Converter just died

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Pat

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Well, this is turning into the summer of repairs.? My converter just died.? It's silent.? The power switch over the cab went off.? I turned out the 12v lights and turned the power switch back on.? It has stayed on so far and isn't buzzing low battery power yet.? The solar cell charger indicator says 12.2.? Set point is 14.2, and normally about now, with no daylight, it's 13.0 or 1.? So the LP and CO detectors are still operational.? I'm conserving battery power with the lights off.? First thing in the morning I need to pick up a cheap 110 lamp of some kind, because all lights are 12v.?

Some questions.

What generally runs off of 12v?? I have always been hooked up to shore power, or, if I'm boondocking at a truck stop for one night, I can fire up the generator, if necessary, so I have access to 110.? I have never liked the hassle of 12v and maintaining the dual system and the batteries and would love to do without it.? However,first question is, what runs off of 12v generally?? Alarms, I know.? What about the furnace igniter?? Furnace fan?  Fantastic vents?  Bathroom vent?  Water heater igniter? Lights I know.? ?Water pump, which I don't use.  I run the fridge on 110.? Microwave-convection is 110.? Computer, etc, is 110.?

I'm thinking of doing without the converter for a few months till I get back to AZ.? It's possible the solar panel will keep the batteries charged enough to run the LP and CO alarms.

What would it take to convert the few things from 12v to 110??

If it's impossible or prohibitively expensive, what would be a good converter to replace this one?? BTW, this one has a lifetime warranty, but the company is out of business.?

My warranty insurance has a $500 deductible.? Is it worth filing a claim, or is a replacement converter plus installation probably going to be less?

Another problem.? For some reason this place was designed with the converter behind the kitchen sink cabinetry.? I have to remove the walls inside the cupboard under the sink, and still it's going to be a bear to reach back on the wall and behind the pipes.? Is there some way for a good installer to reposition it, say inside the cupboard under the sink?? Can the cables be lengthened or something?

I tried the fuse box switch for the converter.? It was all the way on.? I turned it all the way off and back on a couple times.? Didn't help.? I don't see a fuse labeled for it; although, there's a "main" power label that seems to have a small tube shaped fuse in it.? Don't know if that would fix the problem.

'Nother question.? What are the alternatives to this converter?? Does the solar panel charge the 12v batteries directly?? Can I start the vehicle motor and charge them?? How long would I run the motor to do so?? If hours, I won't do it.? Also, is it correct that the generator doesn't charge them directly?

--pat
 

John From Detroit

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What runs off 12 volts.  Generally ALL the lights in the RV, the Antenna Amplifier if you have one, The electric step may or may not use the house battery (Mine goes in and out on the chassis battery but uses house power to "lock") power slides and/or awnings if you have them.  The water hearter, furnance and refrigerator may use 12vdc either directly or to provide control and/or ignition power,  "Additional electronics" if any.  Sat controllers, that kind of thing.  The generator may well start off the house batteries

What to do.. Temp, get a automatic battery charger (I have a 10 amp one) this will help keep the battery from dying

Now the good news... The replacement job

First, if it's a Progressive Dynamics it may be the charge wizard (if any) that's bad.  This requires someone who knows how to test it.  But let's assume you are going to do a full replacement

I do recommend P.D.'s product, it's nice, they build good gear (Owner and I have mutual friends)

Now, locate the thing,,, If it's easy to get to here is the "job" you are going to have

Step one, disconnect the batteries, remove ALL power, shut down solar charger, Unplug the 110vac cord from the converter

Now: There are two heavy wires, usually one red one black,  The red one is normally connected to a terminal that is either A: Red or B: marked with a PLUS sign  (The black one is MINUS sign)

There will be either 2, 4 or 6 screws that hold the unit to the motor home... Remove them

Then remove the heavy wires (Remove nuts remove lugs)

Attach the wires to the new unit observing polarity (RED to RED or Positive)

Make sure wires do not touch

Bolt new unit in place

Plug it in

Turn on 12vdc power

Verify operation

Job done
 

Gary RV_Wizard

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Most of the appliances have 12V powered circuit boards s controllers - fridge, water heater, a/c and furnace. They need 12v power even when operating in 110V mode.

Water pump, alarms, indicator lights (tank gauges, etc), nearly all interior lighting, power steps, and on and on.  You can do without the battery but you need the converter to supply 12v power.  Your solar panel is unlikely to be able to keep upo with demand 24/7.

You could install an automative battery charger as a cheap substitute converter.  A 10-15 amp battery charger might supply enough 12V power and charging if you are fairly conservative in your use.
 

