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1941 Buick Limited Limousine


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How do you solve a problem that doesn't want to be solved? I am now entering week 4 of the "easy 3-hour sending unit replacement" project and I am farther than ever from having a running, driving car. And like a crazy person doing the same thing over and over while expecting a different result, I keep going out into the shop and wasting time and energy and money on a problem that simply will not allow itself to be solved. It's almost comical how everything I touch goes wrong, as if I had a stroke and suddenly do not know how to fix anything anymore. 

 

A few days ago, you might recall that I made a new fuel line and tucked it up into the car. It fit perfectly, even snapping into the original clips. I got my tank back from Gas Tank Renu yesterday ($489) and tried tucking it into place. I secured it with bungees so I could maneuver the fuel line into place, then cut the new fuel line to meet up with the pickup tube on the sending unit. Satisfied that it was the right length, I tried to slide a fitting onto the tube and it wouldn't fit. So I cut a little bit off. Still wouldn't fit. Cut off a little more. No fit. Threw away the fitting and grabbed another one. Still wouldn't fit. Removed a bit more, filed it, sanded it, oiled it, and it still wouldn't fit. Fortunately, the line was now too short and I had to tear it out and start over, so at least I didn't have to worry about making the fitting work.

 

20200606_160612.thumb.jpg.9bbaab1ada251256fd340a8f79b695df.jpg

Second attempt at making a fuel line (center) was not as

successful. Who cares? I'll just shove it in there and call it done.
Or not, because this project does not want to be finished. 

 

My second attempt at making the fuel line wasn't as beautiful, but whatever. It fit more or less, even though the original fuel line clips are now broken because I kept installing and removing the fuel line and they fatigued. Oh well, I'll just use zip-ties like any good hack mechanic would. New line was close enough to the sending unit that I figured I could just jam and bend it into place, so I pulled it out one more time to flare it. Fitting slid into place easily, thankfully, and then my insanely expensive high-end flaring tool that I've used successfully 9000 times before made this flare:

 

20200606_161801.thumb.jpg.686f3d789f55adf00f26c8696b193fd5.jpg

Seriously? 

 

I lost it there. Not sure what to do now. Every circuit in my brain blew. I crumpled up the fuel line and went home. I've burned through 25 feet of cunifer tubing ($104) and will have to order another roll of it to finish the job. That's only another $104 and a week of waiting for shipping. 

 

I've killed about 60 hours on this project which was really supposed to take three. Just install a new sending unit to see if you can get the original fuel gauge working. No big deal. Nope, a month gone and a whole lot of money. How much? Dig this:

 

Sending unit: $95 with shipping. Didn't work. Broken, so I can't return it.

New sending unit: $45

Aftermarket fuel gauge: $69

Boil out gas tank: $180

Gas Tank Renu because boiling out gas tank opened up leaks that weren't there before: $489

Cunifer tubing: $104 + shipping

Second roll of cunifer tubing: $104 + shipping

Flare fittings for fuel pump: $30

Flexible fuel line: $18

Soldering supplies: $40

Second round of soldering supplies because the first batch didn't work for some reason: $40

New soldering iron because my old one sucked: $65

Misc. wiring & terminals: $20

 

Total: $1299

 

And I still have a crippled car in pieces tying up my most important lift (because, after all, this job was only supposed to take a day). I know for certain the turn signals are broken because of this project and I can't guarantee that it will run, even with fuel lines connected, because the wiring is so hacked up. $1300 and 60 hours gone, only to have a car that's notably worse than it was before. If I were a doctor, I'd be in jail for this kind of malpractice.

 

What if I just use some rubber hose and shove it in there with some cheap hose clamps? I could be done in 10 minutes. Nobody would know or care except me, and it'll be just like all the other piece of crap cars running around. Sure, it'll rot and crack and leak fuel on the hot exhaust at the worst possible time, but hey, what's the point of owning an old car if it won't screw you over and catch on fire every few weeks? Not sure I should even care about quality anymore. What's the point?

 

I just don't know what to do. I'm obviously not able to solve this problem myself. Something has happened to me and I'm not up to completing this job, simple as it is. I don't know what went wrong, but the obstacles keep popping up in the stupidest ways possible. I'm at a loss to explain it and it really sucks. I'm not sure I have the mental fortitude to go out and try again. And maybe I'm a fool if I do.

 

This car started its life with me abandoned in a corner and forgotten, maybe it will end its life with me the same way.

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1 minute ago, JohnD1956 said:

Geeze Matt.  Wish I lived closer and could come over to help with this.

I just read through this and was thinking of a reply, but I think John has said it best.

I so much wish I could help, Matt!

Keith

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Matt,

I wish I had some better news, but sometimes that is just the way it goes. I have faith that if you take another break, eventually, you will tackle all of the recent problems successfully. You will have that car running better than ever again soon and then you can decide when you are ready to waste some more big money on softer tires to make the car ride more like a Limited and less like a truck.:)

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Posted (edited)

Nothing much to say that would be helpful other than to say you are not alone and this happens to all of us!  Hang in there... is there a local club member that could swing by to help or at least offer support?

Edited by dmfconsult (see edit history)
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Hi Matt, 

I think most of us have had similar experiences, you just have to plow through it. Your idea to use flexible tubing for a fuel line is a good one. My car has this,  it works fine and nobody knows. Just hack saw the fittings off, slip the line on and clamp. You’ll bounce back and be wrestling with something else before you know it. 
peter

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If misery loves company, this so parallels the time I installed the power brake system back onto a 54 Roadmaster that the po had rigged standard brakes onto. Real sharp bends on the end 6 inches that I ended up crimping badly twice necessitating compete remakes. The third time came out beautiful so proceeded to flare and install. %%@@^((%@!!!!!! I had put the fitting on bassackwards prior to flaring.  I wasn't about to loose the nice bends I'd finally succeeded at so cut the line, turned the fitting around and installed a coupling. @Rooster bet you wonder why that extra joint was there eh? now you know the rest of the story.

