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Old 07-27-2020, 06:11 PM   #1
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Power Issue

So, next issue! I am having an intermittent issue with power, specifically interior lights and 120v outlets. 1981 16RB.
If I understand correctly, all the interior lights are 12v, and run off the power inverter under the stove area, correct?
I have an issue where some of the lights and some of the 120v plugs do not always work. Specifically, the exterior light by the door, the overhead interior light on the door side, the bathroom light, and the 120v outlets near these areas. The other lights and outlets are fine.
I had it plugged into an extension cord with an adapter, and I also tested with it plugged directly into the 30 amp plug on my generator.
It seemed to be more reliable plugged into the generator, but eventually the issue reappeared.
Are these systems connected in any way? Could a bad inverter be causing this?
If it matters, there is a dedicated circuit for the stereo on the inverter that is dead, and the exterior vehicle lighting was erratic when I towed it home also, unknown to me until I pulled into my yard and my wife noticed.
Thanks in advance, folks.
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Old 07-29-2020, 07:01 AM   #2
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Hi,

I will see if we can help, but we are going to need more info.

There are actually 3 separate systems wiring systems on your camper, and by your note, you have issues on all 3 of them.

1. The DOT lights, meaning the clearance lights, stop/turn lights etc. These are all 12 volt and they get their power from the 7 wire cord and are powered by the truck. These are not powered by the camper itself.

2. The camper 12 volt DC system. There is a battery, normally mounted on the trailer A frame behind the LP tank('s). The 12 DC volts system runs the inside and outside lights (if yours has outside light), water pump, furnace, the fridge controls if yours is not all gas, and any other 12 V DC devices. There is a power converter that when plugged into 120 V AC shore power., it creates 12 VDC to charge the battery and help supply 12 VDC for the camper. All Sunline campers when new could run the 12 VDC items off the battery only. "Some" power converters had to have a battery installed to make them work right, other converters (newer ones) did not need a battery to create 12 VDC correctly and the camper can run off the converter if the camper was plugged into 120 VAC shore power and there was no battery. But we need to know what your converter is to help better.

3. The camper 120 VAC system. This system powers the wall outlets, the high power usage of a roof AC unit (if yours has one), powers a microwave (if yours has one), a water heater electric element (if yours has one), a fridge heating element (if yours has one) and the normal looking wall outlets to allow you plug in normal home things into the wall. This system does provide power to the 12 VDC power converter, but that is where the 2 power systems stop as far as providing power to items (loads) in the camper.

There is one thing common to system 1 and 2 above. The frame ground. The battery has the negative terminal wired to the camper frame as a ground wire and part of the 12 VDC system. That connection, either on the battery end or the device ends can get corroded and while you have have the + 12 VDC power at the device, if the ground is bad, the device will not work. This is common on older campers for the DOT lights and sometimes in the camper 12 DC system.

We need more info on each area that is not working. And we need pics of the power converter, inside and out of it if you feel comfortable taking the cover off and opening it up. (only open it when the power is off) and the make and model.

We have no idea if a prior owner changed your converter from the original. While many here on the forum can help you troubleshoot the system, we all do not know which system Sunline put in your year/model camper. They changed brands and systems over the years.

On the 120 VAC side, see if there is a GFIC outlet in the kitchen area or in the bathroom. They often get tripped or can go bad and power down stream of them no longer works.

Also, do you have a volt meter, know how to use it and are friendly with 12 VDC car electric power or home 120 VAC power? We can help you with the electric but there is risk to it and don't want to get you hurt if you are not electrically friendly.

Hope this helps

John
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Old 07-29-2020, 03:39 PM   #3
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Thanks for the reply JohnB! I will get the info ASAP, and I do have and am ok with using a volt meter. I'll probably have time this weekend to do what is requested. Again, thank you for the assistance! I understand this is likely not the factory setup and dots may not always connect, and I appreciate everyone's efforts to help!
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Old 08-02-2020, 06:54 PM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by JohnB View Post
Hi,

I will see if we can help, but we are going to need more info.

There are actually 3 separate systems wiring systems on your camper, and by your note, you have issues on all 3 of them.

1. The DOT lights, meaning the clearance lights, stop/turn lights etc. These are all 12 volt and they get their power from the 7 wire cord and are powered by the truck. These are not powered by the camper itself.

