1989 Winnebago Chieftain...

Discussion in 'Beginning RVing' started by filmy, Mar 5, 2009.

  1. filmy

    filmy New Member

    I'm completely new to the RV world. I just purchased a 1989 Winnebago Chieftain 27 foot. Chevy 454 with 47K miles.

    Everything SEEMS to work well... The guy I bought it from was the 2nd owner (I have all records from him and 1st owner) and rarely used it. In fact, he had a hard time explaining how to use everything.

    I have the manual and I am mechanically inclined and am definitely learning my way around the vehicle...

    My question... I drove it home which was about 400 miles away from where I purchased it. Ran great -- drove about 60 miles an hour and maintained an approximate 13 miles a gallon from what I could tell.

    I got home and shut it down. Next day, battery is dead. Bought a new battery today because I took the old one out and the acid was very low and it only had 575 cold cranking amps so I bought an 800 CCA battery today.

    Of course before I replace the battery, I'm trying to figure out what I did wrong... Something tells me when I shut the RV down when I got home, I was still drawing power from the battery.

    I called the guy I bought it from and he tells me that after you shut the engine down, I want to make sure I hit the switches for the engine battery. They are simple rocker switches and though I can hear a click when I hit them, the battery was dead the next morning.

    Plus, when I hit the switch for the aux batteries in order to start the vehicle, there wasn't enough power from them to start the engine either... So I assume I need to charge those two batteries up as well.

    The manual is a little vague about this so I was just wondering if anyone could give me a little more info as to how to PROPERLY shut down the RV so there is no power draw after you park -- assuming you're not using it.

    My other question is parts...

    This vehicle needs the left rear window (all the way in the back) replaced and I'm having a hard time finding a replacement... I also need the right exterior rear view mirror glass.

    I did contact a Winnebago Parts dealer in Iowa who promptly explained to me that Winnebago no longer carries replacement parts for this vehicle so it's up to me to find them on my own.

    I appreciate the help...

  2. Pancanbob

    Pancanbob Senior Member

    RE: 1989 Winnebago Chieftain...

    Hi, Jack
    I better not say that at the airport! :laugh: :laugh: :laugh:
    Anyway, Welcome to the Forum, hope you find what you’re looking for. :) :)

    Here is a list of RV Salvage yards
    I know nothing about any of them :eek: , and I’m not recommending them :eek: :eek: , found some of these at another web site :approve: :approve: :approve:
    Hope it will help you in your search
    Good luck
    Arizona RV Salvage, Phoenix, Az.
    1-602-272-0301 http://www.azrvinc.com
    appliances, plumbing, A/C lites, windows, doors, holding tanks, hubs, rotors, axles,
    running gears, rear ends, will ship nationwide.
    Economy used RV parts #8 1678 W. Superstition, Apache Junction, AZ 85220
    1-800-224-2601 or 1-520-982-2678
    New, used, salvage, surplus and obsolete parts with discount prices. Buy/sell/trade
    Gamblers RV Supply 55 Kuehn St #14 Rice Ranch South, Quartzsite, AZ 85346
    1-928-927-5966 Chuck Dodson Mgr. 1-760-221-4029
    New, Used, We have what others don’t. Open Oct. 1st thru April 15th for walk in business.
    JJ’S RV Parts 722 N. Central, Quartzsite, AZ. 85346
    New & Used RV Parts We Have Dinosaur Boards
    R&R Sales And Service 107 W. Main Walnut Ridge, AR 72746
    1-866-625-5442 http://users.bscn.com/fkious/index.html
    Repairs RV refrigerator cooling units/ RV appliance parts/ Obsolete parts for old units.
    All Auto Truck Recycle, Rancho Cordova, CA
    “MH & vehicle parts”
    All Rite Exteriors - 1500 Shelton, Hollister, CA 95023
    Collision-repair parts for all types RV exteriors.
    Bill's RV - Salvage Yard Hollister, CA 95023
    RV salvage

    :clown: :dead: :question: :disapprove: :evil: :blackeye: :approve: :8ball: :cool:
  3. Pancanbob

    Pancanbob Senior Member

    RE: 1989 Winnebago Chieftain...

