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Old 10-31-2011, 08:29 AM   #1
Don Rob's Avatar
Join Date: Sep 2007
Posts: 55
Starting problems on my GM Class C

I'm having intermittent starting problems w/22 yr old GM van based RV. It has the 5.7L V8 w/EFI, with only about 55K miles on it.

The starter motor was first replaced in 2003, just after I bought the RV used. Then it went bad again in 2005. This time, the starter and ignition switch was replaced with new AC Delco parts, to be sure they would last
a while.

At least, I paid extra to get new parts. So, I hope that new AC parts were
used, in the repair.

The alternator was replaced a few yrs back as well, and the dash guage
shows the alternator to be working.

The RV seems to have plenty of battery power to start, but often when
I turn the key, it like tries to turnover but can't. After a while, if you
keep trying it will start. This problem is getting worse and I feel I can no longer trust Bessy to start.

I had this same problem about 6 months ago and the battery was replaced. This did fix the problem, at least for a while.

I did not leave the lights on, and I did not find any drain, on the
electrical system. I have not used it a lot since the battery was replaced, but enough to keep the battery charged.

It has been fairly cool here in FL, the last couple of weeks. Most of my trips are less than 15 miles. So, I would not think heat (affecting the starter motor) is the problem, or a part of the problem. But, I understand that GM trucks tend to have problems with heat, from an exhaust pipe
damaging the starter. I just doubt this is the cause of the problem, but no way to be sure.

Any ideas on what the problem might be, or how to fix it, once and right?

Doug FL

Donz Rob
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Old 10-31-2011, 09:29 AM   #2
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My pretty sure guess is that it is a battery problem. Most likely your short drives are not charging up the battery all the way. Most vehicles have a small drain on the battery while parked so the engine ECU and radio will not loose their memories. This small drain will slowly deplete the charge on the battery. If it is parked next to your house then I would highly recommend putting on a small battery maintence charger that will keep it topped up and will extend the life of the battery. Battery Tender makes one that works well if you are close to 110v outlet and if not they make a solar powered unit Battery Tender - Home of the Battery Tender Jr. - Batterytender.com and they are available through AutoZone

For now what I would do is put the battery on a charger and see if after it is charged if everything starts OK. If it does then get the small charger. If it is still a problem then get the battery tested under load at somewhere like Sears or AutoZone (it is free). If that doesn't fix it then take it somewhere and get the charging and starting system checked out.

Mike Canter
"Gunner" USN Retired, Airdale
2004 Monaco Signature 44' Conquest. Detroit 60
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Old 10-31-2011, 10:48 AM   #3
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Be sure to check the grounds going to the engine to the chassie I stoped to get gas and wouldnt start called the tow company they told me it would be four hours before they could get a wrecker to tow me well I got to looking and found the ground cable from the back of the head to the chassie was lose the bolt was badly eaten up by arking tigthened it up and down the road I went got her home and put three more grounds on starts better and charges as it should even before i got it three years ago some one put a alternator on and it never started real good but all thats gone now.
good luck and check them grounds
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Old 10-31-2011, 11:15 AM   #4
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A ground problem would be my suspicions too. My experience has shown GM starters to last over 100,000 miles before needing to be replaced.
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Old 10-31-2011, 11:24 AM   #5
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One other thing I will add to the great suggestions already made- make absolutely, positively undoubtedly certain that the mating faces of those sidepost battery cables are clean and kept that way, including the bolts.
Low voltage will kill a DC motor faster than anything, and dirty connections are not allowing full voltage/amperage through. many people see cleaning a sidepost terminal as a PITA. But it has to be done. if you don't see shiny metal when you connect them, it will never get better.
Best wishes
Tom - Retired OTR 20 years 2 million mile club - 1984 Diamond Maxi
I love everybody! Even some above ground!
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Old 10-31-2011, 11:13 PM   #6
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I second the battery terminals, also corrosion sometimes makes its way up the cables...very common with older vehicles. you might have to replace the cables all together
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Old 11-01-2011, 03:55 AM   #7
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Sounds to me like low voltage, as O/P said check all connections + and - for clean and tight. Then if your are good with a multi meter you need to check for voltage drop accross your cables and connections under a load (when trying to start) on both the + and - cables my bet is you will find a bad cable, on a 22 year old vehicle it's likely time for all new cables. also some startes of the vintage had heat shields over the solenoid to keep them from over heating, if that has gone missing it will cause problems. If you are not comfortable with useing a multi meter for voltage drop any good auto electric shop can do the work. You have already thrown batterys, starters, and alternators at it. I am responceable for the care and feeding of 300 GM trucks and vans, and we just don't see a lot of starter and alternator problems. cables and connections are usually the culpret. Good luck.
Bruce Linda and Zoey
1999 ForeTravel U295
012 orange Jeep Wrangler
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Old 11-01-2011, 06:03 AM   #8
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Your motorhome is a 1989, correct?. The problem I describe may have been correct by 1989, but here's a long shot possibility; our first RV was a 1976 Midas Mini on a GM chopped van chassis. Sometimes when hot, the starter would not function at all, then work after a cool down period. I found that GM ran the starter solenoid wire from the ignition switch, through the "neutral start" switch on the transmission, then back to the starter. This wire was undersized, and as with all electrical conductors, lost some of it's capacity when hot and would not carry sufficient current to energize the starter solenoid. I recall sitting at gas stations for a half hour waiting for things to cool down, then the engine would crank and start immediately. I added a solenoid to use the start signal to connect directly from the battery, and never had any starting trouble after this.

I read in a RV magazine that GM recognized this on their class A chassis, and had a factory fix, but I certainly had the problem on a class C chassis.

George Schweikle Lexington, KY
1999 Safari TREK 2830, FMCA 190830, Safari International chapter
1995 Safari TREK 2630, 1983 Winnebago Chieftain, 1976 Midas Mini
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