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jcanavera 06-27-2002 08:44 AM

Battery Dead/Power jack question
I went out to the storage lot to pick up the Safari last night to get it home for preparation for a weekend trip. Pushed the power jack switch and heard nothing but the birds.

Battery is apparently dead...I can't find anything on inside the trailer (but the outside storage compartments are suspect...easy to hit these switches by accident). Bottom line I ended up pulling the battery and taking it home. Battery may be toast at this point. It's been on the 6 amp charger for 11 hours and its only hitting 60% according to the meter on the charger. Once I get the trailer home and some power to the trailer I'll figure out if this is my fault or if the battery is defective.

The question at hand is the power jack. I could have pulled the head (why A/S doesn't use a jack with an emergency crank hole is a mystery to me), and manually cranked the jack but I'm gun shy based on the need to resyncronize the head before you put it back on. Have any of you done this before and can you explain the proper procedure on how to do this without screwing up my warranty on the jack and the jack itself?


FrankR 06-27-2002 09:13 AM

Battery and power jack
The power jacks are very prone to failure. When operating the jack, if the voltage is low immediately destroys the motor windings. The jack is only used when a move is considered. Before operation of jack is attempted, the battery condition should be noted. When the voltage is low, the amperage required rises dramatically. After the jack motor self destructs, another jack must be used to raise trailer to connect tow ball. I've replaced the power jack and now use jack armstrong. It has not failed in any situation. If a person was clever, it would not be difficult to make a connection to the tow vehicle for power for the power jack. The tow vehicle battery will be ready to work. The replacement motor is about $125 plus R&R labor.

83Excella 06-27-2002 09:20 AM

Power jack
I asked that question when I was looking at the 2000 Safari's and was told you have to take the head off to manually jack the trailer, is that what your owner manual says? the 2003 Safaries do not have electric jacks either, did you have the battery cutoff switch off?


jcanavera 06-27-2002 10:18 AM

Power jacks were not standard equipment on the 2001 Safari's. I requested one be put on at the factory at build time.

There is a mechnical component that has to be removed, maybe not the entire head but its fairly specific about syncronization prior to the component being replaced once you are done with the manual operation of the jack. This information is in the book that came with the jack and on a warning lable on the jack post.

No I didn't use the master cutoff switch. The trailer has sat 60 days since its last use. Not long enough for the battery to be dead of its own natural discharge rate. I'm pretty sure that something must be on and my guess is still a light in the outside storage compartments. The battery has performed well in its first year of service and I can't see it fail at this point. Its easy to either rub these storage fixtures with your arm or something inside slides against the light's slide off/on switch. Unless you look directly at the light, in daylight its almost impossible to tell that a light is on.

The A/S is the first trailer I have ever owned with a factory installed disconnect switch. Since I never have left anything on before, I figured that I wouldn't need to use it. I will use it now.

Frank, your comment about the alternate connection for power to the jack was exactly what someone said to me at work today. I just might do that.


83Excella 06-27-2002 11:46 AM

My problem with doing it manually is the gas bottles are right behind the jack and you either use half-a-turn each time or remove the bottles, cover, etc. pretty inconvenient either way and not a good backup design when it does fail.


Pahaska 06-27-2002 12:32 PM

Why not ...
When my battery died in my last trailer, I simply backed the truck up close, left the engine running, plugged in the cable from the trailer, and hit the switch on the jack. Up she went. No problem at all. I won't try to use the emergency ratchet unless the jack motor fails.

I had left a storage compartment light switch on. I removed the light fixture completely and used the wiring to install a cigarette-lighter socket. From there. I could reach all my tires with my 12v compressor.

My International has a disconnect switch and I use it every time I leave the trailer. It also disables the power jack so that no one can fool with it.

jcanavera 06-27-2002 01:56 PM

I measured the voltage in the battery when I got it home and only found 4 volts. I do have power from my tow vehicle flowing back to the trailer but in my case since the jack runs through the power system, not enough was available from the battery for the charge being put into it at that point. I ran the engine for 15 minutes and was just beginning to get a faint glow from the indicator lights on the system panel. At that point I knew it was useless to go through this exercise.

My last trailer actually had terminals from the power jack wired to the battery itself. The Airstream jack is powered through the 12 volt fuse box. Maybe those who add their jacks after the trailer is delivered are wired directly to the battery.

I just talked to my local dealer and he strongly advised me to always use the master disconnect when I store the trailer. He said he wasn't surprised that the battery would be dead after 60 days. He noted that the various circuit boards on the appliances are still energized even though the appliance is turned off, thus putting an additional draw on the battery.

