Dead RV power converter

On our last camping trip of 2017, we were hooked up to shore power at Nimisila Reservoir Campground in Akron and camping happily. Things were humming along happily in the RV the second night, but I thought I noticed something a bit off about the 12-volt lights. The seemed a bit dimmer than usual. However, I figured that wasn’t much to worry about, and chocked it up to my eyes playing tricks on me. Overnight, when someone had to use the head, the 12-vold water pump also seemed to be running slower than usual, but again, I figured I was just being a little paranoid.

In the morning, however, I awoke to see the fridge’s 12-volt power lights were flashing, and the 12-V lights were hardly coming on at all. The water pump was basically unusable. Wonderful. Another broken RV issue.

Oddly, the 120-V outlets were humming along just fine, the microwave was working great, and the engine fired up as it should. The fridge ran great when I switched it over to 120V too. What could be the issue?

IMG_4679
The old power converter. RIP

Thankfully, I had my multi-meter (an absolute necessary tool with an RV), and started tracking down what the heck was going on. The coach battery bank was registering around 10 volts, which is way too low for anything to work, so I checked the connections and kept backtracking the problem all the way back to the power converter which is mounted below the dining seat, and discovered that it appeared to be dead. There was shore power coming into is at 120V, but the 12V side of the unit was outputting zero volts. The converter’s fan was running and the lights were on, except on important one, the one that indicated that it was charging the coach batteries.

Again, thankfully, I happened to have a battery charger along with us, and clamped that onto the coach batteries and ran an extension cord to an outlet on the outside of Kanga (the RV). This allowed the coach batteries to start charging again, and after a while, the 12V systems came back online. This, however was a clumsy, temporary fix, and the battery charger isn’t designed for continuous use, but would get us through the rest of the camping trip.

Back at home, I did more thorough diagnosing, and sure enough, I declared the 20 year old power converter to be DOA. Killed by many years of providing steady power to the coach batteries.

Our converter is a Progressive Dynamics model, and I hoped they were still in business so I could get a drop-in replacement and avoid the hassle of doing a ground-up install of another brand. Thankfully, they are alive and kicking, and their phone support is friendly and knowledgeable. The lady on the line suggested that I should be able to buy a drop-in replacement, which would be great because I really don’t want to have to cut a new hole for the replacement unit if I can avoid it.

I think I might spring for a somewhat advanced model that is solar ready, as we have already talked about installing solar panels on the roof for long-term off grid boondocking. Really, I don’t mind these minor issues because its giving me a very good education of the systems on our rig, and when on the road I need that knowledge to perform the unavoidable repairs we will most certainly need.

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