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Old 04-26-2008, 01:33 PM   #1
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1996 34' Cutter Bus w/slide
Atlanta , Denial
Join Date: Feb 2008
Posts: 10
Unhappy Alarm, Engine Won't Start??

Going a wee little bit nuts here...

Was getting ready to head out after parking for a couple of months, intending to replace ancient house batteries on my way. Went to fire up engine and genny (belatedly) to give them a little exercise, and engine would not start. Chassis battery is less than six months old. Charge was a little low (and of course, house batteries were already toast). Got a starter battery, chassis battery took the charge like a champ.

But no go! Engine will not even try to crank. Nothing but click as ignition attempts to contact alternator. Join what's left of house batts, same non-results. And there's this 2-tone, 3-beep alarm coming from the radio speakers when I turn the ignition off.

I naturally assume PEBSAW (problem exists between seat and wheel - yours truly .) Try to think which failsafe I blew? Drag out manuals. Sleep on it, drag out manuals again, check fuses, try whole procedure again, checking voltages and visually verifying jacks and steps are up. Same result. No crank, same weird alarm. Slide is still out, but I've started that way before, so shouldn't be an issue.

Results:
Chassis battery - alive and well
Gas tank - about 3/8 full
Genny - runs fine
Fuses - good
Fluid levels - acceptable
Driver - brain dead and bummed.

Shouldn't be an engine problem. The engine isn't actually DOING anything. And Ford didn't wire the radio. Thor did that and added all the really fun stuff. Can't find any references in the manual to explain this, no posts here either. Surely, whatever boneheaded thing is the problem, it's not nearly a first?

It's you fine folks here or an expensive roving tech come Monday (ouch!).
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Old 04-26-2008, 03:17 PM   #2
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not sure of your definition of the click you are hearing. if its the starter engaging but not turning engine over, and you are sure the battery is up, i would check that both ends of battery cable ends are clean and tight. on our mo/ho vibrations have caused the neg. bat cable to loosen where it attaches on frame causing same problem you are having. thats where i would start checking.
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Old 04-26-2008, 03:33 PM   #3
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corrosion

Yep! Check the cables for any corrosion. Get a cup (container) put in a couple tablespoons of baking soda and fill with water. Soak the cable ends in there for several minutes then wash off. Clean the terminals really well. Reinstall and tighten up well. (a loose connection will foul up again quickly.) Squirt with a corrision inhibitor if available. The old "grease 'em up" with axel grease is not a good plan. With good charged up batteries you should crank right up.
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Old 04-26-2008, 07:13 PM   #4
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1996 34' Cutter Bus w/slide
Atlanta , Denial
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I did go out and check the battery connections with a voltmeter. I get exactly the same read off the wires as off the posts, so they're getting power with no loss. They're tight. Going catch a ride into town tomorrow to pick up the new house batteries. Gotta do that no matter what.

I don't know what the click is - it's a switch somewhere, but it's just me, so no way to locate it and be at the wheel at the same time. If it's the starter, then it's the absolute deadest starter I've ever heard. No funky bad brush noise, nothing. And there's still the deal with that weird alarm.

Only thing I can think of - and I found nothing in the manual on this - is a propane mod I did. The horizontal tank was shot. I decided to replace with two 20# tanks in a basement bin so I could use the retail tank swap systems no matter where I was. The work was all done by a certified tech. We just tapped straight into the piping that runs through the bin behind the entry door, put in a new rack and regulator, and left the old tank in place for now. I'll have it dropped out later since it's just dead weight now. The new stuff is all tight, everything works perfectly. I can't find any mention of any engine ignition alarms tied to that system at all. The LP detector itself is a small current draw, but that's about it, right? I just can't think of any other system that would be critical enough to warrant another ignition failsafe. And even if it had an undocumented failsafe, you'd think it would be designed to kill every possible electrical circuit and not just wait around in case you decide to start the engine.

Sorry for the length. Just...still trying to noodle this thing out. Bleh!
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Old 04-26-2008, 07:58 PM   #5
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does the positive battery cable going to the starter use a relay? did you try starting it while in neutral? do the headlights stay bright when you try to crank the engine? what is the voltage reading when you try to crank the engine?
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Old 04-27-2008, 12:30 AM   #6
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I own a rubber hammer for situations like this. I'm not saying this is what's wrong, but sometimes the starter brushes stick and do not contact the armature. I whack the starter with the hammer, and most of the time this cures the problem. Then I replace the starter. The other possiblity is the starter relay, but that might be the "click" that you hear. I wouldn't hit the starter motor with a regular hammer, though.
good luck
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Old 04-27-2008, 02:06 PM   #7
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1996 34' Cutter Bus w/slide
Atlanta , Denial
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Ho HO! Found it. Couldn't hear exactly where the click was when I turned the key. A friend came over and listened. It was a 20A fuse on the Ford fuse block that had vibrated just a teeeeeny bit loose - the one to the ignition coil. Which explains why the battery looked good and I couldn't hear the starter brushes at all. Still don't know about the alarm thing we heard, but it stopped immediately when the fuse was reset. (It's not a bug...it's an undocumented 'feature'.)

Thank you sooo much, folks. I appreciate!
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