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Old 12-13-2016, 12:24 PM   #1
Mini-Skoolie
 
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Question I can't figure out what Starter I need. (1991 Thomas)

I have a 1991 Thomas Saf-T-Liner WestCoastER (as far as we can tell. The original documentation is lost and there is no identification on the vehicle itself beyond the Thomas logos, but it matches the pictures. The giveaway is that it has 2 side by side doors for the underbelly storage) which has recently refused to turn over.

I brought out the roadside assistance, and 2 fellas brought trucks and their collective experience towing diesel vehicles to help solve it. They said either the batteries are totally shot or the starter is just worn out. It didn't turn over with 2 trucks hooked up to the batteries (one on each), so they are pretty confident it's the starter.

I'm currently looking for the 31XHD batteries I need for it, but the Starter is a harder one to identify (being all up in the engine compartment where I can't get to it easily). Anyone have an easier way of identifying it?
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Old 12-13-2016, 01:06 PM   #2
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Originally Posted by AWebb3701 View Post
I have a 1991 Thomas Saf-T-Liner WestCoastER (as far as we can tell. The original documentation is lost and there is no identification on the vehicle itself beyond the Thomas logos, but it matches the pictures. The giveaway is that it has 2 side by side doors for the underbelly storage) which has recently refused to turn over.

I brought out the roadside assistance, and 2 fellas brought trucks and their collective experience towing diesel vehicles to help solve it. They said either the batteries are totally shot or the starter is just worn out. It didn't turn over with 2 trucks hooked up to the batteries (one on each), so they are pretty confident it's the starter.

I'm currently looking for the 31XHD batteries I need for it, but the Starter is a harder one to identify (being all up in the engine compartment where I can't get to it easily). Anyone have an easier way of identifying it?
Simple. Cheat. First things first, you need to know what engine you have. A VIN decoder can answer this for you pretty quickly. A call to a dealer can yield a part number; a call to various parts places (with the part number in hand, or the model of engine in it) might yield some competitive prices.

Starters rarely fail overnight. If it's been working fine up to this point, I wouldn't replace it until everything else has been ruled out. Those things are heavy and a pain to remove and replace.
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Old 12-13-2016, 01:11 PM   #3
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It would help to know which engine you have.

Before you start spending a lot of $$$ on parts and pieces I would make sure any interlocks are not locking out the starting circuit.

If you have any vandal locks on the emergency exits/doors they need to be unlocked before the starter will turn.

Also, and it may sound dumb, but make sure the bus is in neutral.

If your bus is an RE you need to make sure all of the engine compartment controls are switched to the front or you will never get the key up front to work.

I owned a Thomas Saf-T-Liner RE with a 3208T engine and Allison automatic. At different times I had problems with the key start not engaging the starter. Every time is was a vandal lock wasn't unlocked, the switch in the rear was in the wrong position, or the gear selector was not in neutral.
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Old 12-13-2016, 01:14 PM   #4
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VIN Decoding gives unknown values. School Buses apparently aren't listed?

If I knew the engine, I'd just match that to this list of starters:

Cummins Starters

The engine has had issues turning over when under suboptimal conditions, so this isn't exactly out of the blue.

Edit: The engine ATTEMPTS to turn over, exhibiting the sound that every engine makes when you try to turn it over (vmmvmmvmmvmmvmmvmm....). Previously, it would try a little harder (VMMvmmvmmVMMvmmvmm, with matching RPM spikes).

Edit2: I've been turning it over and driving it short distances every few days before this.
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Old 12-13-2016, 01:22 PM   #5
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When I said which motor you had it would help to know:
  1. 6- or 8-cylinders
  2. Cummins, Cat, Mercedes-Benz, Detroit
  3. Gas or diesel
  4. Front or rear engine
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Old 12-13-2016, 02:16 PM   #6
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Originally Posted by cowlitzcoach View Post
When I said which motor you had it would help to know:
  1. 6- or 8-cylinders
  2. Cummins, Cat, Mercedes-Benz, Detroit
  3. Gas or diesel
  4. Front or rear engine
Cummins Diesel, rear engine. Dunno if it's a 6 or 8.
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Old 12-13-2016, 02:23 PM   #7
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First, engines have name/number plates on them. It will tell what you need to know.

Second, two guys who work on diesels should have known, just by looking at it, at least, what kind of engine you have.

They should also have known how to hook their jumper directly to the starter to eliminate that as a problem.

You can hook up a hundred trucks as jumpers and it still won't start if there is a bad connection in the wiring somewhere.

It gets expensive to throw parts at a problem without finding the problem first.
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Old 12-13-2016, 02:24 PM   #8
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If it is a V-8 it is most likely a 555.

If it is a I-6 it could be one of several engines including the 5.9L or the 8.3L.
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Old 12-13-2016, 02:27 PM   #9
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Originally Posted by somewhereinusa View Post
First, engines have name/number plates on them. It will tell what you need to know.

