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Old 08-21-2012, 09:22 PM   #1
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Default New T160 Owner and a Battery Challenge

Hi everyone - New T160 Owner here!
Firstly, let me congratulate all of the "core posters" on this board. I have already pulled so much useful information from skimming through the various topics. I made sure that the topic I'm posting about currently hasn't been previously addressed, so here goes...

We just completed our first weekend in our new (to us) 2002 T160. I purchased the rig from a good friend at work who is upgrading to a larger rig. In preparation for our inaugural trip, I brought the T160 to the house and plugged it in to the house AC for 4 days (after hooking the battery leads back up). My friend had also charged the battery for me on his workbench charger before I picked it up from him. We left on our trip at noon, but ran into an unexpected delay (fatality accident on a canyon road) and didn't arrive at our campsite until 6:30 PM (normally a 45-minute drive). When we arrived at the campsite, I immediately plugged the rig into the pedestal and hooked up the water. At dinner time, my wife noticed that the lights were very dim. A quick test of the battery (via multi-meter) indicated it was nearly dead. Fortunately, I prepared well for the fact that we might not have battery power and brought enough battery lanterns to keep us in light (I'm a Scout Leader - can't help it). By the second night, the battery was dead enough to trigger the "chirp of death" on the LP detector (at 1AM, of course!). I concluded that we managed to consume all of the battery life during our un-anticipated 5-hour trip to the campsite. I'm not new to campers, but am new to the "personality" of the T160, so just looking for some insight.

My questions are:
1) Shouldn't the T160 be be pulling 12V from my tow vehicle's battery during transit?
2) What is the recommended setup/setting to keep the fridge cold on longer trips
3) I'm planning to replace the converter with a more modern multi-stage converter/charger (or at least the 12V side of it) - is this a common upgrade on rigs this old?

Thanks in advance for any input/feedback/response. In summary, we truly love our T160 and are already planning our next adventure and many more to come.
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Old 08-22-2012, 05:16 AM   #2
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When you say that you "plugged it into the pedestal" what does that mean?

Regardless, make sure that the emergency brake cable didn't come loose. It has to be "plugged in" to the housing or the battery will die in short order. This happened to me 2 months ago. Lesson learned.
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Old 08-22-2012, 08:49 AM   #3
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To answer your questions:

1. Yes it should. If you have a mulitmeter you can check to make sure you have 12V at your TV's plug. A 5 hour trip should not have had any effect on your battery as you should have been running off the 12V from the TV.

2. Your fridge should be running on propane. It does take 12V to ignite the flame, but the current draw to operate the fridge should be almost negligible. Most likely the fridge you have only runs on propane or 120V.

3. I don't know if it's "common", but the newer converters have some nicer features. Like a built in trickle charge mode so you don't overcharge the battery.

You also mentioned that the trailer was plugged into the pedestal at the campground. At that point your lights should have been running off 120V and the battery should have been getting recharged. All of the pedestals I've seen have a circuit breaker that is sometimes flipped to "off" by the prior camper. If you don't flip it back to "on" when you hook up then of course you won't have shore power and will still be running off of the battery. If you know you're running 12V you tend to be pretty frugal with turning on lights, etc. If you think your on 120V you don't worry too much about turning on lots of lights, etc. and leaving them on which can drain the battery pretty quick.
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Old 08-22-2012, 10:06 AM   #4
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Thanks for the replies!
@FFX160_CT:
LJAZ picked up on my "pedestal" reference - probably a misuse of the term from having lived in a trailer park. The emergency brake cable was one of the first things I checked (with the input from my buddy I purchased the rig from) - all checks out there.

@LJAZ:
1) I did check the hot outs from the TV. In fact, the 7-blade to 6-pin adapter I had just purchased when I bought the T160 had the brake and hot leads swapped, so the T160 brakes were engaging full-on as soon as we plugged in the harness. I found this to be a common and easy situation to remedy by switching the leads inside the adapter - so yup, getting 12V through the harness. Additionally, as an experiment when my wife indicated that the lights looked dim, I plugged the T160 harness into the TV & the lights instantly brightened - which kinda confirmed that the lights were definitely running on 12V *and* that the T160 battery was running down.

2) The fridge in this model year is a 3-way (propane, 120V, and 12V). While we were on the road, I had the fridge switched to 12V, assuming it would be receiving power from my TV alternator. When we stopped for dinner & sightseeing, I lit the pilot on it and ran it on propane to avoid draining the TV battery (and to keep the food cold, of course).

3) I'm thinking that the above issues might be pointing to a bad converter, but wasn't sure if this is a common issue with these models/years, so was throwing it out into the forum for input.

