Tug Can'k keep up with DC fridge requirements? - Fiberglass RV


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Old 03-27-2017, 09:12 AM   #1
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Tug Can'k keep up with DC fridge requirements?

Normally I run the fridge on DC while towing. Hardly anything in the fridge during towing. When arriving at the campground, first thing to do is plug in to power. Same thing on arriving home. Never "Noticed" any problem with the fridge. But never had any cause to look for a problem.

This last trip when arriving home we cleaned out any fridge leftovers and turned it off.

Parked the camper under it's shelter but a few hours passed before I made the last walk thru. Daylight was fading so I turned on the interior lights and they were dim. Monitor showed the battery at 11.7 volts.

I plugged in to AC power and the voltage showed 13.5 charging volts within just a few minutes. Turned in the fridge and voltage remained at 13.5. Turned off the power supply and the voltage dropped as was expected.

Turned off the fridge and Plugged in the Tug with the engine running. Voltage
climbed to 13.2 quickly. Turned on the fridge and the voltage began to drop with the tug still running.

Apparently the tug had not been keeping up with the fridge requirements while traveling.

Turned fridge off and the AC power back on and let the camper power supply do it's thing. Next morning I turned off the Power supply and slowly over the course of several hours the battery settled in at 12.7 volts. That's good! That was last weekend 3/19-3/20. The battery is still showing 12.7 indicating it capable of holding the voltage.

FWIW the battery is about 7 yrs old.

All that to ask if anyone else has experienced the TUG not keeping up with the fridge requirements. ? ? ? And if anyone has any ideas?

Thanks,
Kip
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Old 03-27-2017, 09:30 AM   #2
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Yes , we have encountered the same problem .If you run the refrigerator on 12VDC while traveling the trailer battery doesn't charge but slowly drains due to the load from the refrigerator.
You could increase the size of the 12VDC charge lines from the tow vehicle to the trailer battery , or put a solar panel on the trailer roof to supplement the charging of your trailer battery when driving or run the refrigerator on propane. We chose the later
When we arrive at our destination , the refrigerator is cold and our onboard battery is charged .
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Old 03-27-2017, 09:40 AM   #3
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Hello,

Was your drive home in the dark? Perhaps your alternator could not
keep up with the load of the vehicle lights, heater motor, wipers, etc.?

Did you check the trailer plug and the socket on the Ridgeline to ensure
there is no corrosion or dirt?

Think the Ridgeline has a 130A alternator so it should keep up with all
the loads. Perhaps your alternator output is down? How old it the vehicle
battery... perhaps Ridgeline was using more power to try to charge it?

The answer to the dilemma is interesting. It would be great if you post
the solution when a conclusion is reached.

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Old 03-27-2017, 09:41 AM   #4
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Name: Darral
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Whoa ho...my friend. This debate gets as rowdy as the "axle bearings" one or the "burn propane while on the road"...on and on.

I take it with your 17' you have the larger fridge with the freezer etc?

Well, from my experience, I have the small Dometic 1.9 so it's a "baby" in comparison to most and yes my truck can keep up on the road- or has for the past 7 yrs. But I hear many cant. Another thing- and I think Steve just mentioned this- is, the size of wire that runs back to the 7-pin plug! I ran a 10ga wire myself and I'm sure that helps get more amperage through.

One thing I HAVE proven with mine. At times, we'll stop at a Cracker Barrell etc to eat and I have left the trailer hooked up to my truck and never have a problem when we come back to the vehicle apx 1 hour later. (with the fridge running)

For what it's worth, I imagine an over-sized alternator along with heavy wire would enhance the ability to keep the larger fridges running while on the road as well.

