Friday, August 30, 2019

Sometimes one writes TOO SOON - An Unanticipated PART 2

When I finished the last article, all was happy and hopeful.  Had I only waited to write that article, as a few days later I went out to turn on the batteries, start the engine, and watch the voltage on my plug in voltage meter rise up to charging voltage (around 13.8 to 14.5 volt) showing that the new batteries charging. This, after all, was what pushed me to buy the new batteries - as the old batteries were not doing this.  Well... The voltage meter stayed at 12.6 volts - a decent charge on the new batteries but not right when the engine is running. We took it for a ride. We are getting too used to late night drives in the Roadtrek toward the end of Long Island. Long Island is 100 miles long and the only roads there that the Roadtrek is allowed to drive on due to its height. So we get on the Long Island Expressway (495) and to get to that we used the Seaford Oyster Bay Expressway - yes, it is referred to as the S.O.B. or more kindly the 135.  Long Island is shaped like a fish and we drive out when we do this drive we head east and turn around in the town of Riverhead which is located where the fish's tail starts - this is an hour's drive (when there is no traffic) and about a 65 mile drive for us.  The best way to charge the batteries in the Roadtrek while driving is two drive for two hours at highway speeds without stops. And that is what we did. When we got to the hour point I pulled over into a parking lot with the engine running and plugged in and looked at the voltage meter for the Roadtrek batteries and it read 12.6 volts - no charging took place. We turned around and headed home - and back at home - the same 12.6 volts and no indicator to show it was charging. Oh BOY!

As it happened the day before I decided to purchase a spare Sure Power bidirectional battery separator - the same model that I had in the Roadtrek - just in case I should ever need it. This is not an easy part to find and has to be ordered - I ordered it from a battery supply house in Washington State.  It would take three business days for it to arrive.

I stopped at the mechanic the next day and told him that I needed him to check out the engine battery, the alternator and to please test the battery separator which is not something he would usually do but he could do it.  He could take it the Tuesday of the next week. That weekend I printed out everything I have about the battery separator - and I also contacted an email Roadtrek friend who I met as a reader of this site. His name is Bruce.  The details about how the battery separator works is rather confusing as the wording seems to contradict how we know it works by experience. In fact, it turns out I was not the only one confused by this. 

Did you ever have what seems to be an unsolvable puzzle and become obsessed with solving it? Well that was me! I went back and forth with Bruce about how we each were interpreting Sure Power's description of how the separator worked. He had some good ideas about this but suggested I contact someone he has contacted before about his Roadtrek - Norm - who writes a blog site similar to ours but with its focus on the Roadtrek 210, which is a bigger version of our 190.  Bruce also sent a link to an article that Norm wrote on his site about the Sure Power Battery Separator. I read his article and he also seemed to find contradiction on how we know it works and how it is described as working.  I emailed Norm the details of what was going on and if he has any insights beyond his article. (Norm's site is linked to our LINKS section on the right column of the page - and has been for sometime - Roadtrek 210.) While waiting for Norm's response I sat down with Meryl who often looks at things purely logical - much more so than I do, explained the battery separator and gave her all of the documents I have about to read and come to her own opinion on how it works - and that did seem the most likely and logical. (This was no surprise to me - I knew she would see it differently than I was seeing it.) Norm did respond and we went back and forth with a few emails discussing what it might be - what it should be - etc.  We knew how it should work from shared experience in how it works - and that is what I needed to go by - despite the paperwork.

The new battery separator was delivered to the post office on Saturday and I had it in my hands on Monday. If it was needed, I had it ready.

We got the Roadtrek to the mechanic the night before.  And the next morning I eagerly awaited a phone call which by after 1:00 pm had not come. We were heading out of the house and I said to Meryl that we would stop there on the way.  She suggested that I bring the new battery separator and I put it in the car. When we got there, it seemed to be ready. The engine battery was bad - and not holding a charge. (I had thought that might be the problem.) He had tested the battery separator and it was connecting. He talked about the other things he did and handed me the keys.  I asked him if the RV batteries were charging when the engine was running. He said he was not sure how to turn on the battery switch inside and did not want not to push any buttons he was uncertain of. Understandable - he is not an RV mechanic.  We started the engine first, turned on the battery switch for the Roadtrek batteries, I put the meter in the socket and the batteries were not charging. He then decided that perhaps the alternator was not putting out enough current and went back into the shop to check on alternators.  He said we did not want a cheap import alternator and he only wants to put a good one in. He was finding the alternator he wanted to use but they were not available. We talked about the alternator some and then ... I just had a feeling that I needed to ask him if he did one more thing - when the engine was running - and the alternator showed 14 volts on the dash - did the Roadtrek side of the battery separator also show 14 volts. He told me he had not checked that and we all went back outside to the Roadtrek. He brought his meter - and he tested this. There was no current coming into the Roadtrek battery side of the separator.  He said we don't need an alternator. I told him that I had a new battery separator in the car and he might want to check that out.  He installed the new one in a few minutes - it is just three connections - a cable from each battery system - engine and Roadtrek - and a common ground - all there on the old separator. As soon as he had the new one in, the Roadtrek battery started to charge with the engine running, While the separator was connecting before the voltage was not going through it.  The new battery separator is what was needed all along. We were going to need the new batteries in the Roadtrek - both  RV and engine anyway - so while that might have been put off for a time - I was still playing Russian Roulette with RV batteries that were past due. 

As we were leaving he told me to drive the Roadtrek to charge both sets of batteries- the new engine battery and the Roadtrek batteries - or I could plug in the Roadtrek to charge both.  Since there were "strong storms" predicted that afternoon we decided not to plug in at the house and wait until that night for one of our late night Roadtrek excursions.  We did that and all was well. And since I have been checking and double checking and it is working.

My special thanks to Bruce and Norman! You both helped a great deal!!!