No lights, then low voltage. Bad converter or loose wire? Currently Camping in it.

Discussion in 'Power - Site Power/Batteries/Generators/Solar' started by mpking, Jul 31, 2020.

  1. mpking

    mpking Well-Known Member

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    **UPDATE** Bad ground from Frame to Battery. The actual solution was pulling the connection off, sanding it down to remove the rust, and reattaching. Leaving the rest of the thread**

    So we're camping (right now). Just finished setting up. Sun went down so it's getting dark.

    Daughter goes into the Camper, and complains there are no lights.

    I go in. There are
    • No Lights (Lights Circuit)
    • No Propane alarm (Accessory Circuit)
    • No Voltage on the voltmeter (Accessory Circuit)
    • Did not test water pump.
    • I have 12.7 volts on the battery via the bayite voltage monitor off the battery. (I will call this Bayite to distinguish it from the voltmeter)
    I bust out my multimeter and confirm:
    • 12.7 at the battery
    • 12.7 at my first power block right next to the battery (I added this to add some circuits, the converter line feeds from this block).
    • 12.7 if I break the splice from the wiring harness into the Centurion 3000 converter.
    • All fuses on the front of the Centurion 3000 converter are good.
    I reconnected the splice. Now here is where laser focus on the problem doesn't help. The lights came back on at some point during my next tests, but I wasn't looking at the light, so I don't know when. IE I thought the lights were off when I reconnected the splice, and came back on when I moved the cables in my next round of testing. But I can't say for sure if they didn't come back when I put the splice back.

    The voltmeter is now showing 8.88 volts. (Bayite still shows 12.7 volts). I figure bad connection somewhere.
    I shove the multimeter probe INTO the splice on the converter, and I'm getting 8.88 volts. I disconnect the splice, I get 12.7 on the line from the battery.
    When I run the water pump (turned it on after all this troubleshooting) it seems to be running really slow, and taking a long time to come up to pressure.

    Questions:
    I know anything is possible.
    • Is it LIKELY a converter going bad could cause the really low voltage?
    • I could have a loose connection (God know the rats nest of wires in my converter box could be harboring ALL kinds of issues), but I lost both lights and the voltmeter/propane alarm. Those are two different fuses on my converter.
    • I HAVE NOT BLOWN ANY FUSES, so I doubt it's a short.

    Diagram to help picture what I was describing
    upload_2020-7-31_22-30-19.png

    More Background
    :
    This probably happened two trips ago, but I didn't lose lights until this trip.
    Two trips ago, The voltage meter started displaying 10 or 11 volts. But I had 12.7 on the Bayite, and since the voltmeter was just spliced onto the accessory circuit I didn't really think too much of it. (I remembered it, just didn't check into it)

    Last trip, I was on shore power the whole time, and the voltmeter read 13.3 the whole trip.

    Any help will be appreciated. We're going to camp it out power or not. (I'll lose my internet connection in a few minutes, I took a trip to write this) I'll be back sunday.
     
    Last edited: Aug 4, 2020
  2. SteveP

    SteveP Well-Known Member

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    Are you running off shore power or the battery?
     
  3. mpking

    mpking Well-Known Member

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    Battery
     
  4. zak99b5

    zak99b5 Active Member

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    Check the grounds. Couldn't hurt to check and clean/tighten all connections.
     
  5. SteveP

    SteveP Well-Known Member

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    Your converter is out of the loop if not running on shore power so not the issue. It's not a short. The voltage drop could indicate a heavy load on the system but if the batt is still showing full charge tested across the posts that's not it. So I'm thinking bad connection somewhere.

    Shootin in the dark, I would pull all fuses and test for voltage at the battery fuse clips. If the voltage drop is showing the problem has to be between the fuse panel and the battery or the fuse panel itself. Otherwise reinsert the battery fuse and test voltage at the circuit fuse clips. Reinsert the circuit fuses one at a time testing for voltage drop to find the circuit that's causing the problem.

