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Old 10-24-2012, 12:21 PM   #1
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Coach battery dying during drive...

Hello all, hopefully this is the right forum for this question...

My folks are driving from Alaska to Texas in their 2000 Coachmen Siraka F450 V10 based RV (their first big drive!) and they started experiencing a problem while driving through Canada. Basically, their coach battery started dying during their drive and none of the appliances work (microwave/furnace/low beam headlights/etc.) unless they are plugged in. If my dad charges the battery with a charger, everything works fine until the battery discharges and dies again.

The chassis power isn't affected, so that is the good part.

They had to stop over here in Iowa and are basically limping along till they get to Texas if they can't get it fixed here. The worst part, none of the RV dealers here in town can get them in for two weeks! So basically, I'm down to trying to fix it myself.

So, knowing nothing about the RV, here is what I know. When It's plugged into 110v from the wall, the battery disconnect red light is lit. If I unplug and press "Use" on the BD switch, the BD relay (Black Intellitec relay in image attached below) under the hood clicks (but seemingly does nothing because 12v does not change sides on Intellitec relay). The 12v never goes to the right side of the relay....

Could this be the relay that has gone bad and is constantly pulling power even when the RV is running? I can get the relay for under $100.... but don't want to waste their money if it isn't bad.

Can anyone provide any assistance?

Thanks guys!
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Old 10-24-2012, 12:44 PM   #2
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Takes awhile to charge those house batteries. A battery charger will only set the charging. While traveling are they not using the generator at all. That really is the only sure way to keep the batteries charged. YOU should be able to get by running the generator for 1 hour every 3 hours. All that aside I think their biggest problem is not having the house batteries fully charged and keeping them charged during the trip with the generator
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Old 10-24-2012, 12:46 PM   #3
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I find it extremely odd that the low beam headlights won't work. Those pull off the chassis battery. In any case, for whatever reason you aren't getting charging current to the house batteries. Have you tested the alternator? How many volts is it putting out when the engine is running? I think you should see around 13.6.
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Old 10-24-2012, 12:58 PM   #4
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Put a voltmeter on the house batteries with the engine not running and coach not on shore power. Now start the engine. If the alternator charge is getting to the batteries you will see the voltage increase. If no change with / without the engine running - the batteries are not getting charged.

If no change, repeat, only with the voltmeter on the chassis battery to further see where the problem is.
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Old 10-24-2012, 01:05 PM   #5
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I would also check the alternator, chassis battery connections, and even coach battery connections. Something weird is going on. My chassis alternator will keep both of my coach and the house batteries charged up for weeks if you drive it every day or two. The chassis lights not working has me thinking you may have a bad coach battery or charging system. A bad battery with a dead cell can do some strange things. If the batteries are over a few years old and sat around unattended to and maybe dead at times, I would change them all. But check the alternator first. Then after all of the is changed and still the power is not right, I would change the relay if it is not transporting power across. Good luck and let us know what you find!
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Old 10-25-2012, 11:20 AM   #6
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Indeed, some things this report just don't make sense. The headlights, low or high beam, operate off the chassis battery, not the house (coach?) batteries. And the microwave operates off 120v shore or generator power. They should not be expected to work while driving, unless they are using an inverter, but this wasn't mentioned).

The battery disconnect should be in the "use" position at all times, unless the RV is in storage. It is quite possible that the house batteries receive no charging when disconnected.
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Old 10-25-2012, 02:30 PM   #7
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Yes, the battery disconnect switch should be in the use position all the time, plugged in or not. Also if the system is working properly and they are driving, there is no need to run the generator unless they need the ac or the microwave.

Also, the disconnect switch will not close the relay onto a dead set of batteries. Nor will the engine charge them if not closed. The disconnect is ONLY opened for long term storage with nothing in use and the coach not plugged in. Our last motorhome did not even have one, and we never use the one on our current one as we never leave it stored for long disconnected.
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Old 10-25-2012, 09:09 PM   #8
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Originally Posted by jcthorne View Post
Yes, the battery disconnect switch should be in the use position all the time, plugged in or not. Also if the system is working properly and they are driving, there is no need to run the generator unless they need the ac or the microwave.

