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Old 04-20-2021, 05:03 PM   #1
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No start - electrical

Hello all,

Long time lurker here and no bus. I've been looking for a long time, but just havent found the right bus. Recently, I found a bus locally that is pretty much perfect but has sat for quite a while. Seller is the owner of a storage facility and has no mechanical knowledge other than it has sat. He has all the legalities sorted to sell the bus. I've gone out twice and no luck getting her to start and now looking for assistance. Here is the quick overview.

1998 Thomas
12v 5.9 230HP with Allison Mt643

No key, so I ordered an ignition switch. Once installed and the key turned to accessory both the 100amp chassis relay and the 100 amp body relay start clicking non stop. No interior lights come on, no gauge lights no buzzers.

Picture of the wiring below. Arrows indicate both relays. Any assistance is appreciated.
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Old 04-20-2021, 05:35 PM   #2
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Welcome! When you get a chance, go to the user control panel and fill out some of the details like your general location, etc. There may be local users able to help out.


My guess based on the behaviors you describe is low battery voltage. Have you measured this? If not, measure key off and key on.
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Old 04-20-2021, 05:44 PM   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by kazetsukai View Post
Welcome! When you get a chance, go to the user control panel and fill out some of the details like your general location, etc. There may be local users able to help out.


My guess based on the behaviors you describe is low battery voltage. Have you measured this? If not, measure key off and key on.

Hi, thanks for the reply. Both group 31 batteries were borrowed from a friend and member of the site. They were on a trickle charger overnight and showed fully charged before taking them over to the bus. I did not measure voltage with key on and off.


I'll get over and fill out some information. thanks.
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Old 04-20-2021, 08:07 PM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Alt1 View Post
I did not measure voltage with key on and off.
Try to measure at the batteries, but also somewhere in your electrical panel- its possible the batteries you borrowed/installed are good, but you're not making good electrical connections. This is an especially easy problem to create even if you have done a good job with the connections at the battery terminals... much of the bus electrical relies on the metal bus chassis for the return path, and if that path is weakened by corrosion or bad connections you could see symptoms akin to low voltage.
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Old 04-20-2021, 08:33 PM   #5
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Based on the windows, the low skirt of the bus and the wiring (no special school bus safety stuff) I'm assuming this is NOT a school bus. Correct?

If it is a school bus, there could be all sorts of reasons for a no crank situation.

Just some thoughts...

The batteries are presumed 12.5v or above and correctly connected in parallel.

Check your main ground wire from the batteries to the bus frame. In general, automotive uses the frame as the ground to complete the circuit. Then things like the lights are mounted so they are grounded. If your main ground isn't good, this could be a reason for lights not working.

Check all the fuses, preferably with a multi-meter versus visually. Note that if it's a RE bus, there may be a fuse box by the engine as well as one under the drivers window on the exterior.

Is the transmission in "N"? If not, put it in "N", if it is in "N" shift it out and back into "N". Could be a neutral safety switch situation.

Can you test the solenoid and starter?

Sounds silly, but rodents could have gotten to some wiring? A good bright LED light and general wire inspection may find an issue.
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Old 04-21-2021, 12:46 AM   #6
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step one

you might need a helper for this...

connect volt meter to batteries... take a reading.... a well charged battery should read around 12.7 volts

turn on the head lights on high beam.... if the voltage is 10.5 or less, the batteries are very likely bad.

if voltage was above 10.5 volts, turn off the lights, turn the key to the start position.... what is the voltage reading? above 10.5 the engine should crank. 10.5 or less you are likely not be able to activate the starter motor..

this is the first step...

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Old 04-21-2021, 11:33 AM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Alt1 View Post

1998 Thomas
12v 5.9 230HP with Allison Mt643

No key, so I ordered an ignition switch. Once installed and the key turned to accessory both the 100amp chassis relay and the 100 amp body relay start clicking non stop. No interior lights come on, no gauge lights no buzzers.
Problem with the ignition switch? I have ordered some switches for Internationals but when searching, several came back that would not work. They looked close but just not the right one.
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Old 04-22-2021, 05:35 PM   #8
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Thanks everyone for the comments and ideas. I went over to the bus today with two fully charge batteries. Both showed 12.9 volts after sitting over night (off the charger). So, presumed good batteries.

At the bus, I thoroughly cleaned both battery terminals and cables before hooking them up in parallel.

The ignition switch is correct and is identical to the old one. Wired it up and turned the key. All lights, gauges and buzzers worked. Once key was turned to start everything shut off. I was able to do this twice before it went back to erratic clicking of both 100 amp solenoids.

