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How to Sort and Maintain a Prewar car

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I love this post as I have been sorting out several post war cars I own  the last few years. Now my focus is on several prewar cars including three brass cars and a 36 Ford Phaeton. I also try to drive all the sorted out cars once a month to keep them that way. Amazing the more you drive them, the better they run.  I also have a 1911 T that is running great but a starter I added last year is now on the fritz. I have early Ford V8 guy giving me advise over the phone on the 36 after rebuilding the distributor and walking me through the wiring. The real issue with the car was the fuel system as the pump failed from probably from the alcohol in the gas. He rebuild it with a new diaphragm and it ran for a short period but it would try to die if I try to rev up when warm except if the choke was out. I put in new cork gasket on the top as the one that was new or old stock came apart. It then died after running just 30 sec and now will not pump any gas. The fuel lines appear clear as when pushing air from the line to the tank, I can hear gas gurgling in the tank.   I am picking up a new fuel pump this week from Midwest Ford in Springfield to try before I drain the gas tank and take out. I helped my Dad do that on this car over 30 years ago and it was checked out and sealed. Don't know that was used to seal though. The lines look good and do not appear to have leaks. I may set up a separate post on this in the tech area if the new pump does not solve the issue. One question for this topic is have anyone used Thermocure by Evaporust  to clean out cooling systems. While my 36 runs cool  if I keep it moving, it will heat up a bit when at stop lights. While I plan to put in some new water pumps that  the V8 guys say move the antifreeze better, I thought it would not hurt to run some Thermocure through first to clean out the radiator and block. I also have  1912 McLaughlin-Buick that runs ok but am taking to a brass guy soon to put on a starter and maybe solve some excessive leaks. Next on list is 1909 Maxwell that I got running a few years ago with lots of smoke but now will not stay running. After that is 1912 Buick( Flint body) that had a ground up restoration 20 years ago but was not fully completed or sorted out and now has Scheblor Model L Carb issues and probably other issues. Enough rambling. I really appreciate those that contribute on this forum including Ed and Matt. Matt,  his wife and boys joined us on Ohio Region AACA tour we hosted a this past fall and were  a delight to have. Hope to see them on the Ohio Region Spring Tour that will be closer to their home in Cleveland. I also invite any of you in Ohio to join us on local chapter monthly chapter events and tours or the Ohio Region Tours Spring, Summer and Fall. They are generally pre and post war friendly. 

 

Tom Muth

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Tom, look up evapo rust in the search box on this site. There are several recent threads talking about using it. All the results were positive, except that most of us just run straight product.

Edited by edinmass (see edit history)
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On 12/1/2019 at 9:51 PM, 1912Staver said:

Unfortunately the inner yoke also incorporates a square slip yoke for the driveshaft 

so it is difficult to substitute something newer.  

Greg,

    My 1912 Buick has a square drive into the torque tube.  I replaced it with a U joint assy. made for PTO  farm machinery.

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On 12/2/2019 at 10:17 AM, carbking said:

do those of you that regularly work on these early cars, have issues with odd ball thread sizes; or is this just a Marvel and Schebler thingy? 

Jon,

    Since I only have Buicks , I do run into lots of odd ball threads on Marvel and Schebler carbs.  My solution is to buy junk carbs and rob the parts, or just solder on standard connections.

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Mark - it isn't JUST Marvel and Schebler, although I believe them to be the worst offenders; but Dodge (Detroit Lubricator) used a 27/64 by 22 thread up through 1929 for the fuel valve seat, and Ford Model A (1928~1931) (Zenith and Holley) used a number 10 by 34 thread on jets. This is just the common makes. Just got an order for a kit for a 1920 GMC with a Marvel and a 31/64 fuel valve seat thread. Another custom die ☹️

 

I understand how you can rob Peter to pay Paul on your own vehicles, but don't think I would last very long in business selling used fuel valves in my rebuilding kits ;)

 

Jon.

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16 minutes ago, carbking said:

Mark - it isn't JUST Marvel and Schebler, although I believe them to be the worst offenders; but Dodge (Detroit Lubricator) used a 27/64 by 22 thread up through 1929 for the fuel valve seat, and Ford Model A (1928~1931) (Zenith and Holley) used a number 10 by 34 thread on jets. This is just the common makes. Just got an order for a kit for a 1920 GMC with a Marvel and a 31/64 fuel valve seat thread. Another custom die ☹️

 

I understand how you can rob Peter to pay Paul on your own vehicles, but don't think I would last very long in business selling used fuel valves in my rebuilding kits ;)

 

Jon.


I was working on a Phantom II AJS today, and needed a special nut for the oil pump...........and it doesn’t seem to exist anymore........ordered a tap and die from England and it should be here tomorrow.........want to talk about a one time use tool.........

