How far or how long to drive to recharge a Casita 16' battery? - Fiberglass RV


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Old 09-18-2019, 01:01 PM   #1
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Name: Lisle
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How far or how long to drive to recharge a Casita 16' battery?

So I've been camping for 3 nights in Maine. Nights have been cold. During the evening, while sitting up reading, I ran the heater a fair amount. Also ran some lights and a little water. Frig was on propane. Apparently my battery has gone dead because the lights and the pump aren't working. Tried to turn on the heater, but without electricity for the fan, it won't run. Interesting that the propane alarm light is off, but the alarm didn't go off, which I think it is supposed to when it's out of electricity? It's now 60 degrees at 3PM and going down to 44 tonight. Planning to stay one more night and it would be really nice to just warm things up once before going to bed. Thinking about hooking up the camper and going for a drive to recharge the batteries. Wondering if an hour of driving would put some decent charge on the battery?
I'll probably give it a try, AND would love any advice. Also wondering how people can boondocks for a week or more and not use up the battery? Solar panels required for that?
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Old 09-18-2019, 02:41 PM   #2
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Lisle, you say that the fridge is on propane, but did you shut the fridge switch off for the battery? If not, then that might drain the battery. By the way, where in Maine are you? We live in the Presque Isle area. Don.
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Old 09-18-2019, 02:54 PM   #3
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Drive to the closest Costco or Sams Club and buy a generator. (OK, joking there). Or pull up camp and find a campground with electric hookups. One hour is not going to do it. And you may have damaged battery running it down too far.

Lead acid batteries are NOT designed to run until dead.

I've never been able to dry camp for a week without either a generator or a solar panel. Basically, the generator goes with if I want to use any AC, while the solar panel goes with if I just want to use the basics. Most of the time I am dry camping, not boon docking, but the outcome is the same.
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Old 09-19-2019, 11:27 AM   #4
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So I've been camping for 3 nights in Maine. Nights have been cold. During the evening, while sitting up reading, I ran the heater a fair amount. Also ran some lights and a little water. Frig was on propane. Apparently my battery has gone dead because the lights and the pump aren't working. Tried to turn on the heater, but without electricity for the fan, it won't run. Interesting that the propane alarm light is off, but the alarm didn't go off, which I think it is supposed to when it's out of electricity? It's now 60 degrees at 3PM and going down to 44 tonight. Planning to stay one more night and it would be really nice to just warm things up once before going to bed. Thinking about hooking up the camper and going for a drive to recharge the batteries. Wondering if an hour of driving would put some decent charge on the battery?
I'll probably give it a try, AND would love any advice. Also wondering how people can boondocks for a week or more and not use up the battery? Solar panels required for that?
No an hour will not be enough to do anything for the battery. First off the heater will run down the battery in an evening if it runs a lot. This means your fridge is not working either most likely unless it is an old one that doesn't have any electronics for the temperature control. I can go a few days if I don't use the heater or anything like charging cell phone, etc. I always keep the fridge on propane but it still uses a little of the battery for the temperature control and the igniter for the flame as it cycles. You will need to go somewhere you can have electric to charge the battery up if it will charge up. It may be old or not take a charge now. When driving make sure your tv is charging the battery and make sure your fridge is not on 12V when driving as that can run down the trailer battery as well. Most tv systems won't fully charge the trailer battery up when fridge is on 12V.
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Old 09-19-2019, 03:11 PM   #5
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You will not regret it if you buy a nice 120W or so solar panel. Simple to use and not obnoxiously loud like a generator. They work well on cloudy days too. You won't be able to use 120V items like AC but who cares! You're camping so just use a fan if needed.
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Old 09-19-2019, 06:05 PM   #6
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Do you know for sure that your tow vehicle charges the battery when driving? Although you might have a 7 pin connector, that doesn't necessarily mean that all 7 pins are wired. Solar helps our battery last longer, we use about 15 amp hours per night charging our phones, minimal LED lighting, and a CPAP. Adding a furnace at 3 amp hours per each hour the fan runs could quickly get you below the recommended minimum 50% draw on a standard 80-100 amp hour battery within two days.
We also carry a small 1000 watt generator for emergency battery charging but haven't had to use it yet, since our rooftop and portable 90 watt panels keep us charged pretty well.
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Old 09-20-2019, 06:39 AM   #7
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Lisle says the trailer is a 16'er. the little fridges in those trailers do not require 12v to operate unless, of course, you're attempting to run in in 12v mode instead of propane (not a good idea).

there are lots of things that could be causing the battery to discharge. questions to consider would be the state of charge on the battery at the beginning of the trip, the age of the battery and the last time the fluid levels were checked. if all of those were within tolerances then i'd suspect the furnace. i've heard that the fan consumes a lot of amps but, since i don't have a furnace in my 16'er, i can't speak to that.

not to brag but, i've camped without hookups for weeks on end and never wanted for power. that's made possible by the generator and the solar panels that are always at the ready.

p@
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Old 09-20-2019, 07:47 AM   #8
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My 16' fridge uses no battery power while running on propane. Unless they've changed fridges that is a dead end.

