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Old 03-17-2010, 10:42 AM   #1
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454 Chevy engine questions, bringing back an Elandan

Hi folks,

This is in an '86 Winnie Elandan, with a bit over 121k miles on it. I'm just starting on bringing it back, after it's been sitting for a couple of years. So I have several issues that I would love to have some advice/thoughts on:

1 - New batteries installed, but the dash meter doesn't show that they're being charged to an adequate level at idle speed. Increasing the idle speed will make the needle creep up (more so on the secondary battery than the primary, actually), but then it falls back off when I let off the gas. It's fine at running speed. Could it still be an alternator issue?

2 - Replaced the starter, but it still has the "I think the timing is off" hesitation when starting hot. Could it be a timing issue, or something else? I used to work on my vehicles pretty regularly, and the symptom being exhibited was fixable by correcting the timing (in my experience). Engine turns over nice and fast when cold, and starts reliably (even with the hesitation when hot). Anything special I need to be concerned with in timing this engine? I'm used to doing it on "regular" engines, but I've never done an engine in a motorhome before.

3 - Exhaust manifold leak. Ticking noise near the rear right of the engine that increases/decreases based on engine speed (sounds almost like a valve ticking, but I don't think it is). Strong smell of exhaust in the interior with the doghouse cover off (but goes away with the cover on, thankfully). What can I do? What should I do?

4 - Engine runs cooler than I'm used to. Barely above the 'C' on the gauge. Maybe that's normal, but I'm thinking the thermostat is stuck open. But as with everything else, I'm not going to assume that the standard answers to problems I've had with vehicle engines in the past will necessarily apply here. Anything else it could be? The gauge appears to actually be working, it's just not registering much of a temp change. The dash environmental controls aren't working at the moment, so I can't check to see if the system's blowing nothing but cold air (as I normally would). Somebody before me "worked on" several different things in this coach, and shouldn't have. Stuff half disassembled all over the place. Ugh.

Any other advice for an engine with this many miles on it would be appreciated. Or advice on bringing back an older coach in general. I already have the list of maintenance items going, with the plugs/plug wires, distributor system replaceables done, filters, fluids, etc. The brake system was completely shot, including the lines, so all that's been replaced with new, by a really great RV dealership (if I'm allowed to mention names on here, I'd be glad to give them a plug!!). I'm working on tires. Also fixing roof leaks and repairing minor water damage inside. And bringing back the interior as best I can; whoever owned this one and put most of the miles on it didn't do much to it.

Oh, also, I've seen elsewhere that some people suggest buying the standard Chilton manual on the 454 Chevy engine. Is that right? From buying engine belts for this Winnie, I assumed that things were gonna be so different that I'd need a manual specific to the engine IN a Winnie rather than for a "regular" engine (the parts store I went to for the belt listed a particular belt number for "454 Chevrolet (except motor home)". But if the regular manual will do it, then that's great! I'd just like a confirmation on that.

Going to also order all the literature from Winnebago that I can, and pick up a couple of books that were recommended to me by others on this forum.

Sorry for the long post, but I thought I'd ask everything at once while I was into it! Thanks VERY much for any info anyone can provide!
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Old 03-17-2010, 12:56 PM   #2
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Quote:
Originally Posted by padraig1066 View Post
Hi folks,

This is in an '86 Winnie Elandan, with a bit over 121k miles on it. I'm just starting on bringing it back, after it's been sitting for a couple of years. So I have several issues that I would love to have some advice/thoughts on:

1 - New batteries installed, but the dash meter doesn't show that they're being charged to an adequate level at idle speed. Increasing the idle speed will make the needle creep up (more so on the secondary battery than the primary, actually), but then it falls back off when I let off the gas. It's fine at running speed. Could it still be an alternator issue?

2 - Replaced the starter, but it still has the "I think the timing is off" hesitation when starting hot. Could it be a timing issue, or something else? I used to work on my vehicles pretty regularly, and the symptom being exhibited was fixable by correcting the timing (in my experience). Engine turns over nice and fast when cold, and starts reliably (even with the hesitation when hot). Anything special I need to be concerned with in timing this engine? I'm used to doing it on "regular" engines, but I've never done an engine in a motorhome before.

