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Old 02-23-2024, 07:39 AM   #1
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2012 Interstate Coach
Houston , Texas
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Accidentally Ran House Battery Dead

Hello--I need some help!!

Ok, I've had my 2012 Interstate for 2 yrs and just did something for the first time!

After my last trip in Dec, I plugged shore power into the unit but failed to plug the OTHER END into the house 30A receptacle! So, the house batteries are REALLY dead! The batteries are showing 3.79 V on my Tripp-Lite panel...I'm guessing that would be due to the small (50W) solar panel which still work keeping a little bit of a charge.

So, I plugged in the other end of my cord, and this causes my TrippLite charger/inverter flashes all its lights (red/yellow/green) and "clicks" rapidly in sequence w/ the flashing (probably 3 flashes/sec). I know it's a "smart" charger, so is this normal/ok? Is it trying to slowly charge the house batteries up to some point where it can charge normal/faster?


1 consequence here that may come into play,

I left the rear lounge down in the bed configuration, so if I need to put a battery charger on I'm not sure I can even access the house batteries (2 lead-acid deep-cycle that are stacked on top of each other on passenger side) w/o some substantial disassembly! Is there a mechanical bypass method to raise the bed into lounge position?


A perplexing question,

I'm plugged into shore power, and yet none of the lights or anything else will work on A/C power. Is this normal? Do you have to have charged/working house batteries for A/C circuits to work?? My original thought was we could get by w/o house battery power--we are going to a state park campsite w/ 30A service.


Unfortunately, the timing here is BAD! My wife and I were planning a little weekend getaway and wanting to leave in 2 hrs! Yes, should have checked all this last night, but this unit has always been bulletproof for me until I pulled this fiasco! Need help from some of you folks who know what is needed to keep this trip on the books! Thanks in advance!!

-Kevin in TX
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Old 02-23-2024, 07:54 AM   #2
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Quote:
Originally Posted by KevininTX View Post
Ok, I've had my 2012 Interstate for 2 yrs and just did something for the first time!

After my last trip in Dec, I plugged shore power into the unit but failed to plug the OTHER END into the house 30A receptacle! So, the house batteries are 100% dead!

I plugged in the other end of my cord, and my TrippLite charger/inverter flashes all its lights (red/yellow/green) and "clicks" rapidly in sequence w/ the flashing (probably 3 flashes/sec). I know it's a "smart" charger, so is this normal/ok? Is it trying to slowly charge the house batteries?

2 other consequences here,

(1) I left the rear lounge down in the bed configuration, so if I need to put a battery charger on I'm not sure I can even access the house batteries (2 lead-acid deep-cycle that are stacked on top of each other on passenger side) w/o some substantial disassembly! Is there a mechanical bypass method to raise the bed into lounge position?

(2) I'm plugged into shore power, and none of the lights or anything else will work on A/C power. Is this normal? Do you have to have charged/working house batteries to plug into a campsite?? My original thought was we could get by w/o house battery power--we are going to a state park campsite w/ 30A service.

Unfortunately, the timing here is BAD! My wife and I were planning a little weekend getaway and wanting to leave in 2 hrs! Yes, should have checked all this last night, but this unit has always been bulletproof for me until I pulled this fiasco! Need help from some of you folks who know what is needed to keep this trip on the books! Thanks in advance!!

-Kevin in TX
Kevin, did you try connecting to your tow vehicle to see if it will start charging?
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Old 02-23-2024, 08:00 AM   #3
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This is an Interstate motorhome--no tow vehicle, but thanks for the quick response!!

-Kevin in TX
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Old 02-23-2024, 08:26 AM   #4
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UPDATE!

After about 30 min of plugged-in with lights pulsing and unit "clicking", I noticed house batteries now showed 3.84 V (up from 3.79) giving me hope that my TrippLite charger/inverter was going to figure this out and recover on its own!

Then, about 10 min later the light pulsing stopped and the charging light came on and stayed GREEN. I'm now showing 13.8 V on the house battery circuit! The LED lights in the ceiling now work along w/ the water pump and other D/C items--I guess they do require working house batteries even with the inverter plugged into A/C.

Note, I did notice that the refrigerator was already cold when I was out there just now meaning its been working since I first plugged in, so (interestingly), it does NOT need working house batteries! I'm guessing it has it's own inverter??

Anyway, the trip is back ON and emergency-mode is over! I would still appreciate any additional thoughts and insights you experienced folks have here.

