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2014 1500 Promaster van. I put in a house battery, Lifeline 135AH, and circuits for lights, a plug in cooler and a propane heater when I got the van in 2015. Battery charges off the alternator, with an isolator in between. I had a local shop hook up the isolator and do the wiring runs from it. As soon as this was completed the battery light would come on after a couple minutes of driving, usually only after sitting overnight. I could stop and restart the van and the light would go away and stay away. I had the shop check it out and they swore everything was working normally. I've been driving the van for two years, stopping every morning after a couple minutes to restart after the light came on. Finally a few weeks ago the battery light started coming on more frequently, and not going away. I had a different local shop look at it, they said the alternator was bad, ordered a new one, put it in and it didn't work. They suggested I take it to the dealer, which I did, they replaced the alternator and it worked. Whew.

The dealer's diagnosis was that the isolator is somehow responsible for the alternator burning out. I'd guess this is correct since the whole battery light episode started when it was installed. My current thought is to install some solar panels and a CTEK 250s controller. I like the idea of this controller because it will feed the starter battery as well when the house battery is topped off, which should take load off the alternator and hopefully prolong its life. I have a friend with a Chevy van who is using the same system and it's worked well for him, which is where I got the idea.

So what say you Promaster electronic whizzes, Yea or Nay on my ideas?
 

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What isolator did the local shop install? Your current setup is probably salvageable with some corrections.. while it is definitely harder on the alternator to charge your house battery as well, the fact that you started getting the battery light immediately after the install suggests there was something wrong from the start.
 

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I would think just about any solar controller will charge your battery if the isolator is wired and working correctly. All the controller does is regulate the charging profile it doesn't really care what's connected to it especially if it's the same charging profile.
 

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I would think just about any solar controller will charge your battery if the isolator is wired and working correctly. All the controller does is regulate the charging profile it doesn't really care what's connected to it especially if it's the same charging profile.
Will the isolator allow current back to the starter battery? I just don't know. The CTEK one seems designed to do just that.
 

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What isolator did the local shop install? Your current setup is probably salvageable with some corrections.. while it is definitely harder on the alternator to charge your house battery as well, the fact that you started getting the battery light immediately after the install suggests there was something wrong from the start.
It's a "QuickCable", not sure which model. The wiring diagram that comes with it is ridiculously complicated looking, with different directions for different model vehicles, but none that specifically reference Ram or Promaster.
 

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It has a wire to enable the interconnection when the van is started. You might consider adding a switch in that wire to have some control of whether it connects the storage battery to the house battery and alternator.
If you don't have solar it will want to be switched on most of the time. If you get or have solar you will almost never need to charge those batteries from the alternator and it can be switched off almost all the time. I installed a simple solenoid this way and for $15 and 15 minutes of work have just what is needed. Thus the alternator is not working extra in my setup except in the rare case I need more power than the 200 watt solar can provide (in the rain?). This is an area many opt for something they really don’t need IMHO.
https://www.amazon.com/Stinger-SGP3...-fkmr1&keywords=battery+interconnect+solenoid
 

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My guess is that you asking for too much current from the alternator. But there is no way you can know how much current is flowing without monitoring it. Suggest adding ~50 A breaker inline with your isolator. That way it will trip if you exceed that. There should be fuses at each battery already. If so how big are they? If not then your installer neglected that. We have the Ctek system in our Transit van. Below is the schematic. The only change we made since is to use a 60A breaker instead of the 60A fuse where we connect o the chassis CCP.



We also added a hall effect current meter to the combiner cable so we can monitor the current flowing between the chassis and house systems. TheCtek system does allow current to flow in either direction. Below is a photo of the current meter while boiling some water with a 800watt kettle running off the inverter. During this test most all the current was being delivered by the alternator. Engine running.



Ctek is recommending that a relay be added to disable the solar connection while the engine is running. That is because some of the smart alternators don't like the higher voltages supplied from the solar panels. We have not needed this on the Transit.

You can follow links to our Transit build via DIYvan.com to learn more about the system.

There is really no way to trouble shoot your system unless you post photos or a schematic.
 

