Question about Dodge B Series Cargo

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I recently has a fire in our 1976 360 2 barrel dodge establishment rv the wire harness melted. I replaced each individual wires, started it up, chek all the lights and gauges, lookedd good. We took it for a ride, everything was fine. The next time we went, I noticed the alternator gauge was charging all the way ove when I accelerated and back to just behind the middle mark when i idled, We got to our 45 mile destination, camped for 4 days, and when I went to start it, dead. battery dead. It took quite a bit but finally started with a jump. Made it home with gauges doing the same. Parked, turned it off then back on, started. It's now been a week and it is dead. Could Im have crossed a wire? Alterator is new/. Do you have a clean diagramm of where the wires go from alterator etc?

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The gauge seems to be indicating no problem.
At idle, the alternator should not really be putting out much of anything, so you only get the battery output.
The alternator should only really put out when you rev it up.
So I see no indication of an alternator wiring problem.

First you need a test light or a volt meter. You can get a volt meter at a place like Harbor Freight for $3.

The first thing you do is check for a short.
You do that by first turning everything off, and then disconnecting one of the battery terminal.
Then put a test light to bridge the gap you just created.
If it lights bright, then there something on all the time, which is draining the battery over night. The alternator can be at fault depending on if a particular diode is bad. Disconnect things one at a time until it goes away and you have identified the short.

If not, then put the battery terminal back on and check the voltage. It should be 12.5 about. Then when you start it, it should drop to around 10 as you crank. Then return to 12.5 once started or giving up.
If it drops below 12.5 when ignition on and not cranking, then you have a short only when ignition is on.

Then you rev the engine, and if it goes above 14 volts, the alternator is fine.

If you find nothing wrong, then I would suspect the battery.
It simply may not hold a charge well any more.
Heat can cause plates to warp and short internally.

Posted on Aug 27, 2010

  • 2 more comments 
  • Kirk Augustin
    Kirk Augustin Aug 27, 2010

    But in case you also want to know how the alternator is wired, there is not much to it.
    There is the large red wire to the battery, which is held down with a nut.
    There is a smaller brown ground wire.
    And then 1 or 2 small field wires that can be different colors depending on year, and can plug in or screw down.

  • janis bettencourt Aug 27, 2010

    what do you mean, "bridge the gap"? The rv gauge never went all the way to the right. normally just a few line past the center. Where do the wire go from alterrnator? Thank you for yor fast reply

  • Kirk Augustin
    Kirk Augustin Aug 27, 2010

    Here is a link to a wiring diagram:
    I forgot that back in 1976 the regulator also was not part of the alternator, and the regulator could still be bad, even if the alternator is new and good.
    Testing the regulator is difficult, but since it is not expensive, I always just replace it with the alternator or try it first.

    As to what I meant by "bridge the gap", all I meant was that when you remove one of the battery cables from the battery post, you then put one end of the test light on the cable end and the other end of the test light on the battery post. With the test light in series with the battery, if there is a constant drain on the battery, the test light has to light up.

  • Kirk Augustin
    Kirk Augustin Aug 27, 2010

    Also this diagram says I had the wire colors wrong.
    The main thick battery cable to the alternator is black.
    This says the thinner ground wire is also black, but you can tell because it will attach to the alternator shell casing.
    The field connection from the regulator to the alternator is dark green.
    The dash warning light connector from the regulator to the alternator is tan and violet.

    But I see in the diagram that besides the regulator, there is also another relay.
    They label it the "Field and Load" relay.
    This is internal on newer alternators, and was usually put inside the regulator on older cars I am familiar with.
    But I believe if this relay were to stick, it would drain the battery over night.
    It is not hard to check.
    When the car is off, the tan and violet wire to the alternator should not show voltage with a test light.
    If it does, then this relay is stuck on, powering the alternator even at night.
    (Alternators need power in because they do not have permanent magnets. Since they use coils as electro magnets, they can not produce any power without some power being fed in first.)



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