RV Tech Q&A: January 2018

RV-CLINIC-BATTERY

Battery Replacement Time


Since November 2015, I have been residing in a 2016 Forest River Grey Wolf 26BH. The trailer’s converter/distribution panel is a WFCO. The storage battery is a deep-cycle Interstate SRM-24. Living full time in the trailer, I make good use of the 12-volt DC systems. Can you suggest a time period for replacement of the battery so I will not be experiencing low-battery voltage? I have not had a problem with the converter or battery voltage. I’m just trying to stay ahead of the game.

William Keenum | Rogersville, Alabama

To start with, you can use your battery’s age, and its original warranty, as an overall guide to how long the battery should last. For example, you may buy a battery with a 48-, 72- or even a 100-month prorated warranty. While that’s no guarantee for battery life span, it’s a guideline for when to start a closer inspection, although you may find the battery is still going strong after its designated warranty.

Your best bet to avoid an unexpected battery surprise is to make sure you maintain the electrolyte level in the battery with distilled water. Have the batteries tested annually by a professional shop with a computerized battery charger/analyzer. Alternatively, you can test the electrolyte, which indicates the battery’s state of charge and its ability to take a charge, and the static-electrical load, by purchasing the testers at a local parts store or at Sears, Harbor Freight or on Amazon. Using these tests, you can get an idea of where you stand on the “good to go” or “keep an eye on it” scale.


 

1995 Wiring Diagram


I am looking for a wiring diagram for a 35-foot 1995 Holiday Rambler Aluma-Lite trailer. There’s a ground-fault problem, and I cannot find a wiring diagram anywhere. Any ideas?

Don Hudnall | Texas City, Texas

It’s a fairly safe bet that you won’t be able to locate a factory wiring diagram for your trailer, Don, especially since Holiday Rambler has changed hands since your trailer was built. You didn’t specify the symptom when you said “ground fault problem,” but it can usually be traced to a campground GFCI breaker on the campsite power post that trips when you try to plug it in to the 120-volt AC supply, or a GFCI outlet inside the trailer is tripping.

If the campground GFCI trips when you plug in the trailer, try shutting off the circuit breaker at the post, then plug in the trailer and flip the breaker back on. Many RVs will trip the GFCI breaker, even when nothing is technically amiss, due to even a small load placed on the power supply when plugging in. In cases like this, you may successfully use the shut-down/plug-in/turn-on process. You can also try this by shutting off one trailer circuit breaker at a time, which will help isolate a device or circuit that is causing the problem. For example, if you shut down the circuit that powers the converter and the campsite GFCI no longer blows, that’s a troubleshooting clue you can follow.

Locating a ground fault can be frustrating, but it’s mainly a matter of inspecting and testing every 120-volt AC electrical device and wiring component in your trailer — and having a wiring diagram probably wouldn’t help a lot with that. It can be something as easy as a wall outlet that’s gone bad and needs to be replaced or as mysterious as a bad ground connection that’s not readily visible to the naked eye. I’d start by testing and, as needed, replacing any GFCI breakers inside the trailer. They are fairly sensitive devices, and yours are 20-plus years old, so corrosion, among other factors, can cause them to malfunction. I’ve seen brand-new GFCI wall plugs that have gone bad in new RVs.

Corrosion can be a significant factor in your case due to your RV’s age and your location next to the ocean. That salt air can be an electrical killer over time. Check every 120-volt AC electrical connection throughout the RV, especially those exposed to the outside air such as back-of-refrigerator wiring. Loosen and retighten each wiring connection you can find and, if it looks really bad, disconnect the wire, clean everything with a wire brush or fine sandpaper and reattach it. A corroded connection builds up resistance, and that can cause a GFCI to blow under load. Carefully inspect the outside outlet, which is susceptible to moisture. Also, an electric water-heater element that has failed can cause a ground fault. It’s going to call for some searching, but you or a qualified RV repair center can usually find and cure the problem.


Second or Bigger A/C?


I have a 2012 Dutchmen Denali 262RLX fifth-wheel. We camp year-round, and there are several state parks on the beach where we like to camp in the summer. Since they are on the beach, there are few trees for shade, and the RV gets sun all day long. The RV came with a Dometic 13,500-Btu A/C with ducted vents, but it really struggles in the heat of the day.

The RV is built ready to install a second A/C in the bedroom. I would rather replace the existing 13,500-Btu A/C with a 15,000-Btu A/C, then the system will all stay ducted and quieter than running two A/C units, or I can just add another 13,500-Btu A/C in the bedroom. If I replace the 13,500-Btu A/C with a 15,000-Btu A/C, will it do the job and cool as well as just adding a second A/C? Either way, the cost seems to be about the same.

