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Old 03-07-2013, 10:12 PM   #1
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Retrofitting Smartwheel System

I have a new leather-covered steering wheel with Smartwheel switches and an SM210 controller with wiring pigtails on the way. I've found the Freightliner schematic, the VIP owner's manual and trouble shooting guide (which includes the schematic that Freightliner adopted).

I realize this may be a bit beyond what the average owner would bite off, but if someone has done this and has some tips, I would love to hear them. I'm comfortable reading wiring diagrams and have done similarly complex stuff in the past, such as adapting all of the instrumentation, switchgear and HVAC controls from an '05 Miata into our '95. In particular, it looks like I'm on my own regarding cruise control integration - too many different vendors, so the schematic has no details.

I'll be adapting an automotive clockspring, most likely the one left over from the Miata project, where it carried horn and airbag circuits. The vendors that I talked to wanted to sell me a steering column equipped with a clockspring.
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Old 03-08-2013, 07:09 AM   #2
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I have no idea, but I'll be watching this thread intently. Where did you find the Smartwheel?
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Old 03-08-2013, 11:00 AM   #3
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Quote:
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I have no idea, but I'll be watching this thread intently. Where did you find the Smartwheel?
ebay
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Old 03-08-2013, 08:03 PM   #4
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mbrandt1402,
I am also interested. Which pigtails did you order?? And, what are they going to connect to?? I can see them hooking up to the current headlight control but not to the older relays??
Keep us posted on what your find out. Thanks.
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Old 03-09-2013, 10:25 AM   #5
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I'm not expecting the wiring that comes with the controller to mate to the coach. That would be quite the nice surprise if it did. I will most likely have to trace wires back to switches and/or the device that is controlled to identify the correct wire to splice into.

As to hooking up to older relays, the info on VIP's website says the Smartwheel has been used since '97 or thereabouts. If I am reading the schematic correctly (and I believe I am), the controller board has 25amp relays built-in, so it looks to me that it has always been intended to directly control the wiper motor, washer pump and light circuits. If the chassis has relays, of course I will wire to the relay.
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Old 03-09-2013, 08:25 PM   #6
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Thanks Mbrandt1402,
Keep us posted on what you find out with each connection.
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Old 03-10-2013, 11:16 AM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mbrandt1402 View Post
I'll be adapting an automotive clockspring, most likely the one left over from the Miata project, where it carried horn and airbag circuits.
Converting of my Austin Healey to Rack & Pinion steering, required a couple of U-joints and solid steering shafts forward of the firewall. I wanted to retain the stock steering wheel with its horn button and turn signal switch in the hub.



Rather than trying to use a clock spring, I made slip rings to carry the signals (pwr, gnd, left-right) from the steering wheel hub to the appropriate in-car circuitry.



It works great.

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Old 03-11-2013, 12:24 AM   #8
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Thanks for posting, Tim.

The SmartWheel control circuit is most likely a series of resistors switched in and out. A slip contact arrangement might not be the best arrangement for consistent resistance, but I have the tools to pull that off & will definitely keep it in mind.
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Old 03-12-2013, 10:51 AM   #9
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mbrandt,

Due to the narrow opening in the support structure, I would have found it very difficult to mount most any clockspring on the cockpit side of the firewall.

Because any "skip" in continuity due to the music wire "brushes" would not have been any consequence, the slip rings seemed a viable alternative. The dual brushes were to mitigate any skips that may have happened.

I used a friends mill and lathe to make it happen. It was actually pretty easy to do and works well.

Good luck with your project. Please let us know how it turns out.

Tim
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Old 03-15-2013, 10:56 AM   #10
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Still early in the project, but some progress has been made:

The control signals from the steering wheel require just two leads. If the Smartwheel buttons are illuminated two more leads are required for a total of 4. I haven't removed the old steering wheel yet (forgot my puller yesterday), so I don't know if there are two circuits on the standard slipring or just one plus grounding through the steering mechanism. In either case, the Smartwheel takes over control of the horn so it is possible to install a Smartwheel system on any steering column if you don't care to have the buttons light up.

