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No, I’m not starting an Agony Aunt post..!

A couple of days ago one of Caravan Chronicles readers, Vic, posted in the comments section of “Understanding Caravan and Tow Car Electrics” that he recently flattened his car battery by leaving his caravan connected to his car. Here’s what he posted:

Hi Simon, while travelling across Spain I made an overnight stop and left the caravan connected to the car electrics I also hooked up to mains. The next morning the car battery was flat, I’m sure I’ve done this before with no consequence. All I can think is that european site wiring can be suspect.
brilliant article.

OK, that got me thinking… Was it the car-off-van switch faulty? Was there another fault of some sort? I asked Vic for the details of his caravan and he replied it was a 2009 Bailey Senator California. I don’t know the exact details for Bailey electrical schematics, but it should not be too difficult to work out what might be happening. I started to think of various failure scenarios that ‘could’ account for Vic’s problem. At this point I have to say I’m indebted to David Rose for sending me information about the electrical services in Bailey Caravans.

Looking closely at the schematic of the control unit, it all hinged around the correct operation of four relays. Here is the schematic I have drawn out in a simplified form:

Bailey Caravan Relays 01

The drawing (above) shows the four relays – R1, R2a & R2b, R3 as they are set when the caravan is not connected to the vehicle and the master switch is off. The red lines show what part of the circuits are live. The master switch controls relay R1 and when energised by turning the Master Switch on allows current to flow to the caravans 12 volt electrical system via the 12 volt fuse board.

Bailey Caravan Relays 02

Above: We have now turned the Master Switch on and can see that relay R1 has energised and is allowing current to flow to the caravans 12 volt services. The caravan is not connected to the tow vehicle.

Bailey Caravan Relays 03Above: The caravan is now connected to the tow vehicle and the engine is running. The caravan master switch is off. With the fridge circuit powered from the running engine, it energises R3, R2a and R2b. Relay R2b disconnects the master switch circuit so that it cannot operate R1. Relay R2a connects the leisure battery to the 12 volt permanent feed from the tow vehicle. R3 energises, but only switches the feed for the master switch from the leisure battery to the permanent 12 volt supply from the tow vehicle. As this stage it cannot be used to supply the master switch due to R2b being energised.

Bailey Caravan Relays 05

Above: The caravan is still connected to the tow vehicle, but the engine is off. Relay R2a and R2b that are controlled by the fridge circuit are now not energised and revert to the default position. However as the caravan is still connected to the tow vehicle, the 12 volt permanent feed keeps relay R3 energised, therefore supplying the Master Switch – not from the leisure battery but from the permanent 12 volt feed from the vehicle.

This now leaves us in the following position:

Bailey Caravan Relays 06Above: The caravan is connected to the tow vehicle but the engine isn’t running. The master switch is on. The caravan now receives it’s 12 volt feed from the tow vehicle to power all the 12 volt services. I have greyed out the live circuits from the leisure battery. Even though the caravan is plugged into a EHU bollard, the 12 volt services will be run from the vehicle battery and not the mains charger/ leisure battery circuit. The fridge will continue to work on 240 volts as will any mains powered equipment.

So, it’s not a ‘fault’… it’s a ‘feature’ ! Leaving the caravan plugged into the car and turning the Master Switch on allows you to power the caravan’s 12 volt services from the car. Disconnect the lead from the car and the caravan will be powered from the leisure battery.

I hope this solves Vic’s puzzle.

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