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Old 06-15-2021, 03:28 PM   #1
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1989 Mobile Traveler 27-foot Restoration - Ford 460 Alternator Connection

Hi,

Iím restoring a new-to-me 1989 Mobile Traveler 27-foot MH with a Ford 460 and have a question about wiring the engine battery and alternator. The PO removed the engine and house batteries and left several large-diameter/gauge positive power cables dangling in the engine compartment.

I've been puzzling through the documents I have, including the John Deere chassis service manual and Sure-Power battery isolator installation instructions, and I'm not sure what connects to what, except the positive cable from the engine battery to the starter solenoid. That allows me to start the engine and operate the headlights, running lights, dashboard instrument lights, and so forth.


There are several more high-current positive cables ... that are unlabeled, of course. One is the largest-diameter/gauge cable that's barely long enough to connect to the house batter(y/ies) if I position it as far to the left (driver's side) in the battery tray forward of the engine (to the right when looking into the engine compartment from the front).


I originally thought it's from the alternator/voltage regulator, but looking underneath the chassis, it runs down the driverís side of the left longitudinal chassis member and then apparently up into the interior in the direction of the kitchen, which is located on the left side of the MH. Since itís only long enough to reach the leftmost of the house batteries, itís apparently the house positive bus supply. Thereís a pair of much smaller (~16 gauge) black and white wires in a protective wire loom next to the large cable coming from the same direction just to the left and bottom of the radiator and oil cooler on the driver's side.

There is a slightly smaller-diameter/gauge positive cable coming from the Sure-Power battery isolator, that I believe should be connected to the positive terminal(s) on the house batter(y/ies). The isolator manages charging of the truck and house batteries via the alternator/voltage regulator, as well as between the batteries themselves when at least one has a sufficient charge to start the engine.


There's another high-current positive cable hanging down that's connected to an unidentified component in the upper left corner of the firewall on the driver's side (upper right when looking in under the hood), which is in the center of the photo below. None of the documents I have contains a line drawing or photo of the components mounted on the front of the firewall looking under the hood, and I can't find a candidate for this mystery part in the prolific schematics in the chassis service manual. I suspect itís connected to the alternator/voltage regulator, which are integrated on the 460, AIUI, so it's probably not a voltage regulator.


I don't want to blow any fuses, melt any cables, destroy any parts, or burn down the MH so soon after acquiring it, by connecting anything to the wrong place! In the meantime, if anyone is familiar with the 1988-vintage Ford 460 engine in a motorhome chassis, and can help confirm that the cable from the mystery component will get the alternator/voltage regulator connected to the engine battery so it will be charged, Iíd greatly appreciate your help.

Thanks,
Jim
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Old 06-15-2021, 07:15 PM   #2
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Look at the printing on the top, Klixon. It's a circuit breaker. Get the rest of the CDLA 963 number and do a search, you'll probably find the specs.
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Old 06-15-2021, 08:04 PM   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Argosy View Post
Look at the printing on the top, Klixon. It's a circuit breaker. Get the rest of the CDLA 963 number and do a search, you'll probably find the specs.
Hi Argosy,

So my supposition is correct that the cable coming out of the bottom of the Klixon circuit breaker does supply alternator/voltage regulator output current to recharge the engine battery. I figured that was the case, and that mystery part was something like a circuit protection device, but I just wanted to make sure. The circuit breaker should be operational as the PO said that the battery was being charged the last time the engine was run, but that was years ago. He had no idea how the cables were connected to the engine and house batteries, but I was able to identify the starter solenoid quickly, so I could get the engine started.

I could see the CDLA number, but not the Klixon name molded into the case of the circuit breaker because I didn't realize the brightness on my display wasn't high enough. It's been 103F here and lucid intervals have pretty much evaporated at this point, so I have to spend as little time over target under the hood as possible. Also, I can't get to the MH outside midday hours where it's temporarily located.