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Posted (edited)
16 hours ago, Matt Harwood said:

 

I've killed about 60 hours on this project which was really supposed to take three. Just install a new sending unit to see if you can get the original fuel gauge working. No big deal. Nope, a month gone and a whole lot of money. How much? Dig this:

 

Sending unit: $95 with shipping. Didn't work. Broken, so I can't return it.

New sending unit: $45

Aftermarket fuel gauge: $69

Boil out gas tank: $180

Gas Tank Renu because boiling out gas tank opened up leaks that weren't there before: $489

Cunifer tubing: $104 + shipping

Second roll of cunifer tubing: $104 + shipping

Flare fittings for fuel pump: $30

Flexible fuel line: $18

Soldering supplies: $40

Second round of soldering supplies because the first batch didn't work for some reason: $40

New soldering iron because my old one sucked: $65

Misc. wiring & terminals: $20

 

Total: $1299

 

And I still have a crippled car in pieces tying up my most important lift (because, after all, this job was only supposed to take a day). I know for certain the turn signals are broken because of this project and I can't guarantee that it will run, even with fuel lines connected, because the wiring is so hacked up. $1300 and 60 hours gone, only to have a car that's notably worse than it was before. If I were a doctor, I'd be in jail for this kind of malpractice.

 

What if I just use some rubber hose and shove it in there with some cheap hose clamps? I could be done in 10 minutes. Nobody would know or care except me, and it'll be just like all the other piece of crap cars running around. Sure, it'll rot and crack and leak fuel on the hot exhaust at the worst possible time, but hey, what's the point of owning an old car if it won't screw you over and catch on fire every few weeks? Not sure I should even care about quality anymore. What's the point?

 

I just don't know what to do. I'm obviously not able to solve this problem myself. Something has happened to me and I'm not up to completing this job, simple as it is. I don't know what went wrong, but the obstacles keep popping up in the stupidest ways possible. I'm at a loss to explain it and it really sucks. I'm not sure I have the mental fortitude to go out and try again. And maybe I'm a fool if I do.

 

This car started its life with me abandoned in a corner and forgotten, maybe it will end its life with me the same way.

Matt, "par for the course" - most every one of us go through this, you just are one of the few to post about it. I too have a shelf of projects too that I am to some degree finished with and now waiting for some additional part(s) for.   And the should take X long that takes 10X times longer or costs 10X times too much.    Plus, the irony is that for every X I spend I have XX in shipping costs.  There is also some black hole time space continuum anomaly of how something came apart just fine to then require  filing to go back together again.   I look at it this way, hopefully we never have to go back and re-address.

 

You may also want to add one or two more things to the list - If your Buick is running fender shirts, consider wrapping fuel line over the axle humps and I would be tempted to warp the exhaust pipe over axle hump too - I found with 1941 60 Special excessive heat build up in the area. 

Edited by John_Mereness (see edit history)
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Posted (edited)

Put another $225 in the ledger. Got up early and headed to Summit Racing to resupply. One, a new flaring tool. Two, another roll of copper-nickel tubing (I don't particularly like the Summit stuff because it kinks easily but I don't feel like waiting for the good stuff to get here; that's on me if it goes sideways). Three, a package of little fuel line clips for a '60s Chevy Impala. 


I called my shop manager and best friend, Michael, and asked him to meet me at the shop. Michael likes to joke that he's my "brother from another mother" and he's pretty good at keeping me sane—like you guys, he's a good friend who understands and cares. I figured that with him around to act as a stabilizing influence as well as a second set of hands, things might be different. They were... mostly.

 

We got started by installing the gas tank and strapping it into place. I made new mounting cushions out of a rubber mat and secured them using the little prongs, then we lifted the tank into place and secured it with the straps I painted a few weeks ago. We removed it later, of course, because we needed to get the fuel line in there and the tank was in the way, but whatever. I didn't particularly want to start my day getting angry at tubing, so I let Michael play with the tubing bender to try to replicate the fuel line that I already made twice. He set to work on that while I made some wires for the electric fuel pump and the sending unit wire that feeds the aftermarket gauge.

 

6-7-20-12.thumb.jpg.5fa33f4a245c9b4b074edcb9b512c0ba.jpg

We strapped the gas tank in place but ended up removing it
again. Note how rough my spare tire well is. That's on my long

list of things to fix, maybe next winter.

 

I keep a pretty big selection of cloth-covered wires in 12- and 14-gauge sizes (YnZ's was having a clearance sale and I bought A LOT of wire), so I selected a 14-gauge green/white wire for fuel pump power, running it from the relay under the dash directly to the fuel pump. I used a 14-gauge brown/white wire for the sending unit wire and left enough slack under the dash that I can relocate this wire to the factory gauge if I ever get it working. Brown/white is somewhat close to the original sending unit wire's black/white and the green/white is unique, so the electric fuel pump power wire won't be confused for anything else in the car. For the record, I also sealed the original sending unit wire (whose insulation was crumbling) with a long length of shrink tubing so it should be intact. I put a new eyelet on it with the plan being to connect both wires to the sending unit, which will hopefully feed both gauges. Or is that a mistake? Will the two gauges cross-talk if they're sharing a ground? I guess we'll have to wait and see...