2. The camper 12 volt DC system. There is a battery, normally mounted on the trailer A frame behind the LP tank('s). The 12 DC volts system runs the inside and outside lights (if yours has outside light), water pump, furnace, the fridge controls if yours is not all gas, and any other 12 V DC devices. There is a power converter that when plugged into 120 V AC shore power., it creates 12 VDC to charge the battery and help supply 12 VDC for the camper. All Sunline campers when new could run the 12 VDC items off the battery only. "Some" power converters had to have a battery installed to make them work right, other converters (newer ones) did not need a battery to create 12 VDC correctly and the camper can run off the converter if the camper was plugged into 120 VAC shore power and there was no battery. But we need to know what your converter is to help better.

3. The camper 120 VAC system. This system powers the wall outlets, the high power usage of a roof AC unit (if yours has one), powers a microwave (if yours has one), a water heater electric element (if yours has one), a fridge heating element (if yours has one) and the normal looking wall outlets to allow you plug in normal home things into the wall. This system does provide power to the 12 VDC power converter, but that is where the 2 power systems stop as far as providing power to items (loads) in the camper.

There is one thing common to system 1 and 2 above. The frame ground. The battery has the negative terminal wired to the camper frame as a ground wire and part of the 12 VDC system. That connection, either on the battery end or the device ends can get corroded and while you have have the + 12 VDC power at the device, if the ground is bad, the device will not work. This is common on older campers for the DOT lights and sometimes in the camper 12 DC system.

We need more info on each area that is not working. And we need pics of the power converter, inside and out of it if you feel comfortable taking the cover off and opening it up. (only open it when the power is off) and the make and model.

We have no idea if a prior owner changed your converter from the original. While many here on the forum can help you troubleshoot the system, we all do not know which system Sunline put in your year/model camper. They changed brands and systems over the years.

On the 120 VAC side, see if there is a GFIC outlet in the kitchen area or in the bathroom. They often get tripped or can go bad and power down stream of them no longer works.

Also, do you have a volt meter, know how to use it and are friendly with 12 VDC car electric power or home 120 VAC power? We can help you with the electric but there is risk to it and don't want to get you hurt if you are not electrically friendly.

Hope this helps

John
Hi John,

So, the boss (Mrs) wanted to go tent camping this weekend and I didn't get a lot of time to work on the camper, but, I did get some things done...a lot more than I thought I would, actually.

First off, there is a deep cycle battery behind the LP mounts that I was told was good...that was bad info. Never assume, right? I popped the caps off and it is dry. I have a battery conditioner/recharger that I'm going to try after I get the cells filled back up with some distilled water. Failing that I'll just get a new battery. The wire connections weren't horrible, but they weren't great either. I'm going to pick up new terminals as they look a little cracked, and wire brush all the wire connectors clean.

I will say that with the battery out of the circuit the interior lighting is all working (for now) and is brighter...even the wife thinks so. I didn't realize the fridge is 12v, so, I'm going to set that back to electric operation and see if it cools down overnight.

The inverter is a CS-830. I attached a pic of the front. I did not pull it out and open it up yet.

When I first got the camper, I tested the GFCI in the bathroom to make sure it tripped. Well...I must not have hit the reset button, as I just did and the outlet now works...so do the ones previously not working...you were 100% correct about the 'downstream' outlets being affected. I did not know campers were wired this way. Short of the GFCI being bad and tripping on its own, or a wiring issue, I guess that issue is resolved. I think I'm going to replace the GFCI just for the heck of it. A couple bucks is definitely worth peace of mind, and working stuff!

Regarding the running lights, I'm going to try cleaning the trailer running light connector to see if it is just rust/corrosion from sitting so long, but I think I may end up just buying a new plug and rewiring it. I didn't get a chance to check the frame ground, but I will.

THANK YOU for pointing me in the right direction!

Did I mention what a great group of people there are on this forum?

Much appreciated, as always!
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Old 08-03-2020, 05:13 AM   #5
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Quick update...after sitting overnight, the interior lights are still working and the fridge is nice and cold. I am assuming the battery was the cause of the gremlins, since everything works with it out of the loop.

Thanks again!!
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Old 08-03-2020, 08:39 AM   #6
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That is an old school converter/charger they were not real efficient and pretty poor battery chargers. They made plenty of power for lights because the lighting drew tons of amps and for that reason the charger side suffered a modern charger is a good upgrade and not real expensive. You are on the right track with the GFI replacement would be a good ideal they have improved over the years. Erratic exterior lighting usually is related to a poor ground and the camper hitch is supplying the ground not the wiring. Is your camper plug 7 pin (round one)?
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Old 08-03-2020, 04:18 PM   #7
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HI mainah,

Definitely replacing the GFCI. The trailer plug and the plug on my truck are the round 7 pin style. I haven't yet had a chance to check the ground.
I'll look into a new inverter/charger.

