Ambulance Camper/ Expedition Rig Conversion FAQ

LowTech

Dirt Track Traveler
Air intrusion doesn't necessarily result in hard starts, it more often starts and then dies, and then won't start again.

If you put an e-pump on it needs to be before the mech pump or T'd in after (yes there is one) w/ a check valve preventing fuel from being pushed back through it. Not doing this can result in the diaphragm of the mech pump being compromise and fuel leaking into the crankcase. Another option is to remove the mech pump and plate it over.

Hard starting w/ no firing when cold sounds like glowplugs to me. Does it change if you cycle them a few times?

A great site for these engines is Oilburners.net. The guys are there are the best when it comes to the IDI diesels like we have.
 
THANKS TO ALL
  1. The engine starts more easily after the first start; I'll install new glowplugs. Doing a new fuel pump and filter also - Thanks
  2. Only see the one set of batteries and thousands of wires behind the driver's seat, under the driver's seat, under the console, and to the cabin control panel. I have the 125-page wiring diagram but I can't follow it.
  3. Not sure how to straight-wire the box, but the wiring harnesses are marked and coded. I'll give it the old-college-try, but college learning doesn't fit this problem.
  4. Can't find any other fuse panel, just the junction board from the cabin wire harnesses to the rear.
 

LowTech

Dirt Track Traveler
If you're going to replace the glowplugs there are a few things to know, 1) Only get Motorcraft, others are known to fail, and Autolites are famous for swelling and not wanting to come out.
2) If they don't come out easily go to the Oilburners site and read about the multiple methods used to get them out to prevent breaking them off and having to pull the head. (Not fun w/ a van).
The glowplug controller can also go bad. So that's something to test before changing them out.
I don't, off the top of my head, remember well enough to tell you how to test for that. I'd have to go back to the site and find the info. I do know that you can see the effect that cycling the plugs has if you watch your Alt gauge. If it doesn't pop up after 10 sec or less then they may not be getting power.
I hope all this helps. I've just spent the last few weeks resurrecting my 93 E-350 shuttle turned camper.
 

hogasm

Observer
1. It’s the injector orings
2. Without seeing your 125 page wiring harness diagram it’s hard to answer...mine had a switch for the ground under the drivers seat that disconnected the box’s power
 

LowTech

Dirt Track Traveler
It is true that the O-rings, which seal the return lines from leaking or air intrusion, can be sucking air after shutdown. Especially if they were installed dry (w/o a bit of grease) and have been bumped by working on the enging5, or are really old.
That type of air intrusion usually results in an easy start (because there is still fuel in the ip) and then dieing w/ loads if trouble starting again. It also tends to happen cold or hot. Hard starts when cold, but starting ok when warm are rarely that issue. It's almost always glowplugs on these engines
Replacing the return lines, caps, and O-rings. Is an easy thing to do and good kits are around $50 complete. I just finished doing mine because I had air intrusion from them being old and dry.
 

iggi

Ian
@Bikersmurf Which Bilstein's did you use? Still happy with them?
My shocks appear to be original and it's getting a bit sloppy.

Ian


Good to know. Mine’s very similar to a Mini in size... only a couple inches bigger here and there. Only with duallies hanging out on both sides. It has almost zero body roll in the corners. The 4000lb/side rear springs really stiffened it up. With Moog Progressive front springs and new Bilstein shocks, it’ll handle most twists roads at well above the speed limits. So I’m dubious a sway bar will do that much to control a 6000 lb box at high speeds. Lower speed it’ll do more.
 

Bikersmurf

Expedition Leader
@Bikersmurf Which Bilstein's did you use? Still happy with them?
My shocks appear to be original and it's getting a bit sloppy.

Ian
The Rear's were Bilstein 33-176857 B6 Standard Series. I bought them through ESSEX Distributors. They were the best price I could find at the Time in Canada.

The Front were the Comfort Series Bilstein shocks I bought used from another member on the forum. I'm happy with them, however, to do it over I'd buy the heavy duty for both ends. The fronts could benefit from being a bit tighter at slow speed after stopping.

The Heavy Duty fronts appear to be, Bilstein 33-187570 Front 4600 Heavy Duty (B6) Ford, For heavy duty, motorhome and commercial use.

The Moog 880s progressive springs also made a big difference and were well worth it.
 

