Reply
 
Thread Tools Display Modes
 
Old 11-02-2017, 01:21 PM   #1
Bus Nut
 
Mountain Gnome's Avatar
 
Join Date: Oct 2017
Posts: 382
Year: 1999
Coachwork: BlueBird
Chassis: TC1000 HandyBus
Engine: 5.9L 24V-L6 Cummins ISB
Rated Cap: 26 foot
draw on battery when running cold - prevents starting

My newly acquired 1999 BlueBird TC1000 HandyBus with a Cummings 5.9L 24V has had battery issues since I got it. At first the battery(s) wouldn't hold a charge, and it had to be jumped to start it. It came with two giant-size batteries. One labeled for the starter, one for the wheelchair lift. I assumed at first they were isolated, but they were not.

I bought a battery from Wally World that was for a Dodge Ram truck with the same engine (810 CCA, I think), and replaced the "starter" battery. This got me started fine, but I would have to disconnect it (via ground cable or shut-off switch in the battery compartment) when parked, or it would die. So I bought 2 more of these batteries from Wally World as backups on the road. I had no diagnostic stuff or time, so I dealt with it while I drove it from Tucson to S.F. Parked it there for 2 months, battery disconnected.

On that journey, I noticed that the + terminal for the second battery (the wheelchair lift battery) was hot. I had been driving 10+ hours a day for 2 days, and that battery should have been full. It might heat up a bit when left for a year (as it had been at the school system) and first put back on charge, but after 2 days, I knew it was bad (internal short?). I disconnected the second battery, but still did not trust there was no short/draw on the first.

I just came back to it in the last 2 weeks. I drove it, and the brakes went out. I parked it 3 days, but forgot to disconnect the battery. It was fine, and has held a charge overnight now every day, and started fine in the morning, until yesterday. I did notice though in this last week, the dash lights cycle dim-bright-dim-bright every 1.3 seconds or so when I first start it, and the dash voltmeter shows the voltage dropping to 10V, then back up near 14V (the gauge is unlabeled between 9V-19V, so I'm not sure exactly). I did not notice this before. Now it is cold. It was hot in Tucson & S.F. in August, and fairly warm when I got back to it two weeks ago.

Yesterday when I went to start it was the coldest (in the 40s F). The motor spun fine and fairly fast (sounded like normal) but it wouldn't even cough. I noticed the dash lights while trying to start it were going very dim. At one moment the "check-engine" light went completely out, as well as the air-pressure gauge meter-lights. That's when I knew the voltage was dropping below what the computer needs to work, although the amperage was enough to spin the motor. I see this with gas-powered motors a lot, but it has always been an old battery with a weak or dead cell.

I pulled out a spare battery and jumper cables, and the motor started right off. The dash lights were going dim-bright-dim again. Within a few minutes (less than 5) the voltage stabilized at 13V-14V, and it started immediately as usual the rest of the day. The voltage stayed stable, even after parking and cooling down for an hour.

There is a weird box that looks like an amplifier (solid-cast ribbed aluminum for heat-sink) under the passenger side of the motor at the bottom of the bus, with two thick red cables (like starter cables) and a thin wire. ??? Is this a noise-suppressor? It seems to be mounted there to get airflow to keep it cool. (weird place, as the battery, starter, and circuit panel are all on the other side) Could this be what is causing the heavy draw? (I should check to see how hot it gets)

Or is there a heater of some kind for the motor or fuel? I am told these new diesels don't have glow plugs. I am an auto tech for gas motors, but I haven't looked into this one yet. I though I would start here and share my findings with others, since this seems like an unusual problem that may be hard to figure out. Or maybe a diesel tech can just tell me "check that thing-ama-bob"

One additional hint: when it idles now, I can hear it "cycling" very slightly higher-pitch, lower-pitch, higher-pitch, lower-pitch at the same (approx) 1.3 second intervals as the lights going dim when it is cold. It is not enough to see the RPM gauge bounce, so maybe it is a load on the motor? I don't remember hearing this cycling before; I remember thinking how smooth it idled.

