Lights dim, is it the battery? wiring?

Submitted: Thursday, Feb 09, 2012 at 11:05
ThreadID: 91763 Views:6702 Replies:9 FollowUps:10
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Hi All,
I have recently purchased our first van, Windsor Rapid 2004, slowly getting my head around all the ins and outs! Hoping someone can advise.....
The van has been left sitting for a while (no charging) , and I think the battery might need replacing. When we turn the lights on with it switched to battery and also when plugged into mains, they are very dim. We turn more than one on, it dims the others further. I then switched to towing power through the car and the lights were bright as. Does this mean the battery in the van is dead? or could it be a wiring problem? The battery has had plenty of chance to "charge up", as we've had it plugged into mains for over 24hours.

Also, any suggestions to replacing the globes with LED lower wattage ones?

What is the best way to maintain battery in future? I've heard of "trickle chargers", or is it good enough to plug her into mains every month?

Any help appreciated!
Thanks, JJ
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Reply By: pmacks - Thursday, Feb 09, 2012 at 11:48

Thursday, Feb 09, 2012 at 11:48

the first thing that i would check is that the 3 way fridge is not set on 12 v ? what you described is exactly how ours is until you turn the fridge over to either mains or gas?

We have a smart charger ( c-tek ) in our van and it can be plugged into mains all the time but we only do it about once a month to keep the battery topped up. We have also puchased replacement LEDs for the caravan lights and they are fantastic the leds just come with a number of different type fittings to fit the lights and you just replace the globe Easy as and the cost is about $6.00 per light to replace. LEDs purchased from deals extreme and come direct from HK

AnswerID: 477343

Follow Up By: Jac J - Thursday, Feb 09, 2012 at 11:54

Thursday, Feb 09, 2012 at 11:54
Thanks Pmacks!
Fridge has been off, so I don't think that's the problem. I will check that out though as well.
Thanks for the tips on the charging and globes.
FollowupID: 752534

Reply By: The Bantam - Thursday, Feb 09, 2012 at 12:28

Thursday, Feb 09, 2012 at 12:28
Batteries have relatively short lives and die...there is no way around that....any normal battery over 2 years old is living on borrowed time, and once past 5 years...if still doing the job its, a dead man walking.........ya might get better life out of some of the modern fancy technologies but that only pushed the inevitable back a little.

the give away is when you switch to the power from the tow vehicle, everything improves.

time for a new battery.

to get the best life there are 3 things that are important.

keep the battery cool...not so much of a problem in a van
Do not cycle too deep
Regularly charge the battery with a good quality charger

A good quality multistage charger will go a long way to keep ya battery healthy......a good one can be left connected and running indefinitely...but that can be more from convienience than long as you charge ever fortnight to a month and never let the battery get flat you should be fine.

If the battery will not hold good chargel for less that 2 to 3 weeks and a fair charge for under a month it time to replace it.

AnswerID: 477346

Follow Up By: Jac J - Thursday, Feb 09, 2012 at 14:19

Thursday, Feb 09, 2012 at 14:19
Thanks heaps Bantam. Just posted this below in a different followup, but think you might be able to help....does the power still run through the battery even when plugged into mains? I can't understand why it improves so much from towing battery vs the mains power....
FollowupID: 752548

Follow Up By: Member - Bucky - Friday, Feb 10, 2012 at 01:48

Friday, Feb 10, 2012 at 01:48
Well said Bantam
I charge the battery in my Camper Trailer every 2 to 3 weeks, seldome it goes past 1 month
Last CAmper Trailer battery lasted 6 years
I think mainly because of the above statements
Cheers Bucky
FollowupID: 752595

