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Old 10-07-2014, 02:52 PM   #1
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Battery life is dismal at 9 months after buying new

Hi fellow Airstreamers,

We are fairly new owners and have had the opportunity to travel with our trailer. We bought the 2014 International serenity and are very, very happy with it. That is if we can figure out what's eating our batteries?!
Here's what's been happening:
We store our rig at the storage facility, concrete pad and level. When we store it, we turn the main storage switch to off (inside the trailer) and to the best of our knowledge nothing else is running (other than what we have been told the inverter and carbon monoxide detectors).

So in the beginning of September we went about 5 hours drive to Omaha and I wanted to turn on the fridge, only to find that the batteries were depleted. At that point the trailer had been parked since the beginning of July, roughly 2 months. This was a pretty long time as we were moving , so I figured oh well, we ran out because we didn't use it. I hooked up a generator to revive the batts, was able to run the fridge for 24 hours and it got nice and cold. Then we left and towed to Omaha where we were hooked up to shore power for 3 days and nights. When we left the campground the status showed us 100% battery, but when we returned the Airstream to the lot about 6 hours later, the status panel stated that all we had left was roughly 75% of power. I thought that was strange, because isn't the truck charging the batteries while we are driving? So again, we parked and put the rig into storage mode.

About two weeks later I went to clean the rig a bit and found that the batteries were all but depleted, the LED lights insight didn't even shine bright but dimmed all the way to a flicker. So I checked the batteries (interstate deep cycles, stock) and made sure they had enough water, check. So hubby and I took the batts to the nearest auto parts store to get them checked and they were all empty, so they charged them, checked them and gave us the green light for functionality. So now we are not sure what to do next, how to figure out the issue and here are some of my questions:

1. Is it common that the rigs run out of battery super fast during storage or shouldn't they hold a charge longer? I mean I could never go boondocking like this, we'd be out of juice instantly.
2. Is it smart to install one of those battery shut off's in the back between the main power line and the batteries, and if so, can we do that ourselves?
3. Shouldn't the truck charge the airstream while driving?
4. We bought a battery tender to keep the batteries good to go, but I would prefer not to have to take them out all the time, or should we?

Thank you so very much for your help, I am really trying to figure this out and I cannot just jot on over to the Airstream dealer as we are about 6 hours from the nearest one.

Dunja
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Old 10-07-2014, 03:04 PM   #2
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I would think that the board in the fridge, by merely being connected to the system, would draw some juice, don't know how much. Perhaps something else is also using some electricity while stored.

I would suggest that you install a solar panel and controller to keep the batteries charged while in storage. Then, if you decide to do a lot of boondocking, you can add panels until you run out of room on the roof to add them. I installed solar on both trailers and all batteries remain charged, no matter how long in storage.
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Old 10-07-2014, 03:21 PM   #3
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It should charge while you are driving if the batteries are not already toast from overcharging as mine were.I had to replace my converter ($200) from Randy at Best Converters.Takes about one hour too switch.
My factory converter was cheap junk and ruined the batteries in one season.
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Old 10-07-2014, 03:31 PM   #4
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A solar panel will work, but it's expensive - and if you're in covered storage - it's useless.

If your batteries become totally discharged or close they may be sulfated and ruined. Do you know the birth date of your 2014? It might have been manufactured in middle to late 2013. It is quite possible that your batteries were over a year old when you bought your unit... and dealers probably don't take great care of them. Even if your batteries are over 2 years old, they've still worn out rather quickly.

There can be a lot of phantom draws, though turning the switch to "store" should cut out most of them. The "store" setting is really designed for a week or two. If you're putting the Airstream to bed for the winter, or for several months, it's best to take the batteries out and store them in a cool dry place.

There are also many threads about three stage battery chargers which do a better job. They don't overcharge the batteries which shortens their lifespan. You might want to do a SEARCH on that to get more details. Not terribly expensive, couple of hundred.

Of course the very best fix would be to use it every weekend.

