Battery Maintenance

Discussion in 'Wiring' started by BelchFire, Mar 13, 2018.

  1. BelchFire

    BelchFire I speak fluent vise-grip

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    Mar 29, 2012
    SE Georgia
    I have had notoriously bad luck with batteries all my life. So much so, that I was just as glad to buy a camper that had never had a battery on it since new. And it still doesn't. We camp almost exclusively at State Parks where power is abundant. On those rare occasions when we camp without power, we have plenty of Coleman lanterns and we just treat the camper like a glorified tent on wheels ... Mama sure is glad the potty works without power. :)

    I'm considering buying a camper that has a larger dinette because DS#2 is right at 6' and can't stretch out in our dinette now (DS#1 is already over 6' and at 16 and 14, they won't even discuss doubling up in the rear bunk). One camper that I'm considering has an electric lift and battery. With my past experience, a battery is more bane than a boon. My questions to you guys:

    1) The owner says the lift has a manual override; how does that work? In other words, what would happen (good OR bad) if I removed the battery completely?

    2) Do I have to store it with the battery connected to a trickle charger? Or is it SOP to remove the battery every time you get home?

    3) How much add'l charge can I expect to get from the TV while towing? Will it recharge a battery appreciably on a 2-3 hour drive?

    4) Does the converter (or some other function) charge the battery when connected to shore power? I.E. Can I store it with the shore power connected and expect the battery to be ready to go when I leave next trip?

    Thanks, I'm not really looking forward to adding battery maintenance to my checklist...
     
  2. BikeNFish

    BikeNFish Well-Known Member

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    Apr 24, 2017
    Maplewood, MN
    Manual override will take forever to pop up the top even if you use a power drill. You don't want to do this for your permanent solution.
    When I store it during the camping season, I disconnect the battery because the detectors inside the pup will slowly drain it. I completely remove the battery when the pup is stored and I use a battery maintainer on it all winter.
    A two hour drive will charge the battery enough to pop the top up, but you will have to monitor your electrical use if you are boon-docking to make sure you have power to lower the roof. A 7-pin harness connection is required for this to work.
    Yes, connecting to shore power will charge the battery. I do not know if keeping the pup plugged in 24/7 for extended periods will damage the battery, but I would not do this just to keep the charge. If the battery is dead, plugging into shore power will give the power lift the electricity to work. I have used my generator to do this in a pinch.

    In summary, it is nice to have the electric lift but it is a little bit annoying to have to worry about the battery all the time. The powerlift is also just another thing that needs attention. I had to replace the switch last summer.

    If I were to get another pup, an electric lift would not be a determining factor in my decision to buy. I have heard that it is no big deal to convert to a manual lift. If you get a pup with electric brakes, you will still need to keep the battery in working order as the emergency brake needs it to work.
     
    Last edited: Mar 13, 2018
  3. f5moab

    f5moab Retired from the Federal Government

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    Somewhere in Idaho
    1) The owner says the lift has a manual override; how does that work? In other words, what would happen (good OR bad) if I removed the battery completely?
    If it is a carefree powerwinch it has a bypass that can be used by hand or a power drill. A drill will take longer, but I used to raise my roof in about three minutes with a power drill. And for that reason, I had to use the power drill too many times, I yanked off the powerwinch and replaced it with a manual winch. The winch itself was not expensive and if you don't need to change the cable, it is an easy replacement.

    2) Do I have to store it with the battery connected to a trickle charger? Or is it SOP to remove the battery every time you get home? During the camping season, I just plug it into and extension cord to the garage and let it sit. You need to check the converter to make sure it is a three stage converter that will, after a set time, drop to a trickle charge and then it isn't a bad idea to make sure it is operating correctly and is dropping to a trickle charge.

    Need to find out what converter you have and then find out the operation modes.

    My WFCO converter has three modes of operation:

    Absorption Mode which outputs 13.6 Vdc range to allow charging of the battery(ies) and to run any appliances.

    Bulk Mode which outputs 14.4 Vdc for a maximum of four hours and is triggered when the RV voltage level drops to less than 13.2 Vdc.