I received a custom wiring harness with my control module, but I've found no trace of the Molex female connectors that it would mate with on the mh harness. That makes sense to me - no need to spend the money to pre-wire for an option only installed in a small percentage of rigs. I'll need to identify a handful of circuits, but with the switches available on the backside of the dash, I don't think this will be a big deal for anything except the cruise control (CC).

I was a little concerned about interfacing to CC - the Smartwheel controller can be setup for normally open or normally closed switches for power, set, resume, etc. I thought I would need to dig out the multimeter and probe the CC switches on the stalk. Parallel to this project, I wanted to plumb the depths of the Info Center to see if it would report the software version on the Cat ecu (it didn't). What I did find was a screen in the info center that reports the status of all of the CC controls. Looks like my setup is normally open for all of the CC controls. If you haven't visited the Service screens in your Info Center, it appears that the master password is 8127. Make sure you know how to maneuver through the screens - I could see someone getting into the service area without knowing how to back-out of some of the setup screens and making a mess of their setup by randomly pushing buttons.

At this point I am confident that I'll get the Smartwheel working properly, and I would say that most owners could install one using the existing horn circuitry (i.e. without backlit control buttons). Mounting a clockspring may be beyond the talents of most owners. It must be concentric to the steering shaft and parallel to the backside of the steering wheel, and I'm not sure what I'm going to find as far as mounting opportunities. I'm a pretty good fabricator (racing formula cars and sports racers gives you "opportunities" to acquire all sorts of skills), so I'm not too concerned at this point.

More to come.
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Old 03-15-2013, 10:56 PM   #11
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mbrandt,
Thank you for the update. I have figured out the headlights and marker lights locations on the headlight control module for my motorhome but have not yet figured out the cruise control or the windshield wiper controls. Keep us posted with your fine work. It is very much appreciated.
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Old 03-21-2013, 07:16 PM   #12
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The mechanical phase is done.

A Mazda Miata clockspring can be made to fit into the steering column, but there are electrical and mechanical modifications that are beyond the ability (or at least the willingness) of the average MH owner. If anyone wants to replicate what I've done, send me a message and I'll give you details. It is a lot of work just to have lighted Smartwheel buttons (you can run a Smartwheel using just the horn wire and grounding through the steering column).

Some details on removing the steering wheel: the rubber center cover is attached with a 5mm Allen screw that runs at about a 45 degree angle from the rear underside of the steering wheel. The nut holding the wheel to the steering shaft is 1 1/4". My 32mm socket fit very nicely.

I had to use a bolt-style puller on the steering wheel. The hub is tapped for this - 5/16 x 16 (coarse pitch) on the old steering wheel. The new one was 1/4 x 20 (also coarse pitch). When you remove the steering wheel, the sweep or slider connection for the horn may fly off - there is a spring to keep everything in good contact. It isn't dangerous, but if you aren't expecting it, it can be a little startling. Half of the electrical sweep connector is built into a cup shaped cover immediately below the steering wheel. The cover is keyed to the steering shaft (it rotates with the steering wheel). If you fit a clockspring, you will likely need to cut the center out of the cover for clockspring clearance. This also removes the mounting system, but it is easy to turn the cover into a slip-fit over the steering column cover by wrapping the column cover with ~ 3/8" weatherstripping. The cover obviously doesn't move with the steering wheel when mounted in this way.

Next step is to start identifying wires and splicing in the Smartwheel harness, but that may have to wait for a week or so. I've familiarized myself with the schematic and the Smartwheel diagnostic manual - identifying the coach wiring is going to be relatively easy. I already have one wire - the horn is black & yellow.
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Old 03-22-2013, 08:35 AM   #13
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Please be aware that many Smart Wheel installations have a problem with the wiring be too small. There is a white wire that enters the control box that can melt or worse yet start a fire. Some have cured this by using Bosch relays. I do not remember if it is the headlights or the wiper circuit.
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Old 03-22-2013, 12:55 PM   #14
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Thanks - I see that the issue was on the headlight circuit, and seems to be on the 209 control module. The 210 has a 25 amp relay, but I don't know if that is a step up from the 209 or not, so I'm still researching.
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