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Old 10-26-2017, 08:49 PM   #1
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Join Date: Aug 2017
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Starter nightmare

So I've seemingly screwed myself for the time being and our bus won't start and on top of that we're parked in a giant avy path with winter quick approaching at 9600 ft. Hopefully someone has an idea or two because I've tried a few and had some friends familiar with the engine platform help and we're stilled up the creek.

The bus is a 93 Chevy bluebird mini, with a 350 in it. During the build out I disconnected wires from the emergency exit Windows, only 1 wire to each and also disconnected the wires to the emergency door and the overhead bin above the driver seat. The bus starter after this, but shortly after the disconnections the starter started to grind. Naturally I hit it with a hammer a bunch and it still didn't fire.

From there I disconnected the starter to find a broken bell housing. Pretty sure that was my handy work with the hammer, which I didn't know at the time, so I got a new starter and hooked it up. Now absolutely no sound at all. I checked the lead wire from the battery and it was fried because whoever installed it left it resting on the exhaust manifold. Brilliant!! So I got a new lead, I got 1 gauge size bigger to a 1/0 from a 1, thinking that'd be smart considering how long the wire was, 10 ft.

Hook it up and it turns over perfectly. Let the engine warm up, it dies a few times from my sweet fuel system problem, and it starts back up, except for around the 5th time where I hear a pop sound and than back to nothing.

I disconnected the starter again and see a small burn mark on the outside of the selinoid. Seemingly it got fried. The starter was functioning perfectly before the pop, no grinding or whining or anything.

I bench tested the starter with a good battery and arced it with a screw driver and it shot a spark and that's it. Didn't turn or move the pinon wheel at all.

I'm assuming the interlock system has something to do with this or that it's some sort of electrical problem. Maybe a bad starter? It is a remanufactured one, although it worked flawlessly for a few starts. Maybe the larger gauge wire is providing too much power?

Anyone ever have a similar problem? I'm kinda at the end of my rope and ready to ghost ride the bus off of a huge cliff. Was planning on traveling for the winter and at the moment it's looking bleak. Last thing I want to do is get the bus towed and have to pay out the ass and not have a place to stay. We're also still in the build process so it's not really tow ready unless we take out a bunch of stuff. Like most people here I'd like to figure this one out and get it done.

Any and all suggestions are welcome. Thanks for taking the time!

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Old 10-26-2017, 10:50 PM   #2
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Wow. That sounds like a bad day, times about 6.
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Originally Posted by milkfartz View Post
I bench tested the starter with a good battery and arced it with a screw driver and it shot a spark and that's it. Didn't turn or move the pinon wheel at all.
This is a good place to begin. You can hold the starter motor someplace firm, like a vise or on the ground with one foot on it, and test it. Use a set of jumper cables to connect one of the starter's mounting ears to the negative pole of a battery, and connect the other clip of the cable to the positive pole of the battery. Look carefully at the starter motor and its solenoid. You'll find a cable, or more likely a heavy copper braid, coming out of the starter housing and landing on one of the large terminals of the solenoid. Touch the jumper cable clip to that same post on the solenoid. It should spark a bit and the motor should spin right up. If it doesn't spin up then the starter motor has failed.

If it does spin up, then hold the clip to the other large terminal on the solenoid. There should be no spark and no motor spin. Finally you can try to maneuver the clip so it touches that same large terminal first and then the small terminal too, or use your third hand and a screwdriver or something to jumper over to that small control terminal. Again you'll probably see a spark, feel a big click from the solenoid throwing, see the pinion gear thrust up, and the motor should spin. If all that doesn't happen then the starter is bad but in a different way.

I have a hard time imagining something on the bus would have damaged the starter, short of maybe having a starter built for a different voltage than what your bus is giving. "Infant mortality" failure of parts very soon after installation does happen sometimes.
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Old 10-26-2017, 11:00 PM   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by family wagon View Post
Wow. That sounds like a bad day, times about 6.

This is a good place to begin. You can hold the starter motor someplace firm, like a vise or on the ground with one foot on it, and test it. Use a set of jumper cables to connect one of the starter's mounting ears to the negative pole of a battery, and connect the other clip of the cable to the positive pole of the battery. Look carefully at the starter motor and its solenoid. You'll find a cable, or more likely a heavy copper braid, coming out of the starter housing and landing on one of the large terminals of the solenoid. Touch the jumper cable clip to that same post on the solenoid. It should spark a bit and the motor should spin right up. If it doesn't spin up then the starter motor has failed.

