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Old 01-22-2020, 08:18 PM   #1
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Engine and Generator won't start with new batteries--did I fry something?

Hi. This week I had left my RV sitting in storage for a little too long between recharges--and my troubles began.

Normally my solar panels give a bit of charge, but now that we've moved to Washington, we're not getting much sun.

Chassis batteries were getting pretty old, and I could not start the engine with them at 40 degrees here near Tacoma. At first the battery-boost button appeared to give me close to 12 volts.

But the batteries seemed to deplete so quickly with the effort to power the glow plug and then crank the engine that the voltage quickly discharged, then killed the generator too. I could then restart the generator, at first. I was concerned that with little sun, I would not be able to charge anything up if the batteries got too flat.

I could not get the chassis batteries to charge above 11.8 volts, even after running for an hour and a half.

My inverter panel told me that batteries were absorb charging, but my portable voltmeter told me that the chassis batteries were at 11.7 volts.

I was not sure whether I had a charger problem, or an old-battery problem. I figured the 3 1/2 year old batteries were the most likely issue.

I wanted to get my engine running to help the alternator charge the chassis batteries directly, help confirm their inability to hold charge, and keep the cylinders lubed over the winter.

I tried starting the engine again, with the generator on. But it killed the generator--turned it right off.

Not sure that the battery-boost button was working--it did not seem to get me much charge--nkt much indicated on the dash voltmeter.

So I figured I would jump the booster solenoid by connecting the positive poles together, hooking up the house and chassis battery banks. And this I think was where my problems got worse.

I was able to crank the engine, and almost got it started before the batteries lost umph. In for a penny, in for a pound, I figured I should leave the two banks connected awhile, with the generator on, as maybe the short-term boosted surface charge wasn't enough, but maybe letting the house batteries charge awhile would help me get me a deeper chassis-batteries charge so I'd be able to start the engine.

So I left the booster solenoid jumped for about a half hour.

And as another possible blunder, I used the 110-volt AC engine-block warmer, powered by the generator, in an effort to warm the engine, to crank more easily.

But this caused the inverter to read "DC Power Overload." Uh-oh, that can't be good. I then read the fine print in my manual that this is a no-no, engine-block heater s take a lot of juice, and should not/cannot be run by the inverted power of the generator.

I noticed that the instrument panel lights were not working suddenly. I wondered if I had blown a fuse--like with a power surge or something. But the headlights and other DC Power seemed to work fine.

I threw up my hands, and pulled the old chassis batteries, and replaced them with a pair of new Deka 12-volt 1000 CCA chassis batteries with 12.6 volts measured by portable voltmeter.

Went to the genset switch, seemed to run the glow plug normally, but the genset would not crank. Hmm. Should have started right up.

Tried cranking the engine, same thing. Beeping of low-air as usual while glow plug warms, but then nothing, would not crank.

Tried again, this time funky lights on the panel--my
brights indicator was on, two turn signals on but not blinking, and some other lights. Gremlins. The lights dimmed, then came back on. Crap.

I turned the ignition key off, but everything stayed on--including the air-system beep. Double crap.

I turned it on, then off--could not shut off the ignition-switched electronics. It seemed possessed.

I went back to the battery compartment and switched off the house and chassis power switches, which stopped the beeping, and the lights. There was a few seconds of buzzing--weird sound--then nothing. I don't know whether that is normal or not, I don't turn on the go back to the battery compartment.

So I wonder if I fried something when I hooked up the house and chassis batteries, or when I tried powering the engine-block heater with the inverted 110 power from the generator.

What would cause these symptoms? What must I do to get my genset and engine to start cranking again? Did I fry a relay? Any ideas about how I can diagnose this problem? I would not think that I blew relevant fuses because I wouldn't get any power at all, I wouldn't get the engine and genset glow plugs going; i'd get nothing.

Or is it time to contact the dreaded mobile mechanic?

Any help with this would be great.

Thanks.

Doug
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Old 01-22-2020, 08:58 PM   #2
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Can't help much, but will say, there's a very good chance your generator is wired to get it's cranking power from the house bank, not the new chassis batteries.

Good luck!!
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Old 01-22-2020, 09:42 PM   #3
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I would think the Engine preheat should be 110 and not wired through the inverter, shore power or gen set only. And the gen should get It's 12v starter power from the house batteries not the engine.maybe you've had some dirty ground and positive lead connections all along. And your battery kill switches can be dirty or bad as well as any relays. It's a half a day to just start pulling them off one by one and clean them.
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Old 01-23-2020, 12:33 AM   #4
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Sounds like you need new house batteries too. As stated the generator is generally started by the house batteries.

Engine block heater will not be wired to inverter power. Draws too much amperage.

