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Old 07-21-2009, 11:50 AM   #1
JDT
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Electrical Questions

Yesterday I read the thread about the battery cut-off switch. I thought all along I was having problems with the switch on my 05 Ambassador but when I checked the solenoid, it was the culprit. I did the bypass and think I will leave it at that.

In doing the work I figured out I don't know near as much as I thought I did about how the electrical system works. I keep the coach plugged in to 50 amp when it is parked at home. When I turned off battery cut off switch in the battery compartment I still had power at the solenoid. Not till I unplugged the 50 amp did it kill the power. I guess the converter feeds the power to coach and bypasses the batteries. I had always assumed when I turned off the main switch it killed everything, even if it was plugged in to shore power.

I just went through the electrical section in my manual and it is not really clear to me about how the system works when on shore power vs. battery power. Can anyone explain to me how the batteries and converter work together when plugged into shore power vs. not?

Also, I have the Magnum inverter/converter with the small control panel inside the coach. There is a setup button but I have never touched it. Whatever it does it is still doing the same thing since we bought it 4 years ago today, to be exact. Is there best way to set it up, is it automatic, or what? Again, I read the manual but still not sure if there is anything I need to do or should do, for that matter.

Sorry if this has been covered before or if it is too basic. I do all my own maintenance but this is one part I never really tackled.

JimT
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Old 07-21-2009, 06:32 PM   #2
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Yes, Now, this is not by any means accurate however think of the electrical system in your coach as though you have a long water pipe..

At one end of the pipe you have a pump (The converter) that runs on 120 vac and pumps water into the pipe till the proper pressure is reached

At the other end of the pipe you have an accumulator tank (Pressure tank) that stores water under pressure (That's the battery)

"T-ed" into the pipe are all the lights, furnace, fans, and such that run on 12 volts.

If you put a valve (Switch) at the battery, and the pump (Converter) is still there. you still have pressure in the line

Now: The major difference between plumbing and electricity

Electricity flows when the switch is closed
Water, when the valve is open

And, frankly.. that's it
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Old 07-24-2009, 07:49 AM   #3
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I think this is a good discussion to have on this forum since I find the electrical system of my coach confusing and without a wiring diagram I am at a loss to figure out how it all works. As an example, I find that the 120v circuit on one side of the coach: outlets, TV, microwave as a minimum, is protected by 30 amp circuit breakers on the converter/inverter/charger but the other side outlets are protected by breakers on the main 120v distribution panel. Also, there are two 30 amp breakers on the converter but I only know what one protects since I tripped it once.

Also when I turn on the ignition key to start the coach I hear heavy relays cycling but have no idea what they control or where they are (I know about the batt cutout relay in the driver's side electrical box and I know there is a large relay in the battery compartment). A wiring diagram would be really helpful when the inevitable electrical problem arises - where can I get one?

So this thread can be useful to help us who want to have a better understanding of our coaches electrical systems - 12v and 120v - wiring, function, protection, power sources, etc.

Thanks for the consideration and post information and thoughts you might have.

Lew
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Old 07-24-2009, 01:14 PM   #4
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JDT....I'll take a shot at this...

Your coach has three ways to power it, batteries, shore power and geneartor.

Lets start with the shore power. You're coach is designed to run on a maximum of 50 amps. This part gets a little confusing. If you look at your 50 amp power plug, it has four prongs on the plug. One is a ground, one is a neutral and the other two are hot/power. The two power prongs EACH bring in 50 amps to your coach, effectively giving you 100 amps of power. When connected to the 50 amp plug everything in your coach will work, both A/C's, electric water heater, etc.

When you're at a campground and there is only 30 amp power, you'll notice that there are only three prongs on the plug. You lose one of those 50 amp prongs and the other prong is only receiving 30 amps from shore power. You'll only be getting 30 amps and you are limited to running only certain things in your coach. Your 110 volt system is protected by circuit breakers, just like in your house.

The generator is doing the same thing your shore power cord does by supplying 50 amps to your coach. Again, the generator will power everything in the coach. The generator is the DEFAULT power which means....if you plug into shore power and turn on the generator at the same time, the coach will automatically use the generator power over the shore power. The generator has it's own circuit breaker to protect just the generator, usually located on the face of the generator.

The coach decides to use either shore power or generator by switching from one to the other with the help of the TRANSFER switch. It's usually located inside the bay where your power cord is located. It senses where the power is coming from, either the generator or shore power, selects the one it senses and sends it into the coach.

Your batteries are the third way to power your coach and they're involved in all three methods in some way. Most of your systems such as lights, water heater, refrigerator, radios, etc, are all powered by 12 volts (batteries). When your parked and using just your batteries, the power is coming directly from them and nowhere else. You may notice a slight dimming of your lights when your using ONLY your batteries. Your batteries also have circuit breakers and automotive fuses to protect the 12 volt systems.

