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Old 07-15-2012, 07:56 PM   #1
Skoolie
 
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Just purchased bus, now it won't start.

Hi,

I just purchased a 97 Ford/Carpenter 54 seater bus on Friday, and just 2 days later, now the thing won't start. (My mercedes diesel cars did the same thing when I got them, haha).

I suspect something was left on via the giant switch panel, but I don't see any switch in the on position particularly. There was literally no problem with the vehicle when I got it, but now it won't even crank.

I don't have a clue how these things are _supposed_ to act when they start, but when I turn the key into the ON position, I hear two sounds - a repeating beeping sound like the bus is backing up (though it's in neutral and the parking brake is on. And then a low pitched buzzing sound coming from the switch panel on the left of the steering wheel. Can anyone explain what these sounds ARE? (and if it's possible to shut them off if they're not something too important)

I remember when the bus started that the beeping noise went away, but the buzzing sound was persistent and never went away (until the vehicle was turned off). Is that normal?

Last night my 7 year old locked himself in the bus and was honking the horn maybe half a dozen times, and I think I remember him pressing on the brake pedal, which made a grinding noise. As I now press on the brake pedal (even with the engine off), it makes a loud grinding-like noise and the light "Motor E Brake" lights on. As long as I hold the brake pedal, it stays on with the noise and the light. For some reason I thought it shouldn't be doing this - and that the sound (and light) should only come on when the bus shuts off. Should the pedal make noise and the E-Brake light stay on? Maybe someone can clarify how it works.

I tried jumpstarting the bus with my Mercedes 300TD turbodiesel station wagon (a fairly large battery), but not any inkling of a crank. I notice that the voltmeter on the dash is around 12 or 13 volts (ranges from 8 to 1 when the key is in ON, but when I put to START, it drops to nothing (below 8 ). I tried looking at the batteries and there seems to be a slight amount of corrosion, but I don't see how that would interfere with the battery (I will get some steel wool to clean it all tomorrow). A hand held volt meter reads about 13ish volts when the bus is off. Shouldn't it be more like 14 or 16? There are two batteries on the side of the bus, slightly behind/under the driver's seat, in serial.

So far I have a charger connected, set to 10 amps and it has a reading varying from 50-75 % charge. Shouldn't I at least get a crank or two at 75% charge? I hear nothing.

If it's not the battery, is there a way I can bypass the starter solenoid? To at least see if maybe the solenoid has a corroded wire (odd that this happens just 2 days after purchase when there were zero problems starting while I test drove, etc) or if the solenoid is bad. This is a 5.9L cummins engine. I haven't touched anything mechanical under the hood. And where the heck would I get info about the electrical system? From Cummins? Ford? Carpenter? Modifications are going to need to be made at some point.

I also didn't have problems on the whole 1st or 2nd day when I turned the vehicle on and moved it around my yard.

Is there maybe some safety switch or something that is preventing the starter from kicking in? (that my son accidentally messed with) None of the panel switches are on.

On a separate note, I've been told by the Motor Vehicles of NJ that I need to get the stop sign and the flashers off the vehicle. Do people typically put sheet metal over the lights? And is there some way to disconnect it from the electrical system so when I open the door they aren't triggered in the electrical system? I'm still figuring out what the heck that weird electrical solenoid thing is that is next to the front door lock. I think it has a spring and button or two that gets depressed when the door handle gets pushed open.

I've been trying to find an operator's manual for the Carpenter bus online, but no success so far. I'm not sure if I should contact Ford or Carpenter, or somebody else. It's a 1997 bus, so I don't think that's too old to no longer print documentation.

I just want to be able to move the bus to the other side of my yard so I can wash and then paint the thing! =(
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Old 07-15-2012, 08:04 PM   #2
Skoolie
 
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Re: Just purchased bus, now it won't start.

eBay has absolutely nothing regarding Carpenter school bus manuals, etc.
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Old 07-15-2012, 08:09 PM   #3
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Re: Just purchased bus, now it won't start.

And Carpenter was bought and shut down about a decade ago, so I'm not quite sure who to contact in that case. I sent an email to the parent company, Spartan Motors.
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Old 07-15-2012, 08:37 PM   #4
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Re: Just purchased bus, now it won't start.

start with the battery posts.
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Old 07-15-2012, 09:01 PM   #5
Skoolie
 
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Re: Just purchased bus, now it won't start.