Second, two guys who work on diesels should have known, just by looking at it, at least, what kind of engine you have.

They should also have known how to hook their jumper directly to the starter to eliminate that as a problem.

You can hook up a hundred trucks as jumpers and it still won't start if there is a bad connection in the wiring somewhere.

It gets expensive to throw parts at a problem without finding the problem first.
EXACTLY!

It could be as simple as bad wiring from the starter to the battery--a problem I discovered with my Westcoaster.

It could be even simpler as bad terminal ends not making good contact with the battery posts.

It could be even simpler as loose connection on the battery hot lead onto the starter--another problem I discovered with my Westcoaster.
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Old 12-13-2016, 03:15 PM   #10
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Originally Posted by somewhereinusa View Post
First, engines have name/number plates on them. It will tell what you need to know.

Second, two guys who work on diesels should have known, just by looking at it, at least, what kind of engine you have.

They should also have known how to hook their jumper directly to the starter to eliminate that as a problem.

You can hook up a hundred trucks as jumpers and it still won't start if there is a bad connection in the wiring somewhere.

It gets expensive to throw parts at a problem without finding the problem first.

I'll examine it more thoroughly when I get out to it again today. The two who looked at it didn't mention it because I didn't ask, and they are just dispatched from AAA to jump vehicles, so they weren't super engaged. I'll take a look at the wiring as well.

Believe me, I know how important good diagnostics are to keeping costs down. It's an ongoing problem in computer repair.
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Old 12-14-2016, 12:20 AM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by cowlitzcoach View Post
*snip*

Also, and it may sound dumb, but make sure the bus is in neutral.
Nothing is dumb when it comes to electrical connections....

I once chased a gremlin on a ski boat to figure out it was corroded contacts on a deadman's lanyard switch... Jumper wires and alligator clips are your friend when it comes to micro switches

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Old 12-14-2016, 09:51 AM   #12
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VIN Decoding gives unknown values. School Buses apparently aren't listed?
What's your VIN? I'll see what I can find for you.
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Old 12-14-2016, 06:31 PM   #13
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1T7L42944M1759014

Results from a decoder site:
Make (Manufacturer): Thomas Built Buses
Model year: 1991
Manufactured in: United States (North America)
Sequential number: 759014

NHTSA site gives nothing
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Old 12-14-2016, 07:43 PM   #14
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Thomas rear engine, 209" wheelbase, non-school bus with 78" headroom (high roof), 300hp Cummins 6CTA (8.3L), 1991


To verify that you do, in fact, have an 8.3, look at the front of the engine. (On a rear engine bus, the front of the engine is facing toward the rear of the bus.) On the front of the engine, there will be a large raised compartment (the black portion on the one in this picture). On the horizontal flat surface on the top of that case, you should find a metal tag with a whole bunch of info. You'll find the engine model, stock hp rating, and CPL, among other things. The CPL is the Critical Parts List. With that number, a parts counter can tell you what parts you need to order to replace anything on the engine.

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Old 12-14-2016, 08:15 PM   #15
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Mmmmm...that is a thing of beauty.
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Old 12-14-2016, 08:18 PM   #16
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I found that little metal plate you spoke of. It didn't have any such information though.

IMPORTANT ENGINE INFORMATION
This engine conforms to U.S. EPA and California (ARB) Regulations applicable to a 1990 model year -scratched word- heavy-duty engines. This engine has a primary intended service application as a heavy duty diesel engine as defined by EPA. 3918007

Edit: Also, it WAS a schoolbus. It still has the original schoolbus paint underneath and multiple features from it's original job.
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Old 12-14-2016, 08:44 PM   #17
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New Info! The current starter installed has damage on the label, but the undamaged parts confirm that it is a 12v, 13 tooth model with a serial number of 01K

The damaged area reads (Unknown number of missing digits)4466RX (Maybe?)
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Old 12-14-2016, 09:36 PM   #18
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Originally Posted by AWebb3701 View Post
I found that little metal plate you spoke of. It didn't have any such information though.

IMPORTANT ENGINE INFORMATION
This engine conforms to U.S. EPA and California (ARB) Regulations applicable to a 1990 model year -scratched word- heavy-duty engines. This engine has a primary intended service application as a heavy duty diesel engine as defined by EPA. 3918007

Edit: Also, it WAS a schoolbus. It still has the original schoolbus paint underneath and multiple features from it's original job.
If I'm not mistaken, some of the 12 valve motors had the data plate down around the corner from where I told you to look for that plate. Try checking down the right side of that case on the front of the engine.
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Old 12-14-2016, 10:41 PM   #19
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I ran the VIN through the Gates decoder; it seems to say you have a Cummins 5.9
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Old 12-14-2016, 11:02 PM   #20
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Uh oh, looks like we have conflicting sources.

Better find that tag, AWebb!

(Or you can post a picture and we can tell you what it is by looking at it.)
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