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Old 08-03-2011, 07:42 PM   #1
2 Rivet Member
O'Fallon , Missouri
Join Date: Sep 2010
Posts: 27
Battery Issues

My batteries are are dropping from fully chg'd (checked w/voltmeter) to 10v in 24 hrs with the batteries disconnected by the switch. I did not have this problem a few months ago. I took the batteries in to battery store and they checked them good and fully charged (that's before I had a voltmeter). By the time I got them to the store at the current rate of discharge they should not have been fully charged if it was just a battery problem I believe.

Here are some possibly relevant facts: When I turn the battery switch back on the radio turns on. But only if the switch has been off for a min or longer. Same result when I hook to shore power with the battery switch turns on. The batteries are not original but by the date on the battery they were purchased a 1.5 yrs after the trailer was bought by PO. Indicating to me the previous owner had battery problems. Lastly I noticed before these problems started that wires from the brake breakaway switch and electric jack where badly crimped between propane cover and frame.

How should I proceed from here? and can anyone explain the radio turning on. My next step was to recharge the battery and then unhook them and monitor the discharge to possibly isolate the problem as battery related or not.

'08 25' Safari SE
'13 Ford EcoBoost
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Old 08-03-2011, 08:46 PM   #2

2003 25' Classic
Zanadude Nebula , WNY
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Try taking the radio face plate off, it may be wired directly and not thru the switch. Will it turn on with the switch off?

AF #1

"Sticks & stones can break your bones...and hail will dent your Airstream"

So when is this..."old enough to know better" supposed to kick in?
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Old 08-03-2011, 10:36 PM   #3
Rivet Master
1975 29' Ambassador
Reno , Nevada
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Measuring voltage in close proximity to a charge effort can be misleading.

Charge the battery for a good 12 hours or more with a multiple stage smart charger.

If the voltage of the battery drops to 10v in 24 hours after it has been charged like this, it means that you have a 60 watt or so load on the battery (assuming typical 100 AH or thereabouts RV battery) or the battery has a bad cell.

Do make sure to measure voltage only after the battery has had no significant charge or discharge for at least a half hour. Keep in mind that a freshly charged battery will have a surface charge so it will show a voltage well above 12.8v until it is discharged a bit. A battery that is run down to 10 volts resting is a high risk battery that is likely to have suffered some damage.

Also, check electrolyte level if you can. The modern converters in Airstreams aren't as bad as the old ones when it comes to overcharging but they still don't charge or maintain batteries in any reasonable way. One of the best things you can do for your batteries is to upgrade to a converter that knows about multiple stage charging and also has a maintenance mode that uses a technique to inhibit sulfation.
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Old 08-04-2011, 04:47 AM   #4
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1968 24' Tradewind
Oxford, , Mississippi
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If it is going down to 10V you have a problem with the batteries. Just because they are relatively new doesn't mean they weren't "abused" by the PO. bryanl is correct on the surface charge. I think you have a dead cell. If the batteries are lead acid, get a hydrometer and check the specific gravity of each cell. That will tell the tale. If they are not, any good auto parts place can put a load on the battery and check the discharge rate. My local NAPA store has a small computer now that analyses batteries.
Bruce & Rachel
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Old 08-04-2011, 07:13 AM   #5
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Wesley chapel , Florida
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Are your electric brakes activated and you don't know it ?
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Old 08-04-2011, 08:04 AM   #6
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1987 32' Excella
Knoxville , Tennessee
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Take the positive lead off and use the amp meter function of your meter to determine if there is a draw on the batteries with the switch off. Fix the damaged wires. Could be a short there. Unhook the radio for a while. Taking the fuse out of the hot lead will do that. Probably the batteries are bad again from being discharged heavily. But you ought to fix the problems before feed it new ones. What kind of batteries? Are they deep cycle?
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Old 08-04-2011, 04:30 PM   #7
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O'Fallon , Missouri
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Battery issues

Thanks all for the suggestions.
I checked the battery again 24 hrs after posting message and it is still 10.8V and with the battery switch left on over night.

In answer to questions they are Sears deep cycle batteries.
The radio will not work with the fuse pulled.
When the cycling of the switch turns it on I now see it almost sparks with light and turns on to the setup mode. Normal manual turning it on it opens with the clock displayed. It will not turn on in any combination with the front opened up. I am guessing that what ever the problem is the radio is a separate issue from the battery...?

I have had trailer brakes locked up so I know what that is like and I am sure that this is not the issue.