Next step is to find and dig into the wiring diagrams. Fun times!
Mountain Gnome is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 11-02-2017, 03:19 PM   #2
Bus Crazy
 
Join Date: Feb 2012
Location: Salt Lake City Utah
Posts: 1,541
Year: 2000
Chassis: Blue Bird
Engine: ISC 8.3
The cycling dimming of the dash lights, droop on the volt meter, and change in note of the engine are all normal. The 24-valve 5.9 engine has a two-element intake air heater ("grid heater") which operates in various modes when the engine is "cold." I don't recall now whether it's using coolant or intake air temperature, but in any case, the grid heaters come into action when it's below something like 60° F. There should be a "wait to start" lamp on the dash as well; it may light when the key is turned on (before it's turned all the way to start). The WTS lamp behavior will progress from never on to on for 5 seconds to on for 30 seconds as temperatures get colder. I think there are one or two time increments in between the 5 and 30.. One or both grid heater elements will be operating during the WTS period. After the engine is started, the grid heaters will continue to operate until the engine is warm (I don't recall the threshold) or until the vehicle exceeds some road speed (18 MPH in the Dodge application in which I learned all these details). The heaters draw about 90 amps (EACH!) and it's this current draw that is responsible for the dimming lights and the load you can hear on the engine.

You're not going crazy, and neither is the engine.. it just didn't do these things when the two of you got acquainted because the weather was warmer then.

By the way, the Dodge application runs two batteries. One gets the job done when things are warm, but when the weather is brutal cold and the grid heaters want to run for a long time and batteries don't want to give up cranking power as easily, having the second battery really helps.

Yes there's likely a fuel heater mounted inside the fuel filter housing, which on my '98 engine is a cylinder a bit bigger than a quart paint can mounted at the right rear of the engine, as viewed standing at the serpentine belt end.

Most of the symptoms you've noticed are normal but it does sound like there's an ignition-off draw you'll want to track down.
family wagon is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 11-02-2017, 09:56 PM   #3
Bus Nut
 
Mountain Gnome's Avatar
 
Join Date: Oct 2017
Posts: 382
Year: 1999
Coachwork: BlueBird
Chassis: TC1000 HandyBus
Engine: 5.9L 24V-L6 Cummins ISB
Rated Cap: 26 foot
Thanks family wagon!

It started today in 5 or so seconds without a real problem, as it normally does cold. It was supposed to be in the upper 40s, and I waited till 1:00pm. Still the same draw on the battery when first running. I was incorrect: it cycles on for 2 seconds, off for 7 seconds (approx.). I tried to sit and wait for it to turn off by itself, but I quickly got impatient (2-3 mins.). I put it in gear, moved a few feet to the end of the driveway, looked, and the voltage was stabilized. Tomorrow I will not wait, and see what it does.

All the rest of the day it started with just a bump on the key.

I think if anything is a draw now, it is the wheelchair lift. There is a green light always glowing on the pump unit. Its battery is disconnected, so that means there will always be a back-door draw if I have the two battery cables connected. I would like to run an ammeter to the dash, but if the batteries are not isolated, I cannot get accurate readings.
I also want a dedicated voltmeter, and temp gauge. This dash has them set up with the fuel gauge. You have to press a button several times to see which display you want to see. This is somehow "safer" than "too many distracting gauges" according to the owner's manual. Until you drive over mountains and worry about the temp rising, because your fan bearings are whining something awful when it kicks on, or you want to see why dash lights are doing weird things.

This reminds me of an Audi I saw that you had to go through several layers of menus on a touch screen to turn the heat on/off, or even to adjust the direction of the dash vents! It was the top-of-the-line model.
My thought: Darwin Award goes to the guy who blows big cash on an Audi as he smashes his car because the vent was blowing in his face......
Mountain Gnome is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 11-03-2017, 12:45 AM   #4
Bus Nut
 
golfersmurf57's Avatar
 
Join Date: Sep 2017
Posts: 386
Quote:
Originally Posted by Mountain Gnome View Post
My newly acquired 1999 BlueBird TC1000 HandyBus with a Cummings 5.9L 24V has had battery issues since I got it. At first the battery(s) wouldn't hold a charge, and it had to be jumped to start it. It came with two giant-size batteries. One labeled for the starter, one for the wheelchair lift. I assumed at first they were isolated, but they were not.

