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Old 12-14-2013, 02:25 PM   #1
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Batteries and Generator - Two Questions for One

Two questions arise from my experience of the day: here is the scenario (not a happy day here in Minnesota!! ) Temperature today ~ 14F, recently it has been as cold as -10F .

I went out to the storage location for my MH to exercise the generator and charge the batteries. Upon getting there I discover that the battery disconnect switch was NOT on the off position (yes, I know much better than that - I can only think that when I was last at the unit ~6 weeks ago I was distracted or something and missed shutting off the switch when I left).

Indeed, the inside battery monitor was blank (no power). Understanding the implications to the batteries, I decided to try running the generator and see what happened. After getting the generator running, the inverter/charger showed a "float" status (which would usually be the case with a near fully charged battery....), but showed some amperage going in to the batteries. After letting the generator run ~ 10-15 minutes, I shut down the generator to check the status of the batteries. Sure enough, they first showed ~13 volts, but fairly quickly descended down to 11V (my heater motors were running and drawing a load - like I said, it was 14F !!!). Started the generator back up, and the inverter / charger started indicating first "Bulk" Charging status, then after a couple minutes shifted to "Absorb" status.

THEN the genset (Cummins Onan HDKAK) SHUT DOWN (showing an error code of "Coolant Sender Fault").

So with that background, here are my questions:

1) Is there ANY hope for the batteries??? (I will not cry too much if they are bricks - they have been messy, and I have been considering replacing them with AGM's anyway... but it would be nice to do it on my own budgetary timing.....)

2) What might be going on with the genset? I checked the coolant level and it is ok. The manual says this error code is related to "not sensing a temperature change in the first 5 minutes of operation". Like I said, it is 14F here today, and I ran the generator for a short time, shut it down, then started it back up again. Could this have "tricked" the sensing system into thinking there was no or little temperature change - or am I likely looking at a bad sensor? An alternative I guess is input voltage issues: the only way for me to get the generator started was to fire up the main coach engine to power the starter for the genset - and the generator shut down shortly after I shut down the main engine the second time ... with the house batteries "sick" that could I guess have supplied some weird signal to the genset system???

I think maybe the most pressing question is would it be a mistake to try running the genset again in a few days (next weekend really!) and see if a single start-up and run allows it to continue running without fault....

Your thoughts would be most welcome!
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Old 12-14-2013, 02:56 PM   #2
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Batteries are like a glsss of water, if they are dead or empty the charger fills them.

Think about using spoon to fill it.

If it normally takes 20 spoon fulls that takes x time.

Now it takes much less time indicating fewer spoonfulls required.

Thus the glass cannot hold as much water.

So capacity is smaller which could be the cold or bad battery.

Test when warmer
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Old 12-14-2013, 05:13 PM   #3
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I have no idea what TQ60's post was trying to say.

Your batteries were obviously very dead, and may not be recoverable. They may even have been frozen. I suspect this contributed to the error code and will continue until you get charged batteries back in operation.

I wouldn't worry about the generator until you get the batteries right.
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Old 12-14-2013, 05:40 PM   #4
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My recent experience when the control board died in the Progressive Industries EMS. Arrived at coach to find batteries totally dead. Tried to start the generator and not a peep. My genset is tied to the house batteries. Would not start linking house and start batteries either. I used a big charger to recharge the house but they were shot and would not hold. Replaced the batteries and voila the gen set started like a dream. Possibly your genset issue is also linked.
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Old 12-14-2013, 05:48 PM   #5
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I too am not sure what TQ60 was trying to say--interesting, but way above my IQ level.

I too think your house batteries are near total death, so here is what I would do until you can replace them on your "own budgetary timing". When you go out to exercise the generator take a set of jumper cables with you. Go ahead and start the engine and when the chassis battery/ies are fully charged, shut it down and jump the house batteries and run the generator. This way your generator shouldn't shut down because the supply voltage is low (which I believed happened even though it coded low coolant).

You should be able to do this all winter until it is convenient to get new batteries. Just be careful when jumping from the 12 volt chassis batteries to the 6 volt(I assume) house batteries. Be sure to make the jump at the posts which connect two 6 volt batteries in series, do not connect a 12 volt battery to a 6 volt one post to post. If you need additional input either post or send a PM and I'll try to expand.

Hope this helps.
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Old 12-14-2013, 05:55 PM   #6
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1. Batteries were discharged completely it seems and so, may not be recoverable. Suggest taking them home to the warm and putting a bulk charge on them with an automotive charger one at a time for a few hours...this may bring them up enough to allow a smart charger to properly charge them. Make sure you fill with distilled water if needed first and then 24 hours AFTER you charge each battery and disconnect it from everything...take a voltmeter reading or a turkey baster reading and see what the TRUE state of charge is.
Unlikely they will come back all the way unless they were pretty new to being with... bur worth a try.

