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Old 12-17-2012, 12:58 PM   #1
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Odd but serious electrical problem

First, a little history. In June we drove our 2000 Airstream Land Yacht XC out west without a problem. We took in Indiana, Illinois, Missouri, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, Utah, Idaho, Wyoming, Montana, South Dakota, and Iowa.

In July we headed to Pensacola. On the drive down from Louisville, KY the wipers came on unexpectedly. Since we had been in rain, I thought that I may have touched the switch with my knee. Then it came on again. I turned it off. After sitting for two weeks at our daughter's home, we left to return home. At several bumps the wipers would come on without my intervention. Once into northern Alabama I noticed that the voltmeter was going up and down. It would indicate 18 volts for several minutes and then drop down to 8 volts for a long time.

I decided to stop at a Freightliner dealership in Nashville, TN to see if they could provide assistance. When I opened the door the steps wouldn't go out. OK, I told myself, we're attacking weak spots. Since they couldn't get to me for three days I decided to journey on home.

Once home I looked at the firewall. A box that holds up to four fuses had literally melted the post of one fuse. The fuse, however, didn't blow. One wire was also damaged. The result was that the electrical problem took out not only the wiper switch and controller for the steps but had also migrated to the roof fan. At least, the roof fan quit on that trip.

Today I'm sitting at Sun Coast Designers to get the windows repaired. On the way here near Tampa from Orlando the wipers started kicking on. There was a new wrinkle, the washer would come on, too, at will. I can tell when it's going to do it because I'll hear a rapid clicking sound as though something is making rapid on-off contact. The volt meter, however, isn't miss behaving. Another new wrinkle is that when I got here the leveling system will not work nor can I lower the coach by letting out the air from the switch. When I put the key in the aux position the light for the jacks will blink on but immediately go off when the key is to the aux position.

Anyone have a problem like this?

Freightliner said to call Airstream. Airstream says "leave your number and we'll call back within 24 to 48 hours. That stinks. This isn't a weekend.

I'm getting ready to call Bates RV to see what their response will be.

Electricity is great when it works well. It sucks when it does some mystery stuff.

I hate to drive on home to Louisville with this problem because I may be inviting the opportunity to replace the alternator again.
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Old 12-17-2012, 01:17 PM   #2
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byron

Sorry about your electrical gremlin problems. I don't know squat about your electrical system, but my buddy who knows how to trouble shoot about anything would tell you that first you need an electrical schematic diagram for your electrical (12v) system. Next you will need a technician that can understand the diagram and is good at troubleshooting electrical problems. IMHO, that may not need to be an Airstream or Freightliner tech, but he needs to be a good electrical trouble shooting tech. I would ask around at parts stores and on the local internet board to find a good electrical tech. He will also look forward to fixing your problem because he loves a good challenge.

Good Luck.

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Old 12-17-2012, 02:32 PM   #3
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Did you repair the original fuse box problem??

Something is drawing too much power and burning the wire distribution point at the fuse box.

Did someone put in a heavier fuse?

Has some aftermarket equipment been added to that fuse panel?

Heavy amperage draw will come from heater/air conditioner fans, headlamps, multi halogen interior lamps, etc. Some of these should be wired through a relay if possible.

Try to disconnect what you suspect is the problem and then reconnect one item at a time.

My CLIPPER has a main bus from the chassis battery to the front bulkhead that everything runs off of through multiple fuse box distribution centers located on the front bulkhead. All wiring is exposed there to trace and investigate problems.

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Old 12-17-2012, 03:21 PM   #4
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Dan,

You're correct. The electrical tech (genius) is going to love the challenge. Of that I'm sure.

Dave,

The four socket (it held two fuses) device was not removed. A new wire was installed of equal gauge, etc. to replace that wire to a new location and a new fuse put in. (I was amazed that the old fuse didn't blow). While the fuse box (coach fuses) on the firewall is well-marked, the chassis fuses (in two boxes) on the interior are absent any identification. My Holiday Rambler (also on Freightliner) had it more logically laid out and labeled.

That the switch to release the air from the bags will not work and the jack system not come one leads me to believe there's a bad connection to ground somewhere. My first thought was that I had a faulty wiper switch. I've disconnected that and if I don't get the problem resolved before needing to head back to Louisville I'll just pray for dry weather and take off hoping nothing happens. I'm thinking I need to stop at a good RV dealership along the way to see if they can be of assistance.

As to what I see on the firewall, everything appears to be tight and good. Before I got this motorhome in May it had been garaged so it isn't that this coach was abused. There has to be an explanation as to why things started in a hurry and seems to involve the wipers in the symptom.
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Old 12-19-2012, 06:26 AM   #5
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Update on my saga.

Sunday morning we left Kissimmee and headed to Hudson and a night at Suncoast Designers where we were to get our dual-pane windows repaired. On the trip (about two hours) the wipers kicked on about 20 times. It occurs when we hit a bump. After the bump (not all bumps are created equal) a fast ticking sound is heard from around the wiper switch.

Once at Suncoast we parked and leveled. Since the site had an electrical problem we decided to change sites. When I fired up the engine the wipers and washers came on and the washer wouldn't stop until turning off the wipers/washers (no three swipes and done).

I called Bates RV east of Tampa to see if I could get them to troubleshoot the issue. Freightliner made it clear they just supplied the wiring harness and that Airstream choose the type of wiper/washer system to install. I was able to get in on Tuesday afternoon.

