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Old 11-03-2015, 11:22 AM   #1
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Trouble on my way to FL

Heading from MI to FL, all of sudden the radio starts acting funny,then the engine seems like it is missing, I check my dash gauges and the volts are between 8 and 10. Not good. I immediately asume it is the chassis battery, which is now 7 years old. House batteries were replaced this spring. So I pull onto an exit ramp shoulder and start playing with batteries, even hooking the engine to the house battery wouldn't start the engine. Finally I got the battery out of the toad and it starts and dash voltage is ok again. I go to the nearest NAPA dealer and get a new chassis battery. All is good, voltage is in normal charging range. For about 125 miles when the same scenario starts again. Oh boy. I'm in northen GA on I-75 at 3:30 on Saturday afternoon. With all of the solenoids and interconneted wiring in an RV, no telling what it is. All of a sudden I am hearing banjos.

I Called Good Sam road service. At first they want to tow me to a Walmart so I can overnite until Moday until shops are open. I said I am on one of the busiest roads around, certainly there are some 24 hour shops that could look at it. Meanwhile we Google RV/truck shops and one comes up at our exit (Adairsville)! I call and get a message, "open 24 hours except for 3:00 PM Saturday to 3:00 PM Sunday". Ugh.

Good Sam calls back and says they can't find anyone that wil tow us (for what Good Sam is willing to pay) but they have a mobile service that can come out. I had her give me the name and phone number and contacted them directly. Turns out they were with a semi pulled over at the same exit we were parked at. He knew where we were as he passed us on the way back to the shop. He threw a tester on the chassis battery and said immdiately the problem was likely the alternator. Ok that is straight forward and fixable. By now the parts stores are closed, but he promises us he can get us on he road by noon tomorrow. He offers to let us stay in the RV overnight locked in his junkyard on Halloween ("don't normally do that but you look like good people"). More banjos. No thanks, so we stay at a local Quality Inn.

He has the new alternator on by 11:00 am as promised. Except the parts store gives him the wrong serpentine belt, which I go out and exchange. New one won't even hit 13 volts charging so he calls a really old (alternator rebuilder) friend to come check it out. "Guarantee you it's a bad one". He finds another one at a different parts store, puts it on and it is charging at 13.1, then 13.2, finally it is charging at 13.4 volts (the original one charged at 14.2 volts). I looked at the sheet that was with it and it says anything between 13 and 15 volts charging is normal. So now he (and I) are thinking that the problem was the alternator was trying to charge three nearly dead battries. He thows his big charger on it and between the 135 amp alternator and his 65 amp charger the voltage finally settles at 13.5 volts. Good enough, we finally get on the road at 3:00. Next day and 500 miles more we finally get there and it is still charging at 13.5 volts. All is good again.
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Old 11-03-2015, 11:32 AM   #2
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FYI.

You could have jumped the positive chassis battery terminal to the positive house battery terminal, turned on your generator and driven wherever you needed to go.

I have done so for over 100 miles when my alternator failed.
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Old 11-03-2015, 11:46 AM   #3
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Not all RV's are wired to charge all three batteries.

My alternator does NOT charge my coach batteries and that's the way I like it.

I want the engine electrical system totally independent from the coach electrical system for this very reason.

Glad to hear you ran into some pretty nice service people all things considered.
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Old 11-03-2015, 11:59 AM   #4
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I had the exact issue several years ago. Wedged a water bottle and my wallet in so the aux start switch stayed on and ran the generator from NJ to Myrtle Beach. Had alternator replaced, at my convenience in Myrtle Beach. Good thing it happen on the way to vacation, the wallet was much smaller on the way home.


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Old 11-03-2015, 05:56 PM   #5
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I had a very similar experience. We were not able to charge the starting batteries with the generator, only the house batteries.

Now I know a lot more and we also carry a battery charger which we can run off the 110 vac to charge the house batteries or the starting batteries, if the alternator ever fails. When our alternator went out we were lucky enough to find one in Tampa. They had one of only two in three states.

We also carry a heavy 8 gauge jumper with big alligator clip. We can jump across the isolation solenoid too in the event that craps out again.
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Old 11-03-2015, 06:14 PM   #6
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Thanks for the detailed post OP.
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Old 11-03-2015, 06:31 PM   #7
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The lesson I learned..is do not trust old batteries. Thank you for posting what can happen. I think that is one of those "pay me now or pay me later" moments. Good post.
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Old 11-03-2015, 07:14 PM   #8
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This thread brought up a question: how often should you replace the house batteries? The engine batteries? How do you know if they are going "bad"?
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Old 11-03-2015, 07:32 PM   #9
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So i suppose the theory is the batteries were so bad at 7 years old, that they overloaded/fried the diodes in the alternator trying to charge them.
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Old 11-03-2015, 08:43 PM   #10
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I don't know if What Kiawah above said is correct. I've worked and taught this stuff for 35 years. I have never heard any discussion or reference to the fact that an alternator trying to charge a battery this is not accepting the charge will lead to an alternator failing.

I think it's more than common for alternators to fail from age and fail to keep the engine batteries charged. There may be something to what was said I've just never heard any discussion about it.

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Old 11-04-2015, 05:54 AM   #11
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I think he is absolutely correct! I have been in electronics for 55 years and have seen many power supplies burn out from overload or shorts. I my post above, indicated we had a similar experience. My case we had one out of four house batteries short. It took down the alternator. Was it because of Age of the alternator or the battery. The batteries were less than 1 year old but defective. The alternator 10 years old. What happens if you short out an alternator while it is turning?
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Old 11-04-2015, 06:19 AM   #12
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electrical issues

this post and the related responses were the exact reason I check the rv forum daily...........excellent information...................
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Old 11-04-2015, 06:25 AM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ludmilla View Post
This thread brought up a question: how often should you replace the house batteries? The engine batteries? How do you know if they are going "bad"?
I think a lot depends on where you live and how well you maintain and keep the batteries charged. I live in hot Fl which is known to eat batteries. I store plugged in and my house batteries would last 3-4 years. If I let them run dry, not as long. Starting batteries about 4-5 years. I clean the terminals and check my batteries with a hydrometer every spring. Any signs of a weak battery and entire set would be replaced. I know the cheapest place to get them at home, on the road I would have to pay maybe twice as much.

My new coach as AGMs so I hope it is a lot longer.
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Old 11-04-2015, 06:39 AM   #14
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Yep. There is always something good here.

Also, I carry a spare alternator, battery charger, and now know how to use the jump switch.

Continuing the discussion of alternator experiences. I had an alternator go bad on our previous 6.5 Diesel Trek. The first thing affected was the transmission wouldn't stay in overdrive, then the engine began running very rough and stalled as I pulled onto a Chicago expressway exit ramp. I, finally, saw that voltage was around 8V and pushed the switch. Viola!. 13V, the engine started, and I could drive to a safer spot. With the switch depressed, drove to a nearby campground, had dinner while the engine cooled, changed the alternator, and was good to go the next morning.

Quote:
Originally Posted by jsmmonaco View Post
this post and the related responses were the exact reason I check the rv forum daily...........excellent information...................
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