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Old 10-05-2015, 08:45   #1
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Smart Chargers Keep Dying. Help!

We boat our sailboat a few years ago, and the previous owner had installed a smart charger for the 4 (yes 4) batteries he had installed. 1 is to start the engine, the other were to handle the lights & his electric fridge. Everything was fine, apart from a dead battery the first season. Then at the end of last season (season 2) we got to the dock one evening and found the smart charger was dead. The batteries still seemed to be charged though, so we finished out the last two weeks of the season like that.

Yesterday we replaced the smart charger, and within a few hours it had overheated and died. We can't quite figure out why. The batteries were severly undercharged, so perhaps that was the culprit (or at least not a helpful factor)?

We are taking the charger back, but any advice would be helpful. What could possibly be killing our marine smart chargers??
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Old 10-05-2015, 09:02   #2
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Re: Smart Chargers Keep Dying. Help!

A little more information may help focus on the source of the problem.

First, what brand/model of smart charger? Are you able to monitor the amp output to see what it's putting out?

Also are you certain it's dead? Some chargers will shut down if they get too hot and will work again after they have cooled down. If you are in a hot climate, charger mounted in a poorly ventilated space or in a space that gets hot like the engine room and the batteries very low so the charger is working hard then it could easily overheat.

Another possibility, did you install any new electrical gadgets or do any rewiring when you bought the boat?

Also, I assume you are running the charger from a shore power connection? Did you move the boat to a new dock after you bought it and started seeing the problems soon after the move? Maybe the dock power lines are delivery low voltage to your boat.

So, bottom line, there are a lot of different things that could be causing a problem.

PS Welcome to the forum.
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Old 10-05-2015, 09:15   #3
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Re: Smart Chargers Keep Dying. Help!

By the way you wrote it you seem surprised to find four batteries. Tho isn't unusual at all. We've got five on a 32' boat (four of them are 6v)


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Old 10-05-2015, 09:22   #4
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Re: Smart Chargers Keep Dying. Help!

Yes like you said your batteries were severely undercharged. You should have replaced the batteries before the charger. Dead batteries from last year are more dead this year. I would replace them or at the least take them out to be tested at a battery store. Your charger probably blew an internal fuse. Depends on your make and model.

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Old 10-05-2015, 09:23   #5
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Re: Smart Chargers Keep Dying. Help!

Quote:
Originally Posted by Sailmonkey View Post
By the way you wrote it you seem surprised to find four batteries. Tho isn't unusual at all. We've got five on a 32' boat (four of them are 6v)
Yes, good point to mention. Multiple batteries are the norm on cruising boats. I will have seven on mine, six 6V batteries for lights, fridge, autopilot, etc and one more to start the engine.
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Old 10-05-2015, 09:25   #6
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Re: Smart Chargers Keep Dying. Help!

When a charger dies it may be that it is asked to work too long at 100% of its capacity. Maybe you need a bigger hammer?

We have a 10+ y.o. WAECO 25A feeding our 100 Ah house bank. It is quite smart too (bulk/absorb/float/ etc.) The only repair it ever needed was after I dropped it on the floor.

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Old 10-05-2015, 10:30   #7
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Re: Smart Chargers Keep Dying. Help!

Quote:
Originally Posted by skipmac View Post
A little more information may help focus on the source of the problem.

First, what brand/model of smart charger? Are you able to monitor the amp output to see what it's putting out?

Also are you certain it's dead? Some chargers will shut down if they get too hot and will work again after they have cooled down. If you are in a hot climate, charger mounted in a poorly ventilated space or in a space that gets hot like the engine room and the batteries very low so the charger is working hard then it could easily overheat.

Another possibility, did you install any new electrical gadgets or do any rewiring when you bought the boat?

Also, I assume you are running the charger from a shore power connection? Did you move the boat to a new dock after you bought it and started seeing the problems soon after the move? Maybe the dock power lines are delivery low voltage to your boat.

So, bottom line, there are a lot of different things that could be causing a problem.

PS Welcome to the forum.
Lots of great questions. Let me see how many I can answer.

Our previous charger was a Promariner Pronautic like this one ProNauticP Series | ProMariner, though I can't tell you sitting here in my living room without it in front of me which model it was exactly. I'll have to get the make of the new charger from my husband.

To clarify, none of the batteries were dead at the end of the season last year. Everything was still functioning well, except the charger simply went black and never came back on no matter what we did. The batteries still appeared to be providing regular power, even though the house batteries don't recharge when the engine is running (only the starter batter does). Otherwise, the house batteries have to charge when we get into dock and plugin, which we did despite the charger being black. The boat was not plugged in, however, since about Oct. 15th of last year when we took it out of the water.

In terms of being dead, I wasn't there when it died yesterday. Husband tells me it was fine and charging, and then suddenly went black. When he touched it the unit was extremely hot. The boat is in Northern VT, so while it was warm yesterday, it certainly wasn't tropical conditions.

