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Old 04-10-2018, 01:51 PM   #1
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Big electrical problem T444E

We were on our first trip in our new-to-us 98 Thomas Vista with T444E and awoke on our last morning to the buzzers buzzing and all dash warning lights on. Could not stop it without disconnecting the battery. This was an Arizona bus and we were now in Oregon under a deluge for 2 days. We found water running off the windshield onto an electrical harnesse under the hood and assumed this to be the culprit. Not knowing where to begin, we enlisted our Good Sam Towing and got taken to their recommended repair facility. Unfortunately this turned out to be a Ford dealer. We rented a car and drove back to Idaho to return to work and 4 days later they have begun digging into the problem . After two hours they have not found the problem and say it will take three more hours to diagnose. I know from reading here there are issues with the instrument panel and the ground connection can be an issue. Any other recommendations would be appreciated as I don't trust dealers but I'm at their mercy.
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Old 04-10-2018, 07:59 PM   #2
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Are you sure and emergency door is not open or latched/shut? Maybe and emergency exit or window not closed fully?
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Old 04-10-2018, 09:14 PM   #3
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Good thoughts. No. The door was shut. I had a wheelchair lift I had pulled out but checked to make sure that the wasn't contacting the body. Also double checked the wires where I disabled the safety lights. I had been getting some gauge sweeps and a couple of momentary power losses the day before this happened so I suspect something at the dash. Someone on the forum suggested the ground connection for the instrument cluster as a cause for those types of issues.
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Old 04-10-2018, 09:20 PM   #4
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so the beeping and ringing doesnt stop even when the keys are turned off?

on my Bluebird, I had a water leak in ther windshield area that caused water to drip on the Brake pedal switch, this made the 'brake' alarm light come on and the cluster to beep as the brake pedal switches are vital.. however i could turn the key off to cancel it.

-Christopher
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Old 04-10-2018, 09:46 PM   #5
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If for some reason it is the safety system faulting (doors/emergency exits), all I had to do to mine to completely disable it was unplug 1 wire. I found the buzzer thing behind my switch panel, traced one of the blue wires that lead to post on fuse block, and just unplugged it. Bus drives fine, no alarms, all wires at the emergency exits are cut now too and still no issues. Maybe your Thomas will look similar to mine and this may help if the safety stuff is shorting out.

Edit - If I remember correctly, the place the blue wire was connected to said buzzer. They were close each other, and in a matter of 5 minutes I had switch panel open, found buzzer, and pulled wire while the buzzer was going off
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Old 04-10-2018, 10:25 PM   #6
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Originally Posted by cadillackid View Post
so the beeping and ringing doesnt stop even when the keys are turned off?

on my Bluebird, I had a water leak in ther windshield area that caused water to drip on the Brake pedal switch, this made the 'brake' alarm light come on and the cluster to beep as the brake pedal switches are vital.. however i could turn the key off to cancel it.

-Christopher
We were asleep with bus off and key in the ignition when it all went wild. Tried pulling out the key, tried turning it on. The only thing that stopped it was disconnecting the battery. I'm sure it was water leak.
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Old 04-11-2018, 12:18 AM   #7
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................... Why on earth did they take an IH bus to a Ford dealer? Unless, of course, it is a Ford Medium Truck dealer (some of which also service other makes). You *DO NOT* need the Mustang mechanics, you need someone more versed in the medium truck and bus world. An issue like this, on a '98 bus, should *NOT* take 5 hours to diagnose! A knowledgeable tech could probably do it in 15 minutes. (Fixing it, however, is another matter).

That said, I had to read twice to make sure I understood what you said. Water running off the windshield to a "harness under the hood"? Keep in mind that everything outside of the body is designed to withstand getting wet; this includes everything in the engine compartment. To a lesser extent, this even includes the batteries and associated cables. Unless you mean something inside the body, in which case you'll want to see where the water is getting in and put a stop to it.

The dash cluster is fairly notorious for developing electrical issues as they age, but as often as not, it's simply gauges that cease working. Usually it's failed solder joints and can be fixed free if you have the tools and know how to use them. Given that you have all lights/buzzers, I would begin to wonder if the dash is getting power when it shouldn't? A failed relay could cause this (possibly getting wet inside and stuck "on"?).
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Old 04-11-2018, 06:09 AM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Brad_SwiftFur View Post
................... Why on earth did they take an IH bus to a Ford dealer? Unless, of course, it is a Ford Medium Truck dealer (some of which also service other makes). You *DO NOT* need the Mustang mechanics, you need someone more versed in the medium truck and bus world. An issue like this, on a '98 bus, should *NOT* take 5 hours to diagnose! A knowledgeable tech could probably do it in 15 minutes. (Fixing it, however, is another matter).

