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Old 07-29-2014, 10:27 PM   #1
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Battery discharges while towing?

Lindy and I decided to take the Lark out for a couple of days before we part with it. Picked it up from the storage facility yesterday, drove home and parked in front of the house. Turned the fridge on propane to cool. Drove to Father Hennipin state park this afternoon. About two hours. Batteries were almost dead.

The only thing different from previous trips is we have a new tow vehicle -- a Highlander, with an after market 7 pin connector & brake controller. The brake controller works fine. The lights work fine. Do you think they could have hooked the connector up so it discharges the battery rather than charges it?
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Old 07-29-2014, 10:38 PM   #2
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Probably a really dumb response (I'm a newbie), but are you sure you didn't have the fridge set to battery rather than gas ? My understanding is that it remembers the last setting you had unless switched over manually ? Maybe the battery draw from the fridge is greater than the recharge rate while driving ?
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Old 07-29-2014, 10:52 PM   #3
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Yup. Sure the fridge was set on 'auto'. Which does either propane or 110volt AC. But that was my first guess, too
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Old 07-29-2014, 11:23 PM   #4
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Had a similar battery problem after returning from AZ in March. Drove almost 500 miles the first day then 150 the second. Unhooked and discovered my batteries still hadn't recovered after 24 hours of charging with extension cord. They had become low on our last day of camping. After topping up batteries with distilled water and charging another 24 hours I had no more problems. From what little I understand about electrical, the distance of the charge wire from the car's battery is a factor in the efficiency /ability of the car being able to charge a low battery. Another reason to go solar.
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Old 07-29-2014, 11:32 PM   #5
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The batteries were near 100% before we started all this, at least according to the go power controller. So I am not so much worried about a failure to charge as I am about something actively discharging the battery while towing
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Old 07-29-2014, 11:37 PM   #6
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I'm not sure how well your batteries were charged to begin with. Did you check their starting voltage?

With a new tug the first thing that I'd check is that there is 12 volt output at the tug's 7 pin connector. That's a nominal 12 volt of course, with the tug's engine running the output at the pin should be closer to 14 volts. If that's OK then I'd start looking at battery condition etc.

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Old 07-29-2014, 11:45 PM   #7
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Check to make sure the connections on the battery posts are tight. I had a similar problem 2 years ago and the connections had loosened up over time. It may not be the solution for your problem but it might be worth a quick look.

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Old 07-30-2014, 12:02 AM   #8
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First outing of the year to Glacier NP. Had the batteries inside all winter on the trickle charger. First afternoon, solar controller is giving me dotted lines and the Maxx Fan turns off when I turn the water pump on. Quick consult with ETI...(thanks btw!). Checked water level in batteries and it was below the top of the plates. 60 miles from a store and distilled water. Check with the camp host and one of the other campers just happens to have a gallon for her husband's CPAP machine. Home run! Add water and connect two wires that I missed in the front box. Everything works and Glacier is fabulous. Fridge also seemed to hold temp better this year on battery power than propane while driving. Charge levels weren't as high as I'm used to seeing and I wonder if the solar panels are dirty.
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Old 07-30-2014, 02:02 AM   #9
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Does your Highlander have the factory tow package? The tow package includes a higher output alternator (150 amps) which meets the electrical needs of the Highlander and the trailer's battery.
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Old 07-30-2014, 02:08 AM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by LeonW View Post
The batteries were near 100% before we started all this, at least according to the go power controller. So I am not so much worried about a failure to charge as I am about something actively discharging the battery while towing
The state of charge on the GoPower controller probably just indicates that the solar panel is charging the battery, not that the battery is fully charged, since the controller's estimate is based only on the voltage it sees. You said that you just took your trailer out of storage and then drove for a few hours. That would not be enough time for the battery to reach full charge.

You can get a more accurate idea of the real state of charge of the battery if you read the GoPower controller indication a few hours after dark or a few hours before dawn making sure that there is no load on the battery.

A better solution would be to get a more sophisticated battery monitor such as a Trimetric which will keep track of the energy going in and out of the battery.

Another solution would be to connect your trailer's battery up to a smart multi-stage battery charger after you bring it out of storage so that you know it is fully charged before taking off on a trip. The trailer's converter can charge the battery when you are plugged into external power but it can take several days to get the battery up to a full charge since it charges at such a low rate.

There has been quite a bit of discussion on this topic! See Converter question
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Old 07-30-2014, 09:20 AM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by LeonW View Post
Yup. Sure the fridge was set on 'auto'. Which does either propane or 110volt AC. But that was my first guess, too
One possibility is that while on Auto, your fridge was for some reason not remaining lit on propane while driving, and the Auto selector switched over to 12V (since 120V was not available either). Of course having the fridge run on 12V could easily drain your trailer batteries over the course of a few hours. Did you actually confirm when you arrived at your destination that the fridge was running on propane? Because of the risks associated with the 12V usage, I never use the Auto mode on the fridge. When driving, I keep the fridge in propane mode. If at a campground with 120V, I will switch the fridge to 120V mode, otherwise it stays in propane mode.
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Old 07-30-2014, 09:44 AM   #12
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If I'm not mistaken, according to the Dometic manual, while in "Auto" the default is 12v, this means you probably were in the 12v mode. The other issue is your new tow vehicle, did you have a separate 12v wire run back from the battery to the 7 pin connector? The stock wires are either too small or non existent for the auxiliary 12v pin to charge your battery in the trailer.
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Old 07-30-2014, 10:30 AM   #13
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Originally Posted by ice-breaker View Post
One possibility is that while on Auto, your fridge was for some reason not remaining lit on propane while driving, and the Auto selector switched over to 12V (since 120V was not available either). Of course having the fridge run on 12V could easily drain your trailer batteries over the course of a few hours. Did you actually confirm when you arrived at your destination that the fridge was running on propane? Because of the risks associated with the 12V usage, I never use the Auto mode on the fridge. When driving, I keep the fridge in propane mode. If at a campground with 120V, I will switch the fridge to 120V mode, otherwise it stays in propane mode.
I have always assumed that the default sequence of operations for these fridges is 120V first, propane second, and 12V third. However, based on Jim's comment, maybe this is incorrect. The manual I have for the Dometic fridges was based on European 230V systems and gives a somewhat confusing response saying that:

