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Old 04-08-2008, 09:00 PM   #1
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Gremlin! HELP!

This last weekend marked the second time our starter battery was dead in the AM when I tried to start the van. We were able to jump start with a battery pack from a ranger the first time and had to jump from another car the last time. For the life of me I can not figure out what the draw might be! I am by no means proficient with electrical systems even though I've been known to melt my share of screwdriver tips.

Little background- both times we had the propane furnace set at 50 degrees so it was running intermittently through the night. The first time I had left the radio linked to the van battery and it might have been in the DVD position all night. I usually keep the van on shore power when at home and I never have a problem starting it up at home.

Anyone have a starting point for me?
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Old 04-08-2008, 09:54 PM   #2
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For me it was dead starter batteries combined with a Battery Separator that was always on, allowing the dead starter batts to drag the house system down.

So first I'd disconnect the Separator which isolates your starter batteries from your house. I seriously doubt *that* is the problem but it's the first step in isolating your starter side.

Second turn everything you think is on the starter batts off.

Then disconnect the negative (on a dual-batt under the door diesel the only negative is grounded to the frame towards the rear from the batts).

Brush the negative terminal across the frame and if you get spark, you have draw. You can disconnect things one after another and try to isolate the problem.

It's a bit brutish but apparently it works. I've read one persons experience (here? email? yahoo groups? ) where they had a drain inside the alternator and found it using this method.
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Old 04-08-2008, 11:35 PM   #3
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If its a small draw like I had it makes a real small spark. You can only see it at night. Make sure you disconnect both batteries if you have a diesel and be aware that lead acid batteries can off gas hydrogen and can blow up. If you do something wrong and get a really big spark there can be trouble. Do like jage said, on the frame away from the batteries just to be on the safe side. I don't feel i'm brutish but don't want someone to come lookin for me cause their van burned to the ground.
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Old 04-08-2008, 11:39 PM   #4
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Instead of the spark you could clip a DC Ammeter in series with the lead, to measure the DC current draw in amps...
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Old 04-08-2008, 11:58 PM   #5
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one other possibility; even if the stereo is set to the house battery (assuming you have a switch) the stereo will still draw a little from the starter battery depending on how yours is set up. So you can drain the starter battery over a period of several hours even if you have the switch set to house battery.
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Old 04-09-2008, 12:09 AM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by daveb
gas hydrogen and can blow up.
That statement make anyone else a little nervous?

Reminds me of the time I was changing out a fuel pump in a Saab 900 and for one millisecond I thought I would grab a lighter to check out the condition of the interior of the tank. One of those moments where you actually sit back and sincerely marvel at your own stupidity... even if it was only for a fraction of a second!

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Old 04-09-2008, 12:30 AM   #7
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Yea, I use an amp meter usually, but when you in a hurry... In reality its a rare event if you have a clue what's going on. In all the years as a fire fighter I never had a car fuel tank blow up on me much less a battery, but it can happen. Oh those stupid little things
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Old 04-09-2008, 01:28 AM   #8
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In'02 SMB was using Battery Isolators, instead of the current Battery Separator used since summer of '04. Unless you've changed yours out, you'll find the battery separator mounted under the coolant recovery canister. With a 5/16" nut-driver or socket you can remove the three screws that secure the coolant recovery canister and carefully place it to the side, no need to remove hoses or drain it if you're careful.

Inspect the blue anodized Surepower 130 amp Battery Isolator, you'll probably find surface rust on the terminals and chances are there might even be a loose connection. There are three large terminals, #1, "A", and #2. There may be one small terminal with or without a small 14 gauge wire on it. Terminal #1 goes to the starter battery, terminal "A" is from the alternator, and terminal #2 goes to the house battery (this should have the largest cable of the three large terminals). Remove these cables one at a time, being careful to not ground out the ratchet or wrench you're using. Wire brush the terminal and post, make sure there is a jam nut at the base of each post so when you tighten the terminal it has a solid base to tighten against.

Sometimes these Battery Isolators go bad, you can get a new style Battery Separator kit from SMB to replace the Isolator. With the Separator, you would have been able to start the van even with discharged starting batteries because the Separator automatically connects the house battery to the starting batteries if they're weak.

The Battery Isolator is only suppose to allow DC current to flow one way, from the "A" terminal to both the #1 & #2 terminals. It will not allow the house battery charging system to charge the starting batteries. The new Battery Separator will allow the starting batteries to be charged from the house battery charging system too.

Double check your battery connections, especially the grounds. Don't forget about the 2nd starting battery under the passenger side step, forward of the large house battery in the same area (if so equipped).

I hope this helps.

John K.
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Old 04-09-2008, 07:57 AM   #9
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Thanks everyone for the tips! I'll be looking into this over the weekend so hopefully no "booms!" or "zaps!".

John, do you know if I could get a battery seperator for a '02? Any idea what that would run from SMB or whether its a part available elsewhere?

Thanks!
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Old 04-09-2008, 09:45 AM   #10
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Peter at SMB quoted me $140 for the Sure Power Separator 1315-200 which is in the newer vans.

Make sure you're getting the 1315, the 1314 is available more places but operates differently. And the -200 means 200 amp.

I'm also looking for the Blue Sea 400 amp Separator but the price is $275 with the controller and I think I can find a better deal.

The isolator has 3 posts, and I'm not sure what the center one is connected to, but it should not have power if everything is off. You'll probably have to do a little rewiring to replace with a separator (but if the isolater isn't bad, it might not be worth it.)
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