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Discussion Starter #9
Thanks Hein for that detailed response.

Does anyone know if the Promaster has a smart alternator that requires the suggested relay?
 

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It has a wire to enable the interconnection when the van is started. You might consider adding a switch in that wire to have some control of whether it connects the storage battery to the house battery and alternator.
If you don't have solar it will want to be switched on most of the time. If you get or have solar you will almost never need to charge those batteries from the alternator and it can be switched off almost all the time. I installed a simple solenoid this way and for $15 and 15 minutes of work have just what is needed. Thus the alternator is not working extra in my setup except in the rare case I need more power than the 200 watt solar can provide (in the rain?). This is an area many opt for something they really don’t need IMHO.
https://www.amazon.com/Stinger-SGP3...-fkmr1&keywords=battery+interconnect+solenoid
RD, I took a look at that relay/isolator, and I'm a little confused as to what you're suggesting. Can you use that as a switch? I don't see how it would function as a switch from looking at it. Would I add this in addition to the CTEK controller?
 

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It is a switch that is closed by current supplied from the van on startup (if my switch is closed as well) It is nothing else, no sensing to confuse the issue, no draw on the alternator unless you want it. They are an "old school” RV device used since about 1940 or so and reliable as a stone. I have had one on numerous dual battery setups as varied as a pull-behind pop up tent trailer, a boat with starter battery and trolling battery, a dump trailer with electric-hydraoulic dump, a pickup camper and on and on. Modern substitutes are a good way to confuse the batteries and owner, create a black box mentality and extract money from the ill informed or technological adopter. LOL

Voltage supplied to one of the small connections and a ground to the other completes a circuit that then connects the two large connections. They then feed the current from the alternator into your storage battery. It is an electrically activated switch. They used to look like this: https://www.amazon.com/CONTINUOUS-S...=UTF8&qid=1499896333&sr=1-5&keywords=solenoid

BTW disabling the solar seems like the dumbest thing posted here all year. You want them to charge the batteries. The alternator is emergency charging if you have solar. I keep both on when I have to charge with the alternator so it works fine, smart or not! They are giving you BS.
 

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It is a switch that is closed by current supplied from the van on startup (if my switch is closed as well) It is nothing else, no sensing to confuse the issue, no draw on the alternator unless you want it. They are an "old school” RV device used since about 1940 or so and reliable as a stone. I have had one on numerous dual battery setups as varied as a pull-behind pop up tent trailer, a boat with starter battery and trolling battery, a dump trailer with electric-hydraoulic dump, a pickup camper and on and on. Modern substitutes are a good way to confuse the batteries and owner, create a black box mentality and extract money from the ill informed or technological adopter. LOL

Voltage supplied to one of the small connections and a ground to the other completes a circuit that then connects the two large connections. They then feed the current from the alternator into your storage battery. It is an electrically activated switch. They used to look like this: https://www.amazon.com/CONTINUOUS-S...=UTF8&qid=1499896333&sr=1-5&keywords=solenoid

BTW disabling the solar seems like the dumbest thing posted here all year. You want them to charge the batteries. The alternator is emergency charging if you have solar. I keep both on when I have to charge with the alternator so it works fine, smart or not! They are giving you BS.
Still a little confused. If the solenoid closes the circuit on startup, how do you switch it on when you do need juice from the alternator. TIAF
 

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I have a CTEK D250s and I love it. All you do is connect the unit to the battery and that's it. The CTEK does not start charging until is sees voltage from the car battery/alternator rise above 13.1v and stops when it drops below 12.8v. You do not need a relay. I would recommend a fuse and disconnect switch though. I have used mine for about a year now and it makes the most sense to me. I also bought a cheap 120v to 12v 20amp power supply on amazon and connected it to the solar panel input to allow charging from shore power. It does 5 stage charging if I'm driving or plugged in to shore power.

