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Non starting '55 Roadmaster


Earl B.
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The last day the '55 Roady ran was Thanksgiving day, 2013---yes.. a few days short of nine months!!

We had a cold, wet winter, and then when the weather became nicer, my health decided not to cooperate. One thing and another, and finally for the last couple of weeks or so, I've had a handyman helping me get caught up on things.. and Buddy happened to be very mechanical--and stubborn. He said he could start a mule if it had a steering wheel, and I sure believe him now. With calling Mike Middleton several times, the repair manual and some dumb luck along with Buddy, the car started up today.

When you'd push the accelerator down, it made no sound. Everything else electrical worked. Today, the starter came off, worked fine off the car. Solenoids and relays checked, loose wires checked for and everything checked out fine. It had to be something in the push button, we figured. We were checking the switch behind the carby when Buddy, who could easily climb under the hood, spotted the problem.

So, if you ever have a car that makes no noise in the starter, here's what you check. Behind the carb is not only a switch, but, where the floor pedal lever comes through the firewall. That lever pushes another which sets off the carb switch. The two rods were bypassing each other. That simple!!!, yet SOOOO difficult. So, everything works, and starter makes no noise, check the juncture of the two levers, and Buick knew this might be a problem sometime, there's an adjustment on the floor lever rod, and with that and a little bending, the old girl spoke today loud and clear!!

I hope this helps someone one day when they are as lost as I was.

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Please educate me here a little. I've never owned any Buick older than the 63 Riviera. I had a '51 Cadillac and I could start it by simply turning the key. I've driven a few other makes that were between 51 and 55 that were also key start. The 55 Buick doesn't start/turn over by simply turning the key?

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DJ,

Buicks from at least 1937 to 1960 have a starting system in which you turn on the key (just on, no start position) and then step on the gas and she will start. There are several variants on the switching that makes this happen, but simply put there is some form of switch activated by steping on the gas and then the starter is locked out when the engine is running to prevent grinding the starter.

Robin

Edited by 37_Roadmaster_C
spelling (see edit history)
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Hi,

There's no way I would scrap my 37 over this issue, but I DID bypass the rotary switch that used to be connected to the gas pedal linkage. When the vacuum control in that rotary switch fails, the engine tries to start on low vacuum situations, causing a lot of noise and considerable owner anxiety.

I have a heavy duty push button starter switch now.

--Tom

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Like Tom, my 37 had the system bypassed with a push button in the 40's, but the 60 still is all origional. When I was driving the 60 it was fun to tell a non buick friend to "just move the car out of the way"... Of course no key, the lock was never locked so you just turned it 'ON'... They would come asking for the key which I would give them.... soon after, back they would come wondering how to start the car... I would jjump in and have her running before the door was closed :cool:... That was simply Buick Fun.

Thinking of that fun I really need to get the 60 out of storage and have some FUN.

Edited by 37_Roadmaster_C (see edit history)
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Hi,

LOL 37_Roadmaster_C-----Increase your fun in the 60 by assuming the position in the driver's seat and snapping your fingers in a mystical magic sweep of your hand, and of course the engine starts--by MAGIC. No one notices you pushing down the accelerator. Works great with kids of all ages.

My 50 Studie Champ had the starter switch on the floor under the clutch pedal. I did the "magic start" trick many many times! I probably ought to explain that to my now-grown grandson one of these days.

Or maybe not... :rolleyes:

--Tom

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if that switch quits working, you can take it apart and clean it.

This is actually one of the reasons Earl found the problem. I was trying to walk him through some of the steps to take, but after the first (obvious) steps of checking the starter, solenoid and relay, I told him to check the carb switch. I have personally never had to clean the switch on an otherwise working car. But I have had the wires come loose.

That was when he discovered the linkage problem.

Good job Earl!

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Don't know when Buick did this, but my 1958 Roadie has redundant protection of starter engaging while engine is running. First, the starter switch on carb senses vacuum and therefore disconnects that switch when engine is running. Second, the starter relay is grounded via the generator armature when engine is off, and ungrounded when generator is providing 12 volts.

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d2,

The 37 has a simular safety where the starter relay is grounded by an extra contact on the voltage regulator when the generator is not turning (motor not running). After the motor starts the voltage regulator pulls in the safety contact and removes the ground for the starter relay to prevent low vacuum while driving (think heavy load going up a big hill) from engaging the starter.

Robin

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And on the '55 that foot pedal pushes a rod, and that hits the starter rod.. .

Wow, this was changed in 56. For 56 the starter button is activated by a "cam" on the rod that holds the primary butterflies in the carb. That cam rotates into position each time the gas pedal is pushed, and there is a ball bearing between this cam and the contact in the switch. There is a vacuum passage in the switch such that once the engine starts vacuum pulls the ball bearing up into a passage and takes away the mechanical link. The 56 also employs the secondary failsafe mentioned. It would seem that a 55 carb would not be functional on a 56.

My switch has needed cleaning several times in the 40 years I have owned this car. But I can only remember one time the switch failed to activate the starter.

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Wow, this was changed in 56. For 56 the starter button is activated by a "cam" on the rod that holds the primary butterflies in the carb. That cam rotates into position each time the gas pedal is pushed, and there is a ball bearing between this cam and the contact in the switch. There is a vacuum passage in the switch such that once the engine starts vacuum pulls the ball bearing up into a passage and takes away the mechanical link. The 56 also employs the secondary failsafe mentioned. It would seem that a 55 carb would not be functional on a 56.

My switch has needed cleaning several times in the 40 years I have owned this car. But I can only remember one time the switch failed to activate the starter.

John, that is the way it works on 55, all carbs. Sounds like you, like me, are confused. Maybe it is some some linkage interference that did not allow the carb to open far enough to activate????

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