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Old 04-07-2021, 08:03 PM   #1
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2008 19' Safari SE
Denver , Colorado
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Converter...why is this sConverter: why so expensive?!

Hey all:

HALP.

I know basically very little about electricity, so Iím going off what my travel tech is telling me. He doesnít generally work on Airstreams, and with his blessing, Iím putting this out here for some advice.

Last weekend, I got into the Bambino, and flipped the battery disconnect switch and heard...nothing. No click. No light. Urp.

I fooled around with it a bit, and nothing. Connected the 7 pin to the TV, worked just fine, although suddenly four overhead light bulbs are out.

Called a tech, because I know naught of electrical anything. He did some tapping of tools and reading of meters and told me the brand new AGM batteries are very, very dead.

I had to run off back to work, and he replaced the batteries. Upshot is: he thinks itís the converter.

He went looking for a new converter, and itís about $700. Should this really be this expensive? Can I use a different converter? Tech says heís not really an expert electrician of any sort, he can switch like for like out for me, but would be leery about trying to make huge amounts of changes. I need some dad (or mom) advice!
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Old 04-07-2021, 10:08 PM   #2
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We have used a Progressive Dynamics converter for many years and with great success with AGM batteries. The cost from Best Converter (https://www.bestconverter.com/Progre...ters_c_81.html) is much below the cost your tech is telling you. Of course, installation will cost you in addition to the purchase price for the converter.

Tim
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Old 04-07-2021, 10:14 PM   #3
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I'm not a whiz with electrical systems so I'll let others weigh in on what might be your cause. But a new converter shouldn't be anywhere close to $700. I paid ~225 for a new Progressive Dynamics converter last summer. Easy self install and the company was more than happy to help answer questions.
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Old 04-07-2021, 10:20 PM   #4
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Thank you!

I should make it clear the tech was as shocked as I was! Heís def not trying to cheat me and in fact was quite pleased I was coming here to find out if there was some AS weirdness to converters. I will DEF show him the link you gave me!
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Old 04-08-2021, 05:53 AM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by zlee View Post
Hey all:

HALP.

I know basically very little about electricity, so Iím going off what my travel tech is telling me. He doesnít generally work on Airstreams, and with his blessing, Iím putting this out here for some advice.

Last weekend, I got into the Bambino, and flipped the battery disconnect switch and heard...nothing. No click. No light. Urp.

I fooled around with it a bit, and nothing. Connected the 7 pin to the TV, worked just fine, although suddenly four overhead light bulbs are out.

Called a tech, because I know naught of electrical anything. He did some tapping of tools and reading of meters and told me the brand new AGM batteries are very, very dead.

I had to run off back to work, and he replaced the batteries. Upshot is: he thinks itís the converter.

He went looking for a new converter, and itís about $700. Should this really be this expensive? Can I use a different converter? Tech says heís not really an expert electrician of any sort, he can switch like for like out for me, but would be leery about trying to make huge amounts of changes. I need some dad (or mom) advice!
Contact Randy at Best Converters.

This is what we got when we up-graded to Lithium batteries,(it is adjustable and will also work on AGM)

We also used an IOTA 55a DLS IQ4 from Best on our Lifeline AGM's for 11 Seasons...👍

Bob
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Old 04-08-2021, 06:49 AM   #6
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Before you jump to conclusions about your converter have you plugged in to shore power to see if it charges your batteries and provides 12 v power? Your batteries might just be dead.--Frank
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Old 04-08-2021, 08:14 AM   #7
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There's quite a bit of information missing here.

You describe the AGM batteries as "brand new" yet you say your RV tech "replaced" them. Depending on how new they actually are and how much they were discharged, generally you can recover newish AGM batteries (though you might pay some penalty in their lifespan from having deeply discharged them.)

What was happening with your trailer to get to this point? Was it stored through the winter with the batteries still connected for the phantom loads to suck the life out of the batteries? (If that's true, the batteries aren't new-new, but maybe new-when-stored?)

