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Electrical Issue: Converter, Battery, Something Else?

ScandentTrek
Explorer II
Explorer II
Hey folks! Long time reader, first post!
So we've lived full-time in our 1997 Fleetwood Mallard 30ft for almost 4 years. Until recently we were plugged in at a full-time RV park and had no electrical issues.
We recently moved to a new location (MIL's house) with no 30amp connection. We're plugged into the house (15amp house plug with appropriate dogbone converter plug and surge protector) and while we plan to be here for a while (4 months or more), we aren't sure if adding a 30amp plug is in the future.
Since we got here we've been having a new and odd electrical issue.
Our on-demand water heater (DC) started turning on and off randomly, causing it to beep at unexpected times. Sometimes it actually flickers so quickly it doesn't beep, but we can see the display flashing on and off. We also noticed that our range fan (on the same circuit) has similar power fluctuations, causing the speed to rise and drop rhythmically. None of our other DC appliances have this issue. None of our AC appliances are having an issue. We've even been able to run our AC unit through these heat waves.
We discovered that if we turn off our converter, we don't have this problem. Without the converter, everything runs smoothly, although of course this slowly drains the battery.
Now, we tried changing the outlet we are plugged into, not using a GFCI outlet in case that's the issue, but it didn't make a difference.
Our battery is still charging nicely, and the converter seems to be in working order. On battery power only, everything works perfectly. Turn the converter on and eventually, some hours later (but not immediately), the flickering starts again. Turn the converter off, and immediately the flickering stops and everything is good.
I don't want to do too much guessing, but I'm wondering if there is an issue with the converter when it goes into maintenance mode after the battery is fully charged again. Or this is a problem with using 15amp shore power instead of 30amp? Possibly the battery?
Has anyone had a similar issue? How would we go about troubleshooting this?
We're just praying it's not a problem with the wiring behind the walls. Thanks in advance!
1996 30' Fleetwood Mallard
Full-timers for 4 years on the Oregon Coast.
See my DIY renovation at https://webuilditourway.com/
21 REPLIES 21

enblethen
Nomad
Nomad
Thanks for the update.
Happy and safe travels!

Bud
USAF Retired
Pace Arrow


2003 Chev Ice Road Tracker

ktmrfs
Explorer
Explorer
ScandentTrek wrote:
Update! I ordered and installed a new converter and it seems to have completely solved our problem. Also, it's much quieter and doesn't run nearly as hot, with much less fan noise. Overall, the installation was simple, with most of the difficulty coming from wrangling the wires back into the spaces and getting the new breaker board on.
Thank you all for your advice and help, it's a relief to have a functioning electrical system that's humming along as it should.


glad everything is now working. What you found was that the converters installed in trailers etc. leave a lot to be desired and are not very reliable, even when not boondocking.
2011 Keystone Outback 295RE
2004 14' bikehauler with full living quarters
2015.5 Denali 4x4 CC/SB Duramax/Allison
2004.5 Silverado 4x4 CC/SB Duramax/Allison passed on to our Son!

ScandentTrek
Explorer II
Explorer II
Update! I ordered and installed a new converter and it seems to have completely solved our problem. Also, it's much quieter and doesn't run nearly as hot, with much less fan noise. Overall, the installation was simple, with most of the difficulty coming from wrangling the wires back into the spaces and getting the new breaker board on.
Thank you all for your advice and help, it's a relief to have a functioning electrical system that's humming along as it should.
1996 30' Fleetwood Mallard
Full-timers for 4 years on the Oregon Coast.
See my DIY renovation at https://webuilditourway.com/

ScandentTrek
Explorer II
Explorer II
enblethen wrote:
The converter that I link at Best Converter is only $219
Don't go cheap!


If you like that website, that's a great price and I'll take your advice. The swap looks simple, so that's a relief.
Thank you for your help, even just typing things out helped me get my mind around the troubleshooting and narrow down the possibilities, but your advice was simple and helpful and I appreciate it!
1996 30' Fleetwood Mallard
Full-timers for 4 years on the Oregon Coast.
See my DIY renovation at https://webuilditourway.com/

enblethen
Nomad
Nomad
The converter that I link at Best Converter is only $219
Don't go cheap!

Bud
USAF Retired
Pace Arrow


2003 Chev Ice Road Tracker

ScandentTrek
Explorer II
Explorer II
enblethen wrote:
I hope you mean "17-volts" not amps!
120-volt 15 amp should not have any effect as long it is good solid 120-volts.
Did you read voltage output with battery disconnected?
Did you call Best Converter for their input?


Yep, I just read 16.8v from the converter (blue wire) with the battery disconnected. With the battery disconnected, the battery recharge wire (red) is reading 10v.
I Know it's not supposed to be that high and that indicates a problem.
Also, when I tested the converter just now I could feel the heat coming off it and realized the fan wasn't running, which is weird because previously it seemed like it was Always running. The metal is Hot to touch and the fan won't come on. That might be the last nail in the coffin of this troubleshooting series.
Folks, I think I'm gonna need to do that $300 converter replacement after all. We got 3.5 good fulltime years out of the original 1997 model, I guess that's the best we could hope for.

