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Aux Battery & Getting Started
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RaxAdam
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PostPosted: Sat Sep 03, 2011 5:05 pm    Post subject: Aux Battery & Getting Started Reply with quote

Okay - I don't know the first thing about my '89 Vanagon. I've never owned a vehicle before - so this is both my first Westy & my first car.

I have a background in physics & am generally a quick learner, but I need all the help I can get.

Presently, I'm trying to install an auxiliary battery so that I'm good to run some basic appliances (& the fridge & water pump) anywhere, anytime. I have the battery, I have an inverter, I have the "Aux battery Kit for Early Campers - GVW-253-702", but I'm stuck: I've got the ground wire down, the battery in, but when it comes to installing the relay, I'm lost.

In particular, it's the connecting of the wires that has me lost. Under "Connecting the short red wire" the instructions say to "Remove the large red wire from the bottom of the back of fuse #8 and plug the short red wire from the kit onto the now empty pin. Then plug the large red wire that you just removed onto the piggyback connection of the installed wire."

Unfortunately, there are no photos showing exactly what they mean: I dropped the fuse/relay panel & located fuse #8 (I think: I'm confused here by the terminology: what constitutes a fuse and what constitutes a relay? i.e. there are the 1 x 1 x 1'' blocks, and the smaller various-amp, various-coloured plastic bits that plug in (I assumed these were fuses, hence the confusion for me).

I have a copy of the Bentley Repair Manual, but it hasn't been much help to me: still learning to read it.

If anyone can offer some detailed instructions, or point me to some pre-existing ones, I'd greatly appreciate it. I've found various instructions, but they are often low on photos and specific details, which are what I really need.

Thanks in advance for the time and help!

All the best,

Rax
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PostPosted: Sat Sep 03, 2011 5:36 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hello Rax, welcome to the Samba.

Not a full answer to your question, but some tips:
- I've been unable to locate P/N GVW-253-702 on GoWesty's site, but a 89 Vanagon is normally not referred to as an "Early Camper". I'm wondering whether you're using a kit that is suited to your vehicle. BTW, please create a signature explaining which vehicle you have - it'll help people help you. Reading your post, I'm unsure whether you have a camper or a tin-top Vanagon. You talk about an inverter, are you installing a 120-volt mini-fridge?
- fuses vs relays:
Image may have been reduced in size. Click image to view fullscreen.

The thin red/blue/yellow are fuses (used to protect wiring/device against overcurrent). The square boxes are relays (often used to control a device that requires large current from a low-power circuit, but also have other uses). Fuses that looks different are used in older Vanagons as well as in the camper portion of all Westfalias - see GoWesty P/N GVW-FUSE85 for a picture of those.

And if I may... you may want to spend more time reading before performing modifications to your vehicle. Following a step-by step recipe without understanding it usually lead to disappointing results - or worse.

Good luck,

JMRanger
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PostPosted: Sat Sep 03, 2011 5:44 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

You beat me to it. Concerned about the wrong kit myself.

Looking at your fuse panel, I came to conclusion I need to update mine to ATO blade type fuses.
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PostPosted: Sat Sep 03, 2011 8:59 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I am unsure he needs any kit at all. Don't all / some come set up for a second battery from the factory?

To run the stock frig he needs no inverter too. But for anything that plugs into a house wall he does.

There are LOTS of posts about adding aux batteries and wiring and what not here.

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PostPosted: Sun Sep 04, 2011 1:04 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

jmranger wrote:
Hello Rax, welcome to the Samba.

Not a full answer to your question, but some tips:
- I've been unable to locate P/N GVW-253-702 on GoWesty's site, but a 89 Vanagon is normally not referred to as an "Early Camper". I'm wondering whether you're using a kit that is suited to your vehicle. BTW, please create a signature explaining which vehicle you have - it'll help people help you. Reading your post, I'm unsure whether you have a camper or a tin-top Vanagon.


I'm unclear as to what I have as well! I've heard them referred to variously as Westfalias/Vanagon Campers/ VW Bus etc. I'm really unclear as to the exact nuances between these various things and have not found the right "intro" text / sources to sort it all out (yet).