 

I ran both wires in plastic loom (not the corrugated plastic crap) so it would have some protection and not look too out-of-place. I secured the ends with shrink tubing to prevent it from unraveling, and ran it parallel with the fuel line.

 

6-7-20-4.thumb.jpg.85c306cc9ea71094cc8a3b04efb2859b.jpg  6-7-20-3.thumb.jpg.88ca04293dbbb01cbd806336f301272a.jpg
I made wires for the fuel pump power (green) and the sending unit (brown). The

aftermarket gauge uses a spade connector. I ran both wires together in a 

braided loom and used shrink tubing to act as a strain relief where the 

green power wire connects to the fuel pump.

 

6-7-20-2.thumb.jpg.c9ab2448f4d145341a79f9a185521300.jpg  6-7-20-1.thumb.jpg.e482ee4fb88f3e7ed9c46cda49f40171.jpg

Brown wire connects to the sending unit and feeds the aftermarket gauge.
Note the original wire (now sheathed in shrink tubing) is also connected to

the sending unit. I also added a separate ground wire.

 

Meanwhile, Michael did a pretty good job of duplicating the fuel line (try #3). Not as pretty as my first one, but at least as good as my second try. With some tweaking, we were able to guide it into place to get our measurements for where to install the fittings. We also tried out the new fuel line clips, which snapped into the original holes and grabbed the fuel line securely. Not bad. 

 

6-7-20-7.thumb.jpg.997b58762a53bbd283ac74fe9fa2632e.jpg
New clips aren't really a match for the originals but snapped into

the original holes and did a good job of holding the fuel line in place.

 

6-7-20-6.thumb.jpg.b0b38cdcf4cddbe222b1b3770deb0dc8.jpg  6-7-20-5.thumb.jpg.b691b24faaeea236a89876a34fbcb280.jpg
Michael's fuel line fits reasonably well and snaps into the clips in the right places.

 

Then we used the new flaring tool to finish both ends. I'm not terribly happy with this tool, either—the holding block seems to crush the tubing into a bit of an oval, but the die that flares the end makes it round again, so it turned out OK. I think trying to make it work on both 10mm and 5/16 lines is a mistake and neither fits perfectly. Meh, another $85 wasted, but at least it got this job done. Both ends fit, albeit with a little wrestling, and we secured the line to the fuel pump and the sending unit.

 

6-7-20-8.thumb.jpg.f36c4c8f36e99d1722d29ce93e5f84ce.jpg  6-7-20-9.thumb.jpg.14c3db0e24b968390531716cf6062d01.jpg

Flares were acceptable (I hope—I haven't run any gas through them yet).

Connected both ends without issues.

 

Last up was connecting the ground wire for the sending unit. I drilled a pilot hole in the frame above the gas tank, cleaned off a bit of the undercoating, and installed the wire with a self-tapping screw and some dielectric grease.

 

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Drilled a hole and secured the ground wire with a self-tapping screw.

 

Technically, the car should be operational at this point. The fuel lines forward of the electric fuel pump are still connected so I guess I can put gas in it and try to fire it up. There's one more wire to connect, a 10-gauge wire that will power the bus bar (remember that?), which in turn powers the electric fuel pump. I've already verified that the relay is firing, there's just no current flowing yet. I think I'll connect it to the BAT terminal on the voltage regulator and relocate the fog light power wire to the bus bar. That will simplify things, which is the whole point. Maybe I'll do that tomorrow after work so I can see if the car still runs and assess the damage to the wiring behind the dash. At least I can get it off the photography lift—Stefon, my photographer, has been pretty pissed off that I have tied up his lift for a month and he's been forced to use the lift up front for chassis photos. It's really a pain to move cars around up there.

 

It was good to have Michael around to help, I think I'll call him more often. He really made a difference, even though I prefer to work alone.

 

 

Edited by Matt Harwood (see edit history)
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Sorry to say but I think it was a mistake to hook up both gauges to the one sender. Isn't that sending two power sources to the same rheostat and ground?  It just does not sound like it's something that should be done.  Hope one of the more knowledgeable electricians here can comment on that before you put gas in the tank.  

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10 minutes ago, Bloo said:

Yeah, that wont work if that is how it is.... But maybe the stock one is disconnected at the other end? That would be OK.

 

Dang. I was hoping I could see if they would both work. Meh. I'll disconnect the factory wire at one end or the other. Neither is particularly easy to reach. I starting thinking as I was writing it up above there that having them both on there might be a problem after all. Thanks for confirming, Bloo.

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8 hours ago, Matt Harwood said:

 

Dang. I was hoping I could see if they would both work. Meh. I'll disconnect the factory wire at one end or the other. Neither is particularly easy to reach. I starting thinking as I was writing it up above there that having them both on there might be a problem after all. Thanks for confirming, Bloo.

Old Chinese proverb: man with two clocks doesn't really know what time it is.

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1 hour ago, buick5563 said:

Not sure if I missed this, but I would also fuse the fuel pump line and install a toggle on / off switch.  

 

No worries there, Mike. Check out a page or two back where I installed a relay with a toggle for the fuel pump. The relay has a built-in fuse (I installed a 10 amp fuse which should cover the 6 or 8 amps that the fuel pump draws). It's set up so that the fuel pump will only run with the ignition AND the toggle on. If either switch is off, the relay won't activate the pump.

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13 hours ago, Matt Harwood said:

so I selected a 14-gauge green/white wire for fuel pump power,

Using 14-gauge on my 12 volt electric pumps resulted in a 2 volt drop at the pump and repeated failures.  12-gauge solved the issue.  Before you jerk the wires check the voltage since your pump may be different.  Also most 6 volt application require a heavier gauge.

