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It's a bit more complicated than a few years ago. Here's the description and operation. The system voltage will be lower after running a while as the generator is commanded to a lower duty cycle for fuel economy reasons.
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The electrical power management (EPM) system is designed to monitor and control the charging system and send diagnostic messages to alert the driver of possible problems with the battery and generator. This EPM system primarily utilizes existing on-board computer capability to maximize the effectiveness of the generator, to manage the load, improve battery state-of-charge and life, and minimize the system's impact on fuel economy. The EPM system performs 3 functions:
The battery condition is estimated during ignition-off and during ignition-on. During ignition-off the state-of-charge (SOC) of the battery is determined by measuring the open-circuit voltage. The SOC is a function of the acid concentration and the internal resistance of the battery, and is estimated by reading the battery open circuit voltage when the battery has been at rest for several hours.
The SOC can be used as a diagnostic tool to tell the customer or the dealer the condition of the battery. Throughout ignition-on, the algorithm continuously estimates SOC based on adjusted net amp hours, battery capacity, initial SOC, and temperature.
While running, the battery degree of discharge is primarily determined by a battery current sensor, which is integrated to obtain net amp hours.
In addition, the EPM function is designed to perform regulated voltage control (RVC) to improve battery SOC, battery life, and fuel economy. This is accomplished by using knowledge of the battery SOC and temperature to set the charging voltage to an optimum battery voltage level for recharging without detriment to battery life.
The Charging System Description and Operation is divided into 3 sections. The first section describes the charging system components and their integration into the EPM. The second section describes charging system operation. The third section describes the instrument panel cluster (IPC) operation of the charge indicator, driver information center (DIC) messages, and voltmeter operation.
The generator is a serviceable component. If there is a diagnosed failure of the generator it must be replaced as an assembly. The engine drive belt drives the generator. When the rotor is spun it induces an alternating current (AC) into the stator windings. The AC voltage is then sent through a series of diodes for rectification. The rectified voltage has been converted into a direct current (DC) for use by the vehicles electrical system to maintain electrical loads and the battery charge. The voltage regulator integral to the generator controls the output of the generator. It is not serviceable. The voltage regulator controls the amount of current provided to the rotor. If the generator has field control circuit failure, the generator defaults to an output voltage of 13.8 volts.
The body control module (BCM) is a GMLAN device. It communicates with the engine control module (ECM) and the instrument panel cluster (IPC) for electrical power management (EPM) operation. The BCM determines the output of the generator and sends the information to the ECM for control of the generator field control circuit. It monitors the generator field duty cycle signal circuit information sent from the ECM for control of the generator. It monitors a battery current sensor, the battery positive voltage circuit, and estimated battery temperature to determine battery state of charge (SOC). The BCM sends idle boost requests to the ECM.
The battery current sensor is a serviceable component that is connected to the negative battery cable at the battery. The battery current sensor is a 3-wire hall effect current sensor. The battery current sensor monitors the battery current. It directly inputs to the BCM. It creates a 5 volt pulse width modulation (PWM) signal of 128 Hz with a duty cycle of 0-100 percent. Normal duty cycle is between 5-95 percent. Between 0-5 percent and 95-100 percent are for diagnostic purposes.
The ECM directly controls the generator field control circuit input to the generator. The ECM receives control decisions based on messages from the BCM. It monitors the generators generator field duty cycle signal circuit and sends the information to the BCM.
The IPC provides a means of customer notification in case of a failure and a voltmeter. There are 2 means of notification, a charge indicator and the driver information center (DIC) SERVICE BATTERY CHARGING SYSTEM message.
The purpose of the charging system is to maintain the battery charge and vehicle loads. There are 6 modes of operation and they include:
The engine control module (ECM) controls the generator through the generator turn on signal. It monitors the generator performance though the generator field duty cycle signal circuit. The signal is a 5 volt pulse width modulation (PWM) signal of 128 Hz with a duty cycle of 0-100 percent. Normal duty cycle is between 5-95 percent. Between 0-5 percent and 95-100 percent are for diagnostic purposes. The following table shows the commanded duty cycle and output voltage of the generator:
The generator provides a feedback signal of the generator voltage output through the generator field duty cycle signal circuit to the ECM. This information is sent to the body control module (BCM). The signal is a 5 volt PWM signal of 128 Hz with a duty cycle of 0-100 percent. Normal duty cycle is between 5-99 percent. Between 0-5 percent and 100 percent are for diagnostic purposes.
