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Beginner Help - Key Fob / Battery / Cobra

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Peter Brown
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Post by j8snl Mon Dec 28, 2020 12:49 pm

Hi folks,

Trying to find the right forum to put this in.  I am a beginner with only a few months motorhome experience and I fear I've made a bit of a schoolboy mistake and looking for some help and advice.

Our AS 2016 Broadway has an EC328 Sargent and a Solar Panel fitted.  Quickly after collecting the van from Marquis (approx 200 mile roundtrip) it was clear the Leisure Battery was more or less done.  I decided against changing it (that may have been the first stupid mistake) thinking, we are only using the van on sites with EHU and winter is approaching so I'll get a new one in Spring for the next season.

However, since the November lockdown, I'd been starting the van and running it once a week just to keep the vehicle battery topped up, until last weekend just before Christmas, when the vehicle battery wouldn't turn over.  Now questioning if the solar panel is actually doing anything? or is it time of year and just not putting much charge into anything? or is is trying to charge a failing leisure battery putting all energy there?

Anyway, to resolve the vehicle battery not starting I hooked up my EHU for a day, powered on the Control Panel and flipped the battery from Leisure to Vehicle.  That worked fine and next day the van started no problems.

That brings me to yesterday, granted it's been a little colder, but I thought I better go and start it up, 6 days after I last started it.  The key fob would not open the door remotely.  I'm wondering have I stupidly left the control panel switched on and to the vehicle battery and completely drained it? Is that possible? I'm looking on the dash and the Cobra led is NOT flashing, I could open the doors manually but I'm scared to open it incase the alarm goes off.  If the battery is dead will the alarm actually go off?  It's a Cobra / Vodafone 4600.  I know I can disable the alarm with the button sequence, but the code is inside the van (yes I know that was another really stupid thing to do).  I changed the key fob battery with a new one, and it's not that.  I see through the rear window that the control panel backlight is on, the power switch looks off, but the panel is lit up.

So, my first challenge is getting into the van - will the alarm go off? Have I completely drained the vehicle battery somehow?  Is my solar panel actually working?  And should I change the failing leisure battery now or wait until spring?

Yes, complete beginner errors I'm know confused3 just looking for a little guidance, before I open the doors, potentially set the sirens of disturbing all the neighbours peace and quiet then fumble around for 10 minutes trying to shut it off with the code and button presses, and will it actually shut off if the battery is indeed dead.  

Have thought about calling out an auto electrician, would gladly pay the call out fee for the help.  If anyone knows a mobile one in Edinburgh, Lothians, Falkirk area of Scotland?

Thanks for reading and any help that can be provided.


Last edited by j8snl on Mon Dec 28, 2020 1:02 pm; edited 3 times in total (Reason for editing : typos)
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Post by Gromit Mon Dec 28, 2020 1:07 pm

First thoughts, have I missed something, or can I ask why you don't leave the van permanently on hook up - or at least for one day per week, or even on a timer for a couple of hours every day. (Different members make a variety of suggestions!)

That would seem to be the obvious solution, at least until you find out if you need a new battery. Unless you have a far bigger than average solar panel it's no surprise if it can't cope in this dismal weather.
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Post by Roopert Mon Dec 28, 2020 1:08 pm

I don't know that alarm, but I would suggest that you don't really have any choice, and if the alarm is going to go off and annoy the neighbours, best to do it in the middle of the day when it's likely to cause least irritation?

It's quite likely that the alarm sounder has its own battery backup, so it should be capable of accepting the code even if the engine battery is near-dead.

But if you're going to bite the bullet and do it, probably best to wait until the (essential) shops are all open tomorrow, so that you can go and get a new battery, if needed.
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Post by j8snl Mon Dec 28, 2020 1:15 pm

Gromit wrote:First thoughts, have I missed something, or can I ask why you don't leave the van permanently on hook up - or at least for one day per week, or even on a timer for a couple of hours every day. (Different members make a variety of suggestions!)

That would seem to be the obvious solution, at least until you find out if you need a new battery. Unless you have a far bigger than average solar panel it's no surprise if it can't cope in this dismal weather.

Thanks Gromit, yes I actually put the EHU back into the van, but that's not allowed my key fob to work in terms of unsetting / setting.  I assume I need to get in to power on the control panel to get the power going to the battery, so I'm back to the issue of will the alarm sound.  

