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Confused By The 'experts'!


Paul in Leicester
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This will sound a silly question, but I am getting really confused regarding the charging of the battery!

 

We have recently returned to caravanning after a break of some 15 years. Things have certainly moved on in that time! Back in the day we had the two sockets and plugs, but now we have just the one 12v 13 pin. Okay fine. We assumed that this one 13 pin plug did the job of the two and when the car was running it was charging the battery as in the past?

 

Being a bit longer in the tooth these days we had a PowrTouch fitted and were told the battery we had was more than adequate (it was a new one as far as we knew) - so far so good! We had the misfortune to find the battery had discharged during the cold weather in storage, but we recharged it and again all was okay. (New fit for purpose battery charger purchased.)

 

Because we were not sure that the battery was indeed new we considered purchasing a replacement. We decided to do a bit of research before purchase and gleaned the info that a leisure battery is different to an 'ordinary' car battery. To cut an even longer story short, one of the retailers we spoke to told us that there was no difference and the running car will only charge the battery if we have a relay fitted to the car and asked us if we had one fitted!!! This is the source of our confusion. Our towbar was fitted by a local towbar specialist (it is a Witter as it was the only one available for our Peugeot, and cost an arm and a leg - another story!!!) Needless to say, we know really nothing about 12v electrics, so our question is: will there be a relay fitted by default and charging the battery on route, or only be providing feed to the van?

 

Why is it that you do all the research, think you've got it right, and then someone 'in the know' tells you that all you've found out is a load of rubbish? No wonder we are confused (although it doesn't take much these days!!!)

 

Paul

 

 

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Some towbar fitters do not wire up a towing electrics for charging circuits . If your not sure if it is wired correct take the car back to have it checked which is only a couple of minutes job.

 

Dave

Jeep Commander 3. 0 V6 CRD

Isuzu D- Max Utah Auto

Elddis Crusader Storm 2000 Kgs, Unipart Royal Atlas Mover .

 

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A proper leisure battery is quite different in internal construction from a car battery. I would not ask that retailer's advice again. What makes you think that the battery you have is in some way deficient? All lead-acid batteries self-discharge over a period of time and need charging once a month or so if not kept on charge permanently by either a solar panel or intelligent charger.

Enjoy every minute of every day. It doesn't last nearly as long as you'd like, and there's no guarantee of coming this way again.

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In storage devices such as alarms and trackers if fitted add considerably to the drain on the battery.

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If the fridge works on 12v setting when connected to car and engine running they have wired it correctly for battery charging I believe or you can check with fitter.

 

As said leisure battery totally different than car battery so use leisure type - I was advised 110ah better for mover than 85ah.

Edited by Muddywheels

A Vanner without a van due to the demands of DIY and SWMBO - 40 years was a good run though :unsure:

 

Now a Motorhome Learner with a Fiat Toad :o

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If they've fitted 13-pin towing electrics then my guess is they've fitted everything required to make it work. There are testers you can buy (e. g. http://www. amazon. co. uk/dp/B002F85IMA) but as commanderdave says, might just be easier to have it tested.

 

How old is your 'van? There was a change to caravan electrics in 1998 (1999MY) which introduced separate, ignition-switched fridge supply that was also used to switch the alternator output through to the leisure battery and switch internal electrics off (the so called habitation relay). If your 'van was manufactured from 1999MY (and some earlier) then you'll already have everything you need to charge your battery.

 

If you have a multimeter, an easy test is to check the voltage at the terminals of the leisure battery and it should increase when the towing car engine is started (from around 12V to around 14V). If not, you should see the 'van's exterior lights brighten slightly when the engine is started - not necessarily proof that the battery is charging, but an indicator that alternator output is getting through to the 'van.

 

And to confirm, there is a difference between starter and leisure batteries; they are manufactured differently to optimise them for very different usage patterns: engine starting and deep discharge. Crossing these will at a minimum significantly reduce it's serviceable life.

