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elliottlemberger Thu Jun 23, 2016 11:35 pm

Sorry if this is covered elsewhere. There are clearly a ton of threads on the aux battery, but I couldn't find an answer.

The short of it is my aux battery installed with the go westy kit does not seem to be charging, and I'd love some advice on the best way to troubleshoot this. It's my third aux battery. :cry:

A little background...

I originally installed the Go Westy kit and the SLA1161 under the driver's seat a few years ago. After a couple weeks on the road, it died completely...I assumed because I was careless and ran too much power off of it when parked.

Took me a couple years to finally suck it up and replace the battery. A week after installing the new one (and a day after going to the car wash), I discovered the workers had left the interior light on. It never gave me much life again after that (I yelled at the manager of the car wash, and he gave me a free detail).

Finally, a month ago I sucked it up again, this time shelling out the extra for the SLA0190.

Now a month after the install, the LEDs on the stove are telling me the battery is low, and the stereo won't run at all when the engine is off.

I definitely haven't overused any of the components this time around...I've barely driven the thing.

So I'm wondering if the problem has been with the setup all along.

Please can anyone offer any advice on the best way to troubleshoot this so I can get to the bottom of what's going on? And if by any possibility there might be some sort of a quick fix (I'm taking the wife and our baby boy on his first camping trip this weekend).

BTW, the components work fine when the engine is running so I guess that means the isolator is working? I know next to nothing about electronics, so hopefully you kind and generous souls can help guide me. :D

Thanks so much!
Elliott

PDXWesty Fri Jun 24, 2016 7:34 am

The very first basic test you should do is to measure the voltage at your aux battery when the van is off then when it is running. Buy a $10 volt meter at almost any store to do this. Don't trust the LED meter on the van. Measuring the voltage will tell you the state of the charge of the battery.

Do the same at your starter battery.

Measure the voltage at the output terminal at your alternator while the van is running.

Record the voltages and report back. Then you will know where the weak link is in your system.

You can also go to almost any auto shop to have them test your charging system. Either the alternator output is low, the wiring is weak at some point, or your charging relay isn't functioning. The measurements above will let you know which it is.

Good luck!

buildyourown Fri Jun 24, 2016 8:28 am

Quote: I definitely haven't overused any of the components this time around...I've barely driven the thing

That might be your problem. Batteries that sit and dont get used go bad pretty quick. Get yourself an adequately sized charger and hard wire it in and get in the habit of plugging your van into shore power when parked.
This ensures your battery is always being fed a maintenance charge and you know its good to go anytime you head out.

The vans alternator is barely adequate to charge 2 batteries. If the House is very low, it will suck a lot of juice.

MidwestDrifter Fri Jun 24, 2016 8:45 am

You need to get a quality 3 stage charger on the battery. The alternator is not designed to fully charge a deeply cycled battery. The fastest way kill a lead acid battery is to chronically under charge it. It must be brought to 100% on a regular basis. IIRC the gowesty kits use tiny wires and a long charging path. This limits charging current quite a bit as well.

elliottlemberger Fri Jun 24, 2016 9:08 am

PDXWesty wrote: The very first basic test you should do is to measure the voltage at your aux battery when the van is off then when it is running. Buy a $10 volt meter at almost any store to do this. Don't trust the LED meter on the van. Measuring the voltage will tell you the state of the charge of the battery.

Do the same at your starter battery.

Measure the voltage at the output terminal at your alternator while the van is running.

Record the voltages and report back. Then you will know where the weak link is in your system.

You can also go to almost any auto shop to have them test your charging system. Either the alternator output is low, the wiring is weak at some point, or your charging relay isn't functioning. The measurements above will let you know which it is.

Good luck!


Thanks for the guidance.

Either my multimeter is a serious POC or something is seriously wrong. I measured voltage on the Aux battery and the reading said 5V



I also measured voltage at my starter battery as a litmus test, which read 10V (faulty mulitmeter?)



I'm embarred to say say I opened to engine compartment to measure voltage on the alternator, but couldn't figure out how to do that :!:

I'm going to see if I can borrow a better multimeter from the engineers at work, but does this tell you anything?