I don't have a tin-top. I have a pop-top camper that has a 3-way fridge (120AC direct line; propane; battery], sink and burners (although the propane tank is not trustworthy).

jmranger wrote:
You talk about an inverter, are you installing a 120-volt mini-fridge?


No. As I mentioned above, it comes with a fridge (even if the fridge isn't terribly cold). The challenge is that the fridge only works when I'm direct line or driving. My solution was to install the auxiliary battery so that it would keep things colder, longer.

I have the inverter because I have some LED lights for the evening, a low-wattage display for my computer and my laptop. I'm presently traveling across the US for business and living out the van, so it triples as house, office & vehicle. Having my own power makes it easier to find places/people who will put me up for the night (i.e. give me a parking spot!).

jmranger wrote:
- fuses vs relays:
The thin red/blue/yellow are fuses (used to protect wiring/device against overcurrent). The square boxes are relays (often used to control a device that requires large current from a low-power circuit, but also have other uses). Fuses that looks different are used in older Vanagons as well as in the camper portion of all Westfalias - see GoWesty P/N GVW-FUSE85 for a picture of those.


Thank you for clarifying that! That is much clearer to me (& is also what I had guessed - but was really not certain). What's confusing then is that the instructions talk about a big red wire that goes to the back of fuse #8, but I don't see any wires feeding any of the fuses (the back of the row of fuses is completely sealed . . . ).

jmranger wrote:
And if I may... you may want to spend more time reading before performing modifications to your vehicle. Following a step-by step recipe without understanding it usually lead to disappointing results - or worse.
Good luck,

JMRanger


I appreciate the suggestion. I actually bought the aux. battery kit from a Westy Repair shop directly. They had ordered it a while back and were supposed to install it for me, but they didn't get anywhere with my van so I bought the kit from them to do it myself. I had a read through the instructions & they seemed simple enough so got underway. It wasn't until I couldn't find the wire that I ran into some trouble. I assumed that it was the appropriate kit given that it had been provided to me by a reputable repair shop. What I'm finding now is that that is not a safe assumption.

There's some more info, but I'll post it in response to the other replies.

Thank you for the response & clarification. I really appreciate your taking the time to help me out!

All the best,

Rax
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PostPosted: Sun Sep 04, 2011 1:20 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

r39o wrote:
I am unsure he needs any kit at all. Don't all / some come set up for a second battery from the factory?


Indeed, but as I understand, the factory-installed relay is not appropriate for an auxiliary battery. It's merely there to cut out the fridge. This is where I read that: http://www.vanagonauts.com/Flash-Alert!-Dual-Battery-Relay201.htm (sorry, the url code doesn't seem to be working for me)

And this is what it says (see bolded section):

Quote:
Flash Alert! Dual Battery Relay
From: Harold Rust

To all westfalia camper owners, and especially those using a dual battery. If you bought a used camper with a "dual" batt. setup, it would be a good idea to check this out. I did some research at my VW dealer today about the different relays used in VW vanagons and campers. We came up with the following. 1.) The vanagon westy camper with the 3 way refrigerator (propane, 110 and the 12 volt while driving only) does not have a factory installed auxiliary batt. system. It is equipped with a small shutoff relay located under the driver's seat in the empty batt. box. It is a small 1" by 1" cube. This relay is called a : Refrigerator 12-volt heater relay. Part Nr. 231 069 555 price: 32.72 This relay is not designed to be used to charge a second battery. To do so could damage your camper. In addition the wire to the relay is only a 2.5 mm wire routed through the fuse panel. This factory setup was not designed to handle the load to repeatedly charge an empty battery. Reference, Bentley 80-91 page 97.32b, 97.33b 2.) Some vanagons did come equipped from the factory with a dual battery system. Some of these are also called campers in the Bentley, but appear to be weekenders. (no 3 way fridge) VW does list a relay called: Relay for 2 batteries. Part Nr. 411 915 511 B Price a hefty 60.39 ( maybe someone with a weekender camper with a factory dual batt. setup can verify this part number.) If the vanagon was factory equipped with a dual batt system, the second battery is shown in the Bentley diagram for that vehicle. The second battery is always conected via a 6.0 mm2 cross section wire, to prevent overheating and insure efficient charging. Reference, Bentley 80-91 page 97.34a, 97.222, 97.225

In summary: If one wants an efficient dual batt. system in a full westy camper with the 3 way refrig., it is necessary to install a new system. You have your choice, one of the following: 1.) install a manual switch, or 2.) install a 30 or 40 amp relay or 3.) install a batt. isolator.