Before driving to Bates I unplugged the wiper switch. On the 55 mile trip I had no problem. Could it be the switch or a bad ground?

After arriving at Bates RV, a large Airstream dealership, the tech was mystified at my story. He checked the grounds to the chassis and felt there was no problem since they all were good and tight. Then he moved inside the coach. Looking under the dash he saw nothing. The decision was made to take a test drive to see if the condition would appear.

Sure enough, we drove about 120 yards (not off the lot yet) and the washers started spraying without the wipers going on. (Getting worse). We drove a six-mile loop on I-4 as well as state and county roads. The ticking and wiper malfunction was quite obvious.

Back at the shop the tech crawled under the dash with the key in the on position. When he jiggled the relay the wipers and/or washers would start. It didn't occur by knocking around the switch. Since he had no wiring diagram to refer to his opinion was that some "brain" was sending out a wrong message to the relay.

So, I left with nothing resolved other than knowledge that unplugging the switch or the relay will avoid the problem. I need to see an electrical schematic to figure out if there is a module between the relay and the switch.
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Old 12-19-2012, 08:51 AM   #6
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Look for Lewster here on the Forums. It is Winter and he will be in Florida. Chase him down....you will never find a better source for help...immediate help.
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Old 12-19-2012, 11:22 AM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bnsonger47 View Post
...

Back at the shop the tech crawled under the dash with the key in the on position. When he jiggled the relay the wipers and/or washers would start. It didn't occur by knocking around the switch.

...
Let me see if I've got this straight.

Jiggling the relay causes the problem to appear.

Have you considered changing the relay?
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Old 12-19-2012, 08:32 PM   #8
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The thought of changing the relay has crossed my mind many times. Seems logical. But, a wiring diagram would really be more revealing. A friend of mine wondered if there was a microprocessor that was malfunctioning. The switch signals a change to the processor and it, in turn, would send the signal to the relay.
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Old 12-19-2012, 09:51 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bnsonger47 View Post
The thought of changing the relay has crossed my mind many times. Seems logical. But, a wiring diagram would really be more revealing. A friend of mine wondered if there was a microprocessor that was malfunctioning. The switch signals a change to the processor and it, in turn, would send the signal to the relay.
OK, you need a wiring diagram from the company that supplied the wiring harness.

I can't see any reason windshield wipers should have a microprocessor, though. Wiper delay mechanisms have been around since the 1960s. I guess that the delay control could be considered sort of a microprocessor, however crude. But, assuming that you discover one (real microprocessor), how do you propose to test it?

If wiggling the relay causes the problem to occur, you will still need to eliminate it from the circuit somehow to check the microprocessor. Unless you plan on just replacing the microprocessor since it's bound to be cheaper than a relay.
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Old 12-19-2012, 10:48 PM   #10
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Note: When I look back to your first post, and the fuse box melting, there had to be a heavy draw, and that probably is from the wiper motor?

If you insist on a wire diagram, and if you don't have the original manual, just go to GOOGLE.

This is the original document for your motorhome.
http://www.airstream.com/files/libra...653fd83d5d.pdf

It contains all wire diagrams that pertain to Airstream.
If the wipers do not have a separate switch on the dash, but are part of the steering column, then it is a Freightliner part.

Change the relay first. That is $8.00 and available at any auto store.
They are the same relays throughout your coach so you should carry a spare anyway.

The power to the relay should be low amps and probably run thru a circuit breaker if not a fuse. Is the clicking from that circuit breaker before the relay?

When you say the washers come on also, I would suspect the switch itself. If it is on the dash, has it gotten wet at some point?

I doubt that the washer is on the same relay circuit that powers the wiper motor.??????

So that takes everything back to the dash control switch.???

Run a new low amp wire to the relay to determine if the problem is on the low amp side or beyond the relay.

If it is beyond the relay, then it is probably the circuit breaker on the high amp side that is clicking on and off.

This could be as simple as a bad ground on the relay but again, I don't think the washer is powered through the same relay.

If it is a dash mounted wiper/washer control, take it out and there will be a number stamped on it. Probably a FORD part or? that would be worth about $25.00. If its on the steering column, you are looking at something more serious in the way of time and money.

Dave
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Old 12-20-2012, 03:16 PM   #11
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Relay replaced. It seems to be the fix needed. At least the wipers and washers worked today in all kinds of rain, heavy to light mist.

The switch is dash mounted so provided by Airstream. My guess is that the smarts are in the switch and not the wiper motor as GM was prone to do at that time.

I am willing to bet the alternator took out the relay.
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Old 12-20-2012, 05:18 PM   #12
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Well, after stopping at an RV park to register and shutting down, guess what happened. Yep. The washers acted up when I turned the key. Next to change out will be the switch. Oddly, the behavior earlier today was much improved. The wipers were off one-half of the trip after the on/off rain had stopped. Not once did the wipers act up. This is a really odd problem.

I'll not get to an auto parts store until we're back at home. I'll do the work after Christmas.

By the way, the wiring diagram really doesn't indicate much as far as I'm concerned. The page where I found the wiper switch is crowded like crazy. Also, the fuse panels on the firewall inside aren't as clearly marked as in other units I've owned. This is quite a contrast to the house fuse panel on the firewall above the generator -- well marked as it should be. The location on the inside is also quite unhandy. I guess fuses aren't supposed to be replaced by anyone but a smart spider monkey. I'm going to look on eBay for one of those.
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