Randiego

wiring up the instrument cluster 1936 Plymouth

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HELP !  Some months back, I took my instrument cluster out of my 36 Touring Sedan.  All the gauges, illumination lights  and odometer worked but the speedometer  was in op.  I made the decision to see if I could restore the instrument cluster along with the speedo.  

 

I got another instrument cluster from a Plymouth Owners Club member that had been sitting on his shelf in the garage for some time.  When I took it apart, all kinds of bugs (dead) and their carcasses and residue had to be cleaned out of the case.  I found that the gaskets had shrunk but the facia was in good order.  I carefully cleaned up the face plate, chrome trim bezel, made new gaskets and carefully cleaned the gauges.  I disassembled the speedometer and found that the needle indicator would not move due to congealed grease.  I cleaned all of the old grease out of the head and lubed it up.  The local speedometer shop told me NOT to use white grease as it will harden over time.  I used the moly grease that he recommended.  

 

Attaching a drill motor with a piece of speedo cable to the speedometer, I 'spun:" the instrument and it worked flawlessly.  I polished the outer chrome bezel, cleaned the glass lens and re assembled the cluster.   I have attached pics below to show the process.  I admire the engineers of the day as this speedometer was built for Chrysler Corp by a supplier that really engineered the instrument with quality. Much as everything else Chrysler Corp. designed.  If you ever had a fear of doing your own clean up and repairs of a speedometer, this unit is "straight forward"  No secret pins or gears that will fall out.  But taking out the instrument panel is necessary.    One caution;  If you have original wiring, be sure not to disturb the wires too much.  The insulation is 80 years old and brittle.  So far, I have not had any issues with the wires as they are somewhat pliant. 

 

I cleaned up the temperature gauge and carefully moved it out of the way as that is the only gauge that has to be re used, unless you are replacing that unit.  The rest of the gauges I swapped out from my original instrument cluster as they worked fine.  I made new gaskets from manila file material and cork. I got new sheet cork from Bangor Cork and cut the new cork gasket from that.  I cleaned the light blue acetate "diffusers" and re attached them to the outer housing.  The instrument lights shine through them giving a nice "glow" to the instruments.  

 

This was a lot of trouble to go to to get my speedometer working again but being anal about wanting my Touring Sedan in top operation, it was necessary.

 

I also want to point out, it is to your advantage to remove the glove box, cigarette ashtrays and any other items that will impede your access to the instrument cluster.  I also removed the front seat and laid a piece of plywood over the seat mounts, laying a moving pad on that.  I removed the clutch, brake pedal,  and accelerator pedal.  If I were a younger man and my body was more limber, I could move around much easier but time has not been too kind to me in doing this kind of work.  I am better at vertical tasks.  :-)   In this job, most of your work will be done on your back with your head resting against the firewall.  When I first got the Plymouth, I took the heater out and restored the unit. As I was getting the cooling system in order, I wanted a heater that would give me heat for our cool days here in San Diego.  That gave me an idea of what I was up against in the limited area you have to work with in the narrow cabin.  Unlike a 40's, 50's or 60's cars, there is a lot less room under the dash.

 

The windshield wiper hose is another issue.  Moving it up and out of the way, it broke in two pieces.  The hose is hard and needs to be replaced.  That is my next job; getting the windshield wipers operational again.

 

Now for the issue at hand.  I had labeled all the wires and where they hooked back up to the instrument cluster.  Most of the power is supplied from  the back of the Ammeter.  But what hooks up where is now lost to me  due to the sheet that I drew showing what wire hooked up where.  I have been looking for that dratted sheet for over a week.  It must have been tossed by the cleaning lady who did a nice job in my office.  TOO NICE.  It was accidentally tossed in the clean up.

 

I went to the Plymouth manual but it doesn't show the color coding of the wires. I guess that you have to trace out the wire to see what it is attached to to know where it goes on the back of the panel.  Before I hook up the wrong wire and "fry" this 80 year old harness, I was hoping that one of you would be able to illuminate this issue with a better publication or ? .  

 

Some are easy.  The instrument lighting is all the same color and the bulbs/sockets are all replaced back in their respective locations to illuminate the cluster. Before I have to take the car to my friend who has an auto electric shop, I would like to try to solve this issue on my own.  At worse case, he is a whiz and can discern how to re attach all the wires in their correct location.

