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Old 07-15-2012, 06:59 AM   #1
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75 Dodge Camper electrical

Hi I am new here and completely new to RV's. I recently purchased a 1975 Dodge 360 Sportsman with a 21' Triple E Mikmak camper. It runs and drives great. For safety it needs a couple mechanical things but whats got me snagged is the electrical stuff it needs before it can go on the road. The suspension work should be straight forward enough for me but I'm not sure how to go about diagnosing and repairing the electrical problems.

Problems are: none of the clearance lights work, the wipers and washer fluid do not work, the dash lights do not work and the fuel guage does not work either. Also a tail light but I'm hoping that is just a bulb.

So far I checked the fuses in the cab and under the hood. I found one bad fuse under the hood and it was a 4amp?? couldnt find anyone who sells 4amp fuses so replaced with a 5 but it didnt seem to fix anything. I tore apart the dash looking for something obvious but not noticing any loose wires or anything.

I was wondering if anyone could tell me how they would proceed from here or if they have any intimate knowledge of this particular vehicle which would be useful to me. I do have a multimeter but unfortunately do yet know how to use it.

Also I guess the battery is old because after I disconnected it for a day then recconected it would not turn over the engine or even run the lights inside the camper for that matter. I plugged it into my house 110v and after 5 mins lights came on but even left plugged in over night it would not turn over. Jump started and it turned over immediately. Should I be able to fully charge the battery by plugging it in to my house? I guess I should be getting a second battery since I want to go camping where there is no electricity? Would I use a marine battery for that?

Any tips advice or comments would be greatly appreciated and I will keep searching the forum for answers.

John
Thunder Bay, Ontario
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Old 07-15-2012, 08:00 AM   #2
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Dodge75

Problems are: none of the clearance lights work, the wipers and washer fluid do not work, the dash lights do not work and the fuel guage does not work either. Also a tail light but I'm hoping that is just a bulb.

So far I checked the fuses in the cab and under the hood. I found one bad fuse under the hood and it was a 4amp?? couldnt find anyone who sells 4amp fuses so replaced with a 5 but it didnt seem to fix anything. I tore apart the dash looking for something obvious but not noticing any loose wires or anything.

I was wondering if anyone could tell me how they would proceed from here or if they have any intimate knowledge of this particular vehicle which would be useful to me. I do have a multimeter but unfortunately do yet know how to use it.

Also I guess the battery is old because after I disconnected it for a day then recconected it would not turn over the engine or even run the lights inside the camper for that matter. I plugged it into my house 110v and after 5 mins lights came on but even left plugged in over night it would not turn over. Jump started and it turned over immediately. Should I be able to fully charge the battery by plugging it in to my house? I guess I should be getting a second battery since I want to go camping where there is no electricity? Would I use a marine battery for that?

Any tips advice or comments would be greatly appreciated and I will keep searching the forum for answers.

John
Thunder Bay, Ontario
Welcome John.

Not familiar with your rig, so can only offer generic help. You will want to get very familiar with that multimeter and every RVer should.

The below is a good read and a keeper as you progress after getting chassis problems fixed.

http://www.marxrv.com/12volt/12volt.htm

In older vehicles many elec problems are ground related. Take your clearence lights. Since none work, I would first check the ground for those. Its unlikely all bulbs are shot and you already checked fuses. Of course it could be a broken wire.

My first step would be get underneath, remove all frame ground connections, clean everything up, replace bolts, screws, connectors as necessary.

You should have a 115vac to 12vdc converter/charger on board. So on shore power, your "house" battery should be getting a charge. This is a separate battery from the starting battery for the engine, commonly called the "chassis" battery. Generally speaking, being on shore power does not charge the chassis battery, only the engine does that.

Since you wanted a battery for camping and your engine is starting, you need a house battery. Get a true DEEP CYCLE battery, avoid anything that says marine! Good luck and keep us posted.
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Old 07-16-2012, 02:38 PM   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by clyon51 View Post
Welcome John.

Not familiar with your rig, so can only offer generic help. You will want to get very familiar with that multimeter and every RVer should.

The below is a good read and a keeper as you progress after getting chassis problems fixed.

The 12volt Side of Life (Part 1)

In older vehicles many elec problems are ground related. Take your clearence lights. Since none work, I would first check the ground for those. Its unlikely all bulbs are shot and you already checked fuses. Of course it could be a broken wire.