That said, I had to read twice to make sure I understood what you said. Water running off the windshield to a "harness under the hood"? Keep in mind that everything outside of the body is designed to withstand getting wet; this includes everything in the engine compartment. To a lesser extent, this even includes the batteries and associated cables. Unless you mean something inside the body, in which case you'll want to see where the water is getting in and put a stop to it.

The dash cluster is fairly notorious for developing electrical issues as they age, but as often as not, it's simply gauges that cease working. Usually it's failed solder joints and can be fixed free if you have the tools and know how to use them. Given that you have all lights/buzzers, I would begin to wonder if the dash is getting power when it shouldn't? A failed relay could cause this (possibly getting wet inside and stuck "on"?).
I dont know the Vista well enough and am away from my Navistar wiring diagrams right now, but the brake system has power always.. if a short caused the chassis 'power relay' to be back-fed its possible the chassis electrical could fire up. many of these wires are inside the dash under the windshield (grrr)..

Brad is right, the wiring under the hood should be able to get wet so I dont suspect that too much.

-Christopher
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Old 04-11-2018, 10:09 AM   #9
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Thanks for your responses Brad & Christopher. The failed relay sounds very likely. Just Frustrating that "professionals are taking that long to diagnose. Or maybe just milking it since I'm stuck. -Chris
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Old 04-11-2018, 12:17 PM   #10
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I can verify that my VIsta's brakes are always powered. Tough the pedal and the pump runs. Also it runs when you turn the key to the run position, before starting the engine.
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Old 04-12-2018, 10:09 PM   #11
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Well after a week of having my bus hostage, the Ford truck dealer in Portland finally admitted they didn't know what they were doing and couldn't find the proper wiring diagram! I thought the T444E was brother to a 7.3. They felt bad and said they wouldn't charge me, except to repair the driveshaft U-joint that the tow driver mangled- ouch! Luckily since Good Sam was the one who located said shop, they will provide towing to another repair shop. Votes: International dealer or small local truck shop with 2/3 the labor rate and an international trained mechanic? Ugg
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Old 04-12-2018, 11:11 PM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by peakbus View Post
Well after a week of having my bus hostage, the Ford truck dealer in Portland finally admitted they didn't know what they were doing and couldn't find the proper wiring diagram! I thought the T444E was brother to a 7.3. They felt bad and said they wouldn't charge me, except to repair the driveshaft U-joint that the tow driver mangled- ouch! Luckily since Good Sam was the one who located said shop, they will provide towing to another repair shop. Votes: International dealer or small local truck shop with 2/3 the labor rate and an international trained mechanic? Ugg
I would vote for an independent shop, but you *NEED* one that works on trucks and (school) buses, not RV's. IH buses of this vintage are *NOT* that complex and any reasonably competent electrical guy should be able to diagnose the problem. They are designed to be easy to fix, since so many school districts keep them for so long and buy them at least partially based on ease and economy of repair and maintenance.
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Old 04-13-2018, 07:22 AM   #13
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If it were me I would tow it home and take the opportunity to get familiar with the electrical system. I have had bad luck with auto repair shops my entire life... A multimeter will get you far.
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Old 04-13-2018, 10:15 AM   #14
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If it were me I would tow it home and take the opportunity to get familiar with the electrical system. I have had bad luck with auto repair shops my entire life... A multimeter will get you far.
I'd do this too.

However, I have been working on car and motorcycle electrics all my life, and when I first opened the electrical panel on the bus it scared the crap out of me

There is so much "stuff" in there that at first I wasn't sure where to begin, and mine didn't have any electrical gremlins.

That said, once you attack it logically (and Thomas labeled everything) it's not as daunting as first thought. Removing a great deal of excess wiring was pretty straight-forward and everything left is now a bit easier to see.

Still not simple though!
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Old 04-13-2018, 11:23 AM   #15
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Agreed on all points, but I'll throw this in: You will never regret leaning to do it.
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Old 05-09-2018, 07:45 PM   #16
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I'd do this too.

However, I have been working on car and motorcycle electrics all my life, and when I first opened the electrical panel on the bus it scared the crap out of me

There is so much "stuff" in there that at first I wasn't sure where to begin, and mine didn't have any electrical gremlins.

That said, once you attack it logically (and Thomas labeled everything) it's not as daunting as first thought. Removing a great deal of excess wiring was pretty straight-forward and everything left is now a bit easier to see.

Still not simple though!
Despite hours of internet searching, I have failed to find a wiring diagram for my 1997 International 3000RE bus. In theory I need the a copy of CTS5216V (Chassis diagram for 97-99 3000FE and 3000RE) at least per someone else on a schoolbus forum for drivers/ maintenance peeps. I don't suppose any of y'all know where to get one? The electrical even scares my son, although he did unattach a few things already. We stopped after each thing and made sure we could start the bus!! And we verified that the rear window can be opened for air and won't cause problems. It's hard to close. but it's possible. We couldn't open it from the inside though, only the outside, which makes it one of the least useful emergency exits EVER.
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