Dead Battery after 2.5 hours towing Casita with fridge on DC - Fiberglass RV



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Old 05-08-2019, 05:09 PM   #1
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Name: Chandler
Trailer: Casita
Utah
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Dead Battery after 2.5 hours towing Casita with fridge on DC

Hello All,

When I got home after a 2.5 hour drive back from camping, my battery barely had enough juice to drop my electric tongue jack. I got it off my hitch and it died completely before I could use it to level out.

This was my 5th trip with the trailer, and I had never had a problem running the fridge on DC while towing, including on the way out on this trip. Battery was always at 13.7-13.8V when I checked after unhitching at a site.

I have '17 4runner with no aftermarket accessories, so the alternator should be plenty.

My brake lights and turn signal were connected and working. I guess its possible that the pins for battery charging were loose, but that doesn't seem likely, since the receptacle hatch ensures you have the plug fully inserted.

Battery is fairly new, deep cycle, and kept its charge all winter without the use of a battery tender. My 3rd trip with the trailer since de-winterizing.

Just kind of stumped and not sure where to start troubleshooting.

tl;dr my healthy casita battery was almost completely dead after a 2.5 hour tow with fridge running on DC.

Suggestions appreciated.

Thanks All,
Chandler
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Old 05-08-2019, 05:25 PM   #2
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Trailer: Escape 21 & Jeep GC 5.7 (Previous 2012 Casita FD17 & 2010 Audi Q5)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by elswenso89 View Post
Hello All,

When I got home after a 2.5 hour drive back from camping, my battery barely had enough juice to drop my electric tongue jack. I got it off my hitch and it died completely before I could use it to level out.

This was my 5th trip with the trailer, and I had never had a problem running the fridge on DC while towing, including on the way out on this trip. Battery was always at 13.7-13.8V when I checked after unhitching at a site.

I have '17 4runner with no aftermarket accessories, so the alternator should be plenty.

My brake lights and turn signal were connected and working. I guess its possible that the pins for battery charging were loose, but that doesn't seem likely, since the receptacle hatch ensures you have the plug fully inserted.

Battery is fairly new, deep cycle, and kept its charge all winter without the use of a battery tender. My 3rd trip with the trailer since de-winterizing.

Just kind of stumped and not sure where to start troubleshooting.

tl;dr my healthy casita battery was almost completely dead after a 2.5 hour tow with fridge running on DC.

Suggestions appreciated.

Thanks All,
Chandler

Running the refrigerator on 12VDC does impose a very heavy current draw.

Part of the equation is how much of that comes from the vehicle's alternator and through all the wiring back to the trailer. It requires heavy gauge wiring and good connections at the 7 pin connector.

The interesting part here might actually be figuring out why it was so successful before.

Successfully running this way would require a good alternator, a good positive wiring connection, and also a good ground connection. Sometimes that last one gets forgotten.

I'm going to assume you weren't idling and running the alternator at very low speeds. I'll also assume you were not imposing a new high-current load like playing death metal music through your massive new subwoofer in the tow vehicle, or making toast in the car with your new 12-volt toaster.

Other than that, it's good to go through the standard troubleshooting process; check the water in the batteries, visually inspect and tug on all connections, check the voltages from front to rear while connected and running under load, etc.

I don't know if any of this helps you, but it's a way to frame the problem.
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Old 05-08-2019, 05:35 PM   #3
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Name: Joe
Trailer: 1999 Casita 17' SD
Ohio
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That's why many if not most tow with the refrigerator on propane.
No it's not illegal in any state but is not allowed on ferry boats and in some tunnels and must be shut of when refilling.
Battery charging on modern cars has changed, been lowered, to obtain better fuel mileage at the cost of our trailer batteries.
I too am surprised that you actually got 2.5 hours out of it

Joe
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Old 05-08-2019, 05:36 PM   #4
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Briefly looking at your de-winterizing thread makes me wonder if the battery might have frozen - ? Sometimes they will just sort of keel over and die once they are damaged.

