Battery issues, modified vans + all cars driven infrequently

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Battery issues, modified vans + all cars driven infrequently

Postby Burgerman » 06 Oct 2020, 18:17

For the last 13 years I get a steady stream of people emailing me or mentioning on here, that they suffer battery discharge problems when they dont use a mobility modified van such as the various rollx/braun/vmi etc converted vehicles.

Mine is the same. I tried all the battery drain fixes, investigations, and the results were complex. With no distingt patters. So.. In an attempt to fix this, I fitted a 50 watt solar panel and charge controller set to 13.8V in winter and 13.4V in summer. Its a 90% success but the battery drain still exceeds the drain from the van in winter 3 months. Not enough daylight hours to keep up... So its a case of being great over the spring, summer and autumn, and connecting a maintainance charger over november, december and january.

However we are in october, and I just noticed my battery was down to 11.8V (80% discharged) when measuring recently. So this battery drain is not consistent. So the solar cant now keep up ALL of the time even in early october. So now I got more angry.

Its been to my freindly auto electrician many years back who stuck it on some fancy monitor over 24 hours that records the diacharge current and obviously it behaved perfectly so nothing to fix. So now I decided to do it myself. Want a job done right? As usual, DO IT YOURSELF!

So I measured the current all the various vehicle modules and systems draw when the van is asleep overnight. My fluke meter can LOG and GRAPH everything in volts, amps, resistance, frequency, peak values, ac/dc compunents on the systes etc over a 24 hour period. And it was rather odd. And very confusing. The overall picture was a 5A plus drain the moment you close a door and lock the van. That drops in stages to 127mA eventually, after 5 to 15 mins.
But thats not the end of it. After a few hours (2 to any - it seems that it can be any period) it starts taking an additional 1.2Amps. For 1 minute, and then graduall drops away again. And then repeats this every 3 to 5 mins from then on.

Tried disconnecting the computer in the rear of the van that controls doors/ramp etc. That removed 10mA. And made no difference to the overall picture.
Tried pulling all the fuses. One different one each night a year back. NONE of them apeared to make a blind bit of difference. ALONE and I wasnt testing overnight. And I did this a year previously. But I noticed one thing at the time. The body control module fuse (Called a BCM fuse) stopped all the key fob buttons and so remote locking, as well as interior lights, central locking, and dashboard clocks, and engine from working. Its a tiny current that goes through this 20A fuse. I measured it. The BCM fuse when removed, meant that the van drew just 30mA from the battery once everything was closed up, locked, and then had the fuse pulled in that order. I have no engine bay switch or light. So can leave that up when testing.

So that super expensive hard to change BCM is CAUSING the battery pulse drain, that randomely appears. And when disabled drops the vans parasitic drain from 127mA to 30mA...
I suspect that the module itself isnt faulty. I suspect the way that the vans wiring and door closing/locking mechanism works in conjunction with the stock wiring upsets the BCMs many voltage and other sensors and it keeps waking up. And shutting down. And thats the cause of the non starting dead battery issues.
Now doing all that is too much trouble every time you want to park up for more than 2 to 3 days.

So I did the following.
Bought a fuse... And used sidecutters to remove the two blades and the fuse wire part. And I soldered a 2 core 1 meter long cable to these legs. And plugged it in where the BCM fuse would normally go.
On the opposite end I fitted a 20A switch. A waterproof one.
I drilled a hole in the plastic above the radiator, where the bonnet/hood metal release lever lives.
Here I fitted the switch. And routed the wire back to the fusebox.
You can reach in with a finger and flip that switch easily with the hood/bonnet lid shut.

So now if I plan to not drive the thing the next day, I get out, shut doors, and use the remote for the central locking to lock the van. Then I go to the front before going into the house and flip the BCM switch. Thats the same as pulling its fuse.

That reduces battery drain to a low 25 to 30mA. Thats good enough to park up for: 68Ah, or 68,000mAh.
That 30mA drain means then 68,000 div by 30 = 2167 hours. Or 90+ days.
Now, instead of dead in days or a week depending on that pulse discharge thing, we get 3 months parked. Lets say after 2 months it should start fine.
Now, remembering that I have solar too, that means that it should always stay between 95 and 101% charged regardless on month or season.

