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Old 08-09-2016, 11:33 AM   #1
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Battery not charging while towing

(Edited because I'd misunderstood the problem!)

Battery did not charge while we towed. Not sure why? This was a 7 hour drive; the only drain on battery was the fridge.

Battery was 13.9 from solar charge when we left. When we arrived home it read 9.6. Ideas?
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Old 08-09-2016, 12:23 PM   #2
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Most brand name solar panels have blocking diodes to keep the panel from drawing down the battery when the panels are in the shade. I wouldn't think the solar charge controller has that much draw at "idle" to drain the battery either. I remain in the school that says you won't get much charge out of the act of towing the trailer (unless other modifications are made) but the tow should have at least kept up with any controller drains. I suspect more is happening here.


My sense is that both systems go to the battery and current from the tow is not being jammed backwards through the solar controller. Towing with the controller hooked up shouldn't matter.
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Old 08-09-2016, 12:28 PM   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Steve L. View Post
Most brand name solar panels have blocking diodes to keep the panel from drawing down the battery when the panels are in the shade. I wouldn't think the solar charge controller has that much draw at "idle" to drain the battery either. I remain in the school that says you won't get much charge out of the act of towing the trailer (unless other modifications are made) but the tow should have at least kept up with any controller drains. I suspect more is happening here.


My sense is that both systems go to the battery and current from the tow is not being jammed backwards through the solar controller. Towing with the controller hooked up shouldn't matter.
Steve, my apologies. Hubby corrected my misunderstanding about the solar controller being in the system, apparently it wasn't... You can see my edited post for the details. (Our solar panel is portable right now, and isn't on the trailer when we're towing)
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Old 08-09-2016, 01:11 PM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ellpea in CA View Post
(Edited because I'd misunderstood the problem!)

Battery did not charge while we towed. Not sure why? This was a 7 hour drive; the only drain on battery was the fridge.

Battery was 13.9 from solar charge when we left. When we arrived home it read 9.6. Ideas?
Seven hours of running a fridge on a RV battery that is not being supplied with enough power can kill it. That explains why the battery is dead.

As to why was it not being charged... Has it charged OK before? Has it worked OK with the fridge running in similar weather? (Maybe the alternator cannot keep up with added draw from the fridge) What is the voltage on the charge line at the umbilical cable on the tug (with engine running)? No sense asking anything else until we know that.

Once you have it worked out, you might need a new battery since the current one is likely damaged from excessive discharge.
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Old 08-09-2016, 01:12 PM   #5
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Your system for charging your trailer battery needs some details. You need a good ground from the car to the trailer. You also need a charge wire from the cars battery to the battery to the trailer.

If either of these 2 wires are too small in gauge size you will not transfer enough energy from the charging system in the car to feed the battery and overcome the consumption of the fridge in transit.

In my case I run 10 Gauge wire from my tug battery to the 7 pin receptacle at the back of the tug. My trailer connector also has 10 gauge wire from its plug to the battery and the frame ground. I also have a heavy ground wire from the battery negative to the frame.

Your cars electrical system needs to sense the need to charge the battery in addition to the needs to power the cars electrical system. The cars charging system must be capable to provide that energy volume. Old cars had less need to charge large power draw and used smaller alternators. Newer cars have greater power needs and have larger alternators to provide those power demands. Most newer large cars are fully capable of providing for the needs of the tug and have enough power to feed excess power to the battery in your trailer.

In the case of your system of which I know little of what you have available.
Factory wiring harness are rarely set up with a proper charge line to provide the extra power needed to charge the battery in your trailer.

So you need to check the actual charging you are using.
Preferably the ground wire from the battery in the car to the trailer battery runs uninterrupted except for the connection through the 7 pin coupler.

