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Old 10-22-2011, 08:03 PM   #1
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Question Monitoring Battery Level Question

Hi,
I'm a newbie to RV'ing and to this forum. We recently purchased a 2011 Jayfeather X17z. We have already taken a few trips and love it!!! I have a question about how to monitor the battery level while camping. Does everything have to be turned off in the trailer to get a true reading of the battery level (with a voltage meter and/or trailer's monitor)?? I know that when things are on in the trailer the monitor will drop and then when things are turned off the monitor will jump back up to full. Which is the true level of the battery??
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Old 10-22-2011, 08:14 PM   #2
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Welcome to the forum big_rc! I have noticed that my battery level will also drop on the monitor when something is turned on. As soon as you turn it off it shows full again. So I guess the true reading is when things are turned off. I suppose a voltmeter would give a more accurate reading on the battery.
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Old 10-23-2011, 09:42 AM   #3
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Welcome big_rc! Glad you found us.

I considers those gauges a "guide", not a true reading. Most RV manufacturers install a similar gauge set and they are not very accurate. There are better ones on the market, but you are going to pay quite a bit more for them.


As far as the battery - every time you turn on something, there is a small voltage drop in the camper. That is why you will see the lights get dimmer the more that is on. Your gauge reads the voltage at whatever moment in time you hit it, so it will vary depending on how much power you are pulling.


What I tell folks is to use them as a guide and it is just one of many ways to know the health of your RV - but don't solely rely on them. You will soon "learn" your RV and will be able to tell your battery health not only by the meter, but the brightness of the lights, sound of the water pump, etc.


Same goes for the tank levels - you will learn them. There are several threads around here recently on that subject.


Welcome again - and feel free to ask away.
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Old 10-23-2011, 11:19 AM   #4
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Because of that voltage drop Terry mentioned, a battery monitor should have it's own lead to the battery. Or one could take readings at the battery itself with a muiltimeter. The battery should have some load on it and the charger should be off when actually checking the condition because a bad battery can still show a full charge when unloaded, then drop dramatically when a load is applied. The charger can mask a bad battery if it is on while the voltage is being checked.
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Old 10-23-2011, 01:13 PM   #5
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I just turn everything off and push the button on the wall. I never leave my truck plugged into the trailer over night or for a weekend. Once upon a time I had a dead trailer battery and truck battery. I no longer take the chance.
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Old 10-25-2011, 11:41 PM   #6
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My indicator lights showed a full charge at the time I disconnected the battery and brought it inside for winter storage. However, when I hooked it up to my trickle charger, I got fault readings...all three times.

Since the TT was only 6 mos old, I ASSUMED the problem had to be with the charger. Last Friday, when I finally took the battery to a local dealer and had it tested (just to verify that I needed to replace the charger), we found that one cell was dead and another was close behind.

Left with a new, fully-charged battery (warranty replacement, no cost), a $7 specific gravity tester (hydrometer)...and a renewed disbelief in "idiot" lights.
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Old 10-25-2011, 11:45 PM   #7
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Jeannie, your know knowledge on this forum is impressive. I like how your willing to share this with the members on this forum. Good on you!
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Old 10-26-2011, 12:14 AM   #8
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Jeannie, your know knowledge on this forum is impressive. I like how your willing to share this with the members on this forum. Good on you!
"Aww, shucks!" said Jeannie as she looks shyly downward, scuffing the dirt with the toe of her shoe. Besides, you haven't seen the bill yet!

All seriousness aside, thank you. I've learned an enormous amount from the folks here.
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Old 10-28-2011, 12:03 PM   #9
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Batteries should always be tested at rest... no load no charge going in... best if you can wait 30 min after charging to test... All RV's have phantom or parasitic loads that will kill a battery in a few weeks.
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Old 10-28-2011, 02:32 PM   #10
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Batteries should always be tested at rest... no load no charge going in... best if you can wait 30 min after charging to test... All RV's have phantom or parasitic loads that will kill a battery in a few weeks.
Seann
Seann, you are correct that there should be no charge going in since the meter will read the voltage of the charging current instead of the actual voltage of the battery. You are also correct that all RVs have parasitic loads (they are real loads, albeit light; they only seem phantom), such as the propane and CO detectors, that will gradually drain a battery.

However, I have had batteries show full voltage at rest but drop dramatically when a light to medium load was placed on them (usually, an open or high resistance internal connection is to blame). Even a partial charge (usually what is called a surface charge) can show full voltage but, when loaded, will discharge rapidly. The only way to accurately check a battery with a meter is to put a load on it. Even a hydrometer test will can be invalid if the battery has an open or high resistance connection that allowed a trickle of current in to charge the battery.
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