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Old 04-19-2014, 09:06 PM   #1
I Bought it I Broke it...
clicknathan's Avatar
1976 31' Sovereign
Migratory , North America
Join Date: Dec 2008
Posts: 110
Replacing Gauges

76 Sovereign in question here.

The gauges that should tell me how the battery is doing, tanks level, etc. are not working. The battery gauge just goes back and forth like a pendulum, and the various holding tanks don't seem to move much or reflect anything logically realistic (3/4 when it's empty, 1/4 when we're hooked up, and random really).

What's a replacement project for this whole panel like? I'm not mechanically inclined enough to take it on myself. Cost? Approximate timeline? Insanity with all the different tanks, etc?

The holding tanks I could even do's more the battery gauge I'm concerned about as I'm hoping to upgrade to multiple batteries & a generator/solar system in the next few months.
My family and I have been full-timing via various modes of travel since 2008. Going on two years in our '76 Sovereign.
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Old 04-20-2014, 12:56 AM   #2
Rivet Master
1974 Argosy 20
2014 20' Flying Cloud
Kooskia , Idaho
Join Date: Jul 2009
Posts: 4,591
For the batteries you might consider a Tri Metric metering system. It will tell you a whole lot about your battery charge/discharge/state of charge. About $200 plus installation. My only problem with it is that it is not really easy to set up (after installation) and not the easiest thing to understand how to use. There is no simple battery monitoring system however, battery information is a bit of a black art, with a lot of variables involved.

If you are going to a solar system soon, you might consider a Blue Sky charge controller which can fairly easily have a battery monitoring system combined with it as an option, and that would replace the Tri Metric I mention above. I don't have any personal experience with it however but understand it is a good system too. It might be a bit cheaper as a combined system than two separate systems.

Tank monitors have been problem areas forever. I gave up on mine years ago, in fact the Argosy never had any at all but the Airstreams I have had essentially had useless gauges and I soon just learned not to bother with them. My 2014 FC 20' has a system but I am not impressed with it either. You can spend a lot of money trying out the latest and greatest one on the market, and may get lucky with one which works, but you may just get an upset stomach and a thinner wallet. At least that is my experience and opinion.

Replacing the tank monitor panel itself in your '76 with a new one will not solve any problems, the general place things go wrong is with the sensors in the tanks. They just don't work well for any long time period. It seems like it would be a simple problem to solve, but apparently it is not. You are dealing with fresh water, partly contaminated gray water, and highly contaminated black water held in plastic tanks which are very shallow. I love numbers and monitoring things, but have learned not to bother with tank levels in RV's.
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Old 04-20-2014, 05:00 AM   #3
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1973 23' Safari
1977 23' Safari
2014 25' Flying Cloud
Palmer Lake , Colorado
Join Date: Oct 2005
Posts: 4,079
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Yep, total PITA. This thread will tell you more than you ever want to know about tank monitor theory, but the end result worked in my Overlander.

An improved digital version, with better battery monitoring and some added temperature monitoring, is taking shape in this thread.

...I'm hoping to upgrade to multiple batteries & a generator/solar system in the next few months.
I'd like to throw out a small caution about multiple batteries. Unless you have a very specific requirement for a known volt-amp capacity, stick with one battery--no matter how many batteries you add, you'll always need a little bit more juice now and then, which puts you right back in the same position as you were with one battery. Except you're a lot heavier. IMHO, if you have a generator, you'll find that you can easily boondock for three or more days on one battery and in that time you can find an acceptable time to recharge with the generator. Solar puts you in even better shape, maybe never needing the generator except to run the microwave.

I tried two batteries in my Caravel, which allowed me to boondock for a week, but I never added a 2000W inverter (a bad idea IMHO--you're talking 70-85 amps at 12V for even modest 115V appliances), so a microwave (or hair dryer) was out of the question. The Honda 2000I quiet generator solved all my power problems (some of the $50 microwaves can't hack the initial voltage dip when they start up using a small generator--you sort of have to hand-select the right one).

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