I live in mine full time. (Your mileage may vary.... One size does not fit all... This advice is worth what you paid for it...) I've gotten about almost 4 years out of standard factory batteries, and when I boondock I used to carry a very small generator and charger just in case the batteries wore down, but the new Eddie Bauer has solar so that's become somewhat redundant. There are many options and some of the other ones might be better if you aren't using your unit frequently.

Hope this has helped somewhat.

Paula
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Old 10-07-2014, 03:41 PM   #5
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Also keep in mind if you are connected to shore power the monitor will show the voltage coming from the converter and not the battery voltage. It is possible to see 100% on the monitor with the batteries actually less than 100%.


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Old 10-07-2014, 03:54 PM   #6
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Also keep in mind if you are connected to shore power the monitor will show the voltage coming from the converter and not the battery voltage. It is possible to see 100% on the monitor with the batteries actually less than 100%.


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We actually checked the panel after hooking off from shore power, about 10 min or so after. Then again when we stored and it was at three quarters. I am never really sure how reliable that panel is, it also showed our black tank on green status when we were already backing up, visibly. Yikes. Thank you for your input!
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Old 10-07-2014, 03:57 PM   #7
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It should charge while you are driving if the batteries are not already toast from overcharging as mine were.I had to replace my converter ($200) from Randy at Best Converters.Takes about one hour too switch.
My factory converter was cheap junk and ruined the batteries in one season.
How do I know if the batteries overcharged? All I really know how to do is to make sure the diodes are always covered with distilled water. And would the converter not be under warranty? We bought new 10 months ago. So one season is all you got out of your batteries? Which ones did you buy after?
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Old 10-07-2014, 04:00 PM   #8
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Shouldn't the only things draining the batteries when the Store/Use switch is on Store the LP leak detector and the Store/Use switch? I would think it would take several months or more for 2 fully charged batteries in parallel to be drawn down even to 50% (about 12v). The LP leak detector should only draw 120mA according to Atwood's specs. When I'm in store mode nothing connected to the 12v circuit panel will turn on I would think I could leave the AS in storage with the Store/Use switch on Store for 6 months. I've started to disconnect my negative battery lead when I put my AS in storage even for less than a month.

How many volts and what amps does the tow vehicle generate at the 12v lead on the 7 pin plug with driving at 60mph or if the engine is running 1500 to 2000 rpm? Charging two depleted batteries by the car should take more than a days driving I would think.

Kelvin
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Old 10-07-2014, 04:04 PM   #9
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Kelvin,

I checked recently. Although TVs will be different, a 2013 Silverado 2500hd (at idle) delivers 12 - 13 amps. Items onboard the AS were consuming about 2.5 amps of that for a net effective charging rate at 10 - 10.5 amps.
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Old 10-07-2014, 04:04 PM   #10
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Originally Posted by Foiled Again View Post
A solar panel will work, but it's expensive - and if you're in covered storage - it's useless.

If your batteries become totally discharged or close they may be sulfated and ruined. Do you know the birth date of your 2014? It might have been manufactured in middle to late 2013. It is quite possible that your batteries were over a year old when you bought your unit... and dealers probably don't take great care of them. Even if your batteries are over 2 years old, they've still worn out rather quickly.

There can be a lot of phantom draws, though turning the switch to "store" should cut out most of them. The "store" setting is really designed for a week or two. If you're putting the Airstream to bed for the winter, or for several months, it's best to take the batteries out and store them in a cool dry place.

There are also many threads about three stage battery chargers which do a better job. They don't overcharge the batteries which shortens their lifespan. You might want to do a SEARCH on that to get more details. Not terribly expensive, couple of hundred.

Of course the very best fix would be to use it every weekend.

I live in mine full time. (Your mileage may vary.... One size does not fit all... This advice is worth what you paid for it...) I've gotten about almost 4 years out of standard factory batteries, and when I boondock I used to carry a very small generator and charger just in case the batteries wore down, but the new Eddie Bauer has solar so that's become somewhat redundant. There are many options and some of the other ones might be better if you aren't using your unit frequently.

Hope this has helped somewhat.

