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Old 09-29-2013, 03:45 PM   #1
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Default WFCO battery maintenance issues .. I think

I'm seeking some advice ... a bit of brain picking as it were!

We do our share of dry camping and have a Yamaha 2000i gen to keep the 2 batteries up as needed. Have converted to LED lights throughout, we don't use any other 12v power generally when 'in the woods'. Normally, we can run 2-3 days after setup before I need to run the gen an hour or so to maintain 3-4 lights on the sensor panel.

Ran fine last year, and again in a week outing this summer. But now ...
We're camping on the OR coast, first few days are fine on the batteries. I run the Gen on day 2 to be sure it is good after powering the electric tongue jack and slider room at setup. By day 4 the batteries are down to only 2 lights. We have only used a light for a while in the evening before bed for maybe 2 hrs, because we are outside a lot when we camp.

I checked the batteries (sealed 12v group 24 AC Delcos) and when charging, the charge is only 13.2 v per my multi-meter, so the WFCO is putting out only the maintenance charge, even tho the batteries were at 11.4 v. I ran it for 2 hrs, got the charge only up to 12.6 v. at the battery, but panel had 4 lights.

The next morning I awake to see the 'check' light on on the fridge ... and think I must have run out of propane in the one tank. Nope. Plenty of gas, but the batteriy is down to ONE light! Not enough amps to run the fridge circuit panel so it just shuts off and will not ignite the burner!

After 'quiet time' and folks are up around camp, I first check the batteries and they are at 9.6 v, so I fire up the gen and the fridge kicks back on fine. Run the gen another 2 hours. Multi-meter still shows there is only 13.2 v being put into the batteries. i get them back up to 12.6 v and shut down. Now we are not using any lights, so the only power use is the fridge and the gas/CO sniffer. Keep the water heater off usually unless we have a specific need, so even that is not powered.

Guess what we see on the fridge that night before bed? The check light is on on the fridge again! So next day I again chk batteries and find the same results - and run the gen for 3 hrs. Luckily we are leaving the following day to a location that has a power post at the camp site.

We traveled for 2 hrs the next day, so the battries go TV charging. When we arrive at current location, I checked batteries and they were at 13.8v!! I plugged in and all is fine for now ... but had the batteries checked at a local shop and they got 14.4 v on each of them and all cells good! I found a Camping World near by and was told by their service techs that if the batteries have not been toasted by the WFCO (I told them we leave it plugged into shore while rig is in driveway normally) because it does a lousy job of proper maintenance charging, the likely problem is the WFCO converter/charger and that we should not replace with a like unit. (They knew I was not having difficulties at the present time and was going to head home to do repairs, so they were more in 'helpful' mode than 'sell goods' mode!)

Oh, and yes the battery switch as remained in pulled out 'on' position for the entire period. Needless to say, guess the dealer - or maybe my local Camping World - will be doing a system check!

So I'm curious if anyone has seen this kind of behavior in your rig? Any thoughts on the WFCO? I've looked into "problems" on line and see a lot of issues discussed mainly about them being junk - or at least very cheap units. Nice we had the gen to save the food in the fridge! THX in advance for any sharing!
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Old 09-29-2013, 04:36 PM   #2
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We never had any issues with ours, but, we seldom dry camped. Most of the units in the CruiserRV line, along with most other manufacturers, are of the low end model types to save a buck. Most boondockers find that one of the first things they need to do is chuck the stock converter/charger assemblies for one of the top of the line units that have a minimum 3 stage charging system for the batteries. The manufacturers know that most users are the "full hook up" type and they can save a buck by using a low end two stage unit and the majority will never know the difference. As long as the majority of your camping is at minimum water/electric, a fully charged will stay fully charged, even if the occasional boondocking day is thrown in, but, for more long term or more frequent boondocking, the two stage units can't get a depleted battery or set of batteries back up to full charge (a good, deep full charge even though your "lights" will show three or four, the accuracy isn't there to actually show that kind of charge reliably) with an hour or two of generator input unless that input is through a seperate high capacity charger. If you are going to use the generator and the stock WFCO unit, you'll need more like 3.5 to 4 hours on the generator to get the batteries back up to normal. That's where the solar recharging is really beneficial...it isn't high input, but, is a long term lower rate of charging (actually better for the battery), but, solar has its own problems in the intial cost and setup area.