You really have to think of the D250s as a charger that must be plugged into a power source. No power (below 13.1v) no charging. They have really good customer service too. I called to see if it was safe to wire the dc power supply to the solar panel input and they were really helpful. The manual is easy to follow too.

https://smartercharger.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/11/D250S-DUAL_EN.pdf
 

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Still a little confused. If the solenoid closes the circuit on startup, how do you switch it on when you do need juice from the alternator. TIAF
I just go to the switch marked “battery interconnection” on my control panel of switches and close the switch. Then the solenoid will work normally and complete the circuit when the van is started. If that switch is open no interconnection happens.
Without my extra switch the solenoid will complete the circuit between the camper batteries and alternator/starter battery every time on start up of the van. The switch in the closing circuit it can prevent that. I normally keep mine switched so the solenoid does not close as that alternator charging is not normally needed nor wanted. The solar charges my batteries NOT my alternator. This is why I dislike those automatic devices. This “manually switched” one allows for the best charging and can be ignored almost all the time.
 

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I have a CTEK D250s and I love it. All you do is connect the unit to the battery and that's it. The CTEK does not start charging until is sees voltage from the car battery/alternator rise above 13.1v and stops when it drops below 12.8v. You do not need a relay. I would recommend a fuse and disconnect switch though. I have used mine for about a year now and it makes the most sense to me. I also bought a cheap 120v to 12v 20amp power supply on amazon and connected it to the solar panel input to allow charging from shore power. It does 5 stage charging if I'm driving or plugged in to shore power.

You really have to think of the D250s as a charger that must be plugged into a power source. No power (below 13.1v) no charging. They have really good customer service too. I called to see if it was safe to wire the dc power supply to the solar panel input and they were really helpful. The manual is easy to follow too.

https://smartercharger.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/11/D250S-DUAL_EN.pdf
Thanks, very helpful. Do you remember what size fuse you used? No solar? Did you get the CTEK because you thought you might add it later?
 

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I also bought a cheap 120v to 12v 20amp power supply on amazon and connected it to the solar panel input to allow charging from shore power. It does 5 stage charging if I'm driving or plugged in to shore power
Great idea! Which power supply?

We wired in a house battery connection where we can plug in the Ctek US25000 which we also use to charge and maintain other batteries we have around our place. Tractors, boat, other vehicles.

When you spoke with tech support did they say anything about adding a relay to disable the solar input while the engine is running? I heard this second hand but did see a schematic produced by Ctek showing how to do it. I also heard that they were updating the D250S to eliminate some problems with smart alternators. That is where the relay "fix" came from.
 

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Thanks, very helpful. Do you remember what size fuse you used? No solar? Did you get the CTEK because you thought you might add it later?
I put a 120 amp fuse at the van battery and ran 4 gauge wire back to the charger. I did this because i thought i would add the smart pass but never did. I added an additional fuse just before the D250s. This one is a 30 amp. If I did it again I would just put the 30 amp at the battery because i haven't had a need for the smart pass. I don't think I need solar. The van never stays parked for more than 3 days. I have 165 ah of battery. I have a arb fridge, lights, and a Maxxair Fan. I bought the CTEK because it is a much better battery charger than an alternator.

Great idea! Which power supply?


We wired in a house battery connection where we can plug in the Ctek US25000 which we also use to charge and maintain other batteries we have around our place. Tractors, boat, other vehicles.

When you spoke with tech support did they say anything about adding a relay to disable the solar input while the engine is running? I heard this second hand but did see a schematic produced by Ctek showing how to do it. I also heard that they were updating the D250S to eliminate some problems with smart alternators. That is where the relay "fix" came from.
This is the one I ordered.

https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B01LATMSGS/ref=oh_aui_search_detailpage?ie=UTF8&psc=1


I don't have a relay. The relay is used with smart alternators which we do not have. With a smart alternator you must charge through the solar input. It can only charge when the charging is available. The relay is used to disconnect the battery/alternator when the engine is off. I know I have had the vehicle running with shore power connected with no issues.

I would call them. They are really great to talk to.
 

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Discussion Starter #20
Another more general question, I want to bring the solar wires down from the roof in the corner behind the drivers seat, my battery and controller being in a cabinet just behind the seat. I made a couple tentative tries to remove the black foam piece that's in that upper corner, but didn't get too far for fear of breaking something. Anyone taken that thing off and have advice about how you did it? TIAF
 
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