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48 minutes ago, Mark Shaw said:

Greg,

    My 1912 Buick has a square drive into the torque tube.  I replaced it with a U joint assy. made for PTO  farm machinery.

 

Thanks ! I will look in to that possibility.

 

Greg

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On 12/2/2019 at 10:45 AM, Matt Harwood said:

It's Sunday night, I'm bored, so I thought I'd add a few more specifics about sorting a car rather than generalities. I'll make a few posts to address some basics I always address on any car that's new to me, regardless of where it came from, its apparent condition, or who owned it before and what they were doing with it. Fuel system, ignition system, battery, brakes, cooling system are the big ones. Even if a car was a "reliable driver" I'm not interested in rolling the dice. Let's start with the fuel system, since it's probably the #1 or maybe #2 (after cooling system) place for problems to happen.

 

With today's gas being kind of hard on vintage fuel systems, the system needs to be as healthy as possible. Age is the natural enemy and fuel system parts WILL deteriorate over time regardless of the care they receive. This is also a place where hack mechanics and do-it-yourselfers feel like they can reinvent the wheel and where temporary roadside fixes "just to get home" become permanent. We see all kinds of curious fixes on old car fuel systems coming through our shop, and I've never seen one where I thought it was a better idea.

 

1. Gas tank. Problem #1 is always the gas tank. If you aren't 100% positive it's new and/or professionally cleaned and sealed (preferably with a receipt and a date), pull it and replace/seal it. There are plenty of products that claim they do a good job and plenty of ways on the internet for doing it on the cheap--anything from filling it with molasses and Coca-Cola to sloshing a chain around inside with some kind of caustic acid. To be honest, doing it yourself is not much better than doing nothing. You can't possibly clean and seal it properly in your driveway, it just won't happen. You'll invest a ton of time and effort and get really, really dirty to save a few bucks, and you'll just have to do it again after you have the car towed home from a tour after it fails. Spend the money up front and do it right so you never have to worry about it again. I like Gas Tank Renu--they're within driving distance for me, it costs $400, and it's guaranteed for life. They cut the tank open, sand blast it, weld it close, and seal it inside and out. This is not an ideal solution for cars with exposed gas tanks, but if it's under the car or hidden by shrouding, then it results in a 100% cure for gas tank-related issues. They will also cut, blast, and seal just the inside and you can finish the outside any way you'd like, but it affects the warranty. Still better than whatever you were planning to do yourself. Note that just one flatbed tow will pay for most of a restored gas tank.

 

Tank1.thumb.jpg.7ff6a488ed26fffb6cd75476f85c71c6.jpg

Hey, that gas tank looks pretty good. Someone painted it and cleaned

it up fairly recently. I think I'll leave it alone. I'm sure it's fine.

 

Tank4.thumb.jpg.612415d292d7ce2a7bd56520722c9560.jpg

No, it is not fine. This particular car would run great...until it

didn't. Symptoms mimicked heat-related vapor lock.

 

GasTank1.thumb.jpg.d9d153acc452ba9fe4bf8e662958ab95.jpg

Finished gas tank looks the same, but will now outlast me.

 

2. Fuel lines. No rubber, or at least minimize its use in your system. Rubber is always temporary, no matter what kind of rubber you use--modern fuel hose is pretty durable and resistant to ethanol, but it is still not permanent and will fail from the inside out. It'll eventually go bad and you'll never know it. It's also fragile, and if you hit something on the road, it's a piece that can be easily damaged by debris. And if your car isn't a race car, for God's sake, don't use the braided stainless stuff unless you really know what you're doing and don't mind the very incorrect look (and REALLY don't use braided stainless with hose clamps--you don't deserve to own a car if you do that kind of shiat work). Metal fuel lines, as specified by the original manufacturer, are always the right choice. Stainless is nice but a bit hard to work with, copper is probably OEM for many early cars but gets work-hardened by vibrations and can crack and fail, mild steel will work but it's susceptible to the same rust issues as an untreated gas tank. I personally like Cunifer tubing, which is a copper-nickel-brass alloy that is easy to work with, bends easily, doesn't work harden, is impervious to rust and fuel, and has a nice gold/bronze color that looks suitably vintage. In short, it's as close to permanent as you'll get.

 

Examine the fittings used in your original fuel system and try to duplicate them. Many will use a single flare, which was common throughout the 20s and 30s, while later cars may use inverted flares or even double flares or something the manufacturer made up themselves. Duplicate what the factory originally used if you can and in many cases the fittings are still available or you can buy decent used ones on eBay if you really must have it 100% correct. If you're splicing in an electric fuel pump, mount it solidly and use correct fittings to connect your hard lines, not hose barbs, rubber hoses, and hose clamps. That's just a failure point waiting to happen. Every hose clamp is a potential leak. Every bend is a place where the hose will crack and split. If you MUST use rubber hose, use as little as possible, usually just as a strain relief between the lines on the frame and the lines on the engine to account for engine movement and vibration. Cars with rigidly-mounted engines shouldn't have any rubber line at all.

