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Positive ground.

Thanks, Mark. I've got to go back and check things. When I charge the battery everything works until I try the starter, then the battery goes dead. No attempt at starting and I have to charge it up again.

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Thanks, Mark. I've got to go back and check things. When I charge the battery everything works until I try the starter, then the battery goes dead. No attempt at starting and I have to charge it up again.

I'm not a pro here, but it is my understanding that it does not matter which way you go with hooking up the battery....pos or neg. The battery should charge irregardless which way it is hooked up, as current will follow the "open" door, so to speak. In other words, the battery will send current either way, if hooked up pos or hooked up neg. Now, with that said, I have listened to others share that it does matter when it comes to the coil....one indicated that you get twice to volts out of your coil if you have a pos ground verses a neg ground. You may have a drain on your system if the battery keeps going dead, but I don't think it has anything to do with the way the battery is hooked up. This question is a common question among antique car owners just getting started, or among older tractor owners. Good luck...(older cars were pos grounded)

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Me thinks polarity matters to the battery and the electron flow. A hot battery hooked up in reverse polarity from the generator will result in a short when it tries to charge the battery backward won't it? I have seen a battery connected reverse polarity, after completely discharging, it may indeed recharge reverse polarity if the generator doesn't smoke, only likely it survives if the battery was dead when installed and boosted off. Consider this: take 2 hot batteries and connect jumper cables between them Pos to Pos and Neg to Neg, no current flow except trickle from hottest one to the lesser charged. NOW take the same 2 batteries and connect jumper cables Pos to Neg and Neg to Pos, !!!!!!!!!!!!!BOOM!!!!!!!!!!!!!. Don't try this at home! You can only tell if a battery has correct polarity with a volt meter.

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I can confirm that the starter indeed does not care what the battery polarity is. The generator really doesn't care either. Sometimes it needs to be polarized, but it will actually polarize itself in a lot of cases.

If your starter draws the battery dead that quickly I would suspect a bad battery. Even a starter that is shorted out completely shouldn't drain a battery after trying it for a second or two. Have you had the battery load tested? When you say you charge the battery and everything works fine until you use the starter, what do you mean by everything works fine?

I'd be happy to try and help you out if you have any troubles figuring this out.

Good Luck,

Jason

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I can confirm that the starter indeed does not care what the battery polarity is. The generator really doesn't care either. Sometimes it needs to be polarized, but it will actually polarize itself in a lot of cases.

If your starter draws the battery dead that quickly I would suspect a bad battery. Even a starter that is shorted out completely shouldn't drain a battery after trying it for a second or two. Have you had the battery load tested? When you say you charge the battery and everything works fine until you use the starter, what do you mean by everything works fine?

I'd be happy to try and help you out if you have any troubles figuring this out.

Good Luck,

Jason

Jason, The battery looks to be fully charged. When it is the headlights work, the electric horn works, the gauges work. The instant I try to start it, there is no attempt to crank the engine and all electrical equipment is dead. Nothing. I've pulled the battery out and put it on a smart charger. It registers the battery at 6V and going up to 100 percent. My more experienced friends say it must be the starter, but I wondered if I somehow got the poles reversed.

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Sounds like a bad connection somewhere to me. A broken cable or dirty connection on a freshly charged battery might carry enough current to work lights but when the starter tries to pull serious current all bets are off. Note the broken connection might be IN the battery. That is what a load test is for. You can sort of do this yourself. Just look for the voltage drop. Put a voltmeter on the battery and turn the lights on and try to crank the engine. The voltage should drop a little (1-3 volts on a 12 Volt system so maybe half that for 6V). Next put the voltmeter on the headlight terminal block. The voltage needs to be close to what you have at the battery or you have a bad connection somewhere. Finally try the same thing at the starter while someone tries to crank.

Or just get a set of jumper cables and run them directly from the battery to the starter. That will tell you for sure!

Ohm's law is not just a good idea, its the law.

Where in Ohio are you?

Nathan

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Yep, Nathan is on the right track, bad connection likely, voltage drop tests in order. Jason is correct about the electrics don't care but the battery does.(A car with an alternator and electronics is a different issue, they won't stand reversed polarity) Also,the battery charger has established the polarity is correct on the battery if hooked up Pos to Pos.

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I'm not saying that the starter is not bad, theres a decent chance you have issues there, but I'd still start with the battery. Keep in mind you only need very little current to run the things you are saying work until starter gets in the picture and you need several hundred amps to run the starter. Cables are very important, but even a bad connection to the starter wouldn't drain your battery right away. It would however produce a no start since the starter would not be able to get the adequate amount of current needed for the starter to deliver enough torque to turn the engine over like it should. If you had a bad connection, broken wire or under sized cable, you would get a no start or slow crank, but battery would not drop off like you are experiencing.

Back to the polarity issue. It's real easy to check the polarity of your battery. Take a volt meter and stick the red (+) lead on the + side of the battery and take the black (-) lead and place it on the - side of the battery. If it reads lets say 6.4 volts, it's ok, if it reads -6.4 volts, it's been reversed. I'm not sure if it has been mentioned here or not, but if you drain a battery to a completely flat state, you can then charge it reverse polarity so the + & - posts are now reversed. Not to get too side-tracked, but here's a story that sort of applies.

Modern starters are what they call permanent magnet style and do not have wire wound field coils, they have actual magnets inside them. They DO care about polarity and will crank backwards if wired in reverse polarity. I've had a couple customers bring in starters to be checked and could find nothing wrong, but they still complain that it won't crank engine just spins like drive clutch is slipping. The first one took a while to figure out, but what they had done was leave something on and battery drained completely. When they re-charged the battery they accidentally reversed charger leads and charged the battery up reverse polarity. Now starter cranks backwards.

Keep me-us posted as to what you find. Good Luck!

-Jason

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The issue started after I successfully started the car and drove over to a neighbor's place. When we went to leave there's was no attempt at starting. One of the mechanics there crawled under the car and said the ground strap was considerably frayed from contact with the driveshaft. I put on a different strap but the problem persists. As soon as a start attempt is made the battery zeroes out with no cranking whatsoever.

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I would test the battery. I had a 12V battery where one of the terminals cracked inside the battery. It had voltage, looked charged, but would often not start the car. I finally realized I could make the headlights flicker by pushing on the battery cable. New battery fixed the problem.

More recently my daughter's beater Mercury Sable refused to start. Turned out years of bending the battery cable had broken it. When I put jumpers on the car the interior lights light up but when I tried to crank the engine everything went dead. Nothing wrong with the battery, just replaced all the primary cables and it is fine. Well, at least as good as it was before.

Are you anywhere near Columbus? The big Delaware car show is tomorrow. We had 700 cars last year!

Nathan

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  • 1 month later...

Many thanks to those that replied and helped on our problem. After many false starts and running various diagnostic routines incuding checking for a stuck starter and stuck engine, today we went all the way back through the system, cleaned and scraped all contact points, taped any possible source of grounding and said a little prayer. We are now getting the starter engaging and not draining out the battery. Next we will be getting rid of the old fuel and trying to start her with good, fresh gas. We need to drain out at least a couple gallons of aged gas.

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