Electrical Power Discharge Episode - Fiberglass RV


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Old 07-17-2006, 10:23 PM   #1
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So, after reading this forum for about a year, we located a 16' Scamp through a wanted poster here. Just got back from our maiden voyage with a little used 2004. Had an experience in a small campground on Cape Cod called the Dunes Edge. (Nice place abutting the National Seashore at the Provincetown end.)

We stayed there before with a pop-up without using electric service. This time, we plugged in. What happened was our on-board 12V system ran down very quickly when it should have been charging through the trickle charger. We have used a shore line here at home and did not have any issue. Since returning, we have run the ceiling fan and intermitent lighting for almost twelve hours with no decernible change in the power, without a shore line.

At one point on our trip, after a larger rv tied in, the power went out. The brochure for the park admoninishes travelers not to use electric heaters or air-conditioners. Our neighbor disobeyed the rules. Obviously, there is a low power system in the park. Would it rob our 12 V power?
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Old 07-17-2006, 10:42 PM   #2
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No. The only way I could imagine is if you have an invertor that is hooked into the general 110vac system. I can't imagine why anyone would wire it as such, but it did have a previous owner who perhaps tailored the electrics for his and only his personal situation.

Your 12v battery may have less capacity than you might expect. Or maybe something was on that you were unaware of -- is your refrigerator a 110vac - 12vdc - propane that could have been drawing off the 12vdc?
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Old 07-17-2006, 11:02 PM   #3
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No. The only way I could imagine is if you have an invertor that is hooked into the general 110vac system. I can't imagine why anyone would wire it as such, but it did have a previous owner who perhaps tailored the electrics for his and only his personal situation.

Your 12v battery may have less capacity than you might expect. Or maybe something was on that you were unaware of -- is your refrigerator a 110vac - 12vdc - propane that could have been drawing off the 12vdc?

The regrigerator is a two-way and was running on the 110. There is a stock American convertor, which seems to work here at home okay. I am sure nothing was on that we did not notice.

Possibilities that occurred to me: 1) Scamp sat in New Hampshoire last winter while former owner was in FL. Maybe battery damage from cold? But, no other sign of this. Takes charge from tow vehicle as I hitched up a couple times in the park to charge the battery.

2) Something wrong with the convertor. I noticed some screws and cap nuts on the molded seat section surrounding the convertor may have been disturbed, suggesting someone went in there. But before I speak to the party that sold me the rig, I want to know the problem is on board and not back on the Cape.

3) A dead short. But the trouble light on the convertor did not come on as advertised it would with a fault.

Would a bad ground on the supply system mean anything? I am really guessing here.
Has me going, I must say. Will be boon docking this weekend, so I guess I will learn about that battery.
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Old 07-17-2006, 11:25 PM   #4
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The American converter should keep the battery charged when it's plugged in.
Quick trouble shoot. Go to the battery, there should be a fuse in the battery box. Remove the fuse and plug in the trailer. If the 12 Volt lights work the converter is working, if the 12 Volt lights don't the converter isn't working and all the 12 volt system is running off the battery.

A dead short would stop the 12 volt system from working by;

1. blowing the a fuse or 3,
2. Buring up the wire until it behaved like a fuse and burned in two. This would be very smelly.

Another posiblility is a poor connection from the converter to the trailer 12 volt system. You can remove the front cover by removing the single screw. With the trail NOT plugged in and the main fuse, mine's under the couch, removed you can safely tighen on the terminal screws.

Hope this helps a bit.
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Old 07-18-2006, 07:56 AM   #5
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1. I would invest in an economical volt meter so you can see what is really going on with the circuits.

2. Is the battery a "maintenance-free" one or the type you have to add water to? I found that the one in our '99 Scamp is not a maint. free and the cells were extremely low in water (I really hadn't seen a non-maint. free battery for years so I checked it as an after thought while doing some frame maintenance).
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Old 07-18-2006, 09:07 AM   #6
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I know I'm going to get laughed at, but I have a very dumb question. By the way, I don't mind if you all laugh, it happens to me all the time, so be my guest.