But yes, I could (and probably now will) leave the van on permanent hook up once I get back in.

Solar Panel from documentation provided is 80W and I assumed that either dismal weather or pushing to failing leisure battery was why that wasn't helping.

Thanks for the reply.
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Post by j8snl Mon Dec 28, 2020 1:18 pm

Roopert wrote:I don't know that alarm, but I would suggest that you don't really have any choice, and if the alarm is going to go off and annoy the neighbours, best to do it in the middle of the day when it's likely to cause least irritation?

It's quite likely that the alarm sounder has its own battery backup, so it should be capable of accepting the code even if the engine battery is near-dead.

But if you're going to bite the bullet and do it, probably best to wait until the (essential) shops are all open tomorrow, so that you can go and get a new battery, if needed.

Thanks for the response Roopert, this was my thoughts yesterday, I'll wait until Tuesday and some neighbours may be back working, less disruption for them on their time off and if needed I can get a battery, although hoping the EC will charge it up, and just leave the EHU in place.

Argh - so much to learn about owning one of these  scratch head
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Post by Eltel Mon Dec 28, 2020 2:44 pm

I had been a caravaner for 25 years and have owned a motorhomes for the last 8 years and have always left both on EHU while stored in the back garden.

Added advantage in the winter is that I leave a small tubular heater running to fight of any damp issues.

Good luck tomorrow, please us all know how you go on.

Terry
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Post by j8snl Mon Dec 28, 2020 3:05 pm

Eltel wrote:I had been a caravaner for 25 years and have owned a motorhomes for the last 8 years and have always left both on EHU while stored in the back garden.

Added advantage in the winter is that I leave a small tubular heater running to fight of any damp issues.

Good luck tomorrow, please us all know how you go on.

Terry

Thanks Terry, a stupid question for you then.  When leaving the EHU on, do you set the control panel to vehicle battery or leisure battery?

Thanks

Jason
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Post by Gromit Mon Dec 28, 2020 4:29 pm

Hi again Jason

Battery master. Control panel set to habitation battery, and the Battery Master does the rest for you.

Fit and quite literally, forget!  [You must be registered and logged in to see this link.]
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Post by Roopert Mon Dec 28, 2020 6:42 pm

As Dave (Gromit) says, a Battery Master or equivalent is a good option, although if you expect to have EHU available while it's in storage you shouldn't really need one with an EC328. Unlike the higher-spec Sargent controllers, it has very low power consumption so it won't take up all of your solar input.

An alternative could be to simply remember to swap the power between engine and leisure battery manually on the control panel every few days. Or, if the van is in a position to get winter sun, it would probably be fine with the control panel set for the EHU to charge the engine battery. If you have a standard factory setup, the solar controller should send its output to the other battery (but be aware that you may not have a standard factory solar setup).

Another thing to note is that it's generally not advisable to start the engine just to keep the batteries charged. Unless you run the engine for a ~long~ time it won't get the oil or exhaust hot enough, and it really isn't good for the life of the engine.

Good luck in getting to grips with it all - it seems quite complex to start with but with a bit of persistence it will all make sense.
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Post by Caraman Mon Dec 28, 2020 7:16 pm

j8snl wrote:Hi folks,

However, since the November lockdown, I'd been starting the van and running it once a week just to keep the vehicle battery topped up, until last weekend just before Christmas, when the vehicle battery wouldn't turn over. ........

I'm looking on the dash and the Cobra led is NOT flashing, I could open the doors manually but I'm scared to open it incase the alarm goes off.  If the battery is dead will the alarm actually go off?  It's a Cobra / Vodafone 4600.  I know I can disable the alarm with the button sequence, but the code is inside the van (yes I know that was another really stupid thing to do).  I changed the key fob battery with a new one, and it's not that.  ......

