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Old 12-03-2018, 06:10 PM   #1
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Feeling Overwhelmed - Electrical Mess

Hey everyone,

I just brought my 2000 GMC 3500 Blue Bird home. On the way, I kept having issues with the battery draining even after replacing it. I installed a lever switch so that I can disconnect the battery while I'm not driving to make sure there's no drain. However, I need to find a solution to this problem. I'm a single woman and getting out and popping the hood every time I get somewhere is not safe. Not to mention if I were to forget & be stranded with a dead battery.

I don't have a good idea of what's going on. My brake lights & turn signals in the back all have to be replaced because a few of them are holding water. The rest only 10% of the LEDs work. I've bought all the lights ($300 later) but haven't installed them yet. I'm wondering if this may solve the problem? I don't know anything about electrics but I do know that my wires are a MESS. I don't even know where to start to get everything cleaned up. It gives me a load of anxiety just looking at all the craziness.

Another quick thing, my bus still has the little computer that used to sit on the arm to open the double doors. The man who sold it to me took out that arm but left the computer. When I bought it, he told me it may be worth some money. Do you guys know anything about this? and if it is worth something, how the heck do I disconnect it? There are so many wires.
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Old 12-03-2018, 08:09 PM   #2
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Quote:
Originally Posted by graceashlynn.arts View Post
Hey everyone,

I just brought my 2000 GMC 3500 Blue Bird home. On the way, I kept having issues with the battery draining even after replacing it. I installed a lever switch so that I can disconnect the battery while I'm not driving to make sure there's no drain. However, I need to find a solution to this problem. I'm a single woman and getting out and popping the hood every time I get somewhere is not safe. Not to mention if I were to forget & be stranded with a dead battery.

I don't have a good idea of what's going on. My brake lights & turn signals in the back all have to be replaced because a few of them are holding water. The rest only 10% of the LEDs work. I've bought all the lights ($300 later) but haven't installed them yet. I'm wondering if this may solve the problem? I don't know anything about electrics but I do know that my wires are a MESS. I don't even know where to start to get everything cleaned up. It gives me a load of anxiety just looking at all the craziness.

Another quick thing, my bus still has the little computer that used to sit on the arm to open the double doors. The man who sold it to me took out that arm but left the computer. When I bought it, he told me it may be worth some money. Do you guys know anything about this? and if it is worth something, how the heck do I disconnect it? There are so many wires.

New lights should solve the water retention and LED's not working but I doubt it will solve whatever is draining the battery. The lights should be easy enough to replace. They may be hard-wired in or they may be plug-and-play. Color-code the wires. White to ground (attached to body usually), black to running lights, red to brake or turn signal, as appropriate.



Not sure what the computer is you are referring to. Post a photo if you can. A picture is worth a thousand words. Could be any number of things.


Electrical systems may seem complicated but go one step at a time. Disconnect one wire, see if the bus still starts/runs. If it stops doing that, then you've disconnected something important, plug it back in. Try to not cut wires whenever possible, but simply detach them as neatly as you can. *HELPFUL HINT* some wires are live all the time, and you don't want to short out anything when removing them, if there's a chance your wrench may do that, disconnect the associated fuse or battery to eliminate that possibility.


Don't be surprised if your new lights stay on when they're not supposed to - it is *NOT* the new light's fault! Something, somewhere, is on when it isn't supposed to be - brake light switches do wear out and remain in the "on" position sometimes, or simply get out of adjustment. You may have separate headlight and clearance light switches (my IH/BlueBird has this). Make sure both are off. Send more photos if you can, we'll see what we can troubleshoot from here.


Good luck.
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Old 12-04-2018, 05:54 AM   #3
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Photos help for sure.

Also, if you don't already own a multimeter, go down to your local Harbor Freight and pick one up for free. Harbor Freight Tools Coupon Database - Free coupons, 25 percent off coupons, toolbox coupons - 7 FUNCTION DIGITAL MULTIMETER

Among other things, you can use the multimeter to test for voltage between any terminal and ground to see if current is flowing when the bus is off.

I'll admit I haven't looked at the electrical system on a Type A bus but if you can add some photos that would help a lot. In other bus types there is am electrical panel accessible from outside the bus and a "master switch" solenoid that engages when the key is turned on, which means if you test the solenoid you can mark everything on the other side of it as being good. This puts your potential power drain on things that branch off before the solenoid, which should be a much shorter list.
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Old 12-04-2018, 03:01 PM   #4
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Originally Posted by Brad_SwiftFur View Post
New lights should solve the water retention and LED's not working but I doubt it will solve whatever is draining the battery. The lights should be easy enough to replace. They may be hard-wired in or they may be plug-and-play. Color-code the wires. White to ground (attached to body usually), black to running lights, red to brake or turn signal, as appropriate.



Not sure what the computer is you are referring to. Post a photo if you can. A picture is worth a thousand words. Could be any number of things.