    Like I said, shootin in the dark, but without actual eyes on that's the best start I can come up with.

    EDIT: But then I'm wondering, If the circuit is actually 8.8 volts why isn't the LP detector chirping, that indicates a complete disconnect somewhere.

    Another EDIT: When testing near the power center what are you using for a ground point for the meter?

    EDIT3: You've obviously done quite a few mods to the system. How are the negative 12 volt wires consolidated? Just a wire nut or a buss bar?
     
    Last edited: Aug 1, 2020
  6. mpking

    mpking Well-Known Member

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    @SteveP
    I'll give the test thru the fuses a try.

    Trust me, the propane detector is chirping. When the pump comes on, it whines. Randomly it chips for less than a second. (While me up last night at 2, thankfully everyone else slept thru it)

    I was using the ground bus bar on the back of the converter. I see what your getting at. I'll look at this bus bar and see if it's come loose. But with the feed from the converter disconnected, I read good voltage, so I don't think it's the ground.

    No bus bar next to the converter, just the factory wire nuts.
    The only mod in this area is adding the volt meter. That is spliced into the factory radio harness. I did unplug it, and stuff didn't get better.
     
    Last edited: Aug 2, 2020
  7. SteveP

    SteveP Well-Known Member

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    There is no feed from the converter without shore power. The current flows from the battery to the fuse panel. When you disconnected the wire you were only disconnecting the fuse panel.

    EDIT: I'm guessing that the battery fuse and clips in the power center are corroded. Pull the fuse. You can clean the clips with a tiny brush dipped in alcohol or baking soda solution. A Proxabrush would be good for this if you have one. If you don't have a new fuse you can clean the prongs with sandpaper or maybe just polish with a cloth. If it's not too bad sometimes just pulling the fuse and putting it back in will clean it enough for a temporary connection.
     
    Last edited: Aug 1, 2020
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  8. mpking

    mpking Well-Known Member

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    So we got home. Last night things seem to function better (no propane alarm chirps, or I was so tired I didn't hear it). Wasn't going to mess with it on the beach in the 90plus heat. Spent the days in the water like a sane man.

    I pulled the housing on the converter, exposing all the wirenuts.

    Pulled all the fuses out out of the front, and began taking measurements. (Wish I had AC, but least I'm not doing it by the light of the flashlight like I was on Friday).

    • Double checked all the grounds. Nice, tight, clean. I'm making the assumption that the cable to the frame is still good condition. (I could get a long string of cable and try to ohm it out between it and the battery, but I figured if I was getting good voltage readings, the ground is probably good. Hope I don't regret this assumption)
    • Pulled all the fuses out of the front.
    • Measured the voltage from the fuse connector. (Blue thing is my Bayite Battery Voltage monitor, reading a shunt off the battery). So .5 voltage drop through the factory wiring harness. Seems normal.
      upload_2020-8-2_15-24-11.png
    • Put the main fuse back in. 12.62
    • Put the lights fuse in. 12.62
    • Put the pump fuse in. 12.62
    • Put the accessories fuse in.... 9.6
      upload_2020-8-2_15-26-22.png

    So I don't have a bad converter.. (Yea?)

    Now I have to start testing each accessory.
    • Propane
    • Radio
    • Fridge (12V feed)
    • Toilet Pump.
    Other than hook them up one at a time, is there any other way of testing this? (Ohm'ing it somehow?) (I'm taking an AC break to cool down)

    Tagging some people that seem to have a good handle on wiring:
    @nineoaks2004 @rabird @GreyFox
     
  9. mpking

    mpking Well-Known Member

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    So...
    I didn't have to test all the accessories.

    I started with the propane alarm.

    Guess... BINGO. With that pulled out of the circuit, everything is fine. With ONLY that added, 9volts on the meter.

    Since I had to pull the whole shebang apart to do the testing, I picked up a Bussman fuse block, and individually fused each accessory.

    Now I have to figure out how to get all the wiring back in neatly. I'm hoping I can do better than the 3 or 4 wraps of electrical tape that the factory left me with, but there isn't a lot of slack, and even less room.