Reply By: MEMBER - Darian, SA - Thursday, Feb 09, 2012 at 12:37

Thursday, Feb 09, 2012 at 12:37
Your local battery retailer might test the battery's performance for you, but if it is a few years old and won't pick up from a decent charge cycle a new one seems the go. Info on the web will tell you how to determine the age of the battery - some have coded stickers, some have a code stamped into the case and others have a letter and number stamped on the + - terminals. I just quit a calcium battery at 4 years - has been looked after but would not hold a useful charge any more. A multi stage smart charger is hard to beat as a general tool in the workshop - most new vans have them installed for the house battery - a portable one is great though for general workshop use. Conventional wisdom here and elsewhere seems to be ' keep your batteries fully charged all the time, to gain maximum service life' - this does not necessarily mean having the smart charger on permanently - but frequent charging at least seems the go. My van gets charged via the inbuilt mains charger a couple of times a week and gets maintained every sunny day via a small solar panel.
AnswerID: 477348

Follow Up By: Rockape - Thursday, Feb 09, 2012 at 13:13

Thursday, Feb 09, 2012 at 13:13
I do as Darian does with a smart charger on both my van and vehicle battery's using time clocks and they preform very well.

Both my optima vehicle battery's lasted 10 years and my wet cell van battery is 5 years old and load tested ok 6 months ago.

The calicum in my little get about car is 4 years old and it is always well maintained due to miniumum runs of 400 kilometres at a time.

As said check the voltage and see if it is being charged, then have it load tested after you charge it. The auto sparky will do this for free and advise you if you need a new battery.

FollowupID: 752542

Reply By: Member - Andrew (WA) - Thursday, Feb 09, 2012 at 13:52

Thursday, Feb 09, 2012 at 13:52
I have a 2004 Windsor Rapid for sale at the moment...YOU SHOULD HAVE BOUGHT MINE...:-( LOL

When I initially purchased it, I found the interior lights to be dull as well. I just replaced the ceiling lights with newer type low wattage energy saver thingo's from a caravan store. Nice and bright now.

I also replaced the tail lights with some lovely LED's because the factory ones with the old globes were a little dull in the daylight. Not any more..

Enjoy the Rapid, they are good vans.
AnswerID: 477349

Follow Up By: Jac J - Thursday, Feb 09, 2012 at 14:16

Thursday, Feb 09, 2012 at 14:16
Thanks! I would have but in VIC so a bit far....
Think i might try replacing the globes first, cause I will do anyway, then I'll see how the battery goes. Will mainly be staying powered sites to begin anyway.

When plugged in to mains, does the "power" still go through the battery? I can't understand why the lights are so much better from towing vs when mains plugged in?
FollowupID: 752546

Follow Up By: member - mazcan - Thursday, Feb 09, 2012 at 14:18

Thursday, Feb 09, 2012 at 14:18
clean the battery terminals and clamps and if its a wet cell battery look to see if the cells have water in them could be below the platesapart from that as mentioned by most its probably past its use by date
FollowupID: 752547

Follow Up By: member - mazcan - Thursday, Feb 09, 2012 at 14:23

Thursday, Feb 09, 2012 at 14:23
forgot to mention check the earth wire and clean where it goes onto chassis if its wired like that ?
FollowupID: 752549

Follow Up By: Member - Andrew (WA) - Thursday, Feb 09, 2012 at 15:09

Thursday, Feb 09, 2012 at 15:09
Don't know how yours is set up but my understanding is the mains power would NOT go through the batteries.

Your batteries only charge when when the cars alternator is running, or you have some type of auxiliary (generator or solar panels) hooked up to your batteries to do the charging.

I'm not a guru on this stuff but I think that's how it goes, others will confirm this for you.
FollowupID: 752551

Reply By: The Bantam - Thursday, Feb 09, 2012 at 15:21

Thursday, Feb 09, 2012 at 15:21
What happens with the lights re mains v battery varies from van to van.

in the old days we had two seperate systems, a 240v system and a 12 vlt system with a lamp from each in the various fittings.

