Wednesday, February 24, 2010

When things go wrong.....

As many of you most certainly know, either from personal experience, or from hearing the "war" stories of others.......owning a "home" that moves down the road will, from time to time, mean stuff will break, or stop working. When things go wrong in a motorhome it is the result, often, of the flexing, heating-cooling, and/or vibrating of your moving home.

This past Saturday morning I unplugged our coach from shore power, ensconsed myself in the captain's chair, and turned the key "sending" electrical power to the starter fully expecting to hear what I always hear as the 6V92 Detroit Diesel rumbles, once again, to life. What I was treated to were the "sounds of silence".....not even a click....nothing. At first I thought the transmission was not in neutral (there is no "PARK" option). If the coach is not in neutral nothing will happen when you turn the key. I tried several times to reposition the gear shift in neutral with the same silent result....still no response. I sat there staring dumbly at all the gauges looking for signs of life. I slowly turned the battery condition switch from one battery to the next and see that all batteries are at 100% charge. I then flip the battery merge switch to merge all four batteries, and get the same disconcerting silence. I try the back up monitor....won't come on...then I start turning on light switches (all the lights are of the 12 volt variety) and still am not "seeing the light". I walk to the kitchen.....nothing comes on. I pass on to the bedroom and get the same result. There is literally no 12 volt power reaching any 12 volt fixture anywhere in the coach.....WOW!

Now I have moved from the "seeking adventure on the road" to "death of a vision" to starting to trouble shoot the electrical problem. I decide to plug back in the shore power, because I remember when I first entered the coach this morning before unplugging all the 12 volt was working.....as I mate the male and female ends of the shore power cord I hear the "click" I always hear and all the 12 volt power returns to the coach, and, in fact, I turn the ignition key and the diesel rumbles to life....OK, that's progress. I then unplug the shore power again, and it still runs, however, all 12 volt power vanishes into the ether again, and I find that flipping the kill switch does not turn off the diesel. I reconnect the power and am able to turn off the diesel.....OK, we're not going anywhere in our moving home today.

Our plan had been to head down to Temecula for a 2 day soccer tournament and spend the night. Since I had a start time of 9:15am I had to forego anymore trouble shooting and just go do my games, and worry about this issue when I get back in the afternoon.

I arrive back home around 2:30pm, park the car, and put up a post on the NewellClassic.com website outlining my problem. While waiting for a reply I start checking all the batteries with my multi meter to confirm the readings of the meter inside. I check for voltage pole to pole (positive to negative) and get 12.20 to 12.35 volts on all four batteries....pretty close to a full charge. I then check positive to ground and get the same readings....so, all 4 batteries are charged, and all four grounds are fine. I check for voltage on the front electrical panel and get nothing, EXCEPT for the radio...it has power, and it turns on...the only 12 volt item in the coach that comes on without shorepower....weird!

I get a reply on the website from one of my buddies, Richard, and he says to call him, which I do. I the relate all the symptoms to him, and then he goes through a list of things he wants me to check out, which I do, but we still have no idea what is happening. He suggests I call one of the other owners who is a brilliant electrical engineer, and has successfully solved many of his Newell electrical issues. Soooo, I call Tom in Arizona and find he is on his way home from a weekend adventure in their 1990 Newell...as he is driving he outlines several issues he wants me to check out before we talk the next time. I make notes and plan to do the additional trouble shooting the next afternoon when I again return from Temecula.

The problem is, I am coming down with a cold this past weekend, and when I arrive home on Sunday around 3pm I am out of engery, and it is getting cold. I just decide to take a shower, and lay down for a while....."tomorrow is another day" as Scarlet would say.

Monday morning dawns sunny, and warmer....I have a cup of "joe" and then head out to the coach. I get Tom on the phone and I report back to him the results of the things he wanted me to check.....gradually we move back to the electrical bay located just in front of the engine compartment at the left rear of the coach....since the converter/charger is obviously putting out 12 volt when plugged in, then the issue must be between there and the rear electrical junction panel......I am in the process of tracing the "red" wire from the conveter to the rear junction when my neighbor, Russell, walks up...."what's wrong?" he says....that's what he always says when he sees me staring dumbly at my coach, or car. I briefly relate to him the symptoms....he asks to look in the electrical bay, wiggles a few wires there, then asks to see the rear junction panel...as we are talking he starts wiggling the various large wires (yes, the shore power is unplugged, but thank you for being concerned...). He wiggles a large diameter black ground wire and I hear the "click" I used to hear...then he wiggles the other one, and the same thing.....it is obvious that both connections are loose....one more than the other.....hmmmmm....why didn't I "see" that? I unscrew both bolts, clean off all the connections, and then reconnect them...I turn on all the battery switches, and what do you freakin' know....I have 12 volt restored throughout the coach!! I call Tom, and tell him what we discovered, and he congratulates me on finding the problem. I then thank Russell for his fresh set of eyes, and that he always assumes the problem is simple, first. I tend to think the problem is large, and complicated, first.

A lesson learned once again.....more often than not electrical problems occur due to the vibration, flexing, heating and cooling....ground wires come loose, or get corroded. A special thanks to Richard and Tom for "sharing" my pain, and working with me....Tom we were on the right path....we just hadn't gotten all the way to the rear junction panel......Russell, you're a life saver...thanks for being a good neighbor!


The rear electrical panel ground connections...all cleaned up and reconnected!

2 comments:

  1. Looks like the shunt fed ground on my trimetric meter.
    At least your problem was cheaper solved than mine.
    Sorry we never got to hook up while I was in your area. Maybe next year.
    Dan

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  2. Yeah, the cost was just right....$0. Still trying to figure out why the genset will not turn over....getting a "click" on the propane solenoid. Thought it was the starter solenoid, but turned out that wasn't it....will check on/off switch junction box next to genset tomorrow when it stops raining.

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