    Float Mode which outputs a trickle charge of 13.2 Vdc after it has sensed there has been a no-load condition for 48 hours. This will keep the battery(ies) charged while parked in the driveway and plugged into the garage.

    I also check the different modes via a meter to make sure it is going into at least two of the modes; Absorption and Float in the driveway and checked the bulk mode a few times when camping.

    In the fall, I take mine into the garage and place on a battery minder to maintain the batteries till next spring.

    They are WET cell batteries, so you need to pop the hole covers and check the level and add distilled water if necessary. I do this about once every two months and at that time I also check the specific gravity of the electrolyte in each hole; unless I have been traveling on some nasty bumpy roads and due to the rough roads some electrolyte can literally "bounce" out of the batteries. So I carry a container of distilled water with me.
    My two "true" deep cycle batteries were purchased in 2011 when I got the trailer, and still going strong.

    3) How much add'l charge can I expect to get from the TV while towing? Will it recharge a battery appreciably on a 2-3 hour drive?

    Depends on the vehicle. I do know later model GM trucks have a charging system controlled by a PCM/BCM that monitors the vehicle's battery, and if it is fully charged and there is basically no load on the system (e.g., cruising down the road at a steady speed, no air/no heat, fully charged battery, etc.) it will drop to a minimum voltage output to save on the generator. However, if the lights are turned On (not the DRLs, actual headlamps via the switch) or it is placed into Tow Haul Mode), the charging system will boost to allow more voltage on the trailer wire.

    Will it charge a battery in x-number of hours? It depends on how drained the battery is when the traveling starts. I have camped for four days, and left the campground with about 12.29V charge on the batteries (just under 70%), and traveled about five hours running the fridge on DC, with the headlamps On (my '15 Silverado), and arrived at another site with the meter flickering between 12.5/12.6V (90-100% charge (monitored via a Tri-Metric meter installed in the trailer).

    To save battery power when camping, replace all the incandescent bulbs in the trailer that run off the battery with LEDs. Not expensive and the LEDs basically pull very little from the battery. My biggest drain on the batteries is the ceiling fantastic vent motor, heater fan and the water pump.


    4) Does the converter (or some other function) charge the battery when connected to shore power? I.E. Can I store it with the shore power connected and expect the battery to be ready to go when I leave next trip?
    Refer to 2.


    You will most likely need some type of 12 volt battery if your trailer has brakes. If there are brakes there is most likely a breakaway switch that will apply the brakes if the trailer disconnects from the TV. If you don't want a full size battery, there are smaller batteries designed just for the breakaway switch that are charged via the TV charge circuit when driving. And will supply enough power to engage the brakes if disconnected from the TV.
     
  4. BelchFire

    BelchFire I speak fluent vise-grip

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    Mar 29, 2012
    SE Georgia
    Uugh...


    This is my main concern; the "a little bit annoying" part,m plus the "more bells and whistles to go bad over time". We don't have a lot of time to camp as often as I'd like to and sometimes, it's only once or twice a year. The camper I have now isn't a problem for long periods of inactivity and the addition of a battery just seems like trouble to me.
     
  5. BikeNFish

    BikeNFish Well-Known Member

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    Apr 24, 2017
    Maplewood, MN
    It can be a problem, but I have avoided problems with due diligence. I have made sure that the battery is always ready to go before I need it and greasing and oiling the cables and pulleys helps with the strain on the motor.

    Don't get me wrong. When everything is working as it should, and most of the time it is, it is great having the power lift. My back is not the greatest and the power lift beats hand cranking every time.
     
  6. BelchFire

    BelchFire I speak fluent vise-grip

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    SE Georgia
    I have a Fleetwood that I'm cranking manually now. The one I'm looking at is also a Fleetwood, so I would expect the lift systems to be the same with the addition of a power motor on the whiffletree drive. I just don't know how that works, nor how the manual override works. I've downloaded the manual and will be reading soon.

    I'm driving a 2009 Siverado and will be towing in tow/haul mode at all times, so that's good to know.