    OK, Jack
    As for your batteries
    I don’t know too much about your system, in fact I don’t much about anything.

    What I’m telling you is what I’ve learned from reading books about RVing, and some practical experience form owning a class “B” motor home for a very short time. This is just general information that may or may not apply to you RV. So, use your own good judgment.

    It sounds like you have one battery for the RV’s motor, and then 2 Batteries for the House/Coach system. They are either two 6 Volt or two 12 Volts but they are setup to supply you with 12 Volts

    The two systems should be isolated from each other, except when you close aux batteries switch then they should all be tied together to start the RV’s motor. Normally you should not have to do this to start the motor.

    The motor’s battery should only run the driving equipment, head & running lights, windshield wipers, and so, all the things that a car battery would normally on a car, and start the motor.

    The House/Coach battery or batteries run the RV’s house/Coach systems, overhead lights, furnace, water pump, even if the refrigerator is running on propane, it use a 12 Volts to run the control boards, and any of the RV systems, anyone of theses could drain your batteries. Thro it wouldn’t happen over night if the batteries were in good condition.

    I shouldn’t have to say this but… remove any jewelry, rings, watches and so, before doing any work. You don’t want your jewelry shorting some wires; it would ruin your day.

    One thing I would strongly advise doing is installing some “quick battery disconnects”
    Just incase, while you are poking around, if something gets grounded you can kill the power!
    You can also kill the power so the don’t keep going dead on you during the night.

    When you are driving the RV, the motor’s alternator should charge both systems. You said that you drove it 400 miles. That should have charged all the batteries, if the alternator working properly and batteries are in good shape. Check alternator out put.

    I would start at the batteries, make sure they are fully charged, in good condition, the top of the batteries are clean, and the connections are good, including the ground. Now the hard part, and I’m not sure how you would go about it… make sure the two systems are separated from each other, then check each system to see what is drawing the power from your batteries and killing them.

    You said that you going to replace the house Batteries make sure they are DEEP Cycle, or marine type batteries. Do a search of the Forum, there was a discussion about batteries not too long ago, and there was some very good information put out by several of the members.

    I sure others can give you more and better advice. I hope this can get you started in the right direction. Good luck
  4. Kirk

    Kirk Senior Member

    Re: 1989 Winnebago Chieftain...

    "Ran great -- drove about 60 miles an hour and maintained an approximate 13 miles a gallon from what I could tell. "

    If you really got that kind of mileage, you have probably set a record for that particular engine! Average for those times is about 7 mpg.

    As to the batteries, based upon a career in electrical work and 30+ years of RVing, it sounds like you have something wrong. It could be that your batteries are all bad, but that don't sound probable. Did you check to see what the level of the electrolyte in the batteries is? I am assuming that by saying "the acid was very low" that you must mean the electrolyte and that must be at proper level for the battery to accept a charge. The seller must have charged the battery just before you got there or it would not have started the engine since the level inside of the battery has to be at proper level or it can not accept a charge.

    Based upon the failure to start when you hit the "Emergency start" switch to connect the coach batteries, most likely the electrolyte is low in those as well. You should fill the battery cells to proper level with distilled water first, then try charging them. Only then will you know the condition of the batteries. A fully charged battery should maintain about 13.6V for several days and slowly drop after that, but it should take at least several weeks for it to drop to 11V or less and that should start the engine.

    No amount of driving will ever charge a battery that does not have the proper level of electrolyte. While it is true that 400 miles should do so for a properly maintained battery, clearly the one in your RV is has not been properly maintained. Quite likely, driving 400 miles with very low electrolyte would have done some damage to it.

    RV electrical systems are not connected together and the fact that you have the emergency start switch confirms that. There would have to be either major electrical problems or some major changes to the wiring system for the two to be connected together.

    One thing not mentioned here is the tires. No matter how good they look, you need to check the DOT code on the sidewalls to see when they were made. It is not safe to travel in an RV with tires that are more than seven years old, no matter what they may look like.
  5. filmy

    filmy New Member

    RE: 1989 Winnebago Chieftain...

    Thanks for the replies!

