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Old 01-07-2019, 11:18 PM   #1
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85 Southwind - alternator issues-1st trip disaster

In another thread about 2 weeks ago I posted a concern about the 85 Southwind I purchased, regarding a squeeking belt. The many answers were very helpful, and I soon determined the belts were OK. So I decided on a relatively short trip (1M miles round-trip) from Columbia SC to Tampa FL to visit relatives. About 50 miles out my lights went dim, then out, and I barely made it to a Pilot station. My vehicle battery was completely dead, and I assumed my alternator had failed. My deep cycle accessory batteries were fully charged, however. So I used jumper cables--connected them to the vehicle battery, turned on the motor home generator and drove back to Columbia. I now have it plugged into 110, but I have to assume that my alternator is not working properly--not charging or charging enough. Hopefully my mechanic with a meter will find out. So I have some questions about the electrical system in this motorhome. Does the engine alternator charge all batteries or just the vehicle battery while running? Does the MH generator charge all three, or just the two accessory batteries? I guess I'm wondering how these batteries are inter-connected. If the alternator on the engine is failing, why didn't the accessory batteries discharge? Could I have made it to Florida, running the MH generator all the time? (although I really didn't want to do that.) I assume I probably need to replace the alternator. However, with the engine running and disconnecting the battery, the engine does not stop. So the alternator seems to be functioning. Is there something else going on here? Any help and suggestions greatly appreciated.
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Old 01-08-2019, 07:51 AM   #2
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Every coach seem to be different. Some charge all the batteries from all sources and others do not. On the older coaches, some used a solenoid to connect the house and chassis batteries for charging from the engine and generator. Others used a diode isolator to charge the house batteries from the engine. The chassis batteries were not charged from the generator on many of the older coaches.
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Old 01-08-2019, 08:05 AM   #3
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We were traveling home from a trip once when the alternator stopped charging the volt guage dropped, alarm chimed yikes. I pulled over started the generator depressed the boost switch to connect all the batteries ( used a beer cap to hold switch on) then drove 3 hours to our home.

So yes the generator will replace your alternator in a pinch.

After arriving home I cleaned the battery cable connections and problem solved. I say before assuming your alternator is toast clean all your connections.
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Old 01-08-2019, 08:19 AM   #4
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Only you can answer your questions for sure. No one here knows how many modifications have been made on your RV and even those without mods are snow flakes. No two alike often from the same factory.

So you need to use your voltmeter and determine what gets charged and when.

Replacing an alternator is a relatively simple task as things go although can be a knuckle buster.

You probably could have made the trip with the generator charging things but if your fuel tank gets to a certain point the generator will stop and you then only have what is left in your combined battery bank. Not a good situation if you are running lights etc.

And welcome to the forum.
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Old 01-08-2019, 02:13 PM   #5
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Some additional information

Thanks for the quick responses. I will be taking it to my local mechanic next week. In the meantime I will remove/redesign the dog house covering the motor--make it easier to remove/replace (eliminate labor cost to do that). When I started the MH this morning, ammeter on dash showed charging (with belt squealing). When that ceased, meter showed discharge. I can't believe pulley is freezing and belt slipping without belt breaking. When everything went dead last night, I tried the alternate start button, held it in and got nothing when I tried the ignition. After about half an hour with the generator running, the chassis battery charged somewhat, but not enough to crank the engine. When I connected the storage batteries, I had sufficient power start and make it back. About 10 miles out I disconnected everything, shut down the generator, and while it was not really charging much, there was no discharge and everything seemed to be functioning OK.
I have to assume at this point that the alternator is failing, or the voltage regulator which I suspect is internal. I will know more next week when my mechanic gets a meter on it. The belt seems really tight and should not be slipping. I don't know what alternator I have (but will find out next week), however I tried to look on line--get a handle on cost. They look to be about $150 (or are they more)? If my alternator is still good, I may replace it anyway--keep the old one as a spare. I've always believed in carrying spare parts when possible: belts, hoses, fuel line, starter, etc. It's some insurance when you're stuck in the middle of nowhere and/or at night.
What baffles me is the alternator working "on and off". My experience is that they either work or don't work, and quit without warning. So there might be something else going on. Again, I will know more next week. Any suggestions what to look for?
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Old 01-08-2019, 02:29 PM   #6
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Get your own meter....they come with instructions on how to use....any major auto parts store can bench test the alternator......be aware if you replace the one you now have, make sure all bolt holes for mounting are indexed the same, and the electrical connections are in correct relation to the original alternator
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Old 01-09-2019, 01:47 AM   #7
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It sounds like you need to adjust the tension on the alternator. It could be slipping do to the high charge demand and once you use your generator to get things caught up the alternator is not putting such an extreme load on the belt.