3 - Exhaust manifold leak. Ticking noise near the rear right of the engine that increases/decreases based on engine speed (sounds almost like a valve ticking, but I don't think it is). Strong smell of exhaust in the interior with the doghouse cover off (but goes away with the cover on, thankfully). What can I do? What should I do?

4 - Engine runs cooler than I'm used to. Barely above the 'C' on the gauge. Maybe that's normal, but I'm thinking the thermostat is stuck open. But as with everything else, I'm not going to assume that the standard answers to problems I've had with vehicle engines in the past will necessarily apply here. Anything else it could be? The gauge appears to actually be working, it's just not registering much of a temp change. The dash environmental controls aren't working at the moment, so I can't check to see if the system's blowing nothing but cold air (as I normally would). Somebody before me "worked on" several different things in this coach, and shouldn't have. Stuff half disassembled all over the place. Ugh.

Any other advice for an engine with this many miles on it would be appreciated. Or advice on bringing back an older coach in general. I already have the list of maintenance items going, with the plugs/plug wires, distributor system replaceables done, filters, fluids, etc. The brake system was completely shot, including the lines, so all that's been replaced with new, by a really great RV dealership (if I'm allowed to mention names on here, I'd be glad to give them a plug!!). I'm working on tires. Also fixing roof leaks and repairing minor water damage inside. And bringing back the interior as best I can; whoever owned this one and put most of the miles on it didn't do much to it.

Oh, also, I've seen elsewhere that some people suggest buying the standard Chilton manual on the 454 Chevy engine. Is that right? From buying engine belts for this Winnie, I assumed that things were gonna be so different that I'd need a manual specific to the engine IN a Winnie rather than for a "regular" engine (the parts store I went to for the belt listed a particular belt number for "454 Chevrolet (except motor home)". But if the regular manual will do it, then that's great! I'd just like a confirmation on that.

Going to also order all the literature from Winnebago that I can, and pick up a couple of books that were recommended to me by others on this forum.

Sorry for the long post, but I thought I'd ask everything at once while I was into it! Thanks VERY much for any info anyone can provide!
Man thats a heap of questions so I can tackle a few at a time.
#1, Depending on the engine RPM I would simply connect a volt meter on the generator post and look for 13.8-14.1 volts @750-800 RPM.
#2, Don't think the "Timing is off" please measure it on plug #5 on the lower tab (4:30) position, It will probably show around 4 advanced (unless the timing chain combo is worn which is a STRONG maybe.
#3, install a good copper gasket on the exhaust manifolds.
#4, I would install a great "Robert shaw" 180 thermostat (195) is a tad bit high for the older mark IV engines, You can ground the temp sender wire and it should go to full hot, Wire OFF is stone cold...
E'nuf for now, Good luck.

Jim
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Old 03-17-2010, 12:59 PM   #3
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A few pointrs, batt charge: do you have the correct idle, test volts with a volt meter at the alt and batts.

Exhaust: use a piece of heater hose to pin point noise, like a doctor.

Temp: change thermo, coolant, any weak hoses, and install a aftermarket gauge.

Starter: make sure starter has the heat shield, check timing, if ok, check timing chain for strecth.

Chilton: OK for most work, use 1-ton truck specs.

J
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Old 03-17-2010, 04:35 PM   #4
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Fantastic. Thanks for the replies, guys! Much appreciated. I'll start on what I can, and see what I find. I was suspecting the timing chain already, ugh....really don't want to do it myself but I also really don't want to pay repair shop rates for a job like that!

Jim, aside from the rusted stud issue with the manifold, how big of a job would it be to install copper gasket?

Thanks again for the replies, guys. Anything else you think of, please let me know!!
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Old 03-17-2010, 05:10 PM   #5
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Originally Posted by padraig1066 View Post
Fantastic. Thanks for the replies, guys! Much appreciated. I'll start on what I can, and see what I find. I was suspecting the timing chain already, ugh....really don't want to do it myself but I also really don't want to pay repair shop rates for a job like that!

