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Old 08-03-2010, 01:33 PM   #1
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Battery sparks

Hey there. We have a 1999 Sunline Solaris 2753. We bought it this summer and it is out first trailer....so we are new to all this and pretty green.

But we are having some issues with the battery. We keep the trailer in one spot and don't have electricity there. We use the electric sparingly and try to keep the charge up by connecting it to a 15W solar panel. Whenever I hook the battery back up to the trailer I get sparks off the neg post...even when all fuses are switched off. Anyone know why that might be? Is that common?

Also, it seems (from what I've read) people are getting a lot more endurance out of their battery then we are. What are we doing wrong??

Any feedback is greatly appreciated!

-Jon (a newbie)
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Old 08-03-2010, 02:04 PM   #2
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Jon, you get sparks off the negative post because there is a complete circuit through the converter. Given enough time, it'll draw down the battery, but that should take weeks.

I take you have to move the battery to a location where your solar panels will catch enough light to recharge. If there is adequate sunlight right by the trailer, you might consider a more permanent connection of the solar panel into the trailer's electric system. There should be some documentation about that with the solar panel.

There are a lot of things that affect battery "endurance." Size and capacity of the battery for starters, then age of the battery. After that, amount of recharging you are giving it; a larger solar panel will recharge better, faster, and more to capacity than a smaller one. Power usage is huge as it is nearly impossible to compare your daily usage to anyone else's. You have to total up all of your consumption from the juice required to run the fridge, hot water heater, pump, interior lighting, etc.

Some of us who camp for long periods of time without hookups have developed ways of reducing consumption and yet remaining very comfortable. A big piece of that is lighting. Your '99's interior lights all use #921 bulbs, just as does mine. By replacing a few of those bulbs with lower current draw bulbs, you can save lots of battery capacity and still have the light needed to do things in the trailer. I reserve a full power 921 for a reading light for my chair and my wife's spot on the couch. Other fixtures have 168 bulbs which are the same base, but use far less amperage. I don't need full brightness to walk around the trailer. Any of the fixtures that are double lights have a 921 in one half and a 168 in the other.

Folks are gravitating to the LED replacements. They're still somewhat pricey, and you have to know exactly what you are buying in the way of base, power, and color. There is a large discussion thread on this here on SOC. Do a search on LED and you'll find it. LED's use fractions of power compared to similar incandescent bulbs.

There are also some important issues regarding battery life like de-sulfation and charging at various voltages to bring a battery back to full charge. Again, some searches here will find lots of info.

The standard battery that comes with TT's is usually a Group 24 Marine/RV deep cycle battery. There are two larger physical size batteries that can be purchased: Group 27 & Group 29. More money, but bigger is better when it comes to consumption. It is also possible that a previous owner replaced the marine/rv battery with a regular car battery. That's really a no-no because car batteries are not designed to be run way down and then recharged. The larger batteries would require more charging than your 15 watt solar panel can give.

A lot of us who dry camp run two batteries in parallel to extend capacity. Again, a two battery system needs more recharging capacity.

I encourage you to read back through the maintenance and modifications sub forums for lots of detailed info on all of this.
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Old 08-04-2010, 08:36 AM   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jonsun View Post
Whenever I hook the battery back up to the trailer I get sparks off the neg post...even when all fuses are switched off. Anyone know why that might be? Is that common?
-Jon (a newbie)
After spending 10 yrs. as an auto mechanic, I learned a thing or two about batteries and 12V systems. IMHO, you could have excessive current draw, i.e., something is on and using electricity. I'm a huge fan of test instruments and the one you need is an ammeter which measures the amount of current being drawn.
As Steve pointed out, the converter is always in the circuit but it shouldn't be drawing from the battery if all is working properly. Electronics draw milliamps. If the ammeter shows a draw more than a few milliamps, you will need to trace the culprit. Propane detectors are prime suspects as well as TVs and stereos.
The cheapest and easiest way to avoid this is to pull the in-line fuse at the battery that supplies battery power to the trailer. Replace the fuse when you want to use the trailer but remove it during storage.

