GrahamPaige29

6 Volt Booster Starter Necessary?

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Hi guys.  I'm taking multiple attempts at starting my newly rebuilt Graham Paige straight six engine.  It's outside the car right now.  I keep draining the battery with each attempt (it's tight) and then I have to wait quite a while while I trickle charge the batt full again.    I wanted to buy a starter/booster that I can plug in and get some serious amps but most seem to only have a start setting of 12 volts.  Am I wrong to be reluctant about buying this kind of booster since my car will be 6 volts?  This question has probably been addressed before but if I have the entire electrical system hooked up later, is there the risk of popping the fuse with a 12V booster pack if I have battery problems?   The only ones that seem to have a 6 volt starter setting are the large wheeled type and that wouldn't be very portable or affordable for me.  Thanks.

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I've never seen a 6-volt portable booster and I think one is unlikely to come to market given how small that market is, but one of those heavy-duty roll-around battery chargers will help. I have one in the shop that will shoot 100 amps @ 6 volts for cranking a dead car and it works rather well. Works on standard 110V current. I think I spent about $250 on it new, but you may be able to find a used one for less. Very useful tool as long as there's an outlet nearby, not so useful in the field.

 

I wouldn't recommend trying to use a 12-volt jumper pack through the 6V system. Yes, it can be done and shouldn't cause any harm, but do you want to trust all that newly restored wiring and gauges and other parts to "shouldn't?" There will be plenty of anecdotes here about how people have done it and the proper way to do it (I've done it myself but I don't recommend it). Your car should eventually start without issues on the battery it has.

 

What kind of battery do you have? I might recommend an Optima, which has more cranking amps and a longer life than most lead-acid batteries. I've had one in my '29 Cadillac for more than 7 years and it's still going strong. It cranks that big V8 so easily that it starts in about 1.5 turns and I bet it has enough muscle that I could drive the car a quarter mile on the starter alone (not that I would, of course). Very impressive. I've never come close to killing it.

 

And, as always, have you checked your grounds and the size of your cables? We always start there when 6V cars have trouble cranking. You don't say whether you are killing the battery by excessive cranking or because the engine is very hard to turn. If it's hard to turn, that is probably killing your starter (or it's already wounded and that's why it can't turn the engine over). A fresh engine will be "tight" but not so tight that it kills the battery and strains the starter. Something else is amiss. If you are simply having to crank and crank and crank until it fires, then you have a problem elsewhere, likely fuel delivery if it eventually starts after a long period of cranking. But a tight engine shouldn't by itself kill a battery and if the battery is going dead but the starter isn't turning very well, then you probably have a problem in the starting circuit.

 

Can you be more specific about the problem before we start putting band-aids on it? Let's get it solved rather than masked.

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Hey Matt.  Thanks for replying.  The battery I have is just a "tractor" battery I bought at the local hardware store.  It's the only local one I could find that was 6 volts.  I had it hooked to a trickle charger that said it was at 100% but it seems very weak.  The car's starter is the old fashioned bendix type and it can't even get it turning over using that battery.   I can crank the car by hand with a breaker bar I have attached to the crank shaft.  If the plugs are removed, it's not that terribly hard to crank.  Like I said, it has brand new rings.  I did make sure that the babbit bearings had proper clearance.

 

I suspect that this is one weak 6v battery.  And that's the reason I was using my portable 12v jumper to try to crank it.  It worked well for a while, but now it's got very little cranking power even after 24 hours of charging.  That's why I thought of obtaining the plugin high amperage starter and at least getting the engine started and running before putting it back in the car.  Sorry if the process is dumb to you but I'm a newbie and appreciate all the help.

 

Geoff

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I think 12 volts is fine for the starter, but not fine for all of the other more fragile electrical items (bulbs, radios, etc).  For your purposes it sounds like you could keep isolated all of that from the starter and get away with 12 volt jumping it.  I know my local starter/electrical repair shop tests everything with 12 volts whether it is or not.

 

I certainly wouldn't make a habit of it.  Also, don't let your battery actually go dead.  As soon as you hear it losing power, stop and recharge it.

 

I use a tractor battery all the time during my restoration, starts great.  Make sure you have a 0 (big) gauge cable.

