View Full Version : Batteries in 80's newells

10-22-2011, 12:41 AM
We're on the road agin--sitting in the dark in a truck stop. Ran all day and the house batteries are dead and the generator won't turn over. They were all good when we left MN 5days ago.

Do I need to have the merge switch on to charge the house batteries while driving?

In the early 80's, did the house batteries also serve as starter batteries for the gen?

I put a meter on one side of the merge relay and have power. I switch the merge switch up or down and it klunks. I never get power on the other side. I ran the engine for a half hour with the switch up and same with the switch down and didn't get a flicker out of the house lights.

I have one humungous interstate battery on each side on the rear and two together in the front under the passenger. Are both rear batteries start batteries?

TIA. Wish I had spome docs on the coach!


PS please call 3035067804 or email tedjohnson101 at msn.com. I never get an email when someone responds to my posts.

Richard and Rhonda
10-22-2011, 01:19 AM
Yes the house batteries are charged by the alternator when the engine is running. The ignition closes the merge switch.

The generator is cranked by the house batteries.

Your merge switch is bad. It's a common failure. Newell recommends yearly replacement.

To make it through the night. Take some heavy wire and jump around the merge switch. Crank your main engine. You should have enough juice to crank the genny. Charge the batteries using the gennie.

Be careful trying to charge low batteries with the engine. It will cook the alternator.

Replace the merge switch as soon as you can obviously.

Let us know how you make out.

10-22-2011, 01:44 AM
hi ted, i tried calling you to tell you that the merge switch is likely bad.....richard beat me to it.

feel free to call me anytime. you have my number on your phone caller id.


10-22-2011, 02:53 AM
Yup, Ted, two front batteries are the house batteries, and it appears your merge switch is cooked. I carry a 1000 watt Honda generator with me in case the worst happens. Works great in just your situation until you can figure out what happened. At least you're not in the dark with my backup. In fact the Honda can be used to charge those batteries up. Good luck!

10-22-2011, 03:02 AM
I've got a 83 Newell and experienced a similar trip of despair before I figured out how my charging system functioned, merge switch worked and replaced some electrical parts. Over the course of time, I replaced my merge solenoid and several electrical parts. I also took the time to trace back all my battery lines. In short, I agree that it sounds like you need to replace your merge solenoid; however, make sure you buy a good replacement part. The merge solenoid handles a lot of power at times. I believe the standard replacement part for classic Newells is a Cole Hersee 24106; however, I used an Ametek 15-133 SAS-4202. This identical looking solenoid is rated for 200 continuous amps and has silver contacts (about double the capacity of the standard part). Given the 160 amp alternator you probably have and the times when your batteries need a lot of juice, this tougher solenoid will way outlast the standard part. For the extra few bucks, I figure it is money well spent. I presume you know that the solenoid is located in the small access panel to the right of the engine radiator. If your curious, I've attached a schematic I made and posted in this compartment of my 83 Newell. Of note, on my Newell, someone had also installed an extra battery switch/isolator in the engine bay. Until I found this switch, turned it to connect the protected start battery, I was really in trouble. Perhaps you have a similar "extra" switch to hunt down. Once you get everything running again, to keep things simple, just remember to leave your dash merge switch up or down anytime you have the engine or genie running (so you are charging all your batteries). Select the centre merge position only when you have no engine or genie running and you feel you need to protect your starting batteries.

10-22-2011, 03:44 AM
Capt. Ted,
On our '82 the Merge Switch needs to be selected to up or down to have the alternator on the main engine charge the house bank, or it will not merge the batteries unless selected to! Yes the Generator is started by the house bank, you should however be able to merge the batteries to get the generator to start using the engine starting batteries.
Again my '82 is not wired like the later coaches are and the Battery Merge Solenoid does not Merge the Battery Banks simply because the main engine is running. I like it this way and do not plan on changing it because this helps to isolate the batteries. With the Solar Panels, Power Inverter I like having the House and Engine Batteries isolated under normal conditions. I have noticed that if I use the Merge Switch then I need to Switch it off to re-isolate the Batteries or if I Merge the Batteries when I have the Engine Running then the Merge Solenoid stays Activated after I turn off the Main until I Switch the Merge Off.
Good Luck
If you have some Battery Cables you could jumper across the Merge Solenoid, mine is in the Tankage Bay, or maybe use the car that you may be towing to get the generator started and the get the house bank charged.
PS remember that all Newell coaches are custom and no two may be alike.

10-22-2011, 02:47 PM
At least half the pleasure of owning a Newell is belonging to this forum. Within a few hours of posting I had 5 accurate, helpful responses, a text message and an email.

In the end we had a pleasant candlelit evening, a cold plunge into our clothes, a frustrating 1/2 hour in the TA service area ex laing what a solenoid is and trying to get a hunk of wire 8 or heavier (I got 14!). Finally I removed the solenoid and put a bolt in its place. We'll replace it in fl. Everything came back just fine.

It's an adventure!

Ted and BJ

10-22-2011, 04:50 PM
Perfect! That was a very simple way to get the charging system back up and functional.
If you have a Power Inverter / Charger you may be advised to not have both the Alternator and a Battery Charger working at the same time. I think that is why I must choose between the two, but I also have SOLAR Panels and I feel that is a good idea to keep the charging sources isolated.

10-30-2011, 02:43 PM
Back at "home" in Loxahatchee. (Home really is where the Newell is.) Found a replacement solenoid (golf cart switch with much higher amp rating) on eBay for $17 & hooked everything back together. Thanks to all of you for your support! Good Newelling.

11-01-2011, 06:52 PM
Went to crank up the engine to get propane & the engine batteries were flat. Put a voltage sensor across the 2 small posts on the solenoid. With the ignition on & the Merge switch flipped down, i get no voltage. With it up, I get 12v. So I'll keep it in up when on shore power or driving. But i'd like it to work.

Has anyone figured this one out? Does anyone have a diagram of the back compartment and the front fuse panel from the early 80's they could share? i have nothing. i know they're all custom, but i'm sure they follow a pattern that's the same from vehicle to vehicle.

I'm wondering if mine's wired properly. Seems to me there might be more wires on the activating post. (The second small post is a ground--instead of grounding the whole device.)



Thanks for your help.


11-02-2011, 12:55 AM
Lets get Clarke to get some pics when he can. It will be a few days before I can get to our '82.
as I stated earlier the Battery Banks on our '82 are separated making the Engine Batteries getting Charged by the Alternators. The House Bank is Charged by the HEART Power Inverter. The only way to charge the House Batteries with the Alternators is to use the Merge Switch. The only way to Charge the Engine Batteries with the Power Inverter is to use the Merge Switch.
Since you are now having a problem with the Engine Batteries, I would suggest that you charge the Engine Batteries, then Disconnect them (by removing the cables) for a day or two and check them again, this will help you know if the battery is bad). You should also do the same with the House Batteries to prove or disprove them.
Again, if I use the Merge Switch and then shut the coach down the batteries stay merged until the switch is turned off, or the merge function does not stop after the engine is turned off (using the Ignition Switch).
I have a clamp on DC Amp Meter so I would use it to see if there was a power drain to ensure that something isn't draining the Batteries. I just found that there was a problem with one of the Clocks and it was draining the battery with a 5 Amp continuous drain, after finding the problem it was disconnected.

11-15-2011, 06:27 PM
I carry a battery cable that has female connectors on each end. If switch goes bad, use the cable and jump across the solonoid and tighten down.