 

If you're re-using the original lines, disconnect EVERY SINGLE FITTING and blow the lines out so they're clean. Many are brass or copper so they should not be corroded, but examine them carefully for internal issues, kinks, or other damage. Now is the time to replace it, not by the side of the road when it's getting dark and you're forced to just slap it together with a McDonald's straw and hose clamps.

 

It doesn't hurt to add a filter back by the tank. I like the clear ones so I can monitor its condition and whether there's still trash in the tank (there shouldn't be if you did step 1 correctly). Most old car fuel systems don't need hi-flow filters, but your mechanical pump/vacuum tank still needs to be able to easily pull through it, so you want one that flows well. You don't need a super fine 1-micron filter like for an EFI car, that's going to cause too much resistance. And again, buy one with threads so you can install it with proper fittings, not hose barbs.

 

FuelPump1.thumb.jpg.9379493e31970feaab76f636d4e7811b.jpg  Fuelpump2.thumb.jpg.737286e83c630b2150404f4bff7a8017.jpg  8-3-19a.thumb.jpg.9973c95b2ab598f20cdc11b9c6a1f3ae.jpg

This car came to us with a 100% rubber fuel system. Every joint had a hose clamp on it, and
there were two fuel lines from the tank--one for the mechanical pump and one for the
electric pump. I counted more than 18 different hose barbs , a bunch of scary bends

(how long until that fuel line hanging off the carburetor cracks and spills fuel on the hot

exhaust manifold?), and 100% hack workmanship. It all had to go.

 

8-3-19b.thumb.jpg.97e20f8b7d8f42019bcc7d029de308e5.jpg

All new hard lines and fittings (never mind the incorrect carb).

 

7-4-18no9.thumb.jpg.53e7135a06a5e66955b399a78d1d7dfc.jpg

I'm ashamed to say this was my own workmanship when I was
simply trying to get The Car Which Shall Not Be Named to run

even for a minute or two. It was temporary, but that's not an excuse.

It's always cheaper and faster to do it right the first time rather than
having to do it twice. Ultimately my problem was that the gas tank

was full of trash, so this pump didn't do me any good anyway.

 

Fuel3.thumb.jpg.c089f40d2b40de9ad2b953d8093b8fc2.jpg Fuel11.thumb.jpg.fa0afab82e5274a6e3ae533771981987.jpg

This is what I replaced it with. 100% new, from tank to

carburetor, 0% rubber. Do it right.

 

3. Fuel pumps. For a majority of cars, there are rebuild kits available, and if you don't feel comfortable doing it yourself, have a professional rebuild your fuel pump (or vacuum tank). Most kits and all rebuilders, as far as I know, use modern neoprene parts that are ethanol-resistant so they should be a long-term solution. Most fuel pumps are simple devices that work until they don't, and there's not really much tuning or tweaking. If you're rebuilding it yourself, spend the $100 for a good rebuild kit, not the $13.99 kit on eBay. There's a difference. NOS pumps and kits are trash simply due to age and obsolete materials, so pass on those, too. Be methodical and careful and follow the shop manual (you do have a shop manual for your car, right?). As I said, if you're even a little concerned about getting it wrong, just send it out and pay the $250 or whatever it costs to have a pro do it. Money well spent for peace of mind.

 

4. Carburetors. Carburetors should probably have their own category and I'll defer to the guys who know more about them than I do, and I won't go into tuning here. But the problems I see most often are floats that don't float, jets full of junk and/or worn and/or modified by some guy in the past, and improper tuning. Tuning is a separate issue, but you should make sure that your carb's internals are right. Again, kits should be readily available (Jon AKA  Carbking makes some of the best kits around) but you can also send it out to be rebuilt. Choose a reputable rebuilder who is familiar with your specific carburetor. There are thousands of carburetors out there, and not everyone knows every carb. Seek out a specialist if it's something unusual. A quality rebuilder will make sure that the carburetor body parts are machined flat and fit properly, that the bushings for the throttle shafts are fresh, and that the linkage is properly aligned, all things that you may not even be able to see when you're doing it yourself. Spend the money to get it right--a good carb kit might cost as much as $250 and a rebuilder might be twice that much, depending on the carb. Worth it!

