Total lack of knowledge around leisure batteries (1 Viewer)

HarmMinVan

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Nov 10, 2022
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Ex-ambulance
Hi All - hoping I can get some advice, or some guidance towards a solution. Please forgive my total lack of knowledge around this!
I work for a charity and have recently purchased a Fiat Ducato ambulance to take support out into the community. However, as autumn has kicked in I have gone to switch on lights and heating etc to find it does not work.
Now, I thought all this would charge from the battery as it was driven around. I have since found that the leisure battery is another thing entirely.
The Van has a genysis system, which gives a reading of 'Chassis Bat 12.3, Aux batt 10.1' (if this is of any use), but using the auxilliary battery only gives a few minutes of power.
I think the van stood for a long time so think the battery may be dead. So I'm wondering my best course of action -
1- Buy a new battery. The leisure battery is an odyssey pc1700 - About £300. Could I use a cheaper alternative? or is that a false economy?
2- Buy a charging cable. There is a plug on the side of the van, an appropriate fitting to uk plug is about £100, which I am wary to spend if the battery is completely dead. But would I be needing to do this anyway, even with a new battery?
3- There are separate battery chargers available - is this an option? Are there specific types?

I am at a bit of a loss around this. As a charity I want to do this as cost effectively as possible, making sure we are able to stay warm and in the light while out on the streets at night!
All help is gratefully received - if there is anything else you need to know to support this let me know, though I am not close to the van everyday to be able to look at it
 

Hoovie

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May 16, 2021
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Sounds like the battery has had it.

If you want to do this as cost effectively as possible, maybe some of these forum members who are all getting Lithium Batteries installed could donate their old Lead Acid Leisure batteries to you for your Ambulance?

PS. You said "making sure we are able to stay warm and in the light while out on the streets at night!" A working battery system will give you the ability to stay in the light, but it will absolutely not provide you with the ability to run an electric heater, although you will need the battery to start the heater up.
Being an Ambulance, the chances are you have some kind of Diesel Heater fitted such as a Webasto or Eberspacher. That might need the Battery to start the heater (by activating the glowplug) and once running, will use the battery to power the fan and electronics, but the heater itself will run on diesel.
 

68c

Oct 22, 2019
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Where are you located. There may be a forum member near you who could look at your ambulance and have a chat about how to sort things.
 

Abacist

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Oct 15, 2013
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Before buying a new battery as the current one is dead I would want to be sure that they vehicle charging system is sending a charge to the leisure/auxilliary battery. This is normally done via a split charge relay whereby some of the charge from the alternator charges the leisure battery when the relay detects that the leisure battery voltage is below the relays preset level. So even if the battery is dead it should show a higher voltage when the engine is running - it just can no longer hold and store the charge. If its charging OK then buy another battery.

On the subject of batteries its a question of you pays your money and takes your choice subject to the voltage ie 12 volt or 24 volt and the size of the battery compartment. After this there are various types of battery. It must be classified as a Leisure Battery not a Starter battery. Avoid AGM batteries which are Absorbed Glass Mat batteries. There is ample evidence on here that they do not last well. After this you have Lead acid, sealed lead acid, Gel batteries, Traction batteries and Lithium Batteries. You need to do your research here relative to your budget. Also different batteries have different charging regimes so you need to find out what the charger in the vehicle is capable of when plugged in to a mains hookup. If you don't want to change the charger then buy a battery suited to the charger. I would discount Lithium which is the most expensive and will probably need a new charger and a Battery to battery charger instead of a split charge relay. Gel are the most long lasting but much dearer than lead acid.

There are other ways of charging the leisure battery - add solar panels to the roof but they are only really effective in the summer in the UK and you sound as if you want it for year round use.

What type of heating in the van is it? What is the fuel for the heater? Gas, diesel or electric? Make, model etc so others on here can help.

You will need a charging cable to plug into an electric hookup to keep the battery charged when not in use or it will go flat and become useless again quickly.

Here is a voltage chart - don't let your battery ever go below 12 volts or you start to kill it! Never take a leisure battery below 50% charge!

That's probably a start to get you looking into stuff. Tanya Batteries are a good place to look at batteries and prices online.

1668077038671.png

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OP
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HarmMinVan

HarmMinVan

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Nov 10, 2022
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Ex-ambulance
Thanks - there is a panel for a Webasto system, but this doesnt seem to do much. The genyis system has two heating buttons that will work when the engine is running and the leisure battery connected
 
Dec 24, 2014
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Ever since lighting was by Calor gas.
2- Buy a charging cable. There is a plug on the side of the van, an appropriate fitting to uk plug is about £100, which I am wary to spend if the battery is completely dead. But would I be needing to do this anyway, even with a new battery?
A pic of the plug on the side of the van would be useful info.
If it's a flush mounted socket then something like this adapter will plug into it and enable you to use a normal 13amp house socket with an extension lead.