2. Yes...by all means...try the genset again watch the temp and make sure you haven't lost coolant before you start. You wont do any damage if she starts and runs with no error message.
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Old 12-14-2013, 05:57 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by tnrvers View Post
MN_Traveler

I too am not sure what TQ60 was trying to say--interesting, but way above my IQ level.

I too think your house batteries are near total death, so here is what I would do until you can replace them on your "own budgetary timing". When you go out to exercise the generator take a set of jumper cables with you. Go ahead and start the engine and when the chassis battery/ies are fully charged, shut it down and jump the house batteries and run the generator. This way your generator shouldn't shut down because the supply voltage is low (which I believed happened even though it coded low coolant).

You should be able to do this all winter until it is convenient to get new batteries. Just be careful when jumping from the 12 volt chassis batteries to the 6 volt(I assume) house batteries. Be sure to make the jump at the posts which connect two 6 volt batteries in series, do not connect a 12 volt battery to a 6 volt one post to post. If you need additional input either post or send a PM and I'll try to expand.

Hope this helps.
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If your generator is running and your house batteries are not shorted the generator should put out enough voltage to run all of its sensors from the output voltage. I am curious how cold is the generator antifreeze set for. If you had the water in the generator or the radiator freeze it might not show a change in temperature. I am not a generator mechanic but in automobiles the sensor sticks in the water flow of the coolant system with no water it will now show overheated even if the engine is melting down. Is it possible you have the same problem that no water is circulating so the sensor is not seeing a change ?
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Old 12-14-2013, 07:07 PM   #8
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Batteries are froze dead, not worth doing anything except for turning them in and replacing them. Probable can run things from the generator, if it is seeing good voltage. I would get them out of the circuit as they could swell and leak.
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Old 12-14-2013, 08:21 PM   #9
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I was using water to describe what a battery does and an example of diminished capacity in that battery as it relates to the OP stating short charge cycle.

Batteries likely toast, but changing now in hard winter unless needed could be waste of money if charging system cannot properly maintsin charge.

If after warmer weather returns the existing batteries can be tested as well as charging system, better to mess with the old batteries than new ones.
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Old 12-14-2013, 08:49 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by TQ60 View Post
I was using water to describe what a battery does and an example of diminished capacity in that battery as it relates to the OP stating short charge cycle.

Batteries likely toast, but changing now in hard winter unless needed could be waste of money if charging system cannot properly maintsin charge.

If after warmer weather returns the existing batteries can be tested as well as charging system, better to mess with the old batteries than new ones.
Dead batteries at that temperature are hard froze and damaged internally. They may have cracked cases even. At the least they should be pulled and taken to a battery store and warmed up and tested. It is not a good idea to leave them in the coach.. Don't ask how I know. REALLY, SERIOUSLY.
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Old 12-14-2013, 09:08 PM   #11
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Me in ca, doescnot get that cold here...maybe good idea to remove them.
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Old 12-14-2013, 09:27 PM   #12
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Here's the ACTUAL freezing temps for wet cells based on their state of charge:
100%= -77F
75%= -35F
50%= -10F
25%= +5F
0%= +20F

Had to look that up so I withdraw my previous comments...if your fully discharged batteries were in -15 degrees...they are toast. Don't waste your time. Go shopping for some AGMS!
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Old 12-15-2013, 12:22 PM   #13
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Originally Posted by camaraderie View Post
Here's the ACTUAL freezing temps for wet cells based on their state of charge:
100%= -77F
75%= -35F
50%= -10F
25%= +5F
0%= +20F

Had to look that up so I withdraw my previous comments...if your fully discharged batteries were in -15 degrees...they are toast. Don't waste your time. Go shopping for some AGMS!
Camaraderie - thank you for the data. I am quite sure the cells were totally discharged - so I have little doubt that the cells are frozen and thus toast. GARBONZ - I appreciate your advice regarding the risk of cracked cases (I was looking at the things when out there wondering if that was the case - but nothing visible at that time. I will get the cells out of the coach ASAP.

I don't BELIEVE I left the battery disconnect on - I know better than that!!! (senior moment I guess.... )

Thank you all - time for me to start looking at AGM's
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Old 12-15-2013, 01:03 PM   #14
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My comments;

1- Batteries frozen? Probably.
2- Batteries ruined? Probably.
3- Once you put the coach up for the winter, don't exercise the engines unless you're going somewhere. You do more damage than good.
4- AGM batteries as replacements? Maybe. AGM batteries have a different charging profile. Does your charger provide that charging profile?
5- Fully charged batteries will survive sub-zero temperatures, partially charged batteries will not.
6-Turn the disconnect switches off when you leave your coach for extended periods.
7-AGMs are very costly house batteries. Unless you do a lot of boondocking, I would select flooded lead acid types as replacements.
8-Use fuel conditioner before storing for the winter.

I was born in Edina, dad roomed with Nagurski at U of M...used to fish in Lake Calhoun and swim in the Minnnehaha...stay warm.
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