    Okay here's what I found out yesterday...

    As I said before, the electrolyte (thanks Kirk!) in the engine battery was low. I did fill it with distilled water and recharged it and it works fine but in my opinion, it's just too small for that engine which is why I went out and purchased another.

    As for the two RV batteries... Pulled them out and both seemed fairly new. Electrolyte in both was full and my battery charger said both were good but I'm still charging both up just to be safe.

    Installed the new engine battery and started up the engine with no problems.

    I also went through the interior checking all lights and appliances to see if anything was on. Couldn't find anything that could drain the battery so who knows? Maybe it was just the engine battery electrolyte being so low... IT WAS REALLY LOW. It took a lot of water to bring the level back up to normal... Something over 16 ounces I believe... I used a small 8 ounce plastic glass to refill and I went through 3 of these although I did not fill them to the top.

    So hopefully, there wasn't a drain after all and it was just the battery...

    As Kirk intimated, when I got to the guy's house to check the RV out, he already had it running. I suspect now that he did indeed jump it and left it running to hopefully charge the battery.

    It did fine all the way home... I stopped twice to eat staying almost an hour each time and the engine started right up.

    But after I got home -- the next morning...


    Thanks again for the help!

  6. H2H1

    H2H1 Senior Member

    Re: 1989 Winnebago Chieftain...

    Hi Jack, well I had / have the same problem. I have replace 2 engine batteries, only to find I have a short somewhere within the MH. I installed a small 1.5 amp charger and ran wires to the battery and installed connector on the end and then connected them to the battery. So now when I am plugged into shore power it will automatic charge the battery.. My battery no longer goes dead. :laugh: :laugh: :laugh: Also if I may add, keep an eye on the water level on the house batteries, they will go down fast if you don't.

    ARCHER Senior Member

    Re: 1989 Winnebago Chieftain...

    Filmy, I had a 89 Chieftain and had a battery issue with the engine battery also. Replaced it twice. Found the light on the door panel *(by drivers door) was on and it would run the battery down. Could not see the light in daylight hours so missed it but after I finally foudn it on, turn ed it off and battery stayed ok. h ouse batteries were sealed and kept charged by engine (while driving I would pjut dash switch on dual for batteries. While sitting still would make sure aux batteries were on (green light on dash on) and also made sure converter/charger was working while plugged into shore power. If I let it sit for long time I would just disconnect engine battery. I had the ole gal for five years and miss her some today. I bought her used with only 18k miles but changed all tires to start with. Had a few other issues that I had to work on but she was pretty dependable for us to Florida 4 times and Texas 1 time. Any othe rquestions ask away. I'
    lll try to help.
  8. filmy

    filmy New Member

    Re: 1989 Winnebago Chieftain...

    Wow... Thanks again for the replies everyone. Much appreciated.

    The wife and baby and I are now up here in Northern California taking our first test drive with the Chieftain. We're hooked up at Beale AFB (I'm retired Navy) and everything seems to be working perfectly. The old beast made it up here without a hitch. *NOTE to Kirk: The drive up here from Las Cruces, New Mexico averaged 11 miles a gallon. Of course, that entailed a LOT of 50 to 55 mph driving which I actually enjoyed.

    Anyway... Another question for anyone having any knowledge of the Chieftain... As I said, it's a 1989. My question has to do with the power converter box. The manual says that for the Chieftain, it's located on the driver's side floor next to the floor riser. I have searched EVERYWHERE for this with absolutely NO LUCK. I want to make sure I don't run down the aux batteries again... Although, I have been hooked up for just under 24 hours and the shoreline is hooked up and both main and aux batteries seem to be holding their charge. I just want to make sure the converter is in fact CHARGING the aux batteries.

    I'd be grateful for any info anyone might have...

    Thanks again!


    ARCHER Senior Member

    Re: 1989 Winnebago Chieftain...