I just cleaned the battery posts, scrubbed them clean (the positive wire was a bit on the green side, but is relatively clean). Still no difference. Not even a peep out of the engine cranking whatsoever. Batteries were showing 12 - 12.5 volts. Does it matter if they get charged separately, or is it okay to charge while kept in serial? Right now I have a charger set on 10A that I'll leave overnight.

I'll wait until the morning, but at that point I'm not quite sure what to check next. Other than maybe bypass the starter solenoid if I can figure out in my diesel books how that's done.

I don't visibly see any lights on or hear anything on when the vehicle is off, but did notice when the ignition was set to ON that some of the heater fans were engaged and the switches need to be set to the middle position since left and right toggle the speed. I still hear an awful buzzing noise coming from behind a panel on my left (immediately under the driver's side window). I don't recall this noise shutting off once the vehicle started so it gets me to think that something, somewhere is draining the battery.
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Old 07-15-2012, 09:14 PM   #6
Skoolie
 
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Re: Just purchased bus, now it won't start.

I suppose when + connects to + and - to -, the battery is in 'parallel'. My mistake with the terminology.

Right now it's really dark and I turned the ceiling lights on before turning the ignition. In the START position, the lights turn (and stay) COMPLETELY off, until I go back to ON or OFF. Sounds like the batteries are just drained too low and I should wait overnight. Unless I'm interpreting this incorrectly.
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Old 07-15-2012, 10:25 PM   #7
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Re: Just purchased bus, now it won't start.

oh you said your kid locked himself in... did he fiddle with the back door? those will kill the engine.
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Old 07-15-2012, 10:29 PM   #8
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Re: Just purchased bus, now it won't start.

The back door has been open for quite a bit of the time, as I go in and out. It was open at least for 6-8 hours yesterday. Maybe that did it. Question is, why?

Maybe it's possible that the 'beeping' noise I hear (as if it's backing up) is actually some sort of alarm on the back door? I will see if I can fiddle with something on it to shut off the beeping. I remember seeing a few push buttons back there.

Another post I found indicates that the back door open could trigger a total ignition cutoff. Which (despite the weak battery condition) seems to make sense with how it's behaving (ie no cranking whatsoever, even at 75% charge and 12.5V).

And most importantly, HOW can I disconnect that from happening? Is there a fuse? Or a wire to disconnect from a circuit? I need the back door open as I do the conversion work, throw stuff in and out.

There is also a metal handle that the dealer told me was a throttle cord that could adjust the base throttle, but I'm not sure if it's something else and playing around with this has messed up something electrical.

I've read that to properly check battery charge I have to disconnect the batteries from each other because the 12.5V is possibly a false reading - one of the batteries can be dead and it will still read 12.5V. I'll let it charge overnight and then see.
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Old 07-15-2012, 11:52 PM   #9
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SUCCESS starting bus!

So it turns out that the battery wasn't drained at all, the back door has a sliding bolt latch that was supposed to be open (to the right, away from the door) to keep a button pushed in. I don't even think the back door drained the battery because I tested it with the bolt engaged and disabled, with different results.

The bolt, when locking the back door, actually disables the ignition. Not sure if that's normal or maybe backwards. I'd think if the emergency door was not double locked (there's this bolt and then there's the clockwise lever that opens the door) then that would be cause for concern, ie kids could open the back door arbitrarily while the bus is moving. But maybe there's some logic to having it unlocked (though still closed) to start the bus?

Either way I was able to start the bus and get it moving, to the other side of the yard. It took me a good half hour, backing up, going forward, turning, parking, running to the back, making sure i wasn't running into anything (this was night time in the country, and my yard is a bit crowded, at least for the use of a massive bus), etc. I was afraid of running into my mercedes or the kids' playset or a tree, but luckily I only ran over a bush. Haha.
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Old 07-16-2012, 10:39 AM   #10
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Re: Just purchased bus, now it won't start.

Only a bush? Not bad for a first night move..........

Pretty sure the back door is suppose to disabled the engine and make the buzzing sound if the door is open. that lets the bus driver know the back door is unlatched.

12,5 volts is kinda weak for a 12 VDC battery. should read around 13 - 13.5 VDC

Check them again with the engine running... should read around 14-14.5 VDC charging from the alternator.
When you gauge shows a positive charge in excess of 13-14 VDC it's telling you your batteries are weak. gauge should read just to the right of center while engine is running.
anything above that indicates weak batteries, maybe just one.... maybe all.
any reading below center on the gauge while engine is running is a not charging indicator.

Best of luck with you bus..
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