For the second time in our two-and-a-half years, while traveling full-time, we were unable to depart on schedule. This time the starter battery was dead, the previous time was a dead starter. I am starting to notice a trend.
As for the battery, we drained it, not knowing that it was draining. After hiding from the COVID virus in Las Vegas we were unable to depart on schedule. All this after almost two months in one spot. Vegas at the time was closed, shut down locked tight. Perhaps we drained the engine starter battery by leaving something on for more than three weeks. So we were unable to depart on schedule. It was only a slight interruption to our schedule. The real problem was that the weather was getting really hot in Las Vegas and we wanted to leave town.
When it came time to start the engine — nothing.
Since this RV is new to us, and we really don’t know all the ins and outs, we are at a loss as to why this happened. It is a very real possibility that we have a bad start battery. I saw a battery charger, (known as a float charger or trickle charger) plugged into an electrical outlet, in one of the compartments. I assumed that it was to charge the engine battery from the house current. Now I will investigate more closely. I want to go when I am ready to go and expect the RV to also be ready to go. Being unable to depart on schedule because part of the RV isn’t willing to participate is not acceptable and my fault for not knowing.
If the charger (hooked to house current) is hooked to the house battery, this would be dumb. Here is why. (two possible situations) #1: Shore power is connected to house current then the battery charger-charges the house battery. This won’t hurt anything but is unnecessary because the shore power also powers the inverter/converter which charges the house battery and does a much better job than a trickle charger ever could. #2: If without shore power, the house battery powers inverter/converter which then powers the trickle charger which then tries to charge the house battery — creating a circle — this is bad. The only result would be a drain on the house battery.
Owning a previously owned RV is like owning an old house; you never know what might have been done. I am going to have to trace wires to find out what this trickle charger is actually doing. This is going to be double or triple for the next owner of my RV. It is mine and I will change it to suit me. Being unable to depart on schedule is a non-starter.
Back to the story
Well so to continue the story, we were unable to depart on schedule. We didn’t go anywhere that day but we did learn some things. Even if we were able to get the engine to start, we would have been too spooked to travel that day. Our first stop was to get fuel and assuming we shut the engine off at the pump, we may have not been able to restart the engine — to depart the truck stop.
The only problem, pertaining to staying where we were, was that Las Vegas was expected to hit 100 degrees the following day. So we spent the rest of the day trying to recharge the battery.
So what did we try?
My first idea was to jump-start the engine. In the battery compartment, there are two terminals — labeled jump start. So I hooked the car up to these terminals and still nothing. When this didn’t work I tried to recharge the battery by using the alternator in the car for a few minutes. Even after a few minutes of recharging a jump-start still didn’t work. This was, however, recharging the RV battery using the car alternator ever so slowly. The battery level was so depleted that, there was not enough juice to start the engine — even when using the Aux Start. I have to admit, I was over-optimistic to think that my car could jump-start the big diesel engine.
The Aux Start combines the house battery (which had a full charge) with the engine battery so that the house battery could assist the engine battery to start the engine. When you start the engine, you press and hold the Aux Start switch to help the engine battery start the engine. We were using the Aux Start and the jump-start all at the same time and still not enough power to start the engine.
I called Tiffin for some hints and they mentioned by holding the Aux Start Switch to the on position, that you can transfer some of the energy that would go to the house battery into the engine start battery from the generator. They didn’t mention that the same thing would happen from shore power, but I tested it and it works. The idea is that the energy from the house battery flows to the lower charge level engine battery and at the same time the inverter/charger charges the house battery. All of this is kind of convoluted and I prefer a more direct approach of the battery directly connected to a charge source.
So we disconnected the car, started the generator, and charged the battery from the generator. All this time, the battery was still below 11 volts – and a good battery would be at above 12.6 volts. After doing that for a while, we knew we weren’t going anywhere on Tuesday – so we extended our stay in Las Vegas.
Old Car Charger
My forty-year-old car charger can deliver 6 amps/per hour to the battery which is way more than a trickle charger but much less than the engine alternator. So I hooked it up and ran it – until the charger overheated. I had to disconnect it and allowed it to be cool before trying again. I also knew that it would take days to recharge the start battery from my little charger, especially when it was so hot outside, so I decided that it was time to throw money at the problem. In this case, I needed a much more powerful charger. The new one is five times bigger than my old car charger. Throwing money at the problem is better than being unable to depart on schedule. Buying a new charger is better than buying a new battery.
The new charger pumped in 30 amps per hour into the battery when first connected. This continued for the next seven hours reducing the charging rate, just before bedtime. I left it on all night and everything tested good enough to go in the morning.
The engine started, as if there was never an issue and we started our first leg to Topaz Lake in the morning. The engine also started when we departed the truck stop and even when we departed Tonopah the next morning. All seems well and Las Vegas was climbing toward 100 degrees as we were heading north.
Here is the link to the story about the first time we were unable to depart on schedule when our starter broke. Broken Down
This is the battery charger we got from Home Depot. Dewalt 30 amp