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Current Drain in Fiat Ducato/ Swift Sundance '06


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I am pretty new to the whole motorhoming thing, but not to forums, however at the terrible risk of asking something already covered (I've only just seen what an active forum this is), I am so frustrated and don't have the time to go through the whole site.


So, he is the thing.

I bought my Sundance October '07. It's a 2.3 Fiat Ducato base registered June '06.

I had professionally installed a Multimedia dash stereo which also has a 7" screen hooked up to a reversing camera (installed by the same people), in December.

Since then, I have experienced many flat starter batteries.

As a result I have had all the associated wiring and the Sat-Nav rewired and tidied up.

Even without the stereo in/connected I have a current drain of about half an amp.

Further tests have revealed a current drain on the right hand power connector feeding the small fuse panel on the RHS of the dash of about 200mA, and nearly 300mA on the similarly located connector on the LHS of the dash.

Disconnecting these two from anything sees just about 35mA for the tracker.

There is a 70A fuse in the main engine bay fuse box (front right). Disconnecting this eliminates all issues.

There was a consideration to fit a relay on the ignition switch to supply this 70A fuse. However, this was done for another customer in exactly the same position with about 750mA drain.

It had more strange effects rather than curing the problem, but I didn’t see this.

The original 100A/650AHr battery has been found to have a defective cell and been replaced with a 90A 650AHr which lasted a week before it died – presumably from the current drain.

Part of my problem is that this issue may have been disturbed by the refitting of the stereo, but seems otherwise unrelated. The people who carried out the fitting are a professional shop who only carry out Auto electrics with accessories. They are the people my local Fiat dealer Morgan Elliot (Belvedere, Kent) put me in touch with.

I have since contacted Fait and they said they don’t have the in house staff trained to carry out the required investigation above that which this shop Autolek, Eltham can/have already done.

This has caused me to buy a new battery (which has probably been fried due to the problem), extensive costs for re-wiring/investigation and, a big RAC Starter charger big enough to get me out of trouble countless times – which I have to carry around – to get me off site during a weekend.

And that’s not even covering the emotional heartache given a £25K outlay.

What are my likely prospects of taking this up with Swift or Fiat ?

Ultimately I want it sorted.


Any suggestions would be gratefully received.



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Guest Tracker

I don't suppose you know or can establish what the current drain was - if any - prior to you buying the van and fitting the extras?


If it was an issue, or you can establish that it was, when you bought the van then it is down to the supplying dealer with whom you have your contract of purchase.


If the issue only arose after the new kit was fitted then it ought to be something that the fitters did - inadvertently or deliberately.


Has anyone traced the cables that carry the current that is draining your battery to see where they go and what they power?


Does the leisure battery work OK and hold it's charge?


It may be worth going to a different competent auto electrician - one who has never seen your van before and has no pre conceived ideas - for him to trace and establish.


However tracing such faults is fiddly and very time consuming and a big bill might result - and even worse - with no clearly defined culprit to recoup the cost from you can bet your life that no body will want to carry the can without very definitive proof.


Sorry I can't help more but others will read your posting and some are very clever with electrics - just not me!


Good luck.

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Thanks for your reply Tracker.

I van was an ex hire model. No known issues.

This issue only really presented itself 2 months after I got it.

Usually takes a week to go flat with no use.

Or the end of a weekend with little use of the cab stereo. The stereo feed has been rewired for a permenate live, and there is a residue amount of drain from it's memory - a few mAmps.


I can't remember exacly what the circuits supplied by the two cables (left and Right dash), but they were mundain cab fittings like windows, fan, internal lights.


No problem with leisure battery at all.


The tracing is fiddly for sure, not to mention the access and being sure that a cable you are following really is the same one at both ends.


Autoelectrician's who understand the Ducato intimately would be the ideal solution, but out freinds at Fiat spend more time with lumps of metal rather than wire and fuses.


Autolek's only repeated suggestion is to fit a device which isolatets all power from the battery when the voltage falles below something like 11.4v

To me, this simply deals with the situation of starting, rather than addressing the root of the problem. I don't want to spend £150 on something which wont sort the problem out.


So, if anyone can suggest a suitable auto electrician, then I am more than up for going to them and leaving it with them for a day or two to sort it out.

Obviously, the further away, the more I want to be sure they are up to it.


Many thanks,



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Electrics are never my best subject, I base many problems on a shrewd sense of the details given.


My view of modern vehicles is that with more assessories fitted the more "unknown" drain there will be on the electrics.


