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Old 08-19-2015, 07:30 PM   #1
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Year: 1997
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Chassis: Saf-T-Liner
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97 Saf-T-Liner No Start, No Crank

I recently purchased my second bus, a 1997 Thomas Saf-T-Liner RE with a Cat 3116T and MD3060. The bus has driven well since purchased. About three weeks ago, out of the blue, I had a no start, no crank problem...

HERE'S THE STORY:

A week before my no start problem, I had a heavy truck mechanic come to diagnose a separate problem I knew I needed to have work done on (an air leak in the pressure switch and some other items that needed replacement or overhauled in the air brake system). However, I had to wait a week until he had time and space to bring my bus to have work done.

My bus is parked on the street. After the mechanic left my house that day, I drove the bus around the block to my "allowed curb side bus residence" and waiting the week until I could take my bus in to get worked on. This was the last time my bus started. I had no issues driving it... no warning lights or anything out of normal had occurred.

The day came to bring the bus to the mechanic. I jumped in, put the key in and turned the bus ignition to "ON". Everything came on; buzzers, lights, typical dash lights, etc. When I tried to start the bus... nothing. Just a click coming from a solenoid in the engine electrical compartment (outside driver's side panel).

I called the mechanic to inform him that I was having a problem starting the bus, and he said he'd be over to take a look and get the bus into his shop. Two weeks went by without hearing from him. At about the third day of waiting, I decided to clean my battery posts and inspect the battery cables for wear, etc.

After the two weeks of empty promises from this mechanic to come by and get the bus going I eventually called another mechanic. He said he'd be over in the morning. Within 45 minutes I finally got a call from my original mechanic. He said "Sorry. I didn't forget about you, I'll be there in the morning".

The next morning they both showed up at about the same time.

They spent about 30-45 minutes checking things out together. They started at the battery, moved back to the "black box" in the engine compartment (where it can be started from), they checked fuses and relays and connection all over the engine compartment and found nothing suspicious.

They went into the cab, tried to start the bus... nothing. BUT... this time my shifter display was not lit up. They tore apart the dash and found the VIM and ECU. Once they saw the shifter panel without a display they assumed my ECU was fried. They both quoted that it would cost $4000 to replace the ECU and shifter panel. I was bummed... I just bought the bus back in June. This wasn't what I wanted to hear.

I immediately went online and did a lot of research on my ECU. I found a lot of information, and a lot of references to this gentleman John Kopalek (owner of Transmission Instruments) who refurbishes my style of ECU. I'm glad I called this guy!!!

So... I've been working with this guy through emails and telephone calls (he's Czech and hard to understand). He gave me a troubleshooting guide to use before we assumed my ECU was fried. After his troubleshooting guide checking connections in the wiring harness, I found out that my ECU is in fact operational and getting power.

It seems that I simply have a problem somewhere at my VIM (which the previous mechanics did not check). I have exhausted my funds having paid these guys to essentially find nothing out. So, I am now at the mercy of doing my own diagnosis... and why I am making this thread.

I have had some help from another member here from a Facebook Skoolie group. He helped me understand how to run the troubleshooting that John provides on his website. Between him and talking with John, I have found my problem to be somewhere between the VIM and the ignition circuit... but I have not a clue where to start.

What I am looking for is possibly information I am missing or should know before diagnosing my problem alone. I'd like to chase the circuit and find where it goes to crap. However, I'm not finding much information here, nor am I getting solid information (at least what I think I need) on how to start.

ANY TAKERS?? I seriously appreciate any help I can get. Before I poke around my bus, I'd like to get some info/feedback/etc from others who may have better information than the mechanics gave me.

NOTE* I've checked the obvious warning issues. I've removed any problem I could have had with emergency doors, etc almost as soon as I bought the bus. I am positive it isn't an unlocked door, open window, etc.

Cheers,

Beau
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Old 08-19-2015, 08:01 PM   #2
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Did the starter solenoid engage? Also, did you check to be sure the bus is in neutral? Sometimes the neutral safety switch (after sitting for quite a while in storage) gets temperamental. 20 minutes away from home I stopped to get a bite to eat, left the tranny in drive, shut the bus off, by accident. I was tired and needed to eat. Came back, couldn't start her. Shifted the tranny back into neutral. However it took about three hours of playing with the shifter and the connections at the tranny to "persuade" the tranny to "see" neutral. FINALLY she fired up. I was VERY thankful! My '89 still has a mind of her own when first starting up. But, she does start up reliably and drives like a dream! As I use her more she's getting better at everything.
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Old 08-19-2015, 08:43 PM   #3
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My bus wouldn't start with the exits LOCKED not unlocked. What about the starter itself? Is your engine mechanical? Whats the voltage on your batteries?
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Old 08-19-2015, 09:20 PM   #4
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Voltage at the batteries is at 12.6V. Bus is in neutral. This tranny doesn't have a neutral safety switch, but instead a relay (in the VIM) that checks out as functional.

I haven't checked anything else (starter,solenoid, etc) yet. I do have someone sending me information tommorow on my safety system so I can disconnect it (this is a possible problem). I know it's going to be one of those "duh" moments when I find the issue.

I'm kind of curious why the mechanics didn't check this stuff out. This so is not my expertise, but I'm doing better with time and experience.
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Old 08-19-2015, 09:57 PM   #5
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There have been several threads about someone screwing with the switches on the emergency exits only to find out that they disabled their engine. How do you not start with the starter when you have a starting problem. You didn't say if you engine is electronically controlled.
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Old 08-19-2015, 10:25 PM   #6
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Sorry, yes, mechanical engine. I meant to put that in.

When I get time I'll do some digging around here.
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Old 08-19-2015, 10:47 PM   #7
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Is you starter clicking or no? Maybe check the voltage at the starter. I am not a mechanic but I play one on TV...and I did stay at a Holiday Inn Express last night. I am just throwing out things I would look at.
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Old 08-20-2015, 01:12 AM   #8
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Year: 1997
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Chassis: Saf-T-Liner
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I have someone in another group sending me info on my bus so I can disconnect the safety system. I did mess with my side emergency door the day before I moved the bus last, but it still moved after that.

Tomorrow I'll check that out, and check my starter and solenoid as well. I've watched a couple YouTube videos to familiarize myself with what I need to check.

I hope it's a "duh" moment and not a "empty my wallet" moment.

Thanks again.
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Old 08-20-2015, 01:18 AM   #9
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I went to Texas for this bus. The only electronics are the AM/FM radio. I need to pull a T-handle to kill the motor. Pulling the key out won't do it.
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Old 08-20-2015, 06:02 AM   #10
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You're starting at the wrong end. The first place to diagnose a no crank is at the starter/solenoid. If it does work back the other way.
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