1668077649856.png
 

Greasy Chap Butty

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Oct 16, 2022
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Hi All - hoping I can get some advice, or some guidance towards a solution. Please forgive my total lack of knowledge around this!
I work for a charity and have recently purchased a Fiat Ducato ambulance to take support out into the community. However, as autumn has kicked in I have gone to switch on lights and heating etc to find it does not work.
Now, I thought all this would charge from the battery as it was driven around. I have since found that the leisure battery is another thing entirely.
The Van has a genysis system, which gives a reading of 'Chassis Bat 12.3, Aux batt 10.1' (if this is of any use), but using the auxilliary battery only gives a few minutes of power.
I think the van stood for a long time so think the battery may be dead. So I'm wondering my best course of action -
1- Buy a new battery. The leisure battery is an odyssey pc1700 - About £300. Could I use a cheaper alternative? or is that a false economy?
2- Buy a charging cable. There is a plug on the side of the van, an appropriate fitting to uk plug is about £100, which I am wary to spend if the battery is completely dead. But would I be needing to do this anyway, even with a new battery?
3- There are separate battery chargers available - is this an option? Are there specific types?

I am at a bit of a loss around this. As a charity I want to do this as cost effectively as possible, making sure we are able to stay warm and in the light while out on the streets at night!
All help is gratefully received - if there is anything else you need to know to support this let me know, though I am not close to the van everyday to be able to look at it
How long do you need to have power on for the lights and heater, in between engine running, or until you get back to base?

Lots of systems and advice may be based on people who run their motorhomes for a few days without external power or engine.

Also what other electrical kit runs from the leisure battery?
Have you got a fridge, in or an inverter making mains voltage for any equipment?

If it's just lights and a diesel heater, you might get away with a small battery.

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Sep 17, 2020
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Can you get some photos? If readers can see the connections on your starter and leisure batteries, including any relays or little black boxes in close proximity and wired to the batteries, there may be scope for better informed advice.

Re the heater, have a look around for one of these heaters .... https://www.cummins.com/na/sales-and-service/webasto-heating-systems ... or something that looks similar. If you can find it, maybe under a seat or in a boxed off area with a giveaway round vent in it, it might just be the battery that's so knackered it won't fire up. (You might consider attaching a good battery to the leisure battery with jump cables to see if anything happens. )

If the van has a blue and white female socket on it, it may well be set up with on an onboard battery charger. Useful for keeping everything topped up whilst it's parked and maybe a small mains heater if you can get access to power where you site it.
 

RedFrame

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HarmMinVan , welcome, as a free member you get 5 posts, in order to continue to respond to comments you'll need to subscribe to the forum.

Cheers
Red
 
Apr 27, 2016
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The Van has a genysis system, which gives a reading of 'Chassis Bat 12.3, Aux batt 10.1' (if this is of any use), but using the auxilliary battery only gives a few minutes of power.
Can you give us some more info about this system, I've not heard of this type before, and I can't find anything online about it either. But I assume it's very similar to the types of electrical systems found in all motorhomes.

2- Buy a charging cable. There is a plug on the side of the van, an appropriate fitting to uk plug is about £100, which I am wary to spend if the battery is completely dead. But would I be needing to do this anyway, even with a new battery?
I think you will need a charging cable. What kind of socket is fitted to the outside of the van? Is it the round blue type, with three round pins? This is the most common type fitted on motorhomes. You should be able to buy a cable for a lot less than £100. Someone who knows about electrics could make one with a round blue socket on one end and a standard 13A 3-pin plug on the other end. It would fit into a standard house 13A socket.

The reason you need a charging cable is to keep the batteries fully charged when they are not in use. Lead-acid type batteries deteriorate if they are left in a state of partial or complete discharge for a long time - more than a couple of weeks, for example. It's best to keep them hooked up to a mains supply when not in use, if that's possible. Or at least make sure they are fully 100% charged every week or so.

There is almost certainly a mains charger already built into the system, so it would be a good idea to find out if there is, and what its capabilities are. You probably don't need any extra charger.
 
Last edited:
Apr 6, 2019
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Please note. You will run out of posts if you don't pay for membership.
But you will get your money back easily. Similar to other comments above, there are many generous members here that may even donate stuff your way.
I come to Birmingham Uni on occasion for work if you want me to call in one day and you can start your quest picking my brain (what's left of it).
 
