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Old 09-19-2018, 09:05 AM   #1
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Modesto , California
Join Date: Sep 2018
Posts: 16
New Airstream owner - how to switch to battery

Hello folks. Itís my first time posting and first airstream. I bought a 1972 overlander with 2 twin beds. Itís literally a time capsule and hasnít been touched. Question: how do I tell the trailer to use battery power so I can raise the electric jack? It only raises if I have it connected to shore. Lights only work if connected to shore. And now my lights wonít turn on at all even connected to 15 amp shore (I checked all fuses and breakers and none are tripped and I still have power to my ac and wall outlets).
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Old 09-19-2018, 09:11 AM   #2
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2006 25' Safari FB SE
Draper , Utah
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I know this is a silly question, but is your battery charged?
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Old 09-19-2018, 09:25 AM   #3
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1988 25' Excella
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Knoxville , Tennessee
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My guess is that your power converter is blown or perhaps turned off. There is a store-use switch that disconnects the batteries on most Airstream trailers. That switch needs to be in the use position to charge the batteries. There is often a 110 switch that turns off the converter that makes 12 volts for power and to charge the batteries. You would benefit from changing the original converter even if the original is still working.
The answer to your question is that if everting thing is working and the store use switch is in use you do not have to do anything to operate the jack and lights from 12 volts. The work off the 12 volt system all the time, whether the 12 volts comes from the batteries or the converter.
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Old 09-19-2018, 09:30 AM   #4
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Modesto , California
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Thanks for the reply. The lights were working when connected to shore. I was testing everything out - had the radio blasting - control center said battery is fair. I had all the lights on and then suddenly all lights and radio shut off after about 15 minutes of this. I heard a fan running under the rear shower. I lifted the twin bed to investigate and found that my converter was there. It’s one of those silver converts that plugs into all outlets and looks newer. The fan was blowing fast. I then smelt a burning electrical smell coming from the battery area. I have some keys on order (purchased at auction without keys) so I don’t have access to battery to test it. Could that be it? Doesn’t 12v lights run without battery? Also, main question: how do I tell the trailer to use battery for dry camping in these older models? Thanks in advance!
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Old 09-19-2018, 09:30 AM   #5
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Modesto , California
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I forgot to quote you sorry bud.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Bill M. View Post
My guess is that your power converter is blown or perhaps turned off. There is a store-use switch that disconnects the batteries on most Airstream trailers. That switch needs to be in the use position to charge the batteries. There is often a 110 switch that turns off the converter that makes 12 volts for power and to charge the batteries. You would benefit from changing the original converter even if the original is still working.
The answer to your question is that if everting thing is working and the store use switch is in use you do not have to do anything to operate the jack and lights from 12 volts. The work off the 12 volt system all the time, whether the 12 volts comes from the batteries or the converter.
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Old 09-19-2018, 09:33 AM   #6
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Modesto , California
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Thanks for the reply bill.


Where do you suppose I can start finding that switch? Is it on the converter? The converter looks newer - silver type with a computer fan on it.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Bill M. View Post
My guess is that your power converter is blown or perhaps turned off. There is a store-use switch that disconnects the batteries on most Airstream trailers. That switch needs to be in the use position to charge the batteries. There is often a 110 switch that turns off the converter that makes 12 volts for power and to charge the batteries. You would benefit from changing the original converter even if the original is still working.
The answer to your question is that if everting thing is working and the store use switch is in use you do not have to do anything to operate the jack and lights from 12 volts. The work off the 12 volt system all the time, whether the 12 volts comes from the batteries or the converter.
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Old 09-19-2018, 09:44 AM   #7
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1988 25' Excella
1987 32' Excella
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Let me try again to be more clear. First you may now have a dangerous condition. The smell would indicate that you have dried out your batteries. The battery can catch fire under some conditions.

You need to get into the battery box and replace the battery with a good battery. Then check the converter for output. You may have blown a fuse in the converter.

When the system is working you do not “do” anything to switch from shore power to 12 volts for boondocking. You just unplug the 110 and all the 12 volt stuff just keeps on working.

You need a good battery and to test and repair or replace the converter. When the trailer is plugged in full time to 110you need to check the battery water every month.

