Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Project: Converter Swap–WFCO 9835 for PowerMax Boondocker PM3B-45

Well, I went through all the song and dance and jive doing all that wiring upgrades and relocating the converter in my backlogged projects series only to discover that my original converter, the WFCO 9835 35-amp deckmount, was on its way out. 

In the past, the popular unit of choice has been the Progressive Dynamics 9200 series with its remote charging pendant, however, I am not seeing a 35amp model in the line up over at, the lowest amperage rated unit they have is a 45amp model, which is likely overkill for my rig.

So, I fired off an email to Randy over at inquiring as to the fate of my old converter to verify that my suspicions were indeed true.

My email dialogue went like this:


RedneckExpress/JoeChiOhki wrote:

Howdy folks . Late 2008, I bought a WFCO 9835 deckmount converter from ya guys and been using it without issue up till just recently.
I'm trying to figure out whats going on with it, as I've moved it from where it was originally installed (roughly about 11' away from the batteries) to where it is now, (roughly 2' from the batteries) and now its acting strange.
The unit is making a constant "clicking" sound when listened to up close. Before, the unit would perpetually stay in 13.6 volt mode, doing the desulfation boost every 24 hours) which I figured was because it was 11' away on 4 gauge wire. So, I moved it to its new location, which is right on the other side of the wall from the batteries.
Once moved, the unit was performing as normal, but now actually going into boost, and staying there (Left it alone for 3 days, it never went out of 14.8 volt bulk). I figured this was due to the fact that my two Group 31 Trojans were at the end of their service life, so I replaced the batteries with two new of the same make and brand and now the unit clicks constantly and the lights pulse. The batteries are connected correctly, and all contacts were cleaned and polished to ensure good connectivity.
Also, the unit can no longer be run on the generator. Before, it worked just fine, but now, whenever it is switched on the generator starts cycling (revving up and down like a load is being added and removed rapidly), something that only happens when the converter is used, nothing else causes this.
Is any of this normal for the unit? I personally think something has gone out in the WFCO unit. I cannot find any articles specific to the 9835 online, most of the problem threads I find are related to the older 8000 series units.
Thanks for any enlightenment you can provide on this bugger. Either way its gonna likely have to be replaced, as I don't want it damaging the $400 in new batteries I just installed!

Randy@BestConverter wrote:

Hi Matt,
While I don't know what, something has failed internally and it will need replaced. Anything or nothing could have caused it to fail.
I would not recommend another WFCO unit however. The Powermax Boondocker is a much better performing unit and has a better warranty. They never come back. Thanks and here is a link if you decide to replace it.

RedneckExpress/JoeChiOhki wrote:

How does the PowerMax Booster Compare to say the 9200 Series Progressive Dynamics unit? wrote:

Similar except its a constant current based charger, uses a slightly higher voltage (14.6 max) for faster charging and has 3 year warranty. I prefer it. If you are fimiliar with constant current versus constant voltage, there is no questions the job gets dont better and faster with a current limited unit. Both are good units though.

RedneckExpress/JoeChiOhki wrote:

Oh yes, and I forgot to ask, but what is the AC wattage usage of the 35amp/45amp PMB units? Their detail pages on the website don't list anything in particular. wrote:

I don't have it on the website yet but they are vitrually identical to all of the other is you find another table.


Wanting to make certain I didn’t make a repeat of buying the WFCO-grade of converter again, I started up a thread over on and got folks opinions and in the end, decided to take Randy’s advice and a chance (not too many of these PowerMax Boondockers out there yet amongst the RV community that I can see) and ordered a 45 amp PowerMax Boondocker Smile.


My parcel arrived in fairly short order, this morning 30 minutes after I left for work, in fact Smile with tongue out.


When I got home from work, I dug into it Smile

First off, as you can see, the PowerMax, on the right, is almost double the size of the older WFCO unit, on the left,  I originally had, but its shorter in overall height compared to the WFCO.  The only thing I ‘m not 100% thrilled about is that the PowerMax is completely flush, where as the WFCO was offset a bit to allow air space between the unit and the surface it fastened to.

So far, the PowerMax is running substantially cooler than its predecessor under similar conditions.  At the moment, I’m not even generating enough load to cause the cooling fan to cycle on.