Also, the disconnect switch will not close the relay onto a dead set of batteries. Nor will the engine charge them if not closed. The disconnect is ONLY opened for long term storage with nothing in use and the coach not plugged in. Our last motorhome did not even have one, and we never use the one on our current one as we never leave it stored for long disconnected.
I pretty much agree with that strategy. On my coach the disconnect switch is a 12 volt solenoid on continuously. When I found it I noticed that it was very hot and I guessed it must drawing at least 3 or 4 amps to stay on, maybe more. For perspective, that is roughly one average size solar panel. But the panel puts out 8 hours a day and the disconnect is on 24 hours a day. So figure 2 or 3 panels to run that disconnect. I might be wrong about the amperage but I think I am in the ballpark.

My solution was to add a 12 volt, 50 amp manual breaker going around the original switch and turned off the solenoid disconnect. My system seems a lot happier without that load on 24/7.

Joe
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Old 10-25-2012, 10:04 PM   #9
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There are two solenoids there. As suggested, using a voltmeter check the voltage on the large wires on the black solenoid and then the gold/silver one. Do this without generator/shoreline or engine running. Then plug in to shoreline or run generator and re-measure. Then turn that power off and start the engine and take the readings again.

If you see a higher voltage on the left versus the right, or vice versa on the large bolts on the solenoids that means they are not engaged. If you can feel them clunk they should be engaged. Also as an intermediate measure running the generator is fine.
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Old 10-26-2012, 03:53 AM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jofo777 View Post
I pretty much agree with that strategy. On my coach the disconnect switch is a 12 volt solenoid on continuously. When I found it I noticed that it was very hot and I guessed it must drawing at least 3 or 4 amps to stay on, maybe more. For perspective, that is roughly one average size solar panel. But the panel puts out 8 hours a day and the disconnect is on 24 hours a day. So figure 2 or 3 panels to run that disconnect. I might be wrong about the amperage but I think I am in the ballpark.

My solution was to add a 12 volt, 50 amp manual breaker going around the original switch and turned off the solenoid disconnect. My system seems a lot happier without that load on 24/7.

Joe
Not all disconnects use power 24/7 like that. Ours uses a bi-stable relay that is energized for only a second or so to go either way.

Even on the ones that are on continuous, the holding current should be FAR less than 3 amps. The controller should be stepping the voltage to the coil down after the solenoid is engaged.
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Old 10-26-2012, 04:35 AM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by KSCRUDE View Post
I would also check the alternator, chassis battery connections, and even coach battery connections. Something weird is going on. My chassis alternator will keep both of my coach and the house batteries charged up for weeks if you drive it every day or two. The chassis lights not working has me thinking you may have a bad coach battery or charging system. A bad battery with a dead cell can do some strange things. If the batteries are over a few years old and sat around unattended to and maybe dead at times, I would change them all. But check the alternator first. Then after all of the is changed and still the power is not right, I would change the relay if it is not transporting power across. Good luck and let us know what you find!
You've got some good information here. Let us know what's going on now.
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Old 10-26-2012, 10:56 AM   #12
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My solenoid was so hot that I couldn't hold my hand on it. It takes a fair amount of wattage to create that much heat. But I am just guessing at how much it actually is. I like the idea of the relay you are referring to. You would only need a momentary switch to "latch it open". Nice, thanks.
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Old 10-26-2012, 12:53 PM   #13
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Originally Posted by jofo777 View Post
My solenoid was so hot that I couldn't hold my hand on it. It takes a fair amount of wattage to create that much heat. But I am just guessing at how much it actually is. I like the idea of the relay you are referring to. You would only need a momentary switch to "latch it open". Nice, thanks.

I measured the current it takes on several continuous duty solenoids. Normally around 1.5 amps. And they do get too hot too touch.
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Old 10-26-2012, 12:57 PM   #14
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Current at 12v? The controller should be stepping the voltage down after the initial activation. Usually down to 6volts or less for holding current.
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