 

Also, I recently found a "Firestone" radio, which is period for this car.  It is made by Stewart Warner.  I took it to the Antique Radio Shop here in San Diego and the guy, Jeff, is a whiz with old radios.  He replaced all the old capacitors,  and old parts with newer ones.  I found a guy on the east coast who had an original antenna mast (it was EXPENSIVE) new in the box.  The paper work showed that it was made in 1936.  The radio/speaker box mounts on the firewall and the dial with the two knobs and cables mount on the steering column.  With the replacement instrument cluster, there was the correct connection and resistor on the unit.  Seems that the car that this came out of had a radio in it.  What a find!  Solved two problems.  

 

I realize that this is a long post but I thought that the members who have the 36 models would be interested in seeing what can be accomplished if you take your time and are careful.  It is not rocket science (like the new cars of today) and is enjoyable solving problems that are comparatively easy next to a new car.  

 

If you have ever done the instrument panel, hopefully, you can shed some light on the issue I am facing here.  Or if you have a 36, possibly you could take a picture of the back of your instrument panel showing the wires and where they go.  That would be monumental in solving my dilemma.  Any help will be deeply appreciated.  

 

Respectfully,

Randy

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In the pictures here of the speedo, it shows the "white grease" in the gears.  After talking to the speedometer shop here in  San Diego, I removed the white grease and replaced it with the moly grease.  As he stated, white grease with harden over time.

 

Randy

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Am I understanding this correctly? Are you retaining the original wiring in the car? I suggest that you go to Rhode Island Wiring in order to get a new harness, otherwise you are inviting trouble ahead. Just a matter of opinion, but I have had my own issues with the wiring that was left in my car when I bought it. I have since replaced it all.

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Nice work Randy. I will be reinstalling the gauges in my '38 Plymouth in the next couple of weeks. My harness looked a little "iffy" so I bought a complete new harness. Got lucky, shopped eBay until one popped up on there for half price.

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Keiser 31,

 

I would have replaced the harness except for one thing.  It is in excellent shape and has not been disturbed previously.  I am familiar with individuals who have not respected the "old wiring" and in hast to get their cars running, have used compromised wiring harnesses, ending up with a  fire and a melted mass of electrical components and a "fused" bunch of wires.  Believe me, I would not want to be in the latter category.  My harness is intact with the braiding all in place.  Granted, if you move the harness around, you will break the insulation on the wires as I am sure that the insulation is very brittle.  After all, it is 81 years old.  The car ran beautifully with all gauges, lights and instruments all working.  The wires on the back side of the panel are still pliant and believe me, I am extremely careful not to bend or move them any more than necessary.

 

I got my Plymouth shop book and there is a very good schematic of all the wiring and the destination points of where the wires go.  My problem is that the "color coding" on the wire is rather faded and it is hard to tell the color.  What is simple about the P1 is that most of the power is derived from the hot side of the Ammeter.  I just have to find out which wire is going to the fuel gauge and the ammeter. The oil and temp gauge are mechanical and do not have electrical connections.  SO.......it shouldn't be that complicated to figure out what goes where.  I have made it easy by removing the front seat, the pedals from the clutch and brake and the glove box and ash trays.  I have clear access so I will at least get the car running tonight.  I will worry about any thing that I cannot figure out tomorrow.  

 

Randy   

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Well, to all that had been following my dilemma with my P 2, I bit the dust and ordered a complete wiring harness from Rhode Island Wiring and Cable.  It arrived yesterday, the 4th of October and I will have it installed in my Touring Sedan by next week.  I had the shop manual for the wiring, however, the original wire is 80 years old.  The insulation on the wiring is crumbling and it is not a prudent move to keep the original wire.  Plus, the colors are so faded that it is nigh on impossible to tell red from ?  The new Rhode Island wire harness is so well done.  The new wire has the modern vinyl composition wire on the inside and the woven material on the outside.  They make the harnesses to factory spec and the wires will last an eternity without compromise.  Longer that I will last.

 

The Plymouth is pretty straight forward, however, the engineer that came up with the brainy idea of the shove in headlamp lens needed  to be hung from his toes.  I have dropped two of them so far.  I am down to my last spare and believe me.  If a headlight bulb burns out, it may just stay out.  What a hassle to get that lens to go in right.  Very tedious if you do not do them every day.

 

I will be cleaning the engine and painting it.  Now that I have the water pump replaced, I want to make the engine compartment look nice.  The firewall is in very good shape and there is no rust on the surrounding sheet metal.  I just want to paint the block, starter, generator, and the air filter.  Now that you can get replacement stickers and decals for the engine components  and compartment, why not spruce up the engine bay?  

My thanks to all that responded to my request for help.  I just thought that I could do with the 80 year old wiring as it "looked: pretty good from the outside. 

