Trouble powering both ThreatNet and laptop

Joined
Apr 1, 2005
Messages
161
Location
Goodland, KS
While chasing this year in several different vehicles including my 2000 Dodge Durango, I've run into problems with being unable to run both ThreatNet and laptop at the same time. The ThreatNet will invariably lose signal. We've tried to rig it several ways. I've got two 12V plugs on the Durango. One of them is used for the 300W inverter to plug the laptop into. Tried using the 12V adapter power cord for the ThreatNet into the other one. Then ended up purchasing a dual plug 350W inverter in Emporia yesterday so we could try running both off of a single inverter. That didn't work either. Finally, we tried pluging one inverter into one 12V plug and the other inverter into the other plug. This seemed to work as long as we were travelling at highway speed. Once we slowed down for a small Kansas town, the ThreatNet kicked out. Is this a situation where the alternator is not putting out enough juice? How do others get both to run at the same time without problems? Trying to get this resovled for the next chase, most likely this coming Sunday. Any thoughts/suggestions would be GREATLY appreciated.
 
If those are factory outlets your plugging those power invertors in to, you might be having some amperage problems there. While they are 12v they aren't rated for the AMPS those bigger power inverters need. Something like 300W and up need to have it's own dedicated feed from the batter to reduce problems. I run a 700w inverter directly off the batter and have run a dedicatd computer, a laptop, threatnet, charged multiple camera batteries on camera and a TV with no problems.
 
While chasing this year in several different vehicles including my 2000 Dodge Durango, I've run into problems with being unable to run both ThreatNet and laptop at the same time. The ThreatNet will invariably lose signal. We've tried to rig it several ways. I've got two 12V plugs on the Durango. One of them is used for the 300W inverter to plug the laptop into. Tried using the 12V adapter power cord for the ThreatNet into the other one. Then ended up purchasing a dual plug 350W inverter in Emporia yesterday so we could try running both off of a single inverter. That didn't work either. Finally, we tried pluging one inverter into one 12V plug and the other inverter into the other plug. This seemed to work as long as we were travelling at highway speed. Once we slowed down for a small Kansas town, the ThreatNet kicked out. Is this a situation where the alternator is not putting out enough juice? How do others get both to run at the same time without problems? Trying to get this resovled for the next chase, most likely this coming Sunday. Any thoughts/suggestions would be GREATLY appreciated.

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The fact that whether the setup works or not depends upon RPMs tells me that it's probably an alternator issue. Most cars run in the 13.5-14.4V range when the car is on, and the alternator usually puts out its "rated output" (the current/amperage) at quite high RPMs. As the alternator current goes down as RPMs drop, the voltage also drops. Try setting everything up and measure the voltage of the car's electrical system. If threatnet is shutting down at lower RPMs, Id think that the voltage would be considerably lower than it should be (it may be in the 12.5 or lower range). This can create a big issue, since you may be drawing more power than the alternator can provide, meaning that you're drawing from the battery's reserve. After enough time, you'll end up with dead bat. Most bats are not designed to be cycled very often (from dead to recharged), and you don't want to be in the situation where you kill the battery, shut off the car, then can't restart it since the battery doesn't have enough juice. I'd check the voltage when the car is on, and make sure the voltage isn't too far below 13v.

How do you have the inverter hooked up -- using a 12v / cigarette lighter plug or directly connected to the battery?
 
Chris,

When I had the threatnet system back in 2004, I had the very same problem. I tried various things, posted on here about it and gotten advice and never got rid of the problem.
 
The fact that whether the setup works or not depends upon RPMs tells me that it's probably an alternator issue. Most cars run in the 13.5-14.4V range when the car is on, and the alternator usually puts out its "rated output" (the current/amperage) at quite high RPMs. As the alternator current goes down as RPMs drop, the voltage also drops. Try setting everything up and measure the voltage of the car's electrical system. If threatnet is shutting down at lower RPMs, Id think that the voltage would be considerably lower than it should be (it may be in the 12.5 or lower range). This can create a big issue, since you may be drawing more power than the alternator can provide, meaning that you're drawing from the battery's reserve. After enough time, you'll end up with dead bat. Most bats are not designed to be cycled very often (from dead to recharged), and you don't want to be in the situation where you kill the battery, shut off the car, then can't restart it since the battery doesn't have enough juice. I'd check the voltage when the car is on, and make sure the voltage isn't too far below 13v.

How do you have the inverter hooked up -- using a 12v / cigarette lighter plug or directly connected to the battery?
[/b]

Jeff,

Right now, both of the inverters were plugged in using a separate 12V plug. One cool thing about the inverter I bought yesterday is it does display the voltage input and there were many times when it was in the 12.5-12.7 range if we were trying to power both of them. It did come with cables allowing it to be direct wired to the battery though, with as little as it will be used, I'm not sure it would be worth it to run it through the firewall. I've contemplated purchasing an additional laptop battery or two and just use that to power the laptop while letting the vehicle power the ThreatNet.
 