If it does spin up, then hold the clip to the other large terminal on the solenoid. There should be no spark and no motor spin. Finally you can try to maneuver the clip so it touches that same large terminal first and then the small terminal too, or use your third hand and a screwdriver or something to jumper over to that small control terminal. Again you'll probably see a spark, feel a big click from the solenoid throwing, see the pinion gear thrust up, and the motor should spin. If all that doesn't happen then the starter is bad but in a different way.

I have a hard time imagining something on the bus would have damaged the starter, short of maybe having a starter built for a different voltage than what your bus is giving. "Infant mortality" failure of parts very soon after installation does happen sometimes.
I agree. It's exceedingly unlikely something on the bus damaged the starter, unless it's a different voltage. On the other hand, I have installed my share of parts that failed rather quickly (and in a couple cases, multiple parts. We bench tested subsequent replacements). Parts stores occasionally do get bad batches of parts.

Had something similar happen on a turbo. Replacement turbo never worked correctly from the day it was installed. Long story short, it came off and went back to the turbo shop. Turbo rebuilder said "In 30+ years of turbo rebuilding, that's the first time I've ever seen that shaft, in that model of turbo fail." No one could explain how, or why. Not that it mattered, a replacement worked correctly and had it fixed.
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Old 10-27-2017, 07:09 PM   #4
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Thanks for the replies.

I've returned the starter and am waiting on a new one as well as a proper gauge lead wire. I would agree that the problem lies with electrical load, probably stemming from the heavier gauge wire, or it was just a bad starter. It was a remanufactured one. Hopefully the cause of the problem is somewhere in there and I'm just a dummy. Have to wait till Tuesday to get the proper part, as I live an hour from the closest parts store and somehow there was no record of me buying it there... Hoping for that warranty to do me some good.

I did not have a chance to bench test it again before returning it, I am fairly certain that I tested it correctly. The burn mark on the outside edge of the selinoid led me to believe that it was indeed fried.

Thinking about the interlock I've come to the conclusion that it was not a factor and is somehow not functioning as the bus started multiple times. I've been trying to figure that system out but it's slow going as I'm not the best with electric and it's a crazy rats nest of wires. Also, the cut and capped wires are already buried in spray foam and behind paneling. Wishing I would have taken those bad boys out and back to the source...

At least I'm learning stuff 😂

Thanks again for the replies, I'll post some updates once the situation changes.
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Old 10-27-2017, 07:17 PM   #5
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the interlock wires on a bus your age are going up front somewhere.. you wont need to have them broken out inside the foam to discommect them.. they end up at the original bus electrical panel somewhere.. most likely tied in to the chevy starter interlock under the dash someplace.. I dont believe the starter in 93 was ECM controlled.. its just a circuit..
-Christopher
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Old 10-27-2017, 07:36 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by milkfartz View Post
Thanks for the replies.

I've returned the starter and am waiting on a new one as well as a proper gauge lead wire. I would agree that the problem lies with electrical load, probably stemming from the heavier gauge wire,
You need to forget the "heavier gauge wire" as being any part of the problem. All the thicker wire does is improve the efficiency of the power flow. It does not, and can not, ever increase the power consumption. In fact, it reduces the power needed to make the part work.

Here is what can cause an issue ... a bad starter would be one. A poor electrical connection would be another. The starter needs the power it needs, and it will try to get it. If there is undue resistance (a bad ground, for example), it will draw a much higher amperage from the battery to overcome that and get the power it needs. I have seen bad grounds cause a motorcycle starter to draw 200 amps, instead of the 80-90 amps it normally needs.
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Old 11-01-2017, 08:30 PM   #7
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Twigg is correct, the heavier gauge wire is now working just fine now that the ground wire connection points have been cleaned and tighten. There was a fair amount of rust that I cleaned off with a wire wheel on or off of the grinder. Now onto the next bit of mechanical fumbling dealing with the throttle body, fuel system weirdness. Hopefully just some filter or jet replacements
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