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Old 10-06-2018, 03:54 AM   #1
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Default HELP: Electrical burning smell and HOT battery

Hello! I'm brand new to this forum and just bought my first RV last week. A 2000 American Cruiser re2000 on the Dodge 3500 chassis. I've camped the last couple nights in it in my driveway plugged into my house outlet to make sure everything is working properly. Everything was good.

Today I took it to the beach an hour away. While headed back home I keep hearing this clicking noise coming from the fuse box under the dinette area and a humming sound like a fan trying to come on inside there. So I hit the battery disconnect switch while I'm driving to turn power to the coach off thinking this would stop the noise. But the noise continued. Nothing was being powered by the house battery.

About 20 minutes later I smell electrical burning and smoke filling the van. I put on the flashers and pull off the road immediately turning everything off and scrambling to get my two dogs out as well as grabbing the fire extinguisher as fast as I could. I get the dogs tied up to a highway sign and go back to the van. There was no fire since I turned the engine off just in time thank God. Smoke cleared so I went to work. The burning smell was coming from behind the breaker box area under the dinette. I opened that up and flip everything to the off position. I go out and check the house battery and it was too HOT to touch. Yes the plastic casing was burning hot. So I disconnect the main positive and tape it up so it won't touch anything metal. So this cut power to whatever was overheating inside there and I was able to drive it home safely.

On the way home my headlights and dash lights get dim so I'm wondering do I have a bad chassis battery as well? When I get to my driveway I shut it off then try to start it again. Nothing. The van won't start. My question is what is happening?? Does this bad battery have something to do with my house battery overheating and the electrical burning smell coming from the fuse box? Again I'm brand new at RV's so bear with me here. Help! Thanks!
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Old 10-06-2018, 11:09 AM   #2
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Hard to diagnose without seeing it ..........

Sounds like there was an electrical short inside the van somewhere around where the converter and DC fuses are located.

You said there was smoke inside the van and I'm assuming both batteries are outside.

Someone needs to inspect all of the wiring and fuses. The clicking sound you heard could have been a self resetting DC circuit breaker tripping from the short and resetting itself, then tripping again etc.

The DC wiring, fuses and breakers must be inspected and repairs made before putting in new batteries.
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Old 10-06-2018, 11:17 AM   #3
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I agree with Marko, it needs to have a thorough going over to find what caused the issue, and also to track down all associated wiring to check for overheat damage. This can be a very big job, and there could be a lot of damage. The fact that you also have a power issue with van electrical system is not a very good sign.


Also agree on the clicking likely being an auto reset breaker. The fact that it didn't protect things is not good, but some of the auto reset ones can fail in the closed position if the contacts weld when it closes after a reset.
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Old 10-06-2018, 06:35 PM   #4
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Update: So I had it in the shop getting the battery and alternator checked out this morning and the power inverter under the hood caught on fire!!! One of the terminals on top of the inverter was burned up. He was able to put out the fire before any damage was done. So it looks like a bad inverter was the cause of all this. I'm hoping it didn't do any major damage to the house electrical since I had the battery disconnected. I'm having it towed the the RV electrical shop Monday morning to get the repair done. He thinks the bad inverter was killing power to my alternator and chassis battery as well. I'm thinking it was just a bad connection on the inverter or bad inverter itself, but I will post back here with the updates. Thanks everyone for the help.
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Old 10-06-2018, 09:02 PM   #5
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There isn't normally an inverter under the hood, it would be a battery isolator that separates the coach and starting batteries except when the engine is running. It would kill the power to the alternator if it failed in many cases.


I thought you had tracked down the burned up stuff to a place inside the coach? If you had a big short in the coach, it could easily have killed the isolater, and the clicking (probably circuit breakers) are very commonly used on the isolator to coach circuit.


I would not count on you not having a big short in the coach someplace, so have your mechanic check for shorts before he installs a new isolator,
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Old 10-06-2018, 09:09 PM   #6
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Quote:
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There isn't normally an inverter under the hood, it would be a battery isolator that separates the coach and starting batteries except when the engine is running. It would kill the power to the alternator if it failed in many cases.


I thought you had tracked down the burned up stuff to a place inside the coach? If you had a big short in the coach, it could easily have killed the isolater, and the clicking (probably circuit breakers) are very commonly used on the isolator to coach circuit.