Sadly, I had to drill a couple more holes in my dinette seat Sad smile, but at least they’re hidden underneath a cushion. 

Swap out was pretty straight forward and took very little time, I was done in under 45 minutes Smile.  Simply disconnect the battery wires (Negative first!) after unplugging the unit and unbolting it from the underside of the dinette seat and doing the reverse (after marking and drilling out the new bolt holes) for installation of the Boondocker.

Original WFCO


PowerMax installed



Once I had everything hooked up, I flipped on the power switch and nothing exploded or caught fire, which to me is always a good thing!

Once it had been on for a couple seconds, I flipped the switch on my voltage meter to check what mode the PowerMax had decided it needed to run in.   According to everything I’ve read, the unit starts in 13.6 volt mode, then checks to see if the batteries need more and will go up to the 14.6 Boost mode, or down to the 13.2 float mode if the batteries do not need charging.

Much to my joy, she went down to 13.2 volts, something I don’t think the WFCO ever did, which is why my Trojan’s died an early death as they were being constantly boiled, even with water being added regularly, eventually the plates degraded to the point of no return.

As I sit here, typing my blog entry, the converter is still working just fine and still happily at 13.2 volts.  My lights no longer flicker and so far, I’m happy with the PowerMax Boondocker.

I still need to see how she performs in a recharging situation and operating off the generator.  I wasn’t able to use my generator with the WFCO on my last two participations on the Fall Colors Rally,

Thanks for following along, I will keep ya’ll posted as things progress!

Monday, October 10, 2011

2011 Fall Colors Rally—Last Stop, Smallwoods Harvest and then DISASTER!

After saying our good-byes to every from the Rally, Dawn and I back tracked a little to visit Smallwood’s Harvest, one of the large Produce stands along Highway 2, just east of Leavenworth.


Once again, we ran into another fellow truck camper owner, just as they were pulling out to leave…. Didn’t get an opportunity to chat.


Storm’s coming after us, those clouds don’t look too inviting….


Wandering around Smallwood’s Harvest, shooting pictures with Moby in tow, who really wanted to go into the main shopping area and “sample” any low-hanging fruit.


Even giant roosters did nothing to dissuade him!


Pumnkin’ Chunkin’, my kinda sport! Smile with tongue out


This device right here demonstrates what you too can do with an old propane cylinder, a large valve and some good welding skills.


Old vintage Fordson tractor, produce by Ford Motor Company back in the early 1900s. There were a number of old tractors, both working and not working scattered around Smallwood’s.


Moby enjoying his hotdog, his reward for having to eat his kibble instead of his wet food on the trip. Normally gets spoiled with wet dog food, but he and pedigree didn’t go well together, so we had to switch him back to his normal dry kibble, he wasn’t too happy about that.

But, he was happy with his hotdog Smile.

Sadly, all too soon, we were on the road again, heading west on Highway 2 for home.


Stopping along the way for the various spots of road construction going on along the side of Highway 2 as the road crews sprayed the rock cliff sides down with gunite to reinforce the rock faces and prevent slides.


Climbing up towards the big pass at the top of Highway 2.


Till we finally reached the top and started down the other side.


Dawn closed her eyes and formed a death grip on the cab door until we’d leveled back off a couple thousand feet down lower.

Other than a couple of close calls with wide dump trucks, we had no major issues up till we reached the US-2 SR-522 interchange.

I swear to God, someone at WADOT needs a beating!

“Bump” does not do justice on a sign for a road height difference between where they’d ground down the old asphalt a full FOOT from the main road surface. The lip up was poorly done and the “bump” sign was barely ten feet away from the impact point itself.

When you come around to this already going around 35-40 mph on a blind curve with no advanced warning, you just can’t slow down 10,000lbs of truck and camper fast enough. We hit that bump HARD, I literally felt the camper lift up out of the bed before slamming back down again.

It wouldn’t be until 60 miles later when we pulled off at the Southcenter Mall outside of Sea-tac that I would discovered that the driver’s side rear tie down had pulled clean through the camper and had been dragging on and off on the road behind us for 60 miles.

