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38 Buick Series 40 Mystery Problems


Tsmith
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Just got a 38 buick series 40 as a gift so I am a novice starting this journey. It is in pretty good shape and will run but getting her started and not overheating sometimes is an issue. If anyone has any ideas please post..thanks.

The car ran fine until the issue noted below. The problem now is if I dont get it started on the first (or so turnover) it is really hard to start (usually wont and I have to let it sit for several hours. Past the original starting problem...if it does start it will run great but once I turn it off, it appears to have to cool off quite a bit before it will start again, or even hardly turn over. It is a 6v system and when this happens, I can sometimes hook up a 12V booster to the battery and it will crank right up, or may just barely turn over. i have not been able to identify a pattern of which may occur.

Here are some possible contributing factors -

Fuel problem - The car had a leaking gas tank which I have removed and fixed. In the process, I decided tounscrew the glass bowl filter directly in line to the carb to clean it out. The gasket had disentegrated and I did clean it out but after several attempts to make a gasket, I could not get the bowl to stop leaking....so I removed it and just bypassed it with rubber fuel line(there is another fuel filter down further down the line) Could not having this inline bowl filter be causing it to flood on initial start? I was not sure if it served some other function.

Overheating - I have not really had the car at the "overheat" point but it does get pretty hot and that appears to cause the not wanting to start issue once it has run. When I remove the radiator cap I can see it is filled to the top with antifreeze, but the level never seams to drop. Shouldn't the fluid levels drop as the antifreeze/water moves into the engine? Is this a sign that the radiator is stopped up?

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Tsmith, based on your description of the problems, first thing I would check is the distributor to see if you have correct dwell and timing and the points are working correctly, and so on with the ignition, this I have found is the issue with other buicks. I'm not an expert on '38 or straight eights, but I did ride in a '38 special my parents had as a second car for almost 20 years as a kid! Once the ignition looks good, have the radiator flushed and pressure checked, and you should be good to go! Where are you located? Maybe someone here can lend a hand too!

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It sounds to me like it could be a battery cable / starter problem. If the cable going to the starter is not thick enough or not making a good connection it will start when cold. But the resistance in the cable will quickly make it hot, loosing much of it's conductivity. It won't start hot but will when it cools down. And once started, it is not in use and everything runs fine, until you try to start it again. Boosting it with a 12 volt battery further strengthens this theory. Feel the cable after cranking it over a few times to see how hot it is. If the cable is not hot, I would suspect the starter.

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Been through ALL of this myself. Ahhh what memories hahahaha.

If it doesnt wanna turn over...check ALL connections. Check the braided ground cable as said, both ends make sure all surfaces are completely clean and the bolt-down is tight. The positive cable runs to the solenoid, and then a SHORT cable runs from the other solenoid contact to the starter housing itself. Make sure all of this is clean and tight. If it still turns over too slow then of course the starter always could be going. But more than likely I think that short intermediate cable is loose, the bolt holding the end down on my car was backed off about 1/4"!!!

Also...before even pulling the starter apart...I would actually say check inside the solenoid itself (again this is if it still wont turn over), you may need to pull the starter to do this...get it on a bench and pull the solenoid cover and observe how the whole deal works in there...a large disk is pressed into the other ends of those two contacts the positive line is going to. If they are held loosely in there or not screwed in far enough etc the disk will hit unevenly and the contact area will be way too small. This happened with my car as well and correcting it made a HUGE difference in cranking speed. Even when hot. I have a completely unrestored vehicle and it cranks extremely well every time, temp. doesnt matter.

For the overheating...there's probably some garbage in the block...Im sure there is in mine...but mine got a ton better when I had the radiator just totally redone...boiled out cleaned out. If you can have it flow tested great, if not just get it boiled out anyway. More than worth it. If you can knock out the block freeze plugs, do it and scrape out of there what you can.

You also mentioned fuel leakage or something...the kit isnt that expensive, just rebuild that fuel pump. Im a 20 year old kid who doesnt have a ton of money to throw around and therefore some things like this I tried to leave alone after getting it out of a 25 year storage. I ended up doing it anyway, things deteriorated pretty quickly. Check the carb too, if you have any problems with rough running or flooding/leaning out etc.

And finally keep asking questions here, there are so many experienced people that will surely help you get her goin again no matter what the problem smile.gif

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In keeping with Ron's advice, be sure the cables are in good condition without frayed ends for a 6V system. It takes double the amps to work, & 12V cables just don't carry enough amps. You may have to hunt for new 6V cables, but they are absolutely necessary to crank your engine fast enough to start reliably.

Good luck,

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Thanks for all of the suggestions. Very helpful. I think with a run down of all of the wires and battery testing, I was able to get a stronger starter on a hot start...still not as strong as cold but I will keep working on it.

One more item. If I open the radiator and it is full when the car is off (It is filled to the top) should the level go down once the car is started or gets hot? I am just wondering if any water is getting to the engine.

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THANKS for all of the help. Per the suggestions above, I ran over the electrical system and everything checked out OK, but found someone had put 12V cables in. I replaced these and (even thought the battery was new, which is why I didnt check this earlier), found the battery to have only a 25% charge. These two things appear to have cleared up a lot of issues. It is still a little slower turning over when hot, but kicks in after a turn or two and fires on up.

I went for a long drive this morning for the first time after working out many issues and it felt good. I live in Birmingham, AL so it was a great cool morning. I am sure something else will pop up so good to know help is here. Thanks again.

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Awesome. It probably should crank a little slower when hot...hotter gasses want to expand and were tryig to compress it anyway. I just dont pay close enough atttenion probably!!! laugh.gif All I know is she always starts quick!!!

Good to hear you got it sorted out buddy!!! grin.gif Have fun out there!!!!! cool.gif

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