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Old 10-15-2021, 01:57 PM   #1
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Questions for SMB Caretaker

Hi helpful people,
I am long-term borrowing a 2001 Ford E-350 SMB. I accidentally fully drained the house battery (I did not know I needed to keep it charged due to the CO and propane alarm drawdown) and I now have a few questions. I have read quite a few threads but they are answering questions more complicated than mine. Thanks in advance for any help!

The house battery is under the barn doors. I can see the writing "UB122000 Universal Non Spillable Replace Every 3-5 Years" on the side of the battery. I have an Innova cigarette lighter monitor. After ~30 minutes of driving (with nothing turned on), it the monitor shows approximately 7 volts and the alarm beeps a couple of times.

Also, a previous owner removed the inverter. Other details - there is no Starcool AC or generator. There is a water pump and Norcold fridge (year 2000), and a propane hot water heater and furnace. In the short term, I would use it on sporadic weekends with a moment's notice. I don't see needing the 110 outlets in the near or long term.

My questions --
1) In the short term, what is the best way to charge the battery/repair the battery? Is there any hope? Is there a way to connect a charger without removing the battery? If I have to remove it, should I take it to a shop or buy a charger and do it myself (I am reasonably handy)? I need to drive 6 hours this weekend. I would normally take our hybrid, but I could drive the SMB to try to charge the house battery.

2) Can I charge the battery via shore power without the Trace inverter present?

3) What would you recommend long-term for keeping the battery charged? I don't use it as a daily vehicle. The options I see are driving it some amount per week, or shore power some amount per week (which may require buying an inverter), or is it possible to attach a battery maintainer without removing the battery? There is also solar. I'm not up for a major project at this point, but if there is something fairly simple I'm game. If you know ballpark dollar amounts it would be helpful.

4) If I blew the battery, what would you recommend as a replacement?

Thanks in advance and pardon my ignorance on these topics!
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Old 10-15-2021, 02:46 PM   #2
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You very likely need a new battery, as itís doubtful it will hold any sort of charge after being so drawn down for so long.

Usually the SMB-installed inverter also serves as the battery charger when the van is plugged into shore power. Or, if the inverter was a stand-alone model added later then you hopefully will still have the converter/charger, which will charge the van when plugged in. You have to do some looking around inside to see. Usually the inverter or converter/charger is under the gaucho or dinette seat depending on your build.

At the very least you will need to have some sort of AC charger that you can plug in to shore power.
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Old 10-15-2021, 02:53 PM   #3
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It depends on how long the battery sat dead. Some of the better made batteries such as Lifeline can be fully discharged and then brought back to life...other brands might not come back to full potential. But it's worth a try. Even if you get 85% back it might serve your purposes. Most AGM batteries can be fully charged and then equalized. This is a function of specific battery chargers. My solar controller and my inverter have this mode. You can purchase a good standalone charger that can perform the task of charging, equalization or desulfating the battery. Some have a maintenance mode which is a low steady charge rate that doesn't over charge the battery. No matter what, you are going to have to put at least a 10-15 amp charge on the dead battery and it might take a few days to bring it back. A load test will be what tells you how well the battery came back (if at all). You don't have to pull the battery but need to gain access to the terminals to hook the charger up.



If you get it back to as full as possible, I'd suggest a good maintenance charger that can't produce a high amp charge and leave it on 24/7. Just monitor the charging from time to time. The maintenance charger must be able to overcome the constant load (like the CO detector) or any other loads.



Does your van have a separator or isolator that ties the starting system to the house system? Best to know if it has one of these but for now I'd just put a good charge on it and see what happens. I'm not a fan of Universal batteries and prefer others such as Deka, Lifeline and a few others considered premium products. On the other hand Universal batteries are much cheaper so when it's time to replace it doesn't hit you wallet so hard. In storage some people pull the leads off the battery and use a 1-2 amp maintenance trickle charger. AGM batteries can sit without a load or charge for up to 6 months so it's the reason some pull the leads. Many battery locations are hard to reach but the terminals might be accessible to hook up a charger. You can rig a high amp connector (such as an Anderson type plug) off the battery to make it easier to hook up the charger to the battery.



https://powerwerx.com/anderson-power...s-30amp-bonded
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Old 10-15-2021, 04:43 PM   #4
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Thanks both of you. This is what I have learned:

The inverter that was removed was an inverter/charger, so I'm thinking I can't charge via shore power. But maybe there is a charger somewhere (it is shown in the manual). I don't think I can hurt anything by trying, but I'll need to buy an adapter so I can plug in at home.

The battery terminals are absolutely inaccessible without lowering the battery (interesting design?). Can I hook up a standalone charger to the "wires" coming off the battery (they are in corrugated plastic)? Is that what you mean by "lead"? Or is lead synonymous with terminal? I don't have a floor jack so this won't be a quick fix for me.

There is an isolator, but I'm not exactly sure where. It's not a simple switch mounted on the interior.

If the shore power doesn't work, I'm thinking I should take that long drive with no AC/radio and see what happens. I hesitate to just pay a mechanic to replace the battery because I want to make sure I can access the leads in the future, and I don't know a van mechanic.