My furnace uses 3 amps (measured) while the fan is running.
My water pump uses 7 amps (measured) while running.

The OP did not mention LED bulbs. Regular bulbs use more than a amp each bulb while on.

My 16' came with a group 24 battery which is normally about 90 amp hour or 45 amp hours usable.

Like P@, I suspect the furnace.

One hour on the car alternator will do virtually nothing useful.
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Old 09-20-2019, 04:09 PM   #9
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Battery Charging

When we dry camp with the furnace running and lights over one night it takes our 80 watt solar system 4.5 hours to charge the battery in full sun light. The solar system is charging at 5 amps. We don't know how many amps will flow from your vehicle when charging the battery. That would have to been measured with an amp meter. If it is 5 amps then it will take all day. If it is 10 amps then half a day. The charge rate from your vehicle to the trailer is determined by the size of the battery charging wire that runs from your vehicle to the trailer pug.

One thing that I did do before I got the solar panel was back the vehicle up to the trailer and plug the trailer in. Then let the engine run for several hours. Not the best way but it got me through a 5 day dry camping trip.
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Old 09-20-2019, 09:38 PM   #10
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Lisle,

A MUCH better solution than hooking up and going for a drive, is to simply attach a set of jumper cables from the tow vehicle to the trailer battery, and run the engine for about 1/2 hour.

This gives you full alternator output and really makes a difference. As has been said, running the battery clear flat will ruin it in short order. You can't get away with that more than a very few times. Re-charge at no lower than 12.1 volts, or about 50%.

Your TV should charge the battery through the seven pin, but at a slow rate. So, if you want to check it, to make sure it does charge, back up to the trailer and plug-in, but don't connect the hitch. Start the TV and watch the battery voltage for a while with no loads from lights, the heater, etc. The battery voltage should slowly climb and peak out around 14.2 volts, given enough time. If you see it rising, you are charging from the TV. And you also know then, that the ball is not being used as a 12v ground connection. If you drive long enough, it should bring the battery up to full charge, depending on a number of variables. Mine does, and I have (4) Trojan T-105 batteries. But don't push your luck by trying to run the fridge on 12 volts.
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Old 09-21-2019, 01:14 PM   #11
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There is unlikely to be a mode of charging the trailer battery thru the connector cable, unless you have added it.
There have been many methods used over the years (direct connection, Diode splitters, mosfet splitters, specialized relays [VW]), but they are all problematic. The biggest issue is one alternator close to and in Kelvin connection with the start battery, while the trailer battery is remote thru long lines and multiple connectors. The alternator regulates to maintain a more or less constant voltage at the start battery while the trailer battery gets 10s or 100s of mV less, so significantly less charge current.
The method I am currently using is inexpensive and has worked well for me.
On eBay.ca I found this:

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It is a 5A buck boost switching regulator which takes whatever voltage you do get after the trailer connector and converts it to an appropriate voltage to charge your trailer battery (at 5A). You can feed it with a dedicated 12V wire if there is one, or feed it from the clearance light circuit. That way, whenever your driving with the clearance lights on you charge at 5A. The output is adjustable so you set it to the appropriate voltage your battery needs (flooded lead , AGM, gel or LiIon. It even has its own readout for setting voltage. An under $10 solution.
We just returned from a 2 week trip and never plugged in. The trip included 2 three day remote stops, and the lowest Voc I saw on the trailer battery was 12.3V. We are of course very careful what we draw from the battery when we are remote.
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Old 09-21-2019, 05:40 PM   #12
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Doug,

5 amps is a very low charge rate. Can the clearance light circuit handle an extra 5 amps without blowing it's fuse?

It seems it would be better to ramp up the charge rate to something quite a bit higher, but still have it controlled by the alternator regulator, to bring the battery up fast, but avoid overcharging. Can your controller supply a constant voltage of 14.1 from a lower voltage, or variable voltage circuit?

Probably easier to do this by simply installing a heavier set of wires from the TV battery to the back, with a relay that pulls in from the ignition circuit.

My HQ19 comes stock with a heavy set of charging wires from the tongue to the batteries, with an Anderson plug in the front, ready to plug into charging wires from the TV.
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Old 09-21-2019, 07:41 PM   #13
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Doug,

5 amps is a very low charge rate. Can the clearance light circuit handle an extra 5 amps without blowing it's fuse?

