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1969 Buick Electra-Electrical problems


Guest rhinobullet
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Guest rhinobullet

Hello all:

I was just given a 1969 Buick Electra convertible deuce and a quarter. The vehicle seems to be in excellent condition and cranks easily and runs well. Has the original brakes in it but looks like a rebuilt engine. I know VERY little about cars/mechancial issues, so I am hoping you all can help. While the car cranks and runs fine, none of the "electrical" items work on it. The convertible has a power switch to lower the top and it doesn't work. The power windows will not operate. The headlights don't come on and the turn signals don't work. The radio doesn't work either, but I think that may be simply because it is old and hasn't worked in a while.

The engine looks like the previous owner worked on it and kept it oiled etc. I can't find anyting loose or broken, and I don't want to take it to a shape until I have an idea of what my problem is.

Any assistance to an obviously neophyte is greatly appreciated.

Sincerely,

Bob

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Is the alternator charging at all? I guess it is, if it is cranking okay. Battery hooked up correctly (polarity not reversed?)? Take a test light, connect the clip to a good ground, and then take the probe and check both connections (at each end) of the fuses in the fuse box. The fuse box is under the driver's side of the dashboard near the emergency brake release.

Pete Phillips, BCA #7338

Leonard, Tx

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If nothing is working but the engine runs, I immediately suspect a burnt "fusible link". Fusible links are attached to the engine starter. They are on the same terminal as the heavy battery cable but are much lighter wires. There are two of them. On supplies power to all the electrical items you mentioned, The other, I believe, supplies the ignition switch. I would recommend going to a local parts store and purchasing one, then you'll know what it looks like. Then you need to get under the car to check to see if these are on the starter terminal and if so, which one , if any, are burnt out.

Now I hesitate to even mention this but I must, please do not go under your car till it is properly raised and supported on jack stands. Please let us know if you need help determining how to do this. And I am serious. 69 Electra's are wonderful cars, unless you are sitting in a wheelchair watching someone else drive it.

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Dittos on the duel fusible link…

I don't have a 69 shop manual, but,

Perhaps someone on this thread will have a pic of the

fusible link set up on your car, so you can trace it down by the starter.

The good news it's easily replaced…. Please disconnect battery before poking around down there!

A broken or bad or connector on the link is a common issue.

Good luck and report back.

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  • 2 weeks later...
Guest rhinobullet

Thank you all for the responses. I will try these things out when I have some time. I noticed that as I drive the car (it will drive), the generator light comes on and even "buzzes" shortly while the "GEN" light flickers. As I drive, I can sometimes make the windows go up or down for only brief periods. Then the power stops again. Does this support the idea posted above re: fusible link as the source of the problem?

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Thank you all for the responses. I will try these things out when I have some time. I noticed that as I drive the car (it will drive), the generator light comes on and even "buzzes" shortly while the "GEN" light flickers. As I drive, I can sometimes make the windows go up or down for only brief periods. Then the power stops again. Does this support the idea posted above re: fusible link as the source of the problem?

Yes, it sounds to me like a loose or bad connection on one of 2 fusible links down there.

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A fusible link is like a "single use" inline fuse. Once it cooks, it's over and must be replaced. As this is a resistance wire, keep the length approximately the same as what was in the orig factory harness.

ALSO, do NOT forget about the bulkhead connector where all of the wires on the "outside" mate with those on the "inside" (under dash harnesses). It can be a neglected "connector", but the terminals can also become "coated" with age and such, resulting in a "higher resistance" situation than the normal plug-in connector would have. From what you describe as the windows only working for short period of time, it could be that the "stuff" accumulated between the terminals gets warmer as more current passes through the terminals, which builds more resistance in that circuit, with less "juice" getting to the window motors (or other items) as a result.

In many cases, the "one piece" connector is actually TWO pieces on the engine side of the cowl, held in place by a single bolt in the middle. Although you might find some rubberized sealer sprayed on the outer edges of the two connectors, for sealing purposes, time, age, and temp variations can result in "accumulations" on the terminals. I think it'll be easy to get them clean again (mechanically with a brush or such) before you reassemble the two halves to the mating connector body they attach to (many times, the backside of the fuse block).

You might be able to find a wiring schematic for that car online (either as a separate publication or in the normal Buick factory chassis service manual). Then you can trace the color codes of the wires to see what circuits they are a part of. Plus what circuits "feed" other circuits to see how it all fits together in the grand electrical scheme of things.

It's ALSO possible that the old glass fuses could be having some internal issues which can't be seen externally. Deteriorated internal connections would be one thing, for example. Just be sure to replace them with new fuses of the same "amp" rating, usually marked on the fuse block or listed in the service manual. Please keep us posted on your progress.

The indicator ("idiot") light for the generator will light up when current flows backward in that circuit. When more power is being used than the charging system or battery is producing. When there is a surplus of "power", it should be "out".

Just some thoughts,

NTX5467

Edited by NTX5467 (see edit history)
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Your problem could also be related to a bad ground or multiple bad grounds, especially if the car has been painted. While your car uses much of its metal framework for a ground path there needs to be a good connection from the battery to the metal frame of the car. Multiple electrical devices also require their own ground path. Too often, novice electricians focus on the hot side of the circuit but the ground path is just as important. I don't think you have just one problem but multiple problems. To trouble shoot DC circuits a test light and battery are very helpful. A Volt OHM meter are also very useful. Isolate one problem and trace the hot side to where you last had power and then the ground side to where you last had a ground. On old cars I have learned that just because it looks like it is touching ground, that doesn't mean it is making a completed circuit.

With circuit that don't have relays, you can provide power directly to the device after disconnecting the harness to see if the device is defective. Items like headlight switches become corroded inside and fail. The best way to test them is with a VOM. Power windows and seats sometimes have relays but also have a circuit breaker in the fuse box. I agree that if the fusable link was bad it wouldn't work intermittently, it wouldn't work at all. It is possible that the fusable link does have a bad connection.

One more point that I just remembered, be sure to check the condition of both the power and the ground of the fuse box. That is where a lot of this all comes together.

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