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Old 04-16-2012, 11:36 AM   #1
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1975 Dodge Sportsman won't start...

I have a 1975 Dodge Sportsman Class C

It runs and drives great..., than sits dead as a doornail. Here's what happens:

You start it up (must let it sit and run for about 5-10 minutes before driving, or it'll stall), than can drive it around fine, all over town, no trouble.

Next day, it refuses to start. Revs up, than stalls.

Day three, is like day 1, starts and runs fine.

Day 4 is like day 3, refuses to start. Tries, but can't.

This goes on for a month or so, than the battery dies, and has to be recharged.

Than we start over again from day one.

I thought it was just battery issues, because the battery was about 10 or 12 years old, so I bought a new battery. After buying the new battery, I had no problems starting it whenever I wanted to, but after a couple of weeks, it became clear that either the battery was being drained or it wasn't charging. Headlights kept getting dimmer and it kept getting harder to get it started. Than one day no starting, and sure enough, battery was dead.

Other issues, which may or may not be connected to this one: gas gauge stays on empty, no matter how much gas is in it. A couple of dash lights stopped working. Horn stopped working.

I asked a couple of friends who like to think they know cars, and they said it could be I need a new alternator, a new starter, or there could be an electrical grounding problem, but these were just random guesses, and they didn't really know. It'd be no problem for me to replace the starter or alternator, if that was what was wrong, but I don't want to do that than find out it was something else.

Anyone got any guesses as to what is going on?
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Old 04-16-2012, 11:46 AM   #2
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OK first what engine do you have? 440?360?318? 2bbl or 4bbl? Do you have/tried a spare ballast resistor?
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Old 04-16-2012, 11:47 AM   #3
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does your choke close when cold and open when hot?
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Old 04-16-2012, 01:17 PM   #4
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Wendy,

Now I have more information then when I answered you over at Yahoo. Please ignore the Yahoo post, but read this one carefully.

It sounds like you have a multiple of problems.
A Sportsman is the van that the RV was built on. You should try to find out who built the coach part. This in not really important. It would also be nice to know which engine (318, 360, 393, 413, 440). Now that I know you are in Maine, the only question would be coastal or inland. If it is coastal, or near a city, you may be have carburetor trouble. The ethanol in used in fuel is just playing hell with our old fuel systems. You should consider replacing the rubber fuel lines, fuel pump and anything else that fuel touches. The corrosion that salt air causes can be a real BIG PITA. Clean every electrical connection you can get to. By clean, I mean disassemble sand or wire brush until shiny, then reassemble with a coating of dielectric grease.

If it starts (ever) and cannot be driven in 30 seconds to a minute (max), you have a carburetor problem. Two things to do before you have it removed and cleaned and re-installed.
Get a spray can of carburetor cleaner and a bottle of fuel system cleaner. Also buy a cheap little battery checker that plugs into the lighter (~10$) Put the fuel system cleaner in the tank as soon as you get it.
Remove the air filter top then the rest of the air filter housing (you will need to disconnect some things - just remember how and where). Make sure that the choke (the butterfly door at the top of the carburetor) closes nicely. Spray cleaner all the parts of the choke, then use a finger to push it open. Now spray everything you can see and work the carburetor with the throttle linkage and spray everything that moves - at least.

With that old Mopar alternator, the battery should be back to full charge in 10 minutes of driving around town. If it is not, check the belt first. Is the
belt "bow string" tight? It may need to be tightened and maybe replaced.
=> New part <=
The corrosion can also take the alternator off-line. Apart from the electrical connections you think off, I have also seen them go bad where the alternator bolts to the engine brackets and those brackets to the engine proper. Those aluminum parts get a powdery crust that is a very effective insulator.

If it is cranking effectively, you do not have a ground problem. You may still have an alternator problem. That is why you bought the cheapy checker. Plug it in and start the engine. If it does not go all green or to near 14V is digital.
Remember what is says and tell someone knowledgeable. That person should be able to suggest subsequent checks to identify any remaining issues.

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Quote:
Originally Posted by EelKat View Post
I have a 1975 Dodge Sportsman Class C

It runs and drives great..., than sits dead as a doornail. Here's what happens:

You start it up (must let it sit and run for about 5-10 minutes before driving, or it'll stall), than can drive it around fine, all over town, no trouble.

