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Old 08-31-2016, 02:10 PM   #1
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Odd Electrical/Battery Issue

I am going to try to be as detailed as possible, but my wife and I are only 6 months into owning a Class A and we are not the most experienced RVers.

We have a 1999 Fleetwood Flair class A 32-foot. I believe it's on the Ford chassis with a chevy engine.

The engine/start battery is brand new and was purchased at Camping World, per their suggestion. It replaced a wal-mart battery that came with the RV and was too small for it, from what we were told.

The house batteries are brand new from Sam's Club, as well. We have 4 golf cart batteries giving us 410 amp hours total. We also have 200 watts of solar on the roof hooked up to the house batteries. (we do plan to expand this system in the future, too.)

Above our door, there are two black switches: one for AUX and one for MAIN. Usually, we keep the AUX on all the time and the MAIN only on when we travel. Recently, due to the issue I will discuss below, we have had the MAIN switched on at all times.

We are plugged in to 30A power about 99% of the time. We also have a propane detector, which is brown and below the kitchen sink. We have to turn this on before we can use the gas. It would be nice to just leave this on, but here is where our issue comes in.

The Issue....

The problem we have encountered is with the propane detector and the engine/start battery. For some reason, the propane detector runs off of this battery (from what I can tell) and if we leave on the detector, it drains the engine/start battery.

We never really had a problem with this, once we got the new battery, until our current stay. Usually, we have stayed between 7 and 12 days at campgrounds before traveling, but this stay is a total of 28 days and we are 21 days into it.

At about day 14, the battery was completely drained and the propane detector was only putting out a very faint beep. I turned it off, did some searching in the forum and found out that if our MAIN switch is turned off, the engine/start battery won't get charged from the electric plugin.

I switched the switch on, used our AUX START switch to charge the engine/start battery from our house batteries to get the engine started. I let the RV run for about 15 minutes to charge the engine battery and all was fine.

Then, we left the MAIN on and turned off the propane detector whenever we didn't need it.

Yesterday, we left the propane detector on and it had drained the engine/start battery again by this morning. I repeated the above to get the engine started and ran it to charge the battery.

Why does our battery keep draining off of this detector and why does it seem like the engine battery isn't charging from shore power? Is there something I am missing here or a better way to ensure our engine battery stays charged when we stay at campgrounds longer?

Thank you for all your help,

Benjamin Ehinger
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Old 08-31-2016, 02:31 PM   #2
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First, many MHs don't charge the engine battery from the house charger.

Don't know if yours does but you can plug it in and test both battery banks.

If the voltage is high on the house and low on the engine battery, it's not charging. There is a simple device called " Trik l Start " that will cure that problem.

Second, once you engine batteries run down to dead, you will need hours of charging to get them back to full charge.

For now, you could leave the boost switch ON, for a day, while plugged in to shore power.

Once unplugged, you want to turn off the boost so you dont run down the start battery while using the house batteries.
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Old 08-31-2016, 06:53 PM   #3
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I don't believe you have your problem properly diagnosed yet. A propane detector won't drain a battery that much. I would expect it to be in the range of a .1 amps @ 12v. If it was defective and drawing that that much current (couple hundred amp hours) it would be smoking hot. I suspect there is something else using power. (If you assume your 400 amphr battery bank is dead when 200 amphrs gone, that would be a continuous 8 amp draw over 24 hour timeframe). Thats the equivalent of a 100 watt light bulb worth of heat.

You should get a current meter and clamp it on your chassis battery, so you can see exactly how much current is being drawn out. Then you can start disconnecting things until you see the current drain stop.

You might have a defective diode in your engine alternator, for instance, which you could detect if the alternator is warm (assuming the engine cold). You could have manifold heater defective and drawing current. There's lot's of possible problems.
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Old 08-31-2016, 07:37 PM   #4
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Thank you for the responses. It's not the house batteries that are draining, however. Those stay nearly fully charged almost all the time. The propane detector is draining the engine/start battery, which has no where near the same ability (amp hours wise) as our house batteries.

I am going to order a Trik l Start and see if that solves the issue. Like I said before, it only happens when we are parked for longer periods of time and it does originally take nearly 2 weeks for the battery to drain enough to cause an issue. After that, the detector can drain the battery in a matter of a day since it's not getting charged back up.

While you may be right, there could be something else causing the power draw, I am going to try the Trik l Start first, as I suspect it will be the least expensive option and may be a helpful tool regardless.

Again, thank you for all of your help.
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Old 08-31-2016, 08:13 PM   #5
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You'd be better off with an Amp-L-Start, as opposed to Trik-L-Start, assuming you don't already have a trickle charger.