If those are factory outlets your plugging those power invertors in to, you might be having some amperage problems there. While they are 12v they aren't rated for the AMPS those bigger power inverters need. Something like 300W and up need to have it's own dedicated feed from the batter to reduce problems. I run a 700w inverter directly off the batter and have run a dedicatd computer, a laptop, threatnet, charged multiple camera batteries on camera and a TV with no problems. [/b]

David,

What brand of inverter are you running? Any suggestions? Just saw a Vector 700w inverter on amazon.com for $39.97 plus shipping. Seems like a really low price considering I just dropped $65 on the 350W inverter at Radio Shack yesterday.
 
I would have to go uncover it to tell you, I can't remember the brand. It's the big red one they sell at Walmart. I should also tell you I do NOT run the WXWORX with the 12v cig lighter adapter. I run it off of 110V adapter from the power inverter. I also do not plug ANYTHING in to the inverter directly. I use a surge protector power strip, plug that into the inverter and plug everything else in to that. Been using this setup for a while now in three different chase vehicles and seems to work just fine.

Seems like everyone I have heard of having power problems with the WXWORX, it was with the 12v adapter.

Now if I could just figure out why MY wxworx refuses to display the warnings.
 
I would have to go uncover it to tell you, I can't remember the brand. It's the big red one they sell at Walmart. I should also tell you I do NOT run the WXWORX with the 12v cig lighter adapter. I run it off of 110V adapter from the power inverter. I also do not plug ANYTHING in to the inverter directly. I use a surge protector power strip, plug that into the inverter and plug everything else in to that. Been using this setup for a while now in three different chase vehicles and seems to work just fine.

Seems like everyone I have heard of having power problems with the WXWORX, it was with the 12v adapter.

Now if I could just figure out why MY wxworx refuses to display the warnings. [/b]



Before I spent the $$ on the two plug inverter yesterday, I plugged a surge protector power strip in and tried to run everything that way. As you you, Jeff and others pointed out earlier, it's simply a factor of not getting enough juice from the alternator to run it all at once. I appreciate the thoughts/suggestions of all. I'm going to seriously consider that 700w inverter from Amazon...
 
Before I spent the $$ on the two plug inverter yesterday, I plugged a surge protector power strip in and tried to run everything that way. As you you, Jeff and others pointed out earlier, it's simply a factor of not getting enough juice from the alternator to run it all at once. I appreciate the thoughts/suggestions of all. I'm going to seriously consider that 700w inverter from Amazon...

[/b]

That is a little odd. I mean, if there's a relationship between the setup working and the RPMs, that makes me think alternator, as I've said. However, if the WxWorx unit requires 12V, you still should able to run it regardless, since even the battery alone will provide ~12V unless it's put under a massive load. I wonder if WxWorx actually requires something in the 13-14v range. Even at that, if you plug it into the inverter to use 110v powre to the unit, the 300w inverter should be able to provide enough power, esp since most laptops don't use full juice unless the graphics card (if equipped) and CPU are maxed out. You've tried running the laptop and XM unit from the inverter?
 
That is a little odd. I mean, if there's a relationship between the setup working and the RPMs, that makes me think alternator, as I've said. However, if the WxWorx unit requires 12V, you still should able to run it regardless, since even the battery alone will provide ~12V unless it's put under a massive load. I wonder if WxWorx actually requires something in the 13-14v range. Even at that, if you plug it into the inverter to use 110v powre to the unit, the 300w inverter should be able to provide enough power, esp since most laptops don't use full juice unless the graphics card (if equipped) and CPU are maxed out. You've tried running the laptop and XM unit from the inverter?
[/b]



Yep, plugged both of them into the dual-plug 350w inverter I purchased yesterday. I'd heard of issues with running ThreatNet via the 12V plug but my old inverter was just a single plug. Thought the dual-plug would make all the difference. Alas, I was disappointed when it didn't. If we shut down the XM link, unplugged the laptop and then rebooted XM, ThreatNet would pop right up and run like a champ. With both of them plugged in, it would be unable to even detect the serial # for the XM and pop up the message about setting up communications. Needless to say, it was pretty frustrating.
 
hehehehe, i started recieving shear data yesterday while chasing.. i have the master mariner package :blink: Go figure..
 