Try your auxiliary start switch again now that you have good engine batteries (if you wired them right). Hold it down for a couple of minutes and while holding it down try to start genset from house batteries. 12 volts from a 12 volt battery is almost totally discharged. Use volt meter to make sure inverter/charger is pushing 13.5+v to both engine and house batteries to be sure ic is doing its job.

By the way your connecting across the terminals of the solenoid just does the same thing as holding down the aux start switch.
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Old 01-23-2020, 07:09 AM   #5
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Take a deep breath.

The heart of any RV is the battery systems. If they are funky, then things can go bonkers easily.

When changing batteries it is so easy to forget to tighten a terminal or to drop a wire or worse, to connect things backwards.

Starting with your voltmeter and a note pad document the voltages across both banks of batteries.

Take some pictures and post them here along with your readings.

It is very possible you have more than one problem.

Post the yr and model of the rv. The picture is a bit too small for my old eyes.

If you have a severely low bank of batteries all kinds of strange symptoms can occur as you are finding.

Getting voltage measurements before you begin to clean and tighten all the battery wires and connections is a must. Knowing what you fix by accident is important. A loose terminal can deal a lot of misery as can bad grounds.

This amazing group of talented folks will walk you through it.
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Old 01-23-2020, 08:07 AM   #6
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Quick comments:

1) If you will put the year, make and model of your RV on your signature line or in your text, people will be FAR better able to help you.

2) There really isn't/wasn't a good standard on whether generators are on the house battery or the chassis battery. On our coach, it is on the chassis battery. On many it is on the house battery. The fact that your engine starting current and the resulting voltage drop kills your generator suggests yours might be like ours, on the same battery.

3) The engine alternator IS NOT a battery charger in the bulk sense. Yes, it charges the batteries, but using it to bring significantly discharged batteries up to full charge is asking more of it than it was intended to provide. If you want to bring low batteries back to full charge, do it with your generator rather than the engine.

4) Terry is right. Unless you powered your block heater with an extension cord, that outlet should not be fed from your inverter.

I so wish I could be there to help you, but from what you've described you might have a real challenge on your hands. Your experience with the "ignition" switch is particularly disconcerting. Myron is right, there's a lot of help for you here, but there are going to be lots of questions, I suspect. Good luck and hang in there.
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Old 01-23-2020, 03:33 PM   #7
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If you have any way to get 120 volt put a charger on your batteries and let it run 24 hours. I would do this for both set's of batteries. After a full day of charge try to start the engine. If it does not start pull the batteries and meter each looking for a bad battery. If no 120 volt pull the batteries and take where they can be charged. Diesels like a full charge to start.
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Old 01-23-2020, 03:49 PM   #8
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First I would remove all batteries take them to Interstate Batteries to have them checked out before going forward.
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Old 01-23-2020, 11:38 PM   #9
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When you are running the generator the inverter charger won't charge the chassis battery, it charges the house batteries only. You can buy different things to do that
but they don't charge much and some don't charge the chassis battery until the house
batteries are up. I made my own thing that can charge up to 80 amps. Starting the main engine will kill the generator as the starter uses so much current that the voltage drops too much for the generator to run. I ski so I needed my generator to keep running so I made up something to keep the generator running.
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Old 01-23-2020, 11:45 PM   #10
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When you are running the generator the inverter charger won't charge the chassis battery, it charges the house batteries only. You can buy different things to do that
but they don't charge much and some don't charge the chassis battery until the house
batteries are up. I made my own thing that can charge up to 80 amps. Starting the main engine will kill the generator as the starter uses so much current that the voltage drops too much for the generator to run. I ski so I needed my generator to keep running so I made up something to keep the generator running.
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Old 01-23-2020, 11:47 PM   #11
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When you are running the generator the block heater will run off the generator not
the inverter.
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Old 01-23-2020, 11:54 PM   #12
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Thanks Ben and/or Sharon. I don't know where my generator draws its power. The house batteries are pretty new, and have been consistently holding their power well. One of the posts below suggests that the generator might be wired to the chassis batteries because trying to power up the engine sometimes kills the generator. Thanks for the input, I'm going to work on this more tomorrow.

Doug
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Old 01-23-2020, 11:57 PM   #13
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Thanks Shootist. I'm going to get everything cleaned up soon. Been pouring rain here--requiring standing in a puddle of water with rain dripping on my head and shoulders while I'm doing work back there with a lot of amps. A little unsettling. Doug.
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Old 01-24-2020, 12:01 AM   #14
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Thanks Terry and/or Alice. House batteries are pretty new and have been holding their charge pretty well. I will work tomorrow or over the weekend with the auxiliary switch/battery boost to see what I can do. Doug
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