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  1. #1
    MembersZone Subscriber rualfire's Avatar
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    Default external station battery chargers

    Hello all.

    Looking for a little information as it relates to external battery chargers / maintainers. I did a search and found talk of 'onboard' chargers.

    Have 2 trucks which were wired for external chargers from the factory.

    1 is a superior (e-one) built comercial tender (c8500 -2004)
    2 is a superior built (e-one) pierce lance (1992).

    1 has a single master power switch which controls relay's to disconnect the battteries. This truck has had no battery issues in the 2 years we've had it.

    2 has a large rotary battery switch. common on most trucks I've seen. String 1, string 2, both and off posistions. this truck has had a history of having flat batteries. We run 2 or 3 calls per week. All 6 batteries on both strings are going to be replaced on spec. alternator was tested and is performing to spec. no auxillary devices are connected to the 12v system which are drawing while the truck is off.

    My questions are these.

    Can I buy a single charger and keep both batteries up?
    What features should I be looking for?
    Are there specific manufacturers you would reccomend?

    We are going back to our truck vendor (Rocky Mountian Phoenix), and to another local supplier (wholesale fire & rescue) for their reccomendations.

    I'm looking to have a bit of background so I can ask the right questions and make an informed decision.

    I appreciate your input.

    Randy.
    SRFD905 - Serving since 1998

    *~-|EGH|FTM|-~*


  2. #2
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    All my trucks stay charged pretty much through no fault of my own. Just that the two that run 3-4 calls per day do not really need to be plugged in and the rest get plugged in except one. I'll get to that in a minute.

    The 1999 Freightliner water tender has 3 group 31's and is plugged into a "Sure Start" charger that is set as low as it will go and still put current in. Maybe 1/2 amp. It has one battery switch for all lighting and accessory loads but of course the engine computer stays powered up (transmission is manual). If not plugged in it will go flat over a week or so. It does have a flashlight and radio charger that are also on all the time.

    The engine that sits right next to it is a 1989 Ford cabover. It has no computers so its batteries are completely disconnected. It has a 2-system rotary switch. It is also plugged in though only the left battery gets charged by this. Also the flashlight and radios and TIC get charged off this battery at all times. Since the right battery is completly isolated, the chances of this engine running dead are pretty slim, so the shore power is mainly to charge the portable things. It is hooked in parallel with the tender so it gets the same slow charge.

    We also have a 1993 Pierce that is hooked up the same way except it has one battery switch and the batteries are paralleled as one. It of course has an electronic engine and transmission so they need power at all times, and it has lots of hand held garbage always being charged. It will go dead without shore power. Again using a different "sure start" set at very low float current.

    The two reserve ambulances have their own AC chargers on board and are left connected all the time.

    We have one 1982 engine also with a rotary switch that completely disconnects all loads from the batteries. The batteries stay charged but that means that the flashlights and radios do not.

    If you are going to go to all the trouble my feeling would be to do it right and install an AC shore power charger. They regulate the rate much better and will bring a low battery up to snuff quicker than anything else, and you can also get a 2-battery system version, and they also have a version that sends power to the radios and flashlight chargers as long as it has AC power or the truck is on, but does not use battery power to do this, which seems like an ideal situation to me.

    Birken

  3. #3
    MembersZone Subscriber rualfire's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by BirkenVogt
    The 1999 Freightliner water tender has 3 group 31's and is plugged into a "Sure Start" charger that is set as low as it will go and still put current in. Maybe 1/2 amp. It has one battery switch for all lighting and accessory loads but of course the engine computer stays powered up (transmission is manual). If not plugged in it will go flat over a week or so. It does have a flashlight and radio charger that are also on all the time.

    The engine that sits right next to it is a 1989 Ford cabover. It has no computers so its batteries are completely disconnected. It has a 2-system rotary switch. It is also plugged in though only the left battery gets charged by this. Also the flashlight and radios and TIC get charged off this battery at all times. Since the right battery is completly isolated, the chances of this engine running dead are pretty slim, so the shore power is mainly to charge the portable things. It is hooked in parallel with the tender so it gets the same slow charge.

    Birken
    Is this a 'dumb' trickle charger, or a 'smart' float charger? I did a search for "sure start" but didn't find anything conclusive.

    Thanks
    SRFD905 - Serving since 1998

    *~-|EGH|FTM|-~*

  4. #4
    MembersZone Subscriber N2DFire's Avatar
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    Take a look at Kussmaul brand equipment.
    http://www.kussmaul.com/battery%20chargers%20index.html

    It is what we almost exclusively use here and we've never had any problems with them to date.

    They offer both on-board & station systems - either way I HIGHLY recommend getting Auto-Ejecting plugs and the use of pigtail's for connectors.

    Also - not to come across as a smart@$$ but I'd really be more concerned with WHY these batteries are going dead.
    If the alternator is charging the batteries (I'd test at the battery connection and not just on the alternator to make sure it's not a wiring issue) AND you have no load when the battery disconnect switch is in the "Off" position then you either have bad batteries (which replacing should fix) or you have a short of some type draining the batteries - this could result in an electrical fire in your apparatus.

    My troubleshooting tips - have an experienced electrical guru do the following:
    - Load test and/or replace the batteries
    - test the alternator output at the alternator AND at the batteries
    - test between the batteries and the vehicle wiring for an unexpected load/drain on the batteries with your master switch in the off position.