The power wire from the tug battery to the trailer battery should have a fuse close to the battery as is practical. Then a wire from the fuse to an isolation relay. This relay is used to switch on power from the cars battery and send it to the trailer battery while the car is running. switch off the car it kills the power line to the trailer battery so if your car is not running the trailer battery cannot steal power from your car battery. ( In your case you may have this relay and it is not switched on so no charge goes to your trailer battery.) From there the charge wire should go straight to your charge line in your 7 pin trailer connector. From the trailers 7 pin connector directly to the trailer battery. In this line at the trailer battery I would put a fuse in this charge line as close to the battery as I can. That way if the trailer is not connected and there is a short in this line you are protected.

See links below.


https://www.etrailer.com/static/imag...u64598_800.jpg

Wire Gauge Amps Ratings for 12 volt Automotive Systems
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Old 08-09-2016, 01:32 PM   #6
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I had the same problem and it turned out to be a blown fuse in my tow vehicle. First thing I would do is verify that you actually have power at the 12v charge pin of your vehicle 7 pin connector while the vehicle is running. This will tell you whether you are actually sending 12v DC power to your trailer.

Good luck!
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Old 08-09-2016, 01:52 PM   #7
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Originally Posted by Randy P. View Post
I had the same problem and it turned out to be a blown fuse in my tow vehicle. First thing I would do is verify that you actually have power at the 12v charge pin of your vehicle 7 pin connector while the vehicle is running. This will tell you whether you are actually sending 12v DC power to your trailer.

Good luck!
Didn't I say that already?

Quote:
Originally Posted by gordon2 View Post
... What is the voltage on the charge line at the umbilical cable on the tug (with engine running)? No sense asking anything else until we know that.....
Oh yeah, I did

So I guess we agree that people should to do some basic trouble shooting like checking fuses and output voltage before getting online and asking for SWAG's.
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Old 08-09-2016, 02:00 PM   #8
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I run my fridge on EVERY camping trip on a standard alternator on a 4 cyl Nissan Frontier and have never had a problem.

Here's the FIRST step. I know this is pricey, but I own one and would NOT be without it. I've used it to troubleshoot other friends' problems. This is an EASY troubleshoot to do. I also like it because you can watch the "brake" (BK) LED from your brake controller dim and brighten by moving the lever on the bc.

FWIW, I ran 10ga (from etrailer) to my 7-pin and it's ample wire to carry the amps I need.

https://www.etrailer.com/Accessories...nsha/6562.html
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Old 08-09-2016, 02:37 PM   #9
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Originally Posted by Randy P. View Post
I had the same problem and it turned out to be a blown fuse in my tow vehicle. First thing I would do is verify that you actually have power at the 12v charge pin of your vehicle 7 pin connector while the vehicle is running. This will tell you whether you are actually sending 12v DC power to your trailer.

Good luck!
Hi Randy, thanks! Fuses were not the problem here, we get an immediate "message" on the instrument panel if a fuse or a light goes out. I'll get the DH to check the voltage on the 7pin and see where we are with that.

(Thanks everyone else for your recommendations. This is all very helpful.)
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Old 08-09-2016, 03:25 PM   #10
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In my 11 years of towing I've used two different tow vehicles. The first was a 1998 Blazer 4.3 l engine. The alternator was not large enough to keep up with fridge and charging plus running vehicle. So it was not possible to tow and keep the fridge running at the same time.
Second vehicle a 2005 Dakota 4.7l Magnum and a much larger alternator. It can barely keep up.
If you're only going to be a couple hours away just turn the fridge off and not worry about. If longer and you're concerned stop at first convenience store you come to and get some ice. You can decant the ice into zip lock bags.
I did this for over a week in Death Valley a couple years go when I had a spider's nest in propane burner.
Another thing to consider don't carry a lot sensitive foods.