Paula
Hi Paula,

I am not real sure about Silver Girl's birth date, we bought her and we had to store at the dealer for 6 months before picking up, due to my hubby's overseas deployment. When we picked the Airstream up we got the low down on how to take care of it somewhat, but no one at all ever even mentioned the battery water issue. I was told that over the phone when I called about a week ago to ask what the problem could be. So I rushed over to check and luckily it was fine and water covered. THe load test at the Auto parts store came back all good as well, doesn't that mean that my batteries are fine and are loading fully? I just don't want to buy new batteries when the real issue is something else. While at the auto store this weekend we purchased a Deltran Battery Tender Plus to charge our batts during the winter, without the danger of overload.

Dunja
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Old 10-07-2014, 04:10 PM   #11
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Shouldn't the only things draining the batteries when the Store/Use switch is on Store the LP leak detector and the Store/Use switch? I would think it would take several months or more for 2 fully charged batteries in parallel to be drawn down even to 50% (about 12v). The LP leak detector should only draw 120mA according to Atwood's specs. When I'm in store mode nothing connected to the 12v circuit panel will turn on I would think I could leave the AS in storage with the Store/Use switch on Store for 6 months. I've started to disconnect my negative battery lead when I put my AS in storage even for less than a month.

How many volts and what amps does the tow vehicle generate at the 12v lead on the 7 pin plug with driving at 60mph or if the engine is running 1500 to 2000 rpm? Charging two depleted batteries by the car should take more than a days driving I would think.

Kelvin
Kelvin,

I'm not even sure what the output is on the truck we have, its a Ford F150 Ecoboost. The day we drove we were out there about 6 hours, median speed at around 60 mph.Also, when we left the batteries were fully charged from being hooked up to shore power.

Dunja
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Old 10-07-2014, 04:14 PM   #12
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Also, if you are hooked up to shore power, do you turn any switches in the Airstream off?
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Old 10-07-2014, 04:20 PM   #13
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If you have a propane detector, it is typically wired to the battery side of the shutoff switch (at least on my trailer) and therefore draws current all the time. It takes about 1/4 amp. I don't know what batteries you have, but if two Group 27s that is around 160 AH. The propane detector will use 6AH per day, so that will deplete the batteries in about 26 days. If this happens and a load remains on a dead battery for a long time, it can damage or kill the battery. Also, repeated full discharge will damage a battery. A goal would be to discharge the batteries to no more than 50% most of the time.

Auto and boat parts places sell a cutoff switch that mounts right on a battery terminal. You just take whatever is on the terminal off and mount the switch and then put what was on the terminal on the switch. I plan to put one on my trailer, but for the time being I just disconnect the negative battery cable (I only have one battery). Why the negative you ask? If you slip with a wrench and hit any part of the trailer structure while loosening the positive and the negative is still connected, you have shorted the battery and high energy bad things happen. If you do the same thing on the negative, no problem, the other end of the cable is connected to the structure.

You can get an inexpensive multimeter at Lowes, Home Depot, or many other stores. I prefer an analog (needle indicator) vs. digital (numeric display). To look for phantom current drains:

1. Disconnect the negative cable
2. Put the multimeter in DC current (amps) mode on the highest scale available . This is sometimes indicated by a solid line with a dashed line over it on the selector switch and Amps (A) are more than milliamps (mA), 200mA = 0.2A.
3. Connect the positive meter lead to the cable that was on the battery and put the negative (common, minus) lead to the battery post and read the current.

If anything other than zero is indicated, you have something drawing current. Check storage compartments for lights that accidentally got turned on, make sure the refrigerator is turned off, etc. until you get the current as low as possible with zero being ideal.

You can use the example above to figure out how long your batteries should last once you know the parasitic current drain. That said, batteries start out with a pretty low internal drain, but as they age, it gets higher. Wet cell lead acid batteries will sometimes shed lead particles that pile up in the bottom of the cells. This is made worse by shock and vibration. When they reach the bottom of the plates, leakage current goes way up and the batteries won't hold a charge very long at all. Regarding your TV charging the batteries, I have read that the TV usually can only source about 7A. So if you have 160 AH of batteries, it would take 23 hours or more to charge them up to full from zero.

