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 > General newb questions - Advice?

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engineer40

Michigan

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Joined: 05/28/2022

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Posted: 05/28/22 11:15am Link  |  Quote  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

Hello all! I just created an account, but I'm excited about my new (used) camper and I plan on becoming a regular on this forum while I learn. It's a 1994 Viking 10ft truck bed popup camper. At this moment, I'm feeling over my head with some things. I'll say thank you in advance for any help you provide. Surprisingly my camper came with all of the original paperwork. I've read through it but still have some very basic questions.

-My camper didn't come with a battery. I found the spot to hook one up. I found where I flip a switch from AC power or battery power. Does the built in inverter automatically charge my battery when I'm plugged into AC power? Does my truck alternator automatically charge my camper battery if the truck is running? Do I need to worry about it overcharging and frying an expensive battery?

-Do most hot water heaters in campers work off LP or electric? The owners manual calls it a "Gas and Electric water heater". But the instructions read like gas "or" electric and not both. I do not see any way to switch from gas or electric. Maybe there is a way and I'm just not seeing it...

-Also in regards to the hot water heater, the owners manual says to make sure there is water in the heater before electric is turned onto the camper or the element will burn out almost immediately. Does that mean if I don't have water in the camper I literally can't plug it into AC power? It's very confusing. I'm nervous I've already burned out the element because I had it plugged into AC power in my garage.

-It has a Dometic fridge. Do most camper fridges have the option to work off of AC power or LP? The manual only talks about LP or temporary battery power (not long term). I think it would be weird if the fridge doesn't work while plugged into AC power because I would want it getting cool while packing to leave home.

I hope all of these questions make sense. Thank you for any help. I'm a single dad. My kids and I are excited to get out and use this, but it's overwhelming even after I read through the Owners Manuals. Thanks!

joerg68

St. Ingbert, Germany

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Posted: 05/28/22 12:09pm Link  |  Quote  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

Hello, welcome and congratulations!
Do not worry, these things are not rocket science. You will be fine.

The answer to most of your questions: Yes, maybe, in principle. Without knowing your camper, the appliances, how they are set up, and what has been modified since 1994, definitive answers are difficult.

Let me try to give you a general idea to get the discussion started.

Your questions on battery charging: Typically, the built-in charger of the power center (the box that has all the fuses) of the camper will charge the battery when you are plugged into AC.
Usually, the battery is charged when the engine is running. There are a number of reasons why it might not be, though. It will not be overcharged.

Hot water: your typical water heater works on LP and may have an additional AC heating element. There should be a way to switch the heater and the element on and off. Newer campers usually have these switches near the water pump switch inside the camper. But in my 2002 camper, I had to go outside and manually light the water heater. It did not have an AC element, but when you have one, I am sure there is a way to turn it on and off. What your manual is telling you: Never, ever run the heater in either mode when there is no water inside.

The fridge: Most run on AC or LP, many also on 12V. Many have an automatic changeover mode where they automatically switch to AC when you plug in. Some do not, and you need to switch over manually.

To get better answers, you could give us the make and model designation of the appliance, or maybe post a picture. Picture posting here requires you to upload and link the picture. You can use http://photoposting.is-great.net and follow instructions there.

best wishes, -J


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Camper445

Sticks

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Posted: 05/28/22 01:17pm Link  |  Quote  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

Just keep in mind that more than have the advice you get here and on other online boards will be opinions sprinkled with bullsheet.

Sjm9911

New Jersey

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Posted: 05/28/22 01:43pm Link  |  Quote  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

Take some pictures of the controlls for the fridge. Mostly , at that age and if original, it needs to be switched over manually. As too if its a 2 or 3 eay fridge , only the controlls will tell. Same with the water heater. I dought it has an ellectric water heater, but it could have been added. Always have water in the water heater before starting it, or you could damage it.


