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Old 01-16-2009, 01:31 PM   #1
Mini-Skoolie
 
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Bus wont start

Right so i've been trying to start my 86 GMC bluebird propane bus but all i hear is a *click* near the gearbox....this has happened to me before....and what i was told to do by an mechanically inclined friend of mine is to hammer the solenoid/starter and that should clear the rust inside thats draining the power. This time, however, hammering doesn't make any difference. The voltmeter on the bus says its around 11 or so....so im thinking that the poles on the batteries are getting rusty and not allowing enough current to the starter....so i might try cleaning them. Does anyone else here have any suggestions or comments on what i should do?
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Old 01-16-2009, 01:49 PM   #2
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Re: Bus wont start

Check your ground cables. Make sure your battery ground is in very good shape and the motor to chassis ground is also in good shape. (this is usually just a little steel strap or black cable bolted somewhere on the motor to the chassis) some vehicles have several so have a look around) It does sound like you are not getting enough juice.
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Old 01-16-2009, 06:08 PM   #3
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Re: Bus wont start

Hey thanks for the quick reply. I cleaned and checked the battery and ground leads and wiring, and looked at the starter ground....which seemed okay.....i suspect that the starter is actually broken, considering that this has been an ongoing issue for many months (aka...it usually takes a while for the engine to crank and start). So im going to buy the 90 or so dollar starter kit for peace of mind....at least, if its not a total b*tch to replace :P
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Old 01-16-2009, 06:58 PM   #4
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Re: Bus wont start

good call, beating on the starter with a hammer is not a fix, it's more like a hail mary play. sounds like the starter needs to be rebuilt/replaced.
remove and clean both ends of your battery cables, looks can be decieving and hidden corrosion is resistance and that equals voltage drop,which requires more amperage to turn the engine over and current/amperage makes heat and heat is the enemy of all things electrical.
a fully charged 12 v battery should have at least 12.5 v at the battery terminals. with the engine running you should have 13.5 to 14.5 v at the battery.

good luck
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Old 01-16-2009, 07:20 PM   #5
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Re: Bus wont start

Yeah i cleaned every bit of corrosion off....and the batts were 12+ V according to my trusty multimeter....im gonna go to the store right now and i look into a new starter.
by the way, its good to know there's sites like this to help each other out...thanks everyone!
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Old 01-16-2009, 10:52 PM   #6
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Re: Bus wont start

Hey thanks for the offer but i get a warranty and at least ill know for sure the part i get is the one i need....besides, 90 bucks canadian is like what? 8 cents american? :P
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Old 01-16-2009, 11:35 PM   #7
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Re: Bus wont start

It looks like you've gone over the wiring and have narrowed it to the starter. It's not too hard to rule out starting problems due to a poor connection. The best way to check out cables and connections is by measuring the voltage under load, though you will need a helper, a simple voltmeter, and maybe a long clip lead or two to reach the meter leads around the bus.

First, measure the voltage at the battery. Make sure you stab the tester leads onto the posts really good. Twist them a bit until you get the highest steady reading, and you will have eliminated any resistance in the meter leads as an issue. Just touching the surface of the metal may give low readings due to dirt, paint, or oxidation.

Then, hold them there while you have a helper try the starter. If the battery voltage plummets, like 12 volts to 9 volts, it's probably new battery time, or charging time. Remember, bad battery wiring restricts both charging and discharging. If you think it's just discharged, throw a charger on the battery and do other tests later.

If the voltage stays up, you have either a good battery, or a wiring restriction against drawing much current. Release the starter switch.

Now, move the meter leads to the battery hot stud on the starter and the starter case or engine block ground. Dig the leads in again for the best reading. Even with totally corroded wiring, you should have enough electricity to power the meter up to about the same voltage as read at the battery, unless there's an external solenoid. If there's a big drop or no reading, start looking for bad connections now.

With the meter still at the starter, and all soft body parts and clothing away from any moving parts, have the helper try the starter again. If the voltage stays equal to the battery voltage when cranking, there's an internal starter or solenoid problem. If the voltage drops to near zero, it will usually be bad wires or corroded connections. It could also be a shorted starter, but that would be accompanied by much heat everywhere while cranking.