Has your tech checked the fuses in your converter? If it's a deck-mount converter it probably has a couple of fuses on the output side to protect against miswiring and direct shorts...

What kind of converter is your tech telling you will cost $700? Is he buying it from an Airstream dealer or something? (it's not an Airstream-specific part so that is definitely not the bargain choice...)
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Old 04-08-2021, 09:29 AM   #8
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Progressive Dynamics makes a very good converter. If you can fit it in - go with it.

If you let the AGMs sit in a partially discharged state <90% for extended periods of time they will sulfate and die. Lead acid/AGMs should be brought up to a full charge daily if you want them to last.

This is a good video that ran tests on AGM, flooded lead acid and lithium.


Sources for quality lithium batteries include:
AMPS Lithium
https://lithiummarinebattery.com/shop

LiFeBlue Battery
http://www.lifebluebattery.com

ReLion
https://relionbattery.com/products/lithium

SmartBattery
https://www.lithiumion-batteries.com...-rv-deep-cycle
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Old 04-08-2021, 09:30 AM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by zlee View Post
Hey all:

HALP.

I know basically very little about electricity, so I’m going off what my travel tech is telling me. He doesn’t generally work on Airstreams, and with his blessing, I’m putting this out here for some advice.

Last weekend, I got into the Bambino, and flipped the battery disconnect switch and heard...nothing. No click. No light. Urp.

I fooled around with it a bit, and nothing. Connected the 7 pin to the TV, worked just fine, although suddenly four overhead light bulbs are out.

Called a tech, because I know naught of electrical anything. He did some tapping of tools and reading of meters and told me the brand new AGM batteries are very, very dead.

I had to run off back to work, and he replaced the batteries. Upshot is: he thinks it’s the converter.

He went looking for a new converter, and it’s about $700. Should this really be this expensive? Can I use a different converter? Tech says he’s not really an expert electrician of any sort, he can switch like for like out for me, but would be leery about trying to make huge amounts of changes. I need some dad (or mom) advice!
Hi

Not a lot of background so I'm going to make some guesses:

1) Trailer has been in storage for at least the winter and possibly a year and a half.

2) "New" AGM's went in before it went in storage ( so new may be going on 2 years old).

3) "Battery disconnect switch" is an aftermarket full disconnect / properly installed. It's been there for many years and has always worked ok.

So: replacing "brand new" AGM's should either:

1) Have been a low cost warranty "repair"

-- or --

2) Been an expensive / un-needed swap out

Which was it?

Next up:

When was the battery disconnect switch last checked? If it's got a problem that would explain pretty much all of this.

An observation:

If the batteries were dead *and* the disconnect switch was in the "connected" position *and* you plugged in the 7 pin ..... Nothing good should happen. The dead batteries would pull the charge line from the TV down to "their" voltage and hold it there.

So something does not make sense ....

What make / model / type of converter is the tech trying to put into the trailer. There are a lot of varieties out there. $700 would be a really good price for some of them. It would be crazy high for others.

Bob
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Old 04-08-2021, 10:24 AM   #10
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I think you better find a new 'Tech'.

Nothing was said about the state of the battery. If a flashlight doesn't turn on, what do you do? You check / change the batteries, right.

Converters are NOT that expensive. Again, find someone who's not going to sell you a $200 part for $700

Like others said. Plugging in you vehicle 7 pin is not going to give you full power. Power goes to the battery first, then to the lights. It provides a small amount of power to your trailers 12v system.

The biggest thing I suggest you do is know your trailer. Even just some basics on 12v & 120v system
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Old 04-08-2021, 10:51 AM   #11
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  1. What do mean 'battery disconnect switch'? The Use/Store switch?
  2. How long has the trailer been sitting and was it connected to shore power?
If it was connected to shore power and the switch was in Store, your model AS most likely wasn't charging them. The switch needs to be in Use for the converter to charge the batteries.

If it wasn't connected to shore power and was sitting for a long time, the propane sensor would drag the batteries down since it's wired directly to the battery. If you have a sub-woofer for the radio it too may be a direct wire.

