Thursday, October 6, 2011

Our batteries aren't working, any suggestions?

I am having some real issues with heating and electricity.  I think this is first time I have had to use my lights for such a long time in the evening, and I've had the heater on more than usual.  It's cold in The Palms, and I've had to use the heat from the truck/cab heater to keep us warm today.

My batteries keep going down to zero on my panel, the lights flicker, the fridge is twittering, and I'm not sure what's going on.  I'm connected to the electric here, and my TV, microwave and elect. outlets are working, so the park electricity seems to be okay.

I just ran the generator for a few minutes, and the battery lights went to 3/4 full.  I turned off the generator, turned on the heater and within a few minutes the fridge was alerting me with twittering, and my CCI Controls - LPG Gas Leak Detector was going from Operating to Fault-low voltage.  The manual says the orange Fault light goes on if the battery voltage goes below 8.5. 

When I'm in a park with electricity, shouldn't that be what the rig uses for heat, lights, fridge, etc.?  Or are my coach batteries ALWAYS used for those things, the same as when I'm dry camping?

When I start my engine, in a few minutes the panel shows the batteries are full, but they quickly go back to zero if I turn on a light or the heat.  Something is really draining them quickly.

This morning I checked the breakers and all the fuses in my Power Converter, and everything looked good.

My batteries are Interstate, I had them put in in August, so they are virtually brand new, and I've been in a park with electricity almost every night.  I went out in the rain today for about an hour to check my generator and  battery cells.  (When the batteries are so low, my generator won't start, and if I have any truck engine issues, I won't be able to start the truck with the generator under the current conditions.)  I added a little oil to the generator, and added a little distilled water to all the cells.  I'm not sure how full they should be, but I could see water in the front cells, and added a little to each one just in case. 

I can't find anything specific on the forums about this, and the books that came with the rig don't say anything specific that I understand.  Can you guys help with comments?  Or direct me to a website that has this information?

When I'm in a park with electricity, what should the coach batteries be doing?  Do you think the batteries are just bad?  Connected wrong?

As you can see from the weather gadget on the left panel, the temperature right now is 40 degrees, feels like 24 degrees.  And it's 6:20.  It's going to be a COLD night.  (Last night I had Katie up in the bunk with me, and with my down comforter and a quilt, were were toasty, so we'll be warm once we go to bed.  Which might be soon...) 

If you are able to help, thank you!!

Another thing, I was thinking of going into town tomorrow to get an electric heater.  One of the forums said Vornado at Target is a good one.  If I get one, then I can plug it in and use it with my electricity, right?  Then I won't have to use the coach heater?

PS - In reading my manuals and more forum reading, I found my refrigerator Climate Control Switch was ON, and I turned it OFF.   If it is ON, it is a constant drain on the battery, and is mostly for warm humid weather.  So, that was one thing...

From Me and Katie, have a great Thursday evening, everyone!  :)


  1. Sorry to hear you're having such annoying problems!

    The first thing I'd do is check all the battery connections. Clean them if necessary, and tighten the clamps or bolts holding the cables to the batteries.

    Be VERY careful when doing this--don't wear any jewelry, especially bracelets or necklaces, and don't let your tool (wrench or screwdriver) accidentally bridge between battery contacts. If that were to happen, the tool or bracelet could instantly weld itself in place across the terminals. You'd be burned... but worse than that, the battery could explode and shower your face with acid. I'm not trying to scare you; I'm just saying: don't take any chances on shorting two battery terminals together.

    "When I start my engine, in a few minutes the panel shows the batteries are full, but they quickly go back to zero if I turn on a light or the heat. Something is really draining them quickly."

    Not necessarily. A few minutes of charging from the engine's alternator can't replenish seriously depleted batteries, which your clearly are. Also, idling the engine charges the batteries quite slowly; they are meant to charge normally at driving speeds. (Prolonged idling isn't good for your engine anyway.) It would take at least an hour of driving to bring them back to a full charge.

    What you're seeing is a short-term "surface charge"--a temporary voltage boost that doesn't really mean the battery is full of power. Unfortunately, without an intelligent battery monitor such as a LinkLite, you really can't tell what's going on from those "idiot lights" your RV's maker gave you.

    "My batteries are Interstate, I had them put in in August, so they are virtually brand new..."

    Assuming the terminals are making good contact, it sounds as if the batteries aren't holding a charge. It's possible, though unlikely, that even though the batteries are new, one or more cells is defective. Would it be worth calling the place that installed them for advice?

