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Old 08-25-2011, 12:36 AM   #1
International Grey Nomad
1999 35' Cutter Bus Diesel Pusher
Bulahdelah , NSW Australia
Join Date: May 2010
Posts: 67
Random behaviour of dash instruments.

Had this happen a couple of times last trip, but this time it is getting annoyingly frequent.

Usually happens at the morning start and will usually correct itself at the first stop an hour down the road.

ALL instruments randomly affected and if there is a pattern, I can't see it.

Sometimes one or two and sometimes nearly all will either not read at all, stick half way or more rarely go hard over. Speedo and tacho too.
If I switch off after a couple of minutes, sometimes the problem will correct itself, but sometimes a different one or two instruments will play up.

Cruise control works even when the speedo isn't, although there have been a couple of times when it quit working for 10 or 15 minutes but hat may be just a separate temporary glitch - incipient EMS Alzheimers perhaps.

Freighliner chassis, 99 Airstream and the instruments are all separate servo type with the deep convex 'glass' not the flat faced panel

Any thoughts please?

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Old 08-25-2011, 12:55 AM   #2
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1968 17' Caravel
Battle Ground , Washington
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My guess, based on similar problems I've had with passenger vehicles, would be a corroded ground connection somewhere.


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Old 01-17-2012, 11:06 AM   #3
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1996 32' Cutter Bus
Petaluma , California
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Tony, I'm starting to see this and more on my 1996 '32 Cutter Diesel. Right now I have no horn, cruise control, front window washer and no fog lights. This is in addition to the dash instruments not going to zero when the unit is off. Also the speedometer jumps around a little bit when using the turn signals. The more I investigate, the more corrosion I find. So far I've decided that a new fuse box (& relay box), new battery cables and repairing all ground connections will be a start. This didn't stop us from making a new years trip to Los Angeles two weeks ago though. The ride was great on our newly installed Bilsteins. I'll update this as I make progress.
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Old 01-17-2012, 11:15 AM   #4
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1974 Argosy 20
2014 20' Flying Cloud
Kooskia , Idaho
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Like some other posts, I would believe that you have some ground issues in your dash system. It is a pretty common problem in many motorhomes, and sometimes not easy to find where the ground point is located.
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Old 04-17-2013, 08:20 PM   #5
International Grey Nomad
1999 35' Cutter Bus Diesel Pusher
Bulahdelah , NSW Australia
Join Date: May 2010
Posts: 67
Can only give one update a year so this is it.

Had no idea of the history of the starting batteries, but they seemed ok and the engine would always start even though altitudes of around 10,000 feet made it struggle.

This trip the dash instrument problem was way worse than last year and it was pretty rare to have all the gauges working. More often than not, NONE of them would be working.

Last week we pulled in to sample some Maccas free WiFi and couldn't get started again. Sluggish turn-over followed by clicks.

Batteries seemed OK - high enough voltage and the symptoms were of a bad connection somewhere so I spent a lot of time going over all the main connections and did find some pretty loose ones but each time I turned the key the engine would never get going fast enough to fire.

Eventually decided it was the batteries after all and borrowed a couple of house batteries and of course the engine fired straight up.

Interestingly, ALL the dash gauges have performed flawlessly since.
Could have been a bad connection that I fixed, but possibly more likely that the batteries have been on the way out for the last couple of years and the big drop in voltage while starting and just after was somehow messing with the gauge reset sequences causing random gauges to not quite get started.


(my solar regulator spends part of its time charging the engine batteries so I guess this extra bit of charge managed to mask the dying batteries for close to 6 months travelling over two years)

BTW - 10 weeks in Mexico down to Palenque and back and not a single bullet hole.
Had one nail in a tyre that I used a plug on and the water pump failed in Oaxaca so Betty and I spent a lot of time removing and replacing the radiator and CAC (damn heavy and awkward) while a local mechanic sourced a new water pump for us.
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Trip map at Spotwalla
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Old 04-18-2013, 07:10 AM   #6
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2000 36' Land Yacht XC Diesel
Gaffney , South Carolina
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nail in a tire? when I found that the tire pressure was suppose to be 100+, my little air compressor fainted. so, a tire plug kit for this type of tire is ok? or should it be replaced ASAP?
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Old 04-18-2013, 07:27 AM   #7
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Metairie , Louisiana
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Originally Posted by JourneytoRet View Post
nail in a tire? when I found that the tire pressure was suppose to be 100+, my little air compressor fainted. so, a tire plug kit for this type of tire is ok? or should it be replaced ASAP?
Tire plugs vary in quality and holding power. Avoid "string" plugs at all costs, especially on high-pressure tires. Mushroom plugs such as these: Pocket Tire Plugger Kit - AutoSport Catalog are better, but they're still not a permanent solution. Tire plugs should ALWAYS be considered temporary fixes to get you far enough down the road to get to a place where the tire can be dismounted and patched from inside.

