1977 Winnebago D23C Chieftain Rewired by Satan Himself

Started by tschotland, November 24, 2021, 11:34 PM

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Re: checking for spark, that was going to be my next step, but I haven't been back to the RV in several days.  I thought I was just feeling worn out or maybe got a cold from working outside on it in the cold for hour after hour, but apparently I am the only person on earth to catch COVID from a Winnebago.  I'm in quarantine. 

I am serious, I can't think of anyone I spent more than 5 minutes around for the past two weeks other than my small usual group of friends and family, none of whom have it.  I was pretty much in the RV or with them.  This increases my suspicion that this RV is the work of the devil.


Yep, you are exactly in the same spot as me and trust me, we really are not the first since the existence of this forum. I've read plenty of horror stories.

But as for you and my experience:
Former owner, a wiring Madman - Check
No matching colors with the wiring diagram - Check
Asking yourself multiple time how it still is possible things are functioning - Check
Freezing your buns of wile in the RV - Check   :D :)clap  :D

I don't know if you read my adventures, but I found that rebuilding the wiring as it should be a big help. Little things as the domelight and such start working the proper way again and let's face it: the RV was once sold completely functioning .

There are plenty of topics here telling recognising the dodge 440 engine should be easy, the distributor sits in the front of the engine because the 440 is a big block. with the small blocks the distributor sits in the back (see the picture of my 360 engine in my former post.) Every discusion in the topics about this eventually ended up finding above information 100% accurate  ;), so there you go.

What i can also advise you to look at, does the distributor have a electronic ignition or does it still run on points? also does your ignition coil gets boiling hot after a few minutes when you turn on the ignition and not run the engine, because if it's connected to 13 volts constantly it would altough not wishable.  The former idiot of my RV rewired the whole shebang too, (with cable clips and plastic insulate brass connectors) but I do still have the ignition module). But maybe here lies the answer why the RV of your friend hasn't got one.

Also look for corroded wires and if you have cut the corroded bit away or replace. I did and now my headlights function without wiggling the wires first and the engine cranks every time when i want it to while before it was on and off.

and further, This forum is a treasure of knowledge, but so much that searching for the right piece of advise takes a huge amount of time, but can help you a lot.


Another suggetion if you haven't all ready thought of it. Go to the Dollar Store and pick up some white cloth tape. The type of tape you use to make home made band-aids. When your tracing a wire, take a little piece of tape and wrap it around the wire your trying to trace and mark on it with a sharpie what it goes to. Worked for me but might not work for you. Hm?


Another dumb question. Have you pulled the spark plug to check and see if you have spark to the engine. Two things you need to get the old girl fired. 1) is spark. 2) is gas. Pull a plug and ground it to the block and turn the engine over to see if you have spark when you turn it over. Should be a nice blue colour or might be a soft yellow. If you have spark so far so good. If it still wont start DON'T turn it over just use your hand and pump the carb,look down the carb and pump it to see if you have fuel going it to the carb. Hm?


Thanks, that's an excellent suggestion on how to mark up the wiring diagram.  Although because the previous owner decided black was the right color for the main +12V line and red should be ground, I have to pretty much ignore the colors mentioned on the diagram!  So many things are changed I am doing a lot of checking which parts of the map match which parts of the territory, and which do not.

Fusible link appears to be intact, or at least the main one related to starting.  I think there is another related to the emergency flashers or something that I haven't looked at/for yet.  And because Satan rewired this thing, there may be other fusible links inserted creatively just for fun.

I am laboriously checking everything one bit at a time.  So far I know I have a working starter and starter relay.  It's not starting yet, but it cranks nicely so I am getting closer.

Thanks for your help!


Thank you so much for your answer, which makes me feel not quite so alone in the world. 

I have been away from the problem for a few days due to the holiday, as well as to the cold I caught freezing my buns off hour after hour in the RV!

I've established that the RV has no electronic ignition module, the starter and starter relay are both good, and the engine cranks nicely.  Fusible link is therefore intact I believe, but that doesn't preclude there being other ones that were wired in elsewhere by the madman who worked on this thing.  It still won't start but I am definitely getting closer!

I have that manual you mentioned (bought it here) and I did print out the wiring diagram, but as noted the RV differs from the diagram in many ways due to the work of the previous owner.  It is the 440 engine on the Dodge 400 chassis (I think - not in front of my notes at this moment).  Not the California edition, so I have that little bit to be thankful for.

Just using my meter and/or indicator light to trace every damn connection for each part as I get to it and verifying that power and ground are there.  Step by step.



