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Old 03-20-2013, 08:10 PM   #1
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Battery doesn't charge without disconnect / reconnect of shore power

I've been experiencing some electrical gremlins again. See if this rings any bells for anyone:

I found that my battery was not charging. I found that if I disconnect one of the terminals and then re-connect, I get a small arc and all of a sudden the battery is charging. This happens repeatedly when disconnecting and reconnecting to shore power. Once "reset" (disconnect and reconnect the battery) and not disconnecting from shore power, it seems to be fine. So basically anytime I disconnect and move the camper, I have to pull a battery terminal and re-connect and then everything is fine. I have checked the following:

-clean connections (everywhere)
-tight connections (everywhere)
-fuses (none blown, including on the converter)
-different battery (same problem)
-different shore power source (house, generator, and campground; still same issue)

I am now suspecting the power converter. I don't have a spare to check with. My current one is an IOTA. It's at least 5 years old. It was in the Airstream with I bought it. It has given me some minor issues which I have discussed with tech support at IOTA and they have not indicated that the issue I'm having is related.

If anyone has had similar issues, please enlighten me. I don't want to spend $150 on a new converter only to find that it does not solve the issue. At the same time, I don't like having disconnect / reconnect of the battery as part of my campsite setup procedure.
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Old 03-20-2013, 09:26 PM   #2
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How do you know the battery is not charging? I wonder if the IOTA (which I have no experience with) is just turning off when the battery reaches a set voltage and does not turn on again until there is enough discharge to cause it to cycle. By disconnecting it, you effectively re set the charge until it comes up again.

Pure speculation on my part though. When left on my Progressive Dynamics units (PD 9245) will run until the batteries are fully charged then go to a tiny trickle charge of only a few hundred mA. Then after some use, the charge will ramp up. If I disconnect them when fully charged, it will reset the electronics and they will go through the charge cycle again, relatively fast, even if fully charged. That would cause the "spark" you note. Maybe yours is doing the same thing.
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Old 03-20-2013, 09:45 PM   #3
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I have had the same problem with a cheap convertor, World Friendship, in my daughters trailer. There is sometjing in the convertor that is not seeing the load and begin charging until you draw that arc.

You might contact the manufacture and see if they have a solution. Replacement might be next.

In the mean time try using the battery isolation switch rather than having to disconnect the terminals.
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Old 03-21-2013, 12:20 AM   #4
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Jason,
I have found "grounding" issues that sound like this. Check the ground cable connection to the frame/chassis. Check the converter grounds as well. Some times things wiggle loose.
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Old 03-21-2013, 08:32 AM   #5
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Thanks all for the responses.

I've been down the grounding route... All good there. My wife commented the same as idroba. This could be the case, although I've not noticed such a severe swing in voltage before the charger kicks in in years past. The lights get noticeably dim and I see significant discharge on the ammeter. Voltage gets down to 11.5 and I freak out and go cycle the battery. Then lights are bright and the ammeter goes to near 0, volts up to 12.5 or more.

So far, seems like Howie might be on the right track. Not what I was hoping for, but nevertheless what I was thinking, too.

It seems like most folks are buying the progressive dynamics converters these days. Perhaps I will buy one of those and if it doesn't solve the issue then I replace the Univolt that is (seemingly) still working fine in my motor home.
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Old 03-26-2013, 07:32 PM   #6
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An update for anyone keeping up...

We've camped now for about a week. We've been at 3 different campsites. Living in the trailer for this time has allowed me a bit more insight. I still have the disconnect / reconnect issue at each new site. However, I've noticed while camping on-site and having lights and other 12V appliances in use that everything will be going along fine, then they will dim. After about 1-2 minutes, they go bright again and stay that way for some time. It seems that the converter needs to see a low enough voltage for a long enough time before kicking on and it will kick-off after seeing a high enough voltage for long enough. I've not noticed this type of operation in the past 3-4 years of ownership. So, it seems like maybe the converter is just starting to go bad??? Either way, the need for a new converter has moved down a bit on my priority list. When time and money are convenient, I'll get a new one.
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