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Old 02-08-2013, 09:03 PM   #1
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Charging the camper battery with the tow vehicle

This summer will be our first experience camping off the power grid and we are planning to park at a site in the Bighorn Mountains for 7 nights. Using our 12V battery, we expect to run the water pump a few times each day, run one light for a few hours at night, and possibly use the furnace for an hour or so in the evening. Can we recharge our camper battery from our tow vehicle while parked, if we recharge each day? How long is it "safe" to idle the tow vehicle without damaging the engine?
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Old 02-08-2013, 10:50 PM   #2
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I have done it! I have never taken a volt meter to the battery after I have charged using the TV through the 7 pin wire harness. It seems to take about 1 ˝ hours to get a decent charge. I have a few 4-5 day boondocking trips, where generators are not allowed at all. I have two plans to recharge. 1) I am planning to purchase a very good jumper cable (0 to 4 awg). The thought is to pull the TV nose to the TT nose and hook up the jumper cables to get a good electrical connection, and let the TV idle for an hour or so hooked up directly to the TT. 2) The other plan (I have two 12v batteries), is to put a weak battery in the box of the truck and plug it in. While we are driving around doing the tourist thing, the battery can take on a fresh charge, then swap out batteries as needed.
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Old 02-09-2013, 04:22 AM   #3
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The other plan (I have two 12v batteries), is to put a weak battery in the box of the truck and plug it in. While we are driving around doing the tourist thing, the battery can take on a fresh charge, then swap out batteries as needed.
That's a good idea! It provides a 2nd battery (in case one fails), but even when charging is available from a portable generator it would top off a partially charged battery on those days when you wanted to leave the site early.

Edit: Making sure both batteries fit in both locations before you leave on the trip is probably a good idea too.
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Old 02-09-2013, 05:16 AM   #4
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The risk is doing damage to your ONE trailer battery if you are running it down below 50% charge state and not re-charging it back to at least 90% charge state.

Using the truck charging system is not really a good idea to do this. The charge cable connection is small and a long distance from the truck installed alternator. What will happen is the truck battery will take control of the alternator charging circuit and will dictate the charging voltages etc from the truck charging system. You will get more like a trickle charge back at the trailer battery.

The better plan would be to bring along a small generator like the 2KW Honda EU2000i and use it to properly re-charge your trailer battery back up to its 90% charge state each day. Not knowing what any of your installed equipment is makes it difficult to pass along any pertinent info. To use your trailer converter/charger to re-charge your trailer battery to its 90% charge state in a three hour charge time requires smart-mode charging technology. Having the 2KW Honda EU2000i type generator with you allows you to connect your 30AMP Shore Power Cable directly to the generator 120VAC receptacle using a RV30A-15A "dogbone type" 18-inch long adapter (WALMART) and this will re-charge your trailer on-board battery back to its 90% charge state in as liuttle as three hours generator run time if your trailer is using smart-mode charging technology.

If your trailer only has a single mode converter/charger system then you can bring along a Black and Decker VEC1093DBD 40AMP portable battery charger and connect the charger directly to the generator 120VAC receptacle and connect the portable charger directly to the trailer batteries terminals and do the same 90% charge routine in the three hour generator run time.

If you plan to do alot of camping off the power grid the 2KW Honda EU2000i generator and a portable battery charger is a couple of good items to have.

Most folks will install at least 220AH battery capacity to support camping off the power grid. A single battery will run down rather quick if you are using your trailer furnace. The 12VDC blower is the thing that drains the battery real quick. It was always for us one battery one night if we was using the propane fired trailer furnace. It doesnt do you any good at all having several batteries if you don't have a re-charge plan. 7 nights is long time to be camping off the power grid without any survival planning. Especially in the Montana/Wyoming Bighorn Mtns HIGH country.

I would be very careful not to kill my truck battery as that is your lifeline to get back out.

My game plan would be to decide what 120VAC items you want to use running off a 600WATT Inverter and 12VDC items you need to keep running off the battery and beef-up the battery bank to handle these items. My battery bank is 255AHs. Then you can run these 120VAC/12VDC items for the ONE DAY/NIGHT camping experience with the plan of having capabilities of re-charging the battery bank back up to its 90% charge state the next morning by running the generator for three hours. Then you are ready to do this all over again for the next ONE DAY/NIGHT battery run.

My off-road camping in my POPUP trailer is we will be using about 20AMPS from the battery from 8PM-11PM running just about anything we want to run in the trailer except the air conditioner or high wattage microwave. Then the rest of the night we will draw 1-2AMPS from the battery bank for other necessary items the trailer needs to keep going until 8AM the next morning. Then we can re-charge the battery bank back up to its 90% charge state by running the generator when allowed to run it. Granted running the propane furnace and the high current drain blower fan makes it more of a challenge but we monitor the DC voltage of the our two battery banks and when it drops down to around 12.0VDC then we know we are close to the 50% charge state of the batteries. You don't want the batteries to drop below this charge state and need to get them charged back up to the 90% charge state otherwise you will start doing damage to the batteries... Even after doing all of this there is still another risk involved to keep from doing damage to your batteries. We will want to do a 100% charge on our batteries in around ten days of doing the 50% to 90% charge cycles. A 100% charge state takes around 12 hours of charge using the generator which is along run and usually not allowed to do at most camp grounds.

Lots of things to consider...

When just doing trickle charing of your battery you may think you are doing just great with a hour or so charge from your truck connection but it wont last very long and your battery will drop like a rock in just a few minutes of use.

When you get to this point and not have the capability of getting that battery back up to its 90% charge state where it will perform at its specified capabilities it will start doing damage to the battery cells. I suspect you will do harm to your one battery if you let it run down below 50% charge state (Below 12.0VDC) and not be able to get it back up to its 90% charge state (12.6VDC) in a timely manner...