Apr 27, 2016
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Now, I thought all this would charge from the battery as it was driven around. I have since found that the leisure battery is another thing entirely.
Motorhomes charge the leisure battery from the engine as it is driven. Typically they are driven for several hours, which helps to refill the battery. Your vehicle will also do this, but I would imagine your mileage is very much less, so there won't be such a big contribution to the charge. I think you will need to charge the battery from a mains supply.

Leisure batteries are specified by their Amp-hour (Ah) capacity, which is the ability to supply a small load for several hours. The other battery specs like the Cold Cranking Amps (CCA) are not relevant, they are concerned with powering a starter motor, which takes a massive current for a few seconds.

Looking at the specs, your Odyssey PC1700 battery is 68Ah, which is about average for a car battery but is definitely on the small side for a leisure battery. Motorhome batteries are usually 85 to 110 Ah. And the first thing a lot of owners do is add a second battery to double up the capacity. I think you have the advantage that the vehicle returns to base every day, and can be recharged from the mains if it needs refilling. So you start each working session with a full battery.

Also I notice that the battery is an AGM type, which many people on here think don't have a long life as a leisure battery, although as always there are others that disagree. However AGM batteries need a slightly higher voltage than other batteries, and if they don't get it their life can be reduced. If they are only ever charged from the engine, they won't get that higher voltage. The mains charger might give them the higher voltage, if it is set up to do this. That's one of the reasons I asked for more info on the electrical system.

The general rule of thumb is to only ever discharge the battery down to about the 50% level. You should keep an eye on the 'Aux Bat' voltage reading, and not let it go below about 12.0V. The battery will last a lot longer if you treat it well.

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Last edited:
Apr 27, 2016
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there is a panel for a Webasto system, but this doesnt seem to do much. The genyis system has two heating buttons that will work when the engine is running and the leisure battery connected
Do you have any information on the model of the Webasto heater? Webasto do several different types of heaters, some are blown air heaters, using diesel from the fuel tank as the main source of heat. Some also use the heat from the engine hot water that normally gets wasted through the engine radiator. They are normally very effective heaters, popular in motorhomes.

Webasto heaters need a 12V supply from the leisure battery to control the heating flame function, pump the diesel, blow the warm air around etc. This is quite a low demand on the battery, but if the battery is too flat it probably won't allow the heater to fire up.
 

JockandRita

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HarmMinVan. You have used up your 5 x free posts, and received quite a bit of helpful advice from others.

I'm sure the charity will gladly authorise the cost of a 12 x month subscription, in your quest to get the ambulance electrics and heating sorted out for the volunteers.

Regards,

Jock. :)
 
Apr 27, 2016
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The system is a Genisys type, from RingCarnation, part of the Ring Automotive Group. It is a comprehensive control system developed for 'blue light' services, which controls the external lights, internal electrical equipment and comms equipment. It has a sophisticated control unit that prioritises the various services as the battery power goes down. This system is way more complex than a motorhome, even though there are obvious similarities.

The system has a split charge function, which charges the batteries while the engine is running. I don't know if there is a mains charging facility installed. You say there is a mains plug on the van exterior, so I'd think it's quite likely there is a charger already installed.

Taking an overview, I'd say that as it gets colder and darker, the charge put into the auxiliary batteries while driving is not sufficient to run the electric devices while it is stopped and providing the service to the patients. It looks to me like the auxiliary batteries need charging from an additional source like a mains hookup back at base. If the batteries are fully charged when you leave the base, I'm sure they will be well capable of lasting for the time it is being used.

You can easily tell if there is a mains charger. If you plug in the mains cable, the voltage of the auxiliary battery should rise. If it's around 12.0 to 12.8V, it should rise to about 13.5V to 14.5V. Basically if it's over 13.0V then something must be charging it.

You should aim to keep the auxiliary battery voltage to at least 12.0V, to prolong its life. If it goes below about 11.5V it starts to sustain damage. Your reading of 10.1V definitely doesn't look good. If it's a one-off, you might just get away with it if you put it on charge and get it up to 100% ASAP, but realistically I'd expect it needs replacing.

You might be restricted in the type of battery you can fit in that vehicle. It probably needs to be a sealed leakproof type, like an AGM or Gel. A new battery the same as the existing one, at 68Ah, might be sufficient to power all the devices for a working session if it starts off 100% full. Or you might want to fit a bigger battery, if you can fit it in the space available.
 

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