Quote:
Upon switching on, the electronics automatically selects one of the three possible energy types: 230V - 12V - liquid gas.

The control electronics automatically ensures that the refrigerator
is supplied with the optimum source of energy in each respective case.

Sequence of priority:
1.) Solar (12V -)
2.) 230V ~
3.) 12V -
4.) Liquid gas

To start the refrigerator, press button (1) for 3 seconds. The previously selected operating mode is displayed, e.g. 230 which means 230V . By pressing button (1) again, you may change the operating modes to:

􀂄 AU (automatic energy selection)
􀂄 230V,12V, GAS (manual energy selection)

Mode
If sufficient mains voltage is available (more than 195 V), this power source is selected as prime option. If a solar system capable of powering the refrigerator is installed, the solar 12V supply takes priority. The 12V operation is otherwise only effective while the engine is running.
I guess the best way to check the actual sequence may be to go out to the trailer and actually see what sequence the fridge uses when searching for a power source.
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Old 07-30-2014, 10:38 AM   #14
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Seems like the real questions is the size of alternator and wire gauge to the plug. Without the tow package I doubt the alternator could keep up. We always drive with the fridge in 12V mode for safety reasons and always arrive at our destination with 100% battery charge. Our 4runner has the tow package and factory wiring.
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Old 07-30-2014, 11:03 AM   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by cpaharley2008 View Post
If I'm not mistaken, according to the Dometic manual, while in "Auto" the default is 12v, this means you probably were in the 12v mode. The other issue is your new tow vehicle, did you have a separate 12v wire run back from the battery to the 7 pin connector? The stock wires are either too small or non existent for the auxiliary 12v pin to charge your battery in the trailer.
I leave my fridge on "Auto" and have never seen it go to 12v.
When I bring the trailer home to cool down before a trip and turn the fridge on, it goes to propane until I plug it in - then it switches to 120v.
Not sure about LeonW's situation
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Old 07-30-2014, 11:48 AM   #16
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While reading the manual it specifies "Sequence of priority" and propane is last. It further states if there is adequate voltage, 12v is the prime mode. It further states that gas is selected while in the auto mode only if there is neither 120v nor 12v available. Furthermore to prevent ignition while refueling with the ignition off, switching to gas is delayed 15 minutes to allow fueling before attempting to light in the propane mode. During this time the unit is in standby mode and if in automatic mode the AU will be illuminated. See pp17 http://www.dometic.com/FileOrganizer...eration_EN.pdf
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Old 07-30-2014, 01:07 PM   #17
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Leo, I'm new to the group, don't even own an Escape just looking at them and considering them. That said several years ago I ran into the same problem with our first camper which was a Coleman pop up being towed by a Tacoma and whose 7 pin plug was installed by U-Haul. They got it wrong and instead of charging the battery going down the road it was actually discharging. It took us days to figure this out but not until we ruined one battery and almost a second on our return trip. Took the thing back to U-haul and once they looked at the wiring realized the battery charge wires were reversed. You mentioned your 7 pin is after market rather than a factory OEM. I would have someone check this for you, might be the culprit.

rob

Quote:
Originally Posted by LeonW View Post
Lindy and I decided to take the Lark out for a couple of days before we part with it. Picked it up from the storage facility yesterday, drove home and parked in front of the house. Turned the fridge on propane to cool. Drove to Father Hennipin state park this afternoon. About two hours. Batteries were almost dead.

The only thing different from previous trips is we have a new tow vehicle -- a Highlander, with an after market 7 pin connector & brake controller. The brake controller works fine. The lights work fine. Do you think they could have hooked the connector up so it discharges the battery rather than charges it?
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Old 07-30-2014, 01:11 PM   #18
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I guess Uhaul couldn't afford this 7-pin tester ( I paid about $12 for mine ). Got a 4-pin tester at the same time for about $4.
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Old 07-30-2014, 01:16 PM   #19
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I guess not. Didn't know they existed myself.
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Old 07-30-2014, 01:49 PM   #20
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Quote:
Originally Posted by cpaharley2008 View Post
While reading the manual it specifies "Sequence of priority" and propane is last. It further states if there is adequate voltage, 12v is the prime mode. It further states that gas is selected while in the auto mode only if there is neither 120v nor 12v available. Furthermore to prevent ignition while refueling with the ignition off, switching to gas is delayed 15 minutes to allow fueling before attempting to light in the propane mode. During this time the unit is in standby mode and if in automatic mode the AU will be illuminated. See pp17 http://www.dometic.com/FileOrganizer...eration_EN.pdf
Just reporting what I have observed - maybe my fridge is faulty... My control panel doesn't seem to look like anything in that pdf either.
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