My first step would be get underneath, remove all frame ground connections, clean everything up, replace bolts, screws, connectors as necessary.

You should have a 115vac to 12vdc converter/charger on board. So on shore power, your "house" battery should be getting a charge. This is a separate battery from the starting battery for the engine, commonly called the "chassis" battery. Generally speaking, being on shore power does not charge the chassis battery, only the engine does that.

Since you wanted a battery for camping and your engine is starting, you need a house battery. Get a true DEEP CYCLE battery, avoid anything that says marine! Good luck and keep us posted.
Ok thanks for the advice, I feel like I am at least on track now! I have not had a chance to go over the grounds yet because it's been raining and I might melt..picked up some dialectic compound and steel wool and will hopefully start on that in a couple hours here..

But yesterday I was able to locate the "house" battery hidden in the floor Actually there are 2 of them but unfortunately they are motomaster nautilus which is a marine battery. I also found a breaker panel from the 220v plug in leading to a power inverter with a switch labeled battery/convert. Talk about baby steps but I am becoming oriented to how this thing works.

One thing that has me confused is that I jump started the rv and ran it for a while then turned it off and restarted to make sure it would turn over (which it did). Then with the switch set to "convert" and the rv plugged in to my garage (110v) I ran some lights, a small fan, and the stereo system (nice sized pioneer speakers!) for a couple hours while the wife and I "hung out" in our new toy on our driveway. Sure enough she would not turn over after that!

I wonder if the chassis battery is either just toast or is draining to somewhere?? It seems to respond instantly to jump starting and in my experience that says the battery is half decent. Or perhaps the stereo runs off the chassis battery?? That doesn't make sense though because the previous owner mentioned that they got the sound system so they could listen all night long from the campfire outside the rv.

I will try to run lights later without the stereo and also try off the "house" batteries later and see if the same problem occurs. But either way i need to figure this out whether i am camping in the bush or plugged in at a campground i need the thing to turn over the next morning! After all it's too big to push start and I don't want to sleep parked on a hill!

Also strangely enough the wiper started randomly working after I pulled the dash apart...loose connection somewhere maybe..still no washer fluid, dash lights or clearance lights though.
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Old 07-16-2012, 03:47 PM   #4
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"220v plug in leading to a power inverter" I believe you are looking at a 30a 120v plug. Show a pic?
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Old 07-16-2012, 05:13 PM   #5
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"220v plug in leading to a power inverter" I believe you are looking at a 30a 120v plug. Show a pic?
It looks like this:
http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedi...NEMA_TT-30.png


...and there is an adapter that fits typical household ones like this:
http://www.gadgetfeast.com/wp-conten...ets_charge.jpg

My garage is not wired for 220 so I have been using the adapter.
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Old 07-16-2012, 05:36 PM   #6
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pictures of the plug, adapter, the breaker panel and converter, and the battery isolator which is found under the hood beside the chassis battery.
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Old 07-16-2012, 05:38 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Dodge75 View Post

But yesterday I was able to locate the "house" battery hidden in the floor Actually there are 2 of them but unfortunately they are motomaster nautilus which is a marine battery.
That's OK for now as long as they hold a charge. I'll assume they are 12v and wired in parallel. When time for new ones, get deep cycle only. I would also recommend two 6v golf cart batteries over the 12v, if you have room.

Quote:
I also found a breaker panel from the 220v plug in leading to a power inverter with a switch labeled battery/convert. Talk about baby steps but I am becoming oriented to how this thing works.
That plug is actually a 120v - 30amp plug used specifically in RVs. I see you had it plugged into 110 below, so you must already have a 30a to 20a adapter.

Quote:
One thing that has me confused is that I jump started the rv and ran it for a while then turned it off and restarted to make sure it would turn over (which it did). Then with the switch set to "convert" and the rv plugged in to my garage (110v) I ran some lights, a small fan, and the stereo system (nice sized pioneer speakers!) for a couple hours while the wife and I "hung out" in our new toy on our driveway. Sure enough she would not turn over after that!

