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whbs

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Hi - I wonder if anyone can give advice on this please. Our 2002 Compass Calypso battery seemed to run down rather quickly when the van was standing for any length of time so I bought a new battery (nearly had apoplexy at the £120 cost)

However, when the van is standing for more than four or five days, the battery is still so low that it has to be charged before it will start the engine.

I cannot really fathom whether the 'living' battery under the drivers seat is draining the main one or whether I should do anything with the switches on the Zig unit - the symbols don't make a lot of sense to me

Anyone any ideas? - advice would be more than welcome.

Cheers - Bill

 

 

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Bill,

 

I can't think of any obvious reason why your Calypso's 'living' battery should be affecting the charge-state of the 'engine' battery. Normally, when the vehicle is standing idle, the two batteries will not be linked together. There are add-on devices (eg. the "Battery Master") that parallel-connect the two batteries but, as long as a living-battery is in good condition and well charged, such devices should assist an engine-battery rather than cause it to go flat.

 

It used to be commonplace on UK-built motorhomes to have a selection-switch on the 12V control-panel to permit power for living-area 12V equipment to be taken from either the living-battery or the vehicle's engine-battery. This mirrored caravan practice and allowed campsite off-hook-up stays to be extended: it also made ending up with a flat engine-battery much easier! So, if your Calypso has such a switch and it's currently 'aimed' at the engine-battery, and you've got something in the living-area drawing power, then the engine-battery will be discharged.

 

Vehicle alarms will normally draw power continuously from the engine battery, but one would not expect the rate of discharge (well flattened battery after 5 days) to be as severe as you say. I also remember instances where modifying the cab-radio's circuitry to allow the radio to be switched on/off from within the motorhome's living area resulted in a continuous small electrical drain being placed on the engine-battery.

 

However, I'm doubtful that guesswork is going to help, and I believe you'll need to confirm with an ammeter the presence and amount of discharge at the engine-battery and then experiment to see if you can identify what's causing it.

 

If you've got an alarm, does switching it off stop the discharge? Does fiddling with the switches on the control-panel make any difference? If this exercise proves fruitless, then you'll have to get the vehicle looked at by a specialist as there's plainly something unusual that's dragging down the engine-battery's state of charge.

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I am so grateful to you for taking the time to reply in such detail Derek. There are settings on the control thingie in the van with pics of a car and a caravan so will start experimenting with an ammeter.

My wife has just come in to say that she has looked at the switch and it was pointing to the car so she switched it to the middle - neither van or car - so that may well have solved the problem. Will still check with an ammeter.

For a semi-retired computer consultant who can sort out IT problems logically....I can be remarkably thick sometimes when it comes to electrics.

Thanks again

 

Bill

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That could well have been the cause of your problems Bill. Having the switch left on the 'car' symbol means everything power related to the caravan side of things could be drawn from the vehicle battery. Lets hope this solves the problem, and try to leave the switch in the 'off' position when not using the van.
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However, if your van is not in use, there should be nothing in the habitation area that is drawing current, so the battery, in whatever position the switch, should not have been losing charge.

Just a small check, but does your fridge have an interior light?  If so, is the fridge switched off?  Leaving the door ajar and on the catch when out of use will bring on the interior light permanently, unless the main (energy source selector) switch is in the "off" position.  That little light bulb, if left on 24/7, will make quite a hole in your battery's charge level.  Worth checking.

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Some years ago we had problems with the engine battery going flat and were told we needed a new battery and lots of other ideas. We finally found out that the large fridge/freezer was wired to the engine battery and although switched off, i.e. no light, we had left the isolation switch in the "on" position. This was switched off and when we returned to England had the fridge re-wired to the leisure batteries. Electrolux said it should be wired to leisure battery, Auto-Trail said they always wire to engine battery! However, the change was made under warranty. No problems with engine battery since.
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mick noe - 2008-11-27 6:45 PM

 

I have experienced a similar problem and tracked it down to the status aerial amplifier (fitted inside the wardrobe in my motorhome) being left on .Hope this may help

 

Never thought of that one but I know mine is on continuously. Does your amplifier work off the engine battery then and how would I find out please?