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1 hour ago, old-tank said:

Using 14-gauge on my 12 volt electric pumps resulted in a 2 volt drop at the pump and repeated failures.  12-gauge solved the issue.  Before you jerk the wires check the voltage since your pump may be different.  Also most 6 volt application require a heavier gauge.

 

I think it'll be OK. It was running for years on a 14-gauge wire and the wire coming out of the fuel pump itself is TINY, like 16 or maybe even 18 gauge. It doesn't draw much current at all. Look how little than tan wire is (that's power):

 

6-7-20-3.thumb.jpg.59b9f1248ec66615e3cad6ba4c7df4a7.jpg

 

 

 

 

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Posted (edited)

I concur, Matt.  Call Michael more often, for sure! 😄

 

Just for a break, take a look at these screen grabs from a film I saw today on Turner Classic Movies -- "The Underworld Story" from 1950.  In the opening scene, these guys drive up in a '41 Limited and rub out a guy coming out of the DA's office who was about to sing to the Grand Jury about the nefarious dealings of the gang boss.  After they plugged the guy and took off, the scene switched to a newscaster in front of microphone who said the killers fled in a "high-powered car!"  This was a Warner Brothers picture -- I think someone posted earlier about the fact that Warners had several Limiteds that they used in various films.

 

underworld1.thumb.jpg.e70cfa5739cd8173a803bcf5b4685c5b.jpg

 

underworld2.thumb.jpg.bc949ee28bdcbfb25b34f867d8f08efa.jpg

 

underworld3.thumb.jpg.cba7b6cc44075f76bb6267cb34e6e09b.jpg

Edited by neil morse (see edit history)
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1 hour ago, neil morse said:

I concur, Matt.  Call Michael more often, for sure! 😄

 

Just for a break, take a look at these screen grabs from a film I saw today on Turner Classic Movies -- "The Underworld Story" from 1950.  In the opening scene, these guys drive up in a '41 Limited and rub out a guy coming out of the DA's office who was about to sing to the Grand Jury about the nefarious dealings of the gang boss.  After they plugged the guy and took off, the scene switched to a newscaster in front of microphone who said the killers fled in a "high-powered car!"  This was a Warner Brothers picture -- I think someone posted earlier about the fact that Warners had several Limiteds that they used in various films.

 

underworld1.thumb.jpg.e70cfa5739cd8173a803bcf5b4685c5b.jpg

 

underworld2.thumb.jpg.bc949ee28bdcbfb25b34f867d8f08efa.jpg

 

underworld3.thumb.jpg.cba7b6cc44075f76bb6267cb34e6e09b.jpg

 

Looks like the door handles were already drooping too!  Probably caused by the excessive winds as they sped away from the scene. 

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Several Limiteds, 1938/1939/1941, appear in the movie "All Through the Night," with Humphrey Bogart (1942). The character Eddie Mars has a 1941 Limited in "The Big Sleep" (1945/46), also featuring Bogart. Both were Warner Brothers films. Great movies!

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Bogie also climbs into a Buick taxi toward the conclusion of “The Maltese Falcon.”

8CB21904-E47D-42CF-AC26-13FE11307A9C.jpeg

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Posted (edited)

Steps forward, steps back. No photos since all the work was just connecting wires. Sorry.

 

On the plus side, the car should be ready to fire. The fuel lines are connected and sealed and the gas tank is in place. I connected all the wires to power the electric fuel pump and disconnected the sending unit wire to the aftermarket gauge (I was planning to give the factory gauge one last chance to work before I disconnect it, but that may not be an option—see below). I made a 10-gauge wire with a fuseable link to power the bus bar and connected it to the BAT terminal on the voltage regulator. All my accessories are now powered by the bus bar, including the fog lights, whose power wire I moved from the BAT terminal to the bus bar. Spotlight, Ready-Rad, and fog lights are all good to go and operating correctly. Fuel pump is still offline, but I'm not sure there's a problem in its circuit...

 

The step backwards is that when I turned on the ignition to test the fuel pump and relay, the interior lights went dim and the ammeter pegged itself at full discharge. I suspect there's a stray short to ground somewhere. Crap. Those are a real pain to find. Ugh. I verified that it is not the bus bar by disconnecting it and turning the ignition on—problem remained. So there's a circuit tied to the ignition that's shorting out. I suspect it may be the original sending unit wire, whose insulation is crumbling. I'll disconnect it tomorrow and see what I get, too tired tonight.

 

I also tried tidying up the wring under the dash, securing wires, and moving them to safe places where no moving or hot parts will touch them. I can't test things like the turn signals or fuel pump as long as I have that short in the ignition circuit, but hopefully I can find the problem there. And as long as I'm doing wiring, I have a few more wires that I'd like to replace and terminate properly—still a few with those cheap crimp fittings that wiggle loose, including the starter button wires. I'll get those replaced once I know the stupid thing is ambulatory again.

 

Finish line, where the hell are you?

 

 

Edited by Matt Harwood (see edit history)
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Matt, I know you do not want to hear this, but for a car you drive for AACA touring (and I know you have had it across the state), you probably need to take the next step (this winter) and rewire it.  I drove the 1941 Cadillac for years with the original harness, but the difference was that no one had ever touched any connection other than myself for whatever service issues I was addressing (and I was the one who damaged a few pieces of brittle wire and had to shrink wrap them or installed the crimp terminal).  It is a real pain to deal with someone else not so handy handywork and I have been quick to give up bandaging on cars wired from the same spool of wire in all the same color, with old brittle stuff, hack repairs, and .....   The last complex car wiring I did was the 1939 LaSalle and the harness was from Rhode Island Wire (Marsha is fabulous) with all the bells and whistles pre-installed - it was a painful 4 days of 10 hours a day, but everything worked great first time out of the gate.   I did the 1936 Auburn a couple weeks ago - about 4 hours to add in a few specialized terminals and an extra two fuses, plus perhaps 6 hours to install (but it is pretty straight forward).   