Pat

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I thought about the automotive battery starter, which I have, but I didn't know what to attach it to.  I can even keep it charged by plugging it into a 110 outlet, right?  Another thing I though of that would be really off the wall was to take a 110 lamp up on the roof and shine it at the solar panel all night. 

During the day the solar panel kept the battery power up fine.  It's now back down to 12.3, which I hope it will maintain.  The only concern I have is the fridge (which is almost empty - food's not the problem).  I hope the fridge won't be damaged with the low power.  I'm told the control board in it is 12v.  I'm not using any other appliances.  The step switch is off.  Lights are off.  The LP and CO alarms are on.  The indicator panel above the cockpit is on.  My LVD has not turned the power off like it did last night when I had 12v lights on, unaware the charger had quit.  I bought a cheap 110 lamp today, which is providing light.  After I turned off the lights last night and fired down 12v stuff, the power switch stayed on when I turned it back on.  The panel indicated 12.1 volts that went up to 12.2 and remained at 12.2 until the solar panel started its charging during the day.  Then the volts went up to about 13.4.  As soon as the sun started behind the trees, the panel dropped to 12.6 and now 12.3, where it's held for a couple hours.  I find this all very interesting.

And boy, is my face red.  Apparently Everybody, including little old ladies, has changed a converter.  I called the 800 number on the manual, even though I knew the company - Todd Engineering - has gone out of business.  Apparently this model of charger- PC45B - was so defective they were driven out of business just trying to cover the warranty.  A sales rep for a replacement charger answered Todd's old phone number.  The rep has a replacement - Iota Engineering, model DLS45 - which hooks up identically to the Todd charger.  (Sounds like Todd did a remodel and rename after filing bankruptcy to get out of the old warranties, so everybody has to buy a new one -  I called Chinook, and they use the same new model the rep was describing.  I have a new charger that should be here for me to install on Thursday. 

The rep said I don't have to turn anything off or disconnect anything.  I could disconnect the 30 amp from the post, but I don't know how to disconnect the batteries or the solar panel.  He insists it's not necessary.  By unplugging the 110 from the charger, it'll have no power, and the 12v connections are relatively harmless.  He said just keep the wires straight and replace one for one.  There are pos, neg, and grnd.  Connections are labeled.  He also said I don't need to reattach the converter to the wall.  It shouldn't be jostled too much to shake the wires loose, but it can lie on the cupboard shelf.  He said the new make and model is excellent and doesn't require the ventilation the old Todd did. 

The reason not reattaching to the wall is a plus is because my charger is located on a wall behind my kitchen cabinets that are under the sink and counter.  I have the side panels of the cabinet under the sink off.  I have to reach around the drain pipes and quite far over to the wall to remove the old charger.  It'll be pretty difficult to get the new one back up there, plus I'd rather relocate it in a more convenient location.  Also, the 110 to and 12v from the charger are short, so I can't move it far.  When I get back to Mesa, my brother can saw a little hole in the side panel of the cupboard to fit over the wires coming into the charger.

This charger has been an item of mystery to me.  I think it has had problems all along, which have not been properly explained to me by technicians.  I am now getting the information I need to keep better control over my power systems in here.  I am so relieved to be able to do this project.

Question:  The Mach/15 solar panel manual said to keep the set point at about 14.2.  However, the Todd charger manual said if I am almost always hooked up to shore power, I should have the charger set for 13.2.  I take it that the solar panel and charger work independently to keep the batteries charged.  Should I ignore the set point Mach/15 recommends and reset it for 13.2.  I'm probably not on shore power two days a year.  Then I run the generator if necessary.

--pat
 

John From Detroit

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I would still disconnect the 12 volt service (remove battery cable if no other way)

12 volts is not a shock hazard but if those wires touch each other the amount of courrent they can carry off fully charged batteries can be impressive to say the least, Fires are easily started (unless there is a proper fuse)

As for disconnecting the solar panels,,, or at least solar power,  This is to prevent possible damage to their controller should you accidently short those wires while horseing them in and out and on and off

This is why I suggested shutting down all 12 volt sutff
 

Pat

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Well, that was the converter change from hell.  The simple task should have been a 5-minute snap.  I struggled with the too-short wires way back behind the drawers through the kitchen sink cupboard side wall for three hours.  The hardest part was trying to bend the thick copper ground wire through a much smaller, right angle opening.  It's just sitting in there until I can make a flexible extension from some wire somebody gave me. 