And yes, the 12 volts will work off the converter with no battery. But probably not with a dried out or shorted battery.
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Old 09-19-2018, 09:48 AM   #8
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2017 30' Classic
2022 Interstate 24X
Carlisle , Pennsylvania
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Hi

Ok let's go through this a piece at a time:

1) Jack works on shore power = converter is doing just fine ( it's turning 120V into 12V to power the jack).

2) Jack does not work without shore power = battery is not supplying 12V

3) This is a trailer that's old enough to have been voting for quite a while ....

Conclusion: The battery is not in the circuit, check for a disconnect switch or a battery cable that's disconnected. Both are very common items when a trailer is stored.

=======

1) Lights don't work now

2) Does the jack still work?

3) No fuses or breakers out ....

If the jack still works, and *all* the fuses and breakers are ok (including the ones that you have to rip stuff apart to find) you have a wiring problem or burned out lights.

What to do:

First get the manual for your AS from their web site. That will give you a pretty good idea of what once was in the trailer. Start from there and take inventory (trace out the wires) of what now *is* there. This is a very normal part of buying an older AS. It's had a lot of years to accumulate "improvements".

======

Next, plan on some improvements of your own:

If the converter is the stock unit, it's very much ready to retire. Swap it out even if it's working fine right now.converters are not all that expensive. They very much do not last forever and ever. The new ones work better than the nearly 50 year old ones.

Batteries don't last forever, check the dates on them. If they are over 4 years old swap them out. If they are newer, charge them up and see how they do. On flooded cells check the water level, if it's way down, swap them out. You want to start out with "known good" batteries.

Tires have a use by date. The manufacturing date is punched into modern tires. Mr Google will help you decode the dates on your tires. If they are past about 7 years old .... replace them. Get *good* tires when you do. Don't cheap out on something nobody has ever heard of before.

Brakes and hubs should be checked when you buy the trailer. They may be in super shape, they may need work. You need to be sure that they are safe and functional. The older hubs need to be lubed regularly. That also is part of this checkout process.

Water systems need to be well flushed and rinsed out with a bleach / water solution. That's true regardless of how you plan to use the trailer. If you don't have a gray tank, that needs attention as well ....

Lots of things to have fun with. Electrical is by no means the only thing .....

Bob
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Old 09-19-2018, 09:32 PM   #9
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Modesto , California
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So I looked at the converter today and it looks like a newer one. The battery looks almost brand new. I couldnít find markings but it has definitely been updated. I looked at all the fuses, checked all connections, looked at all the breakers and everything looks good.

I tested the battery and is deader than a door nail. No juice whatsoever. It looks like a self contained battery and not sure if I can add water to it. Anyone have any suggestions on a good battery I can buy? That will fit the 1972 Overlander battery compartment? I will put my voltmeter on it tomorrow to make sure Iím receiving 12 v from the converter but it still racks my mind why the lights arenít on even if the battery is dead.

Quote:
Originally Posted by uncle_bob View Post
Hi

Ok let's go through this a piece at a time:

1) Jack works on shore power = converter is doing just fine ( it's turning 120V into 12V to power the jack).

2) Jack does not work without shore power = battery is not supplying 12V

3) This is a trailer that's old enough to have been voting for quite a while ....

Conclusion: The battery is not in the circuit, check for a disconnect switch or a battery cable that's disconnected. Both are very common items when a trailer is stored.

=======

1) Lights don't work now

2) Does the jack still work?

3) No fuses or breakers out ....

If the jack still works, and *all* the fuses and breakers are ok (including the ones that you have to rip stuff apart to find) you have a wiring problem or burned out lights.

What to do:

First get the manual for your AS from their web site. That will give you a pretty good idea of what once was in the trailer. Start from there and take inventory (trace out the wires) of what now *is* there. This is a very normal part of buying an older AS. It's had a lot of years to accumulate "improvements".

======

Next, plan on some improvements of your own:

If the converter is the stock unit, it's very much ready to retire. Swap it out even if it's working fine right now.converters are not all that expensive. They very much do not last forever and ever. The new ones work better than the nearly 50 year old ones.

Batteries don't last forever, check the dates on them. If they are over 4 years old swap them out. If they are newer, charge them up and see how they do. On flooded cells check the water level, if it's way down, swap them out. You want to start out with "known good" batteries.