Bikersmurf

Expedition Leader
THANKS TO ALL
  1. The engine starts more easily after the first start; I'll install new glowplugs. Doing a new fuel pump and filter also - Thanks
  2. Only see the one set of batteries and thousands of wires behind the driver's seat, under the driver's seat, under the console, and to the cabin control panel. I have the 125-page wiring diagram but I can't follow it.
  3. Not sure how to straight-wire the box, but the wiring harnesses are marked and coded. I'll give it the old-college-try, but college learning doesn't fit this problem.
  4. Can't find any other fuse panel, just the junction board from the cabin wire harnesses to the rear.
For starters, I'd replace the stock GPR with a #16-009 White-Rodgers (Stancor) 586 902 "Monster Glow Plug Relay"? I replaced mine and the cracked and burnt OEM one with one from DieselORings.com. After replacing it my cold starting problems went away... some day I'll get around to replacing my glow plugs and seeing if it'll change anything, but for now I'm good with easy starts any day regardless of the weather.

BTW, You likely have a second starting battery hiding somewhere. Mine is underneath the on the outside of the passenger side frame rail, or one of the three batteries in the battery compartment in some Ambulances.
 
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iggi

Ian
More electrical ambulance troubleshooting:

Been tracking down my source of parasitic power loss.
Even after eliminating the faulty power connect switch I was still seeing a steady 1.15 amps being drawn with all accessories and lights turned off.
Turning the ambulance connect power on and off revealed a relay that was activating.
Disconnecting it dropped the power loss to .03 amps. Not perfect, but tolerable.

UPDATE: Figured it out.. The relay below controls the coolant switch to the rear heater. No power to the relay, no hot water into the rear heater.

---

So what is this relay? (standard 30amp Bosch Relay)
Number 12 on the chart below.

IMG_0813.jpg

It's identified as being for a Shut Off Valve. Since it's not connected to full-time power it's obviously not related to the engine or anything active while in normal driving.
I'm still not 100% what it controls but it in the maintenance manual I just found, it identifies the shut off valves as being part of the climate control.

I'm surprised that it's not wired in tandem with the heater blower but it's not.

IMG_0815.jpg

So for the questions..
  1. Anyone know what this actually is and have a schematic of how it works?
  2. Does this sound normal that some sort of rear heater activation switch would draw over an amp?
  3. If this is normal then I plan to run a dedicated switch to activate the relay only when I need rear heat as opposed to it being on standby anytime the ambulance connect power is on. Any reason this is a bad idea?
Thanks in advance.
 
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iggi

Ian
The batteries can be in weird places.
Took me a month to find my starting batteries. Turned out they are mounted underneath the side entry steps and the step has to be removed to access them.

THANKS TO ALL

  1. Only see the one set of batteries and thousands of wires behind the driver's seat, under the driver's seat, under the console, and to the cabin control panel. I have the 125-page wiring diagram but I can't follow it.
 

jhoyt

New member
Hello. This is my first post on this site. I just bought a 1996 E-450 Wheeled Coach ambulance. I know very little about these things, but I'm looking forward to learning. I plan to go very slowly and to take a lot of pictures while I decide how I'm going to convert it. My first priority is fixing some of the little things and reconfiguring the electrical system to work better as an rv. Then I'll start making it comfortable and 'homey'.

The rig was formerly used as training vehicle. There are cameras installed in the ceiling with cat6 cable going back the electrical panel. Those will be removed. There is no inverter, but there is a battery charger. I'm not sure if I even need one anyway.

Right now, the cut off switch on the drivers seat kills the electric system entirely, even the ignition and the shore power. I'd like to reconfigure so the truck still works but the switch cuts off the box. Also, I understand I need to change the battery isolator to someting that doesn't use power, but I'm not even sure where it is or if I have one.

None of the compartment lights are working, nor is the 'compartment door ajar' light. I'd like to figure out how to fix those, but they seem super complex.

Two of the compartments are locked and they keys provided fit, but won't turn enough to unlock them. There must be a way to get those open so I can fix/change the locks?

I will start a build thread soon, but this is going to be a 'light' conversion, trying to keep it cheap.

Any advice?
 

rlrenz

Explorer
Hello. This is my first post on this site. I just bought a 1996 E-450 Wheeled Coach ambulance. I know very little about these things, but I'm looking forward to learning. I plan to go very slowly and to take a lot of pictures while I decide how I'm going to convert it. My first priority is fixing some of the little things and reconfiguring the electrical system to work better as an rv. Then I'll start making it comfortable and 'homey'.

