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Low Beam Headlight Issue with Overheated J12 Connector on SmartWheel Controller


Mike Wahl

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During our recent 10 day trip we lost our low beam headlights.  After searching on the site found this to be a common problem and several good ideas on how to fix the issue.  I have parts coming to fix the Controller.

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I had ordered but didn't get a chance before the trip to install new LED headlights.  Last week I did get them installed.  This is a great improvement.  I will put together an upgrade post when I get a chance.  One of the last things I want to do is add the relay as others have discussed doing on here.  I have attached the original wiring diagram and the wiring diagram I have updated. 

What I'm wondering is , I was planning on pulling my power off of the mini-breaker which is where the original headlight power comes from and my signal wire (original headlight circuit) will come from and not adding a fuse.  Is the the correct was to do this or should I come off of the buss bar side for my headlight power and add a fuse.  I'm a novice when it comes to electrical circuitry and want to do it right.

Original Diagram

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Update Diagram With Changes in Yellow

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I had the same issue while I was out in Carlsbad, NM and had to drive back to Florida without any of my Smart Wheel functions.  I ended up having to replace the VIP SmartWheel Controller and in the process I ordered this connector upgrade.  It uses 10ga wiring instead of the original 12 ga and all I had to do was cut and splice it in.  This solved the over heating problem with the daytime running lights constantly being on and overloading that cable assy.  It's a little pricey but worth not getting the PC board in the controller melted.

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Not sure larger wires are going to help as the heat (resistance) is at the contacts. My guess is that over time, like 10 years, the contacts develop some corrosion and start to heat up which accelerates the issue. 

I recently replaced my headlight bulbs with LED… haven’t driven with them yet and didn’t measure the reduced amps they should draw. I’m not planning on adding the relays I bought on a dedicated circuit as the lower amps and annual removal of the J12 plug (several times) should, hopefully, solve the problem.

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  • 1 month later...

We have had the same issue.  The J12 connectors overheated.  We have bought a replacement controller box and the replacement harness.  Not being electrically inclined (auto or otherwise), we have someone who is and will be doing the replacement this week.  I also have new relays in case we decide to bypass as I have read others have done.

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Rachel

I did the bypass with a relay and it is working great.  It reduces the amp draw through the control J12 connection which eliminates the heating issue. I have used mine many times already since the change and I’m very happy.

Mike

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Last spring, after my second Smart Wheel control module failure, I too did the headlight bypass with the relay.  The headlights work great and the Smart Wheel control module has worked like it should since then.  

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I recently replaced my headlight bulbs with LEDs…haven’t driven at night with them although I doubt they are all that much brighter. I didn’t measure the amps before or after…hard to get good help these days. Research says a LED headlight bulb draws 1/4ths the amps and easier to do than adding relays, which I’d bought but never got around to doing.

My “opinion” is that over time, 8-10 years, the resistance builds up in the connection causing it to overheat. Cleaning the connection every couple of years might solve this problem???

Edited by Ivylog
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Just had the same J12 issue crop up. I've started research on a replacement module and see that VIP seems to have different corporate ownership and contact info from the Parts List (Jan 2020). Can anyone share recent experience on getting a replacement module (SM209 Rev E)? Is there anyone out there repairing the boards? Appreciate any pointers. Already ordered the plug harness...

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Last spring I got a replacement VIP smart wheel control module direct from the company and the phone number I have is 574-296-0684.  I left a message and was pleasantly surprised by getting a call back and if I remember correctly the price was under $200.

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22 minutes ago, StephenW said:

Last spring I got a replacement VIP smart wheel control module direct from the company and the phone number I have is 574-296-0684.  I left a message and was pleasantly surprised by getting a call back and if I remember correctly the price was under $200.

Stephen,

Thanks; I'll try tomorrow. There are a couple of phone numbers floating around (847-395-7250 from the Parts List, 317-896-9531 from the IMMI web site) so I'm sure one of them will work!

George

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I am hoping he will bypass ours when he does the replacement (now rescheduled for next week).  I have the original wiring book with the coach and have found wiring examples of bypassing using the relays.  Fingers crossed!

Congrats to all who have done this with good results.  It is great hearing the experiences of others who have had the same issues.  It  helps put our minds at ease knowing that it is fixable. 

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Rachel B.

In my original post on this topic is my original wiring diagram from Monaco and the one I updated to add the relay.  These should help the technician who is doing the update.  I wired mine as the diagram shows and have had no issues since doing so.  I also found that wire stays much cooler with this change like other have stated.  This will definitely help and hopefully eliminate the temperature issue with the J12 plug.   I would have the Technician update your wiring diagram with the changes he makes for future troubleshooting.  In industry, practice has been to hand mark-up the drawings, which is just fine.  I have the ability to update the PDF so that is what I did with mine.  Both ways works.  Here is a photo of how I mounted mine.  

 

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1 hour ago, Mike Wahl said:

Rachel B.