 

will there be a relay fitted by default and charging the battery on route, or only be providing feed to the van?

 

Depending on the MY of your 'van and correct fitting of the 13-pin ignition switch module in the towing electrics, yes, you will have everything you need to charge your leisure battery on route.

 

Edit: answered OP question directly.

Edited by tictag
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I see you're in Leicester. If you're Leicester North, Have a run with the car to Lowdham's Caravans, they have a wiring test board on the car park. You just plug in and test all lights and circuits including fridge, battery charging and if fitted ATC

Lunar Zenith Citroen C5 2. 2 HDI Citroen Picasso 1. 6 HDI. , Vauxhall Vectra Design 150 bhp Soon to be, 2014 Sprite Major 4 sr. With ATC.
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I reference to the relay question, it will be so that the caravan will not drain the car battery when it is connected to the car with the engine off, the caravan will only draw power when the engine is running, so yes you need a relay or a voltage sensor in the wiring on the car to do this.

If you are in south Leicester, Epic accessories in Oadby can check this for you, their guy did mine on two vehicles, properly.

Land Rover Discovery and Conquerer 630

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Thanks everyone for your very informative replies.

 

We do have a 110ah leisure battery, and we've not experienced any problems so far. All the information we gleaned told us that leisure batteries are not the same as starter batteries, but when someone who is supposed to be an expert tells you otherwise the doubt sets in. The chap who asked if we had the relay was at the NEC caravan and Camping Show in October and we were going to buy a new battery. We changed our minds as we felt we needed to check again - his info was the opposite to what we had read! We have already decided there is nothing wrong with the battery, just the user!

 

CommanderDave: We pick up our new car 1 March, so wanted to know if we needed to tell the dealer to fit a specific type of wiring to the towbar. I should hope they know what they are doing, but who can tell these days?!! We'll ask them anyway.

 

WigleyWoo: We know Lowdhams Caravans - we browse there solo now and then (as you do!)

 

Muddywheels: The fridge does work perfectly on 12v when hitched and en route.

 

TigTag: The van is 2012 model, so presumably should be up to spec.

 

Marks: We used Bermick to fit the towbar and they seemed very efficient and did a good job. We have no issue with them, just confused with what this other guy said which made us ask ourselves the question as to whether the battery was actually charging when hitched and running. We can of course check with them, but didn't want to look stupid if the answer was obvious! Far better to seem stupid when hiding behind our username on here!

 

We use sites with EHU anyway, but now we are retired/semi retired we are hoping to get out and about more and use sites which may not have EHUs. We'd find it a bit difficult to move the van without the Powrmover and we're told they use a fair amount of the charge. I suppose we are being over cautious, but better to ask the question than be sorry for not asking!

 

Paul

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Exactly. That's what this forum is all about. And the good thing is, you always get more than one opinion or different ways of looking at a problem. I have found it to be exceptionally insightful.

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. We decided to do a bit of research before purchase and gleaned the info that a leisure battery is different to an 'ordinary' car battery. To cut an even longer story short, one of the retailers we spoke to told us that there was no difference

 

Paul

 

 

If you think about it for a moment, a car battery has to provide the instant massive battery current discharge (amps) of the car starter motor, the caravan leisure battery does not!

 

Whoever told you there was no difference between them is an idiot and should be avoided in future.

 

Vin Blanc

It is sometimes better to say nothing and be thought a fool, than to speak out and have it proven!

Frontera 3. 2L V6 4x4 tugging Compass Magnum Classic 540 (quite easily!)

Tripod mounted 57cm "Arcon Multi" prime focus dish - Humax Foxsat HD Recorder.

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Can I give some experience on a PowrTouch mover and batteries. This is what we do, using the mover 6 times between charges.

 

On site, fully charged and then disconnect.

use mover to hitch up. Travel.