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Old 09-29-2013, 06:33 PM   #3
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No matter what the manufacturer says the WFCO isn't a battery charger, its a power supply that strangely changes voltages, but doesn't regulate current. If you allow the WFCO to charge your batteries it will dump 50A into the batteries which causes them to fall out of equalization (one cell is left uncharged). You need a charger that charges at no more than 1/10c or about 10A. Get one that can equalize as well. Your car is probably doing an okay job of equalizing. Better systems disconnect the battery altogether and charge it with a charger and power the RV from a power supply.
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Old 09-30-2013, 03:32 PM   #4
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THX for the thoughts guys. I know that my charger, a WFCO 8955, IS a 3 stage charger (as the description says, "The WF-8955 model provides 55 amps and a clean, constant 13.6 Vdc nominal output, for reliable operation of electronics and appliances. Automatic three-stage charging extends the life of your battery with output voltage modes of 13.2 Vdc “float” mode, 13.6 Vdc “absorption” mode, and a 14.4 Vdc “bulk” charge mode. The 8900 Series also maintains peace and quiet, as the cooling fan runs only when needed. ") In line with this, see my final post in thread from last year when it seemed all was working well with the system http://www.funfinderclub.com/phpBB2/...hlight=battery

... but the guys at Camping W. said you can't rely on the WFCOs to operate properly and can, as axv says, over cook them with too many amps. And, axv, good reminder on the equalization ... I really had not considered that. That all makes sense, and I've thought I should get maintainer to use when the tlr is parked at home. Over winter, I've been pulling them and leaving in garage hooked up to my variable battery charger (on a timer so it only runs a few hours each day) that does show a trickle charge of under 2 amps. Instead, I'll make that change to a quality pulse maintainer. But all the same, the techs at Camp W and the battery shop I was at agreed that, based upon our use, that we should easily get 4 days before the 2 batteries should show any significant draw down. As I said, this trip we didn't even get 2 days after a 6 hour drive starting with full batteries.

But this doesn't answer 1.) why with the batteries at 9.6 v, when the gen was fired up the charge at the batteries (with no load on the batteries other than the gas sniffer) was never higher than 13.26 v ... supposedly the WFCO 'float mode' or
2.) why the batteries are suddenly being sucked down from 12.6v to 9.6 v over an 8-9 hr. period with only the refer circuit board and the gas sniffer pulling fairly insignificant amperage. I am assuming that the WFCO power center board is 1.) not charging properly and 2.) over drawing amperage from the batteries when under load, since all power, 12 v or 110, goes through that center? Guess I'll find out!

Webslave, Think you're right about the assumptions made by the manufacturers about who is buying them an how they're going to be used! Camping W. said sort of the same thing. I've also thought about the solar option, but when we are boondocking we often are under trees with minimum direct sun, so I've figured we would not get the best response from cells, unless we covered the roof with them! I am thinking that I should pursue a more direct charge circuit to by pass whatever power center I have on board, also noted by axv. And finding a nice little digital volt/amp meter I could install to replace the lousy sensor panel.
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Old 10-01-2013, 07:54 AM   #5
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I subscribe to several RV news and tips sources and here's the most pertinent excerpt from a recent "tips" newsletter that is timely for this issue:

"RV batteries take a LONG time to charge, particularly if you're trying to charge them with the typical RV converter-charger. Here's a scenario: "I've been out here a couple of days and my lights started going dim. So I fired up the generator and it's been running for hours, but my battery is still low!"

The standard "factory equipped" converter-charger rarely sends more than 3 or 4 amps to the battery when "shore power" or generator power is available. At that rate it can take many, many hours to really charge up the RV battery. If you don't have solar or wind power and don't have a built-in high-current charging system, here's how to make your RV generator help out:

Use a fairly high-current freestanding battery charger — like you'd pick up at an auto parts store — and hook it directly to the RV "house" battery — the one that operates your interior lights and water pump. If you need an extension cord, be sure to use a suitably "gauged" (heavy enough) cord for the charger."


The above from RV Daily Tips, today's issue.

Basically what I said in my first post...

A couple of hours with the standard converter type "chargers" just won't do a recharge when trying to boondock with batteries, no matter how little overall draw you have...it is all cummulative over time and despite the initial "charge indication", whether from your panel or reading voltage at the battery, it takes a loooonnnggg time to recharge a drawn down battery via the converter...

The above system of using a seperate charger and not relying on the converter for recharging the house batteries is the way most "hard core" get around the limitations of even a good converter, let alone one of the "standard issue" types that are less than consistantly reliable despite their specifications. The converter, despite the voltages that it says it provides to the batteries is just not up to that type of charging. Amps charge batteries, not voltage. The voltage output specification is only useful in telling you that the output (13.6 volts) is enough to overcome the battery's existing charge state. An output of 9.5 volts cannot overcome (charge) a 12 volt battery that is at 12 volts, so, the converter "advertises" an adequate "umph" voltage, but, it probably doesn't tell you the charging amperage; and that's the most important piece of the equation when talking about "how long it takes to charge a battery".

As for why your system draws down so rapidly... Even if the converter is at fault for the charging issue (which I doubt is the sole problem), you've got something that is drawing current. Even a feed back loop in the converter wouldn't consume that much current and current only flows when there is something on the circuit to consume it. It is like water in depression; it will eventually, over time, evaporate, but, if it goes away rapidly somethin is consuming it. "Ghost" draws can be difficult to find...if you do, in fact, have one. I think the root issue is still battery age, depth of charge and sulfation from frequent inadequate charges. Equalization plays an important part also, more so, when you are using a multi-battery system.