 

Sidenote:  On the 1936 Auburn S/C phaeton I re-restored, it had a couple year old though relatively new wiring harness, but someone had installed all the terminals without lock washers and as a result in various service issues (they had 12 thumbs) had managed to tear off nearly every terminal and replace with a crimp terminal (a lock washer helps prevent the issues that cause this).  I also found they had had a few shorts and had near fried several sections. 

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Posted (edited)
37 minutes ago, John_Mereness said:

Matt, I know you do not want to hear this, but for a car you drive for AACA touring (and I know you have had it across the state), you probably need to take the next step (this winter) and rewire it.  I drove the 1941 Cadillac for years with the original harness, but the difference was that no one had ever touched any connection other than myself for whatever service issues I was addressing (and I was the one who damaged a few pieces of brittle wire and had to shrink wrap them or installed the crimp terminal).  It is a real pain to deal with someone else not so handy handywork and I have been quick to give up bandaging on cars wired from the same spool of wire in all the same color, with old brittle stuff, hack repairs, and .....   The last complex car wiring I did was the 1939 LaSalle and the harness was from Rhode Island Wire (Marsha is fabulous) with all the bells and whistles pre-installed - it was a painful 4 days of 10 hours a day, but everything worked great first time out of the gate.   I did the 1936 Auburn a couple weeks ago - about 4 hours to add in a few specialized terminals and an extra two fuses, plus perhaps 6 hours to install (but it is pretty straight forward).   

 

Sidenote:  On the 1936 Auburn S/C phaeton I re-restored, it had a couple year old though relatively new wiring harness, but someone had installed all the terminals without lock washers and as a result in various service issues (they had 12 thumbs) had managed to tear off nearly every terminal and replace with a crimp terminal (a lock washer helps prevent the issues that cause this).  I also found they had had a few shorts and had near fried several sections. 

 

You're absolutely right, John. The thing that really makes me unhappy is that the harness in the car is a beautifully made reproduction that was very correct, and it's fairly new. Sadly, someone with his own ideas about how things work tried installing it and really chopped it up. I can even hear his voice echoing under the dash as he ignorantly cursed the people who made the harness for doing it wrong, when in reality it is he who didn't understand how anything was supposed to work. I'm sure he was saying things like, "Grounds to the courtesy light buttons in the doors? Idiots! Radio powered from the headlight switch? How stupid are these harness makers? Guess I'll have to fix it myself." So he started cutting everything apart and adding those plastic crimp connections and now they're all coming loose. Most of the wires are correctly coded, fabric-wrapped, and in a correct loom. It's just the terminals, the wire extensions he added, and the guesswork behind it that's maddening. This guy wasn't equipped to do wiring work on a car any more than I'm equipped to perform heart surgery, and the results are the same.

 

Note, for example, the lovely correctly-coded wires going into this 6-way connector, and then the generic black plastic wires coming out and snaking their way into the body somewhere. Hopefully those don't fail anytime soon, because I'm not up to tearing out the interior to replace wires.

 

5-24-20-2.jpg.a366f283f946fd34a16c13b66f1878cc.jpg

 

I haven't started tracking down my ignition short, but I'm hopeful that my theory of it being the fuel gauge sending unit wire is correct. Otherwise I'm in store for a LOT of tracking and testing that'll be absolute misery. So many loose wires back there...

 

A rewire may be in my future. My friend Neil did it and paved the road ahead, so following him should not be difficult--he did a beautiful job. I'll save that job until next winter, however. I just want to drive the thing again.

 

 

Edited by Matt Harwood (see edit history)
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15 hours ago, Matt Harwood said:

I suspect it may be the original sending unit wire, whose insulation is crumbling.

 

But that shouldn't be connected to power. A short there would just cause the original gauge to`go to zero.

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14 minutes ago, Bloo said:

 

But that shouldn't be connected to power. A short there would just cause the original gauge to`go to zero.

 

200.gif

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Posted (edited)

 

Found the short—it was the aftermarket gauge in the glovebox. Since I was still connecting wires, I didn't bother putting the gauge itself in the bracket. One of the terminals on the back was apparently touching the metal glove box frame. Secured the gauge and the lights were no longer dim and the ammeter was no longer pegged. Good first step. Poured 5 gallons into the tank and it didn't leak. Good second step. Turned on the ignition, flipped the switch for the electric pump, and it started pumping. 10 seconds later, the car was running. Good news!

 

Backed it off the lift and took it up the street to put more gas in it. On the one hand, I thought maybe that would be a mistake because the moment the tank was full was the moment something would go wrong necessitating me draining the tank and removing it. On the other hand, I needed to see if it would leak. So I pumped another 16+ gallons into it (it holds 22). No leaks! Another step forward. It runs and drives as well as ever—smooth and powerful.

 

On the downside, neither fuel gauge works. The factory gauge showed empty when it was, well, empty, as well as with the 5 gallons in it. When I filled it, the gauge showed a HARD empty, all the way left. I am assuming that I have a ground issue and that disassembling the dash and re-establishing the gauge's ground, it should work. I will not be doing that anytime soon.

