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Old 04-24-2012, 03:40 PM   #1
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batteries holding a charge

I have just purchased an Alpine 2004 38 FDTS with a 400 Cummings. i have some Battery issues on both the coach and the chassis electrical circuits.

My chassis ( engine) batteries will not stay charged more than 3 to 5 days while setting in my drive way with out hooked to shore power. I disconnected each battery and load tested them separately and both check good. i checked to see if i had a rouge lite burning that would discharge the system and did not see one. What appliances or accessories are operated on the chassis circuit? what other voltage drains should i be looking for?

my other issue is with the coach batteries, they appear to have been new in late 2011 and they also checked good with the load tester. why would not my 2 solar panels keep the coach circuit charged? no one is living in the coach and all appliances are turned off. I unplugged the solar panels at the roof and checked the output on a nice sunny day and it showed about 13.75 Volts. is there a fuse or a controller that regulates the solar charging system? looking for any ideas or suggestions before we take our madden voyage and get stranded.
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Old 04-24-2012, 04:22 PM   #2
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Get a digital volt meter; they can be had on ebay for around 10 $.They are good enough for what you will do with it. You need a DVOM that will measure up to 10 amps and will measure both AC and DC in different scales. Most cheap DVOMs are configured this way. That usually means changing the lead inputs to amps mode and the meter selection set to amps) and pull one fuse out and meter across the fuse contacts. If the meter reads minus reverse the leads. Write down what the reading is at each fuse. Make sure everything is off. That will tell you which circuit and how many amps each draw is. add up the total. You will be surprised at how many parasitic draws there are. FM station memory, LP detector, etc. Once you know what and where your draws are you can 1, track them down and disconnect them or 2 fix them if they are not supposed to be there. Now put your vom in volt dc mode and measure your battery output disconnected and charged. (remember to put your DVOM leads back to volts and set the meter Volts DC on a 20 volt scale) A good battery after having been charged and off the charger for 3 hours should read 12.65 volts or so. Anything less then 12.5 volts, and you have a problem. Now measure the output of your converter with all batteries disconnected. It should read 13.5 volts or higher. Anything less, and your converter has a problem. That will get you started.
I always put a battery disconnect on my fuse panel to turn everything off if I want. Thats a useful storage tool and I make sure my converter is connected to the batteries even if the battery disconnect is open. That way all draws in the trailer are off but the batteries are still charging if plugged into shore power. Many trailers are miss wired from the factory and need some small reconfiguration to work like stated above.
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Old 04-24-2012, 05:25 PM   #3
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There are several possible answers to your questions.

Parasitic loads (Things that are NEVER off) may be great enough to draw more power than the solar panel can provide, epically if it is a small factory installed panel.

IF the batteries were not properly maintained, (IE: Water was added but from the tap) they may have higher than normal internal "Leakage" (Self discharge).

A load test is only one of the tests that needs to be done.. Auto Zone, Advanced Auto, Discount Auto, Pep Boys, Sears and a whole lot of other stores can do at least SOME of the other tests.
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Old 04-24-2012, 06:39 PM   #4
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Cant tell you what or where but there are parasitic draws all over the coach. You didnt mention flipping the main house and chassis battery on/off switches, this will help a bit but even with the bat switches off, there are still some draws eg, the low-speed fan on the Xantrex inverter will run 24-7-365. With the bat switches on you get draws from the propane and co2 detectors, dash radio and probably some other stuff just to mention a few......guess if you are curious, you could disconnect and trace/test each of the house circuits, its a bit harder to do on the chassis side.....

