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Old 06-10-2013, 09:23 AM   #1
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Electrical conundrums: dead alternator (?), house battery...

Well, the gremlins have struck and I need some help/suggestions on troubleshooting. Noticed some house battery charging issues recently and thought it was time to replace the house battery after an unknown life. Put in a new Lifeline 4d and then things got weird.

1. Wouldn't hold a charge well but that might be related to #2.

2. Seems my alternator might be shot? Watched my dashboard voltage meter drop perilously lower and lower during a 5 hour drive yesterday.

I have a 2004 6.0L diesel van with 2 engine batteries and a 4d House battery. Tripplite inverter/charger and a Blue Sea 9112 ACR. I believe but not 100% sure this was all installed by SMB. I was able to put the van batteries on a charge and get them back up to a normal state overnight. I'm able to drive but don't think the alt is charging. The *brand new* lifeline went as low as 9.5V before I noticed it, but I've been keeping it charged via shorepower since. I sincerely hope I did not ruin this brand new battery already! Questions I hope you electrical gurus can help me with:

a. Could the lack of charging while the engine is running be anything other than the alternator?
b. If it's the alternator, is that a DIY replacement or is it a little more complicated b/c of the space limitations of the engine compartment? I might take it to a shop regardless b/c of my own time limitations but I'm also asking so I don't get charged 6 hrs of labor if it really just takes 1. Suggestions on alternator replacements? My quick research would indicate stock ford units aren't super reliable.
c. With a Blue Sea 9112 ACR, presumably wired correctly (bad presumption?), is it possible for the house battery to run in parallel with the van batteries such that it is being drained while the engine is running, given that the alternator is prob bad?
d. Other items I should be checking out?

Of course, my non-electrical mind is envisioning the worst: killed my new battery with some hidden/phantom short, killed my van batteries, ACR is now dead, alternator is dead. But...I hope someone on the forum has seen this before and will give me hope that replacing the alternator will solve all of problems.

I did some quick research on the forum and internet but it clearly wasn't enough to help me troubleshoot. My apologies if this has been covered. Thanks in advance for your help!
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Old 06-10-2013, 12:07 PM   #2
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Re: Electrical conundrums: dead alternator (?), house batter

I only talk about my experience so yours and others may vary. And there are some people on this forum who are much, much, much more knowledgeable about stuff than I am. So, hopefully they will chime in.

I went through three alternators when I had my house battery connected by Sportsmobile via a Surepower separator or isolator (I can't remember which but it is sitting on the garage floor right now and I am trying to figure out what to do with it).

IMHO the starting battery / recharging system is for quick discharge / quick recharge.

A deep cycle house battery is for slow discharge / slow recharge.

Ever try to jump your starting batteries with your big Ah house battery? Even at full charge it takes a while because it discharges so slowly. Weird how batteries work, huh?

Could you be ruining your alternator by over working it by trying to charge the house battery with your starting battery recharge alternator? I did. Three times.

Now I have a completely isolated, separate, independent, not connected house battery and starting battery system.

If you have a diesel you should have the option to put on two alternators (one on top and one on bottom). Maybe you should do that. I did. And I haven't burned out an alternator since.
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Old 06-10-2013, 02:16 PM   #3
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Re: Electrical conundrums: dead alternator (?), house batter

Quote:
Originally Posted by E350
I only talk about my experience so yours and others may vary. And there are some people on this forum who are much, much, much more knowledgeable about stuff than I am. So, hopefully they will chime in.

I went through three alternators when I had my house battery connected by Sportsmobile via a Surepower separator or isolator (I can't remember which but it is sitting on the garage floor right now and I am trying to figure out what to do with it).

IMHO the starting battery / recharging system is for quick discharge / quick recharge.

A deep cycle house battery is for slow discharge / slow recharge.

Ever try to jump your starting batteries with your big Ah house battery? Even at full charge it takes a while because it discharges so slowly. Weird how batteries work, huh?

Could you be ruining your alternator by over working it by trying to charge the house battery with your starting battery recharge alternator? I did. Three times.

Now I have a completely isolated, separate, independent, not connected house battery and starting battery system.

If you have a diesel you should have the option to put on two alternators (one on top and one on bottom). Maybe you should do that. I did. And I haven't burned out an alternator since.
Bad batteries can also kill an alternator because it's always working overtime. That's why it always better to replace both starting batteries at the same time if one has gone bad even if the other is still good. The alternator is always on double-time. The glow plugs draw the batteries down big time.

The dual alternator is a good suggestion but a high output alternator might be the best solution. Whatever you do, don't get a rebuild. If you want OEM get one from Tousely Ford and make sure it's the 130A and not the 110A.
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Old 06-10-2013, 03:16 PM   #4
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Re: Electrical conundrums: dead alternator (?), house batter

Well, the head scratching continues. After a night of cooling off and recharging both the engine and house batteries, things are back to semi-normal. That is, it's working like it did before and it *appears* the alternator is charging and the house battery is holding a charge. It gives me a little room to breathe but I will probably upgrade to a higher output alternator. Now that brings in loose connections into the fray. I checked the ones I could reach and see yesterday.

