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Tips, Tricks & Advice : Tech Tips : RV Doctor
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Motorhome emergency starter switch doesn't work. What to do?
By Gary Bunzer

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Dear RV Doctor,
The emergency start switch is not working on my Fleetwood motorhome. Can you provide trouble shooting steps? --Ron Berube

Dear Ron,
In many cases, the emergency start switch on a motorhome is nothing more than a momentary dash switch wired to a simple solenoid. On that solenoid you'll find two large lugs. Each battery system on the motorhome is connected directly to these with large battery cable. The auxiliary battery positive cable connects to one side; the engine battery positive connects to the other.

The solenoid will also have one or two smaller terminals. If your's has one small terminal, this terminal is wired to the dash switch and the casing of the solenoid must be grounded to the frame of the motorhome by using one of the two mounting bracket holes. If your's has two small terminals, one is ground, the other goes to the dash switch. With DC, it really doesn't matter which of the two smaller terminals is which.

When activated, the solenoid closes and sends auxiliary battery voltage through the solenoid to the engine battery cable, thereby connecting both battery systems into one big battery and hopefully providing enough voltage to crank the engine.

TO BENCH TEST AN EMERGENCY START SOLENOID you'll need a VOM and a battery source. Connect the VOM leads to the two large lugs with the meter set to the Ohm's scale or the continuity scale. The meter should show infinity. Next, apply positive 12-volts DC to one of the smaller terminals on the solenoid and negative 12-volts (ground) to the other. If the solenoid only has a single small terminal, attach the ground wire of the 12-volt source to the mounting bracket. When voltage is applied you should hear an audible click as the internal magnet closes the contacts.

Also, the reading should indicate "0" on the meter. The 0-ohms reading is important; you may hear a click, but if you do not have continuity through the contacts, the solenoid is still faulty. If no reading is indicated the solenoid has an "open." If you read 0-ohms with no voltage applied, the solenoid is "shorted." A short may also exist between any battery terminal and the casing itself. In either case the solenoid should be replaced. If your coach is equipped with a larger, heavy-duty solenoid, the testing procedures are the same.

Gary Bunzer, The RV Doctor, is a well known RV author and the host of RV Roadtrips, the DIY Network cable television show. He is one of the RV industry's most sought after speakers and the host of the popular DVD titled Do It Yourself RV Care.

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