The rig was formerly used as training vehicle. There are cameras installed in the ceiling with cat6 cable going back the electrical panel. Those will be removed. There is no inverter, but there is a battery charger. I'm not sure if I even need one anyway.

Right now, the cut off switch on the drivers seat kills the electric system entirely, even the ignition and the shore power. I'd like to reconfigure so the truck still works but the switch cuts off the box. Also, I understand I need to change the battery isolator to someting that doesn't use power, but I'm not even sure where it is or if I have one.

None of the compartment lights are working, nor is the 'compartment door ajar' light. I'd like to figure out how to fix those, but they seem super complex.

Two of the compartments are locked and they keys provided fit, but won't turn enough to unlock them. There must be a way to get those open so I can fix/change the locks?

I will start a build thread soon, but this is going to be a 'light' conversion, trying to keep it cheap.

Any advice?
Welcome to a sometimes challenging hobby - I call mine a hobby since it's made up of many smaller projects, and the list keeps evolving---

As has been said before, by myself and others, don't rush into things, other than washing the windows. Take many photos, and think very carefully before you reach for the wire clippers. Some things are obvious -- I removed the remnants of a very fancy Motorola radio package from mine as well as the oxygen and suction gear (not thrown away - just removed).

Since you have a Wheeled Coach, you may be able to get a schematic drawing from Wheeled Coach (always worth a try). It shouldn't take a lot to reconnect the vehicle power so the vehicle can be operated without the module (the ambulance portion) being turned on as well. Pat Ozment has a Wheeled Coach, and he may be able to offer further advice.

Check out Blue Sea (www.bluesea.com) for battery isolators. They use a relay based design instead of a diode, and the end result works a lot better.

Your door locks are almost certainly made by the Fort Lock company. Replacement cylinders can be ordered to match your existing key number from Select Tech (www.fixmyambulance.com). Stuck cylinders are very common - give them a shot of Break Free or other penetrating oil, then try to turn your key, right then left. You have to grind through all the oxidized aluminum and zinc - the the lock should cooperate. You may be able to dismantle the lock when it's open and clean it up with Scotchbrite or a fine file, but some may have to be replaced. If all else fails, you can drill out the jammed cylinder, open the compartment, then buy a new lock assembly.

Your compartment lights and door-open may have a blown fuse, but the simple door-mounted door open switches may be oxidized, and just need cleaning or replacement. Try pulling slightly on the switch plunger and twisting to see if you can break through any oxidation, or unscrewing one of the switches to seeing what they look like.
 

patoz

Expedition Leader
jhoyt,

I'll be glad to help if I can. I have both a 1993 and a 2005 model Wheeled Coach, but only the rear Patient modules (aka 'the box') which are now mounted on heavy duty off-road trailer frames, so I won't be much help with any of OEM truck systems or wiring itself. I started with the 1993 model and then found the 2005, which I liked much better so I started over with it. This is being converted into a camping/evacuation/ disaster type trailer.

I called Wheeled Coach back when I first got the 1993 model and asked about wiring diagrams, and was told they didn't have anything that old on computer, because it was all on micro-fish back then. BTW. you will need your VIN number when you call. When I called about the 2005 model, they were able to email me the original build order for the electrical section. It's not complete, but it does have a lot of useful information. It also contains a lot of scribbling, notes, and work order changes, which adds to the confusion. These units are custom built for each customer, so they are all somewhat different.

One thing that does help is, all of the wiring is labeled and numbered. However, if you don't know what the numbering codes mean, they are not much. The description label helps in that if the wire says 'Horn' and you're working on the flood lights, then you know to disregard that one. Where the problem occurs is, when you have eight wires all labeled 'Flood Light' and you still don't know which one is which. That's where the number code comes into play.

Good luck with it and I'm on here everyday, so If I can help let me know.
 

rlrenz

Explorer
I attached a copy of KKK-1822E. Even though the ambulance builders are now moving to a different standard, the KKK document is the gold standard for ambulances built before about 2015. Compliance with this GSA standard was required if the ambulance buyer wanted purchase funding through a grant.

The KKK standard covers everything from lighting to seating. Read through it, and many of your present and future questions might be answered.
 

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