The rule of thumb of re-charging deep cycle batteries is you will need to have 14.4VDC at around 20AMPS and will need to run this for around three hours to get the battery back up to its 90% charge state.

All of this is based on my camping off the power grid experiences... We do alot of this kind of camping here on the East side of the US and my 255AH battery bank is just now showing the need for replacement batteries after around five years of abuse. Our OFF-ROAD camping experiences is not that much different than when we are camping at the electric camp grounds. We use it all except for the air conditoner and the high wattage microwave... Momabear watches HDTV every night, i get to play with my HAM RADIO things, we light up out camp site area until lights out, and enjoy all of the 120VAC and 12VDC appliances/toys we have aboard.

I gave up candles, head gear lights and eating pork-n-beans and franks from a can along time ago. Don't get me wrong I loved my tent camping days of the 50s thru the 70s in the AZ mountains. Now days the trailers have all the appliances on-board so plan your systems to be able to use them...

My OFF-ROAD POPUP camper has all the modern things the big guys have and I can drag this trailer anywhere my 4X4 truck will go. We have done many 7-10 day camping outings off the power grid...

Roy Ken
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Old 02-09-2013, 10:29 AM   #5
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Originally Posted by RatherBCamping View Post
snip...... Can we recharge our camper battery from our tow vehicle while parked, if we recharge each day? How long is it "safe" to idle the tow vehicle without damaging the engine?
Welcome to JOF

As mentioned, there are only a couple of amps passing through the 7-pin connector, so this wouldn't be an effective means of re-charging the battery under boondocking conditions. In an emergency attaching a set of jumper cables from the TV's battery directly to the TT battery would be faster (with TV engine running), but IMO still not an ideal alternative.

As far as how long to let a TV idle, I guess it comes down to the engine maintaining a safe operating temperature...., but fuel consumption and exhaust fumes are other considerations.

If this is a "one time" week long boondocking trip I would consider borrowing a generator if you can, because being your first time out boondocking for an extended period one doesn't really know how much battery capacity they may use (especially running the furnace) in a 24 hour period. If your future plans include frequent boodocking I would look into purchasing a used or new generator..., then go and enjoy the boondocking experience without any concerns

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Old 02-19-2013, 07:39 PM   #6
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Roy...
Thank you for the helpful, detailed info. You gave me a lot of technical info, so now I'm off to the Web to learn about everything you described. I think the message coming through loud and clear is to NOT plan on using the TV battery to charge the camper. Also, to not let the camper battery get below 50% or we can damage the cells. Thank you for giving us a specific generator (2KW Honda EU2000i) to consider. It's encouraging to hear that you do everything the "big rigs" do in your pop-up. Trying to figure out how to make this all work is overwhelming right now, but once we do it a few times, I sure it will become simple.

We have a Jayco hybrid 17C (first year). Prior to that we had our beloved Jayco Heritage Rainier pop-up and camped off grid all the time without battery. But, now that we're a bit more mature, we needed to move up to our "big rig". We tried electric sites for a year, but we really, really miss the more remote, non-electric sites. Hence trying to figure out how to recharge for a 7-day stay.
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Old 02-19-2013, 07:47 PM   #7
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Originally Posted by Rustic Eagle View Post
If this is a "one time" week long boondocking trip I would consider borrowing a generator if you can, because being your first time out boondocking for an extended period one doesn't really know how much battery capacity they may use (especially running the furnace) in a 24 hour period. If your future plans include frequent boodocking I would look into purchasing a used or new generator..., then go and enjoy the boondocking experience without any concerns

Bob
Great suggestion on trying to find a used generator! I would expect that CraigsList should have them. If this works well, then we will become regulars at non-electric sites. We used to do this all the time, but of course we didn't have a battery - we just used flashlights and campfires. Now, we need the little comforts (indoor plumbing).
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Old 02-20-2013, 12:35 PM   #8
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IF you use your vehicle to recharge the battery use booster cables... the umbilical cord would be too slow
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Old 07-01-2013, 05:00 PM   #9
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Good points made here. I have two good quality batteries in my TV. It is a 1997 Suburban, gas engine. There is a place for a second battery for the diesel models, so I had a second battery put in. The second one has an isolator switch, so the truck will always start, if nothing else! I have two good, big batteries on my TT as well. Eventually, I hope to change out the lights in the TT to LED. That alone will save juice.
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Old 07-06-2013, 10:30 AM   #10
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Hi RatherBCamping! I'm very new to the TT side of camping. So I have been reading as much as I can on everything there is that I need to know about having a TT.

I know it was a while since you started the thread, so you probably have your gear sorted out by now, but I thought I would throw in my two bits.

With some advice from RoyBrady I was able to set up my TT with 2 6 volt batteries. I don't have a generator, but picked up a 40w solar panel on sale for $100. Recently I boondocked for 3 nights and ended each day with full power. The solar panel was in a spot where I was able to get just over 5 hours full sun each day I'm looking to get a second 40 w panel. I have LED lights so the main power use was from the water pump. I had to keep an eye on the family so they didn't waste water and power, and was able to be worry free with the power. A friends family was with us with a single 12 v battery and a generator. He ran the generator each morning and evening when permitted. I think his battery is in need of replacement and his family used the power like crazy. He hasn't completely switched to LED lights yet. He was out for 3 days before I got there and by the end he was at full discharge, and was unable to put his slide back when packing up. With everything I've learned, especially with help from members on this forum I've been able to give some good advice to my buddy. One of the best books I have ( came with my TT ) is The RV book by Mark Polk, it has a very informative section on the 12v system including a chart showing discharge rates for the battery and what it means to you. Happy Camping!
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