Thanks![/img]

jmranger Fri Jun 24, 2016 11:57 am

elliottlemberger wrote: I also measured voltage at my starter battery as a litmus test, which read 10V (faulty mulitmeter?)
I doubt the multimeter is faulty.
elliottlemberger wrote: I'm embarred to say say I opened to engine compartment to measure voltage on the alternator, but couldn't figure out how to do that :!:
First rule is always "don't injure yourself", so in my book, you succeeded. I'm sure someone will provide safe instructions better than I can.
elliottlemberger wrote: I'm going to see if I can borrow a better multimeter from the engineers at work, but does this tell you anything?
There isn't enough data for a real diagnosis, but the hypothesis already stated that your battery never get a chance to fully charge is still the most likely.
Suggestions:
- Buy (don't borrow) a newer multimeter. You need to be able to make measurements with an accuracy of at least 0.1V, which you can't with your current one. Anything in the $20-$40 range should do. As usual, more money means better tools, but I don't think you need something fancy.
- Find a battery charger. Good models would fully charge both batteries in 12-24h. Crappy ones will too, but will take 24-48h for a full charge. My recommendation: buy a crappy one for now (since you want to go camping very soon, and since crappy ones are usually better at charging deeply discharged batteries than fancy ones), something like a $20 battery tender. Once you're back and you have time, research a more permanent solution - there are a lot of options.
- Make the other voltage readings that PDXWesty recommended: the same you already did, but with the engine running. If you don't get readings perceptibly higher (even with your current multimeter) than those made with the engine off, you also have a charging system issue.

Be aware that your newest battery has probably already taken a hit - even if your 5V measure is off by 1-2V (it might be), batteries should never be dischaged below ~10V to avoid damage. Your starting battery may or may not be in trouble too.

elliottlemberger Fri Jun 24, 2016 12:09 pm

Thanks for the advice! I actually have a decent battery charger from my days as a street performer :wink:

I'll pull the beast out of the van tonight and see if I can give it a full charge in the house before hitting the road tomorrow.

I will look into getting a digital multi-meter too so I can get more accurate readings.

Think it's worth using my wife's AAA membership to have them send someone out who can test the battery?

Once I figure out how to test the alternator hopefully I'll get a better picture of where the problem is.

Thanks for the help!

kamzcab86 Fri Jun 24, 2016 12:17 pm

jmranger wrote: - Find a battery charger. My recommendation: buy a crappy one for now (since you want to go camping very soon, and since crappy ones are usually better at charging deeply discharged batteries than fancy ones), something like a $20 battery tender.

I'm going to respectfully disagree with ^that. You should buy the best charger-maintainer that your wallet can afford. The cheap Battery Tenders are just that, tenders. They cannot and will not restore a discharged/dead battery... been there, done that. They simply don't have the required parameters (volts/amps) to get the job done.

If you need to go camping ASAP, take the batteries to a place like Batteries Plus. They'll charge them for you within 24 hours (been there, done that as well for a dead aux Odyssey battery a few years ago).

As already said, it's wise to mount a quality charger-maintainer inside the van so that any time the van sits for extended periods, plug into shore power and the batteries are automatically being cared for.

Another suggestion is to ditch the GoWesty kit; not many positive things are said about that set-up on The Samba, I'm afraid. :?

elliottlemberger wrote: Think it's worth using my wife's AAA membership to have them send someone out who can test the battery?

It wouldn't hurt. They not only test the battery, they test the charging system too with their high-tech gizmo. In fact, when I called them to get a new battery for my Cabriolet last year, the nice tech said he was required to test the system before selling me a battery.

If the starting battery proves to be bad, you can opt to have AAA install a new one.

pdm777 Fri Jun 24, 2016 4:06 pm

I just replaced my alternator and battery.

Easy to test alternator, put red (positive) lead from multimeter
on the big red wire connection on the alternator, the black (negative) lead
anywhere on the body for a good ground (I used the coolant tank bracket).

My old alternator was barely putting out 12V, killed the main battery.
The new alternator should put out about 14V at idle.

In any case, if your battery is older than 4 years old, time to replace.

See post:
http://www.thesamba.com/vw/forum/viewtopic.php?t=657677

jmranger Fri Jun 24, 2016 4:47 pm

kamzcab86 wrote: jmranger wrote: - Find a battery charger. My recommendation: buy a crappy one for now (since you want to go camping very soon, and since crappy ones are usually better at charging deeply discharged batteries than fancy ones), something like a $20 battery tender.
I'm going to respectfully disagree with ^that. You should buy the best charger-maintainer that your wallet can afford. The cheap Battery Tenders are just that, tenders. They cannot and will not restore a discharged/dead battery... been there, done that. They simply don't have the required parameters (volts/amps) to get the job done.
If you need to go camping ASAP, take the batteries to a place like Batteries Plus. They'll charge them for you within 24 hours (been there, done that as well for a dead aux Odyssey battery a few years ago).

Had someone written that, I'd disagree too, but it's not what I wrote :wink:
The idea I failed to convey was "Get something to recharge your batteries ASAP, and when you have time to make correct research, buy a solid solution. Don't spend big bucks right now, because regardless what you buy, once you've done your homeworks, you'll regret not buying something else." Your recommendation of getting a battery shop to do the charge this time is excellent - I wasn't aware that that service was available.