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Patricia,

 

In Bill's case the question that needs to be answered is whether his engine-battery discharging problem is actually a problem, or just the natural consequence of a switch being in a particular position and/or something electrical that's being overlooked and is draining current continuously from the battery.

 

In Bill's second posting he says that the 'Car/Caravan' switch on his Calypso's 12V control-panel was in the "Car" position. This suggests that (provided the switch has always been in the Car position) all power for living-area 12V equipment has, past and present, been provided by the engine-battery, with the leisure-battery playing no practical role. Can't say I'm comfortable with that idea (I would have thought major problems would have shown up during normal usage), but it might possibly explain why his motorhome's original engine-battery used to run out of puff quickly. Whatever has happened in the past, the switch should be set to "Caravan" when the motorhome is being used and should be placed in the Off position when the vehicle is standing idle.

 

The snag with these car/caravan switches is that all 12V equipment connected through the switch will take power according to the switch position. Logically, one would expect a TV aerial amplifier (and I wouldn't have thought of that as a potential culprit either) to take its power from a motorhome's leisure-battery, as the aerial is a 'leisure' accessory and it's sensible to have electrical leisure accessories fed from the leisure-battery. However, when a motorhome has a car/caravan switch, electrical leisure accessories can be powered from either the leisure- or the engine-battery depending on how the switch is set. As long as your Cheyenne has not got one of these pesky car/caravan switches, I think you can safely assume that your aerial amplifier is being powered by the leisure-battery. If you wanted to confirm this, then check that the amplifier's little red tell-tale light goes out when you turn the main switch on your motorhome's 12V control-panel to the Off position.

 

Auto-Trail wasn't the only UK motorhome manufacturer to wire Electrolux/Dometic Powerfridges to the engine-battery - Swift Group did the same. It was standard practice before fridges with electronic control systems were introduced and quite a few motorhome owners got caught out.

 

Whichever battery a Powerfridge is connected to, unless the fridge's control-switch is turned to the fully Off position, the appliance will continue to draw power continuously from that battery and (as Brian points out) if the door is ajar and the interior light is on, then that will make matters worse. As these appliances require a continuous 12V power supply when operating they will be connected directly to a battery and not through the motorhome's 12V control panel. So switching off living-area equipment via the control-panel won't switch off the fridge. It would be helpful if Dometic emphasised this more in their Operating Instructions documentation.

 

Previous forum threads have highlighted that earlier model Dometic fridge/freezers had anti-condensation 'frame heaters' that are easily left on inadvertently and that can rapidly flatten batteries. Something else to beware of, though I don't think Bill's 2002 Calypso would have been fitted with a fridge/freezer.

 

 

Ranger,

 

The link below might interest you. It seems from this that, during cold conditions, a battery will be less capable under load, whereas, unloaded, it will be able to retain its charge longer.

 

http://chemistry.about.com/od/howthingsworkfaqs/f/coldbattery.htm

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Derek thank you for your very explicit explanation and I will check the aerial source next time I am in the m/home. With regards the fridge/freezer, which was an extra ordered by the original owner, the isolation switch well away from the unit and unlabelled so it was some time before we realised its importance. Also Auto-Trail were adamant that they were right in connecting to the engine battery which we were not happy about. YMy husband used to say that you can live without a fridge but if immobile through a flat battery it is not a good idea! I know that the fridge is connected to the leisure batteries now as when camping off mains the light starts to yellow when the batteries begin to run down so it is a useful warning sign. In fact the original engine battery must have been weakened as it did not last very long and we replaced it years ago. As to the other switch i.e. car/caravan I will check but I am sure there isn't one, certainly not on the panel. I remember this from our tugging days but if there is one it must be in the bunk alongside the charger. I am unsure about whether there is an anti-condensation frame heater. I switch off the fridge on its panel and the light goes off but also have to switch off this other isolation switch on the wall. Thanks again for your help.
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Thank you everyone for your contributions.