You still however should put a current meter on to definitively find everything that may be drawing current. Installing a charger will just mask any problems.
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Old 08-31-2016, 08:39 PM   #6
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Thank you for the advice. I will look at the Amp-L Start. Had no idea these things existed until now.
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Old 08-31-2016, 09:14 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by behing19 View Post
We have a 1999 Fleetwood Flair class A 32-foot. I believe it's on the Ford chassis with a chevy engine.
You can't have an RV on a Ford chassis with a Chevy engine. There is no such animal. If you have a chevy engine, then the chassis is a Chevy or workhorse.
Quote:
I did some searching in the forum and found out that if our MAIN switch is turned off, the engine/start battery won't get charged from the electric plugin.
This is not a true statement, because your Flair uses the RV-CP BCC. The Aux battery switch must be ON, but the chassis battery will get charged if the converter output is above 13.2V, even if the main switch is OFF. That's just the way it is designed. However, the circuitry to make this happen may be defective.
Quote:
I switched the switch on, used our AUX START switch to charge the engine/start battery from our house batteries to get the engine started. I let the RV run for about 15 minutes to charge the engine battery and all was fine.

Yesterday, we left the propane detector on and it had drained the engine/start battery again by this morning. I repeated the above to get the engine started and ran it to charge the battery.

Why does our battery keep draining off of this detector and why does it seem like the engine battery isn't charging from shore power? Is there something I am missing here or a better way to ensure our engine battery stays charged when we stay at campgrounds longer?
Since your chassis battery was run very low by the detector, it's evident that the chassis battery was NOT being charged while on shore power, so your BCC board must be defective.

Also 15 minutes of engine running was not nearly long enough to recharge the battery. Even though it appears recharged, it would take a few hours to replace the power that the detector drained.

Replacing the BCC circuit board is quite expensive, so your idea of a trik-L-charge is fine. BUT, a cheaper way is to use a toothpick to hold the Aux Start switch depressed while you are parked. All batteries will be charged from shore power, and you can leave your detector turned ON.

I did mine this way on a 4 months trip to Alaska and back before finally getting it fixed.
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Old 08-31-2016, 09:23 PM   #8
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Why cant you connect your LP detector to your house batteries and avoid messing with your chassis battery.
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Old 08-31-2016, 09:30 PM   #9
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Follow what Old Bounder said.

Also, to be clear, the switches above the door are meant to "Disconnect" the two battery sets when in storage. They should always be on the rest of the time.

The third switch "AUX START" is a special switch that will connect both battery sets in parallel. The idea is if your chassis batteries are dead, you can get the engine started by using the house batteries. This is just like a jump start.

Most important of all is to get a volt meter and learn how to use it.
This takes out the guesswork. it is easy to see if you battery is getting charged if it measures over 13.5v. Check house and chassis batteries.

If your not the orig. owner, you are never sure what a previous owner may have changed in the electrical system.

Dan
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Old 08-31-2016, 11:40 PM   #10
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Again, thank you all for the advice. It's much appreciated.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Old Bounder View Post
You can't have an RV on a Ford chassis with a Chevy engine. There is no such animal. If you have a chevy engine, then the chassis is a Chevy or workhorse.
It may be the opposite, chevy chassis with a ford engine. I would look at the owners manual, but it's buried and I simply don't have time to dig it out right now. However, I do remember thinking, when we bought it, that it was odd to have both chevy and ford in one vehicle.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Old Bounder View Post
This is not a true statement, because your Flair uses the RV-CP BCC. The Aux battery switch must be ON, but the chassis battery will get charged if the converter output is above 13.2V, even if the main switch is OFF. That's just the way it is designed. However, the circuitry to make this happen may be defective.
Since your chassis battery was run very low by the detector, it's evident that the chassis battery was NOT being charged while on shore power, so your BCC board must be defective.
I would have never even had a clue about this being a possibility without your help. Thank you.


Quote:
Originally Posted by Old Bounder View Post
Also 15 minutes of engine running was not nearly long enough to recharge the battery. Even though it appears recharged, it would take a few hours to replace the power that the detector drained.
This I was aware of. However, I needed the battery charged enough to use the gas in the oven. That was the goal of running the engine for 15 minutes. I also figured, if shore power was capable of charging the battery, it would do so over the next day or so. Obviously, that's not happening.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Old Bounder View Post
Replacing the BCC circuit board is quite expensive, so your idea of a trik-L-charge is fine. BUT, a cheaper way is to use a toothpick to hold the Aux Start switch depressed while you are parked. All batteries will be charged from shore power, and you can leave your detector turned ON.

I did mine this way on a 4 months trip to Alaska and back before finally getting it fixed.
Wow! I didn't even think of that. I was actually sitting in the driver's seat holding the button down wondering if there was a better way. Thank you for the advice. I am going to try this for now and may still get a trik-l-charge in the future.