I may be totaly wrong but I veiw ALL electrically operated items drawing some current when they are idle, simply to maintain there efficiency when needed for instant use. (plus maybe faulty connection joints)


Older equipment took time to 'warm up'. Modern equipment is 'instant'. In my view current is being drawn even when all things are off.


To quote an old saying "You don't get owt for nowt"


Clive will have the answers no doubt.



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Dave Newell is a good auto electrician but he's based in Telford. If you are passing in that direction at any time, maybe you could incorporate a visit to see him. Dave re-wired my radio to the leisure battery and installed a switch in the habitation area. Now I don't have to worry about my engine battery going flat when I use the radio on site.





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Thanks for that John H.

I'll be heading up north in a couple of weeks, so that's an option.

But this is not an issue with the stereo. That has been isolated and isn't the drain. There is an insignificant current draw from the stereo compared to when it is removed. It's not left in standby. Only a few miliamps for the memory.


There is also a little on the Panasonic DVD driven Sat-Nav, but again, nothing in comparison to half an amp.


I really think this is going to be a base vehicle issue. Probably with a stuck relay somewhere.


I guess I am really looking for an auto electrician who knows in depth stuff about the newer Ducatos.

I am also particularly interested to hear if this is a common problem.


Everyone keeps going on about "well these things are left on the drive for long periods...".

I don't think it's acceptable for the starter battery to go flat with a new battery within a week.

To be honest, I think if it were left for three months it ought to start or at the very least try to turn over.


I am clutching at straws, so there are no stupid ideas or areas for me to look into with this !




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Have you tried pulling all the Fiat fuses one by one and seeing if that isolates the faults?


My brother had a similar problem with a VW and it turned out to be a faulty window motor and/or relay together with water ingress into the wiring loom and switch but it took over a day and an abundant supply of spare parts to substitute for the dealer to trace and identify it all.

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Hi Potts,

Fuses - Yes, I did - so far as I could access them.


Part of the problem I found was that I couldn't really identify what most of the fuses went to since the legend on the cover offers no real clues without the technical schematics, which the main dealer seems reluctant to passing over.


However, I can isolate the window electrics to check there.


Interesting situation with your brother though. How old was the VW and who paid for the work ? Was it covered by warranty ?




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  • 9 months later...

Ok, latest on this situation with my problem is definately down to a current drain on the radio circuit.

I suspect given the lengths of effort to reduce the wiring in this area previously, it actually could be the device which annoyingly switches off the radio automatically .

Does anyone have any access to technical information on the location of anything connected to the Radio Fuse on the Passenger Side Fuse Board ?


Having removed this one fuse has allowed countless restarts over a three week period - something only ever experianced over a year ago on this van.


It was't the Electric Window circuits on my van, but I can see this could be an issue on others - as suggested.




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Back to basics - The Fiat was designed as a commercial vehicle to be used daily. The immobiliser, computer, electric locks etc take power all of the time. So Fiat did not worry about battery drain when a vehicle stands idle for a while, and (although I do not like Fiats attitude) they appear to have met the electrical requirements of commercial users.

On some swift products the Auto Power Select AES fridge takes a constant feed of approx 0.4 Amps when switched off, this is because the fridge computer stays on waiting for you to command it to function. I believe the fridge computer is supplied by the vehicle battery. So in effect there are 2 sources of drain 1. the engine management + 2 the fridge.

My Bolero, and several other at the dealers, had a power drain of 0.4A shown on the panel over the door.

Only solutin for me was to fit an 85Watt solar panel + battery master unit to charge both engine and accomodation batteries.


I understand your last post re Radio circuit, but with complicated wiring in vehicles, i suggest you check the above as well.

Good Luck Mike

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I found this on another site.


The cab as STANDARD has a 50ma draw which in rough figures equates to 1.25 amps per day loss. Standard engine battery is 88a of which you need at least 50a for starting therefore it doesn’t take long for that other 38a to disappear & this is before you start with extras, lower temperatures etc.


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Hi Mike_202,

I don't think the Fridge would be the issue here as it's only (so far as I can see) supplied by 240Vac, Gas or the 12v source selected by the control panel - which is very basic. It's either set to off, Leisure, or Vehicle battery.

There isn’t any way to measure the current drain from this control panel. I do this by checking both at the Battery end with a Digital Multimeter and in line at the individual fuse end, which is why I see the biggest drain through the radio circuit – way beyond anything reasonable for maintaining the memory for stations and time.

Even with the Radio head unit, this is still the case.