It seems it would be better to ramp up the charge rate to something quite a bit higher, but still have it controlled by the alternator regulator, to bring the battery up fast, but avoid overcharging. Can your controller supply a constant voltage of 14.1 from a lower voltage, or variable voltage circuit?

Probably easier to do this by simply installing a heavier set of wires from the TV battery to the back, with a relay that pulls in from the ignition circuit.

My HQ19 comes stock with a heavy set of charging wires from the tongue to the batteries, with an Anderson plug in the front, ready to plug into charging wires from the TV.


The clearance lamp fuse is 30A ( on my tug) and these days many have converted to led clearance, yes 5A is low, but appropriate for charging while towing. Yes the switcher can supply an accurate and constant 5 to 35V. You adjust to your Vfloat with a 10turn pot on the board. The control loop accuracy is comparable with the regulator in modern alternators (check out the LM2577S if your keen), but it is local to the trailer battery. I have this setup on a couple of rigs and have been using it for 3 years now.
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Old 09-21-2019, 08:22 PM   #14
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Doug,

I'm intrigued. So, will it take less than 14v (after line losses to the rear of the tug), and give you 14.2 at the trailer battery? And will it give a constant output with a variable input? Such as when the load reduces as the battery reaches full charge, and the voltage from the tug appears to increase?

It seems every tug has a different strategy for their charging current. With my Ram 3500, it charges well at the trailer and I can even run my fridge on 12v if I want to. Plus, it's a smart charging regulator that brings the batts up to 14.1 and then goes to float at just over 13. I know it's putting out more than 5 amps, but I don't have an accurate value.

In any case, the OP was asking about how to get the batts up while camping, after being dead. Jumper cables are the best way to get some serious amps to the batts, in a simple way.
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Old 09-21-2019, 08:47 PM   #15
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How far or how long to drive to recharge a Casita 16' battery?

Yes, 8V in will still give you 14.2V out if that is what you set it to..boost switchers.
I agree about the booster cables.
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Old 09-22-2019, 07:29 PM   #16
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Wow, did this get technical. I'm going to have to read some of these posts several more times to understand. So, my 2018 Casita 16' has a quite new gel battery. As far as I can tell, there is no readout to tell you how much battery you have left on the Casita, and the only way to track it is to use a voltage meter on the actual battery, or by experience. This was my first 4 night camping trip so I'm lacking experience. I do understand the battery can be damaged by running it out. What do other people do to be sure they don't run their battery down too low? Do you actually pull out the battery and use a volt meter? How often?

Prior to this camping trip, the camper was plugged in to house power for 4 days. Then I drove a hundred miles and plugged it in overnight again. Then I drove close to 300mi to the campground for my 4 night stay. I would think the battery should have been fully charged at that point. I had the frig on 12V while driving, then switched to propane at the campsite. All the lights in the camper are LED and i rarely have more than 2 on at a time. So 3 evenings of running the heater fan intermittently and a couple hours of 1-2 LED lights seems to have been enough to drain the battery down to the bottom. From the posts above, I'm guessing this is not too surprising?

After posting the original thread here, it dawned on me that I could just pay a little extra and move to a campsite with electricity, which I did. I plugged in the camper to 30amp for 15 hrs, which I hoped would charge the battery. Then I drove 200mi using 12V for the frig and camped at a Walmart. I must have locked the refrigerator incorrectly because the contents of the frig were all over the floor -- suggesting that door was open at least some of the time and the 12V was trying to cool more than the small frig. I flushed the toilet once and brushed my teeth, had one LED on for less than an hour and went to bed. In the morning there was no electricity again. Would it be expected that the battery would still have had some charge if it is functioning properly? Does this suggest I damaged the battery by letting it run dry? How to tell if the battery is damaged?
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Old 09-22-2019, 08:28 PM   #17
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Wow, did this get technical. I'm going to have to read some of these posts several more times to understand. So, my 2018 Casita 16' has a quite new gel battery. As far as I can tell, there is no readout to tell you how much battery you have left on the Casita, and the only way to track it is to use a voltage meter on the actual battery, or by experience. This was my first 4 night camping trip so I'm lacking experience. I do understand the battery can be damaged by running it out. What do other people do to be sure they don't run their battery down too low? Do you actually pull out the battery and use a volt meter? How often?

Prior to this camping trip, the camper was plugged in to house power for 4 days. Then I drove a hundred miles and plugged it in overnight again. Then I drove close to 300mi to the campground for my 4 night stay. I would think the battery should have been fully charged at that point. I had the frig on 12V while driving, then switched to propane at the campsite. All the lights in the camper are LED and i rarely have more than 2 on at a time. So 3 evenings of running the heater fan intermittently and a couple hours of 1-2 LED lights seems to have been enough to drain the battery down to the bottom. From the posts above, I'm guessing this is not too surprising?