We are only trying to keep the RV for about 7 more months before going to a truck/travel trailer, so I am not really trying to spend much on repairs, if there's a solution that will work for us.


Quote:
Originally Posted by CJ7365 View Post
Why cant you connect your LP detector to your house batteries and avoid messing with your chassis battery.
Would be an easy solution, in theory, but I have absolutely no idea how to go about this.

Quote:
Originally Posted by dpinvidic View Post
Follow what Old Bounder said.

Also, to be clear, the switches above the door are meant to "Disconnect" the two battery sets when in storage. They should always be on the rest of the time.
I am aware they are disconnect switches, but have seen different comments in different threads about whether to leave them both on, turn them off, etc. We always leave the AUX on, but until recently, we turned the MAIN off whenever we were hooked up.

Quote:
Originally Posted by dpinvidic View Post
The third switch "AUX START" is a special switch that will connect both battery sets in parallel. The idea is if your chassis batteries are dead, you can get the engine started by using the house batteries. This is just like a jump start.
Yes, this is one of my favorite features. Gives us a bit of added protection compared to a normal vehicle with just one battery.

Quote:
Originally Posted by dpinvidic View Post
Most important of all is to get a volt meter and learn how to use it.
This takes out the guesswork. it is easy to see if you battery is getting charged if it measures over 13.5v. Check house and chassis batteries.

If your not the orig. owner, you are never sure what a previous owner may have changed in the electrical system.

Dan
I am working on getting a volt meter. I actually think I bought one when we first got the RV because someone recommended it, but I have to check my tools and see if we have one. I plan on learning how to use it, as it seems like a necessary tool for full time RVers.

You are correct and we have found some odd nuances with our RV that come from changes previous owners have made for sure.

Again, thank you all for your help. Off to stick a toothpick into a switch and see if that helps.

Benjamin Ehinger
@LiveSmallWander
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Old 09-01-2016, 12:03 AM   #11
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I installed a Trik-L-Star on a previous motorhome. They will keep the engine battery charged from your main converter that's plugged in to 30 amp AC feed.

You might want to measure the current that the LP detector is using - it could be defective. I have had one of these fail before. Simple unscrew it from the wall and there are 2 wires providing voltage. ( +12V and GND ). Temporarily break the +12V line and use a multi-meter in AMP mode to measure the current usage. An AMPmeter must be in series with the voltage feed. Call the tech support line of the LP detector company and ask what the current usage should be and compare to actual usage.

You might also want measure the current draw from the engine battery. If it's different from the LP detector you know that you have another vampire load somewhere else.

Good Luck, Jerry
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Old 09-01-2016, 12:53 AM   #12
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You might want to check the battery boost solenoid after a few minutes of the toothpick being in place. It is possible this solenoid is not designed to withstand the load created by being in a constant on position and will overheat.

I have been very happy with my trik-l-start for over a year now.
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Old 09-01-2016, 06:24 AM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by JerryP View Post
I installed a Trik-L-Star on a previous motorhome. They will keep the engine battery charged from your main converter that's plugged in to 30 amp AC feed.

You might want to measure the current that the LP detector is using - it could be defective. I have had one of these fail before. Simple unscrew it from the wall and there are 2 wires providing voltage. ( +12V and GND ). Temporarily break the +12V line and use a multi-meter in AMP mode to measure the current usage. An AMPmeter must be in series with the voltage feed. Call the tech support line of the LP detector company and ask what the current usage should be and compare to actual usage.

You might also want measure the current draw from the engine battery. If it's different from the LP detector you know that you have another vampire load somewhere else.

Good Luck, Jerry
This is a good idea to check. We have a CC Allure and it has two new house batteries. I keep it at my shop when not traveling and it isn't plugged in. I keep the battery switches on as I open doors and vents during the day to keep it aired out. I never switched off the propane detector come to think about it. We have a magnum inverter and on the display I can see the actual 12v status. It takes a week and the batteries are getting down to where I need to run the generator to top them off or plug it in. I am wondering if my detector is what is draining it. It must have a little current draw as it holds the propane valve open which will take a little draw. Interesting piece here. I am going to investigate this as well. Thanks.
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Old 09-01-2016, 11:51 AM   #14
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You might want to check the battery boost solenoid after a few minutes of the toothpick being in place. It is possible this solenoid is not designed to withstand the load created by being in a constant on position and will overheat.
The Aux Start solenoid in the OP's Fleetwood rig is definitely a continuous duty solenoid, because it is also the cross charge solenoid used for the purpose of keeping all batteries charged. This solenoid is held closed any time the engine alternator is running or when the converter is ON from shore power (normally).
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