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Author Topic: Question about electrical system  (Read 309 times)

zachwhalen

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Question about electrical system
« on: October 17, 2020, 08:51:44 PM »
Hi,

I'm brand new to RVing. Just got a camper trailer last weekend and we're planning our first outing soon!

But I think there's some issue with the electrical system that I hope someone here can help me figure out. Again, I'm brand new to this.

I have an adapter (not sure that's the right term) that I can use to plug the camper in with regular extension cord. My understanding is that, when plugged in, it should power the onboard electric and charge battery.

The electrical things do work (lights, gas leak detector), but I don't think the battery is charging because even after being plugged in for many hours, the lights turn off immediately.

Furthermore, while plugged in, there's a fan in the power converter unit that kicks on and runs for maybe 15 seconds, off for 30 seconds, on again for 15 seconds, etc. There's a shortstop circuit breaker (I think?) attached at the battery, and it clicks like it's tripping as the fan turns on and off.

Does that mean I have a short somewhere? Or is the battery just dead? It's 7 years old, so it probably needs replacing anyway.

Appreciate any advice!

NY_Dutch

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Re: Question about electrical system
« Reply #1 on: October 17, 2020, 08:56:05 PM »
Welcome to the forum!

There could be a shorted cell in the battery that's overloading the converter/charger. Please post the make/model of the converter if you can so we can better help you. The year/make/model of the trailer may also be helpful.
Dutch
2001 GBM Landau 34' Class A
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2011 Toyota RAV4 4WD/Remco pump
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Domo

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Re: Question about electrical system
« Reply #2 on: October 17, 2020, 09:14:13 PM »
Please post the make, model and year of you RV in your profile so that others can answer intelligently.


Meanwhile - how old is the battery? Generally, five years for a battery is about it (yes, of course there are exceptions).


Is the battery wet cell? If yes, is there water in all the cells covering the plates?


Without turning anything (lights, etc) on or off do the following;
  • When you are NOT plugged into shore power measure the battery voltage.
  • When you are plugged into shore power for more than five minutes measure the battery voltage. (some converters/chargers have a time delay before they do their magic so wait to eliminate the potential point of confusion).
If there is a battery charger, you should see the reading from step 2 HIGHER than in step 1.

With this information you'll get other steps to go forward.
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zachwhalen

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Re: Question about electrical system
« Reply #3 on: October 17, 2020, 09:24:13 PM »
Welcome to the forum!

There could be a shorted cell in the battery that's overloading the converter/charger. Please post the make/model of the converter if you can so we can better help you. The year/make/model of the trailer may also be helpful.

Thanks for replying! The camper is a 2008 Fleetwood Cheyenne, and the manual for the converter panel says it's a World Friendship Company (WFCO) 8712 or 8725. I checked the fuses on the converter panel and they are all intact.

If there's a short in the battery, can I test for that, or should I just get a new one (which I plan to do anyway) and see if the problem goes away?

zachwhalen

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Re: Question about electrical system
« Reply #4 on: October 17, 2020, 09:34:32 PM »
Please post the make, model and year of you RV in your profile so that others can answer intelligently.

Will do!

Meanwhile - how old is the battery? Generally, five years for a battery is about it (yes, of course there are exceptions).

It's 7 years old. So, yeah.

Is the battery wet cell? If yes, is there water in all the cells covering the plates?

I'm not sure if it's wet or not. It looks pretty much like a car battery to me. This is the one I have.

Without turning anything (lights, etc) on or off do the following;
  • When you are NOT plugged into shore power measure the battery voltage.
  • When you are plugged into shore power for more than five minutes measure the battery voltage. (some converters/chargers have a time delay before they do their magic so wait to eliminate the potential point of confusion).
If there is a battery charger, you should see the reading from step 2 HIGHER than in step 1.

With this information you'll get other steps to go forward.

Yeah, this makes sense. Would I be looking for around 12.6V like a car battery?

Thanks for your help!

NY_Dutch

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Re: Question about electrical system
« Reply #5 on: October 17, 2020, 10:06:51 PM »
You could try disconnecting the battery to see if the 12 volt devices work normally just running on the converter. If the clicking, fan, etc, issues go away, that would seem to indicate a bad battery.
Dutch
2001 GBM Landau 34' Class A
F53 Chassis, Triton V10, TST TPMS
2011 Toyota RAV4 4WD/Remco pump
ReadyBrute Elite tow bar/Blue Ox base plate

Tom55555

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Re: Question about electrical system
« Reply #6 on: October 18, 2020, 03:14:40 AM »
Typically it's just a bad battery. Unplug your AC and check the voltage at the coach battery. If you don't know how to do this go to a local auto store and they will test your battery. You want a deep cycle battery for your coach.
2015 Winnebago 22R

Isaac-1

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Re: Question about electrical system
« Reply #7 on: October 18, 2020, 05:55:47 AM »
Well those WFCO converters don't have the best reputation so it could certainly be bad, though given its age the battery is almost certainly dead, so i would start there.  Though to do any detail testing you really need an electrical multi meter, even a basic one like https://www.harborfreight.com/electrical/electrician-s-tools/7-function-digital-multimeter-63759.html will do, though the next model up that Harbor Freight sells for about $20 is much better.  They are also available at Lowes, Home Depot, etc. starting at around $25.

