Shortly after I purchased my 1987 VW Vanagon Westfalia I noticed that the galley light and sink faucet only worked every so often. Sometimes it would work and most of the time it wouldn’t. I first thought it was the stock sink faucet going out so I upgraded the faucet to a Shurflo faucet and the problem still remained.
I haven’t given the problem much thought until recently when I went camping for 3 straight weekends and couldn’t use the sink to brush my teeth or wash my hands. Annoying! I had to get this problem figured out.
One weird thing did happen on the last day of the third consecutive camping trip that threw me for a loop. As I opened my Norcold fridge door (which sits right behind the passenger seat) it applied some pressure on the back of the passenger seat then the all of a sudden the galley light and sink faucet both turned on! I closed the door of the fridge, which released pressure from the passenger seat and the galley light and faucet turned off. I opened it again, they turned on. Ok, so I now have a place to start hunting!
Once I got home and got unloaded I wanted to revisit the point at which I thought the problem originated. As I opened and closed the Norcold fridge door I heard a spark. I located where it was coming from, it was between the carabiner and the fridge handle. I thought it may be that the wire and/or the quick disconnect SAE connectors that fed the Norcold fridge power had some sort of short in them. Thinking this was the problem I cut the SAE quick disconnect at one end of the fridge power wire and wired it directly to the auxiliary battery system. Problem still there. I tried a few different bypasses and wiring variations in order to isolate the problem but that yielded no change, the galley light, level panel and sink faucet still didn’t work. Grrr.
So after a couple hours of tinkering around and trying different options I got some good info from fellow Vanagon owners on TheSamba.com and on Facebook who helped me troubleshoot the problem. Yes, they helped me track it down just by viewing the video I posted above! It was tracked back to the main ground connection from the auxiliary battery bank. You can see the red arrow in the image above, that’s the main ground connection from the auxiliary battery bank which was lose and not making a good ground to the van chassis. The arcing of the carabiner on the fridge was the entire auxilary 12v system relying on that single ground contact to complete the circuit for all of the other accessory items in the system. That’s a lot.
I’ve had the problem for several months now and all it took to fix the problem was a half turn of the wrench on the nut sitting atop the ground post. That’s it. Then it all worked! Another gremlin I’ve noticed is that my 12v socket on my dash would not charge my phone, the dash clock would never retain the time, the stereo would not store my presets so every time I turned the van off and on again the stereo was completely reset.
I never thought that those dash problems were in any way related to my galley power issues but they were indeed directly related since they are all fed off of the auxiliary battery bank. The reason all of my dash accessories did’t work was because they were also not getting a good ground. Now that the ground issue is solved, all of my dash electrical issues have also went away. Score! Things work!
I’ve never been completely satisfied with the wiring, the distribution block and the main ground connection under the driver’s seat so having this ground problem has made me decide to upgrade. I have a Blue Sea Systems 16254 distribution block on order and it’ll definitely help me sure up all of the existing power and ground connections. The new block and wiring configuration will help minimize the risk of having this same issue arise in the future. One plus is if it does happen again then I will know exactly how to fix it immediately.
I like the fact that the Blue Sea Systems 16254 distribution block also has a ground wire distribution block as well so I don’t have to piggy back a bunch of ground wires together like was originally installed. Blue Sea makes some great products and this will be a fun project I’m sure! I can’t wait to get all of this wiring cleaned up and installed on the new block much like what is shown above. Vanagon Project #426!
I’ll post the new wiring configuration once it’s completed.
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