TESTED: DUAL BAT­TER­IES SET-UP

WE CON­VERT A TROOPY INTO A POR­TA­BLE CHARG­ING STA­TION.

4 x 4 Australia - - Contents -

IF YOU keep your food and drinks in an ice box or light your camp­site with a kerosene lantern, then this ar­ti­cle is def­i­nitely not for you. How­ever, if your 4x4 is fit­ted with all man­ner of mod cons (whether gim­micky or nec­es­sary), then set­ting up a com­plete 12-volt power sys­tem needs care­ful con­sid­er­a­tion.

A dual-bat­tery sys­tem should be one of the first must-have items to fit to any tour­ing 4x4. Sure, there’s the ob­vi­ous pow­er­ing of the fridge, but a sec­ond bat­tery has many more uses. Plus there are new charg­ing op­tions to con­sider.

For my Troopy I ini­ti­ated the project with a sec­ond bat­tery tray from Pi­ranha Off Road Prod­ucts that ac­cepts a standard N70z-sized bat­tery car­cass. It would have been nice to go larger-ca­pac­ity, but that’s all that would fit un­der the bon­net of the Cruiser – plus the larger they get the heav­ier they be­come. The tray ar­rived with all mount­ing hard­ware and in­struc­tions, and it eas­ily fit on the pas­sen­ger side di­rectly be­hind the standard bat­tery (just in front of the fire­wall).

I’ve had a good run from Full­river AGM bat­ter­ies be­fore, so de­cided to stick with the brand. This time I opted for a DC Se­ries and a 105-12B model rated at 105Ah. It weighs in at a hefty 30.2kg and in­cor­po­rates M6-bolt-style ter­mi­nals.

POWER IN

THE strength of the tray and the qual­ity and longevity of the bat­tery are im­por­tant fac­tors, but the big de­ci­sion was which charg­ing sys­tem to im­ple­ment. For this, I chose a re­cently re­leased Pro­jecta In­telli-charge 25A Dc/so­lar Bat­tery Charger, which in­cor­po­rates a ‘so­lar in’ wire to al­low ef­fi­cient bat­tery charg­ing from a so­lar panel.

The charg­ing unit is suit­able for ‘smart’, ‘dumb’ and tra­di­tional al­ter­na­tors, it has a 25-amp, three-stage switch mode, a si­mul­ta­ne­ous au­to­matic charge sys­tem for so­lar and al­ter­na­tor, and the abil­ity to choose the cor­rect charg­ing pro­file to suit your cho­sen bat­tery type (AGM, wet cell, cal­cium or gel).

I thought I wouldn’t take ad­van­tage of the auto select­ing mode for al­ter­na­tor and/or so­lar charg­ing, as I don’t have a so­lar panel fit­ted per­ma­nently on the roof, but it has come in handy as I’ve mounted an An­der­son plug on the bull­bar. So the un­der-bon­net sys­tem doesn’t need to be touched when I plug or un­plug the so­lar panel, which is out in the sun while I’m parked in the shade – beauty! The charger unit in­cor­po­rates tiny LED lights to in­di­cate which charg­ing source is be­ing used, which puts my mind at ease know­ing it’s work­ing as it should.

Other than set­ting the bat­tery type on the front panel, there’s noth­ing else to this smart charg­ing sys­tem – set it and for­get it.

While I opted for un­der-bon­net mount­ing (it can take the higher heat), the unit can be fixed pretty much any­where within your 4x4, plus it’s Ip67-rated as well as shock- and vi­bra­tion-proof. For what it’s worth, I’ve fab­ri­cated a small bracket to fit the unit be­tween the se­condary bat­tery and the in­ner mud guard. It’s a tight squeeze, but I can still pre­view the lights on the face if need be.

POWER OUT

WITH the power source and power man­age­ment taken care of, the next job was to work out how to ex­pend all that en­ergy via 12- and 240-volt out­lets. Given the ex­pan­sive use my Troopy has to take on – charg­ing the kids’ elec­tronic toys on the run, charg­ing work cam­eras and com­puter gear, and run­ning all man­ner of 12-volt gear for test­ing – I picked through the Narva cat­a­logue for all I needed, un­der the

pre­tence of ‘the more out­lets the bet­ter’.

The left-hand of the dash fea­tures a rather use­less-sized pocket that seems per­fect for noth­ing more than a few dozen busi­ness cards, pro­vided you don’t drive up a steep hill and al­low them to slide onto the pas­sen­ger’s lap! So, a flush-mount cig­gie and dual USB out­let was screwed straight over the top of it. At a later date I’ll be mak­ing a cus­tom cen­tre con­sole to house switches, gauges and power out­lets, but for now I’ve mounted two cig­gie plugs.