    "I was thinking of going into town tomorrow to get an electric heater. One of the forums said Vornado at Target is a good one. If I get one, then I can plug it in and use it with my electricity, right?"

    Absolutely! Whenever you're plugged into campground power in cold weather, you should be using electric heaters to keep the coach warm rather than using the propane-fired furnace. They're better, quieter, and don't run down your batteries or (obviously) use up propane.

    If possible, buy two heaters that have a half-power setting (typically 750 watts) as well as full power. That way you can run both of them on the same electrical circuit without tripping a breaker. (You'll probably need to turn off the heaters temporarily when you use your Toastation, however.) Two heaters running at half power, placed at different locations in the coach, will do a much better job of maintaining a comfortable temperature throughout than one heater running at full power.

    FYI, cheap heaters put out just as much heat as expensive ones, since all electric heaters are 100% efficient at converting electricity into heat... so you don't need to buy expensive ceramic heaters. I've tried many brands, but now I use a pair of $15 Holmes heaters purchased at Walmart.

    I hope this is helpful.

  2. Your lights, fridge, and furnace all need 12 volts from your batteries all the time. When you are plugged into electric, your converter should be charging your coach batteries but apparently that's not happening right now. You have a tripped circuit breaker, blown fuse, or possibly a bad converter. If you have access to a battery charger, you can connect it to your coach batteries until you get the problem fixed.
    I have followed and enjoyed your blog since your adventure. Good luck!


  3. I really like the advice from Andy, He has been doing this for a while now. It was interesting to hear about ceramic vs regular electric heaters. I was told to buy ceramic. I also have the regular ones and its a Holmes from Walmart. My MH is either 23 or 24 ft and one keeps it really warm.
    Anon, said all those things need battery power even when plugged in I never new that either.
    It's good to read these blogs.

    Good luck tomorrow finding out why this is happening

  4. Andy is an expert when it comes to this stuff. His suggestions are spot on.
    For additional information, this web site is where a bunch of full timers post. They would be glad to have the opportunity to help you out.

  5. Yes, you still need good batteries, even when plugged into shore power. I have gone through 4 coach batteries in 5 years! The original one, then a new one, lasted a year, then another one, which lasted 8 months & now the fridge panel reads low dc when I turn on a light & use my water pump & I'm plugged into shore power. Come to find out, my converter is bad. It's either not recharging like it should be, or it's boiling my battery. So I ordered a new converter & will be installing it. I ordered an inteli-power converter that has a optional charging wizard which gets plugged into the converter & controls how the converter charges the battery. I picked it up on Tuesday, but haven't installed it yet. However, with inspecting it last night, I saw that it uses a fuse. I wonder if my old one has a fuse? Will have to google that to see. Find out where your converter is & see what it is. Google it for more info.

    I use a space heater in my RV. I never use my furnace because one of the vents would blow on one of my dogs, which would not be good for the dog - the vent is HOT. Plus the use of propane is insane with them. Where I live, I also had to get something to fight the condensation when using the heater. I ran into a serious mold problem last winter. So I got 3 driZair units that use granules that absorb the humidity & drip it into water. But it could be toxic for Katie, so keep them clear of where she could be.

    I'll do a blog of installing my converter when I'm done procrastinating the installation of it. I plan on installing it myself.

    Oh & one more thing. Does your roof a/c have a heat strip or is it
    ducted air? mine isn't ducted, so I could use the heat strip in mine, but not where I'm parked now due to electrical power. I can't use my a/c or heat here, but I remedied that with a portable a/c & different socket usage from my friend's house.

  6. I found the link to the converter I bought. They have a video explaining them as well on the page. I got a 30amp one because my rig is 30amps. Good luck!

  7. Hey Barbara, I can't help with the batteries, but I just wanted to let you know your posts have not been showing up on my blogger dashboard reading list. Some people use the blog roll on their blog, but I use the list that comes up n my dashboard to see the updates. When I selected your blog on the blog list, no posts came up at all the first time, and then when I checked it by clicking on a different blogger, theirs all came up, so I clicked on you again and yours showed up, but the most recent was "went to town today" 5 weeks ago!

    Gypsy wrote about it on her blog so that is what made me look.

  8. Barb, your posts are all showing up in my Google Reader now, so I think you've got things fixed.

    Great advice from Andy. He probably knows more about this stuff than anyone I know. I learn something from him every time someone asks him anything. He is so good about sharing his knowledge.

    Love the pictures of Katie.


Thank you for your comments - we LOVE them!