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Smart Alternator - Ford Ranger


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I have recently taken delivery of a new Ford Ranger and am having issues with the towbar electrics (which are probably factory fitted)  

 

The issue appears to be related to the smart alternator which does not provide  power to pin 10 at low revs.  While this might not be an issue - it also might be an issue - with a ten speed auto the truck itself normally runs at fairly low revs.

 

I won't be making any changes myself, as it's under warranty, and as far as I'm concerned (and the dealer seems onboard), a truck with a towbar should be capable of providing power to run the fridge and keep beer cold.  Having said that I'm interested in solutions, if only so I can give examples to the Ford Master Mechanic.  

 

So the floor is open for any suggestions please!

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Measured with the caravan attached and fridge on (not pre-chilled)? and after having 'blipped' the accelerator?  Or with nothing attached and therefore no load on the circuit?

 

My towcars with non-smart alternators would not power my Thetford fridge until the throttle was 'blipped'.  Only knew because the fridge had a blue  LED to confirm 12V operation was correct.

 

Probably or actually factory fit trailer module and wiring - it may make a difference?  What age / model year of Ranger?

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David I have had a couple of new fords but not experienced your problem, it is quite normal for the alternator not to supply enough charge to the fridge relay at idle but if you blip the throttle you will find the fridge will start to operate, it has been suggested to turn on the headlights and that will supply the demand to the alternator, worth giving it a go.

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My caravan is not immediately to hand so I normally test on a tow socket tester (although I have backed that up with visits to the caravan).

 

The single blip I could live with, but every time the revs go down the supply goes off.  It's smart you see!

 

Tried the headlights and made no difference - fancy LED lights...  use less power I suspect!

 

Every car I've had has supplied enough power to operate the pin ten relay - albeit it may be actually supplying sub optimum power.

 

The Ranger is new.  

 

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I have a Navara with the same problem. The "smart" alternator does not depend on engine revs like a standard alternator: it senses the battery voltage and cuts its output when not needed. So when the truck's battery is back up to full charge, the alternator voltage drops (on the Navara it drops to 11.9 volts)  below what is required for the fridge and caravan battery charging. There is a work around for the Navara (I found it on an Aussy forum): disconnect the sensor wire from the truck's battery and the alternator continues to provide full voltage (around 14 volts) 

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I am sure there must be something that could be fitted to a car to draw enough current to “fool” the (so called) smart alternator into thinking the battery voltage is low enough to require it to keep receiving power from the alternator and this keep the fridge going?  I thought of headlights as well, but LED’s only draw a tiny amount, heated rear screen is on a timer and heated seats in the summer would be a step too far. 

I think I am right in saying that it’s not actually the alternator that’s smart and that it’s the ECU that shuts the alternator down so, in theory at least, it should be possible to have that bit of software programmed out (a bit like a re-map in reverse) 

 

 

Experience is something you acquire after you have an urgent need for it.

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In practical use will this be a problem?

How long are you going to be idling when trailing a caravan behind the Ranger cf running at sensible revs?

Use aircon/climate to fool a demand? Use Heated window demisters, heated seats etc.,. to the same?

 

Question to ask is whether the trailer connected should turn off / disable some features on the Ranger and if it's possible some programming has been missed.  An AU forum suggests that Ford can adjust/disable the smart alternator feature in the ECU when used with trailers, https://thegreynomads.activeboard.com/t65697836/fooling-a-smart-alternator/

 

I'm guessing my latest (19 plate) Galaxy (with stop start) has a smart alternator and may well be why the towbar fitters were trying to dissuade me from having the two 12V feeds installed?

Edited by Rodders53
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3 hours ago, Rodders53 said:

In practical use will this be a problem? How long are you going to be idling when trailing a caravan behind the Ranger cf running at sensible revs?

It may be a problem because it is not necessarily related just to revs.

On modern EURO5/6 vehicles the Smart alternator cuts the output voltage when the vehicle battery reaches a predetermined charge state (say 80%) to reserve battery capacity for storing regenerative braking power. On a longer journey once the battery is charged up the alternator will cut the voltage. The lowered voltage is then insufficient for leisure battery charging and fridge operation in a towed caravan. 

To overcome this you can try putting enough demand on the alternator so it ups its output - hence the suggestions for switching on headlights, aircon etc. ORyou could install something in the caravan like a Sterling Wildside unit which will accept the lower voltage from the vehicle and increase it for use in the caravan. OR you could try removing the sensor wire from the battery so the alternator doesn't detect the level of battery charge - the sensor will usually be very close to the battery.

