Holy smokin batteries! - Dutchmen Owners

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Old 02-12-2016, 09:26 PM   #1
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Holy smokin batteries!

RV ownership is starting out to be a nightmare for us and the FW hasn't even left our driveway yet! This morning my wife discovered a propane leak that had filled the FW with gas overnight. She turned off the tank valves and aired out the coach; about that time she noticed smoke coming out of the battery compartment and unplugged the coach from the house. I assume that the charging system on the RV has overcharged the batteries causing them to overheat.
From what I've read on this and other RV forums its not uncommon for the charging system to overcharge causing the electrolyte to boil out but, what do you all do about it? When you are hooked up to shore power and the batteries are fully charged, can the charging system be shut off allowing you stay hooked up to shore power and still use 12 volt lighting? I'm thinking of installing a battery disconnect switch; if I disconnect the batteries will we still be able to run the 12 volt lighting and other 12v devices while hooked to shore power. I assume that will work but have not tried it yet. This is our first RV after years of tent camping and now we are feeling like the tent is not so bad! If we weren't on a shoestring budget it would not be so traumatizing.
You all may get tired of hearing from us before we finally get our RV sea legs, so to speak.
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Old 02-12-2016, 11:23 PM   #2
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Thank heaven, it could have been worse! Our only "gas leak" was the time I brushed by the stove and accidently moved one of the knobs. It doesn't take much to move them off of the "off" detent. When I know I won't be using any propane, i.e. heat, stove, fridge or water, I shut the tanks off, especially at home.
Don't know the age of your battery, but "boiling down the battery" often happens first from a bad battery, that won't take a charge. The converter/charger works hard trying to get the voltage up, but to no avail. Step 1 - buy a new battery. Step 2 - watch the converter, it should taper down in voltage as the battery charges up. When it is finally charged up, the output of the converter should be so low that the cooling fan doesn't run.
Finally, it might be tempting to run your circuits straight off of the converter, but don't do it. Your system needs the battery as a "buffer," or stabilizer. We leave ours plugged in to shore power year-round, but check the battery water each month, and listen to the charger and check the battery voltage. You can do this with a voltmeter, but you can get a good "feel" based on the lights on your monitor panel. Now go and spend some money on a Valentine for your wife - she earned it!
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Old 02-13-2016, 06:09 AM   #3
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It takes longer to boil you battery dry in the winter, but you can do it. Check you inverter and make sure it's got a "smart charger" looking after the battery. Otherwise install a cutoff switch and only turn it on for when your working in the camper.

Once you are ready to button it up for the winter, a portable solar panel can maintain your battery over the winter.

X2 on the Valentines gift.
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Old 02-13-2016, 11:54 AM   #4
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Bad battery or possibly a bad converter. FWIW I had a converter go out on my trailer that was only 16 months old. I replaced it with a better grade of 4 stage.
As Marty said; you don't really want to run the 12 volt stuff without a battery in the circuit. It can be done, but will cause problems if you do it on a regular basis.

RV's take a fair bit of fiddling and maintaining to keep them in top notch shape. There are a lot of systems to stay on top of. When you figure that you basically have a small house that is going through a hurricane and an earthquake every time you tow it down the road they do pretty well to stay together as well as they do.

I have a mental checklist (need to get it on paper) that I go through once a month when the trailer is parked, as well as a slightly different one that gets used prior to leaving out for a trip.

A battery disconnect would not be a bad idea.

Check the date on your old battery and see when it was made. If it is over 3 years old it was probably on it's last legs. Five years is pretty good for any battery, RV batteries typically only last a couple of years unless they have had extra care.

Aaron
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Old 02-16-2016, 10:46 PM   #5
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After looking into the incident, it appears that we only had a battery problem and not a propane leak. When the battery overcharged it put off a strong rotten egg smell that my wife took for propane. Explains why the gas detector. So we are feeling a lot better since it appears we are only out an old battery. Thanks again for the suggestions.
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Old 02-16-2016, 10:55 PM   #6
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Yep, sulfuric acid sure does smell bad when it boils. Make sure you air it out well, that stuff can linger and it give you a burning sensation in the eyes.
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