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Old 12-02-2015, 09:21 PM   #1
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Unhappy Need help to determine what happened to my Generator

Just joined the Forum and look forward to the future!
My Holiday Rambler 1987, 33 foot just went crazy last night

First, the inside lights started dimming, I could see them dropping off. I attempted to start my Generator, the running battery was dead enough, nothing happened. I cranked up my driving engine. All of the lights brightened up. I then cranked up the generator. It started running rough after just a couple of minutes then cut off.
I did this same thing several times while messing with the generator. Finally it started running smoothly.
I went inside and found the lights were all bright, then I realized the generator was running but not producing electricity to anything.
I then went to the sink to wash my hands, the water started running then just stopped. I checked the switches, then checked the pump motor. It was hot to touch and would not turn.
I unplugged it.
While outside I noticed my fresh water was running out someplace around my right (Driver side) rear wheels! I checked all inside and found no leaks but my tank was half full (it should have been full).
The running battery must be good because the lights are back up bright.
What in the world, I have never had all of this kind of stuff happen at one time!
Did the water pump short out causing lights to dim, affecting the battery itself. Could any of this affect the generator.
It is an Onan gen. I checked all of the two breakers on the gen. itself and the fuse. Well I turned the breakers but I did not check anything to see if electricity was there.
I know this is a lot of stuff, but I plan to replace the water pump this weekend and then start looking for problems, just not sure how to start.

Any advice will be appreciated!

Glenn
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Old 12-03-2015, 12:12 AM   #2
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Hi Glenn!

First of all, there are two kinds of batteries in a motorhome, the "chassis" batteries that start the engine and run the dash lights, running lights and other things normal to a truck. Then there are the "house" batteries that run the inside lights, refrigerator, water pump, etc. (just so we have a common set of terms for designated batteries)

When the main engine is running, the alternator charges all of the batteries. When the generator is running, it generally charges only the "house" batteries. The generator also provides 120v ac current to the RV which allows use of the microwave, ac outlets, TV, and any other appliances such as washer/dryer, etc.

Some questions for clarification:

Quote:
I went inside and found the lights were all bright, then I realized the generator was running but not producing electricity to anything.
How did you determine that the gen wasn't producing electricity? Have you checked all the batteries and made sure they have water in them? Have you measured the voltage at the batteries?

Quote:
I checked the switches, then checked the pump motor. It was hot to touch and would not turn. I unplugged it.
What did you mean when you said the motor would not turn? It should be a diaphragm pump with enclosed motor. So, ??? Also, what did you mean by I unplugged it? Just not turning on a switch would accomplish the same thing.

Quote:
While outside I noticed my fresh water was running out someplace around my right (Driver side) rear wheels! I checked all inside and found no leaks but my tank was half full (it should have been full).
I would not do anything until I found the water leak. Something may have happened while using the water that caused a major leak and the pump to lose prime, or to pump straight out a leak. This is really the only actionable item from your description.

So, before spending money on pumps or other parts, you would be advised to troubleshoot and determine what the problem is to keep from wasting all that hard-earned $.
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Old 12-03-2015, 04:51 AM   #3
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Hello and We are glad to have you join us here and we look forward to reading of your adventures and experiences. I am sure you will enjoy our website and forums. Good luck, stay safe and keep us posted.
How good is your mechanical and electrical diagnosing skills? Do you have a digital volt ohm meter and know how to use it?
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Old 12-03-2015, 08:27 AM   #4
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X2 on finding the water leak first.

My guess is that the leak got your inverter/converter wet and it has caused it to stop charging the house batteries.

My inverter and transfer switch is located in the same compartment as the water pump and Manabloc valve system which means most of the water lines are routed right above all the electrical installation. Not necessarily an ideal situation but it is what it is.
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Old 12-03-2015, 10:03 AM   #5
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All those things require 12v power and you obviously didn't have any unless the engine was running. Your house batteries apparently were dead, which suggests that the inverter/converter/charger was not running, whether on shore power or generator. The generator doesn't produce any 12v on its own - in fact it consumes it (powers the fuel pump) - so your onboard charger has to be functioning to provide 12v and re-charge dead batteries.