Thanks!
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Old 08-03-2020, 10:45 PM   #8
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A boiled out battery, ah yup. The older converters were noted for that. They only had a charge mode and would not taper down into a float mode pulling back on the charge voltage or the amperage to just maintain. So they overcharged the battery, to death at times.

Suggest long term, look into a good 3 stage charger with a de-sulfate mode. I recommend the Progressive Dynamics (PD) brand, these guys, https://www.progressivedyn.com/rv/power-converters/ They make stand along converters or ones that drop into some of the newer style converter cases of other brands as an upgrade, the 4600 series. In your case, you may need the stand alone 9200 series as I'm not sure where all your DC fuse etc are.

And consider this place to get them or other good brands. I bought my PD converter there. They know their stuff and very helpful. BestConverter - Converters, Inverters, Electrical Supplies, Electronics

Heads up on some of the Amazon sellers of Progressive Dynamics, since PD is so popular, there are offshore knocks off that are clones and PD will not back the warranty. Make sure where you buy them, it is a legit PD dealer.

The grounds on the camper, before replacing the 7 wire cable, ring out the grounds on the camper for the 12 volt DOT lights. I am not totally sure Sunline did the DOT light grounding on yours like they do the newer campers, but here is a place to look

For the lights on the back of the camper, Sunline always ran the hot wire and a ground (Negative DC) to each light fixture. They would parallel wire the grounds from light to light but the entire back wall of the camper ground came out the bottom of the wall under the camper as 1 ground wire. They would run the ground wire direct the frame at the back of the camper. That connection corrodes badly.

At the front of the camper, they did the same thing with all the clearance lights. They all had parallel jumped from fixture to fixture but one wire came out of the front wall, usually just behind the A frame header and then went to a frame ground. This may be right near where the white battery cable grounded. Those ground connections corrode badly under the camper and they are on purpose using the rusted up frame as a wire.

You are gaining and good for you! Keep up the good work.

Let us know how you make out.

John
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Old 08-05-2020, 07:55 AM   #9
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Battery was definitely boiled dry. I filled the cells with distilled water...took almost half a gallon, but the battery conditioner doesn't even detect a battery is connected when I hook up the cables. I suspect maybe it has an issue itself. I have an old-school battery charger I'm going to try later today and see what happens.

The lights have been working well, albeit with a little flicker now and then. I need to get to the ground and clean it up yet, and I probably need to give some TLC to the converter connections.

After Isaias rolled through yesterday I found no leaks, so I'm pretty happy about that.

I don't plan on putting this in the campground until next season, so I'll likely just replace the power converter before then.

Thanks again friends!
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Old 08-07-2020, 02:46 PM   #10
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If it's boiled DRY, distilled water isn't going to do anything in it. It will need Battery acid (get a gallon at the battery store). Empty the battery of the distilled water, and fill with Acid. Put a low amp(2A or <), slow charge on it to see if it will take a charge for a couple hours. if it acts like it's coming to life after a few hours, ramp up the amperage to about 6A and let it cook until your battery conditioner says "put a fork in it, it's done." Take a voltage reading across the teminals, should be near 12.6V. Do cell tests, should be about 2.1V to 2.2V.



Ace Hardware has a battery Hydrometer that you can used to determine cell specific gravity and account for temperature. (This is a good way to check state of charge or discharge too. It's labor intensive, and you won't get a new dungarees allowance like they used to do in the Navy.) I actually prefer this to Voltmeter, but sometimes back and hip pain win out.



Let it sit overnight and test the voltage again (both tems and cells). If ok, put a load on it. Each 912(or is it 921) lamp is 1.4A or so each. 10 lamps is 14A. Run them for a few hours (no charger on it and no conditioner, just your meter). At the end of 3 hours note the voltage while the lights are on. Now turn all the lights off. Read the terminal voltages again, then after 5 minutes. It should recover toward 12v if it's good. Granted it won't go to 12 unless the loaded voltage after 3 hrs is 11.8vdc, which I would seriously doubt. But it'll come up some.



