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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Started my truck this morning, it fired up fine as it always does. I noticed a "burning wood" smell in the truck but a neighbor had been cutting lumber and I just assumed it was the smell of the wood clamping down on the blade and that burning from the friction.... anyway. I drove about 100'. when I saw white smoke slowly billowing from behind the gauges into the vehicle, I immediately shut the truck down.
The smoke slowed and quickly stopped. I undid the gauge binnacle to check for melted wires or signs of a fire... nothing. I opened the bonnet and looked for any signs of fire or damage, couldn't find anything.
I tried to start the truck again to see if I could locate where the smoke might be coming from... truck won't start.
The starter sounds normal but the engine just won't turn over.

I'm at a loss for ideas aside from trying the replace the starter or alternator... Any thoughts?
 

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The fuel shutoff solenoid is probably not getting current. Whatever went kablooey must have effected that circuit.
 

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I agreed with Bill and that is where I would start my trouble shooting.

This is just me, but smoke never just happens and something behind/around the cluster has shorted and I wouldn't continue until I literally find what/where. It will be obvious since it generated smoke---maybe hidden, but should be obvious somewhere.

These are some of the worst cases to trouble shoot, but usually it produces a black char on a wire, so you should be able to locate it. But I wouldn't get it running, even if you found a loose wire, without first finding where it is burnt as it may have burnt through insulation on a wire (even not it's own wire). It is scary stuff. Of all the trucks that I have seen burn/burned, the vast majority have been due to wiring. (The other top-2 reasons have been oil lines ruptured (3) that I personally know of, and (1) fuel line--which burnt one of our board members-- thank goodness he is alright). But I know of 5 people that have lost their trucks due to wiring and I have personally had a dash fire (but I have an electrical disconnect and shut down the truck while driving till I figured it out). In my case, the PO had tape over twisted wires that rubbed through on my pyrometer from the EGT probe which has a braided, grounded sheath). I have since rewired everything. I take it seriously. Everyone should. We are dealing with old, crappy wiring with substandard jacket sleeves that have seen multiple previous owners. You just have to go through it sometime.

Behind the binnacle it is typically a rats nest of wiring. The biggest concern is near the bulkhead where the back of the ignition switch is because you have some rather exposed terminals carrying a lot of amps. So pay attention to that area and see if something shorted there--a pocket mirror is useful. Take a look at the ends of several of the wires that may still be hot---for instance, if you have heated rear windscreens or accessories that are not being used, you should cap those (I use heat shrink end caps) as a lot of the terminal covers push over terminals and can slip up revealing the brass. Green and white wires are ignition hot, purple are full time hot, so are brown (unfused), so look at all those.

If you can not find anything behind the binnacle, I would strongly take a look at the bundle of wires that runs from the binnacle to the bulkhead opening in the middle of the dash. this is a PITA but not too bad. You have to take off your dash pad, your vent attachments, and remove the grey louvered cover (trying not to break it) and the dash tray to really inspect it. But if you don't find anything behind the binnacle, I surely would.

Nothing is easy. But if you intend to keep the truck, I would do it (and have done it). Good look on your investigation! And consider putting in a battery kill switch if you have not already done so.
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
@Davis Thank you for the time you put into your reply and I 100% agree with everything you suggested. I actually planned to remove the lower dash to swap it for a cleaner one I just acquired. I also recently removed a dash on another truck and to your point, it's not a bad job (I have had to do worse).
I appreciate @o2batsea for suggesting the solenoid and have already looked into what's involved to replacing it. I'm about to head out to the truck now and test to see if it's working.
I'm wondering if the relay for the glow plug is what started to cook. The grommet on the bulkhead has a large opening (still covering all the metal of the opening but just stretched out) and this would certainly allow smoke to enter from the engine bay and into the area behind the gauges.
Thank you both again for the very helpful suggestion. I will report back once the mystery has been solved... or if I'm still at s loss.
 

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Don't think Bill was indicating that the fuel shut-off solenoid was bad, but that post smoke out, the power to the fuel shut-off solenoid was likely interrupted.
In other words: if there is not any 12V (+) current at the fuel shut-off solenoid, then the engine won't run.
So check at the solenoid connector and then work backwards by tracing the white wire backwards to the ignition switch as a good place to start your investigation.
 
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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
So, I unplugged power to the fuel stop solenoid and with the battery power "on" touched the connector back to the solenoid and heard it click. I repeated that "test" a few times to confirm the solenoid was working. Once confirmed, I tried turning the engine over again. After a few seconds of the starter working it's magic, the engine started up. I looked/watched for smoke in the engine bay as well as behind the gauges (binnacle removed)... nothing.
Shut the motor off and looked in the dash area for any signs of carbon, burning, bare/melted wires & bad connections... nothing.
I noticed one of the connector for the warning lights seemed yellowish. Once removed, I gave it the smell test and it definitely smelled a bit crispy. I used a scotch bright pad and small wire brush to clean the connections, put everything back together and will further investigate what could have caused this anomaly.