The BCM will enter this mode when the interpreted generator output voltage is less than 13.2 volts for 45 minutes. When this condition exists the BCM will enter Charge Mode for 2-3 minutes. The BCM will then determine which mode to enter depending on voltage requirements.
The BCM will enter Charge Mode when ever one of the following conditions are met.
When any one of these conditions is met, the system will set targeted generator output voltage to a charging voltage between 13.9-15.5 volts, depending on the battery state of charge and estimated battery temperature.
The BCM will enter Fuel Economy Mode when the ambient air temperature is at least 0°C (32°F) but less than or equal to 80°C (176°F), the calculated battery current is less than 15 amps and greater than -8 amps, and the battery state of charge (SOC) is greater than or equal to 80 percent. Its targeted generator output voltage is the open circuit voltage of the battery and can be between 12.5-13.1 volts. The BCM will exit this mode and enter Charge Mode when any of the conditions described above are present.
The BCM will enter Headlamp Mode when the headlamps are ON. Voltage will be regulated between 13.9-14.5 volts
When the engine is started the BCM sets a targeted generator output voltage of 14.3 volts for 30 seconds.
The BCM will enter Voltage Reduction Mode when the calculated battery temperature is above 0°C (32°F). The calculated battery current is less than 1 amp and greater than -7 amps, and the generator field duty cycle is less than 99 percent. Its targeted generator output voltage is 13 volts. The BCM will exit this mode once the criteria are met for Charge Mode.
The auxiliary battery provision (TP2) can be used to supply electrical power to additional equipment that the customer may choose to add, such as a slide-in camper or trailer, without discharging the vehicles primary battery. The auxiliary battery relay closes when the engine is running, in order to allow the generator to charge the auxiliary battery. The relay opens when the engine is off, so that the accessories will not discharge the vehicles primary battery, which is used for engine starting. If the vehicle is equipped with an auxiliary battery, the relay will be located on the driver's side of the vehicle, next to the underhood electrical center. Generally, a fuse should not be used in the STUD 1 Fuse 68 position of the underhood fuse block, if the vehicle is equipped with an auxiliary battery. A plastic plug may be installed in this position instead of a fuse. If a fuse is installed in this position, the accessories will discharge the primary battery in addition to the auxiliary battery.
The instrument panel cluster (IPC) illuminates the charge indicator and displays a warning message in the driver information center (DIC) when the one or more of the following occurs:
The IPC displays the system voltage as received from the BCM over the GMLAN serial data circuit. If there is no communication with the BCM then the gauge will indicate minimum.
This vehicle is equipped with a regulated voltage control (RVC) system. This system turns off the generator when it is not required in order to improve fuel economy. The generator will turn back on when additional voltage is required. This will cause the voltmeter to fluctuate between 12 and 14 volts as opposed to non-regulated systems which usually maintain a more consistent reading of 14 volts. This fluctuation with the RVC system is normal system operation and NO repairs should be attempted.
The BCM and the ECM will send a GMLAN message to the DIC for the SERVICE BATTERY CHARGING SYSTEM message to be displayed. It is commanded ON when a charging system DTC is a current DTC. The message is turned OFF when the conditions for clearing the DTC have been met. During cold weather warm-up and high electrical demand, the generator capacity can be briefly exceeded causing this message to be displayed for up to two minutes.
It sounds as if he is overloading the system which is not designed for the loads he is putting on it. He may have to look at either adding an auxiliary battery or seeing if there is an aftermarket add on auxiliary generator kit available. I've seen them on school buses for a/c units. I don't believe there is a failure in the system. It appears the bcm is simply seeing that the generator can't keep up with the electrical load on the system.
THat may not be the answer you want to hear but it does seem the likely scenario.