So if you are having issues, fit a switch on the BCM fuse (applies to MOST modern cars/vans) and switch it OFF when leaving your vehicle for more than a couple of days. Your battery will last years longer and you will be far less likely to suffer the no start dead battery syndrome.
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Re: Battery issues, modified vans + all cars driven infreque

Postby Cornbread » 07 Oct 2020, 18:45

Odd stuff. Thankful ours already has a disconnect. And as long as you don't care about the clocks/radio presets, it does the job. Any reason you wouldn't put one on? Just seems simpler, well, depending on where it is.
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Re: Battery issues, modified vans + all cars driven infreque

Postby Burgerman » 07 Oct 2020, 21:16

Yes. I did use one. But I dont want to lose the engine management settings, they learn as you drive. Takes a day or so. Or clocks, radio, or satnav codes etc.

This way is if anything easier. One easy to operate single switch, removes almost all battey drain. Makes it safe to leave for months.
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Re: Battery issues, modified vans + all cars driven infreque

Postby stevelawiw » 09 Oct 2020, 14:15

Excellent write-up of your diagnoses of the problem and your solution BM.
I have the same issue with my DFW VW Caddy, the first time it happened it really caught me, I'd left the van for two weeks, I got in the van ok ( there must have been just enough power for the rear door to open)
then I clicked into the QLK-100 docking system tried to start the engine - nothing! Pressed the button to release from the docking system - nothing! So I was stuck in my garage in my dead van on my own :shock:
I had to ring the emergency services to get me out! I've since installed a manual release cable for the docking system, I rarely use the button now, I use the manual cable all the time.

My solution was to install a trickle charger on a small shelf on the garage wall just outside the drivers window, and I connect it up whenever I'm home using the Anderson I'd installed inside the Van.
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Re: Battery issues, modified vans + all cars driven infreque

Postby Burgerman » 09 Oct 2020, 17:54

This isnt only a problem with modded vehicles. It also an issue with almost all cars and vans. Partly due to all the modern stuff that takes a small drain continuously. And partly because the BCM on may vehicles doesent shut down or sleep correctly if it sees an error with any one of 25 to 50 different sensors and connected equipment. Modding the wireing, to fit ramps and auto closing doors, remote ram access etc frequently stops the BCM going to sleep, or makes it wake up every so often. Fing the BCM fuse, and replace that with an external switch. That only you can find or reach and then it will park for 3 months and still fire up! I have been monitoring mine for 7 days now. Solar unplugged.Battery still 12.92V... Its never done that before! And with the solar connected, even in winter its back to 13.6V at first sparrow fart + 20 mins.

That fancy fluke allowed me to find this problem. Since it only happens intermittently after its been parked up for a while. So if you dont have one its difficult to understand whats happening. Or why. I would like to bet that its a similar issue with almost every vehicle. Make some minor change to the wiring or fit aftermarket head unit, or swap the interior bulbs for LEDs or any one of a million things and the stupid body control module sees something wrong and keeps waking up or not sleeping properly. My brother had a similar issue with his VW works van. The garage swapped out the BCM module twice. And no change... But its doing something similar. 1 weel parked, and it will not start.
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Re: Battery issues, modified vans + all cars driven infreque

Postby firehopper » 12 Oct 2020, 18:02

I love those logging flukes. I have one too.. dont remember the number. 189 I think it is. also have a old fluke lcd scope that looks like a calc. its a pain to use but still neat. :)
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Re: Battery issues, modified vans + all cars driven infreque

Postby Burgerman » 12 Oct 2020, 18:08

289 I think. Well mine is. Invaluable at times. Not for every job, or everyone, too big... But when you have a complex thing and are trying to get to the bottom of it nothing else works as easily.
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Re: Battery issues, modified vans + all cars driven infreque

Postby Burgerman » 12 Oct 2020, 18:09

289 pic?

And 2006 van. You need a Michelle. As new 14 years old. Inside and out.
Reason for pic, note 50W solar panel on roof at rear. In the rear side cover there is a good Solar charge controller. (Voltage adjustable). Set to 13.7V in winter, 13.3/4 in summer. With IOD fuse now a switch, it NOW keeps up in winter too! Battery always 100% charged. Even unused for months in january.
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Re: Battery issues, modified vans + all cars driven infreque

Postby Burgerman » 12 Oct 2020, 18:45

Theres a few things to see here.