Plug in the AS to shore power and check for the red light on the Use/Store panel by the door. If the red light is on the converter is working. Turn on the lights and radio.
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Old 04-08-2021, 04:56 PM   #12
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Sorry, I'm a dunce about electricity!

Yup, I need to learn more, which is why I came here.

The Bambino has been in storage for, what now, 4 years? The batteries were dead. There were a few problems with things like lights being burned out, etc., but it was put away well walked, not watered at all, etc. etc. When we decided to get it out of purdah about two months ago, I had a tech (now moved away) get it spiffed up for us, because I'm now working more than full time. He replaced the dead batteries with the AGMs, got everything working except for water, which he didn't want to test since we all knew we'd still be getting freezes.

I kept going out to the trailer and charging up the batteries with my TV (since I have no access to power there), clicking the battery disconnect switch (yes, Use/Store, but "battery disconnect switch" is what my Airstream manual called it, so that's what I called it too) over to store each time before leaving.

We even took it out once down to Colorado Springs for a test drive. Everything seemed great!

On Saturday, I went out and clicked the battery disconnect switch, all ready to charge the battery with the 7 pin, and...nothing. No sound. No light. No nothing. When I plugged into the TV, the light came on. The solenoid clicked. And I noted that the battery didn't seem to be charging, going by the control panel.

Tech came out. Tested a buncha stuff while I wasn't there. Looked at fuses and all that. I came up to meet him. The new batteries were very dead, down to 5%. They weren't dead beyond all use, just most likely beyond dependability and repair, he said, especially if we wanted to do any boondocking, since we don't have any solar either, nor a generator (on the list). After I had to go back to work, he tested some more stuff after plugging the Bambino into his generator, and then replaced the batteries, then looked at more stuff.

He thinks the converter has gone bad. I don't know if it has or hasn't, I don't know nothing about birthing no babies.

And he asked me if I wanted to look around for a better deal because he was stunned to find his usual supply place was asking $700 for a replacement. I will call Best Converters!

Thanks, dads!
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Old 04-08-2021, 07:50 PM   #13
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Again to repeat my earlier post, if you have no power there, how do you know if your converter is working or not? The most likely scenario as others mentioned is your batteries are dead from sitting there in storage. A new converter is not going to keep your batteries from going dead if you have no power to plug into. Hooking them up to your vehicle every once in while to charge for a a while is not likely fully charging them. So take your batteries to an auto shop or parts store to be tested to see if they are OK and keep your batteries at home where you can properly maintain them. If you leave your batteries in your trailer add a true manual disconnect switch at the battery so you eliminate all parasitic loads and they will stay charged longer.--Frank
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Old 04-08-2021, 08:44 PM   #14
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The term "battery disconnect", as least for a while here, refers to a switch that completely disconnects the batteries, like removing the cables from the posts, so they don't die in storage. It's an add-on, usually in or near the battery box. So a little confusing. Use/Store refers to the switch at the door. Yes a disconnect, but it doesn't disconnect everything.

How long a time between Colorado Springs and Saturday? Were the batteries charged during that time? If not, there wouldn't be enough power in the batteries to engage the disconnect solenoid.

When you plugged it into the TV the light came on; which light? The red light on Use/Store or another one? If the solenoid clicked then probably the red light. You say it wasn't charging. This is the reading on a Micropulse panel in the galley? No 12 volt present?

Most battery chargers will not charge when a battery voltage is extremely low. That's probably true for the converter too. Did the tech get a voltage reading when he had the generator connected? If the converter was working I think he would be getting output at the battery connections on the converter, maybe at the battery cables too. (Use/Store in Use)

Before replacing the converter you should connect a set of good batteries, plug the AS into shore power and see if you have 12 volts on your gauge and take a reading on the batteries too. You can get an adapter for your 30 amp plug so you can plug it into a standard 115 volt house outlet. (Don't turn on the Air.)

If you need a new converter, Progressive Dynamics is a good brand and definitely cheaper than $700. Iota is another, there are several. You probably need a 55 amp charger like the PD4655.

