Reply
 
Thread Tools Display Modes
 
Old 08-04-2014, 08:27 AM   #1
Bronze Member
 
Join Date: Aug 2014
Location: South Austin, Texas
Posts: 20
Default Fixed it 'til it was broke!

I'll bet I'm not the first, nor will I be the last to discover unknown, undocumented and seemingly pointless modifications to what was a perfectly good RV that most likely functioned as designed until someone "fixed" it. Then the next owner came along and said "WHAT THE HECK...." or words to that effect.

When I bought my '88 Dodge B-250 Roadtrek conversion it was nice and clean, showing some age but nothing scary. It started, ran and drove as expected with no problems. It was connected to shore power, and the seller cautioned me not to leave it connected thus "for too long", and away I went. Well, of course I found out how long connected to shore power was "too long" the hard way when I discovered both the vehicle and the house batteries were completely dead.

Long story short(er), I found that both batteries were being charged from the inverter as well as the vehicle alternator, with no battery isolation at all and by leaving shore power connected for "too long" the batteries were toast. I spent many years working in electrical and electronic fields, and thought I had seen about everything! Suffice it to say that I had not

In addition to various mystery connections that appear to be related to lighting, sound, and "who knows what" circuits, the criminal wire mechanic had used several yards of #12 stranded paired green and white electrical wire connected with wire nuts and split bolts, and in some cases just twisted together and taped, and the cheap electrical tape was unraveling as (practically) as I watched. Better yet, those green and white wires used one color for hot and the other for ground, but sometimes white was hot and sometimes green was (and vice-versa for ground).

Well, job #1 was to remove all the mystery stuff without inflicting further damage. I've done almost all of that, ordered a battery isolator and found an owner's manual for the '88 Roadtrek on this site (THANK YOU VERY MUCH!!!) Unfortunately, the manual doesn't have any wire schematics and refers to the manuals for the various appliances, so there's more research to do but at least I've gotten well under way.

Shore power is currently running the inverter and the air conditioner (Summertime in Texas, y'all!!) I'm going to pull the inverter out from under the bunk to get at its rear panel and see if I can figure out what is powered from there. Refrigerator, propane system and water pump are the items I know I'll need to inspect and repair or verify proper function.

My major question for the forum is this: Does anyone know of a good general RV accessory "textbook" or installation/troubleshooting guide that's readily available. Online for download would be much preferred, so I can keep up the momentum on the project.

Thank you all for listening to my tale of woe. I would appreciate any kind words of encouragement and/or tips and sources for more reference material.

Over & out, & standing by....

BC
__________________

__________________
If it ain't broke, fix it 'til it is!
unclebob is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 08-04-2014, 12:33 PM   #2
Platinum Member
 
markopolo's Avatar
 
Join Date: Oct 2006
Location: New Brunswick, Canada
Posts: 7,846
Default Re: Fixed it 'til it was broke!

I understand what you're dealing with The wiring in my "homemade" van is a real mix of colors. It took me a while to figure it all out.

You mention an inverter. Vans from that era would typically have a converter charger. Some newer vans have inverter chargers. Roadtrek starting using inverter chargers in the 2004 model year. If your van has an inverter then it was added later. Inverters, if left on, will draw current and eventually drain your battery.

When your van is plugged in to shore power the house battery should charge, not discharge. It is unlikely that plugging in would "cook" your batteries over a relatively short period of time unless there's a major fault.

If it was my van I start with figuring out why it is not charging the batteries when connected to shore power. Check for tripped breakers or burnt out fuses.

Adding an isolator or battery separator would also be on the top of my list. A battery disconnect master switch is also very useful to have.

I'd break it down into smaller jobs so it doesn't get too overwhelming. A to do list might help keep the jobs ordered by priority and it's encouraging to see tasks crossed of the list when completed.

re: trouble shooting guides

Try to find the make and model numbers of major components and appliances. Then you can find individual component and appliance manuals. You can post make and model info here and I'm happy to help you find manuals.