 

Randy 

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I always used a towel under my headlight bucket to catch the lens if need be....and this....

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Found your story and pictures here fascinating on your 1936 Plymouth instrument rebuild.  That appears to be about a year ago and I wonder how that project went.  I am sitting on probably the largest shelved collection of MOPAR radios from the 1930s into the early 1949 series.  Also now coming along with quite a large selection of collected dash assemblies for many of those years and applications.  Only comment for now is that your 1936 Plymouth would have had its own radio with the control shaped to fit in place of the left ash tray and with control wires going  down to the power box mounted on the fire wall.  Most would have been installed by the dealer after purchase of the vehicle as an accessory.  My original vehicle that kind of got me started in this radio research collection was with our 1936 Dodge Touring Sedan, not very different from your Plymouth I'd say.  Anyhow, if you can, you might let me know how your Plymouth project is coming along and if there might be any information I might be able to help with.

     Bert   541-350-3056  Redmond (central), Oregon  

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Randiego, how was the wiring install?  I assume your car was already completed?  I need to do mine as well, the wiring is in very poor shape and my headlights just quit working.

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On 11/8/2018 at 8:51 AM, Delbert Platz said:

Found your story and pictures here fascinating on your 1936 Plymouth instrument rebuild.  That appears to be about a year ago and I wonder how that project went.  I am sitting on probably the largest shelved collection of MOPAR radios from the 1930s into the early 1949 series.  Also now coming along with quite a large selection of collected dash assemblies for many of those years and applications.  Only comment for now is that your 1936 Plymouth would have had its own radio with the control shaped to fit in place of the left ash tray and with control wires going  down to the power box mounted on the fire wall.  Most would have been installed by the dealer after purchase of the vehicle as an accessory.  My original vehicle that kind of got me started in this radio research collection was with our 1936 Dodge Touring Sedan, not very different from your Plymouth I'd say.  Anyhow, if you can, you might let me know how your Plymouth project is coming along and if there might be any information I might be able to help with.

     Bert   541-350-3056  Redmond (central), Oregon  

I wouldn't mind picking up a radio for my P2.  

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1 hour ago, vette-kid said:

my headlights just quit working.

Usually this is caused by a poor earth or ground. Rust and paint are poor conductors. But if the wiring has had it, all bets are off!

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On ‎12‎/‎2‎/‎2018 at 7:24 PM, Spinneyhill said:

Usually this is caused by a poor earth or ground. Rust and paint are poor conductors. But if the wiring has had it, all bets are off!

In my experience I've found that the high beam switch contacts can become corroded over time. I've taken them apart and cleaned them on occasion, but in a pinch, just pressing the foot switch repeatedly can often be all that's needed to get headlights back on long enough to get home.

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Gentlemen,

I have been remiss in not getting back to you all regarding my P2.   First of all, thank you for your kind words.  I had my local auto electric specialty shop do the wiring harness install.  It went in with not issues and all is working great.  The head lights, tail lights, break lights, running lights, interior light, dash lights, horn, and heater.  All is working great.  Recently, I ordered the remote turn signal kit from Little Egypt Garage and I must say, it was one of the easiest installs that I have ever done.  NO  WIRING ! !  Wireless control.   The P2 had factory break lights but no turn signals.  This rear L E D light works off of radio signal.  I mounted it on the trunk lid.   Either the trunk lid was replaced with a later model lid as there were two "carriage"  bolts in the middle as on later models, that was where the license plate mounted with the license plate light.  My  tail/brake lights are mounted on the rear fenders with the license plate mounted above the left rear tail light with the clear lense illuminating the plate.  But as you know, from the factory, they did not have turn signals back then.  It was the ol" roll down the window and hang your arm out to give the signal for the turn, rain or shine, sleet, snow what have you. 

 

I was watching Jay Leno and he had an old car with the owner of Little Egypt Garage on showing the turn/brake signal assembly installed on Jays car.  (Jay has over 15 of them installed on his early cars so far).  The beauty (and ease) of this product is that there is no wiring.  It is done by radio signal to the light cluster in the rear.  If you do not have a brake light, it even has that feature also.  Great product and I had it on in less than an hour.  Now I can drive with peace of mind regarding signaling my intent to change lanes or turn.  Just push a button and the light flashes (sequentially).  Mine is mounted half way up the trunk and the visibility is excellent.  IF you have not checked out this product yet, do so.  It is well worth the investment for safety and peace of mind.