Unfortunately, my meter ended up having a blown fuse and I didnt realize until I went to start troubleshooting on the bus. Ran to the store and of course, they didnt stock the correct fuse. However, I decided to pick up two Group 31 batteries for myself. Had them tested prior to purchase and went back to the bus to swap them out. Once everything was hooked back up and the key turned to accessory, the eratic clicking was still present.

I traced the battery negative to the engine and then frame. Everything was solid and I was able to use a 12v tester to complete a circuit from the battery. I didnt have the tools to be able to break the torque on the frame bolt, so that will have to wait until next time to clean that ground point and reattach.

Lastly, I was able to locate a broken neutral switch under the dash. The plastic piece broke off and was not able to correctly actuate. From what I've read, this is a pretty common issue. Since it has to be replaced anyways, the neutral wires were cut and spliced to complete the circuit for an eventual start. Still no change to the above symptoms.

I think thats about it. I ran out of time today and I feel like I got nowhere. Voltmeter fuse comes in tomorrow. Other than checking frame grounds I'm not sure where else to go from here. Any other help is greatly appreciated.

Oh, last thing I'll add. The owner needs it off the property so that he can rent the space and make money. He said if it doesn't sell by next weekend then he is towing it and selling it for scrap. So I've got a small time-crunch. He will let me rent the space back out if I purchase as-is. If I can get it running then its only a short drive where I need it to go. I just haven't committed to anything yet.
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Old 04-22-2021, 06:37 PM   #9
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1) You actually did a lot. The fact that the lights came on, then off and you found a neutral switch issue may mean it's simply the neutral switch.

2) Suggestion, if you want the bus and take a chance that it is something simple, is to determine what the bus would go for at scrap value and the cost of the tow. Offer him the scrap value and have him pay to tow it to an agreed upon location. Same difference to him.

3) If he won't do #2, find out where he's towing it to for scrap and deal with the scrap dealer.

There are other buses out there, so if you don't end up with this one, at least you've learned something for next time.
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Old 04-22-2021, 07:58 PM   #10
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Sounds like something is grounding the start circuit, essentially draining down the batteries.. If so, you should find some very hot wires somewhere.
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Old 04-22-2021, 08:13 PM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by BeNimble View Post
Sounds like something is grounding the start circuit, essentially draining down the batteries.. If so, you should find some very hot wires somewhere.
There's something going on there for sure. An open neutral safety switch won't cause the dash to go dark is start mode
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Old 04-22-2021, 08:36 PM   #12
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OK my best guess is a bad ground, an intermittent ground that is heating up or a battery cable with a bad crimp on a lug etc. I say this because of the randomness of the failures and the clicking of relays. Agree with others put a meter on it! Good luck

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Old 04-23-2021, 08:05 AM   #13
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So let me ask a simple question?

the bus has been sitting a long time?

and so you took those old batteries out of the bus and trickle charged them, then brought them back and are wondering why the bus will not start?

I'm going to bet dollars to donuts the batteries are cashed.

12.8 volts doesn't mean anything if they are sulfated from age. You will get 12v sure, but you will have zero amps, no oomph at all.

you would need to have the batteries load tested, but I would bet they are garbage from sitting so long uncharged.

the clicking of both your continuous duty solenoids is the first clue you have a low battery issue.

advanced auto or autozone will charge, and then load test them. I bet they fail the load test.
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Old 04-23-2021, 08:55 AM   #14
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You're problems all scream low voltage. The relays constantly clicking especially.

So get your voltmeter fixed and trace wires to see where you are loosing it/what's shorting it. Batteries might be good, but cables might not be. You checked/cleaned connections, which is a good start, but there might be other connections on the starter and chassis that need cleaned as well.

The best tool for this job is your voltmeter, it will tell you all that you need to know. Learn to use it.
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Old 04-23-2021, 12:44 PM   #15
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So let me ask a simple question?
Thanks, but this was addressed previously. The bus batteries were removed prior to me inquiring about the bus. Used "presumed" good batteries from another member and then I bought two batteries and had them tested before installing.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Booyah45828 View Post
You're problems all scream low voltage. The relays constantly clicking especially.

So get your voltmeter fixed and trace wires to see where you are loosing it/what's shorting it. Batteries might be good, but cables might not be. You checked/cleaned connections, which is a good start, but there might be other connections on the starter and chassis that need cleaned as well.
Thanks. The fuses for the meter arrives tonight. I hope to make a trip back to the bus next week and see what I can come up with.
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Old 04-26-2021, 06:16 PM   #16
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UPdate:

Went over to the bus today. Fully charged batteries and a working voltmeter.

I started with checking the grounds. Negative battery terminal -> engine block -> rear frame ground. I noticed that the rear frame ground bolt had been removed at some point to install a rear hitch and although it reinstalled and tight, it was very corroded.

