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Old 07-15-2014, 11:02 AM   #1
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Location: Houlton, WI
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Chassis Batteries Draining While Dry Camping

Hi, I need help with a chassis battery drain issue while dry camping. Sorry for the long story, but hope all the detail helps.

I just purchased a 2000 Monaco Windsor last fall, and promptly installed 2 new 12 volt chassis batteries in September. All of the camping done to date has been plugging into shore power, as well as when parked at home. I have a solar battery charger which charges both chassis and house batteries, and I also have a built-in battery maintainer (not even sure what or where this is), 2000 watt inverter and 8KW Onan diesel generator.

I have had no issues starting the coach when I remain plugged into shore power, but this last weekend we dry camped for a few days, and thus noticed the issue. We arrived at our site at around 9pm that night, and pretty much only used some lights and the TV and satellite DVR (fridge was set to LP and AC was off), but when we woke up the next morning the coach would not start, and I also could not get the generator started. I don't remember the exact voltage of the batteries shown on the solar control panel, but the chassis batteries were around 6 volts and the house batteries may have been around 10 volts (can't remember exactly). I was surprised as I thought the chassis batteries were separate from the house batteries, so would not discharge?? After about an hour I think the solar powered the house batteries up enough to allow me to start the generator, but then I had to run the generator for over an hour to charge the chassis batteries (or did solar charge them - I was in shade at that time so not sure if solar helped). I left the coach run for an hour until batteries seemed charged enough, then shut off. I checked and double checked all chassis and house switches and we only used minimal lighting. I then continued to start the coach every 2 hours and coach started every time, although when I would read the control panel before starting the batteries where definitely draining down, maybe to ~12 volts. I would also run the generator and of course the solar was also charging at the same time. After dark, we heard a noise outside (turned out to be a fox) and turned on the coach headlights, and the headlights went from dim to nothing in about 15 seconds!! This seemed very strange to me. I tried to start the coach after this and only clicking. I then was able to start the generator and get the coach started again after about 60 minutes.

The next morning I woke up and again the coach would not start, but I was able to start the generator, and then after an hour or so I could get the coach started again. At one point during the day I did not get the coach started in the 2 hour time period, and it would not start, even though the solar was charging it during the day. I then was able to get my hands on a battery charger/starter, and hooked that up to my coach's basement outlet, and was able to start the coach.

When I got back home, I brought the chassis batteries in to be tested and they said everything is normal. I'm not sure what the next step is. Something is draining my chassis battery, but not sure what?? Although I don't plan on doing any more dry camping any time soon, I would like to figure out if I have a more serious problem that needs to be corrected. Could it be a problem with my inverter, battery maintainer, alternator, or something else? The drain seems to be so quick that to me it seems like at least one bad battery, but since they said they were both ok (voltage and cranking amps), I guess I need to investigate other avenues. I have rechecked all switches and everything is off. I have not tried unplugging from shore power again, but maybe I should check again? I do not have an amp meter so cannot test for draw. I would rather not bring in yet as I know electrical problems are costly to track down. Any help would be appreciated.

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Old 07-15-2014, 11:35 AM   #2
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These problems can be hard to chase down.
What I do is get an amp meter on the batteries and measure the drain. In your case, I'd expect it to be several amps. While having someone watch the battery drain, I start pulling fuses and try to find the fuse that makes the drain disappear. That isolates it to circuit and then you can start isolating to component (in theory anyway).

Another short term fix is to install a marine battery switch.

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Old 07-15-2014, 01:37 PM   #3
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There is a switch that is supposed to allow you to use the house batteries in an emergency to start your engine if your chassis batteries fail. I suspect that this has been set to "on" and you are running your house and chassis batteries in parallel. (At least on our coach, I think the solar only charges the house batteries. So the fact that you can charge your chassis batteries enough to start your generator makes me wonder if it is not this switch.)

I would certainly check on this to make sure that the switch for this function is in the "off" position. Hopefully, you have a manual that shows you where this switch is located.