If you are not going to the your AS for a long time it's best to take the batteries out to somewhere, like your garage, and connect a battery tender to keep them charged up. Don't go cheap, get a good multi-stage charger.
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Old 04-09-2021, 07:15 AM   #15
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Hi

Again, unless the batteries were replaced under warranty ( = no charge ), you got ripped off. A $700 charge for a converter is a ripoff unless it is a hybrid inverter / charger. I'd look for a new tech ...

Batteries take a *long* time to fully charge. As mentioned above, the converter will not charge a dead battery. You need an outboard charger to get them up to above about 11 V or so. Once the battery is up to the point the converter will charge it, figure 24 hours on power. Anything less likely does not get them to full capacity. If it's cold out, the converter may not get them "full" even at 24 hours.

Depending on what's in your trailer ( do you have an inverter? ) the use / store switch *might* let you walk away from the trailer for two weeks and still find working batteries. If the charge level is low, that two weeks could turn into a couple days.

Battery charge level is often monitored by looking at the voltage. That approach has a bunch of limits. You need to know more than anybody ever does about the guts of the battery to come up with a valid voltage chart over temperature. ( = the voltages all change as the temperature changes). You also need to be very careful about not charging or discharging the battery while checking it. That's not all of the story, but it's enough.

The better way to monitor charge level is with a shunt based monitor like the BMV-712. If you are in repairing / rewiring things ... put one in.

Like it or not, you will need to come up to speed on the wiring in the trailer. Unless the tech is familiar with AS (and is competent) he can't make all the decisions. He can help with troubleshooting, but his conclusions need to make sense. YouTube is a wonderful place to learn up on all sorts of stuff ....

Fun !!!

Bob
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Old 04-09-2021, 12:06 PM   #16
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Before you buy anything, plug the converter into a known power source and check its operation. If no DC power, check the output fuses (2) on the converter. Then see if everything powers up. If not, contact Best Converters.
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Old 04-09-2021, 01:29 PM   #17
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Thanks!

Yup, we plugged it into his generator--I'm assuming that qualifies as plugging in? And yes, I do intend to learn (and in some cases, re-learn) about the trailer's electrical, but given my job usually means I'm there from 7:15 AM to...well, last night it was 9:45 PM (less on weekends, but still usually there most of a day), I don't have a lot of time for that right now! So throwing money at it = only way to do this and actually get it done.

My tech and Randy at Best Converters had a discussion last night, I have a new less-than-half-the-cost converter on the way, and Randy has promised to hold the tech's hand if something comes up.

And now...back to work.
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Old 04-10-2021, 07:40 AM   #18
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Quote:
Originally Posted by zlee View Post
Yup, we plugged it into his generator--I'm assuming that qualifies as plugging in? And yes, I do intend to learn (and in some cases, re-learn) about the trailer's electrical, but given my job usually means I'm there from 7:15 AM to...well, last night it was 9:45 PM (less on weekends, but still usually there most of a day), I don't have a lot of time for that right now! So throwing money at it = only way to do this and actually get it done.

My tech and Randy at Best Converters had a discussion last night, I have a new less-than-half-the-cost converter on the way, and Randy has promised to hold the tech's hand if something comes up.

And now...back to work.
Hi

Here's the problem:

A couple weeks from now, the total bill is up around $4,000. The thing *looks* like it's fixed. You take it out on the road and after a night or two it's a disaster. You finally haul it over to a real AS outfit and they tell you that it's another $2,000 to repair the damage that's been done. Past that, they can do the repair work for $300 .....

If your job has you working 7AM to 10PM 7 days a week, and you are not a mulit-millionaire as a result .... give some thought to your schedule. (this is very much a "do as I say, not as I do ( or did )" sort of comment ....).

Bob
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Old 04-10-2021, 07:56 AM   #19
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Is your airstream stored outdoors?

The best thing you can do is to get some form of solar. That'll tender your batts and sidestep any future issues. A tiny 50w setup is enough to keep things happy while stored. A 200-400w setup may be able to get rid of any dependence on the converter.
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