I bought a battery from Wally World that was for a Dodge Ram truck with the same engine (810 CCA, I think), and replaced the "starter" battery. This got me started fine, but I would have to disconnect it (via ground cable or shut-off switch in the battery compartment) when parked, or it would die. So I bought 2 more of these batteries from Wally World as backups on the road. I had no diagnostic stuff or time, so I dealt with it while I drove it from Tucson to S.F. Parked it there for 2 months, battery disconnected.

On that journey, I noticed that the + terminal for the second battery (the wheelchair lift battery) was hot. I had been driving 10+ hours a day for 2 days, and that battery should have been full. It might heat up a bit when left for a year (as it had been at the school system) and first put back on charge, but after 2 days, I knew it was bad (internal short?). I disconnected the second battery, but still did not trust there was no short/draw on the first.

I just came back to it in the last 2 weeks. I drove it, and the brakes went out. I parked it 3 days, but forgot to disconnect the battery. It was fine, and has held a charge overnight now every day, and started fine in the morning, until yesterday. I did notice though in this last week, the dash lights cycle dim-bright-dim-bright every 1.3 seconds or so when I first start it, and the dash voltmeter shows the voltage dropping to 10V, then back up near 14V (the gauge is unlabeled between 9V-19V, so I'm not sure exactly). I did not notice this before. Now it is cold. It was hot in Tucson & S.F. in August, and fairly warm when I got back to it two weeks ago.

Yesterday when I went to start it was the coldest (in the 40s F). The motor spun fine and fairly fast (sounded like normal) but it wouldn't even cough. I noticed the dash lights while trying to start it were going very dim. At one moment the "check-engine" light went completely out, as well as the air-pressure gauge meter-lights. That's when I knew the voltage was dropping below what the computer needs to work, although the amperage was enough to spin the motor. I see this with gas-powered motors a lot, but it has always been an old battery with a weak or dead cell.

I pulled out a spare battery and jumper cables, and the motor started right off. The dash lights were going dim-bright-dim again. Within a few minutes (less than 5) the voltage stabilized at 13V-14V, and it started immediately as usual the rest of the day. The voltage stayed stable, even after parking and cooling down for an hour.

There is a weird box that looks like an amplifier (solid-cast ribbed aluminum for heat-sink) under the passenger side of the motor at the bottom of the bus, with two thick red cables (like starter cables) and a thin wire. ??? Is this a noise-suppressor? It seems to be mounted there to get airflow to keep it cool. (weird place, as the battery, starter, and circuit panel are all on the other side) Could this be what is causing the heavy draw? (I should check to see how hot it gets)

Or is there a heater of some kind for the motor or fuel? I am told these new diesels don't have glow plugs. I am an auto tech for gas motors, but I haven't looked into this one yet. I though I would start here and share my findings with others, since this seems like an unusual problem that may be hard to figure out. Or maybe a diesel tech can just tell me "check that thing-ama-bob"

One additional hint: when it idles now, I can hear it "cycling" very slightly higher-pitch, lower-pitch, higher-pitch, lower-pitch at the same (approx) 1.3 second intervals as the lights going dim when it is cold. It is not enough to see the RPM gauge bounce, so maybe it is a load on the motor? I don't remember hearing this cycling before; I remember thinking how smooth it idled.

Next step is to find and dig into the wiring diagrams. Fun times!
It's possible that heat sink device could be a dual battery isolator which allows your truck alternator to charge both the cranking and the coach batteries at the same time but won't allow the drain on the coach system to draw off the truck system it has a single input and 2 outlets isolated by diodes.

Sent from my LGL64VL using Tapatalk
golfersmurf57 is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 11-03-2017, 01:14 AM   #5
Bus Nut
 
golfersmurf57's Avatar
 
Join Date: Sep 2017
Posts: 386
If you have a dedicated battery for the coach, then take the output wire from the alternator run it to the ammeter then to a dual battery isolator input terminal. Each battery or set of connects to the outputs which are the positives . If you desire or need the extra capacity for cranking get a heavy duty solenoid and connect a heavy cable to each battery positive one on each side. Wire the control circuit to the truck system with a push button switch next to the ignition or starter switch. Push the button you get both batteries. After cranking the isolator separates the two but charges both. If your shore power converter charges the coach move the battery wire to the isolator at the same terminal as the alternator. Also you can get fancy and add another solenoid to help the gen set cranking battery. Or just hook the genny cables to the coach. Just be sure its all 12 volt. I have a 92 with a 5.9 using 2 of those heavy 8D batteries, but mine are parallel more amps but 12 volt system. Your blinking could be a bad ground or just the draw of the cranking motor. If that heat sink is an isolator, ohm it from the alternator post to each battery post it should only conduct one direction each side. A shorter diode would allow the coach battery to drain the truck battery.