Use mover to unhitch at home.

use mover to re-hitch

Travel to storage

Later pick up, travel home and use mover to unhitch

Use mover to hitch up. Travel to site

Use mover to unhitch and then finally EHU

The battery never looked like giving up and unhitching at home is full 180 degs.

 

This told me that my battery copes with a lot of mover use which gave me confidence to always use the mover and not worry about the state of the battery.

Graham

Unless otherwise stated all posts are my personal opinion 

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The retailers of some brands of so called "Leisure batteries" could well have been telling you the truth in that what they were selling were no different to "starter" batteries because that is an issue that plagued the caravan/Motorhome sector.

 

The batteries should be different, some were not, maybe your chap was more honest and informed than you think!

Edited by JTQ
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The retailers of some brands of so called "Leisure batteries" could well have been telling you the truth in that what they were selling were no different to "starter" batteries because that is an issue that plagued the caravan/Motorhome sector.

 

The batteries should be different, some were not, maybe your chap was more honest and informed than you think!

 

You have a point JTQ

 

Vin Blanc

It is sometimes better to say nothing and be thought a fool, than to speak out and have it proven!

Frontera 3. 2L V6 4x4 tugging Compass Magnum Classic 540 (quite easily!)

Tripod mounted 57cm "Arcon Multi" prime focus dish - Humax Foxsat HD Recorder.

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There are testers you can buy (e. g. http://www. amazon. co. uk/dp/B002F85IMA)

That tester looks OK. I intend to change the electrics on both cars so it would make testing easier. I did think about making a tester but materials would be just as much.

 

Anyone tried this tester?

Just beginning our adventure. 95% of my time on CT I use my phone. As a result correct spelling and grammer will be used sparingly. This is due to fat fingers. Please don't let it bother you.

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There were three lead acid batteries.

The Traction Battery

The Leisure Battery

The car battery

The traction battery has a very limited amps output but the design means active material can't fall off was going to say plates but some did not really have plates.

The car battery has the plates very close and deep cycling will cause it to shed material.

The Leisure battery was a half way thing so you could replace a 60AH car battery with a 110AH leisure battery and it will start the car and stand reasonable deep cycling. They are also cheaper and lighter than traction batteries and it was the weight thing which means used in caravans.

 

Where you don't deep cycle then likely a car battery would do the job, but there would be no warranty when used on a caravan.

 

As to split charging today there is a problem where some car alternators are connected to engine management so will not charge like the old cars did. However the main idea was the caravan battery needs to be disconnected on cranking the engine as currents would be too high from caravan to car. And second also wants disconnecting when the engine is not running to stop the car battery from becoming flat.

 

There are many ways to do this some cars have an auxiliary feed which turns off on cranking which makes things easy. Others require more interconnections in old days the warning light for alternator would trigger the relay but now often it uses the car battery volts to work the relay. The fridge is no real problem as no power can return from the fridge to car so can be an ignition feed but often the split charging relay had two sets of contacts one for fridge and one for charging but the charging rate from the car to the caravan is rather low there are now special split charging diodes with no volt drop across them but either with relay or diodes it's about what a trickle charger would deliver and a bit of a dead loss.

 

There are now also DC to DC inverters now these are completely different these really do put a good charge into the caravan battery but they are not cheap. Gordon Equipment (Durite) and Sterling both make them the latter really for boats to power the bow thruster.

 

Where you use sites with hook up there is no real need for split charging or traction batteries but all batteries should be stored charged and recharged once a month so where you can't recharge the battery in storage and you want alarm or tracker to work then you need to think about solar panels.

 

I bought a very small solar panel but it was a failure. I must look into why. It could be discharging over night, not big enough or simply battery US. Theory placed in window it should have countered for battery self discharge but it didn't. But clearly the larger units work well and I would think solar panels are better than split charging. Fridge yes OK from car but split charging the cost of an inverter to do it well compared with cost of solar panel I would say solar panel best option.

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