Oh, and check the house battery disconnect switch to make sure it is on (power available). I think it is, based on your description, but double check.
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Old 12-03-2015, 10:20 AM   #6
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If you are somewhere you can tie into city water do that and see if you can find where the water is leaking.
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Old 12-03-2015, 11:13 PM   #7
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Great responses from you all and I appreciate that. Sorry for the slang terminology I will try to do better.
I normally crank and run the generator every 3 or 4 weeks just to warm it up and make sure it works. The RV has not been used in several months, but I also move it around sometimes so I crank the engine up and let things warm up too. It normally stays under a shed.
I determined the generator was not putting out because the microwave nor TV would work with the gen running.
The water pump motor apparently shorted out and was very hot (too hot to touch). I unplugged a wire going to it and also turned off the switch, left a water faucet on.
My inverter is on the right (PX) rear and I hear it humming or buzzing as usual now that the RV is plugged into my home source of 120 V. Everything using 120 V is working fine. My Water pump and fresh water tank is on the left (driver side rear). Opposite of the inverter.
I should back up a little, I drove my RV for one hour ten minutes to a local city to stay in it a few days this week while doing a contract job. It sat in a parking lot during the day while I was working. That night I came in hoping to cook a little something, wash up and go to bed. That did not happen!
So initially I am sitting inside of my RV with a few of the 12 volt lights on, those lights started dimming while I watched them, somewhat dramatically. This is when I thought my house batter must have gone south. So I decided to crank up the generator, it would not turn over until I cranked up my RV engine. That is when the Trailer lights became bright (normal thing) and the generator cranked up and ran. It only ran a short time then started running rough and cut off.
I repeated this cranking up the RV engine then cranking up the generator until I got the generator running smoothly.
This is when I turned off the RV engine, went inside and found the house lights all bright (so I assumed the generator was working but apparently the house battery was running the lights). So the house battery did not go south! The microwave TV nor the Refrigerator would work on electricity.
This is when I washed my hands and the water stopped flowing. This is when I checked the off/on switch, then checked the pump motor and found it hot. I assumed at this point the pump motor is frozen up and is shorted out.
I then checked the two breakers on the generator (flipped them back and forth and checked the fuse). I then checked the 12 volt fuses next to the inverter inside the RV. None were burned.
This is when I just cranked up and drove home, plugged into the house current and went to sleep.
I have not had time to perform any other checks because I worked 10.5 hours a day and drive over an hour to get home!
Hopefully Saturday I will crawl under the RV and try to find a water leak. I did not find anything wet on the inside floor.
Mike, electrical testing is not my best skill by any means. I know how to check pretty basic things. Otherwise mechanically I can do a lot.
I just replaced the front shocks and air bag shocks and front brakes myself.
I bought an inverter for my TV so I could watch a little TV form my "house" battery and that worked fine. I also just replaced the back AC unit. It works fine.
By the way, I only have one 12 volt deep cycle batter for the house. It should have two but the slide does not hold two that size. It came with 2 shorter batteries but they were dead so I got one out of my boat and have been using it for two years.
I have owned 3 class A RVs including this one so I am pretty familiar with them.


So my assumption was the water pump motor shorted out causing the house lights to dim and also affected the house battery to the point it would not turn the generator over. When I bought the RV two years ago, the generator needed a new fuel pump, that is all it needed other than an oil and filter change.
I keep the house battery filled and charged though I may put some of that olive oil in it, I had never heard of that before I read it on this site.
Did I do better this time?
Thanks again,