So...I learned a lesson. Unfortunately if I lunched the battery, I'll be out shopping this evening. I going to try to get a load test done just to be sure we don't have some other problem. I'd like to get this exchanged on warranty but we will see.


thenewkid64 06-27-2002 02:00 PM


Depending on where you go to get it replaced under warranty there should be few questions. I replaced 2 batteries that I felt were questionable and they just said sure. I actually replaced them with ones that cost less and they gave me money back. (this was at Kmart, I wounder why they are bankrupt) So if the battery came from a retail outlet you should be able to just plop it on the counter and go.

Good luck.

jcanavera 06-27-2002 02:06 PM

Unfortunately the battery is an Interstate and is one year old. My dealer noted that I need to take it by an Interstate dealer for an adjustment if possible. Problem is the Interstate dealer in St. Louis is open to the public from 1PM-5PM M-F. Great hours for us working folk eh? It may end up I'll try to find one from a retail outlet like Sams, Wal-Mart, Auto-Zone etc. Unfortunatley my trip tomorrow doesn't give me too many options at this late date.


Pahaska 06-27-2002 03:12 PM

Power Draw
A lot of folks don't realize that the propane detector pulls a steady draw in the order of milliamps. It's enough to completely drain a battery in a few weeks. They could make detectors that pull a lot less current, but they would cost several times as much.

I don't know why the trailer manufacturers don't put a warning in the manuals. Neither TrailManor nor Airstream mention it. I used to pull one fuse on my TrailManor when I stored it. I always hit the disconnect on the Airstream when I leave it; a side benefit is that the power jack is disabled.

On my last trailer, I put a 5 watt solar panel on the roof. I wired it to a ceiling light circuit which was hot to the battery. It would keep up with the propane detector if I forgot to pull the fuse. I have one more panel in the shop and the Airstream is wired for solar panels. I may go ahead and install it.

jcanavera 06-27-2002 11:07 PM

John, the main disconnect switch on my Safari does not kill the propane detector. Maybe they rethought this when your model came out.

As it ends up I left the battery on the charger so it went about 20 hours. When I got home from work it was about 95%. I took it over to the lot and reinstalled it. I found no lights or appliances on so apparently the detector and lack of killing the disconnect switch may be the factor. When I get back from this weekend's trip my neighbor and I are going to try to determine the amp draw with the disconnect switch open and closed. I'm also going to take it to the local Auto-Zone and have them run a load test.

I guess the big deep cycle battery when drawn down as low as mine was takes a long time to recharge when using a 6 amp charger.


Pahaska 06-27-2002 11:14 PM

Propane detector
If the disconnect switch doesn't kill the detector, then I would find out which fuse supplies it and pull that fuse when you store the trailer (or else put on a solar panel as I did). It's a slow draw, but it will flatten a battery in time.

In the TrailManor, I always knew I had forgotten to put the fuse back in when the bathroom flourescent light wouldn't come on.

Pahaska 06-27-2002 11:17 PM

Disconnect switch
Come to think of it, even the red light on the disconnect switch is going to run the battery down long term. It doesn't take much week after week to do the job.

74SovereignInt. 06-27-2002 11:23 PM

dead battery/power jack
I'm wondering where this disconnect switch is. I haven't started going thru my A/S to clean or find anything but wanted to be forewarned. Thanks.

jcanavera 06-27-2002 11:42 PM

Wow, I'm impressed a red light! That's sort of self defeating isn't it.

My disconnect switch (minus a red light) is located on a horizontal ledge behind the back of the front sofa. You can look over the back and down and see it.


FrankR 06-28-2002 12:23 AM

Batteries discharge
Most lead acid type batteries will loose about 6% per month not connected. A slow easy charge does the best recharge or keeps a battery up full.

Pahaska 06-28-2002 07:53 AM

Disconnect switch
On my International, the disconnect switch is in plain sight, right by the entry door, set into the side of the wardrobe. There is a toggle switch and a fairly dim red light that comes on whenever the battery is connected. No current is drawn when it is disconnected.

This is a handy place for it. The last thing when I step out of the trailer in storage is to hit the switch to disconnect the battery.

Oddly enough, the battery is mounted on the tongue of the trailer, yet I can hear the disconnect relay operate somewhere towards the rear of the trailer when I operate the switch. From the sound, I think it is a probably rotary solenoid. Oddly enough, I can't locate the disconnect solenoid on the wiring diagram, although I did find a 3-wire tap named "control panel" that I think is the disconnect switch itself.

JaceBeck 07-01-2002 04:37 PM


I had the same problem with my '99 Safari. Infuriating, and the dealer was suddenly no help (and haven't been since then). The radio draws the most power when the unit is stored due to the memory and light display. Especially if it is the Sony or, like my rig, the horribly cheap and crummy sounding Audiovox.