Yep, plugged both of them into the dual-plug 350w inverter I purchased yesterday. I'd heard of issues with running ThreatNet via the 12V plug but my old inverter was just a single plug. Thought the dual-plug would make all the difference. Alas, I was disappointed when it didn't. If we shut down the XM link, unplugged the laptop and then rebooted XM, ThreatNet would pop right up and run like a champ. With both of them plugged in, it would be unable to even detect the serial # for the XM and pop up the message about setting up communications. Needless to say, it was pretty frustrating.
[/b]

This happened to me also yesterday but I use the cig/power plug that came with XM. (Which was strange because I ran the same step up last year and had no problems) I thought that maybe it was the new laptop I bought this year but it was fine. The only thing I have pluged in to a power inveter is the laptop but I have the inveter pluged into a 3 power outlet I got form Radio Shack along with the scanner and XM. My power inveter was going bad, I just have a 140w Radio Shack one that was pulling down the system so after running on hiway speeds was fine but then slowing down for small town Kansas XM would stop running. So today I stopped and picked up a new one been running it all day and so far not a problem.


You might try the cig/power plug from XM and run it on a different power point in the car.
 
I have a similar if not the same problem. It works fine until I turn on the DC to AC converter on to run the laptop, then I start have com errors. I just ended up using one of those portable battery jumper units. It's kind of a pain but it works. I wonder if its some kind of RF noise getting into the USB Com cable.
 
Now if I could just figure out why MY wxworx refuses to display the warnings.
[/b]
Trying not to thread jack here, but I have had this same problem with my wxworx. I even called them and they reset something, but it still doesn't work. I am wondering if anyone else has run into this?
 
If it is the alternator causing the problem, try running the setup with your engine off. I had this problem in 2004 (WxWorx not working with the laptop) and a surge protector strip fixed the problem. I don't know how it did it, but it worked. At the time I was using a small, cheap 130-watt inverter in my truck.

Direct heavy-guage wiring directly from your inverter to the main power block (either under the hood or under the dash) does wonders for voltage problems. I was surprised how much better the inverter handles loads this way. I tested my setup last spring and was able to run 2 camera chargers, a laptop and a scanner on the 750w inverter AND WxWorx, cell phone chargers, overhead dual-halogen rotator lightbar, rear strobes AND my headlights on the 12v battery line, all with the engine OFF - the inverter never sounded its low voltage alarm! Of course, this scenario will likely never come up in chasing, and if I kept this up without the engine running, would run the battery down in 10 minutes. With the engine running it should never be a problem.

I used to have problems plugging the inverter into the stock 12v outlets in the car. Any inverter I used would frequently overload due to low voltage. The problem didn't go away when I got the larger inverter either. Direct-wiring solved the problem. I use a 750 watt dual-outlet inverter from Home Depot, and a surge protector strip for everything to plug into.
 
Last year, when I started using WxWorx, I purchased a deep cycle marine battery and kept it in the back of the Explorer. I just hooked up to the inverter to that and used it only for the laptop and the WxWorx receiver. It worked great (as long as you remember to charge it at the end of the day).
Craig
 
I agree with David Drummond, This does not sound complicated.
You dont have enough power. I do run XM using the 12v plug, BUT it is directly wired to the battery NOT a factory install. My auto mechanic discouraged me from using any of the 12v plugs from the factory, he said they are fixing burnt wires all the time, and that the factory does not use heavy enough gage to run all the new electronics.. I use the AC adapter plugged into an power inverter for the laptop, and the power inverter does not run off of a 12v plug but is wired directly to the battery. and a seperate 12v 3 plug hooked directly to the battery. The only thing i run the factory 12v plugs for is to charge the cell phone.

I agree with what has already been said, wire your power inverter and your 12v plugs directly to the battery, any auto mechanic will do it in an hour.

Hank
www.weatherpic.com
 
Now if I could just figure out why MY wxworx refuses to display the warnings.[/b]
Have you configured the counties? You need to do this then restart the program before they will be displayed.

On the power issue, I have had my share of problems. Mostly when I used the 12V power adapter for the WXWORX. I now user the AC adapter. It is plugged into a 750W inverter connected to the battery with 6guage wire. Another thing I had to do was tape the connector into the back of the WXWORX. it seems to like to jiggle loose.

You might try getting a small UPS ane put it between the inverter and power supply. That might smooth things out for you.
 
Our hire car last year was a GMC Envoy, which had 3 (!) DC outlets. We used one solely for the Baron System, one for the invertor which powered laptops, camera chargers, etc, and the 3rd was spare for anything else, such as a scanner. Had no problems with power at all.
 
Just wondering Chris, how may miles does this Durango have on it? Alternator may be getting bad, need to have it tested to make sure. Have seen em' go bad even at 40000 miles.

Also, FYI, an alternator only produces 40% of its rated output at idle. Being an smaller SUV, you may also be suffering from a small alternator. (Your alternator is only putting out so many amp's and your exceeding them.) I know some older SUV and light trucks actually have a "car's" alternator in them. (This was long before they realized people have a lot of electronic gear to power) I know in my 99 Chevy pickup, im pumping out 120 amps at full load. More than enough to power all my gear.

IMHO, have your alt tested to see how good it is. Might need a new one and/or a bigger one so that it can handle your power needs. Hope you can get it all straightened out!