One hopes that have given that one away by now.

if you have a 12 volt lighting system running off a battery and that battery is then hooked up to a manis charger.....argualbly the sensible way to do it these days.

the battery will remain in circuit whne the charger is connected to 240v.

this results in a couple of things.

If the battery is buggered and wont charge, the charger may not have enough schnaps to overcome that and bring the system voltage up.

how ever the car alternator and battery may have enough go to raise the syeten voltage......the buggered battery will still be trying to drag the system down though.

If you still have old style filament lamps....ya need to get rid of those and replace them with LED quick smart,s you will reduce your current drain a hell of a lot.

anyway, do al lthe other checks, like battery terminals and earths and stuff...because you should anyway.....but I recon your battery is "DEmsed, it, if it wasn't straped to its bracket it would be pushin up the dasies, berreft of life it rests, its singin with the chior invisibule....its bleedin snuffed it"


AnswerID: 477359

Follow Up By: Jac J - Friday, Feb 10, 2012 at 11:01

Friday, Feb 10, 2012 at 11:01
Thanks again! Big help. I assumed that the battery was being charged when plugged into the mains. Will check this out. Not sure how to, but it is in for service at the moment so hopefully they can tell me! Cheers, JJ
FollowupID: 752615

Reply By: steved58 - Thursday, Feb 09, 2012 at 20:38

Thursday, Feb 09, 2012 at 20:38
Try this disconnect the battery from the van if the lights are now bright on 240v then the battery was draining to much power from the charger ie not enough left for the 12v lights Have the battery checked probably has had it
If it does not improve on 240v no battery installed then check the wiring from the charger to the battery and outputs from the charger the charger may not be outputing correct voltage to run the lighting
good luck
AnswerID: 477378

Reply By: landed eagle - Friday, Feb 10, 2012 at 12:57

Friday, Feb 10, 2012 at 12:57
Also if your battery has a switch to turn it on,ensure the switch is ON when you are connected to 240V to charge. I assumed my batt was always in the loop and discovered after 12 months of having the van connected to 240V every few weeks that the battery was almost flat. No charge going into the batt as it wasn't in the power loop.
AnswerID: 477419

Reply By: Charlie B2 - Friday, Feb 10, 2012 at 13:14

Friday, Feb 10, 2012 at 13:14
Hi all,

I might have missed a response along these lines and I'm far from an expert on caravan electrics, but is there ANY possibility that the charger itself has failed in some way?

Maybe the battery's not too flash, or even well on the way out, but if lights are brighter when connected to the tow vehicle, I'd reckon I'd be checking the on-board charger, too. At least I'd drop an ammeter between the charger output +ve and the battery +ve to see what's going on.


AnswerID: 477421

Follow Up By: Charlie B2 - Friday, Feb 10, 2012 at 13:34

Friday, Feb 10, 2012 at 13:34
Hi all,

Sorry for the quick follow-up, guys, but it might also pay to check whether the 240v circuit-breaker tripped out when you plugged the van lead into the mains and switched it on - mine often does if I've had the 12v circuit switched on at the moment I connect to the power point. If that happens you can have the charger apparently "on" but it ain't.

At this point, it's worth checking everything!


FollowupID: 752627

Reply By: ao767brad - Saturday, Feb 11, 2012 at 16:33

Saturday, Feb 11, 2012 at 16:33
Hi we had a 2006 Rapid offroad for a few years and ours came from Windsor with a 240volt to 12 volt power supply that ran through the battery to supply 12v. The 12 volt power supply was a low quality single stage battery charger and was no where near as effective at keeping the batteries in good condition as a Ctek or Projecta multistage charger which we replaced it with. The downlights in the rangehood were easy to find LED's to replace, but I think it was the bed ends I had lots of trouble finding LED's to fit with replacement fittings from Whitworth marine for around $20 including LED globes being the end result. Windsor used a number of different interior lights in the Rapid range with many having the 5 watt halogen bulbs, don't know what the 2004 had?
AnswerID: 477499

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