I wonder if the chassis battery is either just toast or is draining to somewhere?? It seems to respond instantly to jump starting and in my experience that says the battery is half decent. Or perhaps the stereo runs off the chassis battery?? That doesn't make sense though because the previous owner mentioned that they got the sound system so they could listen all night long from the campfire outside the rv.
If the radio is in the coach and not the one in the dash, then it is most likely run from the house battery. The in dash radio may run off the chassis battery. Easy enough to check out...disconnect the chassis battery and see what works.

No doubt your chassis battery is going to have some parasitic drains. Mine will last about a week. If your meter will measure DC amps, turn everything off then disconnect the pos (+) cable. Then connect the battery and cable with the meter, that will tell you how many amps is being used with everything off. As a gauge, an interior light will eat about 1 amp.

You said: "power inverter with a switch labeled battery/convert."
If that's what it says keep reading. If it says battery/connect or disconnect then it just disconnects the battery from the system for storage purposes. You may want to still do the below just to see if the battery still gets charged when "disconnected" Some systems do and some don't.

While plugged in with some lights on in the coach, flip that switch back and forth to see if the lights go out. Then take your meter set to DC volts, check the voltage on the house battery. If it's being charged, it will be over 13volts, somewhere about 13.5. If not being charged, it will be less than 13v. 12 to 12.1v is 50% discharged and you don't want them lower than that or remain there very long.

Now go back and flip that switch the other way. If the battery was charging in the first position, leave a few lights on, wait a half hour and check battery again. If it's still charging, good, if not, you know where to keep the switch depending on what you want.

While you got your meter handy, with no shore power, start the motor. Now check the house batteries. They should be upwards of 14.2v. If under 13v, you have other work to do

How far away is your house batteries from the chassis battery?
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Old 07-16-2012, 07:21 PM   #8
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The radio is in the dash and is definately powered by the chassis battery, so I guess I shouldn't be surprised it killed the chassis battery.

The power converter switch is labeled battery/conv and when i switch it to batt while plugged to shore power you notice the light goes somewhat dimmer.

The house batteries each read 12.4v regardless of the switch position on the converter while plugged to shore. And yes the converter is 12v. So according to what you're saying that means the house batteries are not charged by plugging to shore power. This is strange too me however because the other day the batteries we dead and 12v lights would not even come on. I had the converter in the "battery" position (because i had not found the converter yet) and when i plugged into shore power the lights came on after 5 minutes of being plugged??? Is it possible the converter is charging the battery even given the readings I just took?

When I run the vehicle the house batteries read 14.6v and 14.7v.
Those readings while charging aren't too high are they?

After running the truck for 5 mins and turning it off the house batteries read 13.1/13.2v

House batteries are approximately 12 feet from the chassis battery.

Thanks again for all this help and teaching!
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Old 07-17-2012, 09:06 AM   #9
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Quote:
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The power converter switch is labeled battery/conv and when i switch it to batt while plugged to shore power you notice the light goes somewhat dimmer.
That would indicate when in Batt position the batteries are not being charged, but further testing is necessary.

Quote:
The house batteries each read 12.4v regardless of the switch position on the converter while plugged to shore. And yes the converter is 12v. So according to what you're saying that means the house batteries are not charged by plugging to shore power. This is strange too me however because the other day the batteries we dead and 12v lights would not even come on. I had the converter in the "battery" position (because i had not found the converter yet) and when i plugged into shore power the lights came on after 5 minutes of being plugged??? Is it possible the converter is charging the battery even given the readings I just took?
Inconclusive. Your 12v converter/charger may be acting up. By the looks of it, is sure ain't the best It should put out 13.6v continuously. With DC meter in hand, check the 12v wires from converter going to the battery. Then throw that switch on the converter/charger the other way, check again. If you are getting at least 13.5v in one position, I would monitor it several more times thoughtout the day to be sure it's constant. However, for $140, you can get the state of the art multi-stage "smart charger". Inteli-power 45 amp Converter WITH 9200 PENDANT RV PD9245C Progressive Dynamics | eBay

More Technical info

Quote:
When I run the vehicle the house batteries read 14.6v and 14.7v.
Those readings while charging aren't too high are they?

After running the truck for 5 mins and turning it off the house batteries read 13.1/13.2v
All perfect! Just be aware that 13.1v you see right after turning off the engine is a surface charge. After an hour it could be down to 12.4, just depends how charged it was when the engine went off. A Battery fully charged after sitting an hour or so with no load will read 12.7 - 12.8v.

