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Old 04-13-2013, 05:15 PM   #1
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Help needed with battery charging

After a couple of month-long trips, I thought I had a pretty good understanding of the systems in my new (to me) 2000 Sea View. Then we tried boondocking for a few nights in a row and I realized how little I understood the various battery and charging options.

First evening...Full battery charge (F) indicated on test panel. Used power sparingly that evening, but furnace ran periodically in cold weather.

Next morning...wake to Low battery charge (L) on test panel. House batteries drained so low that I couldn't get the generator to crank. Tried to use the "start boost" switch on the dash to connect chassis to house batteries for starting generator. No effect, no crank. Found a good Samaritan to put jumper cables to my house batteries and got the generator to crank over and start. Ran the generator for two hours and the test panel showed Full battery charge (F).

Second morning ... wake up to hard-wired smoke detector beeping, refrigerator "check" light on, refrigerator warm, furnace fan running at a very low speed and not burning propane. I learned real quickly how many systems are affected by low voltage. At that point I abandoned the boondocking and headed to a park with full hook-ups before I lost all the food in the refrigerator/freezer.

Now....the questions.....

Question #1) The "start boost" switch is intended to connect the house batteries to the chassis battery so you have a "second chance" to start the vehicle if you happen to leave your lights on (or something like that) and drain your chassis battery. Why doesn't that same "start boost" switch allow you to use the chassis battery to boost the house batteries? Same concept. It seems there is just as high of likelihood that I'd drain the house batteries and need that "second chance" to get my gen cranked over.

Question #2) I thought my generator would have been able to provide a full charge to my chassis batteries in a two hour period. Is that reasonable??

Question 3) My first reaction was to replace my house batteries, assuming they weren't holding a full charge. How can I verify this before spending that money?

Thanks for any help/advice in advance....
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Old 04-13-2013, 05:29 PM   #2
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Hi Karlos, we seem to be in a similar situation. I believe getting a good hydrometer will give you great insight into your battery condition and health. I think we have at least one of four batteries damaged. After charging the voltage reads full or 12.7 V in our case. But try to apply a load and the bottom falls out. I believe all it takes is one bad cell in a battery system and it will pull the entire series down. Your hydrometer will tell you the health and charge state of each cell. Then you will know right where your battery function stands.

I believe your question on charging time depends, on how deeply discharged your batteries are and how healthy they are. Nevertheless, two hours should put a good deal of energy back into the batteries. I do know when I worked at the gas station many years ago we would put batteries on charge overnight, that is much more than 2 hours. The charger we have in our 5er performs Bulk and Absorption charging for about 3 hours before it goes into Float mode. Keep chipping away at it and you will get it. That's our plan.
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Old 04-13-2013, 05:41 PM   #3
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More like 6-8 hours to put a full charge on really low batteries. If you check battery voltage right after charging, you will only show a surface charge. Letting them sit overnight after a full charge, will tell you true voltage. Should be ~12.6 volts for lead acid batteries.



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Old 04-13-2013, 05:48 PM   #4
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Battery boost switch is merely a solenoid. You are correct in that it should work both ways ( maybe its bad)

To get full charge on house batteries, more likely at least 4-6 hrs or more if the batteries have been drained. You didn't mention the age of the batteries.

Make sure the charger portion of your inverter is working properly. Lots of things to check, don't give up, dry camping is some of the best times
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Old 04-13-2013, 06:31 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Karlos View Post
After a couple of month-long trips, I thought I had a pretty good understanding of the systems in my new (to me) 2000 Sea View. Then we tried boondocking for a few nights in a row and I realized how little I understood the various battery and charging options.

First evening...Full battery charge (F) indicated on test panel. Used power sparingly that evening, but furnace ran periodically in cold weather.

Next morning...wake to Low battery charge (L) on test panel. House batteries drained so low that I couldn't get the generator to crank. Tried to use the "start boost" switch on the dash to connect chassis to house batteries for starting generator. No effect, no crank. Found a good Samaritan to put jumper cables to my house batteries and got the generator to crank over and start. Ran the generator for two hours and the test panel showed Full battery charge (F).

Second morning ... wake up to hard-wired smoke detector beeping, refrigerator "check" light on, refrigerator warm, furnace fan running at a very low speed and not burning propane. I learned real quickly how many systems are affected by low voltage. At that point I abandoned the boondocking and headed to a park with full hook-ups before I lost all the food in the refrigerator/freezer.

Now....the questions.....

Question #1) The "start boost" switch is intended to connect the house batteries to the chassis battery so you have a "second chance" to start the vehicle if you happen to leave your lights on (or something like that) and drain your chassis battery. Why doesn't that same "start boost" switch allow you to use the chassis battery to boost the house batteries? Same concept. It seems there is just as high of likelihood that I'd drain the house batteries and need that "second chance" to get my gen cranked over.

Question #2) I thought my generator would have been able to provide a full charge to my chassis batteries in a two hour period. Is that reasonable??

Question 3) My first reaction was to replace my house batteries, assuming they weren't holding a full charge. How can I verify this before spending that money?

Thanks for any help/advice in advance....
Yes the boost switch works both ways. It simply connects both battery banks together to boost whichever needs it.

Your coach does not charge the chassis batt from shore or generator, only by running the engine. You can correct that by adding one of these, which I would highly recommend:

http://www.lslproducts.net/TLSPage.html

You could certainly have both low or bad house and chassis battery(s). Probably the easiest and best thing to is have them load tested at your local battery shop. Your chassis batt should get fully charged by idling or driving for 45-60 mins. Your house batts could take 8-24 hrs on shore to fully charge, depending on how depleted they are.