Put it back on the charger/conditioner and let it go automatic. Keep a casual eye on it in case it throws the dreaded "Dis battry deader than a door nail" lamp, in which case, take the corpse and go down to Walmart and get a Group 24 or 27 Deep Cycle Marine Battery. Put a topping off charge on it before putting it in the RV.



I would go with the recommendation of the PD 4600 or bigger as John pointed out. I got one for my T-2570, cleaned all the grounds, added a cut out switch for the battery, and haven't had a problem since. Specific grav's are sitting at 100%, the charger is floating the battery, and it's not getting the panel hot (I mounted it in the storage area under the bed).
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Old 08-08-2020, 07:39 AM   #11
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Thanks for the advice, Torskdoc423. I'll pick some up this weekend and give it a shot.

I'm definitely replacing the power converter. Regarding the cut-out switch...you're just removing the battery from the circuit when plugged into shore power?
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Old 08-08-2020, 08:21 AM   #12
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A voltage check on your cooked battery left over night should tell the story if it's 12 volts or less it's time for a new one. Acid into water never water into acid. Overcharged batteries if nothing else tends to warp the plates thus shorting the cells. Dry batteries seldom recover. A decent deep cycle runs around $100.
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Old 08-08-2020, 02:05 PM   #13
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Any advantage to a type 27 battery over a type 24 other than a bit longer usage time? Since this will be plugged in all the time, should I just get the 24 for power-outage situations?
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Old 08-08-2020, 03:30 PM   #14
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You don't gain a huge amount with a 27, 20 amp hours maybe and it may not fit in your battery box it's larger that a 24. I'm off grid most of the time camping I have 2 group 24's and a 100 watt solar panel. I run some power hungry radio gear and I have never had low battery issue. One of you biggest draws in a camper is interior lighting people seem to disregard the fact that incandescent lamps draw a lot of current they do however make pretty good heaters the key word is LED's. My 1990 camper had 13 1156 bulbs they drew 23 amps (all on)! I now have 15 LED's all on they draw 3.8 amps! Fridge on DC bad, propane good. Water pump time is also a big draw. Heater fan draw over night is a huge energy hog on battery.
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Old 08-08-2020, 04:48 PM   #15
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Cut off is to isolate battery from Drains when not needed and for short term storage. Long term storage, remove battery and keep on float charge as needed.



Should you have a fire, the cutout will keep an electrical fire from developing from the battery.
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Old 08-08-2020, 05:14 PM   #16
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There is a 30 amp fuse on the battery output that's a good disconnect just yank it out. A little cheap battery maintainer is fine long term.
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Old 08-09-2020, 08:19 AM   #17
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Great info! Thanks again friends!
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Old 08-09-2020, 03:24 PM   #18
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Most of the Sunlines only had the an angle iron battery tray to hold a group 24 battery. Going to a group 27 most likely means you have to create some type of adapter on the battery tray to hold a larger size group 27. And if your battery box is only sized to fit a group 24, then you need a new battery box too.

We have 2 group 27's on our camper as we boondock off grid often. I use the generator recharge method as I never made it to solar, yet. If you are a power miser, and convert to LED lights, the group 27's work for us. We also have a slide motor to run, it draws as much power as a power tongue jack and we have one of them too, thus the jump to 27's.

If you are always going to be on shore power, the group 24 will have no problems for you. That was what Sunline intended to be used and that was with the old incandescent lights.

We have some who bookdock on just group 24's, they carry a spare charged battery, and just change it out when the main battery gets low. And they can go for a week or more in the summer without issue. Again, being a power miser and do not waste the power is priority 1 when off grid.

When the camper is stored, and you still have your old boil it out power converter, do not leave the camper on shore power for weeks on end. It will in time, re-boil out the battery. If you convert to a 3 stage charger, ideally with desulfate mode, then you can leave the camper plugged in as they have a true float mode and the battery hooked up. I myself use a VDC battery minder with pulse desulfate plugged in all the time rather then plugging the main power converter. Both ways work, the battery minder uses less power.

Until you get to the power better power converter and or plan to "not" plug in the camper all the time, then you should unhook the battery negative cable (deal with the evil battery strap all the time) , install a battery disconnect, or as was said, find the main battery fuse to the converter and pull it out. There are small parasitic loads that are do not have a switch to turn off that will just plain drain the battery down in 2 to 3 weeks, and some a drain it faster pending what was left on with a switch.

Hope this helps

John
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