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Old 08-19-2014, 06:00 PM   #1
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Smoking wire

OK here's the deal. My new to me motorhome has a starting problem. Sometimes it starts normally and other times it tries to turn over but acts like battery is almost dead, very slow cranking. When this happens if I hold the key in the start position there's a single black wire that's grounded to what looks like part of the heater box left of the brake pedal, that gets extremely hot and starts to smoke. Most of it's insulation has already burned off so I can actually watch this wire glow red! I tried to trace it and it seems to go to the remote starter solenoid that's mounted on a bracket just behind the alternator. If I disconnect this wire from it's ground point the starter won't turn, only get a click. I tried disconnecting it from the solenoid end and using another wire I grounded it to the bracket where the solenoid is mounted and got the same click from the solenoid. As soon as I hook that burned wire back to where it was the starter works again. I tried this more than once just to be sure. I did use an ohmmeter to verify it was the right wire. Any ideas are more than welcome. Bad solenoid maybe??
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Old 08-19-2014, 06:06 PM   #2
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Welcome to iRV2.
I'm thinking a bad ground somewhere else in the starter system.
When the wire is getting hot the entire starter load is trying to ground through that undersize wire.
Check your , battery to frame grounds, and engine to frame ; and if your grounds are set up that way ; consider grounding the battery directly to the engine rather than through the frame.
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Old 08-19-2014, 06:26 PM   #3
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Thanks Skip426 for the quick input. I cleaned every ground I could find the day I brought it home. Maybe I missed one. I can't check right now cause I'm on a drilling rig in west Texas but I should be home in the next few days. Any other suggestions welcome.
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Old 08-19-2014, 07:17 PM   #4
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First, REPLACE THE WIRE, (that wire is no longer providing a good ground) use the same or larger ga. wire. I would look for a good chassis ground closer to the solenoid to attach the wire, the shorter the run the better.
Next make sure there is a ground from the engine block to the frame and that it is in good condition. Check for ground loss with a voltmeter (positive lead to the block, negative lead to the negative battery post) if you read more than .5 volts while cranking, you have ground issues. you can find the bad connection by hooking the volt meter across the path in the same manner described above.
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Old 08-19-2014, 07:51 PM   #5
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You can never have too many ground connections. I'd buy a ground cable and make a connection from the engine to the frame right at the point the battery ground cable is attached. Your temporary ground from the bracket (on the engine) to the solenoid shows there's no good ground connection to the engine. A ground cable is much less costly than a fire!
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Old 08-19-2014, 07:53 PM   #6
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That burned wire will be replaced but what I don't understand is when I used a different wire (larger ga.)from the same post on the solenoid to a good ground the starter will not work. There are two wires going to that same post on the solenoid, both black. I did not trace the other one, never disconnected it. Engine blk to frame ground was removed, wire brushed to a shine and put back together. Same for all battery, starter and solenoid connections. I'll try the ground loss check when I get home. Thanks folks. To be continued...
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Old 08-19-2014, 08:09 PM   #7
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BFlinn181, I agree100%! I'm taking in all the advice and will try all suggestions. Mama wants to take the kid out to the lake but that's a big no-no until this gets sorted out. I told her not to even try starting it until this gets fixed. By the way that wire only gets hot on the end close to the ground point not at the solenoid end, if that makes a difference. Could I somehow be looking at the wrong wire? I did check it with an ohmmeter and showed continuity between both ends.
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Old 08-20-2014, 01:23 AM   #8
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If the solenoid requires a ground wire, it must be a continuous duty solenoid. I'm wondering why it would be used in the start circuit? Most, if not all, remote start solenoids ground through the mounting bracket.
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Old 08-20-2014, 09:10 AM   #9
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IF there is more than one wire connected to the battery negative...

The largest one SHOULD run to the engine block.. And that is the one with the bad ground.

What is happening, Since that largest wire is not carrying it's load. the smaller wire is trying to, and can not.

If the big wire goes to frame and then there should be a big strap between frame and engine block.. And the small wire is still hauling the load when the big one should be.
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Old 08-20-2014, 10:26 AM   #10
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Stop...

Before changing anything MEASURE THE VOLTAGE.

Sorry to yell but many folks waste a lot of time and effort changing things and sometimes going backwards.

YES the wire needs to be changed but yiu need to know why it needs to be changed first.

I also suspect a bad frame to engine ground but if it as open that small wire would pop.

So first action is to get a voltmeter and a plan.

Your helper will be tapping the starter only as you do not want the engine to run.

You will start at the starting battery and work towards the engine.

By measuring voltage drops across connections without wiggling you will be able to sneak up on the problem and confirm it then make repair and retest.

Some steps may not be needed but do them anyway for practice.take notes as you go.

Could be the hot side too.

Do the following process

Set up voltmeter at point of measurement and observe voltage then instruct helper to tap starter and observe voltage under load.

You will need to add length to your leads and an extension cord works , just plug your meter into the socket and use the plug at the connection point.

The added length will not matter.

Measure voltage on burned wire to confirm if hot or ground..

Measure starting battery voltage post to post...not the cables.

Mesure connections by measuring post to connector.

Measure wire by checking from post to other end connector

Measure grounds.

From post to any shiny spot.

From same shiny spot to engine block.

For hot locate starter selenoid snd measue from post to stud.

Take your time and after you make a repair verify your burned wire stays cool and do not stop until you make sure the rest is good.

As you work you will see how the mh is built and can determine how much additional testing you shoukd do after your repair.

Tske your time as these can be difficult to find.
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Old 08-20-2014, 03:35 PM   #11
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Thanks so much to all of you! This is exactly what I need. I'm printing this post for reference for when I get home. Unfortunately I was just notified that I have to go directly from here to another job so won't be back home for another week or so. Gotta love oil rigs!! I'll post again when I get back and start testing. Thanks again folks.
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Old 08-20-2014, 05:26 PM   #12
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Also ask questions and post photos while you are working on it regardless of time of day as someone may be able to help you in real time.
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Old 08-20-2014, 05:43 PM   #13
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OK on the GM chassis there is a starter relay on the Alternator frame It gets it hot from the key side and ground thru the relay from the neutral safety sw in prndll switch on the steering column. My guess is the relay is drawing too much power. I would ohm out the relay and compare it to a new one. The idea was to not have cranking relay amps going thru the dash so the dash is supposed to be low current relays and the high current relay is on the engine. When you change the ground path it no longer grounds the neutral start relay and you now don't get a hot side to the relay. As others mentioned you likely have low voltage in the circuit which also will drive up the amps. One common ground issue I have seen in newer units is the grounds on the rear of the drivers side cyl head If they are not grounded good you will drive up circuit current in a bunch of items under the dash as the ground finds a new path.
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Old 08-23-2014, 10:25 AM   #14
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Hey guys, I got a break and was able to get home for a couple of days. I got right to work on this problem. The first thing was removing the engine to frame ground strap and replacing with a new one. I also replaced the wire that burned. So far I haven't had any starting problems. Probably started it 25-30 times throughout the day. Before it would only start 3-4 times before having issues. I drove it around for a while to make sure it got hot (96 outside) and so far no problems. I think I'll replace the solenoid for good measure but otherwise I think this problem is solved. Thanks to all for helping me out. Now on to the next issue.
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