Tires have a use by date. The manufacturing date is punched into modern tires. Mr Google will help you decode the dates on your tires. If they are past about 7 years old .... replace them. Get *good* tires when you do. Don't cheap out on something nobody has ever heard of before.

Brakes and hubs should be checked when you buy the trailer. They may be in super shape, they may need work. You need to be sure that they are safe and functional. The older hubs need to be lubed regularly. That also is part of this checkout process.

Water systems need to be well flushed and rinsed out with a bleach / water solution. That's true regardless of how you plan to use the trailer. If you don't have a gray tank, that needs attention as well ....

Lots of things to have fun with. Electrical is by no means the only thing .....

Bob
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Old 09-20-2018, 08:41 AM   #10
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2017 30' Classic
2022 Interstate 24X
Carlisle , Pennsylvania
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Hi

If the battery has gone to zero, thats not a good thing. If it's sat at zero for a while, that's even worse. Most converters will not fire up into a dead (zero volt) battery. They think it's a short circuit and "self protect" by shutting down.

Next question becomes the eternal "how much room is on the credit card?". There are an enormous range of solutions to your problem and all of them cost money. Each of them has a fan base running around here. The more expensive you get, the "better" the solution gets.

The low cost end:

Head down to Costco and see what they have on sale this week. Haul the old batteries with you and get ones that are the same size. You want to haul them in because in most area's that's how you get rid of old batteries. Trade them in on the new ones and they pay you. Try to dump any other way and you get charged.

The often recommended way:

Regardless of what converter you have, replace it ... ( the one you have is indeed not the latest and greatest, so there is some merit in the recommendation). Team that up with your new batteries.

The higher end approach:

Go with AGM batteries rather than flooded cells on sale. That's getting this into the "near $1,000" range. AGM's are a bit harder to find. They are less prone to various issues.

The "let's just go crazy" approach:

Swap the batteries out for Lithium's. You will double the capacity and be the coolest kid on the block. This also bumps you up above $2,000.

Lots of choices. Which one makes sense is very much dependent on what your plans for the vehicle are.

Bob
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Old 09-20-2018, 11:34 AM   #11
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1966 24' Tradewind
1995 34' Excella
Lynchburg , Virginia
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Welcome to AirForums and the wonderful world of vintage Airstreams.

One advantage of vintage is the electrical systems are very simple- no store or on/off switch. If you are plugged in to shore power the battery voltage should be about 13.6v, the output from the converter. If you are not plugged in, the battery voltage, for a fully charged battery, should be about 12.7v.
The lights, furnace, water pump, radio, fans and jack are all 12v. Only the receptacles, AC and the fridge run off 120v shore power (or generator).

I would install just a new battery for starters. The converter may not be the best but at least it appears recent and if it charges the battery, then I wouldnít replace it just yet. Lots of other places to spend money.

Dan
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Old 09-20-2018, 11:53 AM   #12
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2014 20' Flying Cloud
Sag Harbor , New York
Join Date: Jun 2015
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Do you have an owner's manual for this 1972 AS? This may be the correct one FYI:

https://www.airstream.com/wp-content...anual.085c.pdf

The Battery/Electrical info starts on p. 47 [PDF p. 51/66].

Cheers,

Peter
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Old 09-20-2018, 02:25 PM   #13
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1975 31' Sovereign
West Liberty , Kentucky
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I don't know about the 1972 AS but my 1975 does not have a battery disconnect switch. I did have a problem with the jack similar to yours. If I had the AS is connected to shore power or to my tow vehicle, the jack would work, but would not work otherwise. The problem was with the ground circuit. To check for this, thoroughly clean the connections between the jack and the trailer frame (bolts). Then run a wire from the negative post of the battery directly to the jack ground. If the ground is defective, the jack should work. Then establish a good ground from the battery to the frame.
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Old 09-20-2018, 02:27 PM   #14
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1988 25' Excella
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My guess: the batteries dried out, shorted, and blew the converter. Or at least a fuse.
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Old 09-20-2018, 03:12 PM   #15
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The converter may be "crowbaring" shutting down due to a bad battery.
Disconnect the battery. Then see if you have lights.
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