I finally got the pos and neg anchored down, managed to cram the ground copper into the hole enough to keep it from popping out for the night - only to find that the power supply didn't match the new converter.  The old converter has one of those computer plugs, so the power supply I have in there is the female end of the computer type plug.  The male end of the new converter is the normal three prong plug.  For tonight I pulled the new converter plug through the back of a drawer and ran an extension cord up to the kitchen outlet.  Somebody's looking into making an adapter that has a male computer plug end and a female normal three prong end.

Then I need a pigtail with the pos neg and ground to attach to the too-short wiring that's in there, so I can bring the converter out where I can reach it, if it has to be serviced or changed.  I also need to velcro it down to the box on which it's sitting.  I'll probably have to attach the pigtail myself, because few electricians will be small enough to get back in there.  And because I'd never want somebody to have to go through that miserable job.

This whole thing would have been so easy with sufficient wire length.  The wires were in a different order than the new converter required, so I had to remove some plastic conduit and tape to free enough wire to move them around.  I'm really annoyed at how stupidly something could be designed.  Chinook corrected the design and admitted all along it was a problem.  There's a whole bunch of tubing, piping, wiring, and other stuff behind those permanent kitchen cupboards. 

The new converter is so quiet, I didn't realize it was working until I looked at the Mach/15 display.  The Iota has an IQ Smart Charger that I can plug into the RJ11 jack to manage the  quick and slow charges.  I don't need it, but I'll get it to have with this charger in case someone else ever needs it in here.

At least I have lights so the mosquitoes can find me now.

--pat



 

John From Detroit

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You can get computer to standard cord adapters at some computer stores...
IN days of old computer monitors had cords with plugs on them that were like the power supply, these were designed to plug into a switched pass-throw on the computer so the computer's power switch turned the monitor on/off

However when they came out with color monitors they started using standard "house" type plugs... So they made adapters

I have one or two lying about here

Extending the 12 volt leads is techincally easy... Physically... You have described a tight fit

I would use the Smart Charger Adapter unless there is another device "Down Stream" that provides the same function
 

Gary RV_Wizard

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The Iota DLS with Smart Charger is an excellent unit and bears no resemblance at all to your old Todd Engineering converter.  You will find it is quieter and maintains the batteries much better than the old one, with little or no overcharging  that causes water loss. Definitely activate the Smart Charger and don't bother with the RJ11 plug to manually set charge rates.  Keep it " just in case".

Don't feel maligned about the old converter - they were industry standard years ago. Charger technology has improved and far superior units are now [finally] available at affordable prices.      And few converter installations were designed for easy access - they normally last for many years and do not require regualr maintenance, so they tend to be tucked away in otherwise unused spaces.

And yes, the solar charger and the converter/charger operate independently of each other.  When the solar panel is charging at a high voltage, the converter will see it as a fully charged battery and won't attempt to charge on its own. 
 

Pat

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Thanks for the encouraging words about the availability of an adapter and the typical buried converter installation.  I've been doing custom adapter research on the internet. 

Tomorrow I'm going to phone the rep who told me about the Iota replacing the Todd.  I'll get the Smart Charger from him.  Also, I'm going to remind him he said the changeover was very wire-for-wire straightforward (which it isn't), so maybe he'll know of a piece of cord with a male "standard business machine plug" and a female 3-prong receptacle that matches the one on the charger.  They are not polarized.  I've been reading about various plugs on the internet and was glad to learn the name of that business machine plug.  I hated having to keep describing it.

I am leery of tracing the power cord down to its other end.  Don't want to be electrocuted touching something in there that I can't see.  Maybe the power cord comes from the Todd Low Voltage Detector that's in there.  The two units might have operated as a pair.  I'll ask the rep if the LVD is also a bad product.  Maybethe two were paired like the old computers and monitors, with the power cord hard wired to the LVD and the standard business plug going into the old charger.  If the other end is the standard 3-prong plug, I could just unplug the old cord and plug in the new charger.  The LVD manual does not provide that diagram.

Agreed, the pigtail extension should be simple, but the old wires are incredibly difficult to reach.  Most electricians or other people I know who can strip wires and splice them together more efficiently than I can are larger than I am.  It's a real bear reaching in there.  Then, again, they're probably less likely to be afraid to pull on the wires a little. 

Also agreed, Gary, this Iota is sure a dream compared to the old Todd.  The Todd sounded exactly like a Harley - ALL the time - with that RJ11 jack in it, which I had been told incorrectly by Chinook should be in all the time.  I have been through at least 4 pairs of 12v batteries while the Todd burned the daylights out of them with all that unnecessary high powered charging.  I'm a slow learner, but misinformation takes time to unlearn.