Al
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Old 10-07-2014, 04:31 PM   #14
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If you have a propane detector, it is typically wired to the battery side of the shutoff switch (at least on my trailer) and therefore draws current all the time. It takes about 1/4 amp. I don't know what batteries you have, but if two Group 27s that is around 160 AH. The propane detector will use 6AH per day, so that will deplete the batteries in about 26 days. If this happens and a load remains on a dead battery for a long time, it can damage or kill the battery. Also, repeated full discharge will damage a battery. A goal would be to discharge the batteries to no more than 50% most of the time.

Auto and boat parts places sell a cutoff switch that mounts right on a battery terminal. You just take whatever is on the terminal off and mount the switch and then put what was on the terminal on the switch. I plan to put one on my trailer, but for the time being I just disconnect the negative battery cable (I only have one battery). Why the negative you ask? If you slip with a wrench and hit any part of the trailer structure while loosening the positive and the negative is still connected, you have shorted the battery and high energy bad things happen. If you do the same thing on the negative, no problem, the other end of the cable is connected to the structure.

You can get an inexpensive multimeter at Lowes, Home Depot, or many other stores. I prefer an analog (needle indicator) vs. digital (numeric display). To look for phantom current drains:

1. Disconnect the negative cable
2. Put the multimeter in DC current (amps) mode on the highest scale available . This is sometimes indicated by a solid line with a dashed line over it on the selector switch and Amps (A) are more than milliamps (mA), 200mA = 0.2A.
3. Connect the positive meter lead to the cable that was on the battery and put the negative (common, minus) lead to the battery post and read the current.

If anything other than zero is indicated, you have something drawing current. Check storage compartments for lights that accidentally got turned on, make sure the refrigerator is turned off, etc. until you get the current as low as possible with zero being ideal.

You can use the example above to figure out how long your batteries should last once you know the parasitic current drain. That said, batteries start out with a pretty low internal drain, but as they age, it gets higher. Wet cell lead acid batteries will sometimes shed lead particles that pile up in the bottom of the cells. This is made worse by shock and vibration. When they reach the bottom of the plates, leakage current goes way up and the batteries won't hold a charge very long at all. Regarding your TV charging the batteries, I have read that the TV usually can only source about 7A. So if you have 160 AH of batteries, it would take 23 hours or more to charge them up to full from zero.

Al
Hi Al,

first off, thank you so much for your thorough reply. I do sometimes feel like the total newbie I am and any advice really helps. We have two 24 deep cycle Interstates, that's the largest that will fit without modification of the battery compartment. I try not to have the batteries empty, but it seems with the way things are going there really is nothing I could do. We are thinking of purchasing a battery-off switch, but we waited as we wanted to make sure that it is not something related to the Airstream. Thank you for your tip on disconnected the negative vs. the positive side, good to know for sure! I will see that I can buy one of the Amp meters and try your suggestion. Also, I never turned the fridge off per se, I only turned off the power by putting it into storage mode. Was I supposed to turn the fridge off before switching into storage mode? I thought once I do that everything is turned off automatically including the two TV's? Should I unplug the TV's? How confusing lol.

Dunja
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Old 10-07-2014, 05:08 PM   #15
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The use/store switch only disconnects the battery. It doesn't have anything to do with you AC side or actually your DC side as well. If you are connected to shore power with switch set to store you will still have full power to everything. Don't worry about unplugging tv's etc.
I would be more worried the batteries were fully depleted vs overcharged. If they have been fully depleted a few times (which it sounds like they may have) they are probably ruined. Same thing happened to me. I suspect batteries are not maintained properly by dealerships then confusion about the use/store switch caused me to deplete mine again. After that my batteries wouldn't last long at all.