    Beyond that - I'd suggest seeking help from the folks at the NAEVT bulletin board http://www.bulletinboards.com/messag...mcode=04462388

    Best of luck in resolving your issues.
    Take Care - Stay Safe - God Bless
    Stephen
    FF/Paramedic
    Instructor

  5. #5
    MembersZone Subscriber rualfire's Avatar
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    Thanks N2D.

    This is a used truck we took delivery of in the summer. Still getting all of the kinks worked out.

    The batteries are of unknown age & condition. Hence the spec replacement.


    Alternator output at the alternator has been tested. I'l pass along to our contract maintenance company that I'd like test results at the batteries as well as a perasitic load test (I've been doing some reading )


    I've looked at the Kussmaul site briefly. I found conditioners intended for mounting in-truck, but have not yet found external modles. I'll have another look as time permits.


    I appreciate your input.
    SRFD905 - Serving since 1998

    *~-|EGH|FTM|-~*

  6. #6
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    I replace all batteries every 3 years at least, and 2 years on ambulances or vehicles that are hard on batteries or have inadequate batteries. That is a starting point at least, if you have old batteries you are wasting your time. The Sure Starts are ancient battery chargers that I think were meant for golf cart batteries or something. They charge at a single, slow rate. I would not use something like them these days. I like the Vanner units that are on the ambulances. That way you can just plug them into the wall.

    Birken

  7. #7
    MembersZone Subscriber N2DFire's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by rualfire
    I've looked at the Kussmaul site briefly. I found conditioners intended for mounting in-truck, but have not yet found external modles. I'll have another look as time permits.
    They are listed under the Multiple Battery Chargers Section.
    Look for the Econo Charge 25 and the Auto Charge 10

    Also - if you find a culprit (bad batteries, wiring issues, ect.) come back and let us know what you found.

    Best of luck - I know from personal experience that chasing an electrical system "gremlin" can be a nightmare.
    Take Care - Stay Safe - God Bless
    Stephen
    FF/Paramedic
    Instructor

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    I will post this assuming you have a multi-meter. Being a used truck there are several things it could be i.e. bad/corroded wiring to someone wiring a load directly to the batteries and bypassing the master switch. Turn the mutli-meter to amps (if the leads unplug make sure the red is plugged into the amps socket and black is in ground/common) and with the master switch in the off position, unhook the negative battery cable, touch one lead to the cable and the other to the negative post. This is putting the meter in series with the electrical system. You should have less than .5 amps even with electronic engines and transmissions. Anything more and you need to start working your way from the batteries to the switch. If you still have the draw find the side of the switch that is dead when in the off position and place your multi-meter in series there. If the draw is there then the switch is bad. I hate to do long distance trouble shooting but i would get a flashlight and a creeper and do some serious inspecting. You would be surprised at some of the shadetree wiring jobs out there. I guess its job security for me though. If i can be of any more help please feel free to ask and if i wasnt any help then i apologize.

  9. #9
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    I too would recommend using onboard chargers. All of our trucks have onboard chargers, even reserve apparatus. But first you need to look into the current draw on that Pierce. Sometimes if the draw is too much even the charger can't keep up. If you could get access to an "amp clamp" you could check it yourself. Contact the guys at Amptech in Calgary. They should be able to hook you up with whatever you need.

    Good luck.

  10. #10
    MembersZone Subscriber rualfire's Avatar
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    Thanks for all of the feedback guys.

    1st. 3 new batteries installed on one side. 2 were marginal, and one had a bad cel. Other side were all good.

    2nd. On our next regular service visit from our vendor, will get the parasitic load tested and traced if its beyond .5 amp. Will test myself to pre-warn the tech if there are issues so he can schedule some additional time for us. I will post an update if I find anything unusual.

    3rd. Ordering an econocharge 25 for the hall. Has provision's for 6 circuits, so will provide for expansion as we replace our aging 'fleet'.


    I'm wondering if you can offer some advice as to your normal procedures for the use of the battery selector. Are you using a single battery string, and keeping one in reserve in case of a problem, or are you selecting the both posistion and drawing from and charging both sides at once? We've been defaulting to the both setting.


    Thanks again.

    Randy
    SRFD905 - Serving since 1998

    *~-|EGH|FTM|-~*

  11. #11
    Forum Member Rescue101's Avatar
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    Rual,One more thought. You've had the alternator checked for output but have you had the diodes and "ripple" checked.A soft diode will let the system discharge when parked but MAY pass an output check OK.Like Birken says,batteries in Fire apparatus aren't particularly known for long life.Two years is a good average. T.C.

  12. #12
    MembersZone Subscriber rualfire's Avatar
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    Thanks 101.

    I'll have the EVT give the alternator the once over when he's here next along with checking for parasitic draw from 'other' devices.


    The International dealer (no pierce dealer in our town) who replaced the batteries also cleaned and tightened all of the connectors. Said they were all in good condition. Little corrosion was found anywhere.
    SRFD905 - Serving since 1998

    *~-|EGH|FTM|-~*

  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by rualfire
    I'm wondering if you can offer some advice as to your normal procedures for the use of the battery selector. Are you using a single battery string, and keeping one in reserve in case of a problem, or are you selecting the both posistion and drawing from and charging both sides at once? We've been defaulting to the both setting.
    In the case of a truck with no shore power support, using both batteries does two things for you: it keeps them both charged and it splits the starting load in half between them which is also much easier on them. If it does have shore power, and it charges both batteries, then keeping them both charged isn't really an issue, but splitting the starting load still helps. I don't really see the reason for split battery systems. With good preventative maintenance, batteries will get replaced before they leave you high and dry anyway, so a good single battery switch lessens the confusion.

    Birken

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