I would not count on you not having a big short in the coach someplace, so have your mechanic check for shorts before he installs a new isolator,
The mechanic thought it was in inverter but he has no clue about RV's. It looked like an inverter to me
too. But it very well could be the isolater that caught fire. I could never see exactly where the burning INSIDE was coming from. Behind the breaker box somewhere. I popped it off but saw no burnt wires but I could sure smell the burning there. I'm sure there was a short somewhere but I will have the RV place check everything and replace all burnt wires as needed before installing a new isolater. Thank you!
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Old 10-07-2018, 07:56 PM   #7
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If someone put an inverter under the hood, it's no wonder it burned up since an inverter has to get rid of its own internally generated heat. An engine compartment is not a sufficiently cool place to radiate heat.

The inverter should be somewhere close to the house battery, and that's normally somewhere in back -- far away from the engine.

If, rather, it was a diode battery isolator, it would have three terminals on it: Battery 1, Battery 2 and the alternator charging source. They are often mounted under the hood, and normally shouldn't get that hot. Keep an eye on it, you may have another problem lurking somewhere.

You can replace the old style diode based battery isolator with a 'smart isolator,' which is a relay and a circuit designed to connect the batteries once the starting battery is charged enough to allow the second battery to charge. They generally work better.
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Old 10-07-2018, 09:36 PM   #8
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Quote:
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If someone put an inverter under the hood, it's no wonder it burned up since an inverter has to get rid of its own internally generated heat. An engine compartment is not a sufficiently cool place to radiate heat.

The inverter should be somewhere close to the house battery, and that's normally somewhere in back -- far away from the engine.

If, rather, it was a diode battery isolator, it would have three terminals on it: Battery 1, Battery 2 and the alternator charging source. They are often mounted under the hood, and normally shouldn't get that hot. Keep an eye on it, you may have another problem lurking somewhere.

You can replace the old style diode based battery isolator with a 'smart isolator,' which is a relay and a circuit designed to connect the batteries once the starting battery is charged enough to allow the second battery to charge. They generally work better.
Yeah it's confirmed that it was the battery isolater that caught fire! Due to a big short in the systems somewhere. It killed my alternator and chassis battery so the van won't even start. I am having it towed to the RV shop tomorrow morning and will know more then. I will look into having them put the smart isolater in that you mentioned. As well as fixing all of the burned wiring and shorts! Thanks
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Old 10-07-2018, 10:26 PM   #9
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It really sucks that this happened but very fortunate that it wasn't even worse and that you weren't injured.

You seem to have a positive attitude so once this is all fixed I'm sure you'll really enjoy your American Cruiser.
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Old 10-08-2018, 02:30 AM   #10
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Originally Posted by markopolo View Post
It really sucks that this happened but very fortunate that it wasn't even worse and that you weren't injured.

You seem to have a positive attitude so once this is all fixed I'm sure you'll really enjoy your American Cruiser.
Yeah I'm trying to stay positive because I understand that things happen to 18 year old equipment. But the van is in super nice shape and only has 40K miles on it. So I'm looking at this as just a minor hiccup that I caught before it turned serious and burned the van to the ground... And once it's fixed I will have no worries. Everything else is in great shape.
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Old 10-08-2018, 10:07 AM   #11
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That looks to be in great condition.

The day use setup having both the dinette and sofa always available is awesome.

It looks like there are a few sleeping options. A single person could leave the sofa setup as is. That sofa appears to be a jack knife type that opens into a twin bed. Additionally it looks like the dinette would form a single bed. If they all join up it would be a king size bed.

On the drivers side exterior I'm guessing the larger, more forward cutout is for the air conditioner. What's the second large compartment on the exterior for? It looks like it would be roughly located where the bathroom is.
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Old 10-08-2018, 01:15 PM   #12
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You are correct about the sleeping options. Lots of different ways! Yes everything makes into one big bed as well. The forward compartment is the big storage garage which is also accessable from inside. The rear one is the A/C cut out. It is located right in front of the bathroom across from the kitchen. Over all, I love it. Here are the 3 sleeping options.
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Old 10-12-2018, 01:02 AM   #13
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Nice coach. I like the interior woodwork.

I've seen neglected batteries get hot while charging. If some of the battery cells are dried out or shorted out, the charger will still try to bring them back up but is fighting a losing battle. All that power from the charging system has to go somewhere, and it heats up the remaining good cells, the wiring, the isolator, and the alternator.

Hopefully your isolator to house battery feed wire is okay and you don't have to replace it. Give it a careful inspection.

You have some options as far as battery types to put in back. Do NOT get a flooded battery, they are too difficult to maintain when they are hidden away in back. Get an sealed AGM, Optima, or Lithium (big $, but a lot more capacity).

And consider putting solar panels on top. It will keep your new battery healthy while in storage.
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