When first troubleshooting the lights, I called the campground staff to confirm that I hadn't accidentally tripped a breaker or something. The ultimate proof of getting 120V through the T160 was that the microwave and A/C both worked (which I understand only run on 120V). Your input re: being frugal with 12V is exactly where I tend to stand as well - I just didn't *know* I was running on 12V. This is where I need to understand when/why the converter in these models "decides" to use TV 12V, 120V, or T160 12V.

My hope is that someone here might have experienced similar issues and might be willing to share their solution. I'm also hoping that the problem is procedural, rather than electrical, since I'm new to this setup. If it turns out to be electrical, then I'll start saving for a new converter - I would be nice to leverage previous experience to focus the troubleshooting
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Old 08-22-2012, 05:09 PM   #5
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I didn't realize you had the 3 way fridge. I think the 120V/propane are a bit more common on newer models anyway. Mine has only the 2 way. Not being familiar with the 12V mode I'm not sure how much of drain that is on the battery, but I would think that while towing the TV should be capable of running the fridge without draining the battery.

What seems odd is that while you were at the campground and hooked to shore power you were able to drain the battery. That does kind of sound like there may be an issue with the converter. It's possible that it's not generating the 12V so the lights run off the battery. Do you have manual for your converter? If so there's likely a way to test it. I have a WFCO and the manual says to disconnect the battery and check across the cables with a meter while plugged into 120V and you should get 13.6V. Not sure if that method would work on your converter though.
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Old 08-22-2012, 08:31 PM   #6
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Yep. From my research, they stopped putting the 3-ways in the T160s in 2004, or so. I kinda like having 3 options to run the fridge, but like you, I'm not sure what the draw is on the battery - I'll be taking a look at that next. I'm also wondering whether there is a way to determine/set the source of power for the fridge (i.e. T160 vs. TV thru the harness).

I also thought it particularly strange that the battery didn't seem to be charging from shore power during the day at all. We didn't use *any* battery power on night 1, once it appeared that the battery was draining.

Oh, and I forgot to mention that this model does not have a battery cutoff switch, either. My buddy (the only owner of the rig before me) showed me how he manually disconnects the negative leads going to the battery when storing it (he used to remove the battery and put it on a float charger in his shop during storage).

So...
The next logical step seems to be to plug in to 120V and check the voltage across the 12V output leads. The converter model in this year is a "Centurion" (model CS3000, I believe). The manual for the converter has a schematic that I can use to locate the output leads.

Unless any other suggestions come through, I'll take those actions and report back as soon as possible.
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Old 08-23-2012, 07:28 PM   #7
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You should do your tests for the convertor, but, a question...

When you were camping, did you take the refrigerator off of 12v cooling? Most modern units don't have the 12v option for running your refrigerator because they spell death for units that have a single battery providing power; particularly if you are using a standard automotive style battery as opposed to a deep cycle battery. On 12v cooling, the refrigerator is probably drawing more amperage than either your tow vehicle or converter can supply for a "recharge". A 12 volt heater is going to suck amps like there is no tomorrow. The most "energy efficient" cooling will be from 120v first , LP second, and 12v last. I would recommend using 12v only as a last resort; i.e., you are dry camping (no 120v) and you run out of propane. Then, 12v should run your refrigerator long enough for you to run out someplace and re-fill a tank(s). As for "cooling power", you'll find that LP cools quickest, followed by 120v with 12v coming in a distant last (it runs virtually all the time - hence, the huge power consumption plus the amp draw for that little heater. I haven't seen one for ages, but, the last one I saw ran 24/7 trying to keep the refrigerator cold).

When on the road, run it on propane, when shore power is availabe, run it on 120v (and yes, it is called a pedestal, just like boats) In an emergency, run it on 12v, but, only for as short a period as possible.



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Old 09-06-2013, 06:59 AM   #8
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Default Check the battery line fuse

I was having trouble with the power in/out of my battery and found there was quite a bit of dirt/corrosion inside the fuse at the battery. In the 12v line just at the battery on my unit there is a rubber fuse case with a "water tight" cap that apparently isn't as water tight as it could be, and water had seeped inside enough to corrode the tabs on the fuse to the point that power was barely able to flow. Cleaned that out and it's working fine ever since.
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Old 09-06-2013, 07:02 AM   #9
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Default Check the battery line fuse

I was having trouble with the power in/out of my battery and found there was quite a bit of dirt/corrosion inside the fuse at the battery. In the 12v line just at the battery on my unit there is a rubber fuse case with a "water tight" cap that apparently isn't as water tight as it could be, and water had seeped inside enough to corrode the tabs on the fuse to the point that power was barely able to flow. Cleaned that out and it's working fine ever since.
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Old 09-06-2013, 07:03 AM   #10
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Default Check the battery line fuse

I was having trouble with the power in/out of my battery and found there was quite a bit of dirt/corrosion inside the fuse at the battery. In the 12v line just at the battery on my unit there is a rubber fuse case with a "water tight" cap that apparently isn't as water tight as it could be, and water had seeped inside enough to corrode the tabs on the fuse to the point that power was barely able to flow. Cleaned that out and it's working fine ever since.
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Old 09-06-2013, 10:56 AM   #11
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Default Or you might need a new battery

If the former owner did not keep the battery charged and instead let it die after each camping trip, the battery could be dead -- won't hold a charge. Batteries should be kept on a trickle charge -- I really like my Batteryminder Plus, which pulses in order to prevent sulphation of the plates. Very easy to use -- plug it in and forget it till next time.