-Kevin in Texas

PS> I think a contributing problem--I found I'd left my refrigerator in the ON position, and worse, with the door cracked. My little 50W solar panel can't stay ahead of the discharge of the refrigerator even at the height of summer--probably lasted only 2-3 days with Dec sun and door cracked! Had this been off, it's possible the solar panel would have kept me around 80% charged...
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Old 02-23-2024, 08:32 AM   #5
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That's good news, your smart charger probably pulsed enough for a while till it could start charging full, kind of a soft start. If the batteries did not get damaged you might be OK.
Funny I read "Interstate" but by the time I finished reading your post I had already forgotten. The alternator should help once you get on the road but make sure there is something in place to protect the alternator from overheating, I don't know what they were doing in 2012 for charge limiting.
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Old 02-23-2024, 08:58 AM   #6
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The voltage you are reading is the charging voltage while on the charger — not the battery voltage. It is quite likely that the batteries are seriously damaged and may look ok immediately after charging, but will not hold a charge.

I suggest you take an ice chest, jugs of water, and some led lanterns. Then, if all goes “bad”, you can have a good camping experience!
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Old 02-23-2024, 09:12 AM   #7
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Hi

Very roughly speaking: you will need to stay on the charger for at least 24 hours before you have "full" house batteries. It takes a very long them to get happy again. Will they recover? Without doing a full charge followed by a calibrated discharge test ... no way to tell.

Since this is end of February and "last trip in December", things could have been in trouble for for months. Running a battery down and leaving it there for days isn't a good thing. Weeks are worse. Months ... certainly not good. All that said, there is no way to predict their condition.

Since this is a > 10 year old van, it's a good bet that these are not the original batteries. No, that's not a 100% sure sort of thing. If the batteries are > 5 years old *and* they got hit this way .... probably a good time to go battery shopping.

Bob
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Old 02-23-2024, 09:20 AM   #8
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Many of us have checklists for our rigs for leaving and returning home, to be sure we don’t forget anything important, so this may be a good idea for you for in the future.

Maggie
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Old 02-23-2024, 09:45 AM   #9
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Many of the inverter/chargers that have auto-switch over (to inverter from shore power) will have the inverter AND shore power shut off when battery voltage gets down below 10-11 volts (in an effort to not destroy the batteries). With my mother's trailer setup, it wont let shore power through or even charge the batteries until the voltage gets above a certain amount. I've read this is also a problem on newer interstates with lithium batteries when they get low enough to shutdown not having an onboard way to get them going to start charging them.

Before you said it was charging I would have suggested starting your engine to see if that started charging the house batteries.
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Old 02-25-2024, 06:23 AM   #10
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FINAL UPDATE

Thanks for all the great feedback!!

So, after 2 hours of charging, we hit the road! The batteries showed an 80% charge on my SunExplorer display panel (the one tied to the solar panel). I think this equates to 12.1 V, or thereabouts (it gives this information, but I didn't write it down). So, with this in mind, we did forgo the refrigerator (it is a power hog) and packed an ice chest instead!

In the end, everything worked out fine on our quick overnighter (which consisted of a 90-min drive to Round Top, TX for lunch and a look around, followed by a stop at Blue Mule Winery where we used our Harvest Host membership for the first time! Very slick!!)

The next morning, with our lights usage and water pump, plus, some brief overnight furnace usage (fan runs off battery) we were down to 35% on the batteries (11.8 V, maybe?). Desperate for our morning coffee, I tried starting our small 500W coffee pot, but the inverter refused to turn on. This might have been related to the low voltage, but rather than go see if I had something in the control panel wrong, I crossed my fingers and hit the START button for the generator hoping we enough power for it to start. YAY!! It started right up!!

So, after 20 minutes of run time coffee was done and the generator had brought batteries back up to a 70% charge on the SunExplorer display. Not bad!!

I'm definitely going to make some checklists (Thanks Maggie!), and yes, I'll be watching these batteries closely! One is ~3 yrs old; the other is about 1 1/2 yrs old. There's a story there, but this has gotten long already!

And Brian, unfortunately, my house batteries don't charge as I drive down the road--I'm about to post something in the forum about this. I know the problem, but unsure how to fix it!

Thanks again everyone--this forum is so helpful!!
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Old 02-25-2024, 07:53 AM   #11
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Glad your quick trip worked out. But, sounds to me like your batteries are shot because they didn’t hold the charge. You might be able to find a shop that might be able to recondition them but I think you are better off with a matching pair of new batteries.
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Old 02-25-2024, 12:34 PM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by KevininTX View Post
FINAL UPDATE

Thanks for all the great feedback!!