Never thought about Steve's idea with the solar panels...sounds like a great idea since you're constantly out in the open when traveling!
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Old 03-27-2017, 09:45 AM   #5
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You say it has worked fine in the past...makes me wonder if maybe your alternator is on its way out. If you do find this to be the issue, you can probably replace with one with a higher amp rating, though it sounds as if your current one was up to the task previously.
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Old 03-27-2017, 09:49 AM   #6
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Battery age

I would more likely check your battery. 7 years is a long time for a battery under any conditions.
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Old 03-27-2017, 09:56 AM   #7
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Probably not related to the Ridgeline but the Chevy diesel pickup I had with my other larger trailer had a separate fuse in the fuse block. Had something to do with the feed line into the 7 way plug. Once it was traced to the fuse, all was well. Just guessing for a cure...
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Old 03-27-2017, 11:21 AM   #8
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Are you using the "factory" wiring for the charge line? If so you will probably have to install a heavier wire. The Ridgeline uses a 14 ga wire (actually the metric equivalent) for the charge line so the voltage drop will be significant with the 10+ amp draw of the refrigerator. Once the voltage from the vehicle drops below your coach battery voltage the system draws current from the battery, eventually discharging it.

One simple test you can do is disconnect the coach battery and all other loads (lights,gas detectors etc), then measure the charge line voltage at the trailer with the refrigerator off and on. If the voltage at the trailer drops below about 13.2V the charge line will not support running the refrigerator and charging the battery. If the charge line drops below about 12.7V then the refrigerator will discharge the battery very quickly.

Fourteen gauge copper wire has a has a DC resistance of about 0.00319 ohms per foot so 20 feet of wire will have a voltage drop of about 0.77V at a 12A current flow exclusive of any voltage drop across connectors, fuses, relay contacts or isolators (diodes) etc in the circuit. Also most vehicle wiring is an alloy, not pure copper so the DC resistance per foot is higher therefore the voltage at the trailer will be lower. Also remember that there will be a voltage gradient across the negative/ground lead of the battery. A loose or corroded connection on the ground side can have a significant effect.

If your alternator outputs 13.8V at best there will only be about 13 volts at the trailer. Just adding a couple tenths of a volt drop due to corrosion at connectors or other ancillary losses will drop you to the point where the battery takes most of the load. Another factor that may come into play is the age of your battery. As batteries age they require a higher charge voltage. They also require a higher charge voltage when cold.

It all boils down to the fact that even a couple tenths of a volt difference at the trailer can mean the difference between a happy battery and a dead battery.
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Old 03-27-2017, 11:27 AM   #9
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Name: Kip
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Lots of good ideas here and all are much appreciated.

Here is what I what I think I know right now.

We cool the fridge on DC over night before leaving the house, and upon leaving the freezer is at 0 degrees and the fridge in the high 30s.

We travel during daylight hours and the only lights constantly burning are the front running lights.

Ridgeline battery is about a year old.

Just checked the charge voltage at the RL battery with the engine running.
Over 14v at idle and slightly more at 2K RPM. The RL only has 29K miles on the clock. It has factory tow package, so the alternator "should" be plenty strong.

What's so frustrating is that I don't have any point of reference and don't know if this has been going on all along. Discovery of this was pure happenstance.

All I know for sure in a positive way is that the RL is indeed sending voltage back there. And that battery is charging without a fridge load. So I'm guessing all fuses are OK. For all I know the RL is designed to only supply enough amperage to run the trailer lights. Or is it ????

So I'm left with 3 possibilities.

>RL not sending enough amperage to the rear.. Although it may or may not ever have.

> something is going wrong with the fridge and the DC portion is drawing more voltage than it should.

> As Gene suggested, it could be the battery itself. Maybe the 7 year old battery is not taking a charge as fast as it should and not maintaining that charge under a load like it should. This possibility is scary as I depend on the battery to turn on the vent fan to supply the dogs with fresh air entering the trailer in the event of an AC or Power failure during our absents in the summer.

ANY OTHER IDEAS OR OBSERVATION ARE MOST APPRECIATED.

IF i FIND AN ANSWER i WILL POST IT HERE.

Meanwhile if anyone gets a chance to check camper battery voltage while traveling for a few hours with the fridge on DC, please post results here.

There is the possibility that other folks are experiencing the same problem without knowing it.

Thanks,
Kip
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Old 03-27-2017, 11:32 AM   #10
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I have the small fridge with no freezer (Dometic RM2193). It's a 3-way fridge (gas, battery & 120vAC). When using battery power it draws 10 amps. My heavy duty alternator only supplies 6 amps. I frequently arrive with a dead battery unless the weather is pretty cool.