These 2 links below are a must read for RVer's. Of couse come back with any questions.

http://www.marxrv.com/12volt/12volt.htm

http://www.marxrv.com/12volt/12volta.htm
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Old 04-13-2013, 06:45 PM   #6
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Quote:
Why doesn't that same "start boost" switch allow you to use the chassis battery to boost the house batteries?
It does work both ways so it is possible yours has failed. They often fail. Easy to check.

Quote:
I thought my generator would have been able to provide a full charge to my chassis batteries in a two hour period. Is that reasonable??
Did you mean to say chassis batteries? because unless you have a bi directional system, only the alternator will charge the chassis batteries.

How old are your house batteries? if they are 4 or 5 years old it could not hurt to replace them. I would first check and clean all battery connections because a bad connection can fool you into thinking the battery is dead.
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Old 04-13-2013, 07:27 PM   #7
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You got some good tips from CYLON51. He also suggested an auxiliary battery charger that will charge your chassis battery when the inverter is running off shore power or when the inverter is running off the generator. There is another product in the same category Xantrex Echo-Charge it will charge the chassis battery initially at a higher rate but it costs two three times as much. The trick-l-start is intended to maintain you chassis battery at a charged state. The echo-charge will also maintain the chassis battery at a charged state, but it will also charge your battery from a weak state three times as fast. The trade-off is: it will charge the chassis battery quicker but you pay more money for that privilege.

One thing you didn't comment about. Did you try to start the motor? The motor will charge both sets of batteries.

The start boost switch operates a solenoid (i.e., a relay). That solenoid is what connects the two batteries together. In my motor home the start-boost solenoid is powered by the house batteries. It they are weak enough, they won't pull the solenoid in to connect the batteries together.

Remember the start-boost it intended to rescue you from a bad situation not an inconvenience. It will rescue from a low chassis battery stranding you in the wilderness.
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Old 04-13-2013, 07:48 PM   #8
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My MH charges both batteries when on shore or generator, and of course the alternator. My buddy's `04 LX (Chevy) version doesn't. I have an RV Custom Products battery control center(BBC).



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Old 04-13-2013, 08:22 PM   #9
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As noted, the battery boost relay is normally engaged by the house batteries. If these batteries are low, it is possible that the "boost" relay will not engage. I have had my house batteries run down to the point where my genny did not start and in this case, I always start my engine and run it to charge the house batteries to the point the gen will start. I never want to put myself in a position where my chassis and house batteries get run down while boondocking.

I now have autostart on my gen and it prevents running down house batteries too much. A good investment.for me.
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Old 04-13-2013, 08:27 PM   #10
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Good info v8Dave. I do know his coach does not have an inverter that controls battery charging. If he has an optional inverter, it's only the front and maybe rear TV. His coach does operate the boost switch with power from the coach batteries, so your point there is valid.

To the OP, as Dave said, if the boost switch doesn't seem to work, you should always try to start the engine. That will certainly charge the chassis AND house batteries when necessary. That Trik-L-Start is the way to go in your situation. It will always maintain and charge your chassis batt while on shore power (camping or stored) as well as running the genny.

The worst thing you can do for any battery, is to let it sit any length of time without maintaining a charge to it. This is especially true for RVs since there are always a drain on the chassis batt due to engine computer, radio and clock settings as well as the powering of entry steps. All this varies from chassis mfgs. For the most part, the house systems such as propane, CO2 and smoke detectors remain powered even if the battery disconnect is engaged.
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Old 04-14-2013, 04:53 AM   #11
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Muchas Gracias for the tips and knowledge

The people in this forum deliver tons of knowledge and suggestions! The links to marxrv 12v tutorials were great info ... My thanks to all. Here is what I take away from it.......

The "start-boost" is bi-directional....and conceptually should have allowed the chassis battery to boost my depleted house batteries to crank the generator. The solenoid that operates it probably didn't activate due to the low voltage state of the house batteries (or the solenoid is faulty).

My full charge reading after two hours of generator charging was probably erroneous; a false "surface charge" likely. The two hour charge time was probably not enough time to fully charge the depleted house batteries. 6-8 hours on a good charger may be more like it. I will look into getting a better charging and monitoring system.

And I need to get better at my battery hygiene. Like flossing your teeth....you know its good for you but you would rather not do it. I'll start with the basic hydrometer measurements to check cell health and fluid levels. Since I don't know when the previous owner replaced the house batteries, they may also be getting old.

Again...thanks to all
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Old 04-14-2013, 05:56 AM   #12
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Might be an idea to go easy on the furnace while boondocking as it is a huge drain on the batteries. I turn ours off while sleeping and then back on in the morning with the generator. Some drop the temp lower to conserve battery power.
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Old 04-14-2013, 08:50 AM   #13
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It seems your questions are pretty well covered. The main points to think about would be-does your emergency start switch work when their is some charge in the coach batteries, and the generator needs way more than 2 hours to fully charge the batteries.
I suggest you pick up a fairly powerful "jump box" to keep with you. I got one at Wally World for about $100.00 that will start the engine if hooked to the chassis battery, or start the generator if the coach batteries are dead. I keep it in the basement out of the way and it will stay up for months. You can recharge it with 12 v. or 120 v. Best peace of mind you can buy for $100.00. Then you can be the good Samaritan.
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Old 04-14-2013, 02:05 PM   #14
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When batteries are made, they put a usually round white sticker on the side with the month/year. I.E. A8 would be Jan 2008.



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