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Old 01-13-2022, 01:36 PM   #1
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How do I tell if my BIRD charger is working?

I'm plugged into shore power at the storage yard. My house batteries are charged up just fine, showing about 13.6 V or so, if memory serves me correctly. The chassis batteries were dead beyond recovery. They were down to just above 8 volts. I put my car portable charger on them overnight, and they wouldn't take a charge. I just replaced them with two new Group 31 chassis batteries.

The question now is why did they both just die like that? I don't know if the built in charger in my coach is charging the chassis batteries they way it should. I'm terrible with electricity, so I'm not sure if I went about testing the right way here. Here's what I did:


1- Tested the old batteries before removing them. They were about 8 volts before charging overnight. They were 11 after charging overnight when I tested them.

2- Tried to start the engine with the now "charged" batteries. It turned over VERY slowly but eventually started. I tested them with the engine running and got around 13.3 volts, so I know the alternator is charging them.
3- I shut the engine and tested the batteries again, they were about 11.6 volts. Still not good. I plugged the coach back into the 110v shore power, it showed charging on the control panel, but the readings at the bad batteries were still what they were before plugging in the charger. No change at all. If the charger was working, and the batteries are low (which they were), shouldn't the charger kick in on line and reflect a higher voltage when measured at the batteries similar to what the alternator does?
4- I installed the new bateries, and everything looks good voltage wise. The old batteries tested bad at the store, these new ones work great. The engine spins right up to speed and starts well. When I test the voltage at the new batteries it's well over 12 volts, I believe if I remember correctly it's 12.6, that's with the engine off and the shore power unplugged.

5- I plug in the shore power and check the voltage at the new batteries, which clearly do not need a charge, and it remains the same at about 12.6 or so. No change. Not sure of that's because they're already charged and ready, or because the charger isn't charging the chassis batteries. It didn't show a voltage increase with the very low voltage on the old batteries either. Should it?



Bottom line, it's clear that the engine alternator is charging the chassis batteries with the engine running, and the shore powered on board charger is charging the house batteries while parked, but I have no indication that the shore powered on board charger is charging the chassis batteries. How do I tell for sure, and if it's not how do I repair it? Maybe I didn;t wait long enough to test the voltage after I plugged the charger in? Does it take a while to sense the need to charge befre it does so? I only waited a minute or so, the time it took me to walk around to the battery bay after plugging in and testing. I don't know where this BIRD and solenoid is located in the coach and what it looks like.



What do you guys think, and what should I do next? My charger/inverter system is the Magnum system that came with the coach from Newmar in 2005. Other than this it seems to be working well.



One last thing - until I get this sorted out is there a benefit at all to going back by the engine and shutting off the manual chassis battery dosconnect switch? I usually just store the coach with the house battery disconnect switch up front off. I'm not sure if that shuts the chassis batteries off too, but I don't beieve that it does. Would it be better to shut off the manual chassis disconnect switch until I sort out why both batteries died?
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Old 01-13-2022, 01:43 PM   #2
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You need to find out if you even have a Bird or IRD. If not many of u are adding somthing like this: AMP-L-START Starting Battery Charger/Maintainer - Overview PageMy first thought is you do not have a IRD or Bird.
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Old 01-13-2022, 01:52 PM   #3
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Definitely switch off the manual disconnects until you get it figured out. That will keep your batts from draining.

When you plug into shore power you should hear a relay click after a few mins of charging the house batts. That relay is your isolator joining the house and chassis systems. The house batteries have to be above a certain value in order for the isolator to join the systems. Once the systems are joined you should have nearly same voltage on all batteries.

In my system (BCC) there is a house battery disconnect fuse and a chassis battery disconnect fuse. If I want to be sure the batteries are completely disconnected (I don't have manual connectors) I have to pull both of those fuses. Not sure if you have a BCC or not.

Take pictures of your DC panels and post them here. People will be able to tell you which relay or circuit board or system to check.

-E
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Old 01-13-2022, 01:53 PM   #4
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My simple solution was to purchase a ScanGaugeD. I don't have a BIRD, only an IRD. The only thing that would charge my chassis batteries was the engine alternator. Pushing the momentary ON switch on the Battery Boost rocker switch would send current to the chassis batteries from the house batteries as long as the switch was depressed.
When I installed the Plug and Play ScanGaugeD I could read the chassis batteries voltage(plus a whole lot of other valuable stuff) anytime I wanted when they were at rest, being charged by the alternator or being boosted by the house batteries. I later installed a 5 amp TRIK-L-START to keep the chassis batteries charged by the house batteries without ever having to manually push the Battery Boost switch. It was almost as easy to install as the ScanGaugeD.
...
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Old 01-13-2022, 05:29 PM   #5
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After a LONG time on hold, I finally got in touch with Newmar customer service. I absolutely have a BIRD in the coach. He claims that every Newmar diesel has one. He believes that since the chassis batteries don't appear to be charging from shore power and the switch that activates the house batteries to help start the engine doesn't appear to be working, that the BIRD (a comination of a board and solenoid) is faulty. The board/solenoid for the BIRD system performs both these functions. It's $170 for a new BIRD and it's on the way. When in doubt just throw parts at it seems to be the theme of the repair here.
Hopefully it's pretty straightforward to install. He says it's in the electrical bay, so we'll see how that goes.
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Old 01-14-2022, 06:08 AM   #6
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Did anyone recently change the batteries?
In our Newmar coach the BIRD system is in the Electrical bay.


