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1949 Buick RoadMaster starter won't disengage


Brooklyn Beer
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1949 Buick RoadMaster series 70. Twelve volt conversion for AC with alternator. Gas pedal starter switch. Ignition ballast resistor was going/went bad and almost had me stuck going home this week.(My 40 ford once did the same thing to me)  Breaking up real bad and would not take any RPM over idle and at that was terrible. Choppy, stumbling. But it sort of ran and I limped the mile home. Parked it. Next day no spark / weak spark if that. So changed Ballast resistor and it fired up but now starter will not disengage. It would hang up once in a while at say every 30 starts and would have to do panic disconnect by removing positive off battery. Key would not shut it off.  After changing ballast resistor, checking plugs, etc, and starting, starter will not disengage.  Have not done anything yet. No tapping with a hammer, etc. Any opinions on where I should start with this problem? I am 3 weeks new to this car. Rebuilt Dynaflow, 2000 miles on rebuilt motor. I did not do the conversion nor the AC work. Ballast resistor had definitely seen better days. Was running great and then it didn't. That quick. Carb was running a little rich. It is a factory stock motor and carb except for the conversion. Done by a reputable person with knowledge in that.

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There is a relay in the system . I believe it is on top of the starter for '49 as it is fir "50. That would be the first place I would check.

   Should have asked. Does it continue to run as in cranking, or does it just hang upl  

  Still betting the relay/solenoid is sticking.

 

  Ben

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I have had this happen when the battery is low or after long cranking times.

My theory is that the low battery makes things hot at the solenoid or relay and kind of welds itself together.

So with all that in mind make sure you have adequate cables and clean connections as well as a good hot battery.

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39 minutes ago, Spinneyhill said:

Are you still using the 6V starter with 12 Volts? How long has it been like that? What was done to make it reliable when it was changed over?

 

Might your problems be at least in part due to the increased voltage?

 

It was changed over to run AC and install an alternator system. I plan on driving this car quite a bit. There is less then 100 miles on this setup as seen. Like I say.  It ran great, then it didn't.  I am brand new to this year Buick and everything right now is a learning curve.  Here is what I got. New ballast is behind the loom.  The starter situation is not related to the loss of power, bad idle, problem except that it happened as I was trouble shooting the previous problem

buick 3.jpg

Buick 2.jpg

Edited by Brooklyn Beer (see edit history)
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If you haven't changed the starter, is it still in good working condition? I don't just mean the motor part; I mean all of it. On 12 V it will spin faster than on 6. The "fling out" engaging force will be greater. Might it have damaged the spring or broken something else in there? If it was already a bit worn (starter gear onto flywheel ring gear), possibly with burrs, might the extra force have contributed to it getting stuck on the flywheel ring gear?

 

It is very difficult to troubleshoot a conversion like this without knowing what has been changed and what hasn't. We are just guessing.

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

If you haven't changed the starter, is it still in good working condition? I don't just mean the motor part; I mean all of it. On 12 V it will spin faster than on 6. The "fling out" engaging force will be greater. Might it have damaged the spring or broken something else in there? If it was already a bit worn (starter gear onto flywheel ring gear), possibly with burrs, might the extra force have contributed to it getting stuck on the flywheel ring gear?

 

It is very difficult to troubleshoot a conversion like this without knowing what has been changed and what hasn't. We are just guessing.

I have only had the car 3 weeks and put 100 miles on it after the conversion. This looks like a factory starter to me and it looks like nothing has been changed on it.  It still works. spins the motor and the motor starts. I did not do the conversion but a shop that has in history in doing so did it. Was changed to an alternator and for modern AC.  I do not know if anything was changed internally in the starter for the process and will not be able to find out until Monday when the shop is open.  The car ran and drive very good until it had a loss of power, stumbling, and would not respond to the pedal without fear of stalling. The idle was rough and surging. It starting doing that in just under a minute after one intial "miss" while driving.   The starter episode happened while trouble shooting the initial problem (I have not been able to get back to that yet while the starter issue persists) BUT a few times in around 40 starts since I had it, the starter motor would stay engaged and would not respond to even the key shutting off but had to disconnect the battery. One other time the key would shut it off as it stayed engaged. Now the the drive assembly sounds like it isn't retracting and riding the flywheel. Before removing anything I am putting the battery on a good charge like what was suggested in a previous post and checking connections as another member said he had a similar issue at one time with a low battery and hot solenoid