First, is your two way frig a 110/12V? Is it automatic or is it a manual change over? The reason I ask is that I was just wondering if it was possible that you were plugged in and didn't have any power. I have been to campsites that you actually had to flip a breaker switch on or there was no power. If you were actually running your fridge on DC and only thought it was on 110, it would explain the extremely fast loss of power in your twelve volt system. The fact that it charges up with the car and at home really makes me think it was something at the pole rather than your rig.

Just a thought.

PS - if you stated that you had something plugged into one of your 110 outlets (and I missed it) and it worked .... ah ... well, nevermind.
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Old 07-18-2006, 10:30 PM   #7
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Hey, I really appreciate all the advice. Sorry to be so long getting back to you. Long day here. Had dinner at 9:30 p.m.

Have not had time to do much on the advice. Will get to all of it tomorrow. I need to find my volt meter in the garage somewhere. Amazing that as I could afford better cars how all the maintenance and diagnostic stuff got hidden.

Some answers: the two way fridge is propane and 110. It was definitely plugged in at the camp ground. Also ran a small tv from the 110 to a transformer that then had a 12 volt output of its own to run the unit. Plugged in a toaster at one point, too. Oh, and a small micro wave that came with the Scamp worked, too.

I pulled the caps off the battery tonight. The cells are filled to the top. Need to get a hydrometer tomorrow. Haven't had one for years, given the maintentance free state of auto batteries these days.

I will run the tests in the morning on the convertor in the manor specified by Byron. The one piece of literature that I did not get from the former owner was anything on the convertor. (Fishy, or am I paranoid? Considering that I work in a place where we x-ray the mail and I routinely work against the criminal element, I think I have lost some equalibrium about people's motives. Defintely need to retire.)

I am beginning to think there is a dead short somewhere, maybe even in th battery. Remind me. How do I test if the battery is shorting out? An amp meter to the ground?

Let me say again, I really appreciate all these suggestions. I find this website a shining light. People just being helpful and often humorous. That's why I have always liked camping all my life. You find good people at their best. Good night folks. I am exhausted.
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Old 07-18-2006, 11:05 PM   #8
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I will run the tests in the morning on the convertor in the manor specified by Byron. The one piece of literature that I did not get from the former owner was anything on the convertor. (Fishy, or am I paranoid? Considering that I work in a place where we x-ray the mail and I routinely work against the criminal element, I think I have lost some equalibrium about people's motives. Defintely need to retire.)
The manual I got with my 2006 Scamp and the American converter was a very small piece of paper. After a lot of digging I found the manufacturer and that's there is. Even if you had it you wouldn't have much.

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I am beginning to think there is a dead short somewhere, maybe even in th battery. Remind me. How do I test if the battery is shorting out? An amp meter to the ground?
If there was a "dead short" nothing would work. You would have blown fuses or smoke. You can certainly check to see if something is drawing current with an amp meter. It doesn't really matter which leg you put the amp meter in if you do it at the battery, just pay attention to the polarity. It is possible to have a partial short in one of battery cells, but not very likely.

The best way to test the battery is take the battery to a battery shop or someplace that sells and installs batteries and them put it on their load tester.

Quote:
Let me say again, I really appreciate all these suggestions. I find this website a shining light. People just being helpful and often humorous. That's why I have always liked camping all my life. You find good people at their best. Good night folks. I am exhausted.
I hope all this helps a bit.
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Old 07-19-2006, 09:07 AM   #9
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Well, now. Prior to leaving for the day, tried some of Byron's tests. Convertor appears to be working. And, the voltmeter says the battery is at 12volts after sitting all night without the shore line. Lights are bright.

Went into the convertor itself and checked the connections. Found a green 10 gauge (about) stranded copper wire toward the front that had a few strands touching an adjacent solid copper wire (14-16 gauge) that I took to be a ground as it is bare. Fixed that.

Then, I noticed at the bottom of the lowest section off the circuit board at the rear, a one-inch coil of wire, copper coated, but looks aluminum at its core, the strands being wrapped about a yellow painted metal donut, reposing on the bottom of the convertor box.