    Glad all is working ok. If you look directly under the passenger seat you should see a vent. While you are plugged into shorepower (110), you should feel heat coming from the vent. Inside the vent is the power converter and if memory serves me right, on the face of the step up to the front area below the vent is the access are to the power converter. Make sure your aux power button on the dash is in the on (green light lite) position. Also, the battery switch button to the left of the steering wheel on the dash should be in the single position while om shore power, on dual "after engine has started"/ that is for charging the aux batteries while driving. Always start in single position for battery (main engine battery). I used sealed batteries for aux so I did not have to worry about fluid levels (but made sure they were fully charged at all times)....used volt meter to check them. I had my 89 Chieftain for 5 years and loved her. Quality built and rich looking inside with real wood and loads of storage. Ours did not have breakfast nook, but original owner opted for closet in lieu and the two rocker sets with pull out table between. We loved that layout. They also had bigger / quality size mattress which helped a lot. We put in larger microwave oven with turn table but had to remove door to get it inside micro area and had to move power plug in up inside that compartment. I built a partial table with two legs to stand between the two front seats so that we could put in larger TV. That little compartment they built will on hold a really small TV and with old folks eyesight, we needed bigger screen, ha ha Anyway, ask away.
  10. Jandreau13

    Jandreau13 New Member

    RE: 1989 Winnebago Chieftain...

    My dad "aquired" one of these models about 4 years ago, same problems as most of you except for having to replace the interior flooring and a few windows (reason why i say we aquired...cuz we hauled it away lol it had been sitting and kids broke out windows etc.) so far we have done:

    Before you read on, i am no mechanic, im just a hard working 19 year old who has got to learn a few things from the old man (he was basically a master tech back in the 60-70's) and all our equipment from trucks and vans to chain saws, high lights, back hoes that none of the guys twice my age could fix.
    1. Replaced broken windows and new carpet
    2. all new tires
    3. Lots of brake line and cylinder work (old man *hes 70 btw* still thinks break pedal is soft or has too much travel..i told him your trying to stop 15k lbs? or more...you'd be soft too lol)
    4. located and re connected converter box...took me awhile to find it on my own.
    5. Alternator cuz of battery issues.
    6. Engine Battery and just added a throw disconnect...screw the tracing process...i looked for atleast 2 hours.
    7. Water pump (biggest p.i.t.a ive ever had)
    8. Reworked radiator and heater core
    9. finally got the genset running then i had a malfunction trying to turn it off from front and i aint gotten 2 it.
    10. A/c Compressor
    11. 2 new roof a/c's

    My local chevy dealer was about useless for help, napa had a few items which helped. Chevy only did the engine and drivetrain on the whole rig....wow that helped... And as far as winniebago unless your gonna swap out a fridge, couch etc. etc. its hard to find parts.

    So it has left me with a delema now, my dad had about 3 different backyard mechanics working on it during the water pump, a/c compressor problems because i didnt want too (im a big boy *Played O-line for 3 years in H.S* so i wasnt fitting inside the engine bay to change water pump and the a/c i dont like to mess with things ive never done before without guidance cuz its a good way to mess some things up) and i was needed in our family business alot at the time. Now, When they went to recharge the a/c, what i believe to be high side hose blew apart at the fitting on compressor.

    I havent been able to find anyone that has it or even can get it on/off-line and im looking into trying to get it repaired but as i said its at the fitting. So anyone whos been down this road help me out...
  11. rdhover

    rdhover Junior Member

    Question to ALL owners or RV'ers that are smarter than me (which is everyone)... I have a 1989 Chieftain 31RT that I just bought. I cannot figure out how to get any of the electrical outlets to work. I am fairly confident that they work, I just don't think I am doing something correctly. Please help.
  12. LEN

    LEN Senior Member

    First plug the unit into 120volts, when plugging in(if there is a transfer switch you will hear a clunk). If no switch there will be a plugin in the power bay for the gen and this same cord is the 120 power cord or there maybe be a set of 120 volt breakers that control the power from Gen or house power. Now start looking for power that is on, any plugins work or none at all? The lights should be 12 volt, are the house batteries charging, this will tell if you have 120 to the coach. And again check the breakers, throw them off then on even if they look OK. Get back to us with more info or more questions and what you have been able to check.

  13. C Nash

    C Nash Senior Member

    Might also want to check the GFI outlet. Probably in bathroom. It will have a reset button.

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