Edited by 39BuickEight (see edit history)

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Geoff , it is time to go back to basics. Fuel and spark. If these check out , next step is to verify coil polarity and ignition timing. If timing is o.k. (meaning in relation to TDC on compression stroke , NOT TDC on exhaust stroke - in THAT case you will need to rotate your distributor 180 degrees) , you may need to prime the engine. In your case - what was the outcome of your carburetor issues ? - try direct priming of the cylinders. Do you have primer cups ? IIRC you do not. Pull the plugs and give a small prime - no more than a thimble full - replacing the plugs a turn or two after the prime , when all cyls have a prime , GO BACK AND SNUG ALL THE PLUGS. If all checks out , and you do not get so much as a cough , something else may be wrong. Valve timing ? But before more surgery and expense , re-verify fuel , spark , coil polarity and ignition timing , if it still checks out , get a bigger "hammer". In this case a 12 volt battery. If after priming the 12 volts won't fire off quickly , stop cranking and dig deeper. The 12 volts should not hurt anything for very short periods. This is all SOP. What oil are you using for break in ? What oil do you intend to use ?   - Carl 

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When you rebuild an engine you should also rebuild the starter. 

14 minutes ago, GrahamPaige29 said:

The car's starter is the old fashioned bendix type and it can't even get it turning over using that battery.   I can crank the car by hand with a breaker bar I have attached to the crank shaft.  If the plugs are removed, it's not that terribly hard to crank.  Like I said, it has brand new rings.  I did make sure that the babbit bearings had proper clearance.

If the engine is this tight I think you might have other problems.  You say the bearings have the proper clearance but something must be binding. Perhaps a shot of oil into the cylinders before trying to start it.  If the starter won't turn it over either the starter needs an overhaul or the engine is too tight.  Are you wiring the battery up to the starter or are you using jumper cables?  When/if you get it running I would absolutely NOT leave it unattended, even for a minute, in case you have other issues and have to shut it down quickly.

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7 minutes ago, C Carl said:

Geoff , it is time to go back to basics. Fuel and spark. If these check out , next step is to verify coil polarity and ignition timing. If timing is o.k. (meaning in relation to TDC on compression stroke , NOT TDC on exhaust stroke - in THAT case you will need to rotate your distributor 180 degrees) , you may need to prime the engine. In your case - what was the outcome of your carburetor issues ? - try direct priming of the cylinders. Do you have primer cups ? IIRC you do not. Pull the plugs and give a small prime - no more than a thimble full - replacing the plugs a turn or two after the prime , when all cyls have a prime , GO BACK AND SNUG ALL THE PLUGS. If all checks out , and you do not get so much as a cough , something else may be wrong. Valve timing ? But before more surgery and expense , re-verify fuel , spark , coil polarity and ignition timing , if it still checks out , get a bigger "hammer". In this case a 12 volt battery. If after priming the 12 volts won't fire off quickly , stop cranking and dig deeper. The 12 volts should not hurt anything for very short periods. This is all SOP. What oil are you using for break in ? What oil do you intend to use ?   - Carl 

Hi Carl.  Got a pan full of 10W30 in it right now.  I used some assembly fluid when I installed the pistons and added a small bit of oil before putting the head on.  I have checked the spark timing by looking at number one plug firing (while out) about 1 degree before TDC.  Seems like this is the right moment according to my user's manual.  Last night I pulled the carb off and added some fuel to the bowl just to make sure it wasn't a fuel pump issue. Then I cursed and swore as I couldn't get the jumper pack to turn the engine over.  Rrrgh.  This is why I want to beg borrow or steal (just kidding) a high amperage plug in starter and really crank it.  My buddy told me to give it a shot of starter spray as it's cranking but I can't even get that going with this batt and starter pack.

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With the engine out of the car , you will not have to worry about blowing other components. Short bursts of 12V will not hurt your starter. Yes , priming an updraft carb is a bit of acrobatics. That is what necessitated primer cups. Prime the cyls directly , AND : retard your timing 10 degrees or so for starting. That is the main function of the timing control on your steering column. There is another reason for it. That is for extremely low rpm driving with a long stroke engine to prevent lugging. In fact , once you are back on the road , set your static ignition timing several degrees advanced over spec. 5 - 7 or so degrees will give better performance , and be easier on your exhaust valves. You can even try a bit more advance than that. This is to obtain better performance on the much higher octane fuel today. Always run the lowest octane fuel available. This is what the primer cups look like (next to the spark plugs) , on my old Cadillacs. It gives you an idea of the volume for a prime. Go a bit more if you need to pull the plugs. As the guys have mentioned , make sure all connections are clean , tight and "generous". You will be running soon.  - Carl 

 

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Another possibility is to get a second 6v tractor battery and connect it in parallel (+ to + and - to - ) to effectively double the power available to start the car. You would want to keep the cables connecting the batteries together as abort as possible and use some extra heavy gage wire in making the connection.