 

The aftermarket gauge has its sending unit wire disconnected, so I will disconnect the factory wire either at the sending unit or (more likely) at the factory gauge, then connect the new sending unit wire to the new gauge. It should work--at least it did on the bench. I'm still not going to invest a lot of hope in it.

 

Turn signals worked for the first five minutes of my drive, then stopped and did not come back. I do not know why. I see that they are tied into the fuel gauge somehow on the wiring diagram, so I'll have to do some more checking there. I still have some wires to fix and secure, so I guess I'll do some wiggle tests to find the bad connection.

 

I'm also a little concerned that the ammeter is now pegged on full charge. The battery was probably a little soft, but after a 20-minute drive it should have been topped off. Hmmm. Worry or not? I'm choosing "not" for right now. More driving will tell us more.

 

And why the hell is it running at 200 degrees now? It's like this thing is a different car every time I turn the key. It's 84 degrees this evening, so maybe that's a factor, I don't know. First things first, let's fix some wiring. The rest will come later.

 

 

Edited by Matt Harwood (see edit history)
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Posted (edited)

Trying to regroup a little bit now that the car is reassembled. I poked around under the dash to try to get the turn signals to work and they did start working. I don't know what I did or whether they will continue to work in the future, but they are now operational. I see that they share power with the fuel gauge, so I'm wondering if the fuel gauge's bad ground is causing problems. Whatever, they're working.

 

I added a small red LED light on my switch panel that will tell me when the electric fuel pump is on. While it shuts off with the ignition, I still have caught myself driving for long periods with the pump running unnecessarily. The LED will be a reminder. I wired it to the power terminal on the relay so that it will only be lit when the fuel pump is getting power—toggle off and/or ignition off, the LED (and the pump) are off. I grounded it to the dash using a mounting screw for the switch panel. I drilled a 5/16" hole, added some eye terminals to the wires, connected everything and it was good to go. I mounted it lower than the switch rather than right next to it simply because if I installed it right next to the switch, I wouldn't be able to see it as I'm driving.

 

SwitchPanel1.thumb.jpg.b8380f1eddd6e5b588fa220ac860a830.jpg  SwitchPanel2.thumb.jpg.7a25bf85b34514d4a34421d47ef0463c.jpg SwitchPanel3.thumb.jpg.b261b075e22560d28d6d8ae06e543e1c.jpg

Added a red LED to tell me when the fuel pump is on.
I probably should have removed the panel and repainted it
but it's hidden unless you're really looking for it.

 

Interestingly enough, this red LED flickers when it's off just like the green left turn signal indicator LED. I don't know how that's possible, especially since there's a toggle switch that definitively separates it from power. Could there be stray power bleeding through the dashboard ground somehow? I don't think it's electrical noise from the ignition simply because only one of the turn signal LEDs flickers. Has to be a weird ground thing, right? How do I even test for such a thing?

 

Oh, and while I was farting around behind the dash, I managed to kill the courtesy lights for the rear compartment. I suspect it's that crappy-ass bundle of generic black wires at the 6-pin connector. I'll go after those next. I really wish I had just left everything alone. When will I learn?

 

I didn't really feel like jumping into anything major but I had some time to kill, so I installed the decals on the engine. I decided not to repaint the rocker cover even though there's some solvent pop that's visible on the top surfaces. Nobody will notice. I took a few quick measurements, used some masking tape to mark my target area on the valve cover, and installed both decals. While I was doing decals, I also installed the air cleaner decal which has been sitting on my desk for three years. I decided not to repaint the air cleaner assembly and leave it kind of 85%. It matches the rest of the engine bay, which is pretty nice but not perfect or show quality.

 

Engine1.thumb.jpg.cd9082c29ef38676638b12e1a2fc78ec.jpg  Engine2.thumb.jpg.c9d919b621a8b746f1541432f70c3d04.jpg

New decals finish the engine bay nicely.

 

Once it was back together I took the car for a nice, long drive. It seems to be back to its old self and still runs beautifully with great power and impeccable smoothness. Temperature hovered at 175-180 like it should, but it's nice and cool today (75 degrees), so maybe the very warm night was why it was running unusually hot a few days ago. The generator eventually topped off the battery so the ammeter went back to 0 and stayed there—I don't think there's anything seriously amiss with the electrical system (beyond the rear compartment lights and flickering LEDs). Of course, neither fuel gauge works—I disconnected the signal wire from the factory gauge so that the aftermarket gauge gets a clean signal from the new wire, but it shows a different reading every time I turn the key. I don't believe it's happy on 6 volts, but we'll see how it behaves when it gets close to empty. I'm not going to worry about it anymore. Reset the trip odometer, get gas when it says 200 miles, just like I have been doing for 7 years. Maybe replace the factory gas gauge in the future. Or not. 

 

I have one more easy wiring project that I want to tackle, then I'm going to leave it the hell alone and go back to work on the accursed Lincoln. Maybe I'll get to drive that one before the snow flies...

 

 

Edited by Matt Harwood (see edit history)
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17 hours ago, Matt Harwood said:

 

Oh, and while I was farting around behind the dash, I managed to kill the courtesy lights for the rear compartment. I suspect it's that crappy-ass bundle of generic black wires at the 6-pin connector.

 

The Limited may be wired differently, but on my Super ALL the interior lights are powered by a hot wire that goes through that six-pin connector, so if it's only the rear courtesy lights that are dead, your problem is somewhere else on the circuit.

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Posted (edited)

I found the loose wire that feeds the rear courtesy lights—it is indeed in that 6-pin connector bundle. I pushed them back together until the lights came on and left it at that. I'm not thrilled that the two sets of lights that I lost recently only started working because I jiggled some wires, suggesting that they could go out again at any moment. But for now they're all working and I'm not going after them until next winter when I can take my time to get the wiring right. 