I use the master cutoff each time when I store my rig and have not had any trouble since. It also saves me from having to take out the refer light when I leave the doors open to prevent mildew.

Regarding the Interstate battery, I wasted far to much time trying to weddle something out of them under the warranty than it was worth. They are not that good to begin with and don't offer true deep cycle capabilities. You're better off with two Trojan brand 6 volt batteries, wired in series for a total of 12V, that will provide you with solid, deep cycle capablility, than the Interstate. That is if dry camping without electricity is important to you.

My Power Jack is wired direcly to my battery, so can't help there other than to call Barker Manufacturing to see if they can help on the re-sync.

Good luck,

jcanavera 07-01-2002 05:35 PM

We're back from our weekend trip with no further problem with the battery. My neighbor has an ammeter and will bring it home from work. We are going to try to determine the draw on the battery. We will probably pull some fuses to attempt to see what appliances are drawing us down if the disconnect switch isn't thrown.

Jace, I have the Sony radio in my Safari. I don't see any light display when it is powered off. I'll let you know what we find.


JaceBeck 07-02-2002 10:43 AM

With the Sony, even if the display is off, it stilll draws power for the memory so you don't have to reset the stations each time you turn it on, etc.. I put in a Sony unit and 10 disc CD changer in this spring to replace the $4.00 Audiovox unit supplied by Airstream..

Since we generally travel out of our radio area, this is not a problem for me and why I use the cutoff switch. You may also want to consider the solar powered battery maintainers at Camping World or and simply set it on top of your propane tank cover when it is going to be stored for any period. It should overcome the drain from the radio and any other small drain on the battery.

davidz71 07-02-2002 11:14 AM

Jace suggested the small solar panel and that is just what I did. I purchased a Solargizer 5 watt solar charger/maintainer that charges, desulfates and maintains the battery system. They offer a 10 watt unit also and have units that allow you to charge 2 seperate batteries. My unit has kept my two Delco Voyager batteries fully charged for a year now. I'm pretty conservative with my lights during the hunting season since I do not have access to 110 volts. The 5 watt unit is hooked straight to one of the batteries but charges both. The panel is placed on top of my 40 lb. tanks but has a cord long enough to run from my front battery box to the front vent on top of the trailer. I do not have a battery disconnect unless I pull my fuses. The trailer will sit from mid Sept. until late Nov. with use almost every weekend. I am also there an additional Thur., Fri. and Mon. at least 3 times during this period. No problem with the batteries. Do a search and check out Solargizer's web site.

When I bring my trailer back from a weekend where it has seen heavy 12 volt use, like this past weekend, I will hook up a BatteryMinder from It charges, desulfates and maintaines the batteries. It takes 3 days to complete the process but I know that the batteries are in top shape. I then disconnect the charger/maintainer and let the solar keep it up.

jcanavera 08-12-2002 09:50 PM

Re: Power Draw

Originally posted by Pahaska
A lot of folks don't realize that the propane detector pulls a steady draw in the order of milliamps. It's enough to completely drain a battery in a few weeks
After many weeks since I started this thread I have finally borrowed a meter to see what's going on. With the master disconnect switch set to off (no voltage to 12 volt fuse panel) I found that the draw from the battery (propane detector bypasses this switch) was .09 of an amp. With the disconnect switch set to on with no appliances operating the draw was .10 of an amp.


74Argosy24MH 08-13-2002 07:51 AM

Batterys self discharge. I doubt if there was no draw if it would have enough power to raise the trailer after 312 days. Depending on the battery age, condition, temperature, etc. 4-6 weeks might be all you are going to get and still be able to use the jack.


davidz71 08-13-2002 08:56 AM

Bill Darden's site at addresses the deep cycle discharge rate. He says, "Deep cycle batteries discharge at a rate of 1% - 15% per month. Lead sulfation starts occurring when the state of charge drops below 80%". This causes additional problems and is what kills a battery. If your discharge rate is more than 50% of your battery rating, you are not helping your battery. Each time the discharge drops extremely low, it takes a little out of your battery. Based on this plus your parasitic charge of .09, your battery is a gonner well before the 312th day. If your vehicle sits outside and is not used much, I advise a 5 watt solar panel to keep the charge at 100% or at least a battery maintainer such as the BatteryMinder hooked up the entire time. It will not boil out your battery fluid.

As an interesting side story, I am an electronic restraint device instructor. The batteries used in some of the first handheld electronic stun guns were 9 v. nickle cadmium rechargeable. These batteries lose 2% of their power per day if they are left on the shelf or in the stun gun. You must not let the charge go below the top 25% or it might not function the entire unit. Each second of use loses 1% of its power. Newer devices use lithium batteries which have a 5 yr. shelf life and have 1800 seconds of power i.e. 30 min of continuous power. They are not rechargeable.