I contacted BestConverter but haven't heard back yet, thanks for the recommendation!
1996 30' Fleetwood Mallard
Full-timers for 4 years on the Oregon Coast.
See my DIY renovation at https://webuilditourway.com/

jimh406
Explorer III
Explorer III
I'd check to see what voltage is coming in from the plug and also how many amps you are drawing. A Kill-a-watt or similar is fairly inexpensive.

'10 Ford F-450, 6.4, 4.30, 4x4, 14,500 GVWR, '06 Host Rainer 950 DS, Torklift Talon tiedowns, Glow Steps, and Fastguns. Bilstein 4600s, Firestone Bags, Toyo M655 Gs, Curt front hitch, Energy Suspension bump stops.

NRA Life Member, CCA Life Member

enblethen
Nomad
Nomad
I hope you mean "17-volts" not amps!
120-volt 15 amp should not have any effect as long it is good solid 120-volts.
Did you read voltage output with battery disconnected?
Did you call Best Converter for their input?

Bud
USAF Retired
Pace Arrow


2003 Chev Ice Road Tracker

ScandentTrek
Explorer II
Explorer II
So, we got the battery tested and it's right as rain.
We also reattached the ground wires securely to a newly cleaned and tightened bolt in the frame. I also opened up the converter box and tightened the screws in the ground bar at the converter.
However, the problem persists. Ruling out the battery and the most obvious places for a loose ground connection really only leaves us with a few options.
This leads me to think it's either the converter or we have a problem with some loose wiring in the connection to the water heater.

A replacement for the converter is about $300, so I would hate to do that work and then find out that it wasn't the problem.
On the other hand, the converter is operating out a spec with an output of 17amps when the fuses are plugged in. That makes me think it needs to be replaced regardless, as it's overcharging our battery.

I will go through and check my wiring job in the most accessible places in the back of the cabinet, but I think this means a converter replacement.

Unless there is some merit to the idea that plugging into a 15amp plug is causing DC electrical issues? But from what I've read, people do this all the time without issues and the only issue it should cause is possibly tripping the breaker if we tried to pull too many amps.
1996 30' Fleetwood Mallard
Full-timers for 4 years on the Oregon Coast.
See my DIY renovation at https://webuilditourway.com/

MFL
Nomad II
Nomad II
ScandentTrek wrote:
MFL wrote:
bgum wrote:
I can't figure out how you're doing all that on 15 amps. That circuit is over loaded.


^This...running the AC alone on a 15A circuit, would be a heavy load. Any additional electrical load should trip the breaker. The converter charger is likely overloading, so helps to shut it off.

To be there that long, a 30 amp circuit, with 10/2 minimum wire would be a wise investment. I used 8/2 to run 75'.

Jerry


We haven't had an issue with the breakers tripping. Our AC unit is as old as the trailer and fairly small.
How would using too much AC power (not enough to trip the breaker) cause the converter charger to overload? I would think the breakers (in the house or in the trailer) would trip first before any kind of overload could occur.


Maybe I should have said converter is overworking, possibly failing? In any case, a 15 amp circuit is not a good choice for full time living, supplying power for AC, microwave, toaster, coffee machine, hair dryer, etc.

CB ground issue, battery issue, converter issue?

Jerry

enblethen
Nomad
Nomad
I would call Best converter. They can give you more information, but I think converter is failing.
Have your battery load tested.

Bud
USAF Retired
Pace Arrow


2003 Chev Ice Road Tracker

opnspaces
Navigator II
Navigator II
If it still flickers after you fix the ground do a voltage check while it's flickering.

My guess is the flicker is the converter. Maybe the flickering is heat related. All the tests are good when the components are cold. But after a while things heat up and the flickering starts.
.
2001 Suburban 4x4. 6.0L, 4.10 3/4 ton **** 2005 Jayco Jay Flight 27BH **** 1986 Coleman Columbia Popup

cooldavidt
Explorer
Explorer
use a bigger bolt

ScandentTrek
Explorer II
Explorer II
The converter troubleshooting manual revealed that the converter is operating within specs and the charger is operating within specs.

HOWEVER. When I re-connected all the DC fuses after doing the converter test, the voltage shot up from the expected 13V to 17V. The troubleshooting manual indicated this could be a Battery Overcharge issue and directed me to the Battery Overcharge troubleshooting tree. Unfortunately, I need a "true RMS" voltmeter (which I don't have) to complete the troubleshooting tree on the Battery Overcharge.
But it also tells me to get the battery load tested and replace it if defective. I'll go ahead and get that battery tested in the meantime while I track down the right kind of voltmeter to borrow.
We also decided to clean the ground wire connection on the trailer frame, in case that was causing the DC current to flicker.
Unfortunately, the bolt was so rusted that it actually just broke off. So now we need to... drill a new bolt hole into the frame to reconnect all the ground wires to? I love how trying to fix one problem creates/reveals other problems and the repair job just balloons, don't you?
Has anyone tackled adding a new ground to the frame before?
1996 30' Fleetwood Mallard
Full-timers for 4 years on the Oregon Coast.
See my DIY renovation at https://webuilditourway.com/