So, after 2 hours of charging, we hit the road! The batteries showed an 80% charge on my SunExplorer display panel (the one tied to the solar panel). I think this equates to 12.1 V, or thereabouts (it gives this information, but I didn't write it down). . .

. . . So, after 20 minutes of run time coffee was done and the generator had brought batteries back up to a 70% charge on the SunExplorer display.

And Brian, unfortunately, my house batteries don't charge as I drive down the road--I'm about to post something in the forum about this. I know the problem, but unsure how to fix it! . . .
FYI - the SunExplorer display does not reflect the true state of charge in your batteries. It is merely a voltage readout from the batteries and if in daylight it gives a very false sense of the battery condition.

I had a 2013 Interstate until I recently traded for a new Interstate. I discovered long ago that the design of battery separator installed on your Interstate will not let the alternator charge the coach batteries if there is any daylight on the solar panels. I've posted about this before. The battery separator just compares the voltages of the chassis battery and coach batteries. When the solar panels raise the voltage on the coach batteries the separator falsely determines that the batteries don't need a charge and will not connect for Sprinter alternator charging of the coach batteries. It is a classic failure of the system design on these older Interstates.

Read this posting from last year for details:
https://www.airforums.com/forums/f24...ml#post2711730
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Old 02-26-2024, 06:38 AM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by KevininTX View Post
FINAL UPDATE

Thanks for all the great feedback!!

So, after 2 hours of charging, we hit the road! The batteries showed an 80% charge on my SunExplorer display panel (the one tied to the solar panel). I think this equates to 12.1 V, or thereabouts (it gives this information, but I didn't write it down). So, with this in mind, we did forgo the refrigerator (it is a power hog) and packed an ice chest instead!

In the end, everything worked out fine on our quick overnighter (which consisted of a 90-min drive to Round Top, TX for lunch and a look around, followed by a stop at Blue Mule Winery where we used our Harvest Host membership for the first time! Very slick!!)

The next morning, with our lights usage and water pump, plus, some brief overnight furnace usage (fan runs off battery) we were down to 35% on the batteries (11.8 V, maybe?). Desperate for our morning coffee, I tried starting our small 500W coffee pot, but the inverter refused to turn on. This might have been related to the low voltage, but rather than go see if I had something in the control panel wrong, I crossed my fingers and hit the START button for the generator hoping we enough power for it to start. YAY!! It started right up!!

So, after 20 minutes of run time coffee was done and the generator had brought batteries back up to a 70% charge on the SunExplorer display. Not bad!!

I'm definitely going to make some checklists (Thanks Maggie!), and yes, I'll be watching these batteries closely! One is ~3 yrs old; the other is about 1 1/2 yrs old. There's a story there, but this has gotten long already!

And Brian, unfortunately, my house batteries don't charge as I drive down the road--I'm about to post something in the forum about this. I know the problem, but unsure how to fix it!

Thanks again everyone--this forum is so helpful!!
Hi

Basic lead acid battery theory:

Lead acid batteries are rated for a full discharge to a very low voltage. Just why this is gets into a lot of nonsense. You do *not* want to run them down to that very low rated discharge voltage. They will be damaged ( or at least wear out faster) if you do. You only get to use 50% of the rated capacity of a lead acid battery if you want to keep using it.

Lead acid battery voltages vary with temperature (and with load and with charging). The swing over temperature is dependent on the plate chemistry and you never really know what you have there. It could be as much as half a volt over an 75 degree down to 25 degree sort of swing.

Battery voltage numbers:

At 75 degrees, the stop using the battery number is 12.0 to 12.1 volts anything below that is getting into "damage".

The voltage after a charge and sitting for a while (charger off / no loads) should be 12.6V

Half full, again with no loads and no charging (so no solar either) is about 12.3V.

Your batteries are *way* outside these limits.

Bob
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Old 02-28-2024, 08:49 AM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by uncle_bob View Post
Hi

Basic lead acid battery theory:

Lead acid batteries are rated for a full discharge to a very low voltage. Just why this is gets into a lot of nonsense. You do *not* want to run them down to that very low rated discharge voltage. They will be damaged ( or at least wear out faster) if you do. You only get to use 50% of the rated capacity of a lead acid battery if you want to keep using it.

