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Old 10-23-2017, 06:16 PM   #1
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Starter Electrical Gremlin

I have been having an electrical/starter problem and thought I would see if anyone has some insight before calling an RV mechanic and spending $$$.

Beginning this past summer when attempting to start our 2010 Fleetwood Encounter (also known as a Storm in later models) 32BH on a 2009 Ford F-53 chassis, the starter won't engage. There are no clicking sounds indicating a dead battery, though I replaced the chassis battery as it was over five years old and probably needed it anyways. I ensured the battery was fully charged and it gives a reading of around 12.7v, though with solar panels and/or shore power it will read 13.8-14.4 depending upon charge cycle. However, there are clicking sounds from the fuse box relays in the dash.

The dash lights and A/C turn off when turning the key to the start position, I believe they always do this, indicating that the ignition switch is operating correctly. I have attempted to use the chassis/house interconnect switch thinking it might boost the power temporarily.

The tricky part is that the problem is very intermittent. Sometimes it starts right away, first try, whether having sat for awhile or not, sometimes it won't. Sometimes it won't start right after it was shut off after several hours on the road and sometimes it will.

I have tried shifting into and out park or leaving it in neutral to see if an interconnect switch may have kept it from starting. No luck. Kept my foot on the brake pedal. No luck. Applied the emergency brake. No luck.

One thing that has worked (so far) is time, it has never NOTstarted, eventually. It may take two or twenty tries, but sooner or later it will start. It has not progressively become worse, its completely random. I'm just afraid one of these times it will just stop working altogether. In the middle of nowhere. I've been lucky so far on that account.

Out of curiosity, I just went out to test something. With the jacks down, slides out, front bunk dropped down (all of these are on a lock out that is triggered by the key being in the ignition switch) the engine turned over first time. I let run for 2-3 minutes at about 2,000 rpm, then shut it off. Tried to restart and it wouldn't. Tried 3 or 4 times and it wouldn't.

Sorry for the long post, just trying to convey all the info I can. Any help or ideas would be greatly appreciated!

Thanks in advance!

Tom
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Old 10-23-2017, 06:24 PM   #2
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This sounds like your problem:
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Old 10-23-2017, 06:30 PM   #3
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Tom,

Check to be sure the starter is clean and mounted on a clean surface. Also be sure the engine block ground strap(s) is/are clean at each attachment point. To do this remove the starter and clean both the mating surfaces, starter and engine block. Maybe sand them lightly. Be sure the is no grease / oil build up between the starter and engine block. Then remove the bolt attaching the ground strap(s) between the engine block and the chassis. Clean these mating surfaces and reinstall. Lastly, since you removed the starter you would have checked the power cable to the starter and the solenoid wire to be sure they are tight and clean as well. This is just a hunch based on info given but give it a try. Bad grounds will cause all kinds of trouble but once you eliminate that we can go deeper into the issue if it isn't resolved.
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Old 10-23-2017, 07:13 PM   #4
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Tom,

This too is a long post. Some may not want to read it but some want to know more of the why for future reference.

I'd like to add a bit more information to what c92vette (Steve) posted.

First of all he may be correct and as stated it's a very good place to begin.

As far as what STEVE posted about removing the starter to check to see if the case ground is good, well I'd hold off on that. That's a bit of work and until all battery cable connections are verified I'd wait. Can it be the problem?? Yes, but I'd put it a lot lower on the list than the connections and solenoids. I'd bet 95%+ of no crank issues with a good cranking battery are solenoids or connections.

Now the WHY???? Current or amperage demands are at the heart of this issue. Most folks don't just think about it.

Lets begin here. Everything on most all vehicles uses a 12 Volt (12V) battery. The battery delivers current ranging from less than 1-amp upwards of 150 amps but all at 12 volts of pressure. Voltage is the pressure used to push current through the circuit but the current is what is needed to do the work.

To get a perspective here's a short list of how much current is needed to operate some item in all vehicles. Radio-1-2 amps, blower motor 10-amps, Headlights-15 amps and interior lights 1,3,5 amps. The starter motor needs 150 amps. There's a big difference for sure.

It takes less than 1-amp to stop your heart. We can weld steel with 60 amps. The more the current the bigger the wire size and the cleaner the connection needed to pass all that amperage.

There are many, many connections used in the cranking circuit as well as solenoids. Any one of these connections positive or negative inside a solenoid or at any other place where a wire is connected to a device can be the cause of what you are experiencing.

Why do these connections corrode?? Simple answer. With every one of these battery cable connections we have the three things needed to cause corrosion. We have different types of metal (lead, copper, zinc,tin etc) and current flow. That is called electrolysis. Then add some air (oxygen) and we have corrosion.


Why does it come and go??? Another simple answer. When corrosion sets up and the current tries to pass through it gets hot and sometimes very hot. That expansion and then contraction when it cools off can be why it's intermittent.

SOLENOIDS ! What are they?? They are a high current carrying remotely operated high current carrying switch. They use 12 volts to energize a magnet which is the clicking you hear. The wires used to control the magnet are small because the circuit is using low current. The switch or solenoid is carrying the high (150 amps) to crank the starter. If or when those internal contacts become corroded not enough current gets through and you have a no crank situation.