Jim, aside from the rusted stud issue with the manifold, how big of a job would it be to install copper gasket?
The chain will wear on the "Chebbys" but the real culprit is the plastic coating on the cam gear....It flakes off generally around 125,000 miles but somehow stumbles along..
It should let you know when it slaps the front cover at whatever mileage, Some go longer due to the low RPMs we generate....

That chain slop changes the timing also.

Now for the exhaust manifolds, I spray the bolts with "PB" and let them set for a few days and continue to spray everyday, Also use a 90 air impact on a low slow setting to bang them out and so far so good..

Now for the gasket install....I purchase 4 bull nosed bolts (3/8 x 16) "longer then the original bolts" and install them in each CORNER of the exhaust manifolds, Look at the gaskets (your choice) and you will see a way how to notch the ends and slide the manifolds back and just drop in the new gaskets......Just take your time looking at how much (ANGLE) to notch out....

I personally like and use the "Thorley gaskets" and have yet to have one blow out BUT they are $$$$$$$$ and I run the Thorley hedders, Look up "Summit racing.com" and find the correct gasket for your rig cuz you need to measure the exhaust port size up/down & side to side OK.

Jim
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Old 03-17-2010, 05:47 PM   #6
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Sounds like you are doing OK. But how old is ignition wiring? I had a 454 for a number of years and its a hard engine on plug wiring. I would replace them.

Bob
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Old 03-19-2010, 01:23 PM   #7
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Hi Bob,

That's definitely on my list of things to replace! If it's dark enough, you can see fire jumping between some of the plug wires. They look fairly new (as in been replaced since the Winnie was new) but they're worn out. Same with the plugs, I'm sure.

Question on that whole replacement thing...should a local auto parts place have the necessary parts in stock for that sort of job? I can take stuff and match it up, of course, but I'm more concerned with the distributor cap and everything underneath it being just different enough on that Winnie that I'd need to order special parts. Maybe not, though. Hope not! I'm still at a disadvantage on this one b/c it's in storage 7 hours from where I live....so I have 1 shot to get things done to it, and don't have the luxury of seeing what it needs and then waiting for it to come in.

I do have to pass a Camping World about 3 hours before I get to where it's stored, so if an Auto Zone or NAPA store might not have what I need, CW might.

pat
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Old 03-19-2010, 02:34 PM   #8
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Hi Bob,

That's definitely on my list of things to replace! If it's dark enough, you can see fire jumping between some of the plug wires. They look fairly new (as in been replaced since the Winnie was new) but they're worn out. Same with the plugs, I'm sure.

Question on that whole replacement thing...should a local auto parts place have the necessary parts in stock for that sort of job? I can take stuff and match it up, of course, but I'm more concerned with the distributor cap and everything underneath it being just different enough on that Winnie that I'd need to order special parts. Maybe not, though. Hope not! I'm still at a disadvantage on this one b/c it's in storage 7 hours from where I live....so I have 1 shot to get things done to it, and don't have the luxury of seeing what it needs and then waiting for it to come in.
Nothing special about your distributor, Parts are parts.
With my "Thorleys" installed I can use a straight plug boot and for about $50.00 I purchase "Bendix select" (or some name like that) and have used them for 18,000 miles without problems....

The one item I would replace is the "Carbon" in the cap to a brass one which in turn will allow the coil to run cooler.

Jim
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Old 03-19-2010, 02:44 PM   #9
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I think I can help with Item #2 - Hot Start hesitation. Typical older Chevy symptom.
I chased it for years on and off in my old Suburban. Here's what I did.
* Rebuilt starter - Helped a little
* New "generic" starter solenoid - no help, use next item.
* Genuine USA made GM Delco starter solenoid - helped a little more.
* High-compression, Big-block GM starter like something off a late 60's 427 - BIG improvement.
* Replaced corroded wire from solenoid to ignition switch - BEST & FINAL FIX

Good luck with your Elandan, those are great old coaches!
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Old 03-19-2010, 02:45 PM   #10
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Make those wires "Borg Warner select" (had to go to my good book)

Jim
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Old 03-19-2010, 03:21 PM   #11
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Hi Bob,

That's definitely on my list of things to replace! If it's dark enough, you can see fire jumping between some of the plug wires. They look fairly new (as in been replaced since the Winnie was new) but they're worn out. Same with the plugs, I'm sure.