Of course, now that we know that OP has a charger, the point is moot. What we need to drive home is "since you have a charger, use it" :lol:

Corwyn Fri Jun 24, 2016 7:32 pm

I just remedied the same problem - it turned out the wire going from the starting battery to the house battery was WAAY to small (14 gauge). I upped it to an 8 gauge wire and all is well!

elliottlemberger Fri Jun 24, 2016 7:58 pm

Thanks for all the tips.

AAA guy came, and did a bunch of tests.

Discovered that one side of the isolator that came with the Gowesty kit (the side going to the main battery) was pumping out plenty of voltage, but the other side (that goes to the aux battery was putting out zero voltage when the engine was running.

So it would appear that the problem (or at least part of it) lies in the isolator....right?

Any suggestions on a replacement isolator?

Thanks again!

tgraham Fri Jun 24, 2016 8:53 pm

I think I've got one in my garage collecting dust, pm me your address and I'll ship it down to you.

Cheers,

-- T

elliottlemberger Fri Jun 24, 2016 9:06 pm

tgraham wrote: I think I've got one in my garage collecting dust, pm me your address and I'll ship it down to you.

Cheers,

-- T

Seriously? That is so cool of you...will do! Thank you!!

Now the strangest thing...I just went out to my van turned the ignition and it wouldn't start at all. AAA guy did run a diagnostic on the battery which looked pretty grim (the battery is probably at least 5 years old so I'm not surprised), but it's never not started.

Probably be heading to OReilly in the morning to get a new starter battery, but the timing is bizarre...

Bills85Westy Fri Jun 24, 2016 9:08 pm

I interestingly have a similar (if not the same problem). I have a Noco Genius battery tender and solar setup kit that I usually keep the batteries up with, but realized with some testing recently that the Aux battery is not getting adequate voltage when the engine is running / charging.

Time to replace a component (or two)

Thanks,
Bill

pdm777 Fri Jun 24, 2016 9:09 pm

what was the result of the AAA test?

If your battery is 5 years old, you are due for a new one.
I just replaced my old battery today.
See my post on Interstate battery that fits Vanagon.

jmranger Fri Jun 24, 2016 9:36 pm

elliottlemberger wrote: Discovered that one side of the isolator that came with the Gowesty kit (the side going to the main battery) was pumping out plenty of voltage, but the other side (that goes to the aux battery was putting out zero voltage when the engine was running.

So it would appear that the problem (or at least part of it) lies in the isolator....right?
Not necessarily. The basic idea of an isolator is: separate the batteries if there's no charging going on. Combine them when a charger (including the alternator) is providing power.
By design, some isolators will only sense the power source if it is connected on one "side" of the isolator. Some will sense on both sides. I'm not sure about the one you have, so it might be working as designed... but connected the wrong way around.
If all your power sources are connected to the same battery / same side of the isolator, you can be OK with an isolator that senses only on one side. You might only need to swap some connections.

fxr Sat Jun 25, 2016 8:38 am

The Gowesty 'isolator' is just a large solenoid (relay). Its coil is powered from the fridge relay, which in turn has its coil powered by the blue 'D' wire from the alternator.

So those feeds should be checked, along with the respective relay coil grounds.

Vanagon Nut Sat Jun 25, 2016 9:34 am

re: the meter shown in this thread. @ the OP. this likely isn't needed,
but the meter may need to be "zero'd". At very least, set it to Ohms, hold
probes together. If needle swings to 0, great. If not, the meter is out of
adjustment. I don't see an adjuster pot on the meter so am assuming the
adjustment is at the small screw with green paint on it. Google is your friend
here.

If you replace the isolator solenoid with same, be sure to get one that's rated
for continuous duty.

Make sure the isolator has a good ground. It likely grounds itself via the case
to vehicle frame (somewhere in battery box)


Neil.

elliottlemberger Sun Dec 04, 2016 8:36 pm

Hi all...finally getting back to this. Yes, family got in the way. Thanks again for all your tips and insight.

Just realized one other thing, and I'm wondering if it really is the isolator. If not, tgraham I will gladly send your isolator back.

So when my Vanagon is running, the stereo which is connected to the aux battery works. When the engine off the stereo no longer turns on at all.

The aux battery has gone completely dead unfortunately.

So, if the stereo runs when the engine is running but not otherwise would that be an indicator that the issue is not my isolator and that the isolator is working fine?

Obviously still open to the idea of it being the isolator, and tgraham has kindly sent me one. But before I pull the seat out yet again and start "screwing" around just wanted to run this one last bit of info by you all.

Thanks so much!!



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