I don't know about 17's of your vintage but I didn't think the larger fridges were wired to cool off of the battery. They only use the battery to run the circuit board that lights the gas pilot.
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Old 03-27-2017, 11:37 AM   #11
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When purchasing my trailer, I had the option of a three-way fridge or two-way ( 120V / propane ). I had the tow vehicle wired with 10 ga. but in the end I opted for the two-way fridge. I was told that if I had been camping, and my trailer battery had become depleted and if I drove all day to another campground (with the fridge on 12V ), when I arrived, the battery would still be depleted.
Even with 10 ga. and a larger alternator, the tow would not be able to run the fridge and charge the trailer battery.
I will travel with the fridge on propane, or simply shut it off for shorter trips ( just don't open the door ).
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Old 03-27-2017, 12:56 PM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Glenn Baglo View Post
When purchasing my trailer, I had the option of a three-way fridge or two-way ( 120V / propane ). I had the tow vehicle wired with 10 ga. but in the end I opted for the two-way fridge. I was told that if I had been camping, and my trailer battery had become depleted and if I drove all day to another campground (with the fridge on 12V ), when I arrived, the battery would still be depleted.
Even with 10 ga. and a larger alternator, the tow would not be able to run the fridge and charge the trailer battery.
I will travel with the fridge on propane, or simply shut it off for shorter trips ( just don't open the door ).
Glenn I see what you mean. Now I'm paranoid about the fridge pulling the battery down so much it begins to pull down the tug battery also. And stopping for a pit stop just might turn into a long stop if the tug wont start.

MY GOSH It might be best to run the fridge on propane and just forget the DC part. I used the propane a lot when we first got the camper. It did go out just once while towing in a horrific rain storm. I was always a tad paranoid about stopping for fuel with that flame running.
And decided to start using DC mode.

Can always turn turn the fridge off of propane when time to refuel, and probably would be close enough to the destination to leave it off until it can be plugged into AC.

Thanks
Kip
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Old 03-27-2017, 01:01 PM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Steve L. View Post
I have the small fridge with no freezer (Dometic RM2193). It's a 3-way fridge (gas, battery & 120vAC). When using battery power it draws 10 amps. My heavy duty alternator only supplies 6 amps. I frequently arrive with a dead battery unless the weather is pretty cool.

I don't know about 17's of your vintage but I didn't think the larger fridges were wired to cool off of the battery. They only use the battery to run the circuit board that lights the gas pilot.
Mine isn't sophisticated. I runs only on what it is set for. The propane operation keeps a pilot lite burning. DC operation just obviously sucks the life out of the battery!

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Old 03-27-2017, 01:30 PM   #14
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I suppose everyone has a different setup. I too have the 1.9cf Dometic 3-way fridge and my TV is a Tacoma. No problem with the fridge keeping cool en route. No problem with the TV battery being drained by the fridge. Dometic designed them to run on the TV DC while en route. They do need to be wired correctly with a cutoff relay for when the TV is off. My camper mfg. wired my truck so this would all work right. So far, so good. Normally I'm a DYI guy, but I wanted this right and didn't want to take a chance. If your fridge is designed to run on DC and it is wired correctly and your battery and alternator are good, I think you should be good to go. DC operation should NOT suck the life out of your battery if these things are right.
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Old 03-27-2017, 01:40 PM   #15
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Initial cooling of fridge and propane warning

On initial cooling of fridge:
Not sure i have this right, but you wrote: "We cool the fridge on DC over night before leaving the house, and upon leaving the freezer is at 0 degrees and the fridge in the high 30s."

If you are using DC to cool the fridge the night before, that might explain the subsequent power issue.

Not sure if your fridge is two-way or three-way. I have a Dometic 3-way. I plug the trailer into house power (110V AC) and start running the fridge the night before departure. That way, when i plug into the tow vehicle, i can switch to 12V DC to keep the fridge going while driving. The fridge is cold, so it isn't putting too much load on the fully charged trailer battery or tow vehicle battery.

I do the same thing when leaving a serviced campground...when 110 VAC is available, the fridge is already cooled down before hitting the road, and the trailer battery is fully charged.