1. Under my wheelarch there is a heavy cable that goes from battery to an anderson connector that is bolted to the plastic wheelarch liner. It allows me direct easy access to the battery at all times without lifting the bonnet/hood.

2. It means connecting a charger, an inverter, or a 12V ANYTHING like the PL8 at the flying feild to charge helis/quadcopters etc is simple. It also means that I can start the van even with a dead battery if that happens while I am out FROM a powerchair. It also allows rapid charge of a powerchair from a RUNNING van. It means that I can plug in a chair, and instantly operate the ramp even on a dead battery.

3. AS SHOWN HERE there is a long cable, good for 25A, with an anderson on the end plugged into my van. The other end goes through the wall and ends with another Anderson on my bench.

This allows me to connect to the PL8, or my bench supply, or a voltmeter to monitor volts over time. It allows a maintainance charger, the PL8, or a bench power supply to maintain or charge the van... Right now its connected only to a cheap LED volt meter from ebay. A 5 digit one. Showing 12.95V in the dark. In this way I can monitor it over winter from my bed easily! I can see the volts rise in the sun. And drop slightly overnight. And I can see if the battery is healthy. I can also plug it into an inverter and have 240V AC if theres a power cut... Yes thats even better as I can start the van, to keep the battery topped off while using the power to charge a chair, work lights, bed, computer etc. IF needed.

Note the meat thrown on the ground for the foxes! I watch them on this cam.
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Re: Battery issues, modified vans + all cars driven infreque

Postby firehopper » 13 Oct 2020, 01:12

Burgerman wrote:289 I think. Well mine is. Invaluable at times. Not for every job, or everyone, too big... But when you have a complex thing and are trying to get to the bottom of it nothing else works as easily.

yes 289. its very handy. it eats 6aa at a time though.
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Re: Battery issues, modified vans + all cars driven infreque

Postby Burgerman » 13 Oct 2020, 08:32

Yes it does. Mines got 6x eneloops. So they get a charge every few months with the PL8. The screen and the logging eats batteries. But the screen goes to sleep while it logs after a few mins.
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Re: Battery issues, modified vans + all cars driven infreque

Postby Burgerman » 13 Oct 2020, 08:45

I use a little cheapy fluke for most jobs. But sometimes its not adequate. Then out comes the big guns...

Trying to find out why my solar grid tie inverter wasnt working right for e.g. That was involved.

For the uninitiated. If you have a decent "normal" true rms multimeter, its OK for most stuff. If you measure the AC volts for e.g. it would read say 240.3VAC here.
With the fluke 289 it shows rather more.

I can see the WALL AC voltage is really 344V to -339V peak to peak. Not the 240V you read earlier. Although I can see that too. And I can see that this is at 49.45mhz (or massively diofferent on a generator). I can see that theres a DC component of say 1.7V, and I can see that the minus waveform is a distorted shape caused by my 2kw heater. Thats running at 1kw, and its doe with a simple diode. So is using half the waveform. I can see the frequency variation and all the other parameters vary over time, up to days. And log and graph these. And that was the key to finding why my grid tie inverter was cutting out. The mains voltage was going above 257V (the inverters limit) at cetrain times of day for a few seconds at a time. So a call to the utility company got that sorted after 5 months.. They used a different tapping on a transformer somewhere.

It can show you a mountain of stuff reading current, frequencies, duty cycles, peak max and minimum at 100000samples per sec, and is all supremely accurate. It can do amuch more too. Like capacitance, and very low impedance stuff below 50 Ohm scale. And it can do low impedance AC measurements or DC to remove false readings from cables that run together Once you own one for a while you figure out just how useful it is.

Its also properly safe. I have used it on stuff up to 500 volts AV mains on 3 phase kilns etc, while life confidently. Its not going to explode in my face if theres a real high voltage spike on the wires from a fauly or shorted powerline etc. Unlike some of the rather dangerous cheap meters. Keep those away from anything above 100V.
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Re: Battery issues, modified vans + all cars driven infreque

Postby Burgerman » 13 Oct 2020, 10:52

Same view this morning. Mr and mrs fox has been and taken 6 lamb cutlets that were out of date. Left two leaves. They dont care. :clap
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