Even if it was okay before, you may have run it down to that point now. Conventional lead-acid batteries aren't supposed to be taken down much below 12 volts.
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Old 05-08-2019, 06:04 PM   #5
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Sounds like inadequate (too thin) wire from TV battery to 7 pin connector. You need at least gauge 10 wire there.
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Old 05-08-2019, 06:33 PM   #6
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If your battery was depleted when you left camp and you drive all day with the fridge on DC, your battery will still be depleted when you arrive at your next camp. There simply isn't enough charge to run the fridge and charge the battery.
That's why I deleted the 3-way fridge on my build sheet and got a larger 2-way ( AC and propane ) and travel with the fridge on propane.
I did have the vehicle wired 10# and have a larger alternator.
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Old 05-08-2019, 06:33 PM   #7
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Name: Steve
Trailer: Casita 17 ft DLX SD & 21 ft SOB
NW Wisconsin
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We learned the hardway about traveling with the refrigerator on 12 VDC
When we got to our destination and our battery was too low to run the furnace , reality struck home . We switched to propane it’s a win win .
If you want to rewire your trailer & tow vehicle plus upgrade your alternator that’s another route .
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Old 05-08-2019, 08:07 PM   #8
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Normal. Did it on my 2015 F150 too. Wire is too small for that much current draw.
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Old 05-09-2019, 09:51 AM   #9
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Name: Chandler
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Thanks all.
This was the first time it was hotter than 60, so it would make sense to me then.

I just worry about an accident with the propane on. Might be a necessary risk, but had planned to avoid running with the tanks open.
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Old 05-09-2019, 09:58 AM   #10
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This is from Canadian Propane Association:
  • Propane has the lowest flammability range of all alternative fuels (2.4% – 9.5%) – so there must be a very specific combination of propane and oxygen for it to burn.
  • Propane’s auto ignition temperature is approximately 493 – 549C (920 – 1020F), gasoline’s auto ignition temperature is around 257 C (495F) – therefore, gasoline will burn or explode at a much lower temperature than propane.
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Old 05-09-2019, 10:10 AM   #11
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Name: Darral
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I would check into one of these if you have a 12v outlet on your Casita somewhere. I use one regularly so I know what's going on with my Battery Tender when it's plugged into shore power at home.



For you, you could plug in and see what voltage you have with it on the onboard battery. Plug your rv cord into your vehicle and start it up. While it wont tell you the amperage being sent through, you should at LEAST see the voltage rise when the vehicle starts. 13.8-14+ Volts. Others may can give you more accurate figures. My point is, IF you're getting a connection it will change. If NOTHING changes, you've got a bad connection.



I run on 12V- BUT- I have the smaller 1.9 Dometic and it wont pull as much as the larger fridges with a freezer!



To each his own...I do not and WILL not pull with my propane on. I'd run a "generator" first . (I know that was a shot across the propane users' bow!)



Quote:
Originally Posted by elswenso89 View Post
Thanks all.
This was the first time it was hotter than 60, so it would make sense to me then.

I just worry about an accident with the propane on. Might be a necessary risk, but had planned to avoid running with the tanks open.
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Old 05-09-2019, 10:42 AM   #12
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To each his own...I do not and WILL not pull with my propane on. I'd run a "generator" first . (I know that was a shot across the propane users' bow!)

It's your foot.
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Old 05-09-2019, 10:48 AM   #13
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Check for a blown fuse in the wire that comes off your TV battery. It is the "hot" wire that goes direct to the 7 pin connector to charge the trailer battery.
Also look for a fuse at the battery.
Use a volt meter to check voltage at the 12V terminals on the fridge.
You may find it to be around 10 volts. If so, the wiring in the trailer is too small for the current draw, as it goes through the load center.
Try running a 12 gage wire directly from the trailer battery to the fridge.
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Old 05-09-2019, 10:59 AM   #14
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Name: Michael
Trailer: Trail Cruiser
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I had a 3 way fridge in a unit I previously owned. Ran it on 12 volt DC when towing. No problem as long as I didn't leave it on DC when parked. If I left the fridge on DC it would kill the trailer battery in about 3 hours. If I left the trailer connected to the TV, it would kill both batteries.
I installed a solenoid so that my TV battery was protected if I forgot to disconnect.

The alternator powered the vehicle and kept the vehicle and trailer batteries fully charged.
Eventually I had the same problem you are reporting. Traced it down to the ground between the TV and the trailer through the connector. Once I fixed this I was good to go again.
As in your case everything worked well for a while so I knew the alternator could maintain both batteries. Most alternators can. I also knew the electrical set up was correct because it had work well for quite some time. I concluded there must be a failure in the system somewhere.

The 3 way ran on propane with a pilot light, no electrical power required. Great set up for boondocking.The fridge in my current unit runs on AC/propane, some electrical power needed for ignition but not much.
DC fridge operation requires a significant amount of electrical power. This feature was intended to allow fridge operation while traveling and connected to an operating alternator. It was not intended for use with a battery for more than the few minutes required to switch to propane or AC as the demand is too high for any battery.
If your set up has worked well previously but now doesn't I suggest you check the wiring, this is likely the problem. Try running your fridge on 12 volt DC, connected to your (running) TV without a trailer battery connected. If your wiring is good your fridge will operate on the power from your TV. If not you've found your problem.
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