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I have been doing some research and see aftermarket 12 volt starters. Has anyone had any experience with installing these? If I end up removing the starter due to something broke that should have been converted I would gladly install the correct aftermarket part for the required need. I cannot find anything to say if these are compatible with the factory gas pedal starting system but personally I cannot see why they would not be.

 

https://www.ebay.com/itm/1939-1952-Buick-12-Volt-Mini-Starter-1107908-1107935-1107953/283185381775?fits=Model%3ARoadmaster+Series+70|Make%3ABuick&hash=item41ef2a018f:g:76MAAMXQWzNSk7bW

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The factory gas pedal start has nothing to do with the starter except to turn the power on (accelerator down and no vacuum) and off (vacuum meaning the engine is running).  On other systems the power is turned on with the key or a switch that is on only when pressed.

IMHO your starter drive was worn and a 12 volt kick in has finished the job.  If it were my car I would remove the starter and take/send it to a reliable auto electric shop where they could/would test the whole starter and probably replace the drive and maybe bushings and bearings.  Once it is out of the car it is better to refurbish all rather than take it out again in a few days/weeks/months. In my specific case I would do the testing and R&Rs myself as I have been doing for 60+ years.  I have always loved the Buick starting system.

I think your idle and rough running is a totally different problem.

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2 hours ago, Tinindian said:

The factory gas pedal start has nothing to do with the starter except to turn the power on (accelerator down and no vacuum) and off (vacuum meaning the engine is running).  On other systems the power is turned on with the key or a switch that is on only when pressed.

IMHO your starter drive was worn and a 12 volt kick in has finished the job.  If it were my car I would remove the starter and take/send it to a reliable auto electric shop where they could/would test the whole starter and probably replace the drive and maybe bushings and bearings.  Once it is out of the car it is better to refurbish all rather than take it out again in a few days/weeks/months. In my specific case I would do the testing and R&Rs myself as I have been doing for 60+ years.  I have always loved the Buick starting system.

I think your idle and rough running is a totally different problem.

I am not familiar with this system but if no vacuum allows the starter to engage when the gas pedal is depressed and vacuum is supposed to cause it to disengage and it’s not doing that and the engine is running poorly then I’d be looking for a vacuum leak. Am I missing something?

Steve

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Those battery terminals you have in there are CRAP.

That is the first place that these replacement cables will fail.

I know yours are new but twer it me I would have some better (and heavier) cables made.

I would bet money that at least one of those terminals was quite hot when your starter took off on its own.

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19 minutes ago, JACK M said:

Those battery terminals you have in there are CRAP.

That is the first place that these replacement cables will fail.

I know yours are new but twer it me I would have some better (and heavier) cables made.

I would bet money that at least one of those terminals was quite hot when your starter took off on its own.

Thanks, will put that on the list !

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Buick used a second method to disengage the starter in addition to the vacuum switch used on the carb.  The original starter wiring was grounded through the output wire on the generator.  Voltage can only flow one direction in a wire.  As soon as the generator put out any voltage, the starter would loose its ground and stop.  So in the original system, there must be no vacuum and no output from the generator for the starter to operate.  You might want to check with the guy who did the conversion to see how he handled the ground with the new alternator.

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  • 3 weeks later...
On 11/25/2018 at 1:09 PM, 61polara said:

Buick used a second method to disengage the starter in addition to the vacuum switch used on the carb.  The original starter wiring was grounded through the output wire on the generator.  Voltage can only flow one direction in a wire.  As soon as the generator put out any voltage, the starter would loose its ground and stop.  So in the original system, there must be no vacuum and no output from the generator for the starter to operate.  You might want to check with the guy who did the conversion to see how he handled the ground with the new alternator.