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Grit dog

Black Diamond, WA

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Posted: 05/28/22 02:37pm Link  |  Quote  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

Welcome. Sounds pretty cool! That’s a big popup!
Joe answered your questions well, above.
You should be able to figure out how many modes your fridge has pretty easily. And H20 heater will have power and a breaker and likely the on off switch on it if it’s gas and electric. In the mean time, fill it full of water, stick battery and propane in it and just get everything working. That will tell you a lot.


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notsobigjoe

southeast

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Posted: 05/28/22 03:30pm Link  |  Quote  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

Yeah, throw some pics out and we'll get started. joerg68 pretty much touched on everything you asked with pics we can narrow it down.

notsobigjoe

southeast

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Posted: 05/28/22 03:30pm Link  |  Quote  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

Welcome!!!!!!!!!!!!!

mbloof

Beaverton, OR

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Posted: 05/28/22 04:00pm Link  |  Quote  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

Humm.... lots of questions and some possible answers... (my oldest camper was a 2001, oldest RV is/was a 1966)

- Power: most RV's don't have a 'inverter' but rather a converter/charger. This converts AC power to DC power to provide power to: lights, pump, furnace, jacks (if electric), fans, fridge (if there is a DC mode), exc.. Generally the output of these are in PARALLEL to the battery however a word of caution here: converter/chargers of this era were famous for over charging batteries! (there used to be modern replacements for them that can be bought that don't do that.

Generally speaking anything that runs on DC power can be energized/powered by the battery and/or the converter/charger when plugged into AC power.

Depending on your truck, the 7-pin pigtail going to your camper may (or NOT!) have power: all the time, when the engine is running or not at all. You will have to test/check that yourself.

- Hot water: Older hot water heaters CAN/COULD be very basic units that required you to manually light a pilot light outside for it to work. Early GAS/AC units generally would have a switch inside the camper to turn on the heating element. Somewhat newer ones (like my 2001) had a switch on the outside that engaged a DSI system to light it and even more modern ones have switches for both GAS&AC inside next to each other - generally on a white rectangle.

The idea on how to fill the HW tank is when your fresh water tank has at least 6gal in it and your pump is on, open a hot water faucet. (I won't go into if your HW is 'bypassed' or not here, I'll let others take a crack at that). Pumps operate on the lack of pressure. IE: the pump automatically turns off when your water system is presurized and open a tap (let water out) relieves pressure and the pump turns on. Close the tap - pressure builds until the pump turns itself off.


- Mark0.

midnightsadie

ohio

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Posted: 05/28/22 04:22pm Link  |  Quote  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

just remember we too were new to all this at one time. ask before you jump.

wnjj

Cornelius, Oregon

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Posted: 05/28/22 06:17pm Link  |  Quote  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

Since you have a switch to select battery OR AC power I'm going to say that no, your battery won't charge when plugged in to AC. I've known of 2 tent trailers in the past (late 80's and early 2000's) that had this kind of setup. The AC->DC converter (power supply) only powers the appliances and the switch picks either battery or converter.

Charging from the truck depends upon your truck's setup. Some trucks charge with the key on, others connect the charge line directly to the truck fuse box but only if someone has hooked it up. Then that wire from the 7-way connector needs to connect to the camper battery.

The best way to confirm battery charging or not from any source is to put a volt meter on the battery terminals. When charging you should see > 13 volts.

Most water heaters are LP or electric and can be run on both at the same time. If there is not a switch inside for the water heater there may be one outside under the screened cover with the twist tab lock. Depending upon the model you may likely have to light the LP manually. Look behind the outside cover for knobs, etc. and a 'pilot' button. Take a picture of what you see there. Your element is probably fine if you just plugged in since you likely did not turn on the WH.

Similar to the water heater, check behind the outer cover of the fridge. If it operates on AC, you should see a normal power cord plugged into an outlet inside that compartment. Most fridges are 2-way (AC/LP) or 3-way (AC/DC/LP). It's possible yours is only DC/LP but I'm not sure I've heard of one of those. On older systems you typically pick the mode with a dial on the back of the fridge (behind the outer wall cover).

Welcome and I hope this helps.

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