So, my first challenge is getting into the van - will the alarm go off? Have I completely drained the vehicle battery somehow?  
It's possible that starting your engine every week without giving the motorhome a good road run has contributed to your vehicle battery's demise.  The starter motor sucks a lot of power from the battery.  Far better to use an EHU especially at this time of year.  I have the Cobra alarm.  If the red alarm LED on the dash isn't flashing it suggests the alarm is no longer armed.  (My Boxer also has a flashing red LED on the dash to indicate it has central locked.)  If your Cobra alarm is powered from the vehicle battery as mine is, and it was armed and then the vehicle battery supply was cut, it should have triggered.  In this instance the alarm will sound using the re-chargeable battery in its siren unit for 30 seconds.  Normally the alarm will re-arm after 30 seconds but if it can't it will either stop at that point or continue for a total of nine 30 second bursts with 5 seconds between each burst.  I wonder if you were out when it triggered, assuming it was armed in the first place.  Whatever, it may now not be armed.  If it is armed and it goes off when you enter its no big deal.  Our Cobra alarm isn't particularly loud and providing you find your PIN code quickly it won't take long to disarm.  To remind you, if your PIN is 2345, start with the first digit by pressing the button twice - it will flash each time you press it and then give a longer confirmation flash - and then move on to the next digit (3) and so on.


Last edited by Caraman on Mon Dec 28, 2020 7:19 pm; edited 1 time in total (Reason for editing : addition)
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Post by glyne lock Mon Dec 28, 2020 7:40 pm

1 are you sure you have you got a ec328 or ec500 as your right on the change
 2 then what solar controller have you got as if its a ec328 you can adjust the solar power to the vehicle as your alarm is what will be dropping the vehicle battery power down
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Post by j8snl Mon Dec 28, 2020 7:40 pm

Gromit wrote:Hi again Jason

Battery master. Control panel set to habitation battery, and the Battery Master does the rest for you.

Fit and quite literally, forget!  [You must be registered and logged in to see this link.]
Thanks very much Gromit, I'll take a look at that.  Really appreciate it.
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Post by Caraman Mon Dec 28, 2020 7:43 pm

glyne lock wrote:.... as your alarm is what will be dropping the vehicle battery power down
I understand the armed Cobra alarm draws 16 milliamps.
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Post by j8snl Mon Dec 28, 2020 7:48 pm

Roopert wrote:As Dave (Gromit) says, a Battery Master or equivalent is a good option, although if you expect to have EHU available while it's in storage you shouldn't really need one with an EC328. Unlike the higher-spec Sargent controllers, it has very low power consumption so it won't take up all of your solar input.

An alternative could be to simply remember to swap the power between engine and leisure battery manually on the control panel every few days. Or, if the van is in a position to get winter sun, it would probably be fine with the control panel set for the EHU to charge the engine battery. If you have a standard factory setup, the solar controller should send its output to the other battery (but be aware that you may not have a standard factory solar setup).

Another thing to note is that it's generally not advisable to start the engine just to keep the batteries charged. Unless you run the engine for a ~long~ time it won't get the oil or exhaust hot enough, and it really isn't good for the life of the engine.

Good luck in getting to grips with it all - it seems quite complex to start with but with a bit of persistence it will all make sense.
Hi Roopert, thanks again for the info.  The van is stored at home and in sunlight.  Not sure if this is a standard factory fit or not, I will assume so as van had one previous owner only and every piece of paperwork was there, but nothing about the solar panel, it was fitted with the Premium Pack which had the 80W Solar fitted to it.

Appreciate the wisdom on running the engine for a long time.
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Post by j8snl Mon Dec 28, 2020 7:56 pm

Caraman wrote:
j8snl wrote:Hi folks,

However, since the November lockdown, I'd been starting the van and running it once a week just to keep the vehicle battery topped up, until last weekend just before Christmas, when the vehicle battery wouldn't turn over. ........

I'm looking on the dash and the Cobra led is NOT flashing, I could open the doors manually but I'm scared to open it incase the alarm goes off.  If the battery is dead will the alarm actually go off?  It's a Cobra / Vodafone 4600.  I know I can disable the alarm with the button sequence, but the code is inside the van (yes I know that was another really stupid thing to do).  I changed the key fob battery with a new one, and it's not that.  ......

