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Old 10-23-2014, 07:54 AM   #1
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topdownman's Avatar

Join Date: Apr 2012
Location: Louisville, KY
Posts: 1,475
1990 Winnie Chieftain questions

A friend of mine just sold his TT and bought his first Class A. It's a 1990 Winnebago Chieftain, 36 foot on a Chevy P30 chassis. He just got it home last weekend and called me with some questions that I couldn't quite answer.

When he looked at the unit, the previous owner had a car charger hooked up to the house batteries. I couldn't tell if those were 6 or 12 volt, but there are two and they look fairly new. He drove it home from Indianapolis to Louisville with no problems. However, once home, none of the interior 12v lights work, EXCEPT for the fluorescent in the hall and the lights in the bathroom AND the steps. They all worked when he looked at it. To me, it looks like.
  1. House batteries are dead.
  2. Charger sounds like it's running, which may be why those few lights work.
  3. Generator won't start (probably because of dead house batteries?)
Engine starts fine. Also, there are switches on the dash that I can't quite figure out. I wish I had taken a picture but it was dark. One is a battery switch that says something like Main and MOM. There is another momentary switch with a little light that is either Main or Aux. If you press that, nothing happens and the light doesn't work.

My theory is that the house batteries are so dead that there must be some sort of relay connected to that dash switch that needs to kick in to charge the house batteries when you're running down the road. Stupid theory but what do I know. I looked for something that looked like a "salesman switch", but couldn't identify anything.

Also, there are three switches as you come in the entrance door. The one of the far right I know controls the steps, but what about the other two? They are not marked or the markings are worn away.

Any guidance you can give me I'll pass on to my buddy.

Mark Anderson - FMCA 351514 - NRVIA Certified Level 2 Inspector
Louisville, KY
2011 Tiffin Phaeton 40QTH
2006 Jeep Commander
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Old 10-24-2014, 01:44 PM   #2
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Navy Flier's Avatar
Freightliner Owners Club
Join Date: Feb 2005
Posts: 335
First, if there is a question about the batteries take them to a battery shop and have them tested. If they are good there are probably electrical problems that need to be addressed.
Second, this web site shows the brochure for the coach. It does not answer the questions but might be handy in the future.


Third, have your friend call Winnebago customer service @ 800-537-1885 and ask his questions about the switches and any other hardware questions he might have. He might be prepared to send them some photos. He will need his Winnebago serial number when he talks to them not the VIN. They will not provide diagnostic support for the electrical problem. That is not their job. It is really tough to do diagnostics over the phone.

Chuck & Carol
08 Horizon 40TD
04 Honda CR-V
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Old 10-24-2014, 04:53 PM   #3
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Posts: 596
I had to label my switches so I remembered what they do. Here is a link to the picture:
1994 Brave 29RQ RV: Demystifying the dash switches
Dash switches:
Says Radio power on the top left. Switch is labeled Aux on left and Main on right. What it means is that if you want to run the radio off your house batteries (the 2 12V under the step most likely) you push the left side. You may have 2 6V but they are probably 2 12Vs. If you want to run the radio off your engine battery then you push the right side. Mostly you want to save your engine battery for starting the RV so you will want to run the radio off the Aux side.

Second switch says Aux Start on the left with Mom underneath it (still on the left). What this means is that if you engine battery is dead and you cannot start your coach you push the left side down (mom=momentarily while starting) and it will use your house/coach batteries to start the engine.

Third switch says Aux Batt on the left with OFF underneath it and ON on the right side. What this means is that when you want to turn off all the electronics in the RV you turn this to OFF. This avoids draining the battery. There are still a few parasitic things like your LP alarm drawing power but it shuts everything else off so you don't drain it in storage. Your electric steps by pass this and will still work.

In terms of the door switches. The one closest to the door is probably the porch light. When it is on the porch light is illuminated as well as a small light in the footwell of the step. Another is to hold out the step when you are parked and going in and out. The third is connected to the central ceiling light. If you leave this light in the on position you can turn it on and off with the door switch. If you turn if off above your head the door switch does nothing.

To answer your questions I think he thew the AUX Battery switch to Off which is why the lights don't work. They may have installed a battery operated florescent in the hall and bath.

Good luck and let me know if I can help. It really does help to label the switches with something that make sense to you so you don't have to keep looking up the cryptic meaning.

Edit: Forgot to add that if he has Good Sams Platinum or above they have technical assistance as part of the plan where you call and talk to a tech. Very helpful for us one time when we had the generator serviced and the guy threw a switch for working on it that we didn't know about. On our next trip we couldn't get the generator started again. We called, told them about it not starting and we had just had it serviced. It was Sat. so the original mechanic wasn't avail. The Good Sams guy guided us right to the hidden switch. Probably Coach Net has the same thing.

Edit: Forgot to mention "the charger sounds like its running". I'm not sure what is meant but perchance does he have an inverter running somewhere? If so he should go shut it off. It will drain the battery. There is no sound when the batteries are being charged by the engine or when they are charged by shore power unless a fan comes on to keep the power cool.
Proud owner of 1994 Winnebago Brave 29RQ.
Chevy 454 on a P30 chassis.
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Old 10-24-2014, 05:23 PM   #4
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Location: HOME: Oshkosh, WI
Posts: 2,102
This coach probably has three batteries.

1 12 volt battery for starting the engine

then there should be 2 batteries for providing 12v DC for the lights in the coach. these batteries also supply the power for the control boards for the refrigerator and hot water heater. if each of these batteries have 6 caps then they are 12 V batteries and should be wired in parallel ... if each battery has 3 caps then they are 6 volt batteries and are wired in series ...

when the engine is running there is most likely a solenoid that connect the alternator to both sets of batteries and charges them. once the engine is turned off both battery banks are independent.
2012 Buick Enclave
Present At home Home: Oshkosh, WI

former owner 2004 Winnebago Journey 39W
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