Also note: Bentley sometime shows wire sizes in standard (awg) gauge, and in the later Bentleys mostly as mm cross-section.

Harald 90 westy with a dual batt system.


I also read on a post (I believe on this forum) that some of the GW relay kits came with too small a gauge of wire for the battery to charge effectively. Problem is, I don't know what year my kit is from nor when they made the switch. It will be effectively useless if I have to drive 10h to charge the battery. [In the longer term, I'm looking to install a solar panel in the luggage rack to charge the aux. battery. That could happen sooner if it would make life that much easier . . .].

r39o wrote:
To run the stock frig he needs no inverter too. But for anything that plugs into a house wall he does.


Right: I have a 400W inverter for the lights, display & laptop, but figured the fridge would not change.

r39o wrote:
There are LOTS of posts about adding aux batteries and wiring and what not here.


Yes, but I find them overwhelmingly confusing because there are usually no photos and some sound unnecessarily complicated for what I'm really trying to do. Especially given my confusion around the terminology, the existing posts are definitely helpful, but not enough for me to finish the job.

r39o wrote:
Welcome aboard!


Thank you! And thanks for the help. I have a feeling this site will be very helpful. I sure hope to have my westy 'round long enough to be able to contribute in turn.

All the best,


Rax
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PostPosted: Sun Sep 04, 2011 1:21 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Somebody confirm or correct me here. I think that the fuse being referred to
is behind the driver's seat.
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PostPosted: Sun Sep 04, 2011 1:23 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

okcattleco wrote:
Somebody confirm or correct me here. I think that the fuse being referred to
is behind the driver's seat.


This is what I was starting to suspect as well. Like I mentioned above, there is a relay in place already, it's just not the appropriate relay. Should I just piggy back the new one?

I can post some photos if that would help. But I really just can't make sense of what I have.

Thank you very much to everyone for the help. This will really make a huge difference to my travels!

All the best,

Rax
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PostPosted: Sun Sep 04, 2011 2:04 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

what battery are you using for the fridge? Depending on what you have , you may be very surprised at how little time it will run your fridge and other stuff while off the grid so to speak.
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PostPosted: Sun Sep 04, 2011 2:05 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Some more random thoughts:
- Yes, do post pictures. Of your van, of your battery kit, of its accompanying instructions. More info = more answers Wink
- If you're unsure about your van specs, post its serial number (remove the last 6 digits for privacy) and/or use one of on the online VIN decoders.
- Running the original 3-way fridge (Dometic RM-182b) on 12V have some side effects that you should know about:
-- it draws about 8 amps. A typical battery that fits under the driver seat is much less than 100Ah, which means that the fridge will fully discharge it in at most 12 hours. Repeatedly running down a battery to zero is a sure way to kill it, unless it's a "deep discharge" battery. Verify what you have.
-- that setting ignores the fridge thermostat and runs full power (this is normally not an issue)
- the largest solar panel that I'm aware that fits in the luggage carrier is a 60W, i.e. roughly 5 amps - when there's sun. Not enough to run the Dometic fridge, and surely not charging the battery at the same time.
- A new propane tank is roughly $400 + install. Might be a good investment - and this gives you a working stove in bonus
- 12-volt led lights are more efficient than 120V led lights running through an inverter.
- In late vans, fuse #8 controls outside right rear lights. Something's wrong here. As said earlier, maybe they're talking about the 8 amps fuse (unnumbered) that sits near where the driver seatbelt is rolled when unused, that controls the camper electricals. Different location than the relay that is under the driver seat.
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PostPosted: Sun Sep 04, 2011 2:07 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Some photos for clarification. Hopefully this is enough to remove any confusion as to which van I have & what all is where! Please let me know if there is anything else that would be helpful & I'll add it.

First, the van itself: " '89 Vanagon". Full name: Odysseus Mobile ("Odie Mobile", best said with any accent you can muster).