I found early in my hunting escapades that Ni Cad batteries did not last long in aluminum flashlights and when they went, they went. I use nothing but good alkaline batteries now.

jcanavera 08-13-2002 09:13 AM

It looks like from their web page that the battery is rated 105 amp hours at a 5 amp draw. So the draw with the master switch on of .1 amp translates into 2.4 amp hours draw per day. This will kill the battery somewhere in the area of 45 days or so. This pretty well falls in line with my experience that the trailer sat in the storage lot for 60 days unused. No wonder the hitch jack didn't work.

So the math works out. Now the issue is to add a solar panel or disconnect the battery when I know I won't be using the trailer for an extended period.


davidz71 08-13-2002 09:24 AM

I know the feeling. I had a rough night last night. My 17 yr. old and I both have a stomach or intestinal virus that has been running around and we have not been sleeping well the last several nights. Something told me that the figures were high but I didn't have the energy or focus to do the math. I was thinking 105 amp hr and working off that. Since I have made previous posts on this subject, I am still pleased with my combination of Delco Voyager sealed deep cycle batteries, BatteryMinder charger and Solargizer Solar battery charger/maintainer.

davidz71 08-13-2002 09:46 AM

I wanted to add that disconnecting the negative cable or just pulling the battery(s) out may slow the discharge rate down. Some individuals take the batteries out of their trailer and place them in the garage with a maintainence charger attached. Why go to the trouble. I would investigate some of the solar chargers as I have done and you don't have to worry about hooking up a 110 v. cord for the charger. Do an engine search for Solargizer or Unisolar or look in Camping World for their solar chargers. Make sure you get one that has the blocking diode to prevent discharge at night. I place my Solargizer on top of my propane tanks when at the house and on top of my trailer when at the hunting site. When on the road, I just place the panel in the bed of my truck so that I do not have to disconnect the ring terminals from the battery it is connected to. I guess I could mount it permanently to the top of the trailer but chose to leave it mobile to take advantage of where the sun is shining. The panel charges both of my batteries at the same time.

jcanavera 08-13-2002 09:55 AM

I like the idea of a portable set up David. Unfortunately my A/S sits in a public RV/boat storage lot, so I wouldn't be surprised that it might walk away. If I do anything in this vein, it probably will have to be rooftop mounted. I might also find some type of knife switch that I can place on the positive battery post.


Action 08-13-2002 10:25 AM

Knife Switch

Put it on the negative side vs the positive side. Less arching.


davidz71 08-13-2002 10:39 AM

Where is your battery compartment? How far away is your frig vent opening? You might even mount the panel with double sided sticky tape on top of your AC shroud or fabricate a metal mount and run the cable down through the frig vent. I doubt that anyone would climb on top of the trailer to remove your panel because they would not see it.

jcanavera 08-13-2002 10:49 AM

According to my owners guide, my Safari is prewired for solar power. My battery is in a battery box outside the trailer behind the gas bottles. I'll have to ask my dealer what and where the prewire is since I can't fathom the wiring schematics.


davidz71 08-13-2002 11:42 AM

I have visited the site so often and have received their catalog. At some point in time I plan on buying an'82 Excella II 25' model and outfitting it with a 120 watt solar panel package. Until then, I will enjoy my current model and keep the batteries up with the 5 watt model.

I'm not sure where the connections are on your prewired for solar setup. Some have posted that they are hard to get to so they run the wires down the fridge vent and hook up at the junction block there.

Pahaska 08-13-2002 01:56 PM

Battery disconnect
Action''s advice to put the disconnect in the negative (ground) lead of the battery is good, but the arcing is going to be the same with it on either lead.

The real reason for this is safety. You should always hook up the positive lead of a battery first and disconnect it last. That way, if you accidentally short to ground in hooking up or in unhooking, there is no arc because there is no circuit.

That was first taught me by an aircraft mechanic (A&E) too many years ago to count.

Action 08-13-2002 02:22 PM


I know that the trailer is grounded to the tow vehicle via the hitch and the ground wire in the wiring harness that comes from the tow vehicle.

Is the trailer grounded to the negative side of the trailer battery too? If so I do not know where the ground wire (of the trailer battery) attaches to the trailer. Not that I have looked very hard, however it would be nice to know the location.


davidz71 08-16-2002 02:51 PM

Solar panel maintainer
1 Attachment(s)
This is my 5 watt Solargizer solar chanrger/maintainer. I tilted it down to give you a better view but it usually rests on top of one of my propane tanks.

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