Life is not a rehearsal . . .:)

Porsche Cayenne S Diesel & Knaus StarClass 695. Previously Audi S4 Avant & Elddis Super Sirocco

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At the moment I'm pushing ford to supply a towbar fit for purpose.  The electrical requirement for pin 10 is well established.  It supplied power with the ignition on.   Or it should.

 

I'm reluctant to modify a new vehicle myself for obvious reasons.

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If you fit a Sterling Wildside to the caravan (as per the link in Dunhamkid's post above) it will fool the alternator to provide the power constantly to fridge and leisure battery.

The problem is not with the towbar or towing electrics which are fit for their intended purpose and you will never prove otherwise. The problem stems from vehicle smart charging systems which are designed to help vehicles achieve the required emissions standards. It cannot be changed by the manufacturer. All vehicles with a smart charging system will present a similar problem for caravanners. Devices like the the Sterling Wildside overcome it.

https://caravanchronicles.com/2017/04/25/getting-all-charged-up-part-1/

Edited by Legal Eagle
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I don't really want to spend £200 + on gadgets that I should not need (and I do not understand how they work), nor do I want to mess with my caravan wiring.

 

I simply want pin 10 to deliver current with the ignition on as it should.  If Ford cannot deliver that then they should not offer the option.  

 

Ultimately I may have to back down.  It is a company car and while I'm senior enough to make a stand, the business will have no interest in pursuing it.  

 

I am reading the advice and taking it on board.  Even the stuff I don't like!

 

 

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The Sterling Wildside is available on eBay Here

Experience is something you acquire after you have an urgent need for it.

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Some systems only supply power when a tow plug is connected.

If that's not the problem it is possible to recalibrate the charging system to output higher voltage.

 

My first Mazda CX 5 had a low charging output which the dealer sorted out, showing only 12v on the motorway at 70mph didn't inspire confidence.

There's no reason why the alternator can't output over 14v on tickover.

 

 

 

 

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I tow with a Ranger 2.0 bi-turbo with the “smart alternator” 

i understand this cannot be turned off with forscan & have been told it is also linked to speed,

I have tried with a multi meter turning on everything electrical, headlights, wipers, blower, heated front screen, heated rear screen, heated seats etc etc & increased revs & still no power to pin 10 

(it is wired up) 

ive got to the point I’ve given up worrying about it,

the battery always has enough power to operate the movers & the fridge is still cold at site or home so it’s good enough for me 🤷‍♂️

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 we have a Nacara. Frankly the fridge cooling is poor anyway on the move,keeps the fridge at the temp it was before unhooking, And our solar keeps our battery topped up.

 

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I wonder if motorhome base vehicles have smart alternators and their fridges suffer in the same way??

 

The main issue fir me is I (used) to take some frozen meat in the freezer compartment when going abroad. Bearing in mind the length of a ferry crossing plus a good few hours motoring the other side of the channel it was desirable to have the fridge running on 12v to keep everything “ticking over”

 

I suppose now the importation of meat etc to the EU in such circumstances is no longer permitted it’s become less of an issue :( Still annoying but certainly not something that warrants the best part if £200 to overcome.

 

About time caravan manufacturer’s came up with an inexpensive “fix” but until there is sufficient demand from purchasers that isn’t going to happen. 

Experience is something you acquire after you have an urgent need for it.

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Oops typo Navara! We have a cool bag and ice blocks. 

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  • 1 month later...
Posted (edited)
On 12/03/2021 at 22:49, towman said:

I tow with a Ranger 2.0 bi-turbo with the “smart alternator” 

i understand this cannot be turned off with forscan & have been told it is also linked to speed,

I have tried with a multi meter turning on everything electrical, headlights, wipers, blower, heated front screen, heated rear screen, heated seats etc etc & increased revs & still no power to pin 10 

(it is wired up) 

ive got to the point I’ve given up worrying about it,

the battery always has enough power to operate the movers & the fridge is still cold at site or home so it’s good enough for me 🤷‍♂️

I've given up!  Dealer looked at it today so it decided to work.  We will see what happens over the summer!

 

51133339277_aae5d8cb46_o.jpg

Edited by davidjpowell
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Interesting thread.  I now realise what is causing some of my battery problems (very weak starting on a 3 year old battery)  and a fridge problem that I didn't know that I had.

Did a 60 mile round trip today on an undulating road.  I plugged into the ciggy socket a volt meter,

ignition on, 12V

engine started 14.2v

first 5 miles 14.2V  irrespective of engine revs.