Also, plugs are only really effective for nail holes, where the puncture is small diameter, round in shape, and in the tread. They don't serve well in a jagged hole, and are completely worthless for sidewall damage. The main reason for using one is that you can plug the tire without removing it from the vehicle. If you have to remove the tire to fix the leak, you might as well patch it properly instead.

In my youth, my dad owned a service station for about five years, and I have fixed literally hundreds of tires when I worked there. A lot were plugged with the mushroom plugs I mentioned, and I never had one blow out. But none were at 100psi, either, so I can't attest to their effectiveness for your tires. Again, I consider even the best plugs to be temporary fixes only. But I carry a mushroom-style tire plugger in each of my vehicles anyway.
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Old 04-18-2013, 09:59 PM   #8
International Grey Nomad
1999 35' Cutter Bus Diesel Pusher
Bulahdelah , NSW Australia
Join Date: May 2010
Posts: 67
I've always assumed that mushroom plugs can only be fitted from the inside and that means at least breaking the bead - but yes, I'm well aware of the limitations of normal plugs. A properly applied internal patch is considered a proper fix too but nowadays I image most tyre places would faint in horror if you asked them to do anything other than replace the tyre with a new one.
As for pumping the tyre back up, my Cutter has an air outlet at the front specifically provided for such use. Only thing is you might need to pump the brake pedal a few times to get the compressor to kick in so you can get the pressure high enough. With my loading, I don't need to go near 100psi on any of my tyres anyway.

BTW I was in Mexico where Good Sam Platinum Roadside Service turned out to be totally useless which is also why we had to fix our own water pump, so it was either a plug to get me going in 10 minutes or mess around forever trying to organise repairs - and what would they do/ Use a plug??
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Old 04-21-2013, 04:30 PM   #9
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1999 35' Cutter Bus Diesel Pusher
pembroke pines , Florida
Join Date: Apr 2013
Posts: 18
After troubleshooting these random dash issues I must tell you to locate your VDC. On my 99 Cutter its the bottom panel in my propane compartment. Freightliner uses the VDC to send all of the instrument information to dashboard. You will know you have located this device when you see it has 2 air houses connected to it. Make sure the connector is snug and clean. The other day I bumped the wire harness after servicing the fuel filter. Also these have been known to go bad and are expensive. They have also been known to have cold solder joints and if your electronically savvy, you may be able to service it, of course only recommended if you have one on hand.
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Old 04-21-2013, 09:36 PM   #10
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1996 36' Clipper Bus
Tub City , British Columbia
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VDC 1999 t0 2001 Freightliner Chassis

OK--- thanks for that lead on the VDC.
With a little searching, the problem is widespread on the 99 to 2001 Freightliner Chassis.

It is well detailed on this other forum.
iRV2 Forums - Files - VDU/ VDC Repair

You just have to register and sign in to download the document.

The document is public so I think I will try to upload it here for our use.

Attached Files
File Type: pdf VDC_Repair FL VDU.pdf (238.6 KB, 51 views)
"LOVE and LOSS, are two of the greatest emotions one can experience. -- I went to school to learn about "WHAT GOES UP MUST COME DOWN" but I had to live my life to learn the lesson of: 'WITH LOVE THERE WILL BE SORROW'."
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Old 04-21-2013, 11:30 PM   #11
International Grey Nomad
1999 35' Cutter Bus Diesel Pusher
Bulahdelah , NSW Australia
Join Date: May 2010
Posts: 67
Yes, I saw that file but figured that particular fault didn't cover my situation because it was affecting all dial instruments at random.
Airstream builders to be congratulated for placing a lot of critical electronics right where all the muck thrown up from the rear wheel ends up.

So far all instruments are working perfectly so until something else happens I'll put it down to a gradually failing starter battery.

I hope.

Tony LEE
International Grey Nomad.
Travel photos at Picasa Album
Trip map at Spotwalla
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