    Bonus surprise when I busted the bundle of wires apart...

    upload_2020-8-2_18-38-42.png

    I think it's from before I owned the camper. When I first got it, some of the wiring has been chewed. I replaced all the wiring that had been chewed, or so I thought.
     
  10. mpking

    mpking Well-Known Member

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    Anyone know where I can get a direct replacement for one of these?

    upload_2020-8-2_18-48-6.png
     
  11. GreyFox

    GreyFox Well-Known Member

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    Why does it have to be a direct replacement? Campers these days would have a combination CO/LP detector so it would make sense to upgrade to one of those.
     
  12. nineoaks2004

    nineoaks2004 Every meal is a picnic and every Day is a holiday

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    If possible try to draw a diagram and maybe pictures too, just in case your steel trap memory fails you :) Just take your time and do one wire at the time. electrical can be a pain in the butt because it takes so much time to troubleshoot. especially check for chewed and shorted wiring, my step daughter just had her car totaled because squirrels chewed all the wiring up (2nd time but 1st was repairable, ins. totaled it this time)
    for splices I use butt connectors or soldered splices, and I use shrink tubing over what ever splice I use. Shrink tubing helps waterproof the splice. for some items you can try www.allelectronics.com, also HF has shrink tubing etc too.
    I hope this helps
     
  13. mpking

    mpking Well-Known Member

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    Harbor freight had a shockingly good selection of wiring parts, for significantly less than AutoZone.

    Honestly, I'm trying to make it better than before, but I'm selling the camper this week (as soon as the replacement propane alarm gets here). I just couldn't sell it with a known problem. At least I couldn't.
     
  14. WrkrBee

    WrkrBee Well-Known Member

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    The red wire nut damage looks like heat damage from a bad connection, not rodent chewing. Replace that blue Scotchlock while you are there.
     
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  15. rabird

    rabird Howdy!

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    great methodical detective work.
     
  16. mpking

    mpking Well-Known Member

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    Interesting. I actually thought it was abrasion. That particular circuit is the converter side of the lights. (The yellow cord goes to the galley switch).

    The scotchlock is how factory tapped power for radio. Not superclear in the photo, but they have two 18's(16?/20?)AWG cables in the scotchlock, going to a bullet connector. IE, we don't have a 12AWG or 14AWG wire, so two 18's should be fine. (They are only about 6 inches long, but still, every place that talks about this says it's not a good idea unless you know what your doing.)

    Yeah, the whole mess got cut out when I pulled the propane alarm. It's getting a dedicated circuit off the aforementioned fuse block. Most of the factory wirenuts will still be there, but the circuits I'm touching are getting either ring terminals or spade connections.
     
  17. mpking

    mpking Well-Known Member

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    Ok. I still need help.

    Brand new propane alarm has arrived. It is the ONLY thing connected the converter. (Pulled the fuses for all the other lines).

    When I connect the new propane alarm, voltage at the converter drops to 10 volts.
    upload_2020-8-4_8-42-19.png

    Crap. (Still needed a new propane alarm, it was 20 years old, but still)

    I pulled the fuse for the propane alarm, and flipped on one of my LED lights..

    Same voltage drop. It goes from 12.5 to 10 volts with a single LED light on.

    What can be causing this?

    How else can I test this?

    We have a tropical storm due in tonight, so I have to drop the top of the camper in the next few hours.
     
  18. rabird

    rabird Howdy!

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    :smile_question1:[?:~{]

    assuming an internal switch ain't switching or some other electronic ain't cutting off and the converter is backfeeding, only a wild a guess.
     
    Last edited: Aug 4, 2020
  19. zak99b5

    zak99b5 Active Member

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    Is this on shore power, or battery?
     
  20. WrkrBee

    WrkrBee Well-Known Member

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    How is one meter reading 12.62 volts and the other 10.83? Where are meters connected? Do they read the same when connected to the same point?
     

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