Lead acid battery voltages vary with temperature (and with load and with charging). The swing over temperature is dependent on the plate chemistry and you never really know what you have there. It could be as much as half a volt over an 75 degree down to 25 degree sort of swing.

Battery voltage numbers:

At 75 degrees, the stop using the battery number is 12.0 to 12.1 volts anything below that is getting into "damage".

The voltage after a charge and sitting for a while (charger off / no loads) should be 12.6V

Half full, again with no loads and no charging (so no solar either) is about 12.3V.

Your batteries are *way* outside these limits.

Bob
Thanks Bob.

I've heard this before, but didn't realize 50% charge is when you reach 12.1 V!

My SunExplorer display shows (correlates) 12.1 V as ~80% charge, and I've been following it's % reading as to when to stop.

The SunExplorer readout gets to 50% somewhere around 11.9 V on my unit, so maybe I've been overstressing the batteries for the past 2 years that I've owned this coach??

That said, on a tangent here...

I'm curious, does this 50% discharge rule truly apply to deep-cycle batteries, or is this more of a concern for normal automotive batteries?

I ask because when our boys were young I had an electric trolling motor and battery on our little aluminum fishing boat and the boys would run that deep-cycle battery completely dead repeatedly! I never noticed any early failure or diminished performance. Maybe a performance hit was happening, but I just didn't notice?

Anyway, I 've always thought the reason you bought deep-cycle batteries was because they were designed to be completely discharged, whereas normal automotive batteries would not hold up to repeated full discharges and fail prematurely... I could certainly be wrong (and likely am)!

Kevin in TX
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Old 02-28-2024, 09:00 AM   #15
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The site I linked below has a wealth of info on deep cycle lead acid. If you scroll down a ways there is a chart showing the average number of life cycles at different discharge rates. In short, deeper discharges give you less total cycles. In a sense you are still getting the same amount of power either way, for example 100 discharges to 50% gives you the same amount of total power as 200 discharges at 25%, you either get more now or take less and leave more for the future.

Although true(read the article) deep cycle batteries can hold up better to deeper discharges most will suffer damage if discharged below a certain point (80%?) repeatedly, and more so if they are not promptly recharged.

https://marinehowto.com/what-is-a-deep-cycle-battery/
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Old 02-28-2024, 09:01 AM   #16
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Originally Posted by Boxster1971 View Post
FYI - the SunExplorer display does not reflect the true state of charge in your batteries. It is merely a voltage readout from the batteries and if in daylight it gives a very false sense of the battery condition.

I had a 2013 Interstate until I recently traded for a new Interstate. I discovered long ago that the design of battery separator installed on your Interstate will not let the alternator charge the coach batteries if there is any daylight on the solar panels. I've posted about this before. The battery separator just compares the voltages of the chassis battery and coach batteries. When the solar panels raise the voltage on the coach batteries the separator falsely determines that the batteries don't need a charge and will not connect for Sprinter alternator charging of the coach batteries. It is a classic failure of the system design on these older Interstates.

Read this posting from last year for details:
https://www.airforums.com/forums/f24...ml#post2711730
Mike,

I am SO glad you posted this--much needed insight for me!

My battery separator was never working when we bought the coach 2 years ago. When I dug into it, I thought I found the problem very quickly--the wire running from the chassis engine compartment had come disconnected on that end at some point and had drug on the ground for probably weeks from the looks of it! The previous owner had zip-tied it up into the frame somewhere back near the transmission!

So, I thought this would be an easy fix, right? Well, just to prove my separator was still good, as a quick test, I extended the newly found wire all the way to my chassis battery hoping to hear the click of a relay in the separator. Crickets! Nothing happened. No charging; no nothing! So, that project has been on hold ever since as I was reading there are better separators out there than the one used on my 2012 Interstate and not sure what direction to take.

Now, with your insight, I'm thinking it's quite likely I did this test on a sunny day and/or with a fully-charged pair of house batteries that didn't need any charging!

It's cloudy today--thinking I remove shore power, turn on the fridge for a few hours to pull down the voltage some, and try my test again!!

Kevin in TX
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Old 02-28-2024, 03:28 PM   #17
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I had my batteries go to zero. All 4 expensive Lifelines. I had water get into my solar combiner shorting it out. Well after 1 week of charging they came back. Then I equalized them and after that I was able to boondock again. This happened last June and now the trailer hasn't been plugged in since then. All is well. Batteries once again functioning normal. The batteries are now on their 9th year. I have no plans at this point to change them.