Find out for sure if you have an inverter or a converter or both in your van. There's a ton of info available online for older converter chargers. Once you know the make & model then you can get the correct trouble shooting info.
__________________

__________________
Two bikes on sliding cargo box: https://www.classbforum.com/forums/m...icture206.html & 1997 GMC Savana 6.5L Turbo Diesel Custom Camper Van Specifications: https://www.classbforum.com/forums/f...vana-5864.html
markopolo is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 08-04-2014, 02:39 PM   #3
Platinum Member
 
Join Date: Aug 2010
Location: Minnesota
Posts: 7,777
Default Re: Fixed it 'til it was broke!

I totally agree with Marko, some further investigation is required. It should charge the batteries when on shore power, as he says, and it should take a long time to kill a battery from overcharging IF the charge voltage is reasonable. I someone replaced the charger/inverter with a fixed voltage unit that is set high, it could do damage much quicker, however.

Finding out what is going on should be pretty easy. Plug it in and check the voltage at the batteries. If it is not at a charging voltage (above 13.2 or so), check it at the charger. If not there, then bad charger or power to charger. If it is high at the batteries (above 14.2, never reducing), it could damage batteries in about a week, I would think.

If we knew the make and model of the charger/inverter, we can find the specs and know what it should do.

As Marko also stated, getting an isolator or separator in place should also be done. Which would depend on how you want the system to work, one way or two way charging. A third option, if you are the hands on type, would be to use a simple switch between the coach and starting battery. You could then chose when they were connected at all times. More operator input needed (none with the isolator or separator), but works very well to prevent overcharging. We have a separator, but have a shutoff switch to disconnect it when we want to prevent cross charging.

It isn't just the old and home modified ones with funny wiring. Our 2007 Roadtrek also has a mishmash of wire colors, mostly due to the colors used by the various components like speakers and 12v accessories. Hot and ground can be just about anything, and change mid run to what Roadtrek used for colors.
booster is online now   Reply With Quote
Old 08-04-2014, 07:28 PM   #4
Bronze Member
 
Join Date: Aug 2014
Location: South Austin, Texas
Posts: 20
Default Re: Fixed it 'til it was broke!

Quote:
Originally Posted by markopolo
I understand what you're dealing with The wiring in my "homemade" van is a real mix of colors. It took me a while to figure it all out.

You mention an inverter. Vans from that era would typically have a converter charger. Some newer vans have inverter chargers. Roadtrek starting using inverter chargers in the 2004 model year. If your van has an inverter then it was added later. Inverters, if left on, will draw current and eventually drain your battery.
I obviously need to do more research, and will do that today

Quote:
Originally Posted by markopolo
When your van is plugged in to shore power the house battery should charge, not discharge. It is unlikely that plugging in would "cook" your batteries over a relatively short period of time unless there's a major fault.

If it was my van I start with figuring out why it is not charging the batteries when connected to shore power. Check for tripped breakers or burnt out fuses.

Adding an isolator or battery separator would also be on the top of my list. A battery disconnect master switch is also very useful to have.
Guess I wasn't clear in my description of my findings and beginning troubleshooting/repair steps. The major issue, in my opinion was that the P.O. had rigged wiring from a small terminal strip associated with the propane and/or refrigerator system(s). Both the vehicle and coach batteries were connected in parallel to this terminal strip with the aforementioned green and white 12 gauge zipcord. There was (and still is) a red and a black wire that apparently had been removed from the terminal strip. Perhaps I misunderstood what those green and white wires were actually doing. Maybe they (both) were feeding into that terminal strip I mentioned and that terminal strip is actually supposed to be a power input supplied by those red and black wires. I'll know more about that in a short while.

Anyway, both batteries have been disconnected and set aside. The vehicle battery shows "No Connection" when connected to my battery tester/reconditioner. The coach battery shows 25% on the tester, and it seems to be working to charge the battery, so maybe the coach battery is salvageable. That would be nice!

