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Old 06-24-2016, 05:52 PM   #1
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Batteries connected incorrectly...

Well we took a week long camping trip and just got back today. While PigPen wasn't our base, it was used to transport all of the big items we normally might leave home like canoes, kayaks, bikes, etc. The batteries were doing fine after getting them charged, so there is something that is draining more than it should be and causing them to go dead after a few days rather than weeks/months.

The temporary solution while we have been busy being not busy was to disconnect the batteries to keep them charged. A family member of ours offered to bring the bus up to take a load of camping stuff home this morning, and briefly hooked the batteries up wrong. The positives were connected to the negative terminals, then when the first negative wire was touched heat was immediately detected and the wires were removed. As the story goes, this means that the connection was about 1-2 seconds.

No start.

When I got back we got the batteries up to autozone to get checked, and everything looked good but the charge was zapped down to under 30%. We hoped this would be the end of our troubles, but after receiving a full charge the bus still won't start.

All the dash lights come on as usual. The starter works as it always had, but the engine will not turn over. Its my daughters 1st birthday so I haven't had the time to check fuses or anything really, but I was wondering if any of you had some advise regarding where to start checking when I get the opportunity.

Bonus points if any of you have the wiring diagram for a 2003 Ford e450. I believe I've seen one floating around here, but can't find it using the search function.
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Old 06-24-2016, 06:44 PM   #2
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Some of these Fords (and many GM's) have the main cable coming off the batteries to the starter, and then a smaller wire for much of the other electricals. These are often "Fusible links" (basically a section of wire that also acts as a fuse), and yours may be fried. They should be easily and commonly available at any parts store and possibly some big-box stores.
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Old 06-24-2016, 06:52 PM   #3
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A digital multimeter is worth its weight in gold and fairly simple to use.
I am going to bet there is something (possibly a reverse polarity diode) fuse like mentioned above, that will blow before frying anything of value.
Good luck to you!
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Old 06-24-2016, 09:39 PM   #4
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Try this for the Ford wiring diagram: 7.3L Wiring Schematic Printable, very handy. - Diesel Forum - TheDieselStop.com
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Old 06-24-2016, 10:55 PM   #5
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I have a fairly decent multimeter that I will finally be breaking out, so thats covered at least.

Thats the wiring diagram I was thinking of actually, I was looking on the wrong forum!

Brad, do you know what the process of checking these fusible links would be? I'll do some googling now, but advice and/or resources are welcomed!
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Old 06-25-2016, 05:23 AM   #6
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Brad, do you know what the process of checking these fusible links would be? I'll do some googling now, but advice and/or resources are welcomed!
Basically 2 things. First, it will be fairly obviously melted. Second, you'll be reading voltage on one end and not the other. Usually - assuming your vehicle has these - it will be about a foot or so in length, right off the battery (at least on the GM's I've owned over the years).
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Old 06-29-2016, 09:51 PM   #7
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So far I have not found any problems with fusible links or other wires. I checked every fuse, and found that the one for the Injector Driver Module (IDM) power relay was blown. I hoped that replacing this would be the end of my problems, but alas the hunt continues.

Replacing this fuse did get it closer to starting. Turning the key yields the entire instrument / dash lights turning on and functioning like usual. I can hear the fuel pump go as well, and when I actually turn the key to start the engine the starter definitely tries to get it up and running.

Before replacing the IDM fuse, the engine didn't seem to do anything at all, but it now sounds like its starting but never gets the whole way. The second I release the key it all cuts out, so it isn't actually starting.

Here are some thoughts I'm pondering:

1. My understanding of a potential problem with diodes in the alternator suggests that while there may be problems there, it wouldn't be causing the engine to not start. Any alternator problem would manifest itself some amount of time after the engine actually starts. Please correct me if I'm wrong.

2. The starter is working hard to get the engine started. It sounds the same as it always did. All the examples I've found of a starter problem from the batteries being connected incorrectly led to a starter that didn't work, period. It would seem to me that this isn't the problem?

3. The fuse blowing on the IDM should have protected the actual IDM, so that shouldn't be the problem.

4. Things controlled by relays don't seem to be vital to getting the engine started, outside of the fuel pump. I can hear the fuel pump run, so testing the relay doesn't make sense because power is getting there.

5. Batteries are functional and fully charged.

6. Is there a location where a blown fusible link would still allow the engine to get this far into the starting process?

7. Where next???

Any advice is greatly, GREATLY appreciated.
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Old 06-29-2016, 10:16 PM   #8
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if its turning over it should start, must not be getting fuel.
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Old 06-29-2016, 10:30 PM   #9
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I believe fuel is getting in, but that doesn't mean the whole fuel injection system is functioning properly. I'm going to get a scan tool and actually measure the fuel pressure to see if that leads anywhere.