Be­hind the third row of bucket seats I’ve flush-mounted three cig­gie out­lets (for rear pas­sen­ger and camp­ing use) and a merit plug for di­rect power ac­cess for the 12-volt fridge. Th­ese are hard­wired di­rectly to the aux­il­iary bat­tery for con­stant use. Also hard­wired is a 300W Pro­jecta pure sine wave in­verter that’s eas­ily ac­ces­si­ble from the rear cargo area.

The rear bumper bar houses a 50-amp An­der­son plug that plugs into my camper trailer to charge on-board bat­ter­ies. I’ve con­nected the ‘so­lar in’ wire of the Pro­jecta charg­ing sys­tem with an­other An­der­son plug and tucked it in be­hind one of the up­right posts of the Op­po­site Lock bull­bar, so it’s eas­ily ac­ces­si­ble and doesn’t re­quire lift­ing off the bon­net to plug the so­lar panel in. Both An­der­son plugs have

a rub­ber cap to keep dust and water out when not in use.

The fold­able Pro­jecta so­lar panel came with al­li­ga­tor clips, so I cut them off, in­stalled an An­der­son plug and re­in­stalled the clips. This way the panel can be used via my on-board charge sys­tem with the An­der­son in­put plug or via the al­li­ga­tor clips onto my camper trailer bat­tery.

Given I kept the FYRLYT Neme­sis 9000 driv­ing lights from my last Cruiser, I had my lo­cal sparky wire up a cus­tom heavy­gauge driv­ing light loom com­plete with 12W to 24W con­vert­ers to tackle th­ese 24V halo­gen driv­ing lights.

I have fu­ture plans to in­stall camp lights, an on-board com­pres­sor and var­i­ous other light­ing, so I fit­ted a bank of five Narva tog­gle switches. Th­ese things are beaut, as you can utilise as few or as many switches as you like by mak­ing up a bank that then slots into your dash, con­sole or any other panel. I have gone for five switches, but I’m not sure what I will run off them – just fu­ture-proof­ing the sys­tem.

To keep track of what each bat­tery is charg­ing and dis­charg­ing, I’ve popped a Pro­jecta dual-bat­tery volt me­ter into the dash next to the steer­ing wheel. The me­ter has a bar graph and dig­i­tal read­out to within 0.1 of a volt for each bat­tery. It also in­cor­po­rates a user-set au­di­ble alarm to warn of over- or un­der-charg­ing.

Given the need to tow my own camper trailer, heavy loads in­clud­ing a Kub­ota trac­tor, a tan­dem box trailer, and var­i­ous car­a­vans, I fig­ured the 3500kg tow-rated Troopy needed as much help as pos­si­ble to help pull up with­out over-stress­ing the brakes. For this, a Redarc Tow-pro elec­tric brake con­troller was in­stalled.

The main body of the Redarc unit fits neatly un­der the dash and out of the way of my knees. Hence it doesn’t take up any real es­tate on the fast-fill­ing dash­board. The only tell-tale sign of this Redarc sys­tem is the small ro­tary dial fit­ted to the dash­board. Since fit­ting the unit, Redarc re­leased an ‘Elite’ ver­sion, which elim­i­nates the ini­tial cal­i­bra­tion process the standard ver­sion needs. To read the full specs of both units visit: www.redarc.com.au.

There are plenty of set-ups that are fancier, more tech­ni­cal and more com­pre­hen­sive than what I’ve in­stalled, but my set-up will do ev­ery­thing needed for per­sonal and work-re­lated use. Plus it’s re­li­able, sim­ple to use, main­te­nance-free and will en­able (al­most) end­less power us­age. I’ve gone over­board with a few of the cen­tre con­sole switches, but that’s for ease of adding ac­ces­sories at a later date, so all up the sys­tem is fu­ture­proof and will re­turn many 12-volt ben­e­fits out on the tracks and camp­grounds.

RATED AVAIL­ABLE FROM: www.pi­ran­haof­froad.com.au www.pro­jecta.com.au www.full­river.com.au www.narva.com.au WE SAY: A must-have to power ac­ces­sories.

Bank of five Narva switches will grace an ex­tended cen­tre con­sole. The Runva winch power iso­lat­ing switch (cuts power to the winch) was kept in­tact with all the new wiring. 240-volt power un­der the rear seat with a Pro­jecta 300-watt pure sine wave in­verter. Pro­jecta fold­ing so­lar panel feed­ing the se­condary bat­tery via the Pro­jecta dual-bat­tery con­troller al­lowed us to stay out bush and keep the fridge run­ning in­def­i­nitely.

Yep, I went shop­ping at Narva.

Pro­jecta dual-bat­tery mon­i­tor keeps me up-to-date with both bat­ter­ies’ volt­ages. My lo­cal sparky wired in a cus­tom wiring loom for the spot­ties.

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