Does anyone have thoughts about this, am I missing something, thoughts as to why that connection might have smoked?

 

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That doesn't look like a device that would produce white smoke.
White smoke is generally from burned wire insulation.
 

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RDavis is correct. You obviously had something burn insulation.

Were lights/wipers/anything running at the time?

Maybe pull column surround and wiper cover to check those areas.
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
RDavis is correct. You obviously had something burn insulation.

Were lights/wipers/anything running at the time?

Maybe pull column surround and wiper cover to check those areas.
Nothing else was running. I was just moving the truck from one parking spot to another on my block. Truck is simple, no stereo, fancy electronics, etc. the biggest upgrade were the gauges from OEM to VDO SingleViu and all that wiring looked fine and everything else seems to be working as it should (lights, wipers, warning lights, etc.)
I do plan to remove the lower dash and will dive deep into any potential issues or damage from this incident. will keep the truck's use to local drives/erranding for the time being.
 

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Recommend you bring an extinguisher. CO2 if you can swing it, ABC powder for cheaper (cheaper/corrosive/gets everywhere!) option.

Fixing a friends truck righ now. Dash fire behind binnacle. What a mess! Required complete dash out, seats out, matting out just to clean to OK state.

Be prepared to unwrap harness somewhere to check condition. On this truck the wire cooked inside harness too.
 

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With the key switch in the RUN position, there are only a few circuits that are energized. Generally these are white (with tracer color) and green (with tracer color) wires.The starter wire is white with red. Begin your searching on wiring with these colors first. Unless you turned on the heat, lights, or some other thing, those would generally not be energized beyond the switch that operates their respective circuit. Not saying to ignore everything else, just that these are the most likely given the circumstances you describe. It could be something quite out of the ordinary too. Be meticulous, you'll find it.
My recollection of the strangest electrical oddity was many many years ago (on the old lro mailing list) when an owner in the Caribbean had his Defender spontaneously start up and drive itself across a parking area and through a fence. It turned out the local ants had made themselves at home behind the dash. They chewed up some wiring and at some point they made connection on the starter wire on the key switch through their bodies. The truck was parked in 1st gear and it just got going and rolled away. True story.
 

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Was that a Series III 88 on the daily digest?
Seem to remember something about that...
 

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Yeh I may be a little shaky on the details but it did happen. I remember it being a D90.
 
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That's what mine did... a freshly installed AC Delco alternator fried while I was shopping at the Kittery Trading Post (following a 4-hour drive from VT). I ran out with a fire extinguisher and was not allowed near it, per LEO. I asked if he'd put his cruiser in the way, as I had a feeling it would take off. He told me I was crazy.

After a while, energized the starter and made its way in an arc all the way across the parking lot when fire rescue showed up. Fireman had one chock block. I told him he'd need two. He told me I was crazy. The 110 promptly went over his single chock block. A second brought it to a stop just before entering Rt 1. Didn't hit any cars or any light poles.

Childrens' lovies were harmed in the making of this story.

An extinguisher lives in all Rovers; reverse selected when in my garage.
 

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I leave mine in neutral with the handbrake on
 
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Discussion Starter · #18 ·
A bit of an update... Went to move the truck again today (hoping it wouldn't try to catch fire this time) and unlike yesterday it didn't want to start but not because of fuel. When turning the key, I'd get the beginning of a crank then an abrupt stop. A few attempts would eventually get it to turn over ( I did record video of my attempts just in case it would be helpful in trying to explain what's happening). I'm wondering if the ignition switch is what fried as it's just below that warning light connector that showed yellowing. My other thought it perhaps starter issues from the electrical issue?

Haven't had time to remove the lower steering cover yet to examine the ignition switch.
Does this diagnosis seem to make sense, should I post the video?

@o2batsea I also always leave my vehicles in neutral with handbrake up... was just the way I was taught as a kid
 

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Check the condition of the engine grounding strap that goes to the chassis for clean and tight connection. Also the white/red wire from start switch to the starter solenoid. The starter might indeed be the thing that went out, but be sure it's not due to wiring being bad.
 
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Discussion Starter · #20 · (Edited)
@o2batsea Thank you for the suggestions.
After realizing that the truck "not starting" issue could be resolved by wiggling the key, I decided to dive into the ignition switch.
Turns out that was the issue, and the cause for the smoke. While removing the switch, I found slight melting on one of the protective plastic wire covers.
After careful examination, and not finding any faults, I reinstalled the switch making sure everything was snugged up.
I'm happy to announce, issue seems to be resolved and the truck starts up like a champ.

Thank you again to everyone who helped me get this sorted.

Rich (BB code):
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