Next day, it refuses to start. Revs up, than stalls.

Day three, is like day 1, starts and runs fine.

Day 4 is like day 3, refuses to start. Tries, but can't.

This goes on for a month or so, than the battery dies, and has to be recharged.

Than we start over again from day one.

I thought it was just battery issues, because the battery was about 10 or 12 years old, so I bought a new battery. After buying the new battery, I had no problems starting it whenever I wanted to, but after a couple of weeks, it became clear that either the battery was being drained or it wasn't charging. Headlights kept getting dimmer and it kept getting harder to get it started. Than one day no starting, and sure enough, battery was dead.

Other issues, which may or may not be connected to this one: gas gauge stays on empty, no matter how much gas is in it. A couple of dash lights stopped working. Horn stopped working.

I asked a couple of friends who like to think they know cars, and they said it could be I need a new alternator, a new starter, or there could be an electrical grounding problem, but these were just random guesses, and they didn't really know. It'd be no problem for me to replace the starter or alternator, if that was what was wrong, but I don't want to do that than find out it was something else.

Anyone got any guesses as to what is going on?
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Old 04-24-2012, 10:08 AM   #5
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i totally agree with last answer ,have owned 2 sportsmen chassis class c both were used when bought, they terrible ground problems fuse panel outde left front covered with black coating ,removed it and cleaned every connection one actually had completely rotted ground ,the other just bad corrision ,both cured problem we put 40k onone and 57k on the other,hope this helps, chris master
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Old 04-26-2012, 02:15 AM   #6
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That year MH probably has a seperate regulator for the alternator. Charge the battery and take it to one of the auto parts stores that will test the alternator on the vehicle for you. Autozone O'reilly's, and Pep Boys should do this for free.
I vaguely remember something about a resistor or similar part that goes bad and the dash gauges don't work. Call a Dadge service or parts department and they might be able to give you more info.
Clean all visible electrical connections. Also a voltage drop test can be performed with a DVOM to determine if you have bad connections. Maybe your friends can help you with this.
I seem to remember Chrysler engines of this vintage used a Thermoquad carb with a plastic body that cracked. This can cause hard starting if the fuel drains from the bowl as the engine has to crank to get fuel pressure to the carb if there is no electric fuel pump.
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Old 04-27-2012, 12:06 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by leadman View Post
That year MH probably has a seperate regulator for the alternator. Charge the battery and take it to one of the auto parts stores that will test the alternator on the vehicle for you. Autozone O'reilly's, and Pep Boys should do this for free.
I vaguely remember something about a resistor or similar part that goes bad and the dash gauges don't work. Call a Dadge service or parts department and they might be able to give you more info.
Clean all visible electrical connections. Also a voltage drop test can be performed with a DVOM to determine if you have bad connections. Maybe your friends can help you with this.
I seem to remember Chrysler engines of this vintage used a Thermoquad carb with a plastic body that cracked. This can cause hard starting if the fuel drains from the bowl as the engine has to crank to get fuel pressure to the carb if there is no electric fuel pump.
There is a ballast resistor that goes bad that will cause a start ok but will not "run" when the key is released. It turns off the spark. If both the gas and temp gauges do not work it is the small voltage regulator on the back of the instrument cluster. Most often the gas gauge fails because the small ground strap that goes around the short rubber fuel line AT THE TANK goes bad or rust off. The regulator for the Motorola built mopar alt is the size of a deck of cards and most often painted black with a small triangle shaped plug. The thermal quad did not crack so much as warp the Bakelite fuel bowl. Your choke is not working-it is stuck/or the pull off is to strong. This is why you have a hard time starting when cold.
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Old 04-30-2012, 08:26 AM   #8
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The motorhome is running again! YAY!

It was starting to look like an alternator problem. Turns out it was a wiring problem. The battery was being shorted out. Sometimes it'd start, sometimes it didn't, sometimes it started than died, all depending on how the wiring had shifted around. There was a loose wire that was sometimes hitting the battery cable and sometimes not. That wire was draining the power. Here's what happened.