I am quite against the notion of spending the best part of £120+ for a Battery Guard type device which monitors a falling voltage form the starter battery and isolates it once down to 11.4V. I know they work, but it simply ignors the problem.

I think I have the required understanding of electrics/electronics, what I need are suggestions of things to check.

Like the Fridge in your case - may well be an issue in many other vehicles. Electric windows was also suggeste - I checked them too as there are other circuits with drains, but none in the range of the radio circuit.


hawkeye6007 - understood.

But this van was fine for my first 4 months of ownership (2nd hand - private sale - no previously known issues), but in that time I think it probably had a max of 3 weeks of no use, otherwise, every two weeks it got a weekend outing.

The radio was changed within about 2 months. I have since reinstalled the original Fiat unit and the current drain is unchanged.


Personally I think the van should be more than capable of standing for 3 months or more before it becomes an issue. It's the same with cars, so why should out vehicles be any different ?

In fairness, I'm not sure this issue is limited to Fiat though.



All the best,




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i would test the auto switch off relay from the original stereo with a meter. You say it has been bypassed with a direct feed, but the relay would still have it's feed from the original loom. With this power source, and no information relayed back to it (no power drain) due to the cut wires, it MIGHT be constantly trying to turn the stereo off ever 15 mins. Which would use power.


Put a meter on it, and see if there is a drain - or a drain every so often. This might be a possible cause, but i am no electrician! I would say that with the ignition off, it would send a signal to the stereo (power) and be able to meter if that power is used by a signal or power being sent back to the relay or not. If power is received back it would be off so no action required. If it does not receive that signal it would presume it was being used (on) and switch off the power after 15 mins. I would say with no signal, (necause it is detached) it would be trying to turn it off.


As i say, i am no electrician, but may give you an idea or path to check!

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Hi Clyde,

I have the same problem on my 07 Fiat, in my case may battery suddenly went down to 10v over a few days and after recharging the vehicle would not start the fiat immobilser thought the vehicle was being tampered with. This was while I was away in France, ended up with the vehicle being uplifted to the nearest fiat dealer for a week the out come was that the retro dealer fitted alarm had been incorrectly wired to the ECU preventing it from shutting down causing all sorts of problems.

These vehicles do have a constant drain on the battery, on my vehicle the cab battery needs charging at least every 3 weeks.I think you will find that your radio like everything else is powered through the vehicle ECU and when you turn of the ignition the unit goes into sleep mode but is still drawing current in order to maintain the alarms, radio ,clock, ignition system,vehicle diagnostics and radio in a standby state.

I managed to get a circuit diagram and pin connection for the ECU on my vehicle and spent some time going through the various connections, the out come was that there is a constant drain of around 1.25amps increasing if the alarm is set. I have not been able to isolate this drain to any one particular item it is an accumalation of onboard systems.

On my Swift the onboard charger does not charge the vehicle battery so

my answer to the problem was to fit a Ring 4a smart charger connected to the vehicle battery this cost about £25 and does the job. Regarding your fridge don't dismiss this as you do need to make sure it is switched off as the light inside will stay on if you leave the door sightly open to air it when not being used as sometimes they are incorrectly connected to the vehicle battery instead of the leasure one. I like you found the problem somewhat frustrating but other than fitting a master switch to isolate the vehicle battery which would then cause problems with the alarm systems it would seem that the only answer is to keep the battery charged in some way using a small onboard charger or solar panel.

regards Geoff

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Hi there Rainbow Chasers',

Yes, I think this is a sound investment of time - if only I could identify where it is ?!?!?!. Fiat are typically unresponsive in terms of supplying technical info. I managed to get a workshop manual off ebay, which of course has incomplete wiring details - probably only missing the pages I actually need ! :'(


I am certainly looking to persue this route.



Yes, I certainly make a lot more effort to ensure everything is turned off including the Fridge. Maybe an good point about my lack of fridge light is that it wont ever draw current is left slightly adjar. Talking of which, where there is a slightly open setting to the fridge door lock - for those of you who have posh fridges (with internal lights), I asume the door switch wont keep it illuminated when your in storage with the fridge door on the first (slighly open) catch, so you don't get the smelly mould effect.


The problem I had with keeping the unit on charge all the time, is that I think this is what slaughtered the battery for the second time. Lasted from April 08 till Jan 09 when it was replaced.


If I get to the point of only having to charge it every three weeks, then I would settled for that as a victory ! *-)





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I think Dave Newell has a fix for the Fiat radio auto switch off for your model.  He has posted before on how to adjust the wiring to achieve this.  Why not try a PM to see if he can help?