So, my first challenge is getting into the van - will the alarm go off? Have I completely drained the vehicle battery somehow?  
It's possible that starting your engine every week without giving the motorhome a good road run has contributed to your vehicle battery's demise.  The starter motor sucks a lot of power from the battery.  Far better to use an EHU especially at this time of year.  I have the Cobra alarm.  If the red alarm LED on the dash isn't flashing it suggests the alarm is no longer armed.  (My Boxer also has a flashing red LED on the dash to indicate it has central locked.)  If your Cobra alarm is powered from the vehicle battery as mine is, and it was armed and then the vehicle battery supply was cut, it should have triggered.  In this instance the alarm will sound using the re-chargeable battery in its siren unit for 30 seconds.  Normally the alarm will re-arm after 30 seconds but if it can't it will either stop at that point or continue for a total of nine 30 second bursts with 5 seconds between each burst.  I wonder if you were out when it triggered, assuming it was armed in the first place.  Whatever, it may now not be armed.  If it is armed and it goes off when you enter its no big deal.  Our Cobra alarm isn't particularly loud and providing you find your PIN code quickly it won't take long to disarm.  To remind you, if your PIN is 2345, start with the first digit by pressing the button twice - it will flash each time you press it and then give a longer confirmation flash - and then move on to the next digit (3) and so on.

Hi Caraman, thanks very much, your  post is backing up an earlier post, that just firing the van has not helped the problem.  

So yes, the red Cobra light is not flashing, I don't have a secondary light.  I certainly don't remember any alarm going off, but yes I could have been out, I'm sure it was armed, flashing lights, one beep, delay for the led to flash then second beep - but yes, I could have been out.  This is great info thank you.  Appreciate you confirming the instructions I have for the pin reset, I know exactly where it is, just can't believe I left it on the inside.

Thanks for taking the time.
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Post by j8snl Mon Dec 28, 2020 8:14 pm

glyne lock wrote:1 are you sure you have you got a ec328 or ec500 as your right on the change
 2 then what solar controller have you got as if its a ec328 you can adjust the solar power to the vehicle as your alarm is what will be dropping the vehicle battery power down
Hi Glyne, thanks for the response.

1. Yes it's an EC328, that is stamped on the unit in the Wardrobe and also shows on the control panel.

2. I have no idea, again a newbie but I was under the impression (from reading) the solar was wired straight to the control unit.  What I done last week was use the battery button on the control panel to flip from leisure to vehicle, but I thought that meant it would be charged from the charger and not the solar.  

Thanks for the info, as I said some schoolboy mistakes I know, trying to learn from them.
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Post by glyne lock Mon Dec 28, 2020 8:47 pm

so if you left it on the vehicle and unplugged the ehu you are now using the vehicle battery to power the habitation .you can try to charge on ehu but with the battery so low may blow the fuse you can only but try and charge with the ehu
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Post by j8snl Mon Dec 28, 2020 8:55 pm

glyne lock wrote:so if you left it on the vehicle and unplugged the ehu you are now using the vehicle battery to power the habitation .you can try to charge on ehu but with the battery so low may blow the fuse you can only but try and charge with the ehu

Yes I think that's my assumption too Glyne.  That and not properly running it and draining the battery.  But having flipped it over, I don't think I flipped it back and yes have drained the vehicle battery.

Certainly learned lessons here, and will look to certainly leave it on the EHU at the house as soon as I'm back in and overcome any alarm problems
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Post by Richard G Mon Dec 28, 2020 9:58 pm

j8snl wrote:
glyne lock wrote:1 are you sure you have you got a ec328 or ec500 as your right on the change
 2 then what solar controller have you got as if its a ec328 you can adjust the solar power to the vehicle as your alarm is what will be dropping the vehicle battery power down
Hi Glyne, thanks for the response.

1. Yes it's an EC328, that is stamped on the unit in the Wardrobe and also shows on the control panel.

2. I have no idea, again a newbie but I was under the impression (from reading) the solar was wired straight to the control unit.  What I done last week was use the battery button on the control panel to flip from leisure to vehicle, but I thought that meant it would be charged from the charger and not the solar.  

Thanks for the info, as I said some schoolboy mistakes I know, trying to learn from them.
As far as i know the EC328 control panel is not a switch between batteries it is just a way of looking at state of batteries. I think its best just to fit a new leisure battery when you buy the van then you know what you have got. I had a lot of issues with mine (I should have asked for a new battery when i bought it) turned out to be faulty EC328 (I bought a new one) sent original back to Sargent and repaired/ sorted for  a fee, (look on Sargent website) (Original one now on ebay)

Cost me a lot altogether but it was all through start of Covid and made things difficult. I have had to replace Leisure battery twice in my first year. Lots of info on Sargent website.  Probably your 80watt solar not very effective this time of year, I have 120watts which is maximum for EC328.