I'm working on a plan so your converter/charger will charge and maintain your chassis battery for about $45. I still have a bit more research to do, to be sure it will work.
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Old 07-17-2012, 11:56 AM   #10
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Dodge75, I have a 76 and went through the very same things, I bought a camper not knowing a thing about them…talk about jumping in with both feet…lol..but lots of good folks here to help

The gas gauge is most likely the sending unit. You will need to know which size tank you have and whether it is metal(22 gal) or plastic(36gal)

The battery isolator is for charging the “house” batteries off the alternator while you go down the road, it also will not allow you to draw power from that “chassis” battery while using the house 12 items

The switch on the converter is something similar to what I have, back before they had automatic converters like they do now you had to manually flip a switch. If you want 12v while going down the road flip the switch to battery and it will run of the 12v. when plugged into shore power it should run the 12 lights with the switch in the converter position. The shore power should also charge the house batteries

The best advice I can offer is to get a factory Chrysler service manual as well as Chilton’s and Haynes. I have all 3.

The clearance lights usually need cleaned up or replaced. The wipers may not work because they use a plastic grommet that rots, turn the wipers on and look in the cowl(vented piece above the hood) is one side of the linkage moving? If yes they have a help item that can fix that at your local auto store. The washer fluid is a small pump under the washer bottle you can get at AutoZone is what fixed mine.

The dash lights get their power from the circuit board(brown) behind the gauge cluster.

Hope some of this helps
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Old 07-18-2012, 09:24 AM   #11
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I'm working on a plan so your converter/charger will charge and maintain your chassis battery for about $45. I still have a bit more research to do, to be sure it will work.
Dodge75-

This will eliminate any chassis battery drain, kept it charged and keep it safely maintained while plugged into shore power. (As long as your converter/charger is working properly).

First purchase this device (cheapest place I've found):
Ultra Trik-L-Start 5 Amp Starting Battery Charger/Maintainer

Here is more info from the mfg and how to install, which includes connecting to your Battery Isolator:
LSL Products

Blue wire to isolator BATT terminal, Yellow to AUX terminal and Black to a good ground. Just to be safe, make sure the BATT terminal IS going to the chassis batt and vice-versa. Have used one of these for quite a while and they work perfectly. Install and forget
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Old 07-21-2012, 02:36 PM   #12
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Thanks again to everyone helping me out here. I finally found some time to troubleshoot the electrical on my RV this morning.

I cleaned up a bunch of grounds but unfortunately nothing new started working when I hooked it all up. I plan to go back and look harder... there is a lot of sprayed on foam covering the underside of the vehicle a Thnd some wires are buried under it. There is also one ground which had a rusted screw to the body which I could not reach so I just need to get a pack of connectors and will make an new ground connection for that one.

The wipers do work very well now, not sure why they didnt work before. however still no fluid pumping. I'm assuming the washer fluid pump runs off the same switch as the wipers so I will try a new pump.

I was able to measure only .03V coming from the converter to the house batteries so I think the converter itself is to blame for no charge going to the batteries when plugged to shore power. I will open it up and look for something obvious but may have to just replace the converter.

I went up and checked out some of the clearance lights...there does not appear to be any broken bulbs so I measured the current there and also got only .02V

Once I redo that one ground and scour for any I missed I am not too sure how I am going to proceed
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Old 07-22-2012, 12:07 PM   #13
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The washer fluid is a small pump under the washer bottle you can get at AutoZone is what fixed mine.
Yep they even had it on the shelf for $25 at Partsource. And it fixed the problem!

Now I just need a tail light to work, clearance lights and dash lights.

My redneck friend said I should buy battery operated led clearance lights which come with a remote control and then for the dash lights screw a mini snake flashlight to the dash and call it a day. Actually I am tempted lol. Then I would just have to change the ball joints and get new (used) tires installed and we could go camping next weekend! I haven't given up on fixing it properly just yet though...
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Old 07-22-2012, 03:41 PM   #14
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One more update for today. I decided to double check the fuses with my multimeter. They all checked out BUT when I pulled one of them I noticed one of the clips that holds the fuses fell out from behind the panel. When I looked at the back of the panel here is what I saw:
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