Any/all other thoughts welcome.
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Old 10-16-2021, 08:01 AM   #5
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Plug your cigarette lighter monitor in. Plug van in to shore power. This should eventually start charging that battery through the SMB power converter/inverter or whatever you have.

Alternatively, you could connect a standard car battery charger to the battery under the hood and if the isolator is working properly it will start charging the (inaccessible) house battery after it tops up the under hood van battery.

Either of these methods should charge the house battery of any Sportsmobile if the wiring has not been altered.

I don't think it's going to do much good though. I'm betting this battery is toast.
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Old 10-16-2021, 09:12 AM   #6
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Yeah if starting the vehicle does nothing to put something back in the battery it's probably history. Older vehicles often came with a converter instead of an inverter. Both may or may not have a charge mode so it depends on the model. I'd guess that if the newer inverter was removed I'd doubt the previous owner kept the converter in place but you never know without searching.
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Old 10-16-2021, 10:02 AM   #7
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If you have any chance of recovering the battery, you need to plan accordingly. While driving will most likely put some charge back into the battery it will be difficult to gauge how much and thus probably result in not bringing it up to full charge.

I would look around for a progressive dynamics converter, no idea what model came in a 91, but it will look something like this


It will plug into a wall outlet also so it should be recognizable. You might also see a device called a charge wizard. If the pulled out an inverter/charger than you probably don't have any shore charging capability.

A 91 will most likely have an surepower isolator under the hood, should look something like this.


You could possibly attach a charger to the isolator terminal that goes to the battery. Generally these things are buried, so it would be difficult. With this type of isolator (diode based) you can not attach to the start battery and get any charging on the house battery.

I would look for a long term solution for charging, even if you are going to disconnect power power from battery for storage, it is nice to have a charger to make sure that it is fully charged. For a 200 amp-hr battery I generally recommend at least a 40 amp charger for your battery size. You could use something smaller, especially if your just planning on completing a full charge and keeping it in a float- storage mode.

You could look at replacing the standard 40 amp circuit breaker , with a 285-series circuit breaker This will allow you to disconnect the fuse block from the battery, as long as you have no other power consuming connections to the battery this would allow you to disconnect loads for storage mode.

There are various low voltage disconnects that you could also install that would prevent a completely dead battery.


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Old 10-16-2021, 11:43 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Scalf77 View Post
You could possibly attach a charger to the isolator terminal that goes to the battery. Generally these things are buried, so it would be difficult. With this type of isolator (diode based) you can not attach to the start battery and get any charging on the house battery.






-greg

Yeah I guess I miss wrote that Greg and edited it out to cut the confusion.
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Old 10-17-2021, 12:23 AM   #9
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Hi again,
You have all been so helpful, thanks very much. Scalff 77, I will need a while to digest your post. I just want to make sure your info is relevant for a 2001 (your post mentioned 91).

A couple of notes - the van has a Sure Power 1601 Isolator.

I did try to charge the van battery at 10 amps for 8 hrs to try to get charge to the house battery, but it didn't register on the voltmeter (I also pulled the fuse for the alarms so it wouldn't be drawing). The light on the charger was on the Boost (10 Amp) mode and it did say charging -- so if the current didn't go into the house battery, where did it go? Ie, the charger should have switched to maintenance if the van battery was full and not accepting more charge... but the current was going somewhere.

Tomorrow I go for a longer drive. Short drives have given a bit to house battery. Not much, but a bit. We will see if a 6 hr r/t drive does more. If not, I have a mechanic appt Monday morning to pull and replace the battery. I would love to do DIY but I'm far too busy at this point and it would be a learning curve for me to get tht battery lowered.

Question - when they install the battery can they add auxillary leads that come to where I can access them to top off the battery?

Also, if I can't handle the price tag and decide to DIY, what battery would you recommend? Thank you!!
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Old 10-17-2021, 01:34 AM   #10
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Originally Posted by jlsm View Post
Hi again,
The light on the charger was on the Boost (10 Amp) mode and it did say charging -- so if the current didn't go into the house battery, where did it go?

Also, if I can't handle the price tag and decide to DIY, what battery would you recommend? Thank you!!

Not sure about the 1601 but If the isolator is hooked up right you were probably only charging the starting battery. Basically from the alternator circuit, the isolator is generally a one way ticket to (1) The starting battery and (2) the house battery. You could connect to the house side of the isolator to supply the charge directly to the house. I'd also think you could hook to the alternator circuit and it should charge both batteries. Not sure if SMB used a circuit breaker or fuse as show in the schematic but I seem to remember a 50 amp breaker involved but could be wrong. That was a long time ago.



If you purchase another Universal brand battery, just make sure you maintain it as best as you can. Even the best batteries can fail if treated incorrectly. I know dropping the battery is a pain, but if it set dead for a long time, it probably was damaged to the point where it might not recover. Pull it, put it on a bench, charge it then take it to be load tested. If it passes the load test put it back in.
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