 

Speaking of wiring, I had one last project to do before simply driving the car and leaving everything else alone. Melanie has long complained about the poor visibility of old car brake lights, and she's not wrong. I thought my LED taillights were sufficient but recently I was following a 1940 Buick on a tour and his brake lights were almost invisible even though I knew where to look and what to look for. I know mine are better ('41 taillights are larger than '40s) but even with LEDs they're smaller and lower than the average driver expects. So I decided that more brake lights would be better. 

 

I ordered a Brakelighter a few weeks ago and installed it after work this evening. It's an LED third brake light that installs in the rear window and now that it's in place, I can say that it's a good thing. The install was straightforward and took about two hours and I think it was $75 well spent. Here's where I started:

 

6-15-20-7.thumb.jpg.3c1f422ee827a0196d2c09ddd5258ae1.jpg

Brake lights with LEDs are pretty good, but still small and low
on the body. Some drivers may not always spot them.

 

The Brakelighter comes with simple brackets designed for a flat vertical window, but I ordered the angle bracket kit that allows the light to be mounted on sloping rear windows like the Buick's. The setup is simple enough and can be installed using either the suction cups or some little adhesive discs that seem impressively strong. I chose the adhesive discs since I don't plan to remove the light. 

 

6-15-20-5.thumb.jpg.e101eef5c5ba85985bcac61263479a01.jpg  6-15-20-4.thumb.jpg.7051556085c2f55621cb9a302d0f8f22.jpg
Clean the glass and mount the Brakelighter using the brackets. If your glass

isn't vertical, you'll need the angle bracket kit.

 

The Brakelighter comes with some kind of clip-on wire connectors that are probably easy enough to use and good for amateurs, but they also look like a problem waiting to happen so I didn't use them. They also include wiring diagrams for several different configurations. The Buick is probably the easiest to wire because it uses a two-filament bulb for tail- and brake light functions only, with a separate bulb and circuit for the turn signal. Since I simply wanted the Brakelighter to act as a third brake light, all I had to do was tap into the brake light wire to power it. However, if you want the Brakelighter to also act as a turn signal and flash with your factory turn signals, they have wiring diagrams for that configuration as well. If I wanted to do that in the Buick, it would have gotten a bit complicated and involves diodes, so I didn't bother. The Brakelighter comes with black, white, green, and yellow wires with the green and yellow wires powering the two halves of the LED, and the black and white wires acting as ground or a second signal if you're using them as turn signals. They include wiring diagrams for these situations.

 

6-15-20-11.thumb.jpg.4a3c9afd96faa93f2577a18d1d997e9e.jpg
The Brakelighter comes with these clip-on wire splice

things, but I'm going to pass on using them.

 

6-15-20-12.thumb.jpg.871004d3834ff01c4ea848a356de28d3.jpg

Simplest installation, which I used, simply powers the

two halves of the Brakelighter from a single brake light
wire and uses black and white as ground.

 

The hardest part of the project was actually getting the wire from the package shelf into the trunk without hurting the upholstery. Eventually I found an opening and threaded it behind the seat to keep it out of sight as much as possible. In the trunk, I removed a side panel to expose the brake light wiring. As with all the other wiring in the car, there's a correct and relatively new cloth-wrapped wiring harness, then some chopped up wires, some plastic butt connectors, a bunch of electrical tape, and some anonymous black wires. Feh.

 

6-15-20-6.thumb.jpg.905d244f3995fa5246dc4abcfdd4e6f9.jpg
I managed to mostly hide the wire so nobody will notice it.

 

I'm not going to worry about rewiring the taillights right now since they seem to be working just fine, but I isolated the brake light wire and spliced the Brakelighter's two power wires (green and yellow) into the brake light wire. Using some shrink tubing, I got a good connection that shouldn't come loose. 

 

6-15-20-2.thumb.jpg.08f4ca8a28829028e36065b124653747.jpg  6-15-20-1.thumb.jpg.a63d14bc2df4a32aebda5edbbfc47e3e.jpg

I ran the Brakelighter wires alongside the car's wiring harness and
connected them to the brake light wire. I installed an eyelet on the

black and white wires as ground and connected them to the brake

light housing mounting screw (red arrow). Some electrical tape
secured the harness and some zip ties tidied things up a bit.

 

Then I reinstalled the trunk inner panels and it was all hidden out of sight. I don't expect problems from the connections I made and the wire won't wiggle around. I just continue to be puzzled by the hack work that I'm finding in every nook and cranny of this car's electrical system. A correct wiring harness that just wasn't what he wanted so he cut it up and used cheesy Pep Boys wiring to make it work. 

 

I will say that the Brakelighter is BRIGHT. I mean hurt-your-eyes-and-look-away BRIGHT. Nobody is going to miss it now. It's also plenty bright inside the car, but as with many of you, I'm sure you have wondered if your brake lights were working in traffic--with that thing in the rear window, I'm not going to have any problems determining whether they're on now.

 

6-15-20-10.thumb.jpg.7e3df85cd0d5a1571073a993f7c4c065.jpg

Plenty bright in daylight. Considerably brighter than the LED

taillights. Nobody's going to miss this.

 

6-15-20-9.thumb.jpg.29eadc9b686053912b3b7d2e7d5c228c.jpg  6-15-20-8.thumb.jpg.17f7a2be2ef8e8b58824cd97d7523232.jpg
And it's RIDICULOUSLY bright in the dark.

 

6-15-20-3.thumb.jpg.b8fb48e023ee7d1c403b7e6d07fc0e65.jpg

As well as inside the car. 