Electrical systems may seem complicated but go one step at a time. Disconnect one wire, see if the bus still starts/runs. If it stops doing that, then you've disconnected something important, plug it back in. Try to not cut wires whenever possible, but simply detach them as neatly as you can. *HELPFUL HINT* some wires are live all the time, and you don't want to short out anything when removing them, if there's a chance your wrench may do that, disconnect the associated fuse or battery to eliminate that possibility.


Don't be surprised if your new lights stay on when they're not supposed to - it is *NOT* the new light's fault! Something, somewhere, is on when it isn't supposed to be - brake light switches do wear out and remain in the "on" position sometimes, or simply get out of adjustment. You may have separate headlight and clearance light switches (my IH/BlueBird has this). Make sure both are off. Send more photos if you can, we'll see what we can troubleshoot from here.


Good luck.

Thank you! This is all good stuff. I got together some pictures for you.

Here's that computer I was talking about:
Arm Computer.jpg

Weldon Electrical Control Panel.jpg

Electrical Control Panel.jpg

Back of Bus .jpg
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Old 12-04-2018, 03:43 PM   #5
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Have you got a pic of that battery lever switch you spoke of?

Did a garage install it?


Your lights should be taken apart and inspected. That will let you see why water got into them. Just do one at a a time and post your findings with or without pics, the sockets may be salvageable. Might need new gaskets or caulking to seal them better.



One pic you posted with the connections showing, what is that and where is it located. Don't know your bus so is a mystery to me.


Most of our buses have messy wiring to some extent but doesn't mean it's a mess or bad. With troubleshooting, one has to open the wire bundles to trace a wire from end to end. Often they don't get re-bundled neatly as other issues seem to appear from time to time.



You can sort yours out but understand how overwhelming it might seem now.


Build up your tool list if you are going to own a bus unless money is no object.
Lots of knowledge on this site so just ask and somebody likely can help you.

Thanks,


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Old 12-04-2018, 05:12 PM   #6
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Another suggestion - don't replace your turn signal bulbs with LED without replacing the turn signal relay. They don't draw enough power so the regular relay will blink very fast.

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Old 12-05-2018, 11:48 AM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by graceashlynn.arts View Post
Thank you! This is all good stuff. I got together some pictures for you.

Here's that computer I was talking about:
Attachment 27886

Attachment 27887

Attachment 27888

Attachment 27889
In the picture of the two relays with the third one missing and a yellow jumper in its place does not look right . Just guessing the relay went bad and they removed it and jumped the coil power feed right to the clearance lites with the yellow jumper. Is there switch for your clearance lights?

This may not have anything to do with your ghost load problem but it does not look right to me.
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Old 12-05-2018, 05:21 PM   #8
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Grace, I have been following your thread and I am rooting for you... And although I cannot speak to the specifics of your current issues, please let me provide the following:
Quote:
Originally Posted by graceashlynn.arts View Post
I don't know anything about electrics but I do know that my wires are a MESS... It gives me a load of anxiety just looking at all the craziness...
A mess? Anxiety? Craziness? I actually did this on purpose. I am terrified that my bus will never run again...

Quote:
Originally Posted by graceashlynn.arts View Post
Another quick thing, my bus still has the little computer that used to sit on the arm to open the double doors...
Although I am rooting for you, I am troubled that in your world a box with a couple of switches and a light is considered a "computer". Godspeed to you Grace.
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Old 12-05-2018, 05:39 PM   #9
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Grace, I have been following your thread and I am rooting for you... And although I cannot speak to the specifics of your current issues, please let me provide the following:A mess? Anxiety? Craziness? I actually did this on purpose. I am terrified that my bus will never run again...

Although I am rooting for you, I am troubled that in your world a box with a couple of switches and a light is considered a "computer". Godspeed to you Grace.
Oh come on you have not hacked that harness near enough...
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Old 12-05-2018, 05:52 PM   #10
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Oh come on you have not hacked that harness near enough...
Okay you win; my harness is at least mostly still IN the bus...
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Old 12-05-2018, 06:16 PM   #11
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On Millicent, I installed a battery shutoff where I can easily reach it from the driver seat. It is on the wall to the left of my leg -- and it so happens the bus' main electric panel is right there on the other side of that wall (accessible from the outside).

This switch itself is typically used on race cars, but there are many other kinds.

In my installation, it shuts off all EXCEPT THE BIG BATTERY CABLE TO THE STARTER. I could include that also, but it does not seem necessary.

Now I routinely flip that switch when I get in and out of the seat.

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Old 12-05-2018, 08:46 PM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by graceashlynn.arts View Post
Thank you! This is all good stuff. I got together some pictures for you.

Here's that computer I was talking about:
Attachment 27886

Attachment 27887

Attachment 27888

Attachment 27889

Photo 1 - just a housing for a few switches. Mine had one similar which I removed and tossed aside. Probably no real value.


Photo 2 - the yellow thing is a controller for the 8-way flashing lights. You won't need it. Practically every school bus will have one. Maybe you'll get $5 on ebay for it? (I haven't even removed mine yet).


Photo 3 - Much of the wiring looks factory original. I wouldn't mess with it too much except to fix any problems or remove something you *KNOW* you don't need. And in the latter case, disconnect only one thing at a time, making sure the bus will still start/run/drive normally, that way you can easily undo the change if you disconnect something that is needed after all.