RG
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Post by glyne lock Mon Dec 28, 2020 10:10 pm

Richard G wrote:
j8snl wrote:
glyne lock wrote:1 are you sure you have you got a ec328 or ec500 as your right on the change
 2 then what solar controller have you got as if its a ec328 you can adjust the solar power to the vehicle as your alarm is what will be dropping the vehicle battery power down
Hi Glyne, thanks for the response.

1. Yes it's an EC328, that is stamped on the unit in the Wardrobe and also shows on the control panel.

2. I have no idea, again a newbie but I was under the impression (from reading) the solar was wired straight to the control unit.  What I done last week was use the battery button on the control panel to flip from leisure to vehicle, but I thought that meant it would be charged from the charger and not the solar.  

Thanks for the info, as I said some schoolboy mistakes I know, trying to learn from them.
As far as i know the EC328 control panel is not a switch between batteries it is just a way of looking at state of batteries. I think its best just to fit a new leisure battery when you buy the van then you know what you have got. I had a lot of issues with mine (I should have asked for a new battery when i bought it) turned out to be faulty EC328 (I bought a new one) sent original back to Sargent and repaired/ sorted for  a fee, (look on Sargent website) (Original one now on ebay)

Cost me a lot altogether but it was all through start of Covid and made things difficult. I have had to replace Leisure battery twice in my first year. Lots of info on Sargent website.  Probably your 80watt solar not very effective this time of year, I have 120watts which is maximum for EC328.

RG
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Post by Richard G Mon Dec 28, 2020 10:17 pm

Well my Ec328 charges both batteries as it decides automatically and floats the Solar automatically. Has another button on control panel (top right) to switch in engine battery with leisure battery.
Rg
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Post by glyne lock Mon Dec 28, 2020 10:51 pm

Richard G wrote:Well my Ec328 charges both batteries as it decides automatically and floats the Solar automatically. Has another button on control panel (top right) to switch in engine battery with leisure battery.
Rg

Richard
your solar is a dual charger and charges both batteries as you say. that was why it was asked if it was a A/S system solar system
the battery select button Im sure a owner with the ec328  system will explain works as per the sargent instructions
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Post by Roopert Tue Dec 29, 2020 12:49 am

Richard G wrote:Well my Ec328 charges both batteries as it decides automatically and floats the Solar automatically. Has another button on control panel (top right) to switch in engine battery with leisure battery.
Rg

You need to make a distinction between mains (EHU) charging and solar charging, because the two behave very differently in the EC328.

The EC328 can automatically switch between batteries, but only in extremis. If the vehicle battery is currently selected, it will automatically switch the habitation loads to the leisure battery if the vehicle battery falls below a threshold voltage of 10.9 Volts (which in theory should allow enough in it to start the engine).

Other than that, selection of which battery gets charged by the mains charger is manually switched only. The "battery select" button on the control panel switches both mains charging and habitation loads at the same time, and it literally does toggle everything between the two batteries - it does not connect the two batteries together.

When the control panel is turned off, the EHU supply defaults to charging the leisure battery only.

However, solar charging is different, because the solar controller is pretty much autonomous, even though it's built inside the body of the EC328.

The solar controller can direct the solar panel's output to both batteries, irrespective of which battery is selected on the panel. The proportion of charge directed to each battery can be configured on the front panel of the solar controller (which under normal circumstances is hidden inside the EC328). However, that proportion is "adaptable" in that if one battery is fully charged, the solar controller should direct all of the solar panel output to the other battery, whatever the proportion is set at.
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Beginner Help - Key Fob / Battery / Cobra Empty Re: Beginner Help - Key Fob / Battery / Cobra

Post by Molly3 Tue Dec 29, 2020 3:48 am

Your 328 controls panel  has a function  that reads out  the amps going into the battery from the solar when hook up is disconnected  if solar is not harvesting it shows LB discharge , my solar shows no charge on gray winter days if you don't have 328 manual  it is a available  on line .
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Beginner Help - Key Fob / Battery / Cobra Empty Re: Beginner Help - Key Fob / Battery / Cobra

Post by Peter Brown Tue Dec 29, 2020 11:33 am

My van is just over nine years old and has an 80W panel. It came with an EC325 that was replaced with the pin compatible EC328 about 18 months ago. When at home the van is parked on the drive (not in shade) and both vehicle and leisure batteries remain charged all the time so I expect the original poster has a battery condition problem.
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