Sent from my LGL64VL using Tapatalk
golfersmurf57 is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 11-03-2017, 01:22 AM   #6
Bus Crazy
 
Join Date: May 2016
Location: Georgia
Posts: 1,549
Year: 2001
Coachwork: Blue Bird
Chassis: IH
Engine: T444E
Rated Cap: 14
I don't know about your bus, but mine ('01 Blue Bird Handy Bus) there is a switch to disable the wheelchair lift. The green indicator light on the dash goes on/off as appropriate. Mine only has 2 batteries, wired in parallel and no isolation for the lift (that I have observed).

It would be helpful to see some photos of the dash controls (I am assuming the green indicator light is there, as it is on mine), the gadget with the heatsink, and the way your batteries are wired up.
Brad_SwiftFur is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 11-08-2017, 10:24 PM   #7
Bus Nut
 
Mountain Gnome's Avatar
 
Join Date: Oct 2017
Posts: 382
Year: 1999
Coachwork: BlueBird
Chassis: TC1000 HandyBus
Engine: 5.9L 24V-L6 Cummins ISB
Rated Cap: 26 foot
Thanks golfersmurf57! That's a lot to digest, but I think I got it. I am thinking that thing is an isolator. It has 2 cables attached to one post, 1 cable to another, and a small wire. It has been raining, so I still need to climb underneath there with a flashlight and get the part-number off of it (the only marking I see on it) and google that.

It wouldn't start without a jump again 2 mornings ago, dash lights going out while cranking. The motor spins fairly fast. You can hear it nearly "misfires" for a brief half-second upon starting, so maybe this is my fuel injectors needing overhaul, and showing it more as it gets cold...

Either way, I finally had some daylight time to deal with it today, and installed a second Wally-world automotive 810-CCA battery in parallel with the first, using prefabbed short cables. No isolator. Thanks again Family Wagon for the info that Dodge trucks use 2 (not 1) of these batteries. I saw basically no sparks (except me touching the ground cable to the positive post, and the positive cable to the vehicle body - Gramma always called me butterfingers - why I'm not a brain surgeon) as I disconnected/reconnected the first battery as I installed the new cables, so I don't think there is any real drain on them. Now I have 1620-CCA, more than the 1400-CCA commercial battery that I replaced.

Odd, but I noticed that the wheelchair battery was dated Jan 2016, less than a year old. It apparently was the problem, because when I disconnected it, my starter battery would not die in a few hours anymore (the motor would not spin, unlike my current cold-start problem). Wonder if I could get it warrantied... And as mentioned, it was hot after driving/charging (much more than the new starter battery).

And thanks Brad_SwiftFur for that info on the wheelchair lift switch. There are still a couple of switches I haven't tried on the driver's control panel. I don't have tools with me right now (I feel worse than a naked high-school kid in the school lunchroom without them) so I am not playing with too much, lest something fail and leave me dealing with warning buzzers or worse, being stranded. I still don't even know if my wheelchair lift works, because I don't want to get stuck with it in the down position (there is an oil stain on the floor under the lift motor, so manual pumping may be ineffective also). I don't want to pull the switch to activate the stop-sign and warning lights. The panel's switch labels are worn, missing, or cryptic. But I will consider your input and see what I can figure out.

Mountain Gnome is offline   Reply With Quote
Reply

Thread Tools
Display Modes

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is On
HTML code is Off
Trackbacks are Off
Pingbacks are Off
Refbacks are Off


» Featured Campgrounds

Reviews provided by

Powered by vBadvanced CMPS v3.2.3

All times are GMT -5. The time now is 11:41 PM.


Powered by vBulletin® Version 3.8.8 Beta 4
Copyright ©2000 - 2019, vBulletin Solutions, Inc.