 

It has been over a year since I did the spedo/instrument cluster overhaul.  The guages work and the spedo not only works but is accurate to boot. And they look like new.  Do not be afraid to tackle this job.  I got another instrument/spedo cluster from a fellow club member.  The spedo did not work but the guages were all there.  Instead of sending my original out to the spedo shop  and spending  a lot of money  I decided to do the spedo myself.  Since my fuel/temp/oil gages worked, I retained them.  I just carefully cleaned the faces of the gages and they looked like new.

 

Take your time and lay all of the parts out on a suitable cloth or towel on your work bench.   Take a lot of pictures for reference and study each component as you take it off.  It is NOT rocket science and is not that hard to do.   Hell, if I can do it, so can you.  I used Acetone on the speedometer gears and stems to clean the old grease off.  Be very careful of the spring on the needle shaft.  You do not have to fiddle with that as it is all in one part. (unless yours is bent, broken or ?)  If that is the case, a good speedometer shop should have replacement springs available.  (Some will not sell you the parts but will insist on rebuilding the spedo for you).   The needle will come off of the stem and that can be (if needed)  polished as you can see in my pictures.  After all is clean, re assemble with a good grade of moly grease, insuring that you have all the gears and spindles lubricated.  Note where the factory had a lot of grease packed around the gears and duplicate the amount that they applied to the area.  After all, it lasted  a long time before it would no longer function.  That was because the car sat and sat and sat without being driven.  The grease coagulated and would not allow the indicator needle to move, hence no speed indicating.  

 

Notice that I used sheet cork for my gasket and a Manilla file for the other gasket.  I took off the blue bands (light diffusers) that surround the cluster.  They were not in good shape.  I found some matching mylar (Index file tabs) and duplicated them from the new material.  You can get the sheet cork from Bangor Cork in Bangor Maine.  I purchased a 1' X 1' sheet.  It cost more for the shipping than the product.  I ordered several more sheets in different thicknesses for future needs as the cost was reasonable.  My local hobby store or hardware store did not stock any sheet cork.  Bangor Cork was the answer.  I used a regular Manilla file for the other gasket.  It was the right thickness and worked great for that application.

 

I cleaned the face of the spedo and surround VERY CAREFULLY.  It is painted on and unless your face is rusted or compromised, it should clean up easily.  I used a miracle fiber cloth and diluted Simple Green solution.  Take you time and after you have cleaned it up, rinse it thoroughly  in tepid water.  Then dry it with a soft cloth. Then I waxed it with a pure silicone paste wax.  (I still have a tin of Blue Coral two stage wax product.  No longer available).  I polished the bright surround with Flitz metal polish, bringing the surface back to its shiny luster.  Also, be careful with the glass lens that goes over the face.  THEY ARE NOT AVAILABLE.   IF you drop it, it will break.  So be careful.

 

All in all, this was one of the most rewarding jobs that I did on my old classic.  What is comforting is that every time that I get in, I look at the instrument cluster and I know that I did that. I did not farm that out to someone else.  Plus I took my time with it and really  "detailed" the facia and the gages.  It looked better than new when I was done with it.     It really looks great at night.  The P2 has a two position switch under the left side of the dash.  You can select low or bright illumination.  And since all of the gages are in the one cluster, the "Cyclops Eye" will stare back at you.  A really neat feature of the 36.

 

My "Firestone"  radio did not come in the car.  I found it on line and purchased it from a seller.  It is made by Stewart Warner.  They made a lot of radios in that era for different companies to sell.  I took it to the Antique Radio Store here in  San Diego.  Jeff, the owner, is a radio technician for the County of San Diego  and works on all kinds of radio equipment.  In his store, he has a ton of antique radio sets from the 20's through the 50's.   He replace a lot of old parts with modern capacitors  and the like.  The radio head, (I cleaned up)  is a small round dial with the Firestone name on it.  There are two knobs that operate twist cables that go down to the radio/speaker box that I mounted on the firewall above the clutch/brake pedals to the left of the steering column.  I had Jeff install a MP3 (?  I think that is the name) port for a cable to my cell phone.  When I plug in the cable in to my cell phone and then into the radio, I play from Pandora old music from the thirties and forties.  When I go to a car event, my radio is playing period music.  People come over and are amazed that that is not a "CD". Pretty cool.  

 

That is the update on my Plymouth.  It is such an enjoyable car to drive and turns heads everywhere I go.  For 82 years and a survivor (motor has never been apart) with only the suspension and brakes redone, it drives like a dream.  It cruises at 60 to 65 MPH.  I do not push it further than that.  After all, that is SPEEDING for a 30's era car.  Most drove around 45 to 50 MPH in the day.  

 

Randy    

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