Also, be sure to check battery water levels after every use.

And there is one more easy trick -- get a hydrometer. They are cheap and easy to use. They measure the specific gravity in the water of each cell. If one cell falls below the proper level, you know that your battery is in trouble.
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Old 09-06-2013, 05:33 PM   #12
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How old is the battery?
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Old 09-07-2013, 06:51 PM   #13
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A hydrometer is useless on one of the newer "sealed" batteries or a gel cell style; both with are common today.
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Old 09-08-2013, 09:23 AM   #14
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Default Sealed vs unsealed batteries

Eagle, that is a good point -- I am not sure what kind of battery the OP has.
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Old 09-27-2013, 10:03 PM   #15
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Default Battery problems

I just read the comments on battery problems
When we bought our new funfinder it had 2 -6 volt interstate batteries installed. Someone had completely discharged them. As this is extremely hard on batteries, I demanded new ones. A week of charging and failed hydrometer readings.and they replaced them.
Last year our batteries were not charged after a day long drive. The problem turned out to be in the truck. .We rough camped this fall for 5 days and an 80 watt solar panel kept the batteries right up. We have changed out most of our lights to led.they use less than 10 percent power.
the original post mentioned a reading of 12 volts. That would indicate a very low state of charge. Look up battery maintenance on Trojan battery website for a chart of voltage and percent of charge. There is a lot of other good info there as well.
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Old 09-30-2013, 08:27 PM   #16
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I'm a brand new 2002 T160 owner too. Just got it in August. As I read this I get "deja vu all over again". Listen to this.

First time we took it out the battery was fully charged, we brought it over to the house, plugged it in overnight and turned the fridge on with 120 setting - all the way up on 5. Put a cold six pack of beer in there overnight to jump start it and it was nice and cold by time we left.

Comes time to go, switch over to 12V, hop in and drive for about 2 hours. Set everything up, dry campsite so we're planning on being nice an frugal with the old battery. Never put 2 and 2 together to understand the drastic draw we were putting on the battery. Anyway, wife's cooking dinner and the LP detector dies...beep o' death...battery's almost dead. I hook it up to the truck and we get power. If it charged the battery at all it was very little. I let the truck run as long as possible while I got the trailer level and learned how to fire up the fridge on propane and we were ok the rest of the time using only the pump as little as possible.

So does that sound familiar?

I learned that I just don't want to run the fridge on 12V unless there's something so valuable in there that I am willing to really sacrifice for it like beer or something. I'm thinking this is probably why the newer trailers mostly come with 2-way instead of 3-way now. That third way is just about as useful as a rubber nail.

I also learned that the thing does charge off the truck - or the shore - but that it would take it forever to put a dent in an already dead battery. Works pretty good doing a "top-off" on a battery that's pretty well charged up already but bringing a battery back from the brink of death... meh, not so much.

After that little escapade i had the battery tested and charged all up at the auto parts store and it was all good so i got a cheap charger and I keep the battery on the bench in the garage and I hook it up once a week or so and just top it off. We find now we can go two to four days dry camping easy. Running lights, pump, even running the heater at night, with only the battery just minus the fridge. In the end everything was working like it was supposed to.

I personally don't go down the road in my little rig with the propane on and the fridge cooking mainly because I don't usually go very far (I already live in Denver). I get it real cold and it stays for a few hours pretty well. I might try it if I was going on a longer haul and knew there weren't any tunnels on the way.

Glad to make your (online) acquaintance.
Hope this helps.
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Old 10-01-2013, 07:00 AM   #17
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The frig in my unit is a 2 way; 120V or propane. The switch is set on 'Auto."

We always plug into shore power at home the night before leaving, cool the frig overnight, load it in the morning and let it do the automatic switch to propane when the shore power is disconnected and down the road we go.

It is always running on propane when traveling keeping food/drinks cold going out and on the return trip home.

As a side note: We also take along a big portable cooler loaded with ice to keep extra supplies of drinks cold as recovery in the frig is very slow.

Drinks = bottled water, Gatorade, Zero, Orange Juice and a few cans of soda.
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