Image may have been reduced in size. Click image to view fullscreen.


Next: Fuse panel & relays. My thumb is pointing at "fuse #8", as you'll see in the next photo, there is no "big red wire" going into the back of it.

Image may have been reduced in size. Click image to view fullscreen.


Number three: the back of the fuse panel - wires only seem to feed into the relays, the back of the fuses themselves are completely sealed off.

Image may have been reduced in size. Click image to view fullscreen.


Number 4: The aux. battery in place. This is mostly to orient you for the next photo, which will zoom in on that bottom left-hand corner.

Image may have been reduced in size. Click image to view fullscreen.


Number 5: Close up of the relay that is already in the aux. battery box under the driver's seat. According to the site cited above, this is not meant to handle an aux. battery, just the the fridge.

Image may have been reduced in size. Click image to view fullscreen.


Finally: a closer look at the relay w/out the battery blocking the view:

Image may have been reduced in size. Click image to view fullscreen.



Hope this clarifies what I'm working with. Any help would be greatly appreciated. I hit the road again Tuesday & won't have the resources I presently have for a long while (not to mention I'll be completely dependent on the van - presently I'm staying with friends at a pit-stop).

All the best,

Rax
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PostPosted: Sun Sep 04, 2011 2:46 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

jmranger wrote:
Some more random thoughts:
- Yes, do post pictures. Of your van, of your battery kit, of its accompanying instructions. More info = more answers Wink


Alright, here are some more photos, these show the aux. battery kit & instructions.

1. What came with the kit that hasn't already been put in place (pretty much everything!):

Image may have been reduced in size. Click image to view fullscreen.


2. Close up of the relay from the kit:
Image may have been reduced in size. Click image to view fullscreen.


3. Page 1 of 2 of the instructions.

Image may have been reduced in size. Click image to view fullscreen.


4. Page 2 of 2 of the instructions.

Image may have been reduced in size. Click image to view fullscreen.


5. Photos that came with the instructions (1 of 2)

Image may have been reduced in size. Click image to view fullscreen.


6. Photos that came with the instructions (2 of 2).

Image may have been reduced in size. Click image to view fullscreen.



jmranger wrote:

- If you're unsure about your van specs, post its serial number (remove the last 6 digits for privacy) and/or use one of on the online VIN decoders.


206 103C K12 is what I found.

jmranger wrote:
- Running the original 3-way fridge (Dometic RM-182b) on 12V have some side effects that you should know about:
-- it draws about 8 amps. A typical battery that fits under the driver seat is much less than 100Ah, which means that the fridge will fully discharge it in at most 12 hours. Repeatedly running down a battery to zero is a sure way to kill it, unless it's a "deep discharge" battery. Verify what you have.


Hmp. I just had a closer look, but there does not appear to be any of this useful info on the battery itself (see the photo in the previous post for everything that is provided on the battery itself). I got the battery by going to a automotive chain store in Montreal and providing the vehicle make and model. They had a single battery listing for the van & it fit the box perfectly. There was no additional info. I'll do a search online after this post to see if I can't find more info on it. 12h would be far more than I would really need, I think.

jmranger wrote:
-- that setting ignores the fridge thermostat and runs full power (this is normally not an issue)


Strange that it would do that, but based on my experience with the fridge so far, you're right, that won't be an issue!

jmranger wrote:
- the largest solar panel that I'm aware that fits in the luggage carrier is a 60W, i.e. roughly 5 amps - when there's sun. Not enough to run the Dometic fridge, and surely not charging the battery at the same time.


Right. P = IV. I'll have to have a closer look at the panels I've seen. I've heard of others doing this, so I imagine there must be something (no?!). Also, I thought solar panels didn't actually require sun because they also collect energy from the UV range of the spectrum and weren't just limited to the visible spectrum, is this not the case?

jmranger wrote:

- A new propane tank is roughly $400 + install. Might be a good investment - and this gives you a working stove in bonus.


Any rough idea what an install should cost me? Presently I purchased a coleman albs tank & fitting. I saw a mod. that ran off these small 1 lbs. coleman tanks & thought that might be a good (read: more affordable) way to go. Have definitely been turning the new tank over in my mind, but was wondering just how worthwhile it would be (guess I'll have a good sense of that two months from now!).