PS--make sure the bat hold down straps on the batteries are clean and dry....better yet, get rid of the metal straps and cut-up a plastic cutting board as a replacement for the metal.
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Old 04-24-2012, 06:48 PM   #5
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krob911,
First, Welcome to the land of Alpine Coach. You now own what MANY consider to be the best driving MH on the market.
There are a number of parasitic devices on both the chassis and house batteries. To make them of minimal impact on the batteries, turn of the disconnect switches. The house disconnect is in the footwell at the front door (assuming you have a Front Door coach), IIRC with the mid-door coaches the disconnect is also in the stair well on the front side. The chassis disconnect is in the engine service bay. Hope this is of some help.
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Old 04-24-2012, 07:49 PM   #6
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Having had two Alpines in the past and currently owning a coach which is far worse with the parasitic drag on the system, I long ago gave up and make sure our coach is always plugged in to shore power. I also have our pure sine wave inverter/ charger set up to perfectly charge the batteries and shut down and then float as needed. My batteries are currently 8 years old and going strong.
For my piece of mind plugged in all the time is the answer........
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Old 05-01-2012, 12:42 AM   #7
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See if you have one of the solar panel glued directly to the roof, if so, my guess is that is shorted out, and at night, acts as a load. Mine (the 10W one did) so I just cut it's leads, one problem solved.

Get a decent DVOM, not a cheap one. Sears sells some good ones, make sure it reads DC Amps if possible. A clamp on meter (for amp readings) make a heck of a difference for simplicity and ease of use.

Cannot be sure, my dash radio sometimes stays on after turning the key off from the ACC position, other times it goes out. As mentioned lots of parsiticn loads on coach, even disconnecting ground wires might not get them all. But they should last longer than 3 days. Load test won't tell the whole story, a timed load test needs to be done. If batteries are 3 years old or older, I would suspect non-distilled water was put into them, and gunk is in bottom shorting them out some.

Now with that said, if you plan on keeping coach, I would replace starting batteries with no maintenance ones, and change the house batteries to AGM. Call Lifeline Batteries, and talk to Justin Godber, he can help you, mention you are alpine owner.
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Old 05-01-2012, 11:08 AM   #8
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When I bought my Alpine I had to rewire the solar panels. The panels were good but connections were not. I park mine for weeks with both main switches turned off and a cover over the unit and no battery problems. Mine is a 2000 and may not have all the gizmos your does. I would charge all batteries, park and remove battery cables and check to see if battery voltage goes down on each battery to see if one is dragging them all down. My solar panel is hooked up direct to coach battery's not through the switch. Good luck
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Old 05-01-2012, 05:51 PM   #9
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There should be a solor panel controler inline with the panels, to safeguard the whole setup, if not there, the panels are acting like a load at night and bringing down the batteries.
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Old 05-04-2012, 11:30 PM   #10
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krob:

Are you cycling the battery disconnects off -- both chassis and house -- when you leave it parked? That stops the parasitic load pretty well, and your solar panels should then keep up.
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Old 05-05-2012, 02:24 AM   #11
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I haven't checked my rig (they went to a different disconnect switch setup on the Apex & SE models), but the schematic for Limited rigs shows the inverter/charger direct connected thru the 300A inverter fuse on the hot side and direct back to the chassis ground stud on the inside of frame rail. So if there is any battery connection to the ground stud, you don't kill power to the inv/chgr by shutting off chassis & house battery disconnect switches. You have to disconnect the battery negative cables from the frame to stop associated parasitic draws.
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Old 05-05-2012, 11:49 AM   #12
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Mike,
Would turning off the breakers that the inverter is connected to have the same effect? I'm thinking so, but sometimes the thinking machoine gets a little fogged up!
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Old 05-06-2012, 01:25 AM   #13
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Mike, (coah is not hear so cannot test this statement), but, if the inverter is "enabled", and I turn of chassis/house master switches, any devices connected to the inverter still get 120V AC power. Now if I "disable" inverter, and turn off master switches, none of those devices are working (even if hooked to Shore Power).

Now the APEX might be a strange beast, and so what I just said has no validity with the other models. Cannot speak for the inverter breaker, as that only shuts off devices which are using inverter for power. I don't remember for sure if I have a breaker for the inverter, don't think so, just inveter load breakers.

Now remmeber the alternator mis wire, and the only way to shut off engine was turn off master switches, worked to stop engine that time. Think as you say, inveter has power available to it all the time, and Negative needs to be disconnected to kill all parasitic load.
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