Glenn
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Old 12-04-2015, 12:42 AM   #8
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It's also possible that the water leak occurred in the pipes, the water pump tried to keep up with the leak and couldn't and overheated. The water pump running continually possibly drew the battery down. A lot depends on how long the water pump was running before you found any issues. May want to try and see if the pump will run now that it has cooled off. Also you mentioned that the inverter is humming now that you are plugged into 120, Since an inverter turns DC into AC current I'm assuming you have an inverter/converter that also acts as the battery charger and that is the noise you are hearing. A lot of your symptoms may be from a very weak chassis 12v power bank with a battery on it's last legs.
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Old 12-04-2015, 09:16 PM   #9
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I couldn't wait to get home tonight and read more advice. So I followed up by going out into the cold damp air tonight, not expecting much informational change.
Good news is, the water pumped worked fine. The coach battery works fine. I left all of the lights on inside and none dimmed. The water pump worked fine. It did not cut off very quickly, kept struggling to finally stop. Could not find a leak yet.
I think the carburetor on the generator needs rebuilding. The valve on the bottom of the float chamber is leaking some gas. The gen fires up but cuts off.
Hopefully I can find a carb kit locally tomorrow.
So it is normal to hear the inverter humming and making heat?
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Old 12-04-2015, 09:56 PM   #10
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I just came in again after looking some more for the leak. The water pump definitely is running when I do not have water on. So while looking with the flashlight inside the trailer, I found places with cracked acorns pilled up (must be before I got the unit). I also found the vacuum system. I never bothered to attempt to use it so I got it fired up too.
It is missing the off on switch but the wires are there. I put them together and she started running. All of the hoses etc are there. Wondering how strong that will be?
Even found those acorns inside of the housing that holds the vac bag!
I will give you an update tomorrow after I spend more time on it.
Thank you all again!
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Old 12-05-2015, 12:25 AM   #11
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Just some speculation: Can you verify that the pump has water at the suction? Since your problems coincided with the water pump not working, my guess is that the water leak has something to do with the pump problem. This could have run the house battery down when the pump was running non-stop, as that pump pulls quite a few amps. It appears to be running dry with no suction, or the diaphragm is ruptured!?? If it has water at the suction, the diaphragm is probably toast.

Not sure about the generator not putting out. There are quite a few guys on here who are very good with those kinds of electrical problems, and hopefully they'll chime in. Good Luck, you'll get it figured out!
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Old 12-05-2015, 03:52 AM   #12
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When the inverter is charging the battery bank it is normal for it to hum and produce heat in the process. The harder it is working (low battery(s) the louder the unit will hum.
With the evidence of rodents being in the coach it is possible they have chewed a small hole in the water line looking for water. Good luck and finding the leak and keep us posted.
You will probably find that a new carburetor is going to be the fix on the generator.
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Old 12-05-2015, 08:27 AM   #13
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You said the water pump is running,Is water running out any where?
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Old 12-05-2015, 10:06 AM   #14
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Without know the brand of water pump it's difficult help out .My coach has a Shurflow. It has built in bypass and pressure regulation. An RV tech recentely set the pressure too high and the pump went into bypass. That meant it continually ran got hot and just bypassed the water internally readjusting the pressure down slightly fixed the issue. I'ld suggest as you are looking at all the components take a pen and paper with you and whenever possible write down the Mfg and model number. When time permits visit the mfg web site and download any owner/maintenance manuals you don't already have. Having quick access to those manuals can be a real lifesaver when your not at home and something goes wrong.

STOP RUNNING THE GEN IF IT IS LEAKING GAS

And to clarify one thing. Not all inverters will charge the batteries and not all converters will turn DC to AC (invert), in fact most don't. It's helpful if you do know the distinction to tell us so we can more accurately help you fix your issues. That's where the pencil and paper and model numbers is also helpful.

Also is the inverter you hear humming the one you installed to watch TV with ?? If that is the humming then somewhere else in your coach you have a converter(built in battery charger) that seems to be operating.

Lastly if your coach has a built in transfer switch(automatically connects the generator to the coach) most of them have a built in time delay of around 2 minutes to let the generator warm up before transferring the load to it so wait a bit after you get the gen started after you fix the gas leak.
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