 

Melanie is very pleased with the upgrade and while I don't love non-stock additions like this, it's subtle and most people won't notice it until it's on, at which point it's doing its job and making us safer in traffic. And since it's an LED, it draws very little power while throwing a WHOLE LOT of light. Safety matters when your family is in the car and I think this is a good addition. Old car taillights are small, under-powered, and today's drivers are conditioned to look for that third brake light. We've all had close calls and I feel better knowing there's more visibility out back, even if it does burn people's retinas out of their heads.

 

I've already ordered a second one for the '29 Cadillac, whose taillights are even smaller and lower on the body. I've got some projects to do on that car, so I'll add this to the list.

 

 

Edited by Matt Harwood (see edit history)
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Good addition to your Limited, Matt.  I always thought it was interesting that my '48 Chrysler Windsor had a factory center brake light on the trunk lid.  It seems they were ahead of the times, although they discontinued it in the early '50's for some reason.

 

1855244441_48_Windsor(2)_LI.jpg.4ad61342d4140bb2b966294c0e5755a3.jpg

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Actually, on the Chryslers the center light was the ONLY brake light. The side lights were taillights and turn signals. Many people convert them today so they work like regular brake/turn signal lights and keep the center light operational, but when they were new it was just the one brake light. 

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I had forgotten that part of it, although it seems they were still ahead of the times.  It made me wonder whether it would be cool to do a variation of what you did on your Limited by putting the extra brake light in the red plastic BUICK emblem on the trunk lid where the turn signals were located in '39 and '40.  I may look into that variation.  I have LED's in my brake lights and turn signals, and I haven't been aware of anyone not seeing the the brake lights, but I know that on at least one occasion I slowed and came to a stop for a left turn with my turn signal blinking and someone behind me started honking irately.  He/she apparently didn't see the turn signal.

Edited by neil morse (see edit history)
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That can be a problem, as some folks think that their taillights aren't bright enough, so they put in some million CP LEDs.  As a result, your taillights look like brake lights to anyone behind you and your turn signals get lost in the eye-melting brightness.

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Matt: 

 

Leave the internal wiring alone for your lights; go all external. 
 

With this setup, no issues seeing the car, and you can lose a few (hundred) bulbs and still be totally visible. 
 

(That rear window brake light is a winner)

0D7C5C54-FB66-4F68-A8A8-7773AF39FE40.jpeg

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Just had a bad moment when I was looking through old photos of my engine from when I first got the car years ago. Note the valve cover decals:

DSC_8506a.thumb.jpg.52d81d45f6ba035f76e72376cf750c2d.jpg

 

Versus how I installed them last weekend. Uh oh...

Engine1.thumb.jpg.fc7e2e37df7c836102b2a987d1bf2309.jpg

 

I didn't reference my old photos, I just installed them the way that seemed correct with the 'Fireball' at the front. Fortunately after looking at other 1941 Buick engines online, it appears that I got it right and it was incorrect before. Whew!

 

I have been driving the car to and from work every day this week, taking the long route of about 8 miles instead of 3, and it's running like a million bucks. Starts instantly, idles smoothly, pulls cleanly in any gear at any speed, and I'm very pleased. It's still running a bit hotter than it used to before the radiator transplant (185ish vs. 165 before) but I guess I can live with that. It's not overheating or getting dangerously hot, so I suppose I should be satisfied. I still have an idle adjustment to make because I think it's idling just a little too high, but I have to admit I like the heavy 8-cylinder sound from the tailpipe sitting at stop lights. The thing sounds MUSCULAR.

 

And speaking of the soundtrack, you might recall Tim Shaffer, the artist who built my exhaust system. He's got time next week to add that second muffler at the rear of the car to try to kill the highway moan/drone. So I'll run it out to his shop and let him get that in place late next week. It should be virtually silent after that. I actually like the idle sound right now, but the drone at highway speeds gets annoying on trips so I guess it's an acceptable trade-off. We'll see how it works out. It certainly can't hurt.

 

I'm going to focus on rattle attenuation next. There is a small one in the front suspension on big bumps at low speeds and another on the rear axle. Neither has an obvious source since I've tightened and insulated everything I can find, but they're both kind of a tinny 'chsssh' sound, like something lightweight is smacking against something heavier. There's also a persistent boom on big bumps that is kind of hollow-sounding and reverberates through the body. It got a lot better when I tightened the splash shields behind the rear tires, but it's still there on some larger bumps. My passenger-side fender skirt bracket doesn't quite pull the skirt tight to the bodywork, so I'm going to start there.

 

Rattles make me NUTS. I've killed 90% of them, and those that remain have vexed me for years. Got to keep trying...

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Matt.....get a set of chassis ears.....I just bought the new bluetooth unit............fantastic to find noise........which also drives me crazy. I spent four days chasing one down on a JN, and once located I fixed it in twenty minutes.........never stop, and never give up. All the bullshit does finally come to an end, and driving a car "as perfect as you can make it" is very satisfying. I have 7 weeks into chasing all the very stupid little stuff on the JN, and I can now say it's the best work I have ever done on any car that I have had. Feels fantastic to take it out and crank it up with no noise, no vibration, and everything "as new" like the first owner had the car 85 years ago. The guy who bought the car new was a WWI fighter ace for the US. It's kind of fun sitting in his seat and driving his car knowing what an interesting guy he must have been. Since the car has less than three thousand miles on it from when he sold it, its a cool sensation to drive and experience what he did nine decades later.........that is the true fun of old cars. Enjoy the Buick, keep picking away at it..........then get on the car with no name..........😎

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