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Old 01-26-2022, 10:00 AM   #1
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Question Regarding Wiring for my 1988 Ford E350 RV

Hey everyone,

I have a question regarding the wiring for my 1988 Ford E350 RV. Do I need to have both batteries connected in order to properly engage the ignition and run the RV? I ask because there's only 1 battery currently in the RV, on the left (passenger) side, and when we connect the battery, the main positive terminal wire sparks quite a bit and gets hot. After trial and error, we found that it's 1 of the 4 main wires that connects to the battery from the starter relay switch that's causing the spark / heat.

Has anybody had a similar experience with their 80s-90s Ford E series RV? Any idea of what wires would be running hot while ignition is off, cause sparks and excessive heat? There's an aftermarket alarm that's been added to the RV, not sure if this might be the issue.

Could it be an issue of me needing to connect the 2nd battery? It seems like the 2nd battery is for all the RV components and isn't needed for ignition / motor, but I'm not 100%.

Any direction or info you can provide is greatly appreciated. I'm new to RVing and to the RV Life Forum, so if you need more info about the rig from me let me know and I'll get back to here asap.

Thanks,

Troy
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Old 01-26-2022, 10:09 AM   #2
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Even in 1988 I would think the original setup included both "chassis" and "house" batteries.

Often a solenoid is used to connect the two systems. When working properly this is not a problem. If I were you I would install a 12volt house battery while troubleshooting.
Eventually, you need 12volt deep cycle for the house. Some use two 6volt golf cart batteries for this.
The "chassis" battery is a cranking battery like that for your car.
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Old 01-26-2022, 12:14 PM   #3
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Thanks okcnewbie. I'm trying to troubleshoot why I'm getting such a strong spark / heat when connecting the "chassis" battery. I think it has something to do with the wire that connects from the starter relay but not sure.
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Old 01-26-2022, 12:24 PM   #4
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I suspect that the coach battery circuit is tied into the chassis battery on yours. I would turn off everything possible to turn off and see what happens when connecting the chassis battery.

It is possible to run only on the chassis battery, however it really depends on how everything was wired up. Do you have a voltage meter to check the voltages? ~CA
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Old 01-27-2022, 12:37 AM   #5
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I'll be troubleshooting this some more this upcoming Sunday with my dad. I believe he does have a voltage meter. I'll follow up here. Appreciate the feedback
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Old 01-27-2022, 12:59 AM   #6
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Either one of two things are causing the arcing and cable heating up, 1. You have a dead short to ground, 2. Your connecting a - negative cable to the + positive post. You need to trace the other end of cable to where it connects.
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Old 01-27-2022, 01:37 PM   #7
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This is really helpful chboone thanks. Will follow up soon with what we find
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Old 01-31-2022, 02:06 PM   #8
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Alright - we tracked the loom that was causing the arcing and cable heat down to the alternator and disconnected them from the alternator, which made the issue go away. We were then able to turn the ignition on and turn the motor over, but with the set of wires disconnected from the alternator, it appears to have disabled the gas pump (among potentially other things) - no gas was being sent to motor.

Definitely good progress but 1) Why would a bad generator cause so much heat and sparks? Wouldn’t that create a lot of fire hazards for old Fords when their alternator goes out? 2) For that reason we’re not sure if it’s the alternator, or something else like the isolator. Lastly I believe that the wiring at this point is likely not the issue, since the arcing went away once they were disconnected from alternator (but still connected to battery).

If you guys have any more insight, I'm all ears.

Troy
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Old 02-01-2022, 11:43 PM   #9
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Does the alternator have a stud and nut for the wires? Do you have a VOM (volt-ohm-meter)? If you do set it for continually touch one of the leads to stud the other one to alternator case. If you get a reading the alternator is shorted. If no reading touch the largest cable (only) you took off to the stud. Does it still arch and heat up?
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Old 02-03-2022, 09:56 AM   #10
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Not that I noticed, but I'll have to check again with some more light.

The connector on the left in the photo is the one that we unplugged from the alternator that solved the arc and heat issue, and we were able to turn the ignition on and turn the motor over, but no fuel link. The connector on top also connects to the alternator, we disconnected that one and still had the arc / heat issue.
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