Batteries dying/not charging converter upgrades etc.
I have an interesting situation (2016 25' flying cloud, 2 6V in series):
Batteries have been dying from using "store" mode, recently upgraded to 4 stage converter (4655VL PD 4655VL 55 Amp Converter Upgrade), checked voltages at battery were good when battery disconnected. Batteries charge fine on separate battery charger but did not charge in "use" mode when plugged in for a month or while camping.
Our Battery voltage sensor in cabin have always been off by at least a volt compared to multi-meter at battery terminals suggesting some sort of bad wiring to have a 10% voltage drop. With batteries connected battery terminals read battery voltages not converter voltages, even though voltage measured at converter in the interior is correct according specification (eg. 14.4V but at battery)
Our use/store switch was acting funny and seemed like it was not engaging/disengaging properly, I am thinking that there is something funky going on with the wiring/switch itself. Not sure where to start, we've been through about 4 sets of batteries. The next thing I will be adding a mechanical battery disconnect in the battery compartment, but if I can't get the batteries to charge on AC then I don't know what the F's going on.
Disconnect from shore power and measure the voltage directly at the battery terminals. Reconnect to shore power, put the switch in the use mode, and again measure voltage at the battery terminals. If the charger is working the voltage should be 13.6 to 14 volts. Also check the water level in the battery cells. If the cells were ever low on water for a period of time, the plates can become sulfated and don't take a charge very well. Remember to only use distilled water to fill the cells.
The ability to follow instructions is highly underrated.
I replaced the 6V batteries a couple months ago, put them in, RV sent RV to service, batteries came back dead 1 month later. Tried charging, took back to store, they charged them fine. Turned out my 12V charger was a piece of crap. Bought a new 6V/12V charger, charged batteries fine. Batteries weren't charging on "Use".
replaced converter, batteries weren't charging on shore power at home or AC generator during first 3 days of camping trip. Charged batteries with separate charger on 6V with batteries out of trailer and during boondocking in 12V mode by switching to "Store". back from camping, and still on shore power batteries are not charging even after couple of weeks.
with shore power on, batteries disconnected, voltage at battery compartment terminals from converter is 14.4, 13.6 whichever mode is selected. once batteries connected voltage reads only battery voltage (possibly expected as voltage drop due to current etc.) however batteries don't charge even after a month.
during camping lights would flicker, determined that the use/store terminal wasn't fully engaging all the time
since we bought the trailer, the battery monitor (see-level) voltage is always off by at least 1 volt or so compared to multi-meter across batteries.
2015 23' FB Flying Cloud
Join Date: May 2015
So, something is killing your battery charge. And something is stopping the converter from charging.
Step 1 - find the load that kills battery charge. Disconnect batteries with a disconnect switch when storing or disconnect cables when storing.
Step 2 - verify why your converter is not charging your battery.
a......your solenoid may not be functional, or it may be intermittent
.....i.....during camping lights would flicker, determined that the use/store terminal wasn't fully engaging all the time
(may be your problem)
b......you may not be correctly using the store/use switch positions positions
c......your battery may not be correctly installed
.....i......verify that all cables are connected and connected corectly
.....ii.....verify that the always-on bus fusing has not failed
.....iii....verify that the battery cables to the inverter are still correctly installed
d......verify you're ground system is correctly connected to frame & ground bus
e......verify all fuses are installed and functional
Step 3 - verify your battery is correctly maintained
a......your battery is charged to capacity and never discharged below 12.2volts-50%
b......your batteries have water
c......your battery connections are clean
Step 4 - get an expert to run down number 2 if the above is not logical to you
Spend some time with your coach electrical schematic. Understand that the inverter circuit needs to be understood as well.
Understand that a battery does not read correctly if it has been connected to a load or a charger/converter in the last 30-60 minutes.
Understand that the difference between the volt readout on your panel and the direct reading with a multimeter on your battery is likely a load on the system and surface charge on the battery bank. Equalize by disconnecting loads - all lights, the refrigerator, the subwoofer, the lug monitor any inverter load (turn it off) and similar parasitic loads on the trailer. Also turn off the charge to the battery by properly using USE/Store switch. The other way is to disconnect shore power. What you get on the panel is then battery voltage only.
Sounds complicated, but it's just one step after another. You will learn as you progress through the system. Hope these ideas help you investigate your problem. Pat
Do a load test on your batteries. If you don't have a tester, take them to a battery store such as Interstate, and they will test them for you. Very often the problem lies in your batteries, especially if they have been fully discharged.
2012 GMC 2500 HD Duramax Denali
1976 31' Gone but fondly remembered
I have had trouble with the 110V breaker that feeds the converter dropping out. Worth checking if you think the converter is not running. If it needs a reset, push it down to reset and then push up to restore power. This is a longshot, I know; equivalent to "is it plugged in".
I had same problem. Turns out the propane detector is always on even when in "store" mode. always depletes batteries. Unless you have solar. I ran through two sets of batteries before I had a cutoff switch installed so when the store button is pushed the propane detector is off.