How to find the bad connection? Look for a voltage appearing on the meter where there shouldn't be one. Any place there is a bad connection, once you put your voltmeter on both sides of it with current trying to flow, some of the electricity being held back will detour through your meter and give you a reading. Any place where the connections are good, the electricity will 'stay on the superhighway.' Very little will detour through your skinny meter wires, and you will read near zero. I'll use 'hot' and 'ground' instead of positive and negative, since some vehicles are positive ground.

Let's say the voltage across the battery posts shows 12.6 volts resting, and 12.0 trying to start. At the starter the meter measure 12.5 volts resting, and 4.5 volts cranking. You are losing 7.5 volts somewhere (12.0 minus 4.5) being turned into heat at a bad connection. You could just keep cranking and feel for the heat, but I don't recommend that.

Measure from the battery hot to the starter hot stud while cranking. If you see much more than about a volt, check the hot wiring for problems. If it's about zero, try measuring instead from the battery ground to the starter case while cranking. If you get a voltage here (the starter case will be the 'hot' lead), check for bad grounds. You may find problems with both.

Measure each link of the chain, looking for all the places where the voltage kicks up under load. It could be found in unlikely places. Measure battery post to battery wire terminal. Starter ring terminal to starter hot stud. Solenoid hot side to solenoid switched side (if accessible). Battery ground post to bus frame. Bus frame to engine block. Engine block to starter case. Check straps between series batteries. Left end of wire to right end. etc. etc.

The reading(s) you get should add up to the missing 7.5 volts. When you find all the lost voltage(s), clean terminals, scrape paint, replace wires that are green inside, loosen and re-tighten nuts and bolts, add star washers, and get the electricity going where it belongs. Or, as you've done, just shotgun clean all these connections, and hope you got the right one in the process.

You can also do the same tests to check charging system wiring. With the engine running, the voltage from the alternator hot stud to the alternator case (or ground stud, if insulated) should be nearly the same as measured across the battery posts, less any isolator insertion loss. Measure from the alternator case to the battery ground post to check the grounds. The battery ground will be the hot side. Then check from the alternator output to the battery hot post, with the alternator side as hot. If you have an isolator, check alternator to isolator in, then isolator out to battery hot.

Whenever you get a voltage on the meter when measuring from hot to hot or from ground to ground under load, it indicates you have some loss in the wiring you are testing. It will go away when the current flow is removed. If you get near zero under load, the electricity is going where it is supposed to. Sensitive meters may always show a trace of voltage, even on good connections, but not a volt or more.
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Old 01-17-2009, 01:22 PM   #8
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Re: Bus wont start

Hmm definately worth a thorough check....however, why i'm leaning towards the idea that its a broken starter is that i started the bus and drove it for about 5 minutes, and then turned it off, and then, it refused to start afterwards. If corrosion is the cause, why was able to so easily turn the engine over? And secondly, i had a friend boost my battery with his car and that had no effect (no Volt drop either...steady 12.5 V as i turn the ign)....which leads me to conclude that the starter is dead, and not the wiring.
I will give the the wiring a doublecheck thou....better safe than sorry!
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Old 01-17-2009, 02:07 PM   #9
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Re: Bus wont start

sounds like the solinoid take out the starter open the solinoid there is a copper washer inside thatcontacts a copper pin take off the big copper washer and flip it over to the clean side and reassemble. that is my guess,30 40 minutes and no dollars
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Old 01-17-2009, 07:28 PM   #10
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Re: Bus wont start

A new starter shouldn't be all that expensive and is good insurance. Changing out a solenoid, front drive, brushes etc is easy enough and relatively cheap on most starters, but the labor is more intensive than just R&Ring it and there is no guarantee. The new starters I purchase have a 3 year free replacement, lifetime 50% prorated warranty on them. That's piece of mind. It would be wise, however, to clean the cable ends as long as you're going to have it off. Corrosion is an odd problem. It doesn't always work consistently. The same goes for problems like broken wires (sometimes still make contact) and even harness connectors in weather extremes. I've had two PCM's in the last week that wouldn't power up at all. The other modules and the data bus on the vehicles would come up, but not the actual engine controller. It turns out it was the pins in the harness contracting from the extreme cold. It's these types of electrical problems that can really throw you. Clean the cables, replace the starter, and carry on busing.
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