Question on that whole replacement thing...should a local auto parts place have the necessary parts in stock for that sort of job? I can take stuff and match it up, of course, but I'm more concerned with the distributor cap and everything underneath it being just different enough on that Winnie that I'd need to order special parts. Maybe not, though. Hope not! I'm still at a disadvantage on this one b/c it's in storage 7 hours from where I live....so I have 1 shot to get things done to it, and don't have the luxury of seeing what it needs and then waiting for it to come in.

I do have to pass a Camping World about 3 hours before I get to where it's stored, so if an Auto Zone or NAPA store might not have what I need, CW might.

pat
Personally I would take my VIN number to a GM dealer and order distributor and wires to be sure you get the correct ones.

Bob
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Old 03-19-2010, 10:14 PM   #12
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Personally I would take my VIN number to a GM dealer and order distributor and wires to be sure you get the correct ones.

Bob
uh, no, you certainly don't want to try to buy a smog era distributor from a chevy dealer.

Summit racing is a good choice, lots of "way better than stock" good parts.

Your distributor is a standard chevy HEI, used on all small bocks and big blocks, cars and trucks, since 1975. An 86, yours will have conventional old style mechanical and vacuum advance.

A BIG thing to watch for on those is "rotor burn through" Due to lack of maintenance, the spark will burn through the center of the rotor and play havoc inside the distributor. Look for "red dust" on the advance wieghts right under the rotor. I've seen the weight pivots worn so bad they flop around, I've also seen them welded solid from the errant sparks.

If your distributor has died a red death, get a replacement from Summit. There's probably 30 brands, just search HEI. MSD, Crane, and Mallory will be the best. ProComp is a chinese knockoff and will be the cheapest.

On the wire set, go with a good "SPIRAL CORE" wire. HiPerf afternarket wires are generally listed by size in MM. 7MM is most common but may not fit in your factory wire looms, 6mm probably will. Straight, 45, 90, and 135 degree boots are all choices, get what fits best or whats on there. You can get custom fit precut wires, generic fit precuts (these are usually longer) and custom fit ones where you cut them to length and crimp on the supplied terminals and boots. Taylor is a good brand, so is MSD.

That thing's a 454 first, a motorhome second, treat it like you'd treat any other rat motor and it will treat you well.
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Old 03-20-2010, 09:30 AM   #13
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JimM, Good info from you on purchasing "after market" from Summit....
From your local "Chebby" stealor the ZZ4 (Shaft & weights & center) will cost you $ 150.00 minus the main body or so PLUS the person will hafta setup the main body for clearances......(Got the correct shims?)
The center & weights (375 & 041) will hand out a nice 22 or more mechanical advance but without a distributor machine to curve the springs (PITA) it's going to be hard work....

Jim
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Old 03-28-2010, 12:42 PM   #14
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Rather than start a new thread, let's see if I can get a GM 454 related question answered here:

I understand SOME Winnie models using the P30/GM 454 setup also included an electric helper fuel pump to supplement the regular engine mounted mechanical unit.

I'm not yet sure if my '87 Winnie Super Chief has the extra electric pump, but I do have a Carter 7 PSI electric handy that I could add - but would prefer to only have it in use if the PSI at the Carb drops below 3-4 PSI or so. I have a suitable Hobbs Switch to use, but dunno what the "normal" PSI is at the carb from a properly running OEM mechanical fuel pump is?

I'm thinking the OEM mechanical is probably around 5 PSI or so - but may be wrong, and have no idea what "normal" PSI might swing from different engine RPM and loads?

Any suggestions as to a good cut-in setting for an added electric helper fuel pump?
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