Oddly (NOT) for some reason the shop that did this work will not return my calls nor give me the time of day. It is a modern alternator and it seems like the starter staying engaged is intermittent so should look at the carb vacuum switch ?

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Quote

 

Brooklyn Beer

I understand your pain.  Generally I don't work on vehicles which have been modified because there is no documentation on the modifications supplied to the owner. We're all guessing at your problem, but we need an actual wiring diagram of the current wiring to help you.  I'm sure your shop didn't supply you with what they did, so we are all in the dark.  If you will take the time to draw a wiring diagram of what you currently have, we may be able to help you.  With the unknown wiring, its a wild guess what the problem is.  From my understanding of the original wiring (and I may be wrong), the vacuum switch on the carb allows the starter to start cranking, because it is grounded through the generator and the generator output cut off the cranking.  This back flow was through the voltage regulator.  I assume that was eliminated for an internal regulator.  Do you have the parts to return it back to a 6v generator system?  That may be less costly and I would ask the shop for a refund of the conversion cost.

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I agree with 61Polara that we will need a diagram of the wiring as it is now, then we can probably figure it out. I Imagine it was converted to 12V because of the A/C.

 

It is a rare thing to see a Buick autostart system working with an Alternator. I haven't tried it myself, It shouldn't be impossible, but a lot of guys have trouble.

 

Keep us posted!

Edited by Bloo (see edit history)
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On 11/23/2018 at 7:46 PM, Ben Bruce aka First Born said:

There is a relay in the system . I believe it is on top of the starter for '49 as it is fir "50. That would be the first place I would check.

   Should have asked. Does it continue to run as in cranking, or does it just hang upl  

  Still betting the relay/solenoid is sticking.

 

  Ben

 

I agree that it is likely a sticking relay/solenoid is the cause of the problem. The next time the starter keeps running with the key off, before pulling the battery cable be prepared to remove the wire from the terminal I've marked with a red arrow in the photo below first. If the starter keeps turning when you do that the wiring isn't the problem. It's the solenoid.

 

1949 Buick Starter Solinoid.jpg

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Thanks for the help but it was modified in order to run a vintage air AC system.  So no going back now. The wiring on the car is not a hack job at all but was done with a repo factory loom some 10 years ago before I bought the car. And what was done was that each wire was tagged with wire numbers. So it would be easy to trace back. I am going to clean or replace the vacuum switch as i back track the starter issue. Have found an NOS unit for 22 bucks. So I can take this one apart prior to trouble shooting the old one. I am hoping the little ball bearing is dirty. After some reading I can wire in a temporary push button ford starter switch to by pass the vacuum switch to isolate that from the equation.  Now remember I am new to this car. On the exterior firewall drivers side is what looks like a voltage regulator (as would be on a 1940 ford I used to own)  I could be wrong as I am still digging into the car itself. 

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15 minutes ago, Ronnie said:

 

I agree that it is likely a sticking relay/solenoid is the cause of the problem. The next time the starter keeps running with the key off, before pulling the battery cable be prepared to remove the wire from the terminal I've marked with a red arrow in the photo below first. If the starter keeps turning when you do that the wiring isn't the problem. It's the solenoid.

 

1949 Buick Starter Solinoid.jpg

It has now been changed as of tonight to a high torque after market starter from Bobs. So only one wire (per his directions and tested to be correct with a meter) That used to be on the relay and the battery and yellow wire with red tracer. The starter just wants to run engaged until positive is removed from battery and that has been intermittent most of the time. Was reading about disconnecting wires from vacuum carb switch and running a temp push button starter switch to work with the pedal to isolate that problem. Tomorrow I might just try it with 2 test leads while working the pedal.

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It is common on these conversions to leave the 6V starter alone. It is also common for the starter to fail after a short time (weeks or months). You could have the starter rebuilt with 12V field coils, not sure what you can do about the solenoid or relay, unless there is a slightly newer Buick 12V it em that will fit. The other thing the factory did when they changed to 12V was to change the flywheel ring gear and starter drive to a finer tooth because the faster starter chewed up the coarser ones. I am afraid that having a shop change your car to 12V is not the end, but  the start of your electrical problems.