Propane and caution:
Please please please, to everyone out there...DO NOT run anything on propane while driving. Propane tank valves should be CLOSED while en route. If your propane tank is feeding propane into the trailer, and a valve opens (think stove or furnace) while you are en route, if you are lucky, the worst thing might be that you end up with a trailer full of propane gas. (Let's hope you are not a smoker or emitting a static charge when you open the trailer door.) If you are not lucky, you may end up with an explosion in the trailer while driving...all the propane needs is a pilot light or a spark to ignite the excess gas escaping into the trailer cabin.

Level roads or constantly climbing and descending hills:
Are the roads you travel fairly level? My understanding is the trailer refrigerators tend to run more efficiently when level...so unless you are going uphill or downhill most of the time, the roads shouldn't be an issue...but maybe you travel in mountains a lot.
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Old 03-27-2017, 02:06 PM   #16
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We purchase and freze drinking water and place it in the fridge right B 4 departure. We Pre Cool the fridge the day B 4 departure.
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Old 03-27-2017, 02:58 PM   #17
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Should a propane line rupture, there is valve in the propane tank that instantly shuts off flow. Your tow vehicle has a tank full of highly flammable gas and no shutoff valve.

Prior to refueling you should shut off the fridge.
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Old 03-27-2017, 03:00 PM   #18
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Kip in Ga. View Post
Normally I run the fridge on DC while towing. Hardly anything in the fridge during towing. When arriving at the campground, first thing to do is plug in to power. Same thing on arriving home. Never "Noticed" any problem with the fridge. But never had any cause to look for a problem.

This last trip when arriving home we cleaned out any fridge leftovers and turned it off.

Parked the camper under it's shelter but a few hours passed before I made the last walk thru. Daylight was fading so I turned on the interior lights and they were dim. Monitor showed the battery at 11.7 volts.

I plugged in to AC power and the voltage showed 13.5 charging volts within just a few minutes. Turned in the fridge and voltage remained at 13.5. Turned off the power supply and the voltage dropped as was expected.

Turned off the fridge and Plugged in the Tug with the engine running. Voltage
climbed to 13.2 quickly. Turned on the fridge and the voltage began to drop with the tug still running.

Apparently the tug had not been keeping up with the fridge requirements while traveling.

Turned fridge off and the AC power back on and let the camper power supply do it's thing. Next morning I turned off the Power supply and slowly over the course of several hours the battery settled in at 12.7 volts. That's good! That was last weekend 3/19-3/20. The battery is still showing 12.7 indicating it capable of holding the voltage.

FWIW the battery is about 7 yrs old.

All that to ask if anyone else has experienced the TUG not keeping up with the fridge requirements. ? ? ? And if anyone has any ideas?

Thanks,
Kip

How far are you traveling, may I should ask how long does it take you to to your preferred camp site?

If less than 1 day why are you even worried about it. Just turn off the fridge until you get to where there's "mains" power. Things will stay cool enough for that long.
I go two days sometimes without the fridge running.
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Old 03-27-2017, 03:16 PM   #19
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As Darral and others mentioned, people are a little split on this. For some people it works, for others it doesn't. For me, I don't get nearly enough charge from my alternator to keep the battery charged. So I never run the fridge on 12V.

Tillie and Tyler mention the "off level" concern, but I've always heard (even from fridge manufacturers) that it's not a problem when traveling. The off-level on-level issue, in case you don't already know all this, is because of the ammonia in the coils behind the fridge. The coils are built so that it drains back down towards the burner, is heated, rises, drains back down.

If you're off-level it won't circulate the way it should. If it doesn't circulate well, crystals can form and cause blockages. Those blockages keep the fridge from working properly even when you are level.

When you're driving, the rocking movement of the trailer is enough to keep the ammonia moving around and not stagnating somewhere, causing a clog. That's what I've read anyways.
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Old 03-27-2017, 03:51 PM   #20
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Darwin Maring View Post
We purchase and freze drinking water and place it in the fridge right B 4 departure. We Pre Cool the fridge the day B 4 departure.
Exactly what we do. And run it on 110 at the campground.
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