 

Have just thawed out after checking the batteries with an ammeter. Wish I could make sense of it! The van has the mains plugged into it (whenever it is sitting in the drive so the fridge is always ready for a quick getaway), so I unplugged the mains, switched the control box to 'Off' and took a reading from the main battery. 9.6V (It had been fully charged up a couple of days ago)

Switched the control box to 'Caravan' and everything lit up - including the Status aerial control box (which has never been switched off...) To see if there was a drop in voltage, I switched it to 'Car' and all the lights went out as did the Status aerial box. Strange. I plugged in the mains cable and everything lit up. So, with the mains plugged in, the 'Car' setting works - without it, nothing does

I took a reading from the car battery when the box was switched to 'Caravan' and it had dropped to 9.3V.

To end this rivetting experience, I went to take a reading from the Leisure battery under the seat but it had vanished ... bother, that was the last motor caravan. Found this one under the bunk. This gave a reading of 3.5V. Switched all the lights on without the mains plugged in and it on 'Caravan' and it made not a blind bit of difference - still 3.5V.

For info: the fridge (nothing so grand as a fridge-freezer), doesn't have a light, but the switch for running it from the battery is always switched on. Since this only lights up when the vehicle engine is running, I assumed this was OK and wouldn't drain anything.

Before I book my convalescent home, does anyone know how the Leisure battery is charged up - is it from the mains when it is plugged in or from the engine battery?

I think I need a new Leisure Battery and possibly an Auto Electrician - or would a new motorhome be a better idea?

 

 

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Bill

Do you not have a manual?

You have two batteries, a habitation battery for the van equipment, and a starter battery for the vehicle equipment.  I assume the latter is your "main" battery.  At 9.6 volts it is a flat as your hat and needs to be charged a.s.a.p to prevent lasting damage.

Exactly how each battery feeds power, and to what, is controlled via your Zig unit, but will be determined by how Explorer wired it.  It may allow you to select which battery gets charged when on mains, or it may be that the on-board charger does not charge the starter battery at all.

If your lights worked from the habitation battery when that is showing only 3.5V I'm amazed.  At 3.5V I'd think the battery was dead - probably permanently!

I think you urgently need to get a manual from somewhere, but even more importantly a wiring diagram, so that it is clear how the bits have been wired via the Zig.  Have you tried contacting Explorer, to see if they can help with either?

In the meantime, I wouldn't rush out and buy a new habitation battery, since connecting that up may just result in that, too, becoming damaged.  If you can find a dealer who specialises in Compass motorhomes, with a workshop and a decent electrician, it may be easier to go there.  However, I wouldn't go to any one who is unfamiliar with your set up, as you could end up spending quite a bit on their learning curve!

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Bill,

 

When you hook-up your Calypso to a 230V mains power-supply it would be usual for the motorhome's on-board battery charger to begin to charge the leisure-battery.

 

However, this might not happen if a) the charger has an ON/OFF switch and the OFF-position has been chosen, or b) if there's a selection-switch on the 12V control panel (or separate) that allows the charger to charge either the leisure-battery or the engine-battery and that switch's 'engine-battery position' has been selected. When the motorhome is being driven, then its motor's alternator will charge both engine-battery and leisure-battery simultaneously.

 

A fully-charged 12V battery should provide a voltage reading of 12.7V or above. As Brian says, a reading of 9.6V indicates a well-flattened battery and a reading of 3.5V indicates a very dead battery indeed. (Are you sure your meter is accurate?!!) 'Wet' batteries do need to be monitored and, where appropriate, need to have the level of electrolyte within them regularly checked and topped-up. If you hook up to the mains and take a voltage reading of each battery, the one that is being charged should provide a reading of around 14V.

 

Here are 4 possibilities to consider:

 

1. Your Car/Caravan switch is wired back-to-front.

2. Your Car/Caravan switch is wrongly labelled.

3. The Car/Caravan switch has been physically turned through 180 degrees.

4. You are wrongly interpreting the switch-settings (ie. back-to-front).

 

(With a long IT career behind me, some of it frustratingly spent providing computer support services, I naturally lean towards Number 4, as, whenever someone told me they had a technical problem I instinctively used to blame them mentally for causing it themselves. Well, you know how it is...!)

