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  1. #1
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    Question electrical problems

    Has anyone had any problems with trickle chargers on apparatus? My station currently has an engine that seems to smoke them regularly and the dealer isnít sure why. We have been told anything from water damage to the dampness in the compartments. This I think is pulled directly out of the air. These chargers are almost catching fire; we are talking thermo-nuclear meltdown like a direct short. Any help would be great.


  2. #2
    Forum Member Fire304's Avatar
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    No problems here, but part of that may be how we mount them. All of ours are mounted inside the cab with lots of ventilation and nothing else near them. I've seen some chargers shoe-horned into small external compartments along with the flasher and strobe power packs and that is asking for trouble, they get hot.

    Also, how far down are your batteries when you pull in to the barn? If your charger has to work ar 100% for several hours each time the rig rolls in its gonna get hot and you're chronically under charging the batteries on the road (not good for batteries) and may need a bigger alternator. Unless it was a short code 3 call our chargers don't work all that hard, so they don't heat up.
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    Another thing to look at is what else is charging off the batteries while the truck is sitting in station, ie: portable radios, handlights, IR camera.....what other load is on the battery charger, look into that and if you have aload of items tied into the batteries you might have to buy a 12VDC power supply just to charge any item as listed above.
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    Thanks guys I'll look into these things, but I would think the dealer's service guy would have picked up on these issues.

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    Forum Member Fire304's Avatar
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    Originally posted by pahoseboy
    I would think the dealer's service guy would have picked up on these issues.
    You would think, but let me tell you, we have had problems with our local dealer rep since day 1 of our two E-One's (actually one's a Saulbury/E-One).

    Just one of many examples: Our tower was due for its annual hydraulic oil change and we sent it up to the dealer rep. When the Lt. went to pick up the truck the rep told him there was no drain plug and he had to cut the hose then put a splice in to repair the cut (why he didn't just unscrew the hose is beyond me). The Lt. pointed to a valve right near the cut hose that was labled "Hydraulic System Drain" and asked if it was mislabled, it wasn't. Thank God E-One has seen the light and after nearly 20 years of crappy service has pulled the dealership from this moron.

    Moral of the story: Just because the guy wears the shirt doesn't mean he can do the job (Hmmm, sounds like some other people I know too). Your best bet is to have someone in house who can look over the dealer's shoulders and report back to the chief on the quality of work.
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    Try using a Kusmall system. We have had good luck except for an very ocassional cord not disconnecting on start up. that is usaly fixed by cleaning and lubing the contacts and plunger

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    Forum Member nmfire's Avatar
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    Most charger/maintainers, at least from Kussmal have seperate outputs for charging devices like radios and hand lights. I've never installed one of these so I'm not sure what the reprocussions of NOT using it is.
    Last edited by nmfire; 10-10-2003 at 08:22 PM.
    Even the burger-flippers at McDonald's probably have some McWackers.

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    Default chargers

    The charger system that we use is a vehichle battery maintainer. hope that clarifies that for you

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    Forum Member nmfire's Avatar
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    Do you know what brand it is? You should contact the mfg and ask them about this. There always little quirks that most people wouldn't know and cause things like this.
    Even the burger-flippers at McDonald's probably have some McWackers.

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    Default Re: electrical problems

    Originally posted by pahoseboy
    Has anyone had any problems with trickle chargers on apparatus? My station currently has an engine that seems to smoke them regularly and the dealer isnít sure why. We have been told anything from water damage to the dampness in the compartments. This I think is pulled directly out of the air. These chargers are almost catching fire; we are talking thermo-nuclear meltdown like a direct short. Any help would be great.
    Not on a fire rig but similar problem on a friends personal truck. He had a trickle charger that was keeping his battery up, however it had a bad cell, and was never able to get to the point of shutting the trickle charger down, so it was running at high (5 amps I think) each time it was plugged in, for as long as it was plugged in. It overcharged enough that it would start the truck and then the alternator would keep the vehicle running. He went camping and found the battery dead from just sitting a few days with no charger.

    Someone else also mentioned the external load.. (saw a Rescue with a mini-fridge for drinks and rehab that was drawn thru the inverter from the battery (which was trickle charged via shortline)

    Some other causes could be , the patented E-One Diagnostic wiring schematics could be reversed, so it is being wired wrong polarity
    Maybe a faulty Alternator is causing the heavy battery draw.
    Alien drawing power from the Charger to keep they cloaking devices operational without resorting to traceable alien technology..

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    However, it is probably not the cause of the charger meltdown.

  11. #11
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    Thanks for the info guys. I didnít want to name names but here we go. The charging unit is a Kusmall the unit is on a 1999 Pierce Quantum chassis, we have replaced the batteries once already. We have found some bad wiring but still nothing. The last fix the dealer had was to not replace the Kusmall unit.

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    the trickle charger itself is designed to only top off the battery every know and then. if there is anything drawing from the battery (radios, flashlights, etc.) then the charger will overwork itself. the best way to check for amperage draw is to park the truck just like it would set overnight (batteries off/on etc.) do not hook up the charger disconnect the main positive battery cable and hook one lead of a mutlimeter that is set amps to the battery post and the other lead to the cable if you have anything besides 0.0 then something is drawing off of your battery. if i did not do a good job explaining this then let me know or if you already know how or have done this then sorry for the long post.