In my original post on this topic is my original wiring diagram from Monaco and the one I updated to add the relay.  These should help the technician who is doing the update.  I wired mine as the diagram shows and have had no issues since doing so.  I also found that wire stays much cooler with this change like other have stated.  This will definitely help and hopefully eliminate the temperature issue with the J12 plug.   I would have the Technician update your wiring diagram with the changes he makes for future troubleshooting.  In industry, practice has been to hand mark-up the drawings, which is just fine.  I have the ability to update the PDF so that is what I did with mine.  Both ways works.  Here is a photo of how I mounted mine.  

 

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Mike W,

Realizing that we have different coaches with similar-but-not-exact wiring harnesses, do you have any pictures of where you spliced the relay wiring in? I have the diagram from your original post, and was wondering how far afield the connection spots are. I have some relays on hand.

On our model, the vacuum module is on the outside firewall and the SmartWheel controller is mounted right where the lowest black cube is in your picture.

Thanks in advance for any additional info…

On 11/10/2021 at 4:57 PM, georgecederholm said:

Stephen,

Thanks; I'll try tomorrow. There are a couple of phone numbers floating around (847-395-7250 from the Parts List, 317-896-9531 from the IMMI web site) so I'm sure one of them will work!

George

For the group’s info, I was able to order the SmartWheel controller directly from the manufacturer today. They are now called IMMI Vehicle Improvement (www.imminet.com or www.imminet.com/immi-vip-wheels) and the phone number is the same as in the Monacoers Parts List (847-395-7250). The SM209 part number from our 2005 Exec has been superseded by SM210, purportedly 100% backward compatible. The price is now $267+ and the total with shipping, handling, and other fees is $295+.

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Mike W.

Thanks for the diagrams.  I believe your post is one that I have referenced a few times in researching this issue.  I am glad to see how you attached the relays as I plan on showing that to the technician.  

I am making copies of everything and adding them in to the original books as well.  

Thank you all for responding and sharing so kindly.  We are very thankful to be in this group.

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Rachel B.

Here is a photo showing where I made my splices.  I solder all of my joints because they are much less likely to fail than a butt connector.  I also use heat shrink tubing over my connections rather than electrical tape.   I was able to disconnect my J1 plug and move around some wires to have enough room to do my solder joints.   My power wire goes back into the bundle and makes a 180 degree long sweep turn out to the J1 plug.  The solder joint is between the sweep and the J1 plug.  This splice is hidden in this photo.  I would recommend using MTW (Machine Tool Wire).  This wire is constructed with a higher stand count than standard THHN building wire is.  The higher stand count give it more flexibility and easier to work with in these tighter spaces.

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When I do my standoff plate they are just made out of a black 1/4 HDPE that I had laying around. I also put a 1/2  standoffs so I reduce the number of holes I have that moisture can get into the electrical bay.  I use stainless hardware and put a outdoor silicon caulk on bolt and nut on the outside to seal up the connection.   Here is a side view of this.  Not best photo but all I had.

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Edited by Mike Wahl
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When we bought our used 2004 Imperial in 2007, the problems with the SmartWheel had already surfaced and had been “corrected” by the selling dealership with a workaround.  Off and on, problems persisted for the next few years until a complete loss of headlights in 2013 occurred on a cross country trip prompted me to completely investigate the system.  On the pervious motorhome, weak headlights prompted me to modify the wiring using relays to supply a solid battery voltage to the headlights, bypassing the Freightliner chassis wiring which was designed for universal useage by multiple  coachmakers, an as a consequence, had lots of cabling coiled up to handle any situation.  After looking at the SmartWheel schematics, it became obvious that all the current for the headlights was routed through the controller box and the J-12 connector was inadequate for the job.  The solution was either buy a new control box, replace the connector, or move that high current off that controller. I decided to do the latter by using the solution I used on my prior coach.  The use of relays is described in an article by Daniel Stern Lighting which can be found by an internet search.  The J-12 connector on my controller was now high resistance and couldn’t supply the full headlight current, but was sufficient to supply the relay coil current.  I found a good battery connection on the large circuit board located in the cabinet on the drivers side to power the headlights and used the original headlights to switch those new relays..this reduced the current supplied by the controller from amps to milliamperes and even though the connectors on the controller were toasted, they worked for the relays.  I also used heavier gage wires for the connection from the relays to the headlights and ran heavier ground wires as well.  That solution has worked since 2013 and I now have over 100K miles on the coach. I now have all the functions originally designed into the Smart Wheel.  

Dick L. ‘04 HR Imperial
 

 

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  • 2 weeks later...

Our tech was able to change out the smart wheel box, replace the j12 harness bypassing with the relay.  Everything is working well for now...just have to change high/low beam from the turn signal stick which is absolutely fine.  Thanks for all the assistance and guidance!  It seems that the previous owner had already done some reworking, and that was fixed as well.  

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