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2 hours ago, Rusty_OToole said:

 I am afraid that having a shop change your car to 12V is not the end, but  the start of your electrical problems.

 

 ONLY if done wrong. I changed mine about seven years ago. Could be no happier. Since I did away with the carb and installed EFI, I have no accelerator start. Good old push button.  After breaking the six volt starter drive after five years a mini starter was installed.  No problems.

 

  Ben

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Sorta kinda. Nowhere near as difficult as I think you are implying.  I WANTED to go EFI.  Necessitated going 12V.  Changed all bulbs. Pretty easy and cheap.  Rebuilt one wire alternator.  Less than $50.00.  Still there. Already had a voltmeter,  0 to 18 V.   Bypassed the ammeter.  Six volt battery was on its last legs, so 12V was not a big difference. When the starter drive [bendix ] broke after five or so years and 10,000 or so miles, I ELECTED to go with the 12V mini.  Excellent decision.  6V starter rebuilt and on the shelf. Need one? Sure have had no problems with dim lights, slow heater blower, . Oh yeah, The AC will freeze me out of the black car on a 100 degree day.

 

  Ben

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I have converted 6v cars to 12 v so I know how it is done. I don't think I would do it again as it is more trouble than it is worth, especially if you do it right.

 

What I have a problem with is newbs who think it would be easier and cheaper to convert to 12V than to fix what they have. No it isn't. Just fix the 6v stuff.

 

I know your case is different because you know what you are doing. But for someone just starting out with old cars it is usually best to go easy.

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  • 2 years later...

Brooklyn Beer - I am guessing that you got your starter problem resolved.  I am having the same issue on my new 1948 Roadmaster.  Only way to stop it is to disconnect the battery and more than half the time when I reconnect the battery I don't have to push the pedal down for it to start.  Just turn the key but it stays stuck.  I put in a new battery and the cables are all clean and 2 gauge.   From reading this post it seems more likely that it is electrical than vacuum but I am going to test the vacuum situation right now.  I will say that now that it has a new battery it is doing it less.  Before the battery it happened almost every time but now is much less frequent which leads me to believe it is electrical and hopefully just a sticky relay/solenoid  (as mentioned above) from the generator.  I just got the car two days ago so all is new to me.  I haven't found much about this problem online so it must not be common but as time marches on it seems like a real sleeper of a problem that will hit a lot of us.  My Buick is original and has been immaculately maintained.  The gentleman that owned it for the previous 50 years did everything mechanical himself and did not throw parts at it.  He would just analyze and repair.  So the car has a lot of 72 year old parts.   It would be great to see how you repaired the issue on here for future people.  Thank you.

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I don't know what the policy is on here posting other URL's so apologize preemptively if I am crossing a line but here is the literature on an identical 1950 starting system.  It also ties into the transmission operation.   Very informative.  What a crazy system!

                           https://www.hometownbuick.com/1950-buick-cranking-system-starter/

 

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Is the car converted to 12 volt ?  Is so they most likely disengaged the feature that is on 6 volt cars that disengages power if the switch hangs up (I forget what the device / circuit is that does this if your switch on the carb hangs up to stop that from happening)  I just bypassed the carb switch and ran a separate bump switch to the starter.  No longer use the pedal to start.  Since my car was converted to 12 volt I also installed a high torque mini starter.  That little ball bearing gets gummed up in the switch that disengages the contacts. Car starts and the increased vacuum pulls the little ball bearing out of contact. Or something to that effect.   I do have a new old stock carb switch that I never installed if your needing one.  I decided the headache was easier fixed with just installing a bump switch to engage the starter.

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  • 1 month later...

No conversion on my car it is still original.  A new battery helped quite a bit but I still have to jump out from time to time to disconnect the battery cable to disengage the starter.   I'm pretty sure it is a weak relay.  Does anyone know if rebuilding the relay is a DIY job or where I can get one?  I'm not quite sure if the solenoid and relay are one unit or separate  it would help to know.  Thank you for any assistance.

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