. . . Ahhh - I see that you're also suggesting I could run the fridge with the propane tank installed. How's that, economically speaking? Also, no previous wonder used the the camping stuff, so I'm not even sure the fridge works off of propane still (it certainly doesn't seem to be exceptionally cold on direct line or battery . . . ).

jmranger wrote:

- 12-volt led lights are more efficient than 120V led lights running through an inverter.


Didn't even know there were 12V LEDs. What kind of efficiency loss am I looking at, and how does the connection work? (these are so-called "tea lights" that I throw up in the evening, not lights I use all the time . . . I figured they must take less than the original lights in the van).

jmranger wrote:

- In late vans, fuse #8 controls outside right rear lights. Something's wrong here. As said earlier, maybe they're talking about the 8 amps fuse (unnumbered) that sits near where the driver seatbelt is rolled when unused, that controls the camper electricals. Different location than the relay that is under the driver seat.


Sounds plausible! But the instructions say (see #1) "Pull the panel down so that you can access the rear of it", and then "remove the large red wire from the bottom of the back of fuse #8 and plug the short red wire from the kit onto the now empty pin."

All of that sounds like it's in the panel to me, and talking about the 8th fuse, not an 8-amp fuse, but the question remains of when this kit was made & whether or not it is right for my van.

Thank you so very much for taking the time to look at all of this. I suspect it will be very straight forward once the details are sorted. I'm really very appreciative of the help and support!

All the best,


Rax
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PostPosted: Sun Sep 04, 2011 3:32 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Nice looking van and welcome.

I am not familar with the GoWesty kit so I don't have any points to add on that.

As others have commented the factory fridge really doesn't perform well running off the battery and it sucks a lot of amps. I am just guessing at the amp hours your battery has but it is probably less than 80 amps and more likely 60-75 amp hours. In general if you have 80 amp hours of available capacity you should idealy only run it down to 50% or down to 40 amps. So the fridge would last about 10 hours running the battery total dead which is a quick way to kill a battery(80 amps capacity / 8 amp draw). Running down to 50%(40 amps) would give you about 5 hours of fridge running time.(40 amps / 8 amp draw) It's really not practical to use this fridge on batteries. Not saying you can't but you'd probably need close to 400 amp hours of capacity to do it right. Once you get that much capacity you'll need to upgrade your charging system just to get enough juice back into the batteries to do it again the next day.

Exploring what is wrong with your propane system may be a better solution. I use my fridge on propane and it will last a pretty easy 7 days with cooking and running a propex heater in the evenings. With only the fridge running it should easily run 2 weeks. Guys have calculated it should run between 16-17 days. You could figure about 2 gallons of propane a week with the fridge and cooking. I pay $3 a gallon out here on the West Coast for propane.

What is wrong with the propane tank? Maybe a part could be replaced to get it working.
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PostPosted: Sun Sep 04, 2011 5:54 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

No one would be calling an '89 Vanagon an "early camper". Looking in Bentley pages 97.58 & 97.64, you'd see fuse S8 connected with "large red wire", so my call is that that kit is made for 83-85, and possibly earlier also. A call to GoWesty may confirm, but the consequence is the same: the kit doesn't fit directly on your van.

I think you may use connector P (Bentley page 97.119) instead of the back of S8, using the same feed that people use for headlight relays. But don't take my word for it. Maybe others will chime in and/or call GoWesty.

Serial number: that's not it. Looking through the windshield from the outside, search a tin plate at the bottom, on the driver side. Should start with WV. Many decoders on the web, here's one

Battery: can't read the prints on your picture, so no idea on the real Ah and/or deep cycle. But since it fits under the driver seat, I second SSWesty's numbers and his conclusion of 5 hours runtime.

Solar panels:
- obviously only work in daytime
- are strongly affected by shade (output of some panels drop to zero if a single cell is fully shaded) - google "solar panel shade", there are tons of articles
- are rated given that they face the sun; in an application where the panel isn't perpendicular to sun rays, output suffers some
- may slightly benefit from IR/UV light (I'm not sure), but aren't those stopped by shade too?