The biggest problem that it appears you and others have when it comes to the refrigerator is violated expectations.
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Old 08-09-2016, 03:37 PM   #11
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Originally Posted by Byron Kinnaman View Post
In my 11 years of towing I've used two different tow vehicles. The first was a 1998 Blazer 4.3 l engine. The alternator was not large enough to keep up with fridge and charging plus running vehicle. So it was not possible to tow and keep the fridge running at the same time.
Second vehicle a 2005 Dakota 4.7l Magnum and a much larger alternator. It can barely keep up.
If you're only going to be a couple hours away just turn the fridge off and not worry about. If longer and you're concerned stop at first convenience store you come to and get some ice. You can decant the ice into zip lock bags.
I did this for over a week in Death Valley a couple years go when I had a spider's nest in propane burner.
Another thing to consider don't carry a lot sensitive foods.

The biggest problem that it appears you and others have when it comes to the refrigerator is violated expectations.
I know it's a surprise to some, but the lady does know how to keep food cold, and how to use ice. That's why the question was really about how to keep the battery charged... Or if that's possible. Perhaps not. I see you are pulling a 13", so assume your fridge is about the same size as mine.

I travel with two additional ice chests. One has frozen gallon water bottles to keep the food cold without dealing with melting water. The other has dry ice, which I use for several days to keep food frozen AND to refreeze the gallon water bottles. In this most recent trip I used a small styrofoam container INSIDE the dry ice container, this was for the dry ice alone. It helped prevent sublimation and also prevented the frozen food from freezing TOO hard.

These two chests stay outside unless there is a possible animal problem. The fridge in the LB is mainly for breakfast/coffee items. If necessary, I certainly know how to keep food cold (without even stopping somewhere to buy ice cubes and zip lock bags)... But again, this question was really about charging the battery.
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Old 08-09-2016, 03:49 PM   #12
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Check voltage on the battery with tow vehicle connected to the trailer when the engine is on and off. With the engine on you should have more than 13V on the battery. If the voltage is lower, then you have a problem with the tow vehicle charging circuit running to 7 pin connector.
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Old 08-09-2016, 06:14 PM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ellpea in CA View Post
I know it's a surprise to some, but the lady does know how to keep food cold, and how to use ice. That's why the question was really about how to keep the battery charged... Or if that's possible. Perhaps not. I see you are pulling a 13", so assume your fridge is about the same size as mine.

I travel with two additional ice chests. One has frozen gallon water bottles to keep the food cold without dealing with melting water. The other has dry ice, which I use for several days to keep food frozen AND to refreeze the gallon water bottles. In this most recent trip I used a small styrofoam container INSIDE the dry ice container, this was for the dry ice alone. It helped prevent sublimation and also prevented the frozen food from freezing TOO hard.

These two chests stay outside unless there is a possible animal problem. The fridge in the LB is mainly for breakfast/coffee items. If necessary, I certainly know how to keep food cold (without even stopping somewhere to buy ice cubes and zip lock bags)... But again, this question was really about charging the battery.

Gee whizz, I never carry any "coolers" We just use the fridge with it off while moving from one place to the next even when it takes 2 or 3 days to the camping spot.
In our backpacking days carrying ice or a cooler was not an option. We carried food that didn't require refrigeration.
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Old 08-10-2016, 06:40 AM   #14
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I run my trailer battery down all the time towing with the reefer on DC. And I've done experiments with my battery monitor and a test box that gets inserted in the line between the tow and the trailer to know that my tow will not keep up with the 10 amps the reefer needs when running on 12v. I suspect most tow vehicles are similar.

http://www.fiberglassrv.com/forums/f...box-38376.html (Post #4 shows how many amps are going to the trailer when the fridge is on and drawing 10 amps)

Sometimes, when travelling in cooler weather I can get away with it, probably because there is less demand on the fridge. So not all trips are equal.

I also know that some vehicle's tow packages are wired differently than my Ford's and are more successful so I try to avoid making blanket statements.
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Old 08-10-2016, 10:23 AM   #15
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Thanks Steve, everyone for these details. Seven hours was a long drive with the fridge on battery, so perhaps draining down to 9.6 was not unexpected.