My husband also used a portable tester he has to check the batteries, which is how he determined that they were under charged after passing the winter on the boat in a dry dock.

As for adding gadgets to the boat, no we haven't added anything. We are going into our 3rd season of cruising and still learning as we go. The boat was already equiped with GPS, which is all we need in terms of an extra gadget on the lake. We inherited the electric fridge from the previous owner, so that wasn't a new "gadget" either for the boat. If I recall correctly the only change we made to the set up was to replace the dead batter as well as another that was fairly weak. That was done at the start of the 1st season we had the boat though.

Our dock last year was the same as the previous 4 seasons (it's been there since the previous owner purchased it). Right now the boat is still in the dry dock, so the power source is a different outlet. However it's the same boatyard and the lines are essentially the same as what we have when we're in our slip.

It just seems very suspicious that two chargers have done the same thing to us in such a short timespan.
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Old 10-05-2015, 11:33   #8
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Re: Smart Chargers Keep Dying. Help!

No insult intended but if he is just testing voltage it wont work. My bet is the charger worked to hard trying to charge an unchargable battery and broke. You need to separate all batteries and test separately not voltage. Best if you don't have a larger charger and a load tester take them to a battery store for testing and you can bring the new ones back. How did your batteries charge when old charger went black. All winter cold uncharged will kill them. If the boat yard can't test them dont mess with anything till you have the batteries looked at. I've been through this several times wasted lots of time chasing my tail. Have your batteries checked and recharged and ask what size new charger you need. You cannot get a good reading testing the whole bank at one time connected. You must disconnect to test and a good battery place is the place. Sorry for my rant but it is frustrating. Peace and good luck.

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Old 10-05-2015, 11:54   #9
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Re: Smart Chargers Keep Dying. Help!

Quote:
Originally Posted by sailorswife31 View Post
I'll have to get the make of the new charger from my husband.
Make and model or at least the capacity of the charger. Would be helpful to know the size or amp hour capacity of the house batteries that it will charge.


Quote:
Originally Posted by sailorswife31 View Post
To clarify, none of the batteries were dead at the end of the season last year. Everything was still functioning well, except the charger simply went black and never came back on no matter what we did.
Sounds like that one was without a doubt dead.



Quote:
Originally Posted by sailorswife31 View Post
The batteries still appeared to be providing regular power
If you don't have any large loads or don't use the batteries for long periods for small loads then they could still provide power for a long time without recharging, especially if you have large, deep cycle batteries. Not particularly good for their long term health if you run them down too far or wait too long to recharge.


Quote:
Originally Posted by sailorswife31 View Post
though the house batteries don't recharge when the engine is running (only the starter batter does).
That is something you should change and it isn't too difficult or expensive. You can buy a device that automatically connects the house batteries and the starting battery when the engine is running and the alternator is putting out charge. Since the starting battery is only used a little and the house batteries usually a lot, then most boaters connect the alternator to the house batteries and the automatic connector comes on to charge the starting battery when the engine is running. Several models from several companies to do this. Battery Combiner from Yandina or Duocharge from
Balmar are two good ones.

Quote:
Originally Posted by sailorswife31 View Post
In terms of being dead, I wasn't there when it died yesterday. Husband tells me it was fine and charging, and then suddenly went black. When he touched it the unit was extremely hot. The boat is in Northern VT, so while it was warm yesterday, it certainly wasn't tropical conditions.
Extremely hot is not good. Did he try it again after it cooled off to see if an internal overheating safety has reset? What about fuses in the charger?

Extremely hot I would guess could come from one or a combination of a few things.

- Defective from the supplier, it does happen.
- Charger working too hard but a smart charger should be able to throttle back if it's getting too hot. Overworking the charger will probably shorten its life but shouldn't kill it immediately.
- Short circuit in the 12V system but still a good smart charger should deal with that.


Quote:
Originally Posted by sailorswife31 View Post
My husband also used a portable tester he has to check the batteries, which is how he determined that they were under charged after passing the winter on the boat in a dry dock.
You probably all ready know this but just in case, it's much, much better for the long term health of your batteries to fully charge them before storage.


Quote:
Originally Posted by sailorswife31 View Post
As for adding gadgets to the boat, no we haven't added anything. We are going into our 3rd season of cruising and still learning as we go. The boat was already equiped with GPS, which is all we need in terms of an extra gadget on the lake. We inherited the electric fridge from the previous owner, so that wasn't a new "gadget" either for the boat. If I recall correctly the only change we made to the set up was to replace the dead batter as well as another that was fairly weak. That was done at the start of the 1st season we had the boat though.

Our dock last year was the same as the previous 4 seasons (it's been there since the previous owner purchased it). Right now the boat is still in the dry dock, so the power source is a different outlet. However it's the same boatyard and the lines are essentially the same as what we have when we're in our slip.