Dan Higgins | Pensacola, Florida

Your part of the country certainly puts an air conditioner to the test, Dan, so we understand your dilemma. Installing a 15,000-Btu A/C unit will gain you only 1,500 Btu of additional cooling, which may not get you to the desired comfort level. Be aware that it’s not going to make a gigantic difference, although the use of a newer, more-efficient A/C unit will also be an improvement.

Installing a second A/C will require 50-amp service for running both units. Since your RV has the second A/C prewire, it has 50-amp capability, and as long as the campground has 50-amp service available, you will be able to run both air conditioners.

If you’re connected to 30-amp service, consider doing what we have done with some test units in hot weather: Close off the bedroom and run the living area A/C full blast during the day, then vice-versa when you go to sleep at night.


New Trailer Floor


We want to replace the flooring in our fifth-wheel. It is a 34-footer with three slideouts. We have talked with a business that does this out of Oklahoma City. Since I don’t want carpet, they suggest porcelain tile. Do you agree with this, or would a laminate be better?

Tess Crane | Perkins, Oklahoma

For any number of reasons, I’d go with the laminate flooring, Tess. Porcelain tile is far heavier than laminate flooring, which could result in your trailer being overloaded, depending on its current weight and cargo capacity, of course. Laminate flooring looks great, is lighter weight, easy to keep clean, easier to install and highly durable. Porcelain tile or similar tile products are used successfully in higher-end fifth-wheel trailers and motorhomes, but these are built with that added weight in mind. Given a choice during a remodel, I’d go with the laminate.


Microwave Wiring


I have a 2012 Keystone Laredo that had a wiring problem when it was purchased. The problem was that I could not use the microwave while the air conditioner was on. I found that both were wired to the same breaker. The one breaker that was not used in the panel was marked fireplace, which I did not have, so I moved the microwave to that breaker. Happily, that solved the problem.

Frank Bender | Westchester, Illinois

Thank you for the electrical tip, Frank. It looks like you found a solid solution to the problem. Overloading one circuit breaker will cause the problems you mentioned, and distributing the load is a good fix. Just make sure the breaker is matched to the wiring gauge for the load (i.e. 14 AWG wire for 15 amps, etc.)


Microwave Near-Misfire


My unit is a 2011 Jayco model 242 Jay Feather Select travel trailer. When I turned on the exhaust fan, its light and the light above the sink, either individually or collectively, dimmed or did not light at all, and the outside clearance lights came on. It was frustrating.

A repairman found the problem behind the microwave. There are two wooden runners that the microwave has to sit on. The wires for the fan and lights are supposed to be routed under the runners; however, the installer placed the wires on top of the runners where they frayed and made contact. The solution was to cover the frayed wires with tape and route them under the runners that support the microwave.

Joseph Gorka | Deptford, New Jersey

Thank you for the wiring diagnosis and solution, Joseph. It never hurts to inspect even the most unlikely places when troubleshooting an electrical problem.

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6 COMMENTS

  1. Recently we dry camped for 5 months, and this year was very bad for mice. When talking to a friend, they suggested getting a RatZapper. It is a battery-operated device. I put it in various spots where I found feces, and the results were amazing. The beauty of it is kills them instantly, quietly, and you know you got them. It is approximately 8 inches long by 4 inches square uses 4 AA batteries. It is available at Home Depot, and I’m sure other hardware stores.

  2. I had the same problem one time. After a two-day search and testing, I found the plug on the camper was shorting out inside just behind the plug in the lead. This was also an older camper with a lot of use. I have seen this happen twice now with older campers. Might be a good idea to check.
    Don D

  3. I’m thinking of buying a generator for my 38ft cedar creek fifth-wheel. I currently have 2 A/Cs. How do I determine what size generator to purchase?

  4. In regards to Jim Merritt’s letter in the March issue of Trailer Life about transmission temperature, from my interest in the same subject and research thereof, the upper limit for trans temp is 230 Fahrenheit. This, according to those more in the know than I on a Ford Powerstroke Forum. The 4R100 transmission is the weakest link on their diesel platform, and heat is one of the main culprits for failure. I would highly recommend an upgraded transmission cooler. The stock cooler is 9 row, and insufficient. The 26 row 6.o trans. cooler is what I put on mine, and it dropped my temps 30-40 degrees. Also, I would do an after market set of gauges to monitor that, and exhaust temp, and maybe turbo boost. (Mine is a 4 gauge set that also does fuel pressure) Monitoring engine vitals is equally important for longevity and diagnosis.

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