I think I may also replace the starter. I have a hunch that it will need replaced soon regardless, and it very well could be spinning at too low of an RPM now that I think about it. I really haven't considered this too much because it would seem to be unrelated to the battery issue, but I've been suspecting it as a weak link since I got it. I'm not sure of anyway to test this with tools that I have available, so I'll fiddle around with some other things before replacing it.
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Old 06-29-2016, 11:21 PM   #10
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On a 7.3, when cold, it may need the glow plugs to warm up a bit before starting. Cold meaning "after sitting several hours" or more. So checking your glow plugs and related items would be a good idea. Hard starting could be related to old glow plugs not heating as much as new ones. (I have no idea how to test them, or what their life expectancy should be).

If you had a melted fusible link, you wouldn't get power to ... basically anything. So if you're getting power and starter is spinning, that's likely *NOT* your problem.

A failed alternator would not cause what you are having. It will simply not charge the batteries; most vehicles will run with a dead alternator though you *ARE* running on battery power alone. The batteries will be drained sooner or later. You can "limp home" this way (or a safe stopping place), but not likely to travel any long distance. Some of the older all mechanical engines (I have an IH 9L engine) will run indefinitely without an electrical system at all ... good luck getting it started with dead batteries, though.

Before going to all the trouble and expense to replace a starter, check the simple things. Specifically, battery cables and ends. A loose, corroded, or otherwise weak connection will rob the starter of vital amps it needs to spin the engine fast enough to start. You may have a starter relay, check those connections too. There may be a braided "Ground strap" between the engine and frame; it needs good, clean, tight connections. You'd be surprised how much difference one bad connection will make.
(On my Volvo truck, which uses 4 batteries, the nuts on the battery studs often work their way loose. We don't know why or how, but it seems some of our Volvo's "just do" this. So it has become SOP [Standard Operating Procedure] to check them every couple weeks. I carry a couple adjustable wrenches, snug up the nuts, and good to go for a couple more weeks.)
(Also, I had a similar "weak starter" issue in a Suburban, or so I thought. The battery connections were rigged together by the previous owner. I grew tired of messing with them every couple months, so I finally removed all the mess, installed new terminals [I use petroleum jelly as corrosion preventive], and reassembled everything. Now it spins and starts reliably, as it should.)
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Old 06-30-2016, 08:41 AM   #11
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Hey, I've been down this road before I freaked out a bit at first, but after replacing a fuse or two things were back up and running.
My bus has the T444e, which is the same block as the Powerstroke 7.3l, but I can't promise that the wiring is anything similar. On my bus there are two fuses in sealed fuse holders directly connected to the main positive lead right at the battery. Check those out. Then go through the fuse box inside the vehicle (or under the hood, wherever it is) and test all of the fuses that control the ECM, the VPM and the IDM.
After fixing those I was up and running.

In the future, if you need to disconnect the battery you may be better off removing only one of the leads. That'll make it damn near impossible to reconnect the leads backwards.

I hope all things go well!

Oh, one more thing: if you suspect that the glow plugs aren't lighting then it's probably the glow plug relay, not the plugs themselves. When my relay died on me a couple winters ago I would jump the relay terminals with a screw driver for 15-20 seconds before turning the motor over. Worked like a champ.
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Old 06-30-2016, 11:33 AM   #12
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The E-vans have two fuse boxes - one under the dash on the driver's side and one under the hood near the coolant bottle.
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Old 06-30-2016, 04:35 PM   #13
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3. The fuse blowing on the IDM should have protected the actual IDM, so that shouldn't be the problem.
I wouldn't take that for granted -- it could be that the fuse blew because something in the IDM failed and drew too much current. I agree with your assessment that it's probably not dead; I'm just disagreeing with the implication that blown fuse=device protected.

Could you loosen the supply tube on a fuel injector? That'll give insight to whether the injection system is developing enough pressure to inject anything. It should squirt vigorously; if it's a weak dribble you might focus on what electrical things can cause injection to be weak.
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Old 06-30-2016, 05:19 PM   #14
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The engine utilizes the HEUI (and Dewey and Louie) injection system, so you can't pop off an injector line. Fuel runs through paths in the head which, as a side note, is good for heating the fuel before injecting. Wvo folks appreciate it, anyhow.
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Old 08-02-2016, 12:22 PM   #15
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Some updates for any of you that are curious!

After following the wires and checking every last one, there wasn't anything obviously wrong. Still no luck.

Our focus turned back to the batteries, but they were measuring charged and ready to go. Out of curiosity, we attached our 95 ford ranger for a bit more juice.

Wouldn't you know, it fired right up! After that, the bus batteries alone could handle the job fine. Weird...

So thinking we were in the clear, we had it out for the day. I'm sure some of you can guess what I'm about to say...

The alternator was blown afterall. An expensive tow later, I'm sitting here trying to decide whether to have the truck shop where the bus is at to put a new one on or to charge the batteries, drive it home and do it myself.

I could save about $100 that way, but I'd have to wait for the part to get shipped and there's the gamble that the bus dies on the 30-minute drive home. I think thats unlikely on a full charge, but another tow would definitely make that a bad deal.

Anyway, moral of the story is that the batteries connected incorrectly caused 1 blown fuse and killed the alternator!
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