It just seems very suspicious that two chargers have done the same thing to us in such a short timespan.
Sounds like you have eliminated most of the other potential sources so it could be just a coincidence...... or not.
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Old 10-05-2015, 12:11   #10
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Re: Smart Chargers Keep Dying. Help!

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My bet is the charger worked to hard trying to charge an unchargable battery and broke.
If it broke immediately then I would call it defective. I have several smart chargers for various boats and home uses. I can connect any of them to a dead short and they just shut off and restart after you remove the short.

If you use a charger that's too small for the load then it may run hard and hot but if it dies immediately it's not because the load was too big. A 10 amp charger should be able to make 10 amps for a long time without dying. May die young from overwork but the first day.
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Old 10-05-2015, 12:54   #11
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Re: Smart Chargers Keep Dying. Help!

There are three ways to maintain a boat's electrical system:
1- Throw lots of money at it.
2- Hire an alleged professional and throw lots of money at him.
3- Become intimate with the system and take care of it yourself.
You can do #3 by buying a couple of good books from Amazon or your local boating store. Charlie Wing's book, and "The 12 volt Bible", and a couple of others all come to mind. They explain how things really work, and how to check them out.


You'll need a multimeter to check voltage and it helps to have a clamp ammeter to check amperage, but buying those as two separate tools, and some books, will still cost you less than the first visit from a marine electrician.


"DIVIDE AND CONQUER". Remember that. You cannot diagnose or repair systems unless you divide them up and have a firm foundation to start from. You disconnect the batteries, test each one singly. Test the charger(s) for operation, preferably with one known good battery. Then you work down the list, and wire it all up, carefully, because often a bad wire or bad terminal lug is all it takes to break everything.


There should also be a date code on the batteries. If there's nothing obvious, it will have been stamped or embossed on the top of the side of each one, often intentionally covered by the edge of a label. Somewhere between four and eight years of age, and most batteries will be due for replacement, to be confirmed by testing. Don't just replace them though, make sure the rest of the system will not ruin new batteries.


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Old 11-05-2015, 15:21   #12
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Re: Smart Chargers Keep Dying. Help!

I think you said the problem in you original post...the batteries were severely undercharged. Charging all 4 at once is enough to overheat and burnout your charger. Maybe you can borrow a conventional charger and charge them up one at a time. This way you will also see if any of the 4 are dead or almost dead. Once they are all charged up, install the new smart charger. Also, be sure your charger is big enough for that kind of load.

My preference is to use one charger per battery. Overall a more robust system. I use a cheap, marine smart charger from wal mart...about $50 each. This gives lots of redundant backup, as well as a huge charging capacity and a simplified system. Its low tech, but highly reliable and fast too.
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Old 11-05-2015, 15:51   #13
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Re: Smart Chargers Keep Dying. Help!

"Charging all 4 at once is enough to overheat and burnout your charger."
I would call that a poorly designed charger. Older transformer designs should saturate and then simply run at 100% capacity. Newer digital designs should reach their limits, and then cut out or cut back if they start to overheat. Only a truly cheap design, or one very poorly cooled (i.e. installed improperly) should be able to commit "heat-eee-kari" and kill itself that way these days.


Heck, I even know hotel drip coffee makers from the 1980's there were smart enough to turn themselves of before the pot could boil dry.


Unless this was a Horror Fright battery charger...it just shouldn't be that easy to kill one.
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Old 11-05-2015, 18:32   #14
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Re: Smart Chargers Keep Dying. Help!

Were any of the batteries hot to the touch? I have a Promariner 1240Plus charger and twice now, just recently as this past weekend, one of my batteries has shorted out, showing only 10v when tested, while the other battery in the house bank was fine. The shorted battery was hot and gassing out. My 1st sign of trouble has been I can hear the charger running at full output and the fan constantly on, when I knew the batteries have had no draw on them and the charger has been on for the last 3 weeks, the charger should have been in maintain mode. Plus the battery acid odor was very evident as soon as I open the engine hatch. I assume with the shorted battery only able to have 10v, the charger sees it as low on charge, thus goes into high charge rate and stays there, overworking. Luckily I caught mine both times that no damage was done.
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Old 11-05-2015, 20:05   #15
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Re: Smart Chargers Keep Dying. Help!

A battery charger is designed to put out 13.6 volts or something like that up to the total amps it is rated for. It should be able to do that 24/7 for a long, long time. All the battery charger consists of is a rectifier to convert alternating current to DC and voltage controls so it winds down as the battery charge goes up (the "smart part").
Saying that the battery charger broke down from the batteries "requiring" more amps is like saying the garden hose burst because the plants were too thirsty.
If you short out the charger, yes it can turn off but the internal breaker can reset or worst case you replace a fuse.
Maybe there is a problem with the shore power. Maybe it is not at times providing the proper voltage.



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