You are correct in your assumption that the house and chassis batteries are supposed to be separate.
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Old 07-15-2014, 01:39 PM   #4
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It seem odd to anyone else that his generator is charging his chassis battery? Monico diesels may be different than what I'm used to.
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Old 07-15-2014, 01:46 PM   #5
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Originally Posted by cb1000rider View Post
It seem odd to anyone else that his generator is charging his chassis battery? Monico diesels may be different than what I'm used to.
Not odd at all.Monaco have a isolator system where the generator or while plugged in charges both the chassis batterys and the coach batterys

I wish my allegro bus did this.I have to have a Battery minder hooked up while plugged in
To note they are lots of draws on chassis batterys even when sitting so I shut mine off
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Old 07-15-2014, 02:08 PM   #6
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I tracked down a couple of draws on my Alpine Coach. They may or may not be relevant to a Monaco.

The DHS sound system amplifier runs off of the chassis batteries. This is problematic if you don't turn the amp off when you're not watching TV or listening to music. The constant draw will eventually drain the batteries. Using the TV for a few hours at night, then turning the amp off when I turn the TV off, allows the chassis batteries to charge. The inverter/charger maintains both the house battery bank and the chassis batteries. The house battery bank gets the priority.

When I used the inverter while dry camping, the voltage on the house batteries dropped quicker than I thought it should. I found that the water heater was wired to the inverter. This caused quite a draw. Now I trip the breaker on the water heater whenever I dry camp and use propane if I need hot water. My batteries hold the charge for a much longer period.

I hope this helps.
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Old 07-15-2014, 02:21 PM   #7
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I think it could be a few things?
1st, how is your solar lines hooked up? I only ask because if you have never dry camped before hooking up the solar lines something maybe crossed.
2nd: You should have a switch that let's you jump your house batteries with your engines battery. (they align when engaging the switch). Good luck
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Old 07-15-2014, 02:43 PM   #8
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Call in a mobile tech to check it out. Make sure he is expert on your problem. It's money well spent since you don't own an amp meter. Electricity is nothing to fool with.
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Old 07-15-2014, 02:59 PM   #9
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It's 12V electricity. It's generally OK to fool with as long as you're just pulling fuses.

If you're not comfortable with electrical systems, I do agree though - get some help.
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Old 07-15-2014, 03:56 PM   #10
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I would ask is the inverter turned off?
I ask because if the inverter is on wouldn't the fridge draw off that instead of propane?
I am so spooked of the inverter being left on and sucking the life out of everything I only turn it on for use, then off.

I replaced my solar control panel because the solar wasn't charging properly. The new controller works great. House batteries haven't dropped below 90% since we replaced it and its sitting stored outside.
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Old 07-15-2014, 04:03 PM   #11
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The easiest way to see if you have a draw on any battery is to pull the ground wire
off the battery you want too check and then just check for a spark buy just touching
the post with the battery cable. Should be shaded to do this and if the batteries are in
an enclosed space just fan the area with anything that will work to get rid of any hydrogen that may be there. Almost any draw will give a spark. You should have no
draw from the engine batteries. If you have a spark you will just trace it down
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Old 07-16-2014, 06:10 AM   #12
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On my Monaco I had same problem - I installed an ECHO charger to charge the start battery's along with the house - the start battery's do not get charged while engine is off from the factory. Easy was to check for a short is to remove the Neg. Battery cable and install a 12 volt test light between the cable end and the bat post - if it lites you have a short. Good Luck
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Old 07-16-2014, 06:40 AM   #13
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Remove all battery cables and sand the connections. Clean
every connection. Poor connections will cause all kinds of
2008 HR 340 Cummins, Vacationer XL
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Old 07-16-2014, 06:48 AM   #14
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I agree with Docsdock since we had the same problem. I also installed the Echo charger. It only took a few min. to install and there have not been any problems since then. All batteries are up!

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