I use the BatteryMinder Plus system on all of my batteries, however, I have been experimenting with a newer system that can handle multiple batteries in seperate locations (like the two batteries in my antique cars that located near each other). I have the BatteryMinders on the tractors, the ATVs, the generator's battery; any of my "toys" with a 12v battery. The tractor, sits, sometimes for years, without my ever starting it. If I go out there now (actually, I used it last week), it will turn right over. Try the seperate charger/mainainer/desulfator route, to maintain the batteries over time, but, a good standalone variable output charger with a minimum of 10 amps output would be a better solution than relying on the converter for that type of charging "in the wild".



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Old 10-02-2013, 02:41 PM   #6
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A problem that I have seen with draw down is related to the heater strip in the fridge, supposed to reduce condensation and it runs all the time. I know several of us cut that circuit out and helped reduce some serious battery drain. You can do this by finding your fridge light, depends on model but you see it in the schematic in the owners manual. simple snip and that circuit is eliminated. you may also have some voltage leakage through a bad ground or proximity short. I have found some of the connections on monitor board were very loose and would bounce off another tab causing additional drain.
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Old 10-02-2013, 04:37 PM   #7
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THX so much Don and shadow! I have had a good understanding of AC wiring and only what I would call 'rudimentary' working knowledge of the finerys of these kinds of 12volt issues, so you have all helped with furthering that!

I will look into that heater strip issue, but because this just suddenly cropped up, I'm thinking there is another problem that has caused the drain down issue. And if Don is right as well about battery sulfation, it will mean new batteries along with a new process of charging as outlined in his post - that was timely! Might be a little more work than just plugging in the shore line to the Gen, but not really much. I'm assuming I'll want to add a separate and absolute disconnect between the batteries and trailer system if I go that route, just to take the extra precaution, rather than relying on the switch inside on the control panel. I'm assuming it would not be good to have a charger pumping high amps into the batteries downstream of the Converter Power Distribution board.

If both the fridge and WFCO check out as "within factory specs", I'll obviously need to pursue tracking down that leakage. Not looking forward to that! At least you have given me some good talking points for when I take it in to see the techs!
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Old 10-02-2013, 05:42 PM   #8
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I am going to test mine, here is a video on upgrading the wfco charger with a real charger.
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Old 10-02-2013, 08:23 PM   #9
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Default battery cable size chart, useful

http://www.colemanair.us/vp_asp/Scri...5_WireSize.htm
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Old 10-03-2013, 09:04 AM   #10
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On most Dometic refrigerators there is a switch to turn off the heater strip. It can be hard to find though. The way its described in the manual makes it sound like it's located underneath the control panel - as in you'd have to remove the control panel to access it.

On miine after reading the description in the manual over at least 5 times and a lot of searching I finally found it. It's a small rocker switch and was hidden quite well. It's actually located in a recessed area inside the upper door frame. So I guess in that sense it is "beneath" the control panel. You can find it if you open the freezer door and run your hand under the frame. Or if you get on your knees and look up you should be able to see it.

I've no idea why they didn't just put a button with a label directly on the control panel.
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Old 10-03-2013, 10:08 AM   #11
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Not all models have the switch, fyi
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Old 10-08-2013, 02:16 PM   #12
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just replaced the wfco converter with the pd4600 55 total install time was about 1 hour, very simple
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Old 10-09-2013, 12:24 PM   #13
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Shadow, THX for the posts! We just got back home after our month of travels and I'm going to 1st have the batteries dbl checked to see what their 'actual' condition is, then get into the dealer to have the systems checked. Seems like there has to be something that suddenly started drawing more amperage, fridge, short or maybe something in the WFCO.

I can say that everything worked fine for the last 2 weeks parked on shore power, no issues whatsoever. And while parked, I disconnected the batteries ... so no charge going into them from the WFCO ... and they were both right up there over 12v when we hitched up to leave.

I'll need to get the dealer to put a proper tester on them to see what kind of amperage is going in/out to trace the draw problem. But I think I will likely take the advice of many and replace that converter unit. Not a great price for quality. It's good to know I can do that without having to replace the entire fuse/power distribution box!

Does anyone have a suggested decent quality (but not outrageously priced) battery meter I could mount in the trailer in place of that lousy 4 light gauge on the unit's sensor panel? It would be nice to be able to see what amperage is going in/out of the battery bank and see at a glance what the current 'real' charge status is. I've seen a few that are priced in the $150-200 range and are more sophisticated than I need, more for solar systems and large battery banks.
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Old 10-09-2013, 12:33 PM   #14
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I installed one of these very simple and accurate, just need to know what voltages mean, vs. idiot meter.
http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00...?ie=UTF8&psc=1
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