My convertor is an American 2000CX for which I have no schematic. Being generally unfamiliar with convertors, I have no idea what I am looking at, nor have a clue as to its function. But my shrewd mind tells me that this piece is not supposed to be lying loose at the bottom of the convertor. I can see where it appears to have been connected to the circuit board. If all it had for connection was its own small strands, no wonder it came off. I would think some kind of retainer would be in order.

So, what is this coil, its job, and what do I do now?

I see a similar coil, but coded yellow, on an upper protionof the circuit board, if that tells anyone anything.
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Old 07-19-2006, 09:38 AM   #10
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Bummer!!!

It's a toroid inductor. It is used either to smooth out the square wave output of your invertor to make it more sinusoidal (more like the 110 vac that comes from the land based power line.) Or it could be used in conjunction with other components to generate the 60 cycle timing signal. Probably only your circuit board designer knows for sure.

If you have an 'electronics orientated' friend, perhaps it could be soldered back where it was connected in the circuit board and everything might just work fine.

If it does, it would be a good idea to secure it in place so it doesn't rattle around and break off again as the trailer bounces over the pavement seams. Dental floss can sometimes be used to do the trick, or an ample blob of silicon seal will glue the component in place.

Good luck!
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Old 07-19-2006, 07:58 PM   #11
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Loren:

So, let me get this right. This is a component assoicated with the 110vac system and would not have any effect upon the recharging (or, mysterious discharging) of the 12V battery. Right?

What is the downside of just leaving this component off the board? How critical are the functions you described? Do I run the risk of harming 110vac things like microwaves, refrigerators, and air conditioners?

Soldering a number of these little strands of wire just doesn't seem too easy. Also, seems like a poor design. Why wouldn't these things rattle off in every single cs-xl convertor?

I have to break a seal that voids the warranty to get the circuit board out. But I don't think the warranty extends to me, a second owner, despite the unit being less than two years old. Thinking of the worse case scenario, what do these circuit boards generally cost? May be worth buying to avoid the frustration of soldering threads.
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Old 07-20-2006, 09:21 AM   #12
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If I recall correctly, the americans had a problem with components falling off, do a google search on the make and model and see what comes up.

Many batteries which have been overused (too many heavy discharge cycles) will develop what is known as a surface charge.
the battery will show as good, will operate a few small loads for a short time, then die immediately if a big load is put on it.
24 hours later it may well read 12+volts again,
but use it and the results will be the same
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Old 07-20-2006, 09:49 AM   #13
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I have to break a seal that voids the warranty to get the circuit board out. But I don't think the warranty extends to me, a second owner, despite the [b]unit being less than two years old. Thinking of the worse case scenario, what do these circuit boards generally cost? May be worth buying to avoid the frustration of soldering threads.
#1. I believe it would be worth a phone call to Scamp, just for peace of mind, and a little knowledge. I looked it up in the document center, and Scamp's warrantee is for [b]1 year.
#2. The manufacturer might have updated this board within the last 2 years, just because this incident may have happened to someone else. If it were me, I would replace the board. Many manufacturers have a board swap program. You send them your old board for a reduced price on a new one. (Kind of like a battery core charge.) This would be something to inquire about when you call Scamp. They might refer you to the converter manufacturer.
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Old 07-20-2006, 07:10 PM   #14
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Good idea on the board/core replacement. I looked in the Document Center and found some inconsistent language in the American convertor doc's. While the warranty language said one year, the warranty service instructions talk about two years. I will give Scamp a call in the morning to get things going.

I can't believe I am the only one to whom this has happened. The first owner made one trip from New Hampshire to Florida and back, with the legs of the trip seperated by two seasons. I have taken two trips not accumulating more than 1200 miles on four legs, mostly superhighways. (But, then Rt. 84 in CT and eastern NY is all "slap, slap, slap" of tar strips bewteen slabs. That could have done it.) Anyway, no real hard riding anywhere. Hard to think a piece of equipment marketed to the RV industry is so fragile.

If there is a significant failure rate, maybe the manufacturer has something in place to keep its good name.

I will put the battery on my trickle charger and see what is up with that. Still didn't get a hydrometer. This weekend, it is all battery, or kerosene lamp in Vermont. So, the convertor can be crippled.
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