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Old 03-12-2009, 10:06 PM   #1
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1989 34.5' Airstream 345
Seattle , Washington
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battery solenoid mystery

Hi,

It's a pleasure to find such a vibrant community of folks with Airstreams.

It's unfortunate that my introduction to this forum wasn't possible without the woes of vehicle troubles as the catalyst.

So straight to the point... Can anyone identify what the following solenoid/items are, and what their function(s) are?



The back story is as follows:


I have a 345 LE motorhome that was weatherized and stored for the past year. Upon an unsuccessful attempt to start the vehicle, the battery seemed a bit weak, so we put it on a charger for a bit, and the next attempt, about an hour later, turned the engine over like a charm. While the moho warmed up, we walked around, checked tires, fluids, opened windows, etc.

After 40mins or so, turned the engine off, checked the Transmission fluid, and minutes later, attempted to start the vehicle again (to turn the wheels and crawl under to check the brake fluid.) Now the vehicle wont start.

I go and check the stats dashboard, flip the switch to "Coach" and pressed the something-button and it displays a reading (partial charge, nothing out of place.) Next, I switch to the "Auto" battery, and press the button, but nothing, not a glimmer of back-lighting appears. It's as if there's no power to the dash when trying to get a reading of the smaller battery. There are, in total, 1 battery as described below and 2 deep cycle larger batteries.

So, I can turn on and run the Onan generator using the dashboard and smaller battery, but cannot start the vehicle. When turning the ignition, the starter seems to be engaging but just without enough juice. So I think it's a bad battery (only 1.5yrs old,) and return it to Les Schwab to get it tested. It tests fine at: 760 Amps (800 rated), 12V, just a little discharged. So it's back to the vehicle, FYI, I have installed lever disconnects at each of the batteries for when in storage, but now tried to think of what the problem might be.

I'm thinking maybe it's the starter (I'm not really drawn to this conclusion though,) rather, it feels like the starter is just not getting enough amps.

Maybe it's something electrical (worried) but where to start.. that's when I took the above picture to start tracing the problem.

As a note: I do have a booster switch in the glove box on the dash, I suspect one or two or more of the items in the picture are a part of that system. And I do not know of another disconnect switch in the system. The prior owner did not mention of one when I purchased it. But would the booster switch and related solenoid(s) even contribute to this vehicle-will-not-start problem? And the generator does not seem to be impeded from starting on that battery. Also, I have the manuals but not where I'm at for the time being.

Any help would be appreciated.
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Old 03-13-2009, 01:10 AM   #2
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First thing with batteries is clean and tighten all the connections. I'm sure you've already done this, so, don't know. I had a battery disconnect device itself go bad once, I changed out a good battery before I figured that out.
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Old 03-13-2009, 12:06 PM   #3
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1989 34.5' Airstream 345
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Thanks for the Tip NevadaGeo, indeed, the batteries connections were cleaned and tightened.

I made a mistake in the image above and corrected it, however, I cannot find an 'EDIT' button to update my original post, so I'll include the revised image here:






I think we've figured out that the #2. Solenoid is the Main Battery solenoid and contacts are closed to tie all 3 batteries together to provide the 'booster' emergency cranking power feature. The contact point on the bottom probably feeds the engine battery to the line that continues to the junction block (mounted to the frame) which continues to the starter, the generator, the hydraulic jacks, etc.
What still baffles me are the remainder items and their functions.
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Old 03-13-2009, 03:35 PM   #4
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I am guessing a Chev P-30 with a 454 engine if so install a new starter. They are known to have allergic reactions to heat.

I don't know about your unit but some have a solenoid that engages after a short time delay to allow house batteries to be charged while driving down the road from the alternator.

Garry
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Old 03-14-2009, 09:24 PM   #5
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1989 34.5' Airstream 345
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We have a 1989 345 LE, and have had a similar vexation...
I would check the solenoids(there are two underneath, behind the electric steps...I would also check the battery disconnect switches on the wall, behind the back barrel chair on the curbside...we had several issues with start/not start...part of the problem was that both solenoids were pretty fried, and the circuit board behind the battery disconnect switches on the wall(gotta take them loose) was shorted out. Pat of the problem was due to my ignorance(I fired up the gen while on landline power(plugged in), and the rest was probably from jumping both the battery systems at the same time with separate battery chargers(?). Our starter is now beginning to have lapses of memory, but after 130,000+ miles, I figure it has earned the right to be 'fussy'...
We were lucky enough to 'Yellow Page' a mobile mechanic who was able to get us down the road to a wizard by using(literally) a bobby pin to circumvent the cicuit board short. Wishing you luck and a simple solution...mike
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Old 03-14-2009, 10:07 PM   #6
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Airstr345LE:

As a veteran of many cases of overthnking a problem, I recommend checking the starter. I replaced a battery on a Chevy Suburban only to find the problem was really the starter. The other stuff - solenoids switches, etc generally are very durable and dependable. Do remove the battery disconnect. I had one fail and give the impression that the battery was bad. The only reason I wasn't fooled was that the battery was new.

Good Luck!
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Old 03-20-2009, 04:13 PM   #7
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1989 34.5' Airstream 345
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Thanks Harry W & ScrapIrony-2 for the advice. I still have the electrical issue but with some more details. The problem seemed to just disappear, after we took the battery out and charged it overnight. So on my way down to the emissions station, (btw it passed on the 1st go!) on the way down I had no problems. 2 days later on the trip back (I store the vehicle about 40mins south,) as I am driving, the dash starts to dim and the voltage meter on the dash drops to NO volts. I make it to my destination but just barely. I had to turn off the headlights, windshield wipers etc. Seems like it could be the alternator/regulator, but I wont know until next week when I time to investigate next.

I did however, manage to get my hands on my manual but I'm still not sure of some of the components.

I'll attach an image below:
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Old 03-21-2009, 11:43 PM   #8
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Airstr345LE:

I believe that you are on the right track with the alternator/regulator. Your description of the latest symptom would indicate that you were operating on battery power only and as that ran down, everything was dimming out. Your ignition was next but you made it home before that happened. I'd reccommend taking the alternator to an alternator shop for analysis. I saved $160 by having mine repaired instead of replaced.

As far as what component is what, I cannot make out the smaller numbers on the wires on the photo even after I enlarged it. Regardless, it doesn't appear that the component location is as shown in the diagram. The next thing is to follow the wiring to and from the components since they are likely wired per the diagram.

The term solenoid is automotive talk for relay.
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Old 03-22-2009, 01:00 AM   #9
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#1and 3

Quote:
Originally Posted by Airstr345LE View Post




I think that 1 and 3 are 100 AMP 12 volt relay( that is what Airstream calls it). It is kind of hard to tell from the picture.

Click here to see a picture of one.

Airstream uses them today as a battery disconnect and may have used it there the same way.
I had the same problem one time on a Airstream motor home and found that the 100 AMP relay was weak. It was weak and would not let the full voltage/AMP through, eventhough it was clicking and engaging.
I found that eventhough I could measure voltage across the terminals of the 100 AMP Relay , the AMPs were not getting through

Dan
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