I woke up this morning bruised from waist to shoulder on my right side.  Arms are bruised.  Then later I touched my head and realized the left side of my head is bruised.  That's from smashing into the cupboard shelf and reaching through the backs of the drawers and from pressing my head against the kitchen sink drain pipes.  I just won't have the heart to ask my brother or somebody who's even larger to do that splicing, despite the fact that I'm not very good at it. 

Well, it's sure fun having these nice flourescent lights again tonight. 

--pat
 

John From Detroit

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Re Pigtail extension...

You don't strip and splice, you should not need to do that

Here is how, no stripping needed

FIrst tape off one of the wires (Matters not which one but I would do the hot) this is a temporary job so leave a "Tail" on the tape so you canremove it easily.

Now, using a short "Solonoid to starter" battery cable, which you can get at any auto parts store, and a bolt, lock washer and nut,
bolt the short cable on the end of the existing cable using the existing lug mount on the existing cable, 

Tape this cable up well and temp tape off the new extended end. (This taping is for safety)

Now, do the same with the other cable using another short cable

NOTE: when you buy the cables, Try to get a red/black pair, else get some heat shrink tubing of  a size big enough to slip over one of the cables and the "Other" color"

Finally tape up this joint, and begin hook up to the converter using the lugs on the battery cables

NOTE: My righ has an 80 amp converter so the cables are quite large

If your rig has smaller cables you may need to use lighter "Primary" wire (Try to match, the existing cable size wize) and crimp on your own lugs,  it's easy... Espically if you have a fifty dollar power crimper like I do  (I crimp a LOT of connectors)

If the ends are stripped instead of lug connected,,, "Butt" connectors can be used if there is room for the crimping tool in there
 

Pat

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JID:  I have the Iota model DLS45.  Some specs on a chart are:

Input volts 108-132.
Frequency 40-70
Max amp draw (ac) 12
Max watt draw (va) 842.4 (1296)
Output amps (dc) 45
Output volts (dc) 13.4-14.0 @ full load

I need to watch that input volts.  Once in a while a campground will have inadequate power.  When my air conditioner compressor kicks on, my volts might dip to 109 here.  Close.

But I digress.  The rep for the old Todd and new Iota says they are always powered by a normal power cord.  He thinks it's illegal to hard wire them.  So I turned off the power post and dug around down behind the cabinets and barely brushed a 3-prong plug.  Pulled it out by the wire and threw away that old business machine cable.  Then I fed the power plug from the new controller down there, but I just couldn't reach enough to plug it in.  There was a piece of cabinet wall brace blocking my arm.  So we cut some of it off, and I now have easy access, and my new converter is neatly plugged into the converter receptacle.  Life is good.

Last step is to do the pigtail extension.  Any different or specific materials based on the above specs?  I have printed your instructions, but I don't yet know some of the words (until I get the stuff and learn them, which I will). 

Also, I need to velcro the new controller to the shelf once I have a little more wire and can lay it on its base.  Right now it's on its side. 

Another thing.  I asked the rep if I had to feed the thick, way too stiff copper ground wire through the little connector provided for the ground wire, and he said I could attach it to any of the holes provided on the metal plates provided for screwing the thing to a wall. This will make it much easier to attach firmly.  Right now it could be jostled out and could even spring up and possibly set off a spark.

This Iota is working great.  I ordered the IQ smart charger from the rep today.  He said I'd never need it for my style of camping, but I wanted to have it for the next person who uses this motorhome. 

--pat

 

John From Detroit

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I'd still go with battery cables from an auto supply for the pigtail extension,  Might be a bit of overkill but I know they will take the load

You need about 8Ga wire if you make up your own extensions based on the max current, or 6ga for safety, battery cables are usually a bit heaver than that by the way (heaver, if you have room, is good)

The major advantage of battery type cables is... Lugs are pre-mounted
 

Pat

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JID:  I belong in your last sentence, "If the ends are stripped instead of lug connected..."

These two wires, one pos one neg, go into holes in the back of the converter, and screws are tightened on the side to hold them in.  The pos and neg wires are the kind that have always been the curse of my electrical tasks - they're zillions of tiny wires coming out of round conduit.  Every time I try to strip something like that, I get piles of little wire bits.  I TRY to be careful.  In this instance, the wires are way back inside the cabinetry and have no slack for me to goof up stripping more of them to splice.  Right now there's only about 1/3" exposed.  More is needed for a good splice.  Plus these have been pushed in and screwed down to two converters so many times (I had to do a lot of tries to get them in) that they're pretty beat up.  A good splice could use more of the wires exposed. 