Next 25 miles 12.0volts, adding load such as heated seats made no difference.

On return the same, but on long downhill runs I dropped a gear on the Auto and with engine braking the volts shot up to 14.6V

This looks like the way it is supposed to work to save the planet.

When I hook up I often look through the caravan side window to see if the fridge is on correctly, not realising that 5 miles down the road it won't be cooling anymore.

I can get a much bigger AHr / CCA battery to fit the Outlander, but I note that on our smart charging Fiesta it  specifically says that the battery spec must not be changed because of the smart charge software.

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Smart alternators may work differently on different vehicles with related impact on a vehicle's ability to charge the leisure battery and power the fridge whilst towing. My Cayenne provides the facility to display a digital volt meter on the dash which gives the current output voltage. It's interesting to see how smart the car is. Running solo the volts output depends very much on the current state of charge of the car's battery. Output voltage at the start of a journey starts at 14.8v but this will fluctuate according to battery state and ancillaries' demand and in best 'climate saving' mode with the battery 'fully' charged will drop to as little as 12.4v. Fortunately however the car is smart and recognises when the caravan is attached. When it is the voltage is maintained always at the full 14.8v output.

I'm not sure all cars work this way and it will also depend on how integrated the tow bar and electrics are. 

Life is not a rehearsal . . .:)

Porsche Cayenne S Diesel & Knaus StarClass 695. Previously Audi S4 Avant & Elddis Super Sirocco

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I dont worry about the tow car supplying for the fridge or the ATC. I wire into the caravan battery which is looked after more than adequately by the 160 watt solar panel. On our ferry trip in our country 3.5 hrs often the rig is on a deck open to sunlight , if not it doesnt nowhere near bring the 110a battery low anyway.  I seldom ever travel at night so not a problem. As I have two vehicles I tow with it saves a lot of hassles ! Works ok for me. 

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21 hours ago, KnausCol said:

Smart alternators may work differently on different vehicles with related impact on a vehicle's ability to charge the leisure battery and power the fridge whilst towing. My Cayenne provides the facility to display a digital volt meter on the dash which gives the current output voltage. It's interesting to see how smart the car is. Running solo the volts output depends very much on the current state of charge of the car's battery. Output voltage at the start of a journey starts at 14.8v but this will fluctuate according to battery state and ancillaries' demand and in best 'climate saving' mode with the battery 'fully' charged will drop to as little as 12.4v. Fortunately however the car is smart and recognises when the caravan is attached. When it is the voltage is maintained always at the full 14.8v output.

I'm not sure all cars work this way and it will also depend on how integrated the tow bar and electrics are. 

 

My Tiguan is similar , I don't have the dash voltmeter but use a plug in one which is permanently plugged in.

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  • 2 weeks later...
On 24/04/2021 at 19:36, ChrisUK said:

Interesting thread.  I now realise what is causing some of my battery problems (very weak starting on a 3 year old battery)  and a fridge problem that I didn't know that I had.

Did a 60 mile round trip today on an undulating road.  I plugged into the ciggy socket a volt meter,

ignition on, 12V

engine started 14.2v

first 5 miles 14.2V  irrespective of engine revs.

Next 25 miles 12.0volts, adding load such as heated seats made no difference.

On return the same, but on long downhill runs I dropped a gear on the Auto and with engine braking the volts shot up to 14.6V

This looks like the way it is supposed to work to save the planet.

When I hook up I often look through the caravan side window to see if the fridge is on correctly, not realising that 5 miles down the road it won't be cooling anymore.

I can get a much bigger AHr / CCA battery to fit the Outlander, but I note that on our smart charging Fiesta it  specifically says that the battery spec must not be changed because of the smart charge software.

Further to the above,   130 mile drive from Essex on motorways,  did not go above 12v,  but end of day the auto headlights came on and volt went up to 14+ volts. I now see that if I drive with side lights on (instead of day running lights) the volts go up to 14.  So maybe a work around? However sidelights are not very bright. Fogs as well?

Had my car checked, charging cct OK, battery OK but low on charge, they recommended a long charge, 48 hours.  But did not push to sell me a new battery.

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I bought a cheap voltmeter and have been observing today after a typical 400 mile trip.

 

Took several hours to fully charge the battery.  At this point voltage dropped from 14.4 volts to 12v or thereabout.  When I lift off the throttle fully, it goes back up to 14.4v.

 

Turning on the LED headlights seems to lift voltage to 13.2V.  

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