Sunday, October 2, 2022

MENU

Ask Dave: LED lights in camper worked at dealership. Why do they now flicker?

Dear Dave,
We recently purchased a 2005 Jayco Jay Series model 1206 “pop-up” camper. The previous owner replaced the ceiling lights with LED bulbs. When we first saw it the lights were bright and steady. It was plugged in to 30-amp service at the dealership and had 12v deep cycle marine battery attached as well. In our driveway we have it plugged in with a 30-amp extension. The 12v is also attached and fully charged. Both sets of ceiling lights flicker. Hubby is concerned it may be a converter issue, as all was working normally when we bought it. Any advice you can offer is greatly appreciated. We have just retired and everything camping is new to us!! Thank you! —Theresa

Dear Theresa,
My first question is, what type of power are you plugging into at your home and what other appliances are running? I would imagine at the dealership they had a dedicated 30-amp outlet and probably did not have anything else running. From my research I see it has a small refrigerator. I assume you parked it in the driveway, plugged it into an outlet in the garage, and are trying to get the refrigerator cold for the next trip. Anything else running in the rig?

Look at the residential power source

Next, let’s look at your residential power source. If you are plugged into a normal outlet in the garage, it is probably wired to a 20-amp circuit breaker in the panel. Those are typically “ganged” to other outlets in the garage. So you might have a refrigerator or air compressor also drawing power from that line. I assume you are taking your 30-amp shoreline cord and using a reducer to plug into the outlet? Maybe you’re using something like this “dogbone” version or something even more simple?

The first thing I would do is get a voltage tester to make sure your outlet is providing 120-volts to the cord. I found this one at Home Depot that not only shows voltage, but also proper wiring. If your voltage is low, it might affect what your converter/charger can do for your house batteries.

I would suggest having an electrician install a dedicated outlet with at least a 20-amp circuit breaker for you to plug into.

Interior lights are powered by the 12-volt house batteries

Your interior lights are powered by the house battery, which is typically a 12-volt deep cycle battery. There is usually just one on a pop-up trailer. When you have the shoreline cord connected to a 30-amp source such as a campground or at the dealership, the 120-volt power goes to a distribution center. Power then goes to circuit breakers for the refrigerator and other 120-volt appliances depending on what your unit has. 120-volt power is also supplied to a converter or charger for the house battery system.

This distribution center is from a much larger rig that has 8 or more appliances that run off 120 volts and more than a dozen 12-volt components. You can see that by the automotive-type fuses at the top. Your distribution center probably has just a few circuit breakers and 12-volt fuses.

The converter in this setup will provide 13.6 volts for charging the house battery until it reaches 12.6 volts, and then goes into a 13.2-volt maintenance state. A lead acid battery at full charge (12.6) will not accept anything under 13.2 volts.

Battery sulfation

Batteries just store energy and as that energy is drawn down, sulfur coats the plates. If your converter/charger does not have a multi-stage charger (which it does not), then the plates get coated thicker every time until they cannot hold a charge. They can be charged to 12.6 volts but drop immediately when a load is applied and they are not affective. This is a common issue with smaller trailer batteries.

So why did the lights work at the dealership and not now?

It all points to the condition of your house battery and the power going to your converter. The first thing I would recommend is to attach a battery booster to the house battery and see if that rectifies the condition. That will tell you if it is the battery. At the dealership, they had dedicated power and proper voltage and probably nothing else on in your rig.

Not all LED lights are created equal

The last thing I would check is getting a quality LED bulb from M4LED or an RV-approved source. There is a lot of junk out in the market that cannot stand up to the abuse of RV usage. They might work fine in a controlled temperature environment at the dealership, but not at a lower or higher temperature at your home.

Dave Solberg is a leading expert in the RV industry and author of the “RV Handbook” as well as the Managing Editor of the RV Repair Club.

Read more from Dave here

HAVE A QUESTION FOR DAVE?

We have started a new forum link for Ask Dave. Please be as brief as possible. Attach a photo or two if it might help Dave with his response. Click to visit Dave’s forum. Or send your inquiries to him using the form below.

Click or drag a file to this area to upload.

##RVDT1805

Comments

Subscribe
Notify of

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

8 Comments
Newest
Oldest
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Dale
2 months ago

I’ve used bulbs from M4LED for years and they are outstanding in both the product and service areas.

Larry Lee
2 months ago

Many of the cheaper LED’S cannot tolerate 13.8 (or especially 14.4) volts put out by the 4 stage inverter/chargers.
I greatly appreciate your finding a quality product/company that we can rely on for LED’s to use in our RV’s. Thanks!

Andre Beverly
7 months ago

I have a similar issue. I replaced my interior lights with LEDs and when dry camping the lights would flicker while the water pump was going (quite the light show when showering!). Thought it was my batteries so I replaced them but the problem remained. The water pump is original (12 years old) but it seems to pump just fine. I am thinking the converter but not sure how to check output on it?

Jeff Craig
7 months ago

I’d also recommend SUPERBRIGHTLEDS.com due to using their bulbs for a decade now in my Class A. Still work like a charm and put out great light on all my interior sconces and fixtures.

Bob
7 months ago

Checking the 120 volts does not mean that the 12 volts is up to par. The converter charges the battery but also supplies 12 volts to trailer. Even without the battery connected there should be a steady 13+ volts coming from the converter. It’s possible that the dealer charged the battery fully and the lights were only running off the battery until it discharged. Should be able to disconnect the battery and check for 12 volts coming from the converter to the battery cables. It’s possible that the battery protection fuse is bad.

Jesse Crouse
7 months ago

Was the trailer bought as is?

Dave
7 months ago

Did you mean M4LED?

Sign up for the RVtravel Newsletter

Your information will *never* be shared or sold to a 3rd party.

Subscribe to our newsletter

Every Saturday and Sunday morning. Serving RVers for more than 20 years.