I will purchase a Hydrometer and check the cells. The battery has been charged by shore power for days at a time, I was not aware of the overcharging potential when I did that. The PO had the trailer in storage for over a year but I don't know if it was plugged in. I ran the heater frequently on cold nights on battery only so the problem must have started in the last 2 months. I do not have a multi stage battery charger I was relying on shore power and driving to keep them charged. I have a cheap charger maybe I need to invest in a good one. I will let you know the results of the cell test.
'08 25' Safari SE
'13 Ford EcoBoost
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Old 08-04-2011, 05:14 PM   #8
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2008 25' Safari FB SE
Grand Junction , Colorado
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You can disconnect the cables to the battery (take neg. off first) before or right after charging them. If they hold a charge, then you will know it is not them, but something in the trailer such as a short.

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Old 08-04-2011, 10:03 PM   #9
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1984 31' Excella
Norfolk , Virginia
Join Date: Jan 2005
Posts: 666
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Divide and conquer!
1. Remove the batteries.
2. Using a known good automatic battery charger, place each battery on charge for 48 hours. No smoking and do this in a well ventelated area away from any open flame. The charging process produces hydrogen (reference the Hindenburg)
3. Disconnect the charger.
4. Let sit for 72 hours. This will dissipate the surface charge.
5. Measure the voltage across the battery terminals. If is still 10.5 then yes you have a bad battery.
Do this for each battery individually.
If the Battery voltage is 12.5 or higher then the battteries are probally still in good shape.
I assume you have two batteries.
Insulate the positive battery cable in one of the compartments. Tape it, put it in a section of old bicycle tube, place it in a water bottle with the top cut off, whatever, just insulate it.
If both batteries are good by this test then reinstall one of them in the other battery compartment by hooking up the positive terminal first with the battery switch turned off .
HooK up a 12 volt light bulb between the negative post and the negative battery cable. Start with an 1157 or 1156 then if the bulb does not light drop down to aa 904 (side marker bulb).
If either the 1156 or 1157 bulb lights then you have a short somewhere. Dont bother with the 904.
That short is running the batteries down.
If either fails to light then place an ammeter between the negative post(negative lead of the ammeter) and the negative cable (positive lead of the ammeter) on its highest range and range down to the lowest range looking for a current.
If current is flowing you have a short and as I said before that is what is running the batteries down.
This is time consuming but very reliable.
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Old 08-05-2011, 08:02 AM   #10
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1975 29' Ambassador
Reno , Nevada
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re: "get a hydrometer and check the specific gravity of each cell."

this is not needed and really won't tell you anything you can't get from the voltmeter about the battery as a whole.

Hydrometry requires hazmat procedures and has a risk of cell contamination. There can also be a problem just in getting access to the batteries. It just isn't worth the effort these days for most RV situations.

Beginner has a good detailed description of a load test that isn't that hard to do.

Do fix any wiring problems such as you noted at the propane tank.
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Old 08-05-2011, 08:08 AM   #11
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1995 30' Excella
Bowie , Maryland
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Gah, I had a reply but it disappeared.

Beginner's tests are good, but I think in the end you'll find your batteries are toast. Electronics can do weird things when the voltage is low - like the time I was driving my Cougar and the charging system wasn't working...all kinds of weird things were happening, like random lights lighting up. My recommendation is to invest in a good three stage converter and good AGM batteries...then you won't have to worry about them for years.

I did just that in my B190 in 2008, and since then I haven't had to touch the electrical system at all. The battery is still very strong, despite leaving the camper plugged in for weeks on end.

Our new trailer has three batteries, of the same age as the one in the B190, but they can't hold a charge for more than a few hours - i.e., the ONE battery in the B190 holds better than the THREE in the trailer. The only thing keeping it from being a major headache in the trailer is the fact that it has 3 solar panels on top recharging the batteries daily. But I'm already planning a replacement converter and batteries for it... expensive but I know I won't have to worry about it for a LONG time when I'm done.
1995 Airstream Classic 30' Excella 1000
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Sold but not forgotten: 1991 Airstream B190
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Old 08-05-2011, 08:37 AM   #12
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2008 19' Safari SE
satellite beach , Florida
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Posts: 34

As 2 the radio coming on when you go from store to use on the battery disconnect switch, mine does the same thing and always has. (factory installed)It's a 2007 Bambi.
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Old 08-05-2011, 02:11 PM   #13
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1986 25' Sovereign
Southern Middle , Tennessee
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After you have found your problem, you might want to consider a separate on/off switch for your radio. The PO of my '86 Sovereign installed one just above the radio which disconnects the hot wire when not listening to the radio. This way there is no draw when the radio is on standby.

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Old 08-05-2011, 03:36 PM   #14
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Oxford, , Mississippi
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A hydrometer will tell you instantly which cell is dead. As for hazmat, are you kidding me. I have had used them for 40 years, just don't get acid on you. It isn't rocket science. Wash the thing with distilled water before you use it, contamination is not an issue.

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