    This is what concerns me about a battery; it just seems like more trouble and expense for something that I don't really need or want. You guys are about to talk me out of this one...
     
  7. BelchFire

    BelchFire I speak fluent vise-grip

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    SE Georgia
    I can't really put my finger on it, but this may be a great summary of how I'm seeing this. There's always a but. In this case, it's a good exception, but ...


    I'm sure I could enjoy the power life. DW certainly perked up when I mentioned it, but while she's starting that first load of laundry when we get back, I'll be the one out in the shop, taking the battery out of the camper and hooking it all up on the trickle charger and (historically) forking over $100 plus every couple of years for a new battery.

    Guys, please tell me I'm wrong about all this trouble; I'd like to make this work, but I'm not about to force a fit that just isn't right.
     
  8. jnc

    jnc Welcome from New Hampshire

    You could disconnect the things you dont want to use. Than the battery with only work the lift & brakes. My battery is 5 yrs old now. It stays on the camper during the season with a shutoff switch when not in use than garaged for the winter. during the winter I throw the charger on it 2 or 3 times to keep it happy. Its just a part of owning a camper to me.
     
    Last edited: Mar 13, 2018
  9. BikeNFish

    BikeNFish Well-Known Member

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    Maplewood, MN
    If you are storing it inside, a trickle charger would work fine. I the only reason I don't do this is because my pup is outside during the summer. I also have wingnuts on my battery that make disconnection easy.

    It really isn't "trouble", just something to keep in mind. My battery is 4 years old and is doing fine. I check acid several times a year and add distilled water when needed (not often).

    I am MUCH more fearful of snapping a random cable than I am about the battery going bad or something going bad with the power lift. I think you would like it. And like f5moab and I said, it is not difficult to swap out to a manual crank it you needed to.
     
  10. kitphantom

    kitphantom Well-Known Member

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    Complaints about batteries made me leery of them, but our second pup had one, so we learned to take care of it. Much of our camping is dry camping, so being able to have LED ceiling lights instead of flashlights, lanterns, and headlamps was really nice. I didn't know how nice it would be until we changed, though in the Cobalt, we still used a battery powered LED lantern for some tasks. It was also great to power the furnace, that expanded our season even more than the first pup did, and made those cold summer mornings in the mountains more comfortable.
    Having a battery for our style of camping did mean obtaining a way to charge it in camp, we chose solar. We also bought a battery charger for home.
     
  11. f5moab

    f5moab Retired from the Federal Government

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    Somewhere in Idaho
    If you maintain the batter by keeping it charge by plugging in the converter in the driveway and making sure it does not all under 12.06V (50%), and in the off-season, place it on a battery maintainer, and keep the levels up (wet cell) it will last for many years. Mine are six, going on seven years old and still going strong.


    Really sounds like you don't want the battery and are trying to prove it to yourself it is not a fit for you.
     
  12. mstrbill

    mstrbill Active Member

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    Mar 17, 2013
    Austin , Texas
    Fleetwood used the Barker lift and it's manual mode is not like the others being described here. You pull the wires to the motor, but when you crank it manually you are still cranking through the motor. You will do it once and make sure you have a good battery on your PUP. It my understanding the whole wiffletree assembly would have to be changed back to the manual one to convert to manual. However, you can hook up your TV either by jumper cables or the trailer plug if your battery is having problems.
     
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  13. BelchFire

    BelchFire I speak fluent vise-grip

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    Looking through the parts list, I found the motor, but didn't see any differentiation between whiffletrees, whether powered or not. I'll look again as I likely focused on the motor alone. Wouldn't want to have to replace the entire assembly.
     
  14. mstrbill

    mstrbill Active Member

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    Austin , Texas
    it's in the lift manual available from the library here. The Installation instructions for the lift have these two statements:

    PART NUMBER: 4757G3781 – BALL BEARING WHIFFLETREE ONLY

    These instructions are intended for 2000 to present model year trailers with a Ball Bearing Whiffletree Assembly.
     

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