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Old 08-30-2014, 02:50 PM   #1
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my "virgin" posting .. battery question ..

hi airstream forums,
just purchased my first Airstream and beyond stoked) i have a 1972 Sovereign in original condition, it had been sat for years if not decades.
my first question (no doubt, they will be many) .. plugged in my battery from my pop-up with probably about 50% charge , the battery meter showed 50% reading. within 15mins the lights faded to nothing, ok, so here's my question.. i went to take out the battery and noticed that the cables were HOT. this seemed really strange .. like there was a short circuit or something ..
think i need professional advice but worth a check-in here.

thanks in advance )
nick
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Old 08-30-2014, 03:20 PM   #2
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Something's either shorted, or something fairly big has been left on.

Take the battery out of the trailer (or disconnect it) and use an ohm meter to measure the resistance between the positive and negative battery leads. Meter should read infinite. If it does not, something has shorted out in the trailer, or a large load has been left on.

If this test shows a short, or maybe it's just a load on the circuit, start pulling fuses in the DC panel and test each individual circuit the same way with the ohm meter.

If you find a circuit that has less than infinite resistance (with the fuse removed, start checking each component that's wired to that circuit.

In other words, process of elimination until you find the problem.

DC system troubleshooting is fairly easy, and volt-ohmmeters are cheap and easy to get these days.

Good luck!
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Old 08-30-2014, 03:23 PM   #3
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Welcome to the Airstream community Nick. We would love some exterior and interior photos of your vintage Sovereign. You are beginning a great adventure. Airstreams from the dry southwest are worth more.

Hot battery cables means you have a huge amp draw somewhere. There ought to be fuses or circuit breakers in the 12 volts circuits to protect from these type of shorts. If you have a multi meter, check your negative battery wire to ground (skins of the trailer). It ought to read very low resistance. Then check your positive battery wire to ground. It ought to read "open" or very high resistance. If you don't have a multi meter, off to the hardware store you go.

You may have a water pump motor, vent fan motor, or furnace fan motor that is seized. Make sure these appliances are switched off. Make sure you are not plugged into shore power.

Make sure your battery is good and fully charged. With all motors and lights off, hook up the battery again (positive to positive, negative to negative. ) Touch the battery wires, are they getting hot? If so, disconnect and look for the direct short to ground, such as a skinned wire touching something metal. If the 12v system is stable with no loads (lights and motors) running, then start checking out the motors one at a time. Water pump motor runs? Furnace motor runs? Roof vent fan motors run? If you find one that won't run, then that could be the cause of a overloaded 12v circuit.

One of the pleasures of owning an old Airstream is trouble shooting. It's very satisfying when you find the problem. And very frustrating when you don't. The more you learn about your trailer the better you will be when you start traveling with it.

There are many Forum participants much more knowledgeable than I. I have found much help here with my problems. You will too.

David
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Old 08-30-2014, 04:16 PM   #4
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Another possibility is that the old Univolt converter/charger has failed internally, causing the very high load. It is a (usually) gray box, about 6"x 6" x 14" with 120 volt power leads (maybe a plug in, maybe romex wired in) and other wires which look like automotive ones coming out.

The old Univolt is basically an obsolete piece of equipment which will need replacing anyway, so it might be disconnected, especially if it does not have the fuses for the trailer inside of it. If it does not have fuses inside, it will have two larger wires, one red (+) and the other white or black (-) depending on wiring colors that year.

You could disconnect the red one and tape the end to see if that helps.

If your univolt has internal fuses, the problem becomes more difficult.
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Old 08-31-2014, 11:11 AM   #5
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thanks for these great tips, I'll poke around today. I plugged into house socket which tripped the fuse box immediately.

I'll post some pics asap, spent most of yesterday cleaning what must have been 10yrs worth of southern CA dust. it's in amazing condition for being 42 yrs old.
interior light fixtures have seen better days and the shower on/off handle just popped right ..
think it needs a new gas regulator and haven't been able to checkout the fridge yet. Other than that it's like stepping back in time, green carpet, 8 track player, brown formica & all
& of course outside needs a decent polish.
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Old 08-31-2014, 12:36 PM   #6
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When you plug in shore power, you are energizing the converter as well as the 115v circuits. An immediate trip of the breaker means there is a big time short somewhere. Since you are having trouble with you 12v circuits too, I would suspect there is some trouble with the converter. Sometimes they are just plugged into a 115v outlet. If yours is wired that way, unplug it.

It may be time for an RV tech to diagnose this electrical problem unless you have significant experience with electricity. You may end up installing a new converter in the process as the 42 year old one ain't the greatest even when working.

Right now I would not plug in your trailer with either 115v or 12v power until you get the thing checked out and deemed safe.

David
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Old 09-02-2014, 02:52 PM   #7
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1969 Overlander with hot battery

Just had all new DC wires through out. New battery also. Have old Phillips PC 301-A1 converter, replaced all fuses. Problem is my battery is getting very hot, again. The previous battery and wires fried, does this sound like a bad converter?
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Old 09-02-2014, 07:37 PM   #8
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Okay, the battery likes to charge at about 13.5 volts. Measure the voltage to the battery while plugged in. Old converters are known to overcharge and "cook" a battery dry. Bad batteries can get hot and even catch fire. Make sure yours has the correct water level.

Does everything work normally when you are not plugged into shore power? The converter is not in play when you are boondocked.

David
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Old 09-02-2014, 11:52 PM   #9
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my battery wires went hot without being plugged into shore power , i've cleaned terminals and will try one more time. My home fuse triggered because i switched A/C on in trailer, i'm such a novice here, had no idea that was a no no. why is that ? !
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Old 09-03-2014, 06:35 AM   #10
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Your a/c needs a single phase 30 amp circuit to start correctly. plugging in to house power with an extension cord will lead to tripped breakers or a fried a/c motor
you haven't said if you have unplugged the converter and turned off all the motors /appliances yet, your battery wires got hot because there is a short, find it, or you will cook another battery and risk a battery fire or explosion. disconnect the battery and use a meter and follow the above instructions on tracing the problem short.
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Old 09-04-2014, 12:58 PM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by dbj216 View Post
Okay, the battery likes to charge at about 13.5 volts. Measure the voltage to the battery while plugged in. Old converters are known to overcharge and "cook" a battery dry. Bad batteries can get hot and even catch fire. Make sure yours has the correct water level.

Does everything work normally when you are not plugged into shore power? The converter is not in play when you are boondocked.

David
Thanks
It did boil the battery dry, so have ordered a new Progressive Dynamics 9245
and a new Progressive Industries EMS-30.
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Old 09-04-2014, 11:13 PM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ebair View Post
Your a/c needs a single phase 30 amp circuit to start correctly. plugging in to house power with an extension cord will lead to tripped breakers or a fried a/c motor
you haven't said if you have unplugged the converter and turned off all the motors /appliances yet, your battery wires got hot because there is a short, find it, or you will cook another battery and risk a battery fire or explosion. disconnect the battery and use a meter and follow the above instructions on tracing the problem short.
at this point I'm going to have a pro look, all motors/appliances were off.
thanks for the words of warning
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Old 09-05-2014, 05:17 PM   #13
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Nick,

Most excellent! Let us know what the diagnosis is, and what the remedy is. Other can learn from this symptom.

David
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