Had it not been for my judicious use of bolt down chain loops, I would have lost my whole tie down. As it was, the happijac ear stayed put on the bumper and only the top edge of the now worthless eye bolt had kissed the asphalt sporadically.

To make matters worse, I would discover a couple weeks after the trip that the driver’s side air bag had also been damaged in some fashion as it was now losing several PSI a day.

Hence, my last part in the title DISASTER.

Our trip’s spirits were rather dampened after that, but fortunately, the KIT and truck pulled through with only minor damage, the tie down will be replaced, and the air bag as well when I do a leaf spring swap later this winter.

All together, minus vehicular damage, it was a good Rally. Dawn wants to go again, and so I look forward to it.

Hope to see you all again in 2013 Smile.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

2011 Fall Colors Rally–Cider, Germans that aren’t, and Leavenworth

Continuing on in our fashion of going at our own pace, Dawn and I slept in a bit, had a good breakfast before breaking camp, saying out good-byes to Silverline before heading on to the last stop, Leavenworth.

The evening before, both Paul and Rick had come bearing gifts of Apple-cooler beverages from Canada and really good cider from the Methow Valley Ciderhouse.

After inquiring after its location, Dawn and I headed a short distance down the road from Silverline to the Methow Valley Cider house.


Dawn was quite happy with her cider findings Smile, sadly, they only had our favorite, Honey Bear, left on tap, so we ended up picking up a bottle of Howling Wolf and Pinnacle Goat for the road.


Up in the hills, where’s our Mountain Goats? There were fences all along the side of the highway to prevent them from jumping out into traffic, but we didn’t see a one. This time of year is when they’re winter coats are growing in and the goats are somewhat interesting looking.


Paralleling US-97 now… This side’s still prettier, less like an interstate, more like a meandering highway, which is more my style Smile.


High school graduating classes? Sadly our picture didn’t come out too good due to sun glare on the windshield.



Last year, I followed the Rally route to the letter and ended up caravaning with the rally for the last pull to Leavenworth. Because of my attempt to keep up with the rally last year, I ended up broken down in Toppenish, WA.

So, this year, given that we already were a fair ways behind everyone else, we decided to take a detour and travel the US-97A along the opposite side of the river and try a different view. We passed through Chelan along the way and big Lake Chelan tucked up in the hills, hidden from view from the main US-97 route.

We’d also heard tell of Mountain Goats being prevalent along that route as well, but sadly, we didn’t see a one.

Frankly, out of the two, US-97A is a far more scenic route, though not as flat or as fast. If I was to take the same trip again, I’d go US-97A every time.

When we pulled into Alpine View RV Park, we barely made it. Within a few short minutes after we’d gotten the camper plugged in and leveled off the bus to take us into town for the group dinner at King Ludwigs arrived.

Sadly, we missed out on Torklift Rob’s product demos this year due to our late arrival, but at least we didn’t miss the bus.

Talk about cutting it close!

This years dinner at Ludwig had alot more attendees than last year… Enough so that they had to move us down into the big lower area in the backroom to fit us all comfortably.


There was beer…


And random pictures taken of several of the “boys” coping a feel on the St. Pauli Girl cut-out, which I sadly have no picture of.


Frank, our favorite accordionist was back, and of course, the customary Chicken Dancing was performed Smile.

After dinner, we returned to camp and huddled around two campfires built of the remaining wood brought from Silverline. Sadly, George, Alaskashooter wasn’t able to join us in Leavenworth.

As we huddled around the fires, the rains finally caught up with us again, having been left behind back on Friday when we first started over the mountains from Arlington.

Not wanting to leave my comfy spot by the fire, I brought out my trusty umbrella and hunched up under it as the rain came down and I puffed on one of my last cigars.

Eventually, we all retired for the night, Dawn having gone to bed far earlier with Moby, too full of food and spirits to stay awake for too long.

The next morning, I floated around camp in my shorts and a t-shirt, doing my best to get pictures of our gathering at little Alpine View RV park. We never did see the park owners, simply left our payment in the box at the door as we headed out.


Even as early as I had gotten up that morning, a number of folks had already pulled out and hit the road.

Eventually, we said our good byes to everyone, leaving behind only a couple of rigs before we too, pulled up and headed out onto Highway 2.