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Old 03-02-2017, 04:30 PM   #1
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Dual Alternator Truck to charge TC batteries


I'm purchasing a new 2017 Ram 3500 CTD and have the option of dual alternator (440 amps). Is there any way to use the truck to charge my truck camper house batteries efficiently? I've done a little reading and it sounds like I would need to have a fairly large gauge wire in lieu of the normal 7 pin umbilical in order to more efficiently charge them but I'm not sure what else I would need to be able to do this. I will be on the move quite a bit and thought it would work well if I could use the truck to recharge my batteries. I have a Yamaha portable generator (2000 watts) for when I am stationary if need be and plan on being pretty minimal on my energy needs. No microwave, a/c off the genny or shore power infrequently, etc.
Is this possible and how would you recommend installing this. I'm planning on either 2 6 volt AGM's or 2 group 31 AGMs for my house batteries under my dinette bench in the TC.
I'll be the first to admit that I'm not very savvy on this stuff...so it's going to be an education!
Thank you for your help!
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Old 03-02-2017, 09:51 PM   #2
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I used an 8 ga. wire and the single alternator that was in the truck when we bought it to charge the single group 27 12 volt lead acid battery that powered our 11.5' Caribou. That worked well for us for 23 years. We also had a 2.5 kw Onan gen that was built into the camper and used to charge the batt. and run the micro and AC when stationary. For us the built in gen and AC were mandatory after having our previous camper for 15 years with neither.

There are other ways to do it, but I ran a 8 ga. wire off the truck battery through a breaker into a continuous duty solenoid that was activated by a fused wire from the truck ignition. The 8 ga. wire then went to the truck receptacle that the camper plugs into. I installed it on the inner wall of the truck bed near where the cord attaches to the camper when it is loaded.

With two batteries you may need more alternator power and heavier cables, I don't know. I do know our MH has heavier cables connecting the house and chassis batteries through solenoids, but the wire from the single alternator isn't very heavy.

I think the alternators in our trucks, a '69 F250 Ford diesel conversion, a Dodge W250 Cummins, and the 454 Chev. in the MH are only somewhere around 100 amps. I'm not sure you would ever need 440 amps just to charge your truck and camper batteries. Perhaps someone else will chime in about that.

Good luck with your decision.

Steve
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Old 03-02-2017, 10:01 PM   #3
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Dual alternators would be overkill. A single alternator can easily supply the needed charging current of 40 to 60 amps for the batteries you are considering. 6 gauge wire would be fine.

This connector would be good:

https://www.amazon.com/Battery-Conne...ler+6-10+GAUGE
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Old 03-02-2017, 10:42 PM   #4
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Will the connector addressed by the link automatically disconnect the truck batteries from the camper batteries when parked? If so it should be fine, but if not I would prefer one that did.

Just a thought.

Steve
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Old 03-03-2017, 03:48 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bluepill View Post
Dual alternators would be overkill. A single alternator can easily supply the needed charging current of 40 to 60 amps for the batteries you are considering. 6 gauge wire would be fine.

This connector would be good:

https://www.amazon.com/Battery-Conne...ler+6-10+GAUGE
A single alternator may be adequate if all you are doing is charging batteries.
On my truck, I am pulling more than 200 amps, sometimes 300 amps.
Just the supplemental heat is 1200 watts or 120 amps.
If I had just one alternator, I couldn't half the stuff I normally run, I would have to switch everything off.
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Old 03-03-2017, 06:57 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by dix39 View Post
Will the connector addressed by the link automatically disconnect the truck batteries from the camper batteries when parked? If so it should be fine, but if not I would prefer one that did.

Just a thought.

Steve

That connector is simply a connect/disconnect with adequate capacity to carry the current. For automatic disconnect, the solenoid that you mention would do the trick.
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Old 03-04-2017, 09:28 AM   #7
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Originally Posted by skyhammer View Post
A single alternator may be adequate if all you are doing is charging batteries.
On my truck, I am pulling more than 200 amps, sometimes 300 amps.
Just the supplemental heat is 1200 watts or 120 amps.
If I had just one alternator, I couldn't half the stuff I normally run, I would have to switch everything off.
Just curious, but how do you get that much power when you park, and would it preclude boondocking with minimal power?

Thanks.

Steve
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Old 03-04-2017, 09:33 AM   #8
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was thinking the same thing, unless just going to let it idle along time.
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Old 03-04-2017, 03:23 PM   #9
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I don't understand your question. When you say "park" do you mean at a campground?
If at a campground, I use one of the generators to charge the camper batteries, it is to inefficient to use the truck to charge batteries.
If I did use the truck to charge the camper while "parked", I would flip the high idle switch to provide power via the 4 gauge charge wire I installed.Even then the converter would not be charging at the full 45 amps.
Charging the camper batteries while driving takes at least 8 hours if you brought the batteries down to 50%. The umbilical cords wire is just to small to provide enough amps.
With my #4 wire, I cut the charge time in half while driving.
Modern trucks use a lot DC power if you run everything at the same time and don't want to drain your batteries.
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Old 03-05-2017, 10:16 AM   #10
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I was only thinking that it would take a fair sized power source to replace the 200-300 amp needed when the engine wasn't running. I just wondered what that was.

Steve
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Old 03-05-2017, 03:07 PM   #11
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If the engine is not running, I don't need the supplemental heat, seat heaters, and all the other electrical stuff.
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Old 03-05-2017, 08:01 PM   #12
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I'm sorry, sometimes I'm a little slow. As I understand it now the extra alternator is to keep things operating in the truck and to charge the batteries faster. For some reason I was thinking the supplemental heat was in the camper. I guess newer trucks do need a lot of electrical power, I had no idea.

Steve
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Old 03-06-2017, 02:52 PM   #13
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Yes, it is amazing how much power a newer truck requires. If I was able to turn on everything that requires power, 4 alternators would not be enough.
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Old 04-07-2017, 11:04 PM   #14
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Running dual alternators can be a very good way to get power as an alternative to carrying a generator.

In most cases though, the alternators do not generate much power at normal idle. The ideal setup is to use a "fast idle" setting, typically in the 1000 to 1500 rpm range. On some vehicles, this is an option.

Another convenient option to have is an "auto start" port, which allows the truck engine to be re-started, similar to an auto start generator. Again, sometimes it is an option.

The difference between battery types becomes apparent quickly in these setups, as some batteries charge relatively slowly, while others (example LiFe) can accept very high charge rates.
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