I used to own several Dodge service vans and one was so bad I had to use a long 2x4 to reach into the dog house as a lever to get it tight. I am not suggesting something that extreme but there are sprays you can use to get additional grip on the belt that you might try to help diagnose the problem.
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Old 01-09-2019, 04:59 AM   #8
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If the belt is squealing, its loose and probably shot by now.

If it has V belts, the sides wear and the belts sit deep in the pulleys and bottom out. At that point, tightening it won't help.
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Old 01-09-2019, 05:11 PM   #9
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Removed Doghouse

Prior to today I could feel the belt and the tension, and see the alternator and belt from the right front wheel well. It all looked good, which is why I decided to take the trip on Monday. Today I removed the dog house in preparation for mechanical service next week. What a job and over 2 hours work! First of all, the bonnet is a heavily reinforced fiberglass unit with flanges on the sides, back and upper front. It was GLUED to the floor and then screwed down with 20 wood screws. Most came out OK, some had to be carefuly unscrewed while prying with another screwdriver and one had to be drilled out. The floor carpeting had been glued and stapled over the flanges, and it took a prybar to actually loosen and remove the dog house. I will now cut those flanges off; I think the carpeting on the bonnet will meet the floor carpeting sufficiently to look ok (but I really don't care if a slight seam is showing). I will install some toggle latches (inside) to hold the dog house in place, although it's so heavy I doubt if draft from the engine would actually move it. Obviously, the designers of this motor home decided that nobody would ever have to work on this engine--ever! So with the dog house easily removable I can now get to most everything in the engine. I will replace all the belts. I suspect they are original. If they were ever changed, I don't see how, as I doubt very much that the engine covering was ever removed. I will also check out the alternator. I think it's probably ok, but as I mentioned earlier, I may install a new one with warranty and have the old one rebuilt and keep as a spare. And if the old belts look OK, I will keep them as well.
I will conclude this thread next week. I have a good and reasonable mechanic who will resolve the issues here, I think, and while I could do this myself, I prefer to save my knuckles and the angst. But I feel a whole lot more confident now about dealing with this beast on the road as occasion arises and necessitates. Thanks again, everyone, for the helpful info.
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Old 01-10-2019, 03:24 AM   #10
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You might consider new plugs and wires while the bonnet is off. Just saying a real mechanic will have tricks and twists to make the job easier and you will have the comfort knowing you probably will not have to do it again.
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Old 01-10-2019, 07:07 AM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bob caldwell View Post
Get your own meter....they come with instructions on how to use....any major auto parts store can bench test the alternator......be aware if you replace the one you now have, make sure all bolt holes for mounting are indexed the same, and the electrical connections are in correct relation to the original alternator
Plus 1
If you want to save labor costs.
You can DIY alternator and belt issues 99 percent of the time.
Buying new belts and installing them is a 2 or 3 level job.at most.
Get your current alternator bench tested, rebuilt if necessary?
Carry a spare and belts.
You will feel empowered and more self confident
You can drive unlimited miles with the generator running also if you're set up correctly. Jerry riged
Bob is correct.
Start by buying a 10 to 30 $$$ meter.
Save yourself hundreds in labor over time

Seasond travelers seldom let alternator issues hinder a trip..
If you have a generator.
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Old 01-10-2019, 03:41 PM   #12
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I actually do have a meter. I'm 72 and done with working on engines unless I absolutely have to. I am sure the belts are all factory originals and need to be changed. I know I could do that myself, but I prefer to pay a reasonable price to have it done. I certainly saved mega-bucks by removing the dog house--that would have cost extreme labor costs and I have eliminated that problem for the future. Below are photos showing the flanges and cutting them off. I found out there were actually 25 screws holding it in place, besides being glued and stapled down. I will secure it with toggle latches. The seam along the bottom will probably show--I may eventually re-carpet it. But at least it can be removed in seconds. Below are a couple of photos showing the bonnet with the flanges and cutting them off.





The photo above shows the bonnet with the flanges. The one below cutting them off


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Old 01-11-2019, 05:49 PM   #13
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Originally Posted by Tedmik View Post
I actually do have a meter. I'm 72 and done with working on engines unless I absolutely have to. I am sure the belts are all factory originals and need to be changed. I know I could do that myself, but I prefer to pay a reasonable price to have it done. I certainly saved mega-bucks by removing the dog house--that would have cost extreme labor costs and I have eliminated that problem for the future. Below are photos showing the flanges and cutting them off. I found out there were actually 25 screws holding it in place, besides being glued and stapled down. I will secure it with toggle latches. The seam along the bottom will probably show--I may eventually re-carpet it. But at least it can be removed in seconds. Below are a couple of photos showing the bonnet with the flanges and cutting them off.





The photo above shows the bonnet with the flanges. The one below cutting them off


???
The dog house had, has a service Hatch.
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Old 01-12-2019, 05:57 AM   #14
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Looks like a good time to add sound deadening material on the inside of the dog house.
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