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Old 09-21-2017, 01:00 PM   #1
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Turn off Chassis Battery when Camping?

Being new to a Motorhome (previously owned towablea), I was curious if I should be turning off the Chassis Battery switch when camping or leave it turned on. I'm not sure if it drains and if it charges back up when hooked up to shore power. What if we're dry camping?
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Old 09-21-2017, 01:08 PM   #2
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Using an inexpensive multimeter you can answer much of this yourself. Take voltage readings of both battery groups, at the batteries, with everything disconnected. Then plug in your shore cord and take readings again. If both battery groups show a charging voltage (13v or more) then no need to turn off the chassis batteries on shore power.

You could also use the multimeter on the ampere setting and pull a cable off the chassis battery and hook up the meter in the gap. The amount of amperage draw will show if you need to disconnect the battery or not when dry camping. If dry camping and you use the generator to charge batteries, make sure to reconnect the chassis battery so it gets charged too.
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Old 09-21-2017, 01:08 PM   #3
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How long are you staying? Week, month, half a year? I'd consider turning it off if I was staying half a year but the best solution is to add a little device called an Amp-L-Start which will keep the battery charged when you are on shore power.
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Old 09-21-2017, 01:29 PM   #4
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How long are you staying? Week, month, half a year? I'd consider turning it off if I was staying half a year but the best solution is to add a little device called an Amp-L-Start which will keep the battery charged when you are on shore power.
I'd only consider that if the testing I suggested show the chassis battery isn't charged on shore power or generator. If it is, no need for the Amp-L-Start.

The second test, of amp draw, would also determine how long you could dry camp with no issue of draining the chassis battery dangerously low.
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Old 09-21-2017, 01:38 PM   #5
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Just be sure that your shore power is powering the refrigerator. Most new RV refrigerators will automatically switch from battery/propane to 120 VAC when plugged in. However if you are dry camping or short term storing with the refrigerator intentionally left on, you must have your chassis battery in the 'on' position for the propane to power to refrigerator due to electronic ignition on newer RV refrigerators.

When I left my MH at a dealer for servicing, they turned off the chassis battery switch and a few days later when we went to check on things, all the food had rotted and left a foul small in the RV that about knocked you over when the door was opened.
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Old 09-21-2017, 02:04 PM   #6
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Just be sure that your shore power is powering the refrigerator. Most new RV refrigerators will automatically switch from battery/propane to 120 VAC when plugged in. However if you are dry camping or short term storing with the refrigerator intentionally left on, you must have your chassis battery in the 'on' position for the propane to power to refrigerator due to electronic ignition on newer RV refrigerators.

When I left my MH at a dealer for servicing, they turned off the chassis battery switch and a few days later when we went to check on things, all the food had rotted and left a foul small in the RV that about knocked you over when the door was opened.
IF your propane tank has an electric solenoid shut-off valve, the situation you report MIGHT be an issue if that solenoid was wired to the chassis battery. An RV refrigerator, that works on LP or 120v electric is controlled and ignited by a 12v control board that is generally powered by the house battery system. Again, something that could easily be tested rather than speculated about. In general the house battery system provides all 12v power for living functions, the chassis battery provides for the driving functions. The only crossover might be electric steps, generator, leveling jacks that might be wired to the chassis system or controlled by the ignition switch.

A 3 way RV fridge has an LP and 120v heat source, and in addition the 12v heat element, which consumes battery reserve power very quickly. They are often wired so that they only use 12v heating elements when the engine alternator can supply the power.
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Old 09-21-2017, 05:22 PM   #7
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BFlinn - good suggestions! I need to re-familiarize myself with using a multimeter as I haven't used one awhile and was never an expert with electrical stuff!
Lulabs, I'm looking at 1-3 week trips. Thank you for the tip about the charger.

I always turn off both battery switches when storing the RV. I've read a few threads about folks having dead chassis batteries when camping and don't want to be in that situation. I wasn't sure what runs on the chassis battery...I'm thinking...radio, steps, power seats, levelers and of course, the ignition needs to be on to open the slides.
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Old 09-26-2017, 05:08 AM   #8
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If I recall correctly 2016 have both Chassis and House disconnect switch and Winnebago also installed a charge circuit so that both the Chassis and House batteries get charged from both Shore Power and the Alternator when the engine is running.
So to answer your question, NO do NOT disconnect the Chassis battery when dry camping. But make sure that the radio is selected to House so that it does not run the Chassis battery down.
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Old 09-26-2017, 08:42 AM   #9
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If I recall correctly 2016 have both Chassis and House disconnect switch and Winnebago also installed a charge circuit so that both the Chassis and House batteries get charged from both Shore Power and the Alternator when the engine is running.
So to answer your question, NO do NOT disconnect the Chassis battery when dry camping. But make sure that the radio is selected to House so that it does not run the Chassis battery down.
If the battery isolator only connects when there is a charging current available, I see no reason there would be any advantage to turning chassis disconnect off, except that if dry camping for a number of days your phantom drains on the chassis battery could discharge the battery to a damaging level. (usually below 12v) While no advantage to using the chassis disconnect, I also see no disadvantage. Not sure why SuperGewl is so adamant in advising "NO do NOT disconnect. "
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Old 09-26-2017, 11:31 AM   #10
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There are also engine and tranni memories to consider. They run on the chassis battery. Of course, newer chassis systems might have non-volatile memories so they'll retain your driving profile indefinitely. But I've not heard that that's the case yet. And of course it's not a big deal even if your profile is lost every night. System devices will relearn and rebuild it over a 100 mile trip generally.

I agree with the suggestion of getting a DVM and measuring the voltages across the batts in different situations so you'll know. Switching off the chassis batts every night when you park isn't generally called for, nor advised.
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Old 09-26-2017, 09:28 PM   #11
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Lakejumper, the electrical drawings for the 2016 Vista XL 30T shows a Battery Isolation Manager installed, which will keep the chassis battery charged when you are on shore power and the chassis battery disconnect is not selected.
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Old 09-26-2017, 09:32 PM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by BFlinn181 View Post
If the battery isolator only connects when there is a charging current available, I see no reason there would be any advantage to turning chassis disconnect off, except that if dry camping for a number of days your phantom drains on the chassis battery could discharge the battery to a damaging level. (usually below 12v) While no advantage to using the chassis disconnect, I also see no disadvantage. Not sure why SuperGewl is so adamant in advising "NO do NOT disconnect. "
Yes you are correct, I should have stated NO do NOT disconnect the chassis battery when camping; however when Dry camping without a solar system you may want to disconnect it so that it does not discharge to the point of not being able to start the engine.
Thank you for correcting me.
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Old 09-26-2017, 11:54 PM   #13
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Thank you to all for your responses.
Grtharris, I thoroughly read the manuals the last few days while camping and also saw that I have the Battery Isolation Manager which charges both coach and chassis batteries when on shore power.
Supergewl, I think your advice about dry camping is very helpful. I will still check the batteries with a multimeter.
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Old 10-05-2017, 09:57 AM   #14
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Lakejumper
On Winnebago RVs, the chassis batteries power both the slides and the steps. You will want to make your decision with that in mind. I leave mine on all the time I am using the RV with no consequences. There are also significant phantom loads on the Ford chassis so it is likely, advantageous to leave them on to charge.
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