 

Terry

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Welllllllll........... , I just remembered I have the evidence that you do not have primer cups. Now , I can't remember : was it you who bought this engine ? I am pretty sure it was someone else , but I really must start writing things down. My memory used to be quite good , and I depended on it., Shouldn't rely on it now out of habit as I do.   - Carl 

 

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Realizing that you are learning new tricks here (I learn something new every day from AACA) , I re-read this topic. You have timed your spark 1 degree before TDC. O.K. Now have you verified it is the CORRECT TDC ? I mention this because you imply that you are on a very steep learning curve. With the plugs out , you must feel substantial pressure or airflow out of the cyl you are timing on as you rotate approaching TDC. You will be far from the first person to have tried to time an engine at TDC after exhaust stroke , if in fact this is the case. Also , are you able to monitor oil pressure immediately after the engine does fire ? Have you properly primed the oil pump ? Is your test stand properly set up to contain torque reaction when running ?   - Carl 

 

P.S. It might be worthwhile to take your battery back where you purchased it for a LOAD TEST. You must bring it in fully charged for a meaningful load test.  - CC

Edited by C Carl
Add P.S. (see edit history)

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I believe you will be very pleased if you get a mallory 8volt battery They can be bought at a Battery plus store,

mine spins my straight 8 like a 12 volt .Same. 6 volt coils and light bulbs still in car.I set my gen with 3rd brush to 9.3 volts

 

hope this helps

Ken

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On another subject,what does one have to do to become a senior member.I have been a member since 2008. 

I notice a couple of members have less posts and less likes and way less time than me but have Senior status.

I think I,m getting an inferiority complex LOL!!

 

Ken

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One thing a senior member would know is not to recommend changing to an 8 volt battery if it was not specified in the owners manual. We fix the problems that cause hard starting.

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o.c. dog : I seem to remember that you can write what you want under your handle. Don't ask me how , I still occasionally waste time trying to put a picture up instead of the green square with the big "C" in it. You certainly merit seniority status as far as I am concerned. You are a bit more than 3 years older than I am , and have been here longer. What kind of old iron are you playing with these days ? Wouldn't this be prime cruising time all over the Old South ? Aunt Louise was a charming Southern Belle , lived in New Orleans for all but couple or 3 year stint in Chicago. Cruising every which Louisiana back road with her , escaping the Northern Winter , was great fun ! Loved that high visibility Kingfish on a pedestal in Baton Rouge. In the days past there was an AM radio station emanating from there which was the best in the world. Lots of "B" sides and alternate takes. Even heard The 5 Royales doing "Think" heading Westwards out of B.R. one morning. 5000 watts by day , throttling down to 127 at night. Kept you snuggling close to the transmitter if you wanted to listen in the dark of night. Great memories listening while rolling up and down the West Bank !   - Carl 

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Carl you are really gifted with the written  word.

At the moment I have 3 old rides

1929 Essex Resto rod

1930 Studebaker president AACA senior

1964 Buick Wildcat DPC.

Some for all occasions.

I,ve been in Houma,La pretty much all my life.

it,s still 81 degrees

 

Ken

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Hey guys. Carl you were right that the engine you show is similar to mine and no it wasn't me who bought it. 

 

I had had the plugs out tonight and turned the engine by hand. Seems very smooth without the compression.  I will triple check to makeup sure the ignition is at the right stroke. 

 

Without the plugs in my 6v battery was onLy able to turn it over briefly and with effort.   I suspect this battery is weak for whatever reason. I'm going to buy a starter charger on the weekend and hit it with 12 volts and see how much crank I can get. Of course, that won't help after the rest of the electrical system is hooked up. Might need to invest in a better battery. Thanks again 

Edited by GrahamPaige29 (see edit history)

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Don't spend your bucks on that expensive starter charger quite yet. DO yank a 12V battery out of one of your modern rigs and wire it up stoutly first. Next , DO take that 6V battery back from whence it came for a load test. Properly hooked up , it should give you all you need. That it does not , particularly with plugs out , calls into question its present state.   - Carl

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Yes, a six volt battery, with correct sized cables, should easily spin a motor with no spark plugs in it. Put a volt meter across the battery while cranking it and see what it reads. Then put it across the starter and see what it reads when cranking it.

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If after verifying ignition timing , retarding 10 degrees or so , and priming each cyl , you do not immediately get it to fire on the 12V (if even for a second or two - you might want to prime one more time and give it a last chance) , if it doesn't even cough , don't keep on the starter. We will assume your points are clean (proper gap ?) , since you are getting a spark , and come up with a "Plan B". Good luck ! Don't forget to immediately check oil pressure. Oil pump prime ?  - Carl

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Can you post some pictures of what you are working on along with pictures of the wiring set up?  Maybe we can see something from our experience.

 

I just helped to get a Buick nail head started for the first time after a rebuild last week and had the distributor off a few teeth.  When it was all said and done, I think we had the distributor out like five times till we got it right.  Now runs great.

 

If it is very hard to turn over, I would look at timing.

Edited by Larry Schramm (see edit history)

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