Photo 4 - to address Dave's comment, it seems the bus originally had LED lights, so the new ones should work just fine, the original electronics having been designed for LED lights to begin with. It's a valid point for those of us switching from incandescent lights though.
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Old 12-05-2018, 09:06 PM   #13
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Picture 1 looks like it could be a heater control? Best not to unhook something until you know what it does.

Ted
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Old 12-05-2018, 09:11 PM   #14
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Picture 1 looks like it could be a heater control? Best not to unhook something until you know what it does.

Ted

The center 2 switches in photo 1 are common Blue Bird push-pull switches. I'd keep these for spares. The button on the left (formerly) activated the 8-way flashers for picking up/dropping off kids.
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Old 12-06-2018, 10:48 AM   #15
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Oh man! Now that's a real mess. I definitely feel WAY better about my situation now!
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Old 12-06-2018, 11:04 AM   #16
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Welcome - always happy to see another woman on this site! Not too many of us are brave enough to take on a skoolie by themselves. You sound a LOT more savvy than I am, believe me.

My philosophy on the bus (and on life in general!) is that we have to choose our battles. I happen to have a very long battle list outside of the bus related stuff, so there are things I just choose to bring to a professional instead of attempting to tackle myself. However - when possible I hover at the elbow of said professional and learn everything I can so I will be less overwhelmed when I do decide to take it on myself, or when throwing money at the problem isn't an option.

Anyway, have fun, and see you around the forum. The bus you got is the one I was originally going for, but I couldn't find one in good enough shape in the time frame necessary (I had a hard deadline). I'll be watching your progress!
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Old 12-06-2018, 12:32 PM   #17
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Originally Posted by graceashlynn.arts View Post
Oh man! Now that's a real mess. I definitely feel WAY better about my situation now!
Another suggestion i f you do not know how to measure amps with a meter (Learn!) sometimes parking in a dark and quiet place have a helper look for any lights that might come on or clicks of a relay or maybe the hum from an almost dead buzzer can help you find your ghost load.
And get all those drowned lights in order before anything else. Brake lights work without the ignition on and a brake light full of water probably would flow enough current to drain your battery...

On your picture of the power distribution the fat black wire connects to one side of each of the 3 circuit breakers the other side of the circuit breaker is the circuit being protected. You could also take off the wire on each individual breaker and touch it on the terminal and see if it sparks. Or set up your meter for amps.
Make sure your battery disconnect is off when unscrewing things and do not wear any jewelry when working on electrical.
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Old 12-06-2018, 01:37 PM   #18
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Another suggestion i f you do not know how to measure amps with a meter (Learn!) sometimes parking in a dark and quiet place have a helper look for any lights that might come on or clicks of a relay or maybe the hum from an almost dead buzzer can help you find your ghost load.
And get all those drowned lights in order before anything else. Brake lights work without the ignition on and a brake light full of water probably would flow enough current to drain your battery...

On your picture of the power distribution the fat black wire connects to one side of each of the 3 circuit breakers the other side of the circuit breaker is the circuit being protected. You could also take off the wire on each individual breaker and touch it on the terminal and see if it sparks. Or set up your meter for amps.
Make sure your battery disconnect is off when unscrewing things and do not wear any jewelry when working on electrical.
Sweet, thank you! I will check it all out. I did buy new brake & turn signal lights. I know how to connect them & make sure they work. Now, I'm having issues securing them on. It seems that the lights before were attached with a nut on the back. I don't have my wall panels down yet (have to wait until the A/C unit comes out) but it's all in the works
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Old 12-06-2018, 04:11 PM   #19
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Where in NC are you?
I am midway up/down the coast.
Can help if your within a reasonable drive on a weekend.
Depending on how the lights are turned in there mountings?
If the positive wire connection is in the water then it might could draw a parasitic load ?but in my Mind??
Only if the switch was left on to send power to the lights and the bulbs are burnt out so you can't see them working?
Some of the pedal arm type brake light switches are aggravating to get set correctly and after time have to be re-adjusted because of wear. But if your lights don't work then you might not see it.
Many things that can/could/will cause battery drain.
A lot of times it is the ground for something that has power even with the key switch off.
My hazard and brake lights and direct feed to the starter are the only thing that do.
If you can read your switches then make sure they are all off.
A normal two position rocker switch is down for off a normal three position switch is in the middle for off.
Push pull switches are push for off
Good luck, if your within a couple hours of the beach I can help and if your farther away then then are skoolies in Fayetteville,Greenville,Durham and the asheboro,Charlotte areas.
Let's get your build going so we can have a Carolina's skoolie meet and greet.
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Old 12-09-2018, 07:43 PM   #20
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Another suggestion - don't replace your turn signal bulbs with LED without replacing the turn signal relay. They don't draw enough power so the regular relay will blink very fast.

Dave
Jumping into the thread as I too am in the process of converting. I picked up new LED bus lights and your comment about the turn signals caught my attention. Relays are confusing to me, where would I pick up a new relay and what do I ask for?
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