Install cost for propane tank: no idea. I doubt it's much, unless the bolts are frozen in rust. But as SSWesty said, we don't know what the issue with the tank is so we can't suggest a fix.

12V/120V LEDS: I don't have numbers, but every step of energy conversions isn't 100% efficient. I'd rather do a direct 12VDC to whatever the LED needs (somewhere in the 2-5VDC range) than do a 12VDC->120VAC->2-5VDC. Usual Vanagon suppliers stock LEDs replacements for the Vanagon lights. Tthere are many threads on that topic on TheSamba, as well as on the more general lighting topic. I'm also sure that car parts store carry LED lights that plugs into the cig lighter socket.
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PostPosted: Wed Sep 07, 2011 7:12 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

SSWesty wrote:
Nice looking van and welcome.

I am not familar with the GoWesty kit so I don't have any points to add on that.

As others have commented the factory fridge really doesn't perform well running off the battery . . . Once you get that much capacity you'll need to upgrade your charging system just to get enough juice back into the batteries to do it again the next day.


Thanks for the welcome & advice. Certainly sounds like propane is the way to go, thank you for sharing your experience with me. Much appreciated!

SSWesty wrote:
Exploring what is wrong with your propane system may be a better solution. . . .

What is wrong with the propane tank? Maybe a part could be replaced to get it working.


I think the tank has too much rust to be filled. I'll post some photos shortly.

The major issue I'm facing is that it seems to be impossible to get a mechanics appointment on the road: I called a "Pete's RV" and they said it would be the end of September before they could even take the measurements for ordering the tank (!). I've had similar headaches just trying to get basic servicing for the van. Fortunately, I've met some very kind and helpful mechanics, so have managed to make /some/ progress.

Photos of the tank to come . . .
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PostPosted: Fri Sep 16, 2011 2:27 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Alright, after a back and forth with GW, I found out the mechanic sold me the wrong relay. New one should be in tomorrow. Thank you all for helping me determine that - very helpful (if still somewhat disheartening that the mechanic knew so little).

I also ordered the propane tank, but install is looking like it's going to be expensive (!). I'm in Boston, MA right now & the guy I found said $75/h and to expect 3h if there are no problems.

Apparently he has tons of experience doing these installs, and I don't get the impression he's trying to rip me off, but $225 - ouch. Plus he said it's almost certain that my fridge won't work: he said fridges that haven't been run on propane in a long time tend to have all sorts of trouble.

Any thoughts on all this? I've had /no/ luck finding places to get the install: he's the first person willing to make time (the other places I've called have said minimum 2 weeks!), but $500+ for a propane tank that doesn't run the fridge seems . . . painful! haha.

Also, he said there'd be a $50 tank-disposal fee. Any thoughts on how I might work around that, at least?!

Thanks for the on-going help. Sorry for the delay in posting again: been on the road & without internet.

All the best,


Rax
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Timwhy
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PostPosted: Fri Sep 16, 2011 2:44 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Here's a pretty simple diagram for the two relays.
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RaxAdam
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PostPosted: Sat Sep 17, 2011 7:56 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Timwhy wrote:
Here's a pretty simple diagram for the two relays.


Thank you, that is very clear & most definitely will be helpful.

Any thoughts on the other points? I have to let this guy know if I want to do the install on Monday ASAP, but really have no idea if $225 / 3h is a reasonable estimate on the time required . . .

Thanks again!


RAx
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PostPosted: Sat Sep 17, 2011 10:21 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

The job is pretty straight forward. I think it's only 4 bolts and a propane connection to unhook and hook up again. However those could be really rusty bolts and I believe the propane connection may need to be updated. I could see this taking 3 hours with a few snags. You could try switching the tanks on your own and have the mechanic do the propane line. That would save you some money because I bet most of the work will be getting the old tank out and the new one bolted up.

As for the fridge not working it's possible it may not work. A good move would be to take it out and clean up the burner and lighting system. There are lots of threads here on servicing the fridge.
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Home Team Van
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PostPosted: Sun Sep 18, 2011 7:05 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I may have missed it in your post but did you determine if your stove works? If it does I'd spend some time working on the fridge before overhauling the propane tank.
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