You or a shop can clean all of the larger high current carrying battery wire connections on BOTH ends and on the positive and negative cables. You may get lucky and find your problem. Even if you don't find the issue it's a smart thing to do. Now you know they are good. Get some battery connection spray to cover those exposed connections to keep the oxygen away.

If it is one of the solenoids a decent tech can do a voltage drop test to determine which solenoid is at fault. If you have a tech who is not so decent tech he/she will start by replacing a solenoid and if the problem is still present the next solenoid and the next until the bad one is located.

Please do let the forum know how this turns out. We like to learn as well.
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Old 10-23-2017, 07:26 PM   #5
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Although it may be a starter solenoid, several F53 owners have found this exact symptom was due to poor/intermittent connection in a connector to the steering column.
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Old 10-23-2017, 07:41 PM   #6
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My '98 Pace Arrow w/460 v-8 would start slowly. I checked all of the cables, which were good. Battery was good. Put in a new $40.00 starter, now it starts immediately, over and over again. Eddie Elk.
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Old 10-23-2017, 08:00 PM   #7
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Sounds like it could be a dead spot or 'burn' on the starter armature.
Happened all the time on 7 volt VWs and some mid 70s Chrysler 's
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Old 10-23-2017, 08:46 PM   #8
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Thanks for the answers! This weekend I will get under the Motor home and look at the wiring connections. I do know that the previous owner installed a battery disconnect, the type with the thumb screw. I wiggled and tightened it thoroughly, but that didn't have any effect on the problem. But I will check the others.

I have never looked for any the major wiring connections before, are there any less obvious ones that I should look for? If I get to that point, where is the starter solenoid located? Seeing how relatively cheap they are, I may replace it if the wiring connection cleaning doesn't seem to help.

Thanks,

Tom
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Old 10-23-2017, 09:00 PM   #9
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Yes it may be this or it may be that but the majority of intermittent cranking issues are due to poor high current connections. Why not start with the most common issue?? Cleaning all the connections on an older unit is always a good thing to do anyway. Then you do know it's not the connections.

Had the principals truck one day in my Junior auto shop class. It would strand them intermittently with a no crank. Three starters, two alternators and three times back to have the battery checked. Nothing was wrong with the parts but nothing fixed the problem. Went on for 6 months.

With the class I drew the starter schematic. We talked about how to trouble shoot it. Sent the class down for lab and put two kids on the truck. They came back in less than 5 minutes with the solution.

The NEGATIVE battery cable was tight at the battery but loose on the motor. They removed the bolt, cleaned the area, torqued it down and problem was solved.

Why did the battery intermittently die? It was not always being re-charged by the alternator because as the engine moved from torque the negative cable would lose the connection at the block. Sloppy workers checked battery connections only at the battery end.

"One thing that has worked (so far) is time, it has never NOTstarted, eventually. It may take two or twenty tries, but sooner or later it will start."

His one statement about TIME (ABOVE) is key. That takes care of almost every solution mentioned. A dead spot on an armature does not heal with time. Since a loose connection at the steering column is not a high current connection I doubt time would heal that either.

When troubleshooting electrical issues start with the most common and skip nothing. If you start jumping hither and yon replacing one part then another you soon run into your tail with several less bucks in your wallet and no solution.

We'll see what the future holds!!!
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Old 10-23-2017, 09:06 PM   #10
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Tom,

Start at your battery compartments. If you remove the negative cable from a battery it out of the circuit and safer to work around. Wire brush to clean corrosion off connections then replace. Follow all wires back to the next connection or ground and do the same. Eventually a positive wire will end up at a solenoid.

I've got connections all over the RV. I looked under the right front tire and saw two connections coming from the battery and heading up under the hood. They are not as simple a car or truck. Yes and we also have the power disconnect switches and solenoids.

You may need a schematic or pictorial diagram to locate all the solenoids and cables involved.

One step at a time and you'll find the issue.
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Old 10-23-2017, 09:45 PM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Percival6 View Post
If I get to that point, where is the starter solenoid located? Seeing how relatively cheap they are, I may replace it if the wiring connection cleaning doesn't seem to help.

Thanks,

Tom
It's very easy to find, just follow the positive battery cable from the battery to the solenoid. It is usually on the firewall or on a panel under the hood near the battery.
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Old 10-23-2017, 09:45 PM   #12
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Thanks TeJay!
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Old 10-23-2017, 10:35 PM   #13
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I would first check the exciter wire at the starter solenoid and make sure it is getting close to battery voltage when turning the key. This will let you know if the problem is in the ignition or in the power supply to the starter. Quick, easy and simple.
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Old 10-23-2017, 11:29 PM   #14
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First lots of information missing so please consider and answer.

Is it "no start" or "no crank"?

By no start...exactly what IS happening and what is NOT happening.

When you turn key you indicated dash light stuff but what about clicking of selenoid?

when it was fine...did it do same if a slide was out or other interlock active?

Turn on dome light and try.

If no crank and the light intensity constant than no load change on battery so selenoid not working or other issue.

If same but light goes dim then low voltage issue and could be loose wire connection or other things.

Please turn on dome and observe and have helper listen for click under hood and report back.
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