On the Left you see the BIRD. You can follow the wire from the "Relay" contact up to the big Isolator/Combiner Relay (White-Rodgers). This is the control wire that tells the relay to combine the house and chassis banks. It applies a 12V signal and then drops it down to a little under 4 V to hold the relay on.

Looking at the 2nd picture starting on the right you see a heavy cable that attaches to the battery disconnect relay. This is the House bank cable. Another heavy cable is also attached there and runs to the upper heavy terminal on the White-Rodgers relay. On the other heavy terminal you see another heavy cable - this is the Chassis Bank cable.
Theory of operation is that the BIRD senses the voltage on the House bank and if it senses charging going on (>13.3V) for more than a minute the BIRD sends the 12V signal on the Relay contact and it energizes the big White-Rodgers relay to combine both banks, thus charging the chassis bank too.
With a multimeter you can measure the voltage on each of the heavy terminals of the White-Rodgers relay. if the voltage is the same on each, the relay is working and so is the BIRD. If they are different make sure that the voltage on the House bank is above 13.3. If it is and the voltage on the Chassis bank is different (lower), then the big relay may be bad or the signal on the Relay contact is missing (remember that is starts out as 12V but lowers to 4V).
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Old 01-14-2022, 06:23 AM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Doug427 View Post
After a LONG time on hold, I finally got in touch with Newmar customer service. I absolutely have a BIRD in the coach. He claims that every Newmar diesel has one. He believes that since the chassis batteries don't appear to be charging from shore power and the switch that activates the house batteries to help start the engine doesn't appear to be working, that the BIRD (a comination of a board and solenoid) is faulty. The board/solenoid for the BIRD system performs both these functions. It's $170 for a new BIRD and it's on the way. When in doubt just throw parts at it seems to be the theme of the repair here.
Hopefully it's pretty straightforward to install. He says it's in the electrical bay, so we'll see how that goes.
It's more common for the solenoid to fail then the BIRD.
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Old 01-14-2022, 07:41 PM   #8
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All great info guys, thanks! Now that I see what it looks like, I hope they're sending me both the solenoid and the electronic box that controls it. I didn't think to ask at the time I ordered as I wasn't aware that it was a two component setup prior to ordering. They charged me $170 - I hope it's for both.
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Old 01-15-2022, 04:03 AM   #9
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More than likely you'll just get the BIRD. Before you start tearing out what you have, take a multimeter and follow the instructions I gave to see what is still working.
I'll ask again - did you just replace your batteries? I ask because a mis cabling can cause what you're talking about. It happened to me. The previous owner (or someone) replaced the batteries and ended up with an "extra" heavy cable (apparently, they didn't take pics of what was there before hand and didn't mark any cables). So they installed it on the house bank. Ended up that the extra cable was the feed from the chassis bank to the BIRD area and the way they wired it I ended up with the house bank on both sides of the big Relay so the chassis bank was not being charged. Once I discovered that and moved the cable to the chassis bank, all was working properly.
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Old 01-15-2022, 09:01 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by RKins View Post
More than likely you'll just get the BIRD. Before you start tearing out what you have, take a multimeter and follow the instructions I gave to see what is still working.
I'll ask again - did you just replace your batteries? I ask because a mis cabling can cause what you're talking about. It happened to me. The previous owner (or someone) replaced the batteries and ended up with an "extra" heavy cable (apparently, they didn't take pics of what was there before hand and didn't mark any cables). So they installed it on the house bank. Ended up that the extra cable was the feed from the chassis bank to the BIRD area and the way they wired it I ended up with the house bank on both sides of the big Relay so the chassis bank was not being charged. Once I discovered that and moved the cable to the chassis bank, all was working properly.
Rick, sorry about this delayed answer, I have been buried in a recurrent training class the last few days. I replaced the chassis batteries the other day, but this problem predates the change. The problem I'm having seems to have caused the chassis batteries to need to be changed. Prior to that I hadn't changed anything and until recently everything seeked to be working fine. Once I get released from this class and have a bit if time I'm absolutely going to run over to the storage yard and follow your excellent troubleshooting directions to see what I can find out. Can't thank you enough for all your help!
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Old 01-16-2022, 11:30 AM   #11
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The biggest problem for me was that the batteries are on the curb side and the electrical bay is on the street side
I would recommend taking the voltage reading on each bank and write them down so when you go to the other side to measure voltage in the electrical bay, you can compare what you're seeing to what you wrote down.

Good luck and let us know what you find, to include voltages on each of the larger studs on the big relay.
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Old 01-16-2022, 01:11 PM   #12
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Very simple to check. On mine I simply pull up the “engine “ page on my display, turn on the ign key and see what the voltage say. If its the same as the house batteries you’re good. Also before throwing parts at it the B.I.R.D senses the house battery voltage. My mine quit working and all that happened was a small resettable CB had tripped due to me working on the bank. Reset and it was that simple. If you want I have 2 great documents that tells you all you need to know about both the relay and the Big Boy solenoid. You can call me at 817-715-0137 or message me here if you want to chat about it.
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Old 01-16-2022, 06:42 PM   #13
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Where is that breaker located? I don't even know if I have that. I'll PM you my email address so that you can send me the documents if you don't mind. That would be great. Between your info and what Rick posted hopefully I can get this all sorted out. We're heading down to Port Aransas for a week next week at it would be nice to have this issue behind me.
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Old 01-16-2022, 10:43 PM   #14
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On mine it’s in the elec box located in the passenger side of the engine compartment just above the Hydraulic tank. Same location as the relays we are discussing. Sure it varies with each coach
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