Once the battery is being charged during driving, I'll be able to take the MH to get the dash A/C checked out, along with other tasks, without the battery running down below restart current. There's also an electric fuel boost pump that prevents fuel flow when the voltage gets too low. Plus, law enforcement officers are apparently not fans at all of lumbering MHs being driven on unlit rural roads at night with no lights ...

I'm constrained by a lack of access to adequate additional batteries at the moment, but all of the above will be resolved once I'm able to drive and turn off the engine without being concerned about the battery being run down.

Thanks very much for the quick response!
Jim
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Old 06-16-2021, 12:20 PM   #4
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Wellll Ö I connected the positive wire from the Klixon circuit breaker to the engine battery, and when I tried to start the engine, the starter didnít turn over at all, I didnít hear the starter solenoid close, and the dashboard voltage meter immediately went to zero and stayed there.

I disconnected the cable from the circuit breaker and when I turned the key to On, the voltmeter showed good voltage again, but when I went to start again, there was no starter or starter solenoid sounds were heard and the voltmeter again went to zero. Waiting a few minutes didnít result in any indication on the voltmeter when turning the key to On.

The voltage shown on a handheld VOM directly connected to the battery posts indicates the same 13.8 volts that it had when I checked it before connecting the cable from the Klixon circuit breaker, so it doesnít seem to have had any significant current drain due to a short.

Itís too hot to do any more work today, so Thursday Iím going to see if something resets again as seems to have happened after I disconnected the cable from the circuit breaker, and that the engine will start as before. Iíve been recharging the engine battery with a 100 watt solar system that was able to take the battery voltage from 12.2 to 13.8 volts in less than one day of clear sky sun.

At least Iíll be able to check the parking, brake, turn signal, and back-up lights if I have to wait for someone to come by to diagnose whatís happening with the starting issue. Once itís running, I can take it to someone to get the alternator and voltage regulator circuit checked and get charging working.

I canít wait until MHs can be powered by electric drives. It seems like 19th Century (sic) ICE technology is deliberately designed to fail.
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Old 06-16-2021, 03:44 PM   #5
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To me all that looks original, like never touched since it was first assembled. While it was apart did you clean the cable ends and posts?

A lot of times old electrical will work until you mess with it. Then it doesn't go back exactly the same and it doesn't work. A starter is high draw, what you described is what usually happens. Enough power to pull in the solenoid, but not enough to turn the starter. If you take them apart again and clean them up it might start-might. If it doesn't and you know which wires come from the battery and go to the starter, put them on the same terminal and eliminate the circuit breaker, it's old and the same applies to old components as old cable ends.

Do you know where the other 2 wires go? If neither is a power feed for ignition, gauges, power seats, etc. it should start. If it is that will also need to be connected with the battery/starter cables.
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Old 06-16-2021, 07:10 PM   #6
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To me all that looks original, like never touched since it was first assembled. While it was apart did you clean the cable ends and posts?

Do you know where the other 2 wires go? If neither is a power feed for ignition, gauges, power seats, etc. it should start. If it is that will also need to be connected with the battery/starter cables.
I just realized from your suggestion that I make sure the connections are clean is exactly the right answer, but for the wrong reason. The battery has side bolt connections because the cables all have circular lugs, and the only bolts the guy had were a pair of rusty POSes that had been lying in an ancient toolbox in his equally archaic shed.

He wire-brushed the faces of the lugs and only took the looser stuff (mostly white battery cruft) off the bolts, which was fine. The bolts only needed to mechanically hold the lug faces against the circular contacts around the bolt holes. So, that worked to get the engine started.

I outsmarted myself by buying a pair of posts that could be screwed into the side of the battery, and then attaching the cables to post clamps via the several bolts on the clamps. It was a great plan, except that the clamps are painted red and black … including right under the clamp bolts. Normally, the cables would be stripped and the bare wires clamped against a bare area with a strap held in place by the bolts. That explains why suddenly the starter solenoid and motor suddenly weren’t doing anything.

