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Old 10-09-2018, 06:27 PM   #1
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Generator Sometimes Doesn't Crank

Anyone experience pushing the start button, and only hearing a click? If I keep pressing the button over and over again it will eventually crank and start with no problem. I assume the starter is actually the generator cranking the motor. Is there an easy fix for this? Unfortunately, the generator has 320 hours on it as the previous owners must have driven constantly with the generator running to run the ac. We have owned our Interstate for 3 years and have put only 10 hours on it.
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Old 10-09-2018, 06:59 PM   #2
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Start by removing and cleaning the cable connections on the outside of the generator (front, curbside near the bottom of the generator). Then remove the rear seat (if it is a lounge, not sure where to direct you if it is twin beds) and check the fittings on the generator solenoid there. Then tear into the generator and find the starter and clean that connection. If none of the above work one of the solenoids is probably bad.
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Old 10-10-2018, 11:44 AM   #3
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Makes perfect sense. I'll give it a go. Thanks.
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Old 10-10-2018, 01:34 PM   #4
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Curious to know what you found the problem to be - please report back. I listed them in order of ease, not necessarily order of likelihood.
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Old 10-10-2018, 03:21 PM   #5
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Originally Posted by Aircruiser View Post
Anyone experience pushing the start button, and only hearing a click? If I keep pressing the button over and over again it will eventually crank and start with no problem. I assume the starter is actually the generator cranking the motor. Is there an easy fix for this? Unfortunately, the generator has 320 hours on it as the previous owners must have driven constantly with the generator running to run the ac. We have owned our Interstate for 3 years and have put only 10 hours on it.
I met a guy at a rally who had 2600 hours on his generator. It was quiet and smooth.
Mine had 112 hours when I sold the coach after 14 years!

However, since the starter draws a large current, it isn't practical to run those 3/0 AWG wires to your button. Thus the solenoid. It takes a smallish 12v. current to slam an electromagnet into the gap of the two big starter wires.
However, over time carbon builds up on the big contacts and current doesn't flow. You hear the "click" because the magnet moved, but the big boys didn't make good contact.

In my younger days, I often laid on the ground and sparked the solenoid's contacts with a screwdriver to start my old car. Not good for impressing a girl!
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Old 10-10-2018, 03:31 PM   #6
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--------------snip-----------------

In my younger days, I often laid on the ground and sparked the solenoid's contacts with a screwdriver to start my old car. Not good for impressing a girl!
Beats the one I had, 59 Chevy Biscayne 283 that would stall on steep hills in San Francisco. Former GF would slide over to driver's side as I climbed out with big crescent wrench. She would stand on brake and twist key as I beat on the starter to make it pull in. When it fired, I'd dive into passenger seat and she would gun it up the hill. If it stalled again, same drill. Finally found the bad fuel filter in the carb inlet, and tossed it. Used an aftermarket one cut into the gas line. Rebuilt the darn starter to get the sludge out of the solenoid, finally. She though it was hilarious...I guess we were both young and foolish--now I am no longer young!
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Old 10-10-2018, 04:03 PM   #7
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I had a similar experience earlier this year. It turned out to be a bad ground on my house battery. After cleaning the ground I still had the problem but more intermittently. I relocated the ground cable to a different contact point and problem solved.
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Old 10-11-2018, 11:42 AM   #8
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Gen X

When the house batteries have died they can't start the generator.

After running the truck engine for a short period the kaput dead batteries actually gain enough charge to start the generator.

This is probably not your issue but it has been for me.
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Old 10-16-2018, 08:44 PM   #9
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generator fixing