I did have two pretty new starting batteries on the van and *thought* they were well charged before this trip. They should have been after driving 5 hrs on Friday?

The main thing that baffles me is how/why the house battery was draining when it should have been isolated via the relay.
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Old 06-10-2013, 04:43 PM   #5
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Re: Electrical conundrums: dead alternator (?), house batter

Maybe daveb or someone else more knowledgeable than me can answer this question:

If the starting batteries recharge quickly and the house deep cycle battery takes longer to charge, won't any alternator which is hooked to all three batteries over charge the starting batteries while the trying to recharge the house battery?

If so, wouldn't this even be worse with a high output alternator?

And finally I second the suggestion not to buy aftermarket even special high quality upgraded component aftermarket alternators. None has worked as reliably for me as oem.
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Old 06-10-2013, 05:19 PM   #6
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Re: Electrical conundrums: dead alternator (?), house batter

I'm really happy with the DCpower 250A I had installed 6 months ago so aftermarket is working for me so far. Fingers crossed but both DCpower and Nations
are highly regarded by the diesel aficionados. http://www.nationsstarteralternator.com/

One thing to keep in mind as you're shopping around for alternators is that the alternator on the van is not PCM controlled. Only the F series trucks with the 6.0.
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Old 06-11-2013, 01:34 AM   #7
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Re: Electrical conundrums: dead alternator (?), house batter

Not what you asked, but I'll post my Rigs battery set up that eliminates a lot of battery/charging problems, and has the added benefit of more batteries available for house use than traditional two bank systems.

All my AGM batteries are the same size and age and are 'balanced' wired into one large bank that are used for both house and starting applications. The Battery Bank is protected from discharging below engine starting voltage with an automatic low voltage cut-off switch. Link below for more info.

To address your problem, test your alternator output. Sears sell a very nice relatively inexpensive clamp on amp meter.

http://www.expeditionportal.com/foru...taway-Limo-Bus
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Old 06-11-2013, 05:26 PM   #8
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Re: Electrical conundrums: dead alternator (?), house batter

Quote:
Originally Posted by McZippie
Not what you asked, but I'll post my Rigs battery set up that eliminates a lot of battery/charging problems, and has the added benefit of more batteries available for house use than traditional two bank systems.

All my AGM batteries are the same size and age and are 'balanced' wired into one large bank that are used for both house and starting applications. The Battery Bank is protected from discharging below engine starting voltage with an automatic low voltage cut-off switch. Link below for more info.http://www.expeditionportal.com/foru...taway-Limo-Bus
Dude! What an obvious concept. That has never occurred to me! O.k. I was thinking about starting a thread in Electrical like "Show us your Wiring Diagrams!"

Now I am definitely doing it. You get an "A" for creativity!
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Old 06-12-2013, 01:52 AM   #9
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Re: Electrical conundrums: dead alternator (?), house batter

Lots of variables out there and W/O being there it might be hard to troubleshoot.

Any of the batteries (house or starting) hot to the touch after driving or charging?

With my setup I have several ways to monitor and it gives me a little better method of troubleshooting.

A short can over taxi the alternator and burn it up. Generally an amp meter will give you an idea what is going on but a shorted battery will look similar to a short. (It is a short so to speak)
I don't know how your separator will react to a bad egg in the nest. I know surepower separator's have problems sticking wide open or closed but even the electronics of any separator can fail.

It can even be a poor connection at any of the batteries but usually a poor connection won't amp up the charge. Rather the poor connected battery just goes dead.

Make sure there is no weird load. Even a glove compartment light can pull a battery down if left long enough.

I'd feel the batteries first after a charge) and then look over the connections. They might look fine and may need to be pulled, cleaned and reconnected. If you have them out, have somebody with a load tester check em out. Don't use a parts house store unless you trust them.

If your alternator is out (or heading south) the dash gauge should show a low voltage below 12V or in the red as you drive. Those gauges suck and only give you a hint and unless you physically separate the house from the chassis system it is possible one can mask the other.

If you take a Lifeline into the 9V range, stick it on a reasonable car charger on hit it with a good charge for a day or more but don't overcharge anything. After it shows charged let the battery float and look at it again. Really more info is needed

It shouldn't hurt a thing as long as this doesn't happen often

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Old 06-12-2013, 08:25 AM   #10
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Re: Electrical conundrums: dead alternator (?), house batter

Thanks, DaveB. Scalf77 gave me some ideas to check out. Right now I'm leaning towards a bad alternator and/or possibly bad connections? Voltage at the batteries drops after starting and settling out with minimal (known) loads. Should ideally be higher if the alternator is charging the system? I have a clamp meter on its way so I can verify if the alt is bad.

Been charging the engine batteries each night so at least I can start and run it as needed - it's my daily driver.

Anyone here with a 6.0L who has changed the alternator themselves? Wondering how difficult to detension the serp belt given the space constraints....

If it's a dead alternator I would like to get a high output alternator and upgrade the wiring. Need to have an idea of how much of a PITA it is!
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