After cleaning up both the engine block and rear frame ground I hooked up the batteries and the initial symptoms were gone. The buzzers were operating along with gauge lights and interior lights. I gave it an attempted start and everything shut off.

Took a look at the front electronics bay and traced its grounding wire on the frame section underneath the drivers seat. It was pretty nasty but after a good cleanup with a wirebrush almost everything was good. When the key is turned to start everything stays lit, but there just isnt enough juice to spin the starter.

From there I used a meter starting from the battery, to the rear power distribution panel, up to the front electronics bay. Initially, it looked like the battery positive cable was the problem. However, after further isolating it appears that the issue is with the main power wire running from the read PDP to the fron electronics bay. I am only showing 9.6 volts direct to the 100 amp chassis relay. At the read PDP I'm showing 12.7+ and consistent to with the battery voltage. I did trace best I could for anything major and could not find anything obvious.

Three questions:

Are there any other frame grounds that I missed?

Any tips/recommendations to isolate the problem with the power wire from front to back?

There is a black and red wire in the battery compartment. It traces back to the rear PDP to a covered plug. Not exactly sure its purpose, but best guess is to attach a trickle charger/battery tender? Any one know for sure? (green arrow)

I feel like I'm getting close. Any assistance would be appreciated.
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Old 04-27-2021, 09:18 AM   #17
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You're getting very close. Kudos, as most would've thrown in the towel.

I don't have access to thomas wiring diagrams, so I can't help you on that.

Sounds like that wire is corroded or junk. Remove it from the relay and see what you're reading is then.

The thing with the green arrow looks to be the cover for your diagnostic port, twist the cap off and see if theres 6 or 9 pins behind it.
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Old 04-27-2021, 11:13 AM   #18
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_Very_ nice work, man.
Another idea.... If you're having a really hard time finding another potentially problematic ground point, it might be possible to add one where you need the juice.
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Old 04-27-2021, 03:56 PM   #19
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Really good work! I agree, I believe the green arrow is pointing to your data port.

Per further tracing, here's the tool I use.

https://www.lowes.com/pd/Fluke-Netwo...E&gclsrc=aw.ds

You connect the red test lead to the wire you want to trace and the black one to a good ground. This sends an electrical signal down that wire. Then, you use the long thin tracer to follow the electrical signal. You'll either find a open (wire broken) a short (weaker signal after the short) or where the wire terminates.

It's invaluable when a wire disappears into a bundle, especially when the bundle is covered.

Keep going. You're not only going to resolve this, but you're going to know your bus really well and understand how things work.
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Old 04-27-2021, 07:21 PM   #20
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Really good work! I agree, I believe the green arrow is pointing to your data port.

Per further tracing, here's the tool I use.

https://www.lowes.com/pd/Fluke-Netwo...E&gclsrc=aw.ds
Much appreciated. I'll have to pick one up and thanks for the encouragement.

Made some big progress today on the bus. I had only about two hours, but got a semi-successful start.

Arrived at the bus to pickup where I left off yesterday. Low voltage up at the front 100 amp chassis relay. I started by completely bypassing that line by running a 2 AWG line from the rear PDP direct (outside the bus) to the front 100 amp chassis relay. Annoyingly, the symptoms were identical. Still had voltage drop up front when connected. So I went back to the batteries and retraced everything with a meter. I ended up missing one of the ground points that split off from the engine block. Traced to the starter and it was of course caked up with dirt/grime. Also gave the ground to the alternator another check/clean for good measure.

With everything hooked back up correctly I gave the ignition a turn and got a nice strong crank of the motor. A very satisfying noise. However, I did notice that with the exception of the warning lights directly above the steering wheel, non of the buzzers, gauges or lighting works on the dash. The cabin dome lighting does work so I'll have to investigate the Chassis Terminal Strip highlighted below. Since everything was working yesterday, I must have done something to disrupt that today by trying to bypass outside the bus. Moving back to the rear PDP, the rear start button does not work either.

I confirmed I had ignition at the switch, and decided to give it a few more cranks. Although it took a bit to get it going, the motor did crank up and run at idle for a short period. After the ignition key returns from the start position to the run/on position, the motor dies immediately. I did let it crank for a bit longer than it sounded like it needed, but every time it shut down immediately. Seemingly killing ignition. Which does make sense since the rear ignition/start button does not currently work. I checked the rear PDP fuses with a meter and all of them seem in good order.

Thats all I got done today before I ran out of time. But based on these results I will likely go ahead and make the purchase tomorrow. The owner of the facility either wants it gone or the space rented. Worst case, I'll rent the space for one month to give me time to get it running and moved a few miles down the road to a fellow forum members acerage/workshop to begin the conversion.

Any other help to narrow down the issues would be great. I'll update this thread with any final conclusions that lead to getting her going. After that, I'll start a conversion thread to document the process.
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