We may travel again next week, so when we next do all the hookups I'll check the voltage coming from the alternator.

Steve, you say you drain your battery down all the time. Is it now considered damaged? Or once this has happened several times, isn't it less able to hold a charge?

Ours charges readily back up to 13, but wondering what the belweather is that a new one is needed.
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Old 08-10-2016, 10:37 AM   #16
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I run my fridge on EVERY camping trip on a standard alternator on a 4 cyl Nissan Frontier and have never had a problem.
:lout I could not run the 20 year old fridge on my old Scamp on DC when towing with either my newish V6 Nissan Frontier or my Subaru Outback. Neither supplied enough power to the trailer to keep up with the old fridges consumption.

I would start out the tow with a well charged battery and would always arrive at destination with a somewhat depleted trailer battery. The longer the drive the more the battery was down. Not a good thing if I was going to be camping without power.

Solution was to cool the fridge down well prior to traveling and put a frozen plastic bottle or two in it prior to leaving. Once the bottles where no longer frozen I used a couple of freezer packs I kept in the freezer - put them beside dairy products and meat etc. when traveling. I also added extra insulation around the fridge itself to try and help with keeping it cool while on the road or camping in hot weather.

I know a lot of folks simple leave the fridge running on propane to get around the issue.

This may have a lot to do with how old the fridge is and its DC consumption - older it is the more it is probable using. And as others have said how much power the tow vehicle is actually supplying to the trailer.
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Old 08-10-2016, 10:41 AM   #17
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Check Fuse

Do check the voltage at the plug, most wiring are after market setup when the hitch is installed and the wire is fuse at the battery end. It would not show at the computer as it it not connected to it.
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Old 08-10-2016, 10:53 AM   #18
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I seriously abuse my batteries and they don't last more than 2-3 years. I leave it on the charger for months at a time. I almost always have to add water in the spring. I deep discharge it on occasions. I talk trash to it. I give it mean stares. My trailer is where bad batteries are sent...

But seriously, I get only a fraction of the amp hour rating. Since I had some health problems and getting around is problematic I haven't boondocked so I don't miss the long life off the charger much. I did a much better job earlier.

I few years ago I tried shoehorning a group 27 in there and I was able to do so but I lost the clearance to have my battery watering device installed. I'm going back to the group 24 that came with the trailer and reinstall the battery maintainer. I feet it helped a lot with battery longevity by staying on top of the fluid levels.
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Old 08-10-2016, 12:59 PM   #19
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:lout I could not run the 20 year old fridge on my old Scamp on DC when towing with either my newish V6 Nissan Frontier or my Subaru Outback. Neither supplied enough power to the trailer to keep up with the old fridges consumption.
What is 12V wire gauge running to the 7 pin connector? To my knowledge the wire supplied by "factory tow package" is too thin.
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Old 08-10-2016, 01:20 PM   #20
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I think I edited (havent looked back) and said that my fridge is a 1.9 CI. This I think will make ALL the difference in how much amperage is being pulled on the alternator while towing. Again, someone just wrote in and asked "What 12v wire". I ran my own and ran 10ga. It does NOT have a problem getting enough amps to my battery. I've never pulled over 7-8 hours but it's held it.

And one more thing to throw in the mix... my Frontier is a '99 model. "Newish" models- as you call them Carol- could possibly be running borderline on a smaller more "efficient" alternator? Wouldnt be afraid to say so with the way the gov. is pushing for the gas mileage, etc.!! BUT, if the vehicle comes with a "Tow package", then it should automatically include a larger alternator. This is what I found with the Toyota Tacoma when I was shopping for one anyway.

I'm curious as to what size fridge you are/were running?

[QUOTE=Carol H;602945]:lout I could not run the 20 year old fridge on my old Scamp on DC when towing with either my newish V6 Nissan Frontier or my Subaru Outback. Neither supplied enough power to the trailer to keep up with the old fridges consumption.
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