When you plug into shore power or turn the generator on, all of those 12 volt systems are STILL being powered by your batteries, but your battery charger is replacing the power that is being drained from the batteries. The batteries are a big buffer between the shore power and genrator and give you nice even lighting. When plugged into shore power or your generator is on, you are also powering the outlets in your coach and supplying power to things like your TV, electric water heater, electric side of your refrigerator etc.

Finally, your batteries can provide 110 volt power for short periods of time by inverting the power. Your battery charger converts 110 volts to 12 volt power and the inverter does basically the opposite. It inverts (or converts) 12 volt power into 110 volt power. The inverter can drain your batteries quickly, depending on how many batteries you have.

Your Magnum unit has a few settings that you should check to make sure are set properly. Some of the settings are:

As you use your inverter, it drains your batteries. There is a setting to turn the inverter off at a determined voltage so that you don't ruin your batteries. If you look at your battery gauge when you first turn your inverter on, your voltage will read something like 12.4 volts. As you drain those batteries with the inverter you'll see the voltage drop, 12.1, 11.9, 11.8 etc. I set my inverter to turn off when the batteries reach 11.0 volts to prevent damage.

Type of charge setting- You more than likely have acid batteries. Your Magnum can be set for gel cell, acid and I think one other. You need to make sure it's set for acid batteries (not sure if it calls them acid without looking at the screen).

Your batteries also have an amp hour rating. The Magnum has a setting for your total amp hours so it charges your battery correctly. You need to look at the amp hour rating on your batteries (printed on batteries) and then match the setting on the inverter. The inverter is also protected by two circuit breakers on the side of the Magnum inverter. They are usually the first two trip when you overload anything inside the coach even when you're using shore power or genrator.

I hope this helps and that no one is offended by information that some may already know.
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Old 07-24-2009, 02:14 PM   #5
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Thanks to everyone for their replies, especially you Don for really going into detail in a way I can understand. I have already copied your reply for my book.

I probably should have given a little more information in that I have a pretty good knowledge of how electricity works, i.e., 120 vs. 240, hot, neutrals, ground, etc. I did my own wiring when we built our house and my shop a few years ago. What I did not understand is how the 12 volt works with the shore and generator power. I had an inkling from trial and error but not much more than that. I must have been doing something right though as we have owned our coach 4 years as of the 21st and never had one minutes worth of electrical problems other than the solenoid for the door cut-off switch.

I do keep my batteries watered, have a Trik-L-Start to keep the chassis batteries up and an in-line Progressive surge protector that is wired to protect both shore and generator power. If anyone can think of anything else I might need let me know.

At least I'm a little better off than my friend with an 04 Endeavor who usually joins us on our trips. He decided to put in a 50 amp service at his house and wired the 2 120 sides correctly but when he got to the recepticle he decided 30 amp was enough. He wired the 2 hot legs for the 50 amp to the hot and neutral sides of the 30 amp outlet. When he plugged in his cord with the 30 amp adapter it sent one of the hot sides down the neutral wire. Fried his converter and few other things to the tune of $2200. When he called a dealer to make an appointment he told them the problems were caused by "the guy" who wired his outlet wrong.

Thanks again.

JimT
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Old 07-24-2009, 06:59 PM   #6
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JimT....I'm set up the same way as you and things have been working well. I didn't want to offend anyone with a simplistic description, but everyone has different skill levels.
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Old 07-24-2009, 08:52 PM   #7
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Jim T, If you camp at places that might experience low voltages or only have 30 amp hookups you may want to consider a Hughes Autoformer or equivalent. We have been places that have had low voltage and the Hughes unit has done a good job for us.

Diplomat Don, Thanks for the thorough electrical systems descriptions.
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Old 07-25-2009, 11:26 AM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by LewF View Post

Also when I turn on the ignition key to start the coach I hear heavy relays cycling but have no idea what they control or where they are (I know about the batt cutout relay in the driver's side electrical box and I know there is a large relay in the battery compartment). A wiring diagram would be really helpful when the inevitable electrical problem arises - where can I get one?



Lew
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When you turn the ignition to the first position to the right a series of relays are engaged. The first one is a solenoid that connects the 12v chassis battery to to various components such as the fuel lift pump, injector pump, etc. The reason for this solenoid is that all the make ready devices that need to be energized pull way too much amperage than the ignition switch is capable of. Also, there are a series of self checks required before the engine can (should) be cranked. As the engine ECM cycles through its checklist it brings them on line via various relays which is what you are hearing.

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