 

Given your description of the testing you've done, any of these four alternatives might explain why, on the "Caravan" switch-setting and off mains, the living-area equipment will work from the partially-charged engine-battery, and why on the "Car" switch-setting and off mains, the living-area equipment won't work from the totally discharged leisure-battery. On the "Car" switch-setting and ON mains, the living-area equipment will work because the on-board charger will be sending power to the leisure-battery that is then passed on to the living-area equipment. The downside to this back-to-front hypothesis is that it implies an unusual 'caravan style' usage-of-vehicle regimen that comprises the motorhome always being on 230V mains hook-up when not being driven.

 

Compass manufactured Calypso-badged motorhomes on Fiat chassis, then on VW T4s, then on Fiat again and (I think) a 2002 model will have been on a VW. I had, until recently, a Compass Owner's Manual that covered VW-based Calypsos and this contained a basic wiring diagram and details of the 12V control-panel and battery charger. If I remember correctly, the control-panel and charger were both manufactured by Zig and were similar to the Zig equipments used in my 1996 Herald, except that my Herald's control-panel lacked the Car/Caravan switch. The on-board Zig battery charger could only charge the leisure-battery: no switchable facility was provided to charge the engine-battery. I'm not sure how genuinely useful the wiring diagram and manual would be in this instance, as the difficulty seems to be not what the wiring and switching should be doing, but what it actually is doing.

 

I suspect that, if it can be confirmed how the Car/Caravan switch is functioning, a new replacement leisure-battery is fitted and someone talks you through the way a Calypso's electrical system works, then all should be well in future. (Maybe!!) But I'm sure Brian's final-paragraph advice is the best way forward.

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Thank you so much for the in-depth replies to my problem. It never fails to amaze me how helpful the motorhome fraternity is - it certainly aint just a wave when we pass each other.

 

Again - many thanks - I'll find a Compass Hospital and book it in

 

Bill

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  • 2 weeks later...
Patricia - 2008-11-28 10:05 AM

 

.... As to the other switch i.e. car/caravan I will check but I am sure there isn't one, certainly not on the panel. I remember this from our tugging days but if there is one it must be in the bunk alongside the charger....

 

hi Patricia,

 

If your AT has a Sargent panel the same as our 2004 model then it will have a facility to charge and/or run off the vehicle battery but is subtly 'hidden' on the control panel.

 

The button to the right of the On/Off button has a picture of a battery on it and when pressed (with the panel turned on) it's red tell tale illuminates and you are then charging and running off the vehicle battery.

You can prove this by scrolling down the menu on the panel which first shows the welcome screen with temp,etc, then Leisure battery volts and next vehicle battery volts. When you are 'on charge' change from leisure to vehicle with the 'battery' button and you will see the voltage of the respective battery rise.

 

If you need more help PM me and I'll try and send you a copy of the manual or better wording.

 

Keith.

 

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Keithl - 2008-12-08 8:53 PM

 

Patricia - 2008-11-28 10:05 AM

 

.... As to the other switch i.e. car/caravan I will check but I am sure there isn't one, certainly not on the panel. I remember this from our tugging days but if there is one it must be in the bunk alongside the charger....

 

hi Patricia,

 

If your AT has a Sargent panel the same as our 2004 model then it will have a facility to charge and/or run off the vehicle battery but is subtly 'hidden' on the control panel.

 

The button to the right of the On/Off button has a picture of a battery on it and when pressed (with the panel turned on) it's red tell tale illuminates and you are then charging and running off the vehicle battery.

You can prove this by scrolling down the menu on the panel which first shows the welcome screen with temp,etc, then Leisure battery volts and next vehicle battery volts. When you are 'on charge' change from leisure to vehicle with the 'battery' button and you will see the voltage of the respective battery rise.

 

If you need more help PM me and I'll try and send you a copy of the manual or better wording.

 

Keith.

 

Thanks Keith for your advice. I will certainly look next time I am in the m/h (not used it since early Oct but should be in it next weekend - weather permitting!) but my control panel is very simple e.g. no menu or temperature recording. However, I will take a photo and send it to you.

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