As to that new battery, what you have in your photo is a marine dual use battery, not a true deep cycle, these will sort of work, but are less than ideal.  Any battery with an MCA or CCA rating on it is NOT a true deep cycle, even if the marketing language makes it sound like one.  A true deep cycle may say something trike trolling motor battery on it, a quick check of the Wal-Mart web site does not show any true deep cycles as available for store pick up near where I live.  If you plan to always stay in campgrounds with full electrical hookups, a marine dual use battery is probably ok, but if you plan to do much off grid camping you really should get a true deep cycle battery, better yet if you have room to mount them, get a pair of batteries.  If you have room for them, I would go with a pair of 6 volt golf cart batteries wired in series to get 12V, this is the best bang for the buck, as true deep cycle 6 volt golf cart batteries can be bought for about $90 each, just add an interconnect jumper jumper like https://www.amazon.com/Camco-47473-2-Gauge-Battery-Assembly/dp/B00JGJGIKW/ between the positive and negative of two of the batteries to get 12V across the   pair, then connect your regular cables to the remaining positive and negative posts.  Note some brands of golf cart batteries have both common battery posts and threaded studs, some only have threaded studs.
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John From Detroit

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Re: Question about electrical system
« Reply #8 on: October 18, 2020, 06:27:04 AM »
Others have covered most everythng EXCEPT the fan
It is operated by a Thermostat so as the converter heats up it starts and cools down it stops.
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zachwhalen

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Re: Question about electrical system
« Reply #9 on: October 18, 2020, 08:40:14 AM »
Good morning.

Thanks for all the advice. I will definitely replace the battery and possibly upgrade it, but in the meantime I hope I can eliminate any problems with the converter so the issue doesn't return with a new battery, or possibly damage a new battery.

I do have a multimeter, so I did some more testing this morning. A few general observations. Immediately on receiving power, the converter made a buzzing sound and the fan started running. After about 5 minutes, the buzzing stopped and it settled down into a pattern which I timed: 23 seconds on, 15 seconds off, over and over.

Here's what the battery measured on the multimeter:

cold (before connecting to power) : 0.73
Fan running : 9.5
Fan off : 4.5

This was after about 10 minutes plugged in. Also, with the fan running, I could also hear a hiss or sizzle coming from the battery compartment. I think it's the little shortstop breaker.

I will text again after an hour to see if there's any change, but it seems like power is actually getting to the battery

Others have covered most everythng EXCEPT the fan
It is operated by a Thermostat so as the converter heats up it starts and cools down it stops.

Yeah, I'm wondering about this. Like, if the thermostat is triggering it, why is it heating up so quickly, and why does it go back and forth so consistently? Bad thermostat?

zachwhalen

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Re: Question about electrical system
« Reply #10 on: October 18, 2020, 08:47:43 AM »
Also just a general question about camper batteries. We're interested in dry camping, so assuming the battery is healthy and fully charged, what could we use it to power, and for how long? We have interior LED lights, a fridge, and an air conditioner.

Gary RV_Wizard

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Re: Question about electrical system
« Reply #11 on: October 18, 2020, 09:03:35 AM »
That battery is toast - the measurements pretty well prove that.  My guess is that at least one cell is shorted, maybe two.

The "flooded cell" marine/RV battery you have is ok but don't expect a long life from it, even with care. 3 years typical, maybe 5 if well cared for in ideal conditions.  7 years is unheard of with that type, but achievable with true deep cycles and AGM type batteries. Marine/RV type batteries are the cheapest but also have the shortest life. It's a "Pay now, or pay later" kind of thing.

I've written a layman's guide to RV battery choices you may find helpful - it's in the RVForum Library at http://www.rvforum.net/miscfiles/Choosing_right_battery.pdf
« Last Edit: October 18, 2020, 09:06:10 AM by Gary RV_Wizard »
Gary
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zachwhalen

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Re: Question about electrical system
« Reply #12 on: October 18, 2020, 09:14:21 AM »
That battery is toast - the measurements pretty well prove that.  My guess is that at least one cell is shorted, maybe two.

Yeah, definitely. I did another test and after cutting power to the RV, the voltage on the battery went from 5.0 to 2.something in less than a minute.

I'll check out that guide you shared. Thanks so much!

Isaac-1

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Re: Question about electrical system
« Reply #13 on: October 18, 2020, 10:52:24 AM »
Here is a ballpark guide for how long a pair of deep cycle batteries will run things in an RV:

Refrigerator running on propane (control board requires battery power), with nothing else running, a fully charged battery will run the refrigerator for about a week.

LED lights, this depends on how many, how bright they are, etc. Ballpark figure, a single bright LED light (equal to a 60 watt incandescent bulb) 125 hours

Roof top Fantastic Fan, 100 hours on low, small factory bathroom fans probably even longer.

Air conditioner will not run on batteries (at least not on this sort of battery), you need a generator if you want air conditioning, either that or a $2,000 Lithium Ion battery bank, plus a $1,200 inverter, and that is just to get 6-8 hours of air condition run time before needing recharge.


Realistically for extended camping you need to top your batteries off every day or two with either a generator, or solar panels.  Though you could probably get by with charging at home, and conserving power living off batteries for weekend camping. As long as you don't run the propane furnace too much as it is a real power hog, and can run the batteries down in a single cold night.
« Last Edit: October 18, 2020, 10:56:03 AM by Isaac-1 »
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zachwhalen

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Re: Question about electrical system
« Reply #14 on: October 18, 2020, 09:26:49 PM »
Hi Everyone,

Thanks for all the advice and information! Today I replaced the battery, and everything seems to be working normally: no intermittent fan, lights on even when unplugged. I went with the cheaper marine battery because we're not sure how or how often we'll use this, so I reasoned that $75 is a decent "live and learn" cost in case we find we need more power or we have to replace it after a couple of years.

Thanks again!

Tom55555

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Re: Question about electrical system
« Reply #15 on: October 19, 2020, 07:23:37 AM »
Good choice. If you keep the plates wet and keep it charged you can get 5 to 10 years from it. Just use distilled or filtered drinking bottled water.
2015 Winnebago 22R