Thanks for all the ideas and advice. We finally dived into the circuitry underneath the queen bed and discovered a very VERY loose cable which connects the battery to the main bus. The connector and the bolt were discoloured and the plastic backing is degraded. Luckily, in the last three years of trying to send 50 plus amps through this connection and obviously getting it red hot we didn't set ourselves on fire. Moral of the story, if you buy a trailer, double-check ALL the connections. Our batteries have never charged off of the converter ever, which finally explains everything thats been going on (wrong voltage on seelevel gauge etc.)
Three years later, fours sets of batteries ($1500), and we tightened the nut but it is still loose as the plastic backing on the bus is degraded. We will see if the dealer will replace it when we get it winterized. Pictures/video attached. You can see the discoloured bolt in the top right of the picture (which is upside down, is actually the bottom left)
Lastly, we looked at the propane detector and it is rated for 75 milliamps which at 12V is 0.9A. Basically this will deplete your batteries over 50% in like 3 days!!! When we are camping for 2 weeks without hookups this is terrible.
Are there any swappable propane detectors with much lower current ratings? We will be doing a cutoff switch for when we are not camping, but if we are camping we do not want to disable the fridge and propane detector.
you're right. I was thinking Watts for some reason. 0.9W is what I'm calculating. Shouldn't be an issue for a week or so, but over 4 weeks that's still about 60amp/hours so explains whats going on there.
I think our problems were strictly related to the poor/intermittent connection to the battery.
On a typical modern trailer, the propane detector actually is not the big hitter in terms of parasitic loads.
The magic labeling on it is talking about when it is loudly beeping. If you measure the current when it's just sitting there, the typical unit pulls very little current. Indeed in a month or three you are in trouble.
There are other devices (like the inverter) on most trailers that will have you dead in a couple weeks.
I noticed when the inverter is on, it is quite a drain, but do you know offhand what the quiescent current is for the typical 1000Watt pure sine inverter in the flying cloud airstream?
Now that we've id'd the main culprit for our battery problems the next step will be to identify all the phantom loads. We didn't get to that yet, but we had our sights set on the propane monitor. Your comment is very interesting to me, as we thought the only significant drain if the trailer is in store mode would be the propane monitor, but the next step after that was to try and optimize battery performance for boondocking.
1)we have a 120W suitcase solar (but too many trees where we camp)
2)we switched to 6V batteries (but fried them 2x because of the loose connection, hopefully we will be getting much better performance now)
3)When boondocking, it seems like the fridge and propane monitor would be the only sources of drain if all the lights are off and inverter is off? the other one I noticed is that the USB ports and smart phones can suck a ton of juice over night.(makes sense when you crunch the numbers)
As I said, we haven't ID'd all the loads yet, because we never got past effing around with the batteries. Thankfully the trailer didn't start on fire.
I have a FC with the stock WFCO inverter. I can not identify a draw unless the inverter is on. It can be 1.5-2 amps. If off, my Victron BMV 712 doesnít show any current. Not to say that there is not a <.1 amp draw that registers as 0. But see next comment.
The propane detector takes so little, it fluctuates between 0 and 1 amps.
My fridge on propane is .4-.5 amps.
Subwoofer is on the Ďuseí side of the switch. No load there (on mine).
When Iím boondocking with only fridge and Propane detector on, Iím right at .5-.6 amps, pretty consistent.
Having said what I did about the inverter, I still installed a switch that allows me to take it offline completely. This was before I installed the Victron Monitor, and convinced myself thereís no inverter draw. But itís still comforting to completely take it offline.
Great. Thanks for the info on the currents. I suspect we should have something similar, but it sure is great to have something to compare to.
They should take all the expert level airstream posters and modify the trailer to be more rugged and functional. I bet you could get twice the trailer for the same price. I was recently looking at the new Bruder EXP-6 GT, but you need $170K CAD if you want one like that. Airstream needs to up their game if they want to sell new trailers once the baby boomers aren't around. There's plenty to like about them, but I would hesitate to recommend buying a new one to anyone, knowing what I know now. Plywood sub-floor!? MDF butted up against cold metal interior surface?
Back when I had a stock inverter, mine measured up around 0.08 A on a multimeter when powered off. People have reported numbers as high as 0.25A. Either way it's still massively more current than the propane detector.
The big question on any of these numbers is just how accurate the measurement setup was. Things like simple clamp amp meters can struggle to measure tenth amp sort of loads. Since they are designed to handle 400 or 500A, that's not really a knock on them. They just aren't targeted at low currents.
Indeed it's a matter of money rather than physics. There always is a more expensive gizmo that will give you better data.
Bottom line is still - you need to measure what you have on your trailer. There is to much variation unit to unit and model to model. Not all 1000W "stock" WIFCO inverters are actually the same model ... Same thing with the propane detectors.
I think I might mount it in the forward storage compartment to keep it easy, but will have to see how hard it is to thread the signal wire into the cabin. Hopefully this will help us to manage what's going on in the future.
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