I just bought an RV (1974 Dodge Sportsman) for a very small price. The vehicule was running good for 20 30 miles, then I made a stop and he refused to start again. The autoradio made a simple bip and then nothing - silence.

I'm a very beginner in mechanics. What are the troubleshooting procedure on this kind of vehicule. I thought changing the battery...


I changed the battery and the starter. I can the hear the starter crank but the engine won't start. Tips to start an old engine : start from neutral, push brakes, pump gas.

I meet the seller in Watsonville, CA. He looks to make it run from the first try but I can’t see what he did to turn it on. I purchase the vehicle for $800. As he left, I can turn off and turn on the vehicle easily. I refill the gas and no issues to turn it on.

I drive a bit on Highway1 and I stop at Capitola to answer a call and .. can’t turn it on anymore. I turn the key, I can hear the radio bip but the engine doesn’t start. I do it twice an then as I turn the key nothing happen anymore. I guess it’s the battery, so the next day a very nice guy from Capitola helps me to jumpstart it. I turn the key and I can hear the radio sounds but the engine won’t start. The man takes my seat and manage to turn it on. I learn a first trick: to turn it on I need to push the brakes and pump a bit the gas. I drive up to San Francisco, I park it. 5 min later I try to turn it on, and it won’t. Same as in Capitola, I can hear the radio sounds once, twice and then nothing happen.

A friend come to help me. We check the battery at the autopart Oreilly. They charge it and says it’s good. We remove the starter and check it at Oreilly again. They says it’s good. The seller told us that the engine might not work because the starter won’t work when the motor is warm. We purchase a new starter and a multimeter for $55. The next day we clean the battery wires, put the new starter. Turn the key and nothing happen. I switch from Departure to Neutral. Turn the key and we can hear the starter working.

Second try, Boom! the engine starts! We start to pack our stuff, and 10 min later, it won’t turn on again. We remove the alternator and go check it at Oreilly autopart. They says it works. We go check our battery again and they say it’s good but by doing a deeper test they can see that it might not be powerful enough to run the starter well. We put the alternator back. We change to a new battery for $150 (we kept the old battery). Turn the key and we can hear the starter but the engine won’t start. We try to put some "fuel spray" from the input of the motor but even with that nothing happens.

Should we check other stuff ?

Thanks in advance for your help!

  • 1
    Can you give more details about "refused to start"? Does it make clicking sounds? Turn over? Do nothing at all, not even a sound? What about the electrics; do the headlights work, etc.?
    – Jason C
    Commented Aug 16, 2016 at 5:15
  • - No clicking sounds - The radio played a sound twice and the light turn twice. Now nothing happen. The headlights doesnt work and the battery looks pretty old... Commented Aug 16, 2016 at 7:19
  • Pic of the battery : link Commented Aug 16, 2016 at 7:21
  • Make sure your battery cables are tight on the posts, and then I would start by trying to jumpstart the battery if you don't have any electrical components turning on with the key.
    – Dalton D
    Commented Aug 16, 2016 at 13:33
  • Just because the battery looks good does not mean it is. You might save yourself some time and just take it to be tested. It might just be drained.
    – CharlieRB
    Commented Aug 16, 2016 at 20:48

1 Answer 1


Do you have a "house" battery, that is a second battery that powers the RV parts of the vehicle, other than the engine battery? If so, this sounds like your Isolator is bad. The isolator allows the alternator to charge the "house" battery, while preventing your "house" components from draining your starting battery. When the isolator is bad, many odd electrical symptoms come up which many mechanics will see as alternator or battery problems.

If you do have a house battery, try pulling all your "RV" fuses (not the van fuses), and see if that eliminates the problem.

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