48 AM   #5
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Older trailers that did not have a 120 to 12 volt power convertor had two systems. Many of the light fixtures had 2 bulbs, one 12 volt, and the other 120 volt. These bulbs both look the same and have the standard screw in bases (as a lamp would require.)
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Old 08-29-2009, 12:07 AM   #6
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Interesting concept. I wonder if the water pumps and other appliances were also parallel?

Thanks,
Bob
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Old 08-29-2009, 03:25 AM   #7
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What you have is pretty common in the old trailers, except for the red ground wire from the battery.
Back in the day, they seemed to try and follow household wirings standards. Black wire is Hot (has the actual voltage) on 120V AC, and White is Neutral (normally 0 volts) (dont get on my case here, I'm using the 60,000 foot view).
So when wiring the trailer it made common sense to make Black the Positive and White the Negative. Except for nowadays where autos use Red for the positive and Black for the Negative.
I put a couple wraps of red tape on the black wire and Black on the white wire near the battery so I dont get confused.
Normally there should be a converter, or Univolt to get 12VDC from the 120VAC shorepower. That will charge your battery and power your 12V lights. And maybe your water pump if its 12V as well.

My 63 Avion has (had) a 12V pump, a dual voltage furnace motor, and the dual voltage lights. The lights have 2 bulbs and mentioned before. One side is 120V, and the other is 12V. The bulbs look identical. The only way to tell them appart is to look for the voltage stamped on the top of them.
(or plug them into the 120 side and see if they glow or flash
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