A crimping tool sounds like something that I'd probably need just to do this tiny job, because I don't have the finger strength to squeeze metal shut.  Or open.  Lugs could probably be attached to the ends of the pos and neg wires and screwed together, but the other ends would have to remain the stripped raw wires to fit in the holes in the converter. 

The third wire - ground - is a thick, stiff copper wire that has to make a sharp right angle with about 1/2" clearance.  Then it's supposed to be screwed in.  No way I can get it in there reaching way back in the cupboards.  I need two hands, with one to hold it and one to work the screwdriver, and both arms don't fit.    The rep said I could attach it to any of the holes in the screw-down tabs, which might be easier.  Right now it's just pushed into a hole and could spring out if the converter is jostled.  I'm not redoing the ground until I get the extensions attached.  But I should mention that I also have to make an extension to this ground.


--pat
 

Rollie

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I had this happen on my Sea Breeze ... what I found was a small push in breaker on the mother board had blown ... that is my terminology ... the mother board for the motorhome it the main electrical hub with all the circuit boards, dip switches, etc.? ...? all I had to do was reset it and I was back in business.? Hope this helps.
Rollie
 

Pat

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Rollie:  I did check the circuit breaker and fuses.  All were ok.  I also reached way back in to the wall with a small mirror on a stick and noted that the green power light was on.  The rep explained that that indicated fuses were fine and power was coming in.  But there was no output, indicating that the converter was dead.  So I replaced it, and the new one works very well.  It's just the motorhome wiring that needs a little improvement.  I could probably leave everything back in there, because this converter should last much longer, but I'd rather fix the wiring now than wait till I have a rush converter replacement job to do.

--pat
 

John From Detroit

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Pat said:
JID:  I belong in your last sentence, "If the ends are stripped instead of lug connected..."

These two wires, one pos one neg, go into holes in the back of the converter, and screws are tightened on the side to hold them in.  The pos and neg wires are the kind that have always been the curse of my electrical tasks -

Now that is a problem.... I can do it, two different ways, if there is enough room for my extra large hands in there

But alas.... I'm in Detroit. 

There may be a 3rd way that would be easier for both of us, however I'd need to actually see your rig to decide.

Can you pull the wires through to an area where you have more room to work, then simply add a longer pigtail to it?
 

Pat

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JID:  That's the problem in a nutshell.  I Can't pull the wires through to a space where I can actually work on them, so I need to attach extensions for future work, if ever needed.  The wires are so short, they barely reached the old converter way back on a wall buried behind the drawers through the side wall of the very small  cabinet under the kitchen sink.  I was able to move the wires maybe 6" to get them to the new converter, which I did not attach back to the wall, but have on a piece of cabinetry that extends back in there. 

Even if you could get your hands in there, you wouldn't be able to see what you're doing.  No head and shoulder room.  The kitchen sink pipes are in the way; although, I toyed with removing the pipes.  The opening to the workspace is so small I can't get both arms in there.  I needed one hand to hold the ground wire, for example, and the other hand to screw it down.  Couldn't do it. 

Removing the kitchen drawers didn't help.  There are boards in back of them.  Barely an inch between drawers.

Question:  I have the new converter sitting on the top of a wood box that holds the stowed 30amp power cord when I'm on the road.  Should I be concerned about the converter getting too hot and igniting the dry wood?  I can velcro the converter to a hot plate holder and velcro that to the wood, if necessary.

This probably won't be fixed by the time I get to Moab in April, if anybody would like a tour.

--pat
 

John From Detroit

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The only way I know to check the temperture of the converter is to attach a temperture probe and monitor it,,, Several companies make indoor/outdoor electronic themoters which should be able to do the job (the out door "unit" attaches with a piece of double face tape or ductape to the side of the converter where there are NO AIR VENTS (do not cover any vent holes)  Duct tape won't hold long on hot metal but it should hold long enough

I don't think you will have aproblem,  And it's going to be afew years before I make it past Chicago to the west (Actually Michigan state line with the RV) King's Island to the south,  The "Big Mac" bridge to the north of Well, I"m not planing on going east any time soon

Others can likely do the hands on help though
 

Pat

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JID:  I know what you mean about making it past Chicago.  I have the same thing about crossing the Mississippi - heading east.  Chicago's my legal address, because I hadn't lived anyplace else for a bunch of decades, but who knows when I'll touch down there again. 

I thought your idea to screw lug mounts together to attach the pigtail was a good idea.  You should contact converter manufacturers and suggest they make that kind of connection possible, instead of having to insert raw wires into holes.  Then we could use the battery cables readily available.

--pat
 
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