I kept the sunex explorer but only as a voltage meter. It was already integrated and I just left a voltage feed to it. The charge capacity is very inaccurate. But the voltage meter function works fine.

And yes marine how to is a great site.

Good luck.
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Old 02-29-2024, 07:07 AM   #18
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Originally Posted by KevininTX View Post
Thanks Bob.

I've heard this before, but didn't realize 50% charge is when you reach 12.1 V!

My SunExplorer display shows (correlates) 12.1 V as ~80% charge, and I've been following it's % reading as to when to stop.

The SunExplorer readout gets to 50% somewhere around 11.9 V on my unit, so maybe I've been overstressing the batteries for the past 2 years that I've owned this coach??

That said, on a tangent here...

I'm curious, does this 50% discharge rule truly apply to deep-cycle batteries, or is this more of a concern for normal automotive batteries?

I ask because when our boys were young I had an electric trolling motor and battery on our little aluminum fishing boat and the boys would run that deep-cycle battery completely dead repeatedly! I never noticed any early failure or diminished performance. Maybe a performance hit was happening, but I just didn't notice?

Anyway, I 've always thought the reason you bought deep-cycle batteries was because they were designed to be completely discharged, whereas normal automotive batteries would not hold up to repeated full discharges and fail prematurely... I could certainly be wrong (and likely am)!

Kevin in TX
Hi

With an auto battery, the equivalent "stop using" point is around 80% rather than 50%. Kinda sorta, you get twice the usable output from a deep cycle battery.

As noted above, You can cycle to 20% or some such level. The batteries will not last very long. The testing is done in a very careful manner. What their tests show is correct. It may not apply to your situation when you go to 20% (discharge rates, temperatures, charge levels, dwell time at discharge, recharge rates, reconditioning processes, lots and lots of grubby details ).

The exact point you hit 50% varies with temperature and with the chemistry of the battery plates. Voltage measuring gizmos know noting about the chemistry of your battery. If they read temperature, it's likely the indoor temp and not the battery temperature.

All the magic voltages on lead acid are "at rest". You stop charging, take off all loads, and let them sit for an hour or so. You then read the voltage. Since tenths of a volt are a really big deal, you probably want something that is accurate to a hundredth of a volt.

Yes, this just gets crazier and crazier.

Welcome to why folks spend $120 on a shunt based monitor that eliminates a whole lot of this.

Bob
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Old 02-29-2024, 08:18 AM   #19
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Originally Posted by KevininTX View Post
Thanks Bob. …....

I'm curious, does this 50% discharge rule truly apply to deep-cycle batteries, or is this more of a concern for normal automotive batteries?

I ask because when our boys were young I had an electric trolling motor and battery on our little aluminum fishing boat and the boys would run that deep-cycle battery completely dead repeatedly! I never noticed any early failure or diminished performance. Maybe a performance hit was happening, but I just didn't notice?

Anyway, I 've always thought the reason you bought deep-cycle batteries was because they were designed to be completely discharged, whereas normal automotive batteries would not hold up to repeated full discharges and fail prematurely... I could certainly be wrong (and likely am)!

Kevin in TX
Hello, Kevin (from my hometown).. Uncle Bob is exactly correct… but the logic you used regarding your trolling motor … isn’t an actual laboratory-test procedure. You assumed the battery was “completely dead repeately”…when it is more likely that your “battery test device”…. your trolling motor …simply refused to operate below some unknown voltage…. that voltage being still-above the “fatal” level of your batts. (Likely a safety-feature of design by a knowledgeable trolling-motor mfr’r.)

In a somewhat analogous example, I was using my dump-trailer this last week and the 8 month old EverStart Deep Cycle Marine battery which drives the hydtaulic lift pump ran out of “juice”… Despite the fact that the 7-way trailer connector from my Ram pickup truck provides a “charge circuit” to the trailer/battery.
I tested that 7-way plug and confirmed that with the truck alternator NOT running …only batt voltage (12.7) was available at the receptacle…but with the engine/alt running… 14.2 volts were provided to the trailer/batt. YET…that trailer batt was FULLY discharged. (1.8 volts…yes, one-point-eight)
That battery refused to take a charge overnight and I returned it to WalMart (luckily found the original receipt) and they exchanged it for a new battery. (one year warranty on WM EverStart Marine DC batts).

My point being that lead-acid batts cannot be truly “Deep” discharged without permanent damage… And that tow-vehicle-suipplied voltage will not keep a trailer battery charged despite extensive towing w/long periods of TV-supplied power.
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