  13. #13
    Forum Member Fire304's Avatar
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    Thumbs up How to check...

    Sorry this is such a long post, but here's how to check your system out. You may want to print this post out and read it as you go.

    OK, here's a couple of tests for you to do, you'll need a test light and a multi meter which reads volts down to a tenth of a volt and up to 10Amps DC(you can get a good cheap unit at Radio Chack for about $40)...

    Test the conditioner...
    A) After the truck has been plugged in overnight read the voltage at the battery. If its higher than 14.7V (if you are using Optima batteries the value should be somewhat lower) your charger is overcharging the batteries and damaging them, more than 15V is literally boiling the batteries. If the reading is between 13.0 and 14.7 the charger is set correctly. If the reading is below 13V either the charger is faulty or there is too much load for the charger (with all the rechargable stuff like radios and flashlights). High or low can overheat the charger. If the voltage is high, service or replace charger. If OK continue to "B". If it is low skip to F.

    Test the alternator...
    B) Start the truck and drive it for an hour or so, with the engine running check the voltage on the battery. More than 14.7 volts and your alternator regulator is cooking your batteries. 13.4-14.7 is good. Below 13 and you are are not properly charging the batteries. For high or low voltage call in the FD's mechanic and have him/her check the charging system. High volts is usally a bad regulator. Low reading usually indicates a faulty voltage regulator, loose belts, or corroded or loose wire terminal somewhere on the charging circuit (usually right on the battery). High volts will eat batteries, low will overwork (and overheat) the battery conditioner. Good reading continue to "C"

    Note: If test A or B test bad you should perform test C on battery once repairs are complete to insure the battery was not damaged.

    Test the battery...
    C) Shut the truck down but do not plug it in (have a starting charger ready incase the engine won't start and you have a call). If you have spare batteries swap them out and test the batteries on the shop floor (to insure nothing in the truck is messing you up). Wait at least 4 hours, 8 is better, overnight is best (but the truck may not start so let the chief know what you are doing and have that starter charger at hand). Try to remove all loads from the battery such as portable radios. Best thing to do it to actually disconnect the battery(ies) to insure nothing is pulling them down. After the wait, test the voltage. 12.3-12.7 is charged (but you must check D too), less than that put a 5-15Amp shore charger on the battery and let it charge overnight then retest in the morning after another waiting period. If the voltage drops below 12.3 you have a bad battery which may be caused by one of the above problems or may be just an old battery (and can overheat the charger). Proceed to D if C is good.

    Load test batteries...
    D)If the battery holds the voltage you need to load test it. Easiest way is with a load tester (this is not a voltage checker, if you don't have one a good battery shop or truck repair shop will should), but you can use the truck as well. Hook the battery back up to the truck. While reading the voltage crank the engine (helps if you have a kill switch, use it so you can crank longer. A lot of newer trucks don't have a manual kill anymore. If it does have a kill switch make sure you know how to reset it before tripping it, boy was that embarassing ). While cranking (about 5 seconds) the voltage should not drop below 10V at the battery. If it does you either have a bad battery or the battery is not big enough for the starter. A bad test here probably won't overheat the conditioner but will indicate something else damaged the battery. If battery checks good skip E and goto F.

    Dead heading the charger...
    E) Only do this step if you got a low reading in step A. A quick way to see if your conditioner is bad or just over loaded is to remove the load from it. Find where the conditioner is tied into the battery and disconnect it (follow the wires from the charger). Attach a smaller battery (like your car's) that you know is charged up to the conditioner's outputs and turn it on. After a couple of hours take a reading as in step A, if its good go to step E, if its still low the charger needs to be adjusted or replaced.

    Test the load
    F) Find out how much load the truck has when shut down. First, inventory the load. If you only have a couple of box lights and a portable radio it should be no problem (assuming there is nothing wrong with the items which is always a possibility). If you have 4 portables, 6 box lights, a TIC, a multi gas detector, and an IV warmer you may have a problem. Each item should have its rated amp draw or watts listed either on the charger or in the manual. Total up amps drawn, it its more than 1/2 the amps your conditioner is rated (to convert watts to amps divide by 12) you are overloading your conditioner.

    If you can't figure out what the draw is...

    With the truck shut down disconnect the + post of the battery (if you have 2 batteries but no 1,2,both switch you'll find one battery is hooked to another which is hooked to the truck, remove the + going to the truck but leave the 2 batteries hooked together. If you have a 1,2,both switch, I'll need to give you different instructions, let me know). Clip your test light to the + post of the battery and touch the probe to the + cable going to the truck. A glowing light indicates quite a large drain, use caution not to fry your amp meter in the next step. Connect your amp meter between the + post of the battery and the cable to the truck and read the meter. If the load is over 10 amps disconnect as you will fry your meter if left on too long. If the load is more then 1/2 the rated amps of the conditioner (should be printed on the conditioner or in the manual) you are working the conditioner hard. More than 3/4ths rated amps and your battery conditioner will be fighting a loosing battle (ie, a 10 amp charger with 8 amps drawing leave 2 amps for the truck battery). A healthy set up would be 1-2 amps on a 10 amp charger (lower is better if all is working right).

    If you find that all the above checks out OK and you still are smoking the chargers its actually likely a ventilation/cooling issue with the charger. Water should not be an issue if you buy a waterproof or exterior rated conditioner.



    I hope this helps you, let me know if you have any questions. Good luck!
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