By Russ and Tiña De Maris
None of us like having something break down on our rig. But, hey, it’s reality. Breakdowns happen, and they’re worse when we’re away from home, familiar surroundings, and trusted help. Sometimes you’re stuck – you wind up getting help from people you haven’t dealt with before – and sometimes you can do a “workaround” to help you get along until you can get back to home base.
One of our readers, Dick Smeeding, had one of those things that could have sidelined his trip, but did a workaround. When Dick’s power control center suffered a malfunction, the result was that his “house” batteries wouldn’t charge. The starting battery system was fine, so he could continue to operate the motorhome engine system – but as far as accessories in the coach, he couldn’t charge them when plugged into shore power, nor from his onboard generator. Yes, he could still charge them by firing up the motorhome engine, but he found that to be too loud and fuel wasting.
File his solution away for future reference – you might need it yourself. Dick made his way to a nearby auto parts house and picked up a relatively low current battery charger – a 2- to 6-amp critter. He also bought a DC accessory power plug – you know, the kind of plug that fits into what us old guys call a car cigarette lighter outlet. Between the charger and the plug, he spent less than $50.
Back at the rig, Dick pulled back the insulation from the wires coming out of the power plug (this one came prewired) and, observing polarity, attached the wires from the plug to the alligator clamps on the battery charger. He also slipped a toilet paper cardboard tube over the positive clamp to prevent electrical shorting. Now with the onboard generator fired up, he plugged the 12-volt end of the lash-up into a 12-volt power outlet, the battery charger into a shore-power outlet and, hey, presto! Dick has power flowing back into the shore power batteries. Mind you, this is not a huge push into those batteries, but it is enough to keep things going.
Why not hook the charger directly to the battery bank? It’s not always easily accessed, and foul weather may make it unappealing.
Not sure if the “generator fired up” clause was an editing glitch, but it is unnecessary with shore power. A friend of mine had his converter fail, and simply plugged a float charger between wall plug and cigarette lighter plug on his counter. Anytime RV is plugged in, the batteries recharge – no insulation digging or clamps needed. Since everything works normally (probably healthier for the batteries!) with a $30 desulfating smart charger, I don’t think he ever replaced the much more expensive converter yet…
A Rialta friend had his electric engine fan stop working and did this workaround until he arrived home.. He purchased a box fan at a store and zip tied it to the front of the RV. He ran an extension cord back to his outside 110v plug, started his generator and turned on the fan to blow air into his radiator for cooling. This got him home but looked funny with the box fan on the front of the RV.
My former father in law traveled a lot in his American Clipper motorhome in Baja. On one trip a radiator hose broke in the middle of nowhere. After a few minutes of head scratching, he took an old plastic D cell flashlight, cut the ends off, cut the hose and inserted it with two hose clamps. After adding water he was on his way. Knowing him, he probably sold the rig with the flashlight repair still in tact.