The rusty bolts the PO provided aren’t long enough to fit more than one lug, so I should have just gotten some nice, shiny, longer bolts that can accommodate several lugs. I’ll do that Thursday and should have both starting from the battery and charging by the alternator. There are tons of lessons in engineering history where unanticipated side effects resulted in various levels of inconveniences to catastrophes.

I’m looking forward to confirming that your wise recommendation to “clean the connections” solves the problem. I’ve got lots of other things on the To Do list to get the MH further down the road toward restoration once this dragon has been slain.

Thanks very much for the help,
Jim
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Old 06-16-2021, 08:06 PM   #7
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The charging system should be wired like the diagram below:



/
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Old 06-17-2021, 05:09 PM   #8
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So, I got over to the MH in the 102 F heat armed with all-metal versions of the battery post clamps to test my theory about the thick enamel paint on the first pair of clamps preventing conduction between the battery and the starter and alternator. I removed the painted ones and put the first metal one on the positive post with no problem. I put the second metal clamp on the negative post and began tightening the clamp bolt Ö until I noticed that the clamp was nearly fully closed, but it was still completely loose - NOOOOO!!!

I hadnít noticed any difference in the sizes of the clamps or posts, but I thought that maybe the posts and clamps were keyed by size. So, I removed the clamp from the positive post and tried to push the one I had attempted to bolt onto the negative post onto the positive post. Its diameter had been squeezed down way too much when I was trying to tighten it onto the negative post, so I had to tap it onto the positive post gently with a hammer. Tightening the clamp bolt ensured that it couldnít possibly come off. The other clamp fit on the negative post just fine, so I was relieved after having visions of exchanging parts during yet-another many-mile round-trip to the nearest auto parts store.

The clamps are labeled as being for marine batteries, so maybe that has something to do with the slightly different diameters. They have studs with wing nuts, so theyíre perfect for the lugs on the cables (removable thread lock will be applied). I connected the positive and negative cables for the starter motor and alternator (I was very confident that I had correctly identified it) and verified that the battery voltage was still 13.4 volts, and then climbed into the driverís seat for The Big Test. I turned the key to On, and the dash voltmeter showed 13.4 volts - a very good sign. I then set the choke by stepping once on the gas pedal and pressed the start button (many old MHs have had such heavy-duty switches installed due to the ignition switch start position contacts having apparently burned out) Ö and nothing happened

Iím not used to that button and itís pretty stiff, with a rubber weatherproof cap over it. I pressed it again with more pressure and the engine started turning over, but I wasnít giving it any gas before releasing the button. I pressed the button again firmly and stepped on the gas pedal a bit, but not so much as to potentially flood the carb or cause high RPMs before the oil had started circulating to minimize cylinder/ring wear (90% of the wear on an engine occurs during the first 30 seconds of starting). I looked at the voltmeter and it was reading 14 volts, indicating that the alternator was charging the battery Ö SUCCESS!!!

The next task is to evaluate what will be necessary to get the dash A/C working. It had never worked during the ~five years that the PO had owned the MH. It may have never been converted to R-134a when R-12 was no longer allowed to be used.

To Infinity Ö and Wherever!
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Old 06-17-2021, 05:44 PM   #9
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The charging system should be wired like the diagram below:
Hi Bill,

Thanks for the schematic - I have the entire paper and digital formats of the John Deere chassis manual, which includes that schematic. What I needed was line drawings and/or photos of the front side of the firewall and the engine sjhowing where the power cables were routed.

I was pretty sure I knew what went where, but I know that what seems to make perfect sense never occurred to those who ďdesignedĒ vehicles more for manufacturability at maximum profit rather than serviceability. My success as documented in my previous post is much more a testament to assistance provided by others and undeserved good luck, than any knowledge and skill on my part!

I look forward to hearing from you whenever you have any other golden nuggets to share in response to my trials and travails.

Jim
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