After posting the original thread here, it dawned on me that I could just pay a little extra and move to a campsite with electricity, which I did. I plugged in the camper to 30amp for 15 hrs, which I hoped would charge the battery. Then I drove 200mi using 12V for the frig and camped at a Walmart. I must have locked the refrigerator incorrectly because the contents of the frig were all over the floor -- suggesting that door was open at least some of the time and the 12V was trying to cool more than the small frig. I flushed the toilet once and brushed my teeth, had one LED on for less than an hour and went to bed. In the morning there was no electricity again. Would it be expected that the battery would still have had some charge if it is functioning properly? Does this suggest I damaged the battery by letting it run dry? How to tell if the battery is damaged?
Most likely your whole problem is you are running the fridge on 12V while driving. Many vehicles will not keep up with the drain on the battery even while driving. My 2013 Yukon XL which has a good heavy duty charging system will not keep up with the drain on the trailer battery. The fridge will run down my trailer battery in about 4-6 hours even while it is being charged while driving. Use propane for the fridge while driving. I don't know why they even make a fridge with 12V since most of the time they run down the battery even when driving. One way we test our 12V system in the trailer is with a little tester that plugs into the 12V television receptacle above the bed. It has a lighted read out and you'd know what your battery is reading. You could plug in the trailer to a 30 amp receptacle or let it charge while driving with the fridge on propane and check the 12V to see what it reads after unhooking the charging system. If it is fully charged then check it later after using it for lights and pump only. It will go down a little after the charging is removed but not a lot. Then you can see if it will hold up. Just don't run the fridge on 12V. There's more technical ways to do this but this is a simple way for a newbie to find out easily. Don't ask me how I know all this. Just know I've been there done that.
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Old 09-22-2019, 08:47 PM   #18
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Lisle,

The easiest way to add a meter and monitor your battery voltage is to simply plug a volt meter into a cigarette lighter plug in your trailer. These meters are very cheap and adequate for watching your battery. Once you start watching it you will be able to get a lot of information about your battery's state of charge, currently charging or not, fully charged or not, and whether your tug is charging the battery or not. You can get a fairly accurate state of charge reading if you shut off all loads and wait at least 1/2 hour. Then read the voltage and know that 12.1 is about 50% charge and the lowest you should discharge the battery to. The voltage will read low if there are any loads on it, so let it "rest" before deciding the state of charge. You can look up lead acid voltage / state of charge charts, easily. Then you can predict when you might hit the 50% level and when you might need to re-charge. Or if you need to stop draining it any further, etc.

I agree with Jann; don't run your fridge on 12 volts. Propane, while camped or traveling, AC, when plugged in at home or at an RV park.

When charging from the tug, you should eventually get up to about 14 volts. Rested, fully charged voltage is 12.6-12.7. Real world rested voltage when camping should be somewhere between 12.6 and 12.1. Don't be fooled by a low voltage when you have a load on the battery. Let it rest before expecting an accurate state of charge voltage. This probably means look at it first thing in the morning after everything has been off overnight. Don't run it down lower than 12.1 rested. Remember the jumper cable trick, at least until you get a more sophisticated solution.

One of the best things ever is a Renogy 100 watt suitcase solar system. Very useful!

Here is a link to a meter, but you can select any you like: https://www.amazon.com/Cigarette-Lig...05974180&psc=1
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Old 09-23-2019, 03:43 AM   #19
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Lisle, I too was camping for 3 nights at the Basin Campground on the 17-18-19 and it got down to the mid 30's and with the wind coming off the water it was down right cold. Even though it was cloudy one day and I only got direct sunlight for 3 hours a day my 100 watt Zamp Solar panel provided enough power to run my LED lights, Furnace all night (shut off during the day) and Fridge on propane. we used the water pump only to do dishes. Solar is the only way to go as lugging around a generator with gas fumes in the SUV makes the wife sick as a dog.
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Old 09-23-2019, 10:38 AM   #20
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Since you mentioned running the 12 volt fridge on your trip while driving, I suspect that is a major culprit as the fridge usually consumes more power than the charging system can supply.
Was your 7 pin connector factory installed and hooked up so that it actually supplies 12 volts on the charging wire? Have you confirmed that you are actually getting 12 volts on the charging circuit as you drive? A simple test would be to plug a volt reader into a DC outlet in your camper, check the voltage while the tow vehicle is not running, and then turn the tow vehicle on and see if the voltage goes up (it should) or stays the same.
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