However, even if the radio circuit is altered, you'll still have some drain on the battery from the other electrical/electronic devices fitted. 

If the charging regime of the on-board charger is working as it should, and assuming it does, actually, charge the starter battery - not all do - leaving the van permanently connected to mains should not harm the starter battery.  All these units generally do is to provide a trickle, or maintenance, charge to the starter battery.  There is insufficient charging power to re-charge a "flat" starter battery, and what there is is designed merely to maintain a healthy state of charge, largely to counter the permanent drain from the on-board electrics. 

You say your van is ex hire.  I wonder if someone has changed the charger, or its wiring, so that it charges the starter battery at full rate?

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Hi Brian,

Very interesting point you make about the charger. I thought this too. However, even the two properly - and undisputed knackered batteries each with one cell completely cactus and others not performing well, it could charge from even as low as a direct (no other) connection of 2-3V up to enough to start after a day of charging (8+ hours). This state would then sink over two days to an unsualble level of voltage.


Other drains, well, part of the problem here is that as others have mentioned, there are a few things going on in the 'background' which are too hard to identify without current monitoring equipment over a period of hours. I do have this at work, but it would be quite combersome to bring it home and make interconnections for this kind of task. I am sure reading the ECU shoud actually provide this kind of information, but the guys at my local Fiat Service Centre don't seem to actually understand even enough about ohms law to work through the problem !


I will contact Dave Newell as you have suggested.


Although the previous owner (Adventure Motorhomes (hire company) also fit accessories, he assures me, and I trust him, the only things he added electrically speaking are the Phantom Tracker, SatNav and Parking Sensors.

I have spoken to Phantom and they have given me some info, but I already rulled that out as I can see when that draws current and it's very small and is only occasional.

As a part of this on-going situation, the DVD based SatNav has been relocated from behind the driver side fuse board (a really bad location) to under the drivers seat.


I really appreciate everyones considered oppinions on this, so thank you everyone, and please keep the suggestions coming.


By the way, there is no alarm to further complicate the matter.


All the best,



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Clyde - 2009-02-19 10:55 PM Ok, latest on this situation with my problem is definately down to a current drain on the radio circuit. ................Having removed this one fuse has allowed countless restarts over a three week period - something only ever experianced over a year ago on this van. ................ Cyde


You have said there was no problem before your new radio etc unit was installed.  Then the battery began to go flat fairly quickly.  Subsequently, as above, you pulled the fuse feeding the radio circuit, and the battery ceased going flat. 

Somewhere, in installing your new unit/s, a connection has been made from that circuit that a) was not previously made, and b) connects new equipment that has a permanent current draw in the region of 0.5A.  The answer, to me, lies in the new gear, or the way the original circuit was changed to feed it.

You have mentioned a DVD based sat-nav.  You have mentioned a reversing camera.  There is a 7" monitor.  There is a radio.  You have a multimedia installation, maybe a CD/DVD player, possibly a TV receiver.  Any/all of these may have been given a permanent, unswitched, feed, and any of them may only go into standby mode where a permanent feed is present, so continuing to draw current.

Stand back a bit, and look again at what you have written.  It all seems to point to a fault in the new gear, or the way it has been installed, because it wasn't there beforehand, and it goes away when that fuse is pulled.

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Clyde, the radio has two positive feeds, one is permanently live to power the radio and the other should only go live when the ignition is switched on. What some people do to get round the timed switch off (which is in the standard radio by the way, not a separate relay/timer device) is to connect the ignition fed live to the permanent live so that they can use the radio when parked. This will cause a permanent drain of around 0.4 - 0.5 amps.


My remedy is to reconnect the wiring as it should be which will reinstate the ignition auto on/off feature of the radio. I also wire a remote switch into the ignition switched feed to allow the radio to be switched on or off from the living area without the annoying 15-20 minute cutoff. If you decide to do this you will need to put a small diode in the ignition switched feed, it doesn't need to be a highly rated one as this feed is only a signal to the radio, to prevent back feeding the ignition controlled circuits when the remote switch is used.


PM me if you require a circuit diagram.



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An alternative way to add a switch would be to use a SPDT 'Changeover' switch to select either ignition fed or permanent live feed for the (originally) ignition fed radio wire. ie You need to connect the radio wire to the Common terminal on the switch.

This way you would not need a diode and hence have no risk of back feeding into the ignition circuits. The only down side is you need three wires running to the switch.


Hope you both understand my explanation,


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Ok, this sounds like a plan.

Yes I understand both posts.