I suspect this is a silly question but did you check the fuseable link? i?? Once again another silly suggestion. Take the wiring diagram to Busness Depot and have them blow it up as large as they can. Then go to the back and pick up a package of coloured sharpies. On the wiring diagram it will tell you the colour of wirers. Take the red sharpie and mark/follow the red wire while colouring it red. Do that with the green etc,etc,etc. You will be amazed at how easy it is to trouble shoot your wiring situation doing this.
The first thing you do is start at the battery. Make sure the black cable is the ground and a good ground. Then do the red and follow it back to the starter solonoind. Make sure you have power to the starter solonoind. Follow the red wire to the starter and make sure you have power to the starter. If the fuseable link is good try and start her. If not jump the starter to see if she'll turn over. If she does. your on your way to checking things out up to the ignition switch? Make sure she's in park or nutral when you try to start her.? Hm?


Yep, Know your pain all to well too, I was (or maybe still am) on exactly the same road like you.


My former  $@!#@!  did exactly the same to the chassis wiring of my Lovely RV Betsy. But also completely ruined the coach wiring, So just a little warning in advance.

You give one big  !-! your friend switched polarity which means he probably burned a lot of things to smithereens and hence the reason the RV isn't starting anymore. Good luck with that because it probably means you will have to check every relay and electrical part exept wiring if it still is functioning (the correct way).

You Didn't say what Chassis the D23 is build on or which engine it's got but as it is normally Dodge 360 or 440 your Ignition module is probably one of those:


Rock auto really is your friend here when you look for certain parts as every part has pictures.

Also a youtube video series that helped me a lot:
Maybe the editon 1978 Dodge RV Restore #2 - Valve Covers & Ignition  and 1978 Dodge RV Restore #3 - Electrical and Drivetrain helps.

A MAJOR help for me. I strongly advice to buy it when you haven't got it:

As for all the loose wiring, Find out if the RV is a California edition. It's easy because your carburetor will look like something monsterous with all the extra's added.

If so, there will also be a tremendous amount of extra sensors for emission control. With me it was exactly the same, loose wiring hanging everywhere making me wonder exactly like you: How the hell this RV is still running? In the picture I've wired and connected everything back the original way, but all wires were as seen in the picture above.

What helped me out Big TIme was the Wiring Diagram, eventough the colorcoding didn't seem to match here and there so then doublechecking with my multimeter makes me now understand most of the wiring that is there.

So good luck. Your friend should praise himself lucky to have you.


I know your pain- had a Fiat 124 that had been completely rewired using white lamp cords and marr connectors- you have to go one system at a time and a wire tracer may be handy


Oh that was the first place I looked!

Why anyone did any of the things I am seeing is really hard to imagine...

Thanks for your help.  Happy Thanksgiving!


The ignition module, if it's there, is mounted to a plate bolted to the back of the engine. But with only one wire running to the coil, it seems to me that the PO switched the ignition system back to a breaker point type ignition. Why, that would be anyone's guess...
Rick and Tracy Ellerbeck


Hi, I am trying to get a friend's 1977 Winnebago Chieftain D23C running again.  It appears to have been rewired by Satan himself, starting with the fact that some genius replaced the battery wiring with a red wire for ground and black for +12V.  This led my friend to inadvertantly install a new battery backwards.  Now nothing works at all - no relay click, no starter cranking, no nothing.  I am trying to systematically debug things.  So for instance, I would like to jump the starter relay and see if the engine cranks.  My handy manual says I need to disconnect the ignition control module first.  The trouble is, as far as I can tell, this vehicles doesn't have one.  Or if it does have one, it is so cleverly hidden as to elude all my attempts to find it.  According to the wiring diagram there should be a pair of wires running from the distributor to the ignition module.  These wires do not exist.  Instead there is a single wire running directly to the coil.  So I am pretty sure this beast has no ignition module.

There are plenty of wires and tubes and cables and chains that are just dangling in the breeze, so many that I am astonished the thing ran at all.  But run it did, until the new battery went in. Oh, when I first started working on this, I found a dead short between the +12V battery wire and ground. It turns out that there was a thin wire connecting the two battery leads.  I removed it - I figured it's probably why the battery went dead.  But maybe this peculiar vehicle depends on that wire being there to run!

Has anyone ever seen anything like this before?  It's like somebody's Franken-RV!  I don't work on cars much, and what I did is 25 years in my rearview mirror, but I do know electronics really well.  I am hoping that someone has seen something similar and can suggest some shortcuts to testing every part and tracing every wire.