Nick
 
I agree with David Drummond, This does not sound complicated.
You dont have enough power. I do run XM using the 12v plug, BUT it is directly wired to the battery NOT a factory install. My auto mechanic discouraged me from using any of the 12v plugs from the factory, he said they are fixing burnt wires all the time, and that the factory does not use heavy enough gage to run all the new electronics.. I use the AC adapter plugged into an power inverter for the laptop, and the power inverter does not run off of a 12v plug but is wired directly to the battery. and a seperate 12v 3 plug hooked directly to the battery. The only thing i run the factory 12v plugs for is to charge the cell phone.

I agree with what has already been said, wire your power inverter and your 12v plugs directly to the battery, any auto mechanic will do it in an hour.

Hank
www.weatherpic.com
[/b]

I believe this is exactly your issue. Last year I smoked the factory wiring to one of built in 12v plugs in my truck. Now the only thing I plug in to those are my cell phone. Everything else goes to a power strip. The 350w inverter is plenty big enough to power a laptop, XM, and assorted chargers, it just needs to be wired directly to the battery. Be sure and place a fuse between the inverter and battery, and as close to the battery as possible. I have a large weather resistant AGU fuse setup that I bought on Ebay. You can find them at any car audio store, just don’t ask for them at a regular auto parts store, or they will look at you real funny. Sometime soon I want to install an in dash on / off switch with a relay, a neat trick I learned from Mr. Drummond. :D Good luck, and I do believe direct wiring to the battery will solve your problems.
 
Just wondering Chris, how may miles does this Durango have on it? Alternator may be getting bad, need to have it tested to make sure. Have seen em' go bad even at 40000 miles.

Also, FYI, an alternator only produces 40% of its rated output at idle. Being an smaller SUV, you may also be suffering from a small alternator. (Your alternator is only putting out so many amp's and your exceeding them.) I know some older SUV and light trucks actually have a "car's" alternator in them. (This was long before they realized people have a lot of electronic gear to power) I know in my 99 Chevy pickup, im pumping out 120 amps at full load. More than enough to power all my gear.

IMHO, have your alt tested to see how good it is. Might need a new one and/or a bigger one so that it can handle your power needs. Hope you can get it all straightened out!

Nick [/b]
Nick, the Durango has just over 64,000 miles on it. Hadn't thought about getting the alternator tested but will certainly do that. The stock alternator is a 90 amp. Have been looking at upping it to a beefier 140 amp model for about $250.

Tried something a little different when chasing on Sunday and it seemed to work. There's a third 12V plug on the passenger side of the cargo area. Plugged one inverter into this one and had the laptop plugged into it. Plugged the other inverter into the front 12V plug and put the XM on this one. For some reason, this seemed to work. I'm guessing the cigarette lighter isn't set up to handle that much of a load which is why it kept kicking out when the XM was plugged into it via the 12V adapter. Needless to say, I'm still considering the upgrade on the alternator (if I can scrape the $$ together).
 
One thing you guys need to remember, all those little factory cigarette lighter (or the more politically correct Accessory Outlet) are only meant for things that draw very LOW amps, like charging your cell phone. The wires that supply them are a very small guage wire. They were never designed to carry multiple loads on one outlet (like when you use one of those adapters) or for higher loads like a big power convertor.

Doing so you will be fortunate if all you do is blow a fuse. Less fortunate, well....I hope you carry a fire extinguisher.
 
Nick, the Durango has just over 64,000 miles on it. Hadn't thought about getting the alternator tested but will certainly do that. The stock alternator is a 90 amp. Have been looking at upping it to a beefier 140 amp model for about $250.

Tried something a little different when chasing on Sunday and it seemed to work. There's a third 12V plug on the passenger side of the cargo area. Plugged one inverter into this one and had the laptop plugged into it. Plugged the other inverter into the front 12V plug and put the XM on this one. For some reason, this seemed to work. I'm guessing the cigarette lighter isn't set up to handle that much of a load which is why it kept kicking out when the XM was plugged into it via the 12V adapter. Needless to say, I'm still considering the upgrade on the alternator (if I can scrape the $$ together).
[/b]

Hi Chris:

A good friend of mine has a similar setup with his Durango - never had a problem plugging his XM, 2 laptops, and camera chargers in all together. He has a 800 watt inverter hooked up right to the battery.

I have my XM and Laptop both plugged into my 400 watt inverter, and didn't have a problem last year. I had the fuse in my XM adapter go out on me, so I had to use the AC Adapter, and it worked just fine.

(I have a much smaller car, a chevy malibu, however according to the dealer, I have a 120amp alternator in it)

I have noticed when I am idiling, and have all my gear hooked up together and the AC blasting, that I do tend to get low voltage alarms.

Hope this helps,

-Eric
 
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