Of course I also wonder about the merit of a very low powered led on the cabin switch to remind self to turn off ! A nominal led would require something in the region of 20mA, but it could be reduced easily to <10mA just to save a bit of juice only resulting it being dim, which might not be so intrusive anyway.

Off the top of my head, on one of the many visits to the ‘specialist’ auto electricians workshop, I had them wire the new stereo on a permanent feed as it (the new one) still powered down after about 15 mins.

My lack of faith in this particular group of individuals was in part based on their lack of enthusiasm to terminate all wires correctly (even with a bit of sleeving over a cut wire would have been better than nothing at all – just leaving cut wires floating around. Not only that, but their £10,000 battery tester/charger with built in ammeter, couldn’t even register anything less than 0.6A, and their attitude was that it was small enough not to worry about. As they put it, ‘if it was a serious short circuit, there would be a fire !’

Idiots !!!

I am most grateful for everyone’s contribution to this thread, and I know by talking to so many people, including caravaners, what a pain these issues can be.

I think when I originally posted this thread, someone had more or less said, and my old boss always firmly believed in the notion of ‘if it aint broke, don’t fix it!’.

While I understand, I still think these things should all be possible to have installed, so long as the ‘off’ button means just that !!!

I will report back with luck next week – as soon as I get a chance to do this.



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"My lack of faith in this particular group of individuals was in part based on their lack of enthusiasm to terminate all wires correctly (even with a bit of sleeving over a cut wire would have been better than nothing at all – just leaving cut wires floating around. Not only that, but their £10,000 battery tester/charger with built in ammeter, couldn’t even register anything less than 0.6A, and their attitude was that it was small enough not to worry about. As they put it, ‘if it was a serious short circuit, there would be a fire !’

Idiots !!! "


Not idiots necessarily just people who are not used to motorhomes or vehicles that aren't in daily use, same applies to alarm installers as most of the car guys (while they can do a very good job) rarely understand the different requirements for a motorhome alarm system.



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Ok, here is the latest.


The thin Blue/Yellow wire which is the switched line from the ignition seems to be broken at some point.

Monitoring this wire, I can see the voltage difference in ignition key position. However, at the radio end, nothing - at any point of the ignition key switch position - suggesting it's broken somewhere along the way.

So, any suggestions on where I might be able to find a similarly coloured wire - say about 2m would be more than enough. As a last resort I will just put any colour wire and tag it at both ends so it's identifiable.



Maybe I am being rude about these people, but, the clowns who fitted this radio for me, (in bypassing the auto switch-off feature) cut the corresponding wire about 5mm from the connector block which goes into the radio. If this was a standard ISO connector, then it wouldn't be such an issue, but it seems to be a specific 16 way (2x8) connector for the radio unit itself. From this, there is a connector cable which converts to the ISO fitting of the vehicle.

Having found the 12v supply (red) wire floating, I now realise where there was hot-melt glue on the connector. They must have broken the crimp pin in a way to stop it retaining it's position in the connector block. I can see where there should have been a tiny metal retainer on it.


If/when I do re-route the Ignition switch wire, I will have to rework an already dogs breakfast into a slap-up meal. just to get a chance of restoring it to a point where I can use Dave's diode trick.


And you know the most annoying thing about all this...

The radio I have had installed is a multimedia unit so I can have the rear view camera on the radio's 7" display rather than having a screen somewhere else to additionally clutter the dashboard.


I will also add that reading the manual for this van has lead me to note that there is a position on the ignition key switch which was also mentioned on another post elsewhere on this forum, but not for Fiat (off the top of my head).

You will find a little button on the ignition lock, which if you press and turn the key the wrong way, you get dash lights, side lights and radio operation - presumably without the time-out function.

I can't tell the way things are wired for me at the moment. However, to me, this is just about the most stupid function - only due to all the lights being on ! It's like having the Christmas decs on in March ! just to listen to the radio and not hear the various other things wurling and clicking !


Anyway, happy motoring !

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I had a similar problem in my Trigano Tribute 650, which is based on the Fiat Ducato x250 van. When the van's parked, the cab battery runs a radio/CD player (with an iPod permanently attached) and a Cat 1 alarm. That combination puts the battery charge indicator down to one light in just a couple of days.


I've now got a lead running from the cab battery (which is underneath the passenger footwell) to under that seat. I'm almost always on a hook-up, so I plug a CTEK XS7000 charger into the lead when necessary. That brings the indicator up to three lights (i.e. full charge) overnight.


It's a brute-force approach but it works.



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