The battery isolator is supposed to be delivered tomorow, which leaves today for more wire tracing, appliance and converter identifying, and general cleanup.

Quote:
Originally Posted by markopolo
I'd break it down into smaller jobs so it doesn't get too overwhelming. A to do list might help keep the jobs ordered by priority and it's encouraging to see tasks crossed of the list when completed.

re: trouble shooting guides

Try to find the make and model numbers of major components and appliances. Then you can find individual component and appliance manuals. You can post make and model info here and I'm happy to help you find manuals.

Find out for sure if you have an inverter or a converter or both in your van. There's a ton of info available online for older converter chargers. Once you know the make & model then you can get the correct trouble shooting info.
Thanks for the input. I've found a ton of info on the internet which be an enormous help.

My natural tendency has been to tackle everything at the same time and get overwhelmed and blow it off. That's never worked well for me, but I'm getting better. Thanks again!

BC
__________________
If it ain't broke, fix it 'til it is!
unclebob is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 08-05-2014, 03:33 AM   #5
Platinum Member
 
markopolo's Avatar
 
Join Date: Oct 2006
Location: New Brunswick, Canada
Posts: 7,846
Default Re: Fixed it 'til it was broke!

What you describe is odd for sure. 12 gauge might be OK for the fridge - I'd have to check the manual - but 12 gauge isn't enough to parallel the two battery banks. I can't think why the previous owner did it that way unless it was meant to be a very temporary on-the-road patch for a failed isolator.

Hopefully you'll at least find wiring in place for an isolator. Might be 6 gauge or so.

Wilton posted wiring diagrams for a 1996 Roadtrek here: http://windsurf.mediaforte.com/roadtrek ... iring.html It might help you with your upgrades.
__________________
Two bikes on sliding cargo box: https://www.classbforum.com/forums/m...icture206.html & 1997 GMC Savana 6.5L Turbo Diesel Custom Camper Van Specifications: https://www.classbforum.com/forums/f...vana-5864.html
markopolo is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 08-05-2014, 08:30 AM   #6
Bronze Member
 
Join Date: Aug 2014
Location: South Austin, Texas
Posts: 20
Default Re: Fixed it 'til it was broke!

Thanks, Marco, and BIG thanks to Wilton for the diagram! The only wiring larger than the aforementioned 12 gauge green & white zip cord is what's on the alternator, vehicle charging and engine starting circuits. The green and white stuff is in the recycle bin and I have the routing for the house battery from the engine compartment laid out. The isolator ( http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00400IYTK/ref ... 60_TE_dp_1) and some single fuse holders and 40 amp ANL fuses are to be delivered tomorrow. After looking at Wilton's drawing, though, I'm considering breakers, like these: http://www.summitracing.com/search/bran ... -sems-nuts ..What do y'all think??

My '88 Roadtrek doesn't have some of the features Wilton has, and I'll have to siamese a couple of low draw items to the existing fuses or add on another small fuse panel. The house battery mounts below the cabinet next to the fridge and it vents to the outside and the box has extra room for a larger battery, but access to the battery terminals requires removing part of the cabinet floor. Mounting the fuse holders (or breakers) and the cutoff switch for the house battery next to the water pump in that cabinet will cure that.

<<Paragraph removed - will address those issues in another post>>

BC
__________________

__________________
If it ain't broke, fix it 'til it is!
unclebob is offline   Reply With Quote
Reply

Thread Tools
Display Modes

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is On
HTML code is Off
Trackbacks are Off
Pingbacks are Off
Refbacks are Off


» Featured Campgrounds

Reviews provided by

Powered by vBadvanced CMPS v3.2.3

All times are GMT. The time now is 08:40 PM.


Powered by vBulletin® Version 3.8.8 Beta 4
Copyright ©2000 - 2019, vBulletin Solutions, Inc.
×