I was checking everything, couldn't figure out what was wrong. Changed things, new parts, still not working. Than I'm talking about it to this guy I know, who is an electrictian, and he says it sounds like an electrical problem, and he asks if I'll let him run a diagnostics test on it to see if the electrical system is bad. So, I said, what the heck, nothing else has worked.

So he brings his stuff over, takes the battery out, hooks up his gear, flips a switch and the display goes off the charts, and he says "That's bad. It shouldn't be doing that. There's a steady charge going through here. Nothing is on, that should be at zero. You're lucky the battery didn't blow up!" He puts his probe thing on the body and sparks fly out, than he says: "That's REALLY bad! There's a charge going right through the steel body." He tells me there is a really serious problem going on here and we have to test the indiviual wires.

So we rip out the plywood floor boards (not orginal, just sheets of plywood the previous owner had screwed to the floor), to find...OMG! tons and tons of wires strune all over heck, and nailed down - actually nailed right down to the metal body! Like I said in another post, this thing was originally a van, that some one later turned into a motorhome, a custom job, so not factory done and wow - not electrically sound either! The other owner had spliced into the battery cable, and attached all sorts of extra wires into it, than nailed those wires right down to the body.

So, he unhooks the wireing system from the battery cables and proceeds to unwrap hundreds of tiny copper wires and test each one of them, one at a time. Found the bad connection, had it unhooked, and bam, no more problems getting the motorhome started and running. He took out the bad wiring, rehooked up the rest of the wires the way they should be.

Tested everything out to see what we unhooked - guess what - we unhooked EVERYTHING! LOL! Turns out everything: radio, interior lights, stove, refrigorator, etc was all running off the one little battery in the front...well, I knew that as there is no generator or battery pack in it. Anyways, only the stuff which actually runs the van, is still working, and all the wires which ran everything in the living quarters is now not working. But now that everything in the back is unhooked, I'm not have any more problems with it running, so it looks like that was the problem.

(and he didn't charge me for this either, which was a plus)

So, the motor starts and runs, and she's driving fine again, but nothing in the living quarters is running now
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Old 05-01-2012, 12:33 AM   #9
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Sounds like this is the perfect time to add a battery just for the coach section. Then add a constant duty solenoid to charge this battery off the engine alternator. This can either be activated when the key is in the run position or have a seperate switch operate the solenoid.
Glad you had a friend that was knowledgeable in electical circuit and he was able to find the problem(s). Maybe you could impose on him to help you getting the coach electrical operating again?
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Old 05-01-2012, 03:29 PM   #10
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You need to get a DC distribution panel with converter and install a coach battery.
The Intelli-Power 4000 Series AC/DC Distribution Panel and Intelli-Power Converter with Charge Wizard.

All the coach stuff connects to the DC distribution panel. One heavy 8 gauge wire then goes to the coach battery. The converter will keep it charged on shore power. You can add an inexpensive aux battery solinoid so that the coach battery can also be charged when driving as well as use the coach battery as a chassis battery assist if the chassis battery gets drained (i.e opps, I left my lights on).

Doing it like this (normal RV system) will keep the coach and chassis electrical systems isolated from each other but still allow you to x-connect if needed/wanted.

Dave
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Old 05-02-2012, 11:33 AM   #11
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A convertor panel is not necessary unless you want to be able to run 110v items in the coach. Even then it is optional.
A 12v fuse panel available at any auto parts store will provide safety and a place to hook up the various items in the coach. If you need to charge the battery while at a place where 110v is available a battery charger will do the job. Look at some of them available for charging boat batteries that are designed for permanent installation.

Many of the older rigs from the 70s and before had no convertor. It is more convenient to have one sometimes but we got by until 2005 without one. In our 1988 motorhome we have now if it wasn't for the a/c unit we still would not need one as all of the other electrical items in the coach are 12v DC.

Main thing is to make sure all items are fused for safety. If you need a charger other than the constant duty solenoid hooked to the vehicle alternator this can be installed also.
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Old 05-02-2012, 06:21 PM   #12
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I had to replace the regulator on mine...got a brand new one from the dealer, and it was faulty as well. Sometimes it can be a pain when things that are supposed to work, don't. Sportsmen are still my fav though

It sucks that the 90s-03 Dodge vans weren't really used for class Cs (I've seen a few examples, but they are beyond rare)
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