Good luck,
Teach
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Old 08-04-2010, 09:09 PM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jonsun View Post
Hey there. We have a 1999 Sunline Solaris 2753. We bought it this summer and it is out first trailer....so we are new to all this and pretty green.

But we are having some issues with the battery. We keep the trailer in one spot and don't have electricity there. We use the electric sparingly and try to keep the charge up by connecting it to a 15W solar panel. Whenever I hook the battery back up to the trailer I get sparks off the neg post...even when all fuses are switched off. Anyone know why that might be? Is that common?

Also, it seems (from what I've read) people are getting a lot more endurance out of their battery then we are. What are we doing wrong??

Any feedback is greatly appreciated!

-Jon (a newbie)
Hi Jon

Sparks on the negative or positive wire when hooking up a battery can come from the LP detector like Teach stated and or from the TV antenna power booster being left on or a fridge heat bar (aka temperature humidity control) if you have one.

Basically putting it, something is still “on” in the camper.

Like Teach stated a volt meter and a DC amp meter can go a long way in trouble shooting a camper electrical problem. And this meter does not have to be a real high end one. Radio Schack sells some low cost ones and Harbor Freight has one on special for $4 bucks or like $10 regular that will trouble shoot anything electrical in your camper. Look to see it does DC volts and AC volts and has a DC amp feature of at least 10 amps. And ideally is has ohms on there too for other trouble shooting missions.

If you have or can get one of these volt/amp meters we can help you on how to use it to isolate 12 DC issues like this. Finding the source of that spark may be a 0.3 or 0.5 amp (300 or 500 milliamp) draw. And that over a not so long period of time can and will drain a battery.

Now to your battery life and your solar charger. I’m not a solar charger wizard, yet anyway, but I did know a some about camper battery charging.

Again back to that digital volt meter. Unhooking the battery terminals and doing a voltage check on the battery can tell a lot about it’s state of charge (SOC) and if your Solar charger has enough emph to ever bring the battery back to 100% SOC. A 15 watt solar panel is not a lot of power to charge a deep discharged battery. You may be never actually be getting back to 100% SOC if you used a lot of power from the battery. A voltage check can tell a lot of what is going on or not going on.

There is another thing that affects wet cell batteries and especially our camper deep cycle batteries. Sulfation. Sufates build up on the battery plates from use. And if they are not removed then the life and power capacity drops off and in some cases real fast.

See this brand BatteryMinder Plus that I use on my batteries
http://www.batteryminders.com/batterycharger/catalog/BatteryMINDer-Plus-12-Volt-133-Amp-Charger-Maintainer-Conditio-p-16134.html

You can find them for about $39 or less on the web. There are other brands as well but make sure they include a battery desulfate mode. ONCE the battery is fully charged you add the battery minder. It keeps the battery voltage up to not drain the battery and it also desulfates the battery. However you need to be plugged into 120 VAC to use this. While I know it is more of a pain, unhook and take your battery home with you after a campout. Charge it up fully with a normal battery charger then put the BatteryMinder on it all the rest of the time until you go camping again. Now your battery is for sure at 100% SOC and fully desulfated ready to help you camp well.

And for sure always check the electrolyte level in the battery when charging and make sure it is up over the plates and filled properly.

Hope this helps

John

OH and Welcome to Sunline Owners Club. Glad you found us and happy camping in your Sunline
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Old 08-11-2010, 07:37 PM   #5
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John, Teach, Steve:

We initially disconnected everything we could think of that might on the battery, but you guys mentioned some things that I wasn't aware of, so that may be it. Anyway, I am going to pick up a volt meter and see if I can isolate this problem when I get back up there. But just wanted to drop a line and say thanks for your detailed and very helpful responses. This forum was a great find. I'll let you know how it goes.

-Jon
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