Dead batteries in the truck camper

Dead batteries in truck camper

Dead Truck Batteries

Dead batteries in the truck camper were the biggest issue I dealt with this summer while solo camping in Cupcake, our Arctic Fox 990. It was definitely a process to figure out what was going on. As a solo traveler both this summer and back in 2019, I’ve learned to feel comfortable asking strangers for help. It’s just what you sometimes have to do.

First, my truck battery died a couple times, once as I picked it up from storage and a second time time after I boondocked in the same trailside location for three nights. At the storage facility, someone from AAA just came to help. But while boondocking, I raised the truck hood and then stuck out my thumb as cars went by. The first truck to come along stopped and got me running again. It was a brother and sister. She told me I was in good hands because her brother is half the fire department for Sierra City!

dead  batteries in the truck camper
Roadside boondocking near Sierra City

He suggested I disconnect the camper from the truck when I boondocked, so I went to an Artic Fox Truck Campers’ Facebook group to ask if others disconnect. Turns out that the power between Dodge trucks and our camper stays live, even though it’s only necessary for brake lights and turn signals. So, yes, the camper pulls power from the trucks batteries.

When I got to the next town, I got my truck batteries tested and they were good. That’s what I expected since they’re less than a year old.

Well, hindsight tells me I should’ve questioned why the camper batteries were drained and needed power from the truck’s batteries. However, questioning that actually took me a couple more weeks…

Dead Camper Batteries

This summer, I’d drive a few days to a couple weeks ahead of Steve, and then I’d wait for him to hike along the Pacific Crest Trail to catch up to me. His hike took him through the Eastern Sierra Mountain range, which is fairly remote in sections. I basically drove down Highway 395 and then took side roads off to the East to meet up with him at trailheads. Usually he just stayed overnight in the camper before hiking again the next morning. But every couple weeks, we’d go back to town to stay in an RV park for a night or two before I’d drop him back off at the trail. It was a nice mix of solitude and companionship.

Check out Steve’s Pacific Crest Trail journey here! He’s definitely my hero.

Well, one time while waiting for Steve to arrive, my fridge began kicking off. So after verifying the propane connection was good, I realized it must be somehow related to the house batteries. Before this solo truck camping experience, I really never paid attention to the house battery levels before. With our extra solar panels, we’ve always had “plenty” of power. I returned to the Facebook group and learned the fridge uses electricity to power the fans. They said to check if I had lead acid house batteries and if so to check their water levels.

Once Steve met up with me, he checked the water levels. Because even standing on my stepstool, I’m not tall enough to see in there. Sure enough the water was low.

Adding water to lead acid batteries

Filling the Batteries with water

So my next trip to town I purchased distilled water and then went to an auto parts store to ask for help in filling the batteries. He filled the front battery and once Steve met back up with me, he filled the back one.

Then back to the woods I went. Turns out the water didn’t help, as the batteries still wouldn’t hold a charge. This I learned when not only the fridge kicked off again, but the propane alarm began beeping.

Boondocking at Sonora Pass

Then I asked some other campers to come in for a sniff test, which we all believed the camper passed. So I took the propane alarm’s fuse out to silence it. At night I turned the propane off while I slept, just in case…while I was certain the dead batteries in the truck camper were causing the alarming, I didn’t want to take unnecessary chances.

From up at Sonora Pass, I called Napa in Bridgeport, CA to order new batteries. Again, I went back to the FB group to see what batteries other Arctic Fox owners suggest. Once I got to town, I then needed help changing them out. Steve was texting me not to even attempt changing them myself, because it’s too high up and they’re too heavy. Also the wiring harness is a little confusing to me!

Miss Josie from Napa called a young man to come help. He turned out to be a deputy in town. What an act of kindness! He took time from his family to come assist a stranger. Then he also said I could park across from the library for the night, where I’d be safe. The library turned out to be next to the county jail and police department, so yep, I felt pretty safe. Plus free Wifi! Plus I walked down to get an ice cream cone. Yep, Bridgeport did right by me!

My new battery selection

I purchased two Optima Bluetop D27M batteries for our truck camper at $329.99 each. Ouch. Some Arctic Fox owners upgraded to the D30’s but since, they’re larger batteries, they end up removing the tray in the housing unit. Relying on the kindness of strangers meant I needed to keep everything the same size. Since we didn’t plan this purchase, making modifications wasn’t really an option. And honestly, these batteries are doing the job for us.

Optima Blue info

Right away, I plugged back in the propane alarm fuse and never had another alarm. The refrigerator stayed on all night that first night too, which filled my heart with joy. My electrical problems were solved and along with input on Facebook and the help of those willing souls, I was able to work through this issue by myself.

It’s a good feeling to solo camp all summer, learn to back into tight campgrounds alone AND to sort through the dead batteries in the truck camper issue. Now I know that other issues could have arisen, which may have been a little trickier for me. But I’m thankful for the confidence I’ve gained by spending another summer traveling & boondocking by myself. There are certainly downsides to being a female traveling alone, but so much kindness along the way sure improved my summer!

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2 Comments

  1. The Big Bopper

    That’s a pretty good description of the process encountering problems, and figuring out what you need to figure out to determine what the actual problem is and then figure out HOW to actually fix the problem. And then actually fix the problem.

    There is a Donald Rumsfeld quote somewhere in there somewhere I’m sure. And some MacGyver.

    Individual people can be really kind.

    Reply
    • mcgarveysan

      yep, some individual people can be really kind. You’re one of them!

      Reply

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