the generator has a remote control that is in the van and a separate control on the genset itself. the genset has codes that it will display if there are issues. if the genset won't start the first thing to check is the battery. if there Is not enough battery power then the genset will not start. this can be caused by several things. to check, slide under the RV from the rear and between the spare tire and the genset is a panel. on the lower right of this panel is a switch that looks the same as the one inside the RV you use to start the generator. press it and it should start. if not then the challenge is likely with the genset itself not the remote starter for the genset inside the RV. Assuming you have no luck starting the genset from this onboard switch then check the power supply to the contacts at the front (towards the front of the van). you may find the contacts are corroded especially if you live in an area with salt. Airstream did a terrible job installing the genset so that all road salt and sand hit these contacts while driving. it takes about one canadian winter in salt to corrode the positive contact off. to fix replace the positive line running from the house battery to the genset. then cover the new contacts with electrical contact grease, then use expanding window foam to seal these contacts from the road salt. its easy to tear the foam off if you need to once you spray the area with grease. however without the foam the salt will corrode the positive contact off in about a year. (this is from personal experience). if you have an issue with the generator it will show up when you press the starter button. attached is the service manual. if you get an error saying low oil and yet the generator still won't start even with the new positive line installed then drop the generator. take the cover off and my bet is you will find the positive contact that goes to the genset starter is heavily corroded off. it isn't low oil, its the starter wire.. build a new one. install it. grease it .. then foam it in as well. there is a hole in the bottom of the genset that pulls salt from the road in and corrodes this contact the same way it did on the outside. once you have it rebuilt you might as well cover the genset with dynamat and reinstall. not only will it be functional for a long time, it will also be quiet.

surely airstream could learn to not install postiive and negatives 1/2 an inch from each other and leave them unprotected to the elements. in my case I have replaced the positive wire to the genset twice and the starter wire inside the genset once. Now that i learned to foam and seal with electrical grease i have. genset i can depend on. (fingers crossed)
Attached Files
File Type: pdf ONAN HGJBB SERVICE MANUAL.pdf (8.39 MB, 6 views)
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Old 10-17-2018, 05:33 PM   #10
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Agree with Cameron that the gen set cables are in an exposed location. We have only driven ours in the winter once in five years. Cable connections looked pretty cruddy but upon removing and cleaning them I did not see any evidence of corrosion that would corrode it off. I cleaned, greased, and re-installed. Foam sealant is an interesting idea - but apparently not needed for my situation. I have not dropped my generator to inspect the cable connections that are inside the enclosure.
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Old 10-18-2018, 08:49 AM   #11
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Thanks for the good explanations and advice about my issue. I haven't had a chance to get the AI out of storage to inspect the cable connections as I have been trying to get a deck project finished before it gets too cold. Hopefully a bad connection somewhere is the problem. If it ends up being the starter, I doubt that I'll be able to lift the van high enough to pull out the generator to replace it. So a $32.00 replacement part turns into a large $ ??? service repair.

Has anyone removed their Onan from beneath and AI?
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Old 10-21-2018, 11:03 AM   #12
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Removing generator

To remove the generator it’s helpful to have a few things on hand. Build some ramps to drive the van up onto. A low Scissor lift to place under the generator. Ratchet set. Screwdrivers. Etc. if you are going to remove it I would also order a resonator and dynamat so that you can soundproof it when you put it back. It’s easy to do once it’s out.

Drive airstream on ramps so rear wheels are 6 inches off ground. Block tires so it can’t roll off. Parking brake too.

Disconnect positive lead coming from battery to generator. Do this at the battery. Disconnect the 120v wires coming from the generator to the junction box. Disconnect the propane (be sure to turn it off first). Now disconnect the positive and negative leads going to the generator. Unbolt the generator and cut the tie wraps holding on the wires. Slowly lower the generator with a lift. Roll it out from under the airstream.

Star bolts around the lower edge of the plastic need to be removed to access the inside. Check the starter wire and contacts inside for corrosion. Grease and reinstall the cover. Apply dynamat to cover. Install resonator.

Reinstall reversing the steps above.

It sounds arduous but it’s not too bad. Just annoying that airstream doesn’t do a better job of protecting it from the elements.
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Old 10-21-2018, 08:22 PM   #13
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Camerons--Thanks for the step-by-step instructions. I hope to get at it this week. I did make a set of ramps to drive onto for transmission oil changes. Pretty sure they'll give me the six inches of lift. I'll need to add some boards for the dual wheels, but that will probably be the easiest part of the project.
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Old 10-22-2018, 07:29 AM   #14
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How often do you change transmission fluid? Do you change torque convertor fluid too?
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