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Old 10-07-2014, 06:03 PM   #16
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The use/store switch only disconnects the battery. It doesn't have anything to do with you AC side or actually your DC side as well. If you are connected to shore power with switch set to store you will still have full power to everything. Don't worry about unplugging tv's etc.
I would be more worried the batteries were fully depleted vs overcharged. If they have been fully depleted a few times (which it sounds like they may have) they are probably ruined. Same thing happened to me. I suspect batteries are not maintained properly by dealerships then confusion about the use/store switch caused me to deplete mine again. After that my batteries wouldn't last long at all.


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Hi Landrum

If it checked out at the auto parts store is my only indication for ruined batts the fact that they don't hold charge? I went this afternoon to the airstream and checked the batt. Just 22 hrs ago I was in the green, today it's down to amber and I was in store mode the entire time. I physically turned the fridge to off 30 min ago and unplugged anything that was plugged in as a precaution. Back in storage. I wonder if I need new batteries?
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Old 10-07-2014, 06:12 PM   #17
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I don't know about the newer trailers, but on mine the store switch disconnects the battery from the power distribution and fuse panel. The battery is still connected to the converter and can thus be overcharged by the older converters if connected to shore power and items like the propane detector and breakaway switch are connected to the battery directly (probably through an in-line fuse).

Charge your batteries up, disconnect the negative lead that feeds the power to the trailer (not the one that jumps to the other battery) and then come back in a couple of days, hook them back up, and check the charge status. If still green, something is discharging them.

It is likely that your major loads, e.g. refrigerator, lighting, furnace, TV, radio, etc. are fed from the distribution and fuse panel and are disconnected in store mode. You should not have to turn them off separately.

Al
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Old 10-07-2014, 06:16 PM   #18
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Hi Landrum

If it checked out at the auto parts store is my only indication for ruined batts the fact that they don't hold charge? I went this afternoon to the airstream and checked the batt. Just 22 hrs ago I was in the green, today it's down to amber and I was in store mode the entire time. I physically turned the fridge to off 30 min ago and unplugged anything that was plugged in as a precaution. Back in storage. I wonder if I need new batteries?
When batteries are allowed to sit in a depleted state (uncharged storage for extended periods.......like on a dealer's lot for 6 months), you can be sure that the plates are sulfated. They will accept a charge and 'look' like they are charged but have no capacity to retain this charge. Relying on your red/yellow/green battery indicator is totally useless, as you will be seeing the surface charge after it has been disconnected and not the actual state of charge in the batteries.

The group 24 Interstate batteries that Airstream provides are bottom of the barrel in quality, and sitting on a dealer's lot in an uncharged state virtually assures that they are sulfated and will not retain any charge that is placed on them.

YES! You need new batteries. You also need a quality 3-stage automatic power converter to properly charge those new batteries. The single stage, constant voltage converter that Airstream still insists on placing in their 'premium' trailers is suitable only for the scrap heap. I wouldn't bother with new batteries unless you first upgrade the converter. A total battery disconnect switch that will isolate the batteries completely for extended storage periods is also a good idea. You can also simply disconnect the negative battery terminal to accomplish the same result.

Just a note about AGM batteries. When placed in storage with a full charge, they will hold that charge (especially Lifeline AGMs) for a minimum of 90 days in a no load situation. I have had batteries in my shop that were left unattended for 6 -7 months and STILL had 12.7 VDC when measured. Of course, YMMV!
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Old 10-07-2014, 07:01 PM   #19
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Lewster is Correct (of Course)

The first thing I have done for every Airstream I have owned is to install a new, state-of-the-art converter/charger.
During camping season, I disconnect my batteries between trips. One negative lead as Al has said)
During winter storage, I remove my batteries and keep them in my garage at a charging station.
Batteries require a great deal more operator involvement than some owners are inclined to give.
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Old 10-07-2014, 07:33 PM   #20
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The original batteries in our trailer failed this spring. When I had our AM Solar system installed, I installed two pure lead Group 24 AGM batteries. They charge quickly via solar or plug-in, and do hold their charge well while stored indoors unplugged. One nice thing about the group 24 AGMs, they fit in the stock battery compartment perfectly. They came with full replacement three year warranty. They were approximately 250.00 each on sale.
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