 

I won't go into tuning because that's a big category all its own, but you should not assume that you can just bolt the carburetor on and it'll work right out of the box. We're sorting a car, remember? Fresh parts is only step one. Manage your own expectations so that you aren't disappointed or frustrated when the car still idles poorly or stumbles on the road. Tuning and tweaking are a big part of this process and until all the supporting cast members are fresh (fuel, ignition, battery, cooling, etc.) you can't start that part of the process anyway. Focus on renewing the parts, then you can move on to the tuning.

 

I'll try to chime in later with more information on other subjects, as I expect others will, too. It's now Monday morning (I started this post at 8:00 last night) and I have to get back to work.

 

 

 

 

 

The interesting thing about the gas tank in this post.......It's what is in 98 percent of the car driving down the road.......there is nothing special about a restored car looking like 96 points and it suffering from terrible, inept, unskilled, and lazy mechanics and restorers. Think paying 500K for a car at one of the big auctions makes you safe and immune to problems.........NOT AT ALL. Auctions are where 99.9% of road trash are sent to die.......I mean sell. Back several years ago a 100 point big boy toy with a exotic platform was sold through one of the top four auction houses. It had an interesting problem of oil consumption and overheating. After twenty minutes in the shop, and only a small effort, it was easy to understand. The pistons were installed backwards............hey, the restoration only cost a few hundred grand back then, and the car ran fine. Just don't rev the engine in front of the judges and use a low smokeing oil in it. Yup it made 99.5 points. Cost of sorting a car like this.......remember, with the pistons in backwards, you WILL find 400 other issues. I think we ended up fixing about 250 of them and the owner ran out of steam. The car was decent and reliable after we were done with it, and did several major tours without issue. The repair was around 6 figures, and we could have easily put another 30k in it. If you don't know cars.........and that means about 90 percent of the people driving them, PLEASE hire one of the people who know what they are doing if your interested in buying a car.....yes, they can be expensive, and they are worth every penny. I probably recommend a car purchase of one in twenty five of the cars I look at. 

 

 

 

Please read this next sentance five hundred times..............and tatoo it on your wife's (body part name eliminated for good taste) where you will see it every day.......

 

 

 

It costs the same amount of money to buy a good car, as it does to buy a disaster.

 

 

 

Take your time, look at and inspect several cars before you pull the trigger.......you can learn more from cars you don't buy than ones you do. 

Edited by edinmass (see edit history)
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15 hours ago, carbking said:

Just got an order for a kit for a 1920 GMC with a Marvel and a 31/64 fuel valve seat thread. Another custom die ☹️

Jon,

    That GMC may have a Buick engine too; because GMC used Buick engines in their trucks during the 20's. 

I am not sure how early they did this, but I have a friend with a 1929 GMC with a Buick Master Series Six.

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16 hours ago, edinmass said:


I was working on a Phantom II AJS today, and needed a special nut for the oil pump...........and it doesn’t seem to exist anymore........ordered a tap and die from England and it should be here tomorrow.........want to talk about a one time use tool.........

Been there done that - I want to say bumper brackets at frame bolts (someone had been there before me) and I broke a bolt in rear brakes too that I had to remake.  

 

Sidenote:  For those not familiar, an Springfield, MA built Rolls-Royce is Whitworth hardware just like the English cars - quite the challenge dealing with any English hardware when in the United States. Over my life, I have seen plenty of people try to deal with rusty/rough English cars here - good luck with that = it is a more difficult problem than most people think (internet though is a HUGE asset now). 

Edited by John_Mereness (see edit history)
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2 hours ago, edinmass said:

 

Gas Tank Renu has done a variety of work for me and are pretty conducive to whatever I need on the outside via pre WWII cars  -  I usually send a drawing/picture with the tank (If possible I have them do as much of the outside of the tank that is hidden from view and then I paint the rest - unfortunately, as you mention the earlier the car the more visible the exterior of the tank.  

 

The RR tank was somewhat problematic and a good tank for Renu as the baffles are riveted through the outside of the tank (where I was having my issue with several seeping - they re-soldered the bulk of them and then sealed).  I do not recall which Renu did the project other than they were in Ohio -  I called the main number and asked for the sharpest and most resourceful tool in the shed. 

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John, agree 110% on Internet!  The collective knowledge needs a grain of salt but super helpful on any car, benefits outweigh the noise.  So some things about the hobby today are good...

 

Two questions and apologies on one that strays into postwar.

 

MG T series, whitworth, metric, transition st any point?  Anyone know that one?

 

What is AJS?  Both John and Ed referenced related to Springfield RR, haven't a clue and it keeps coming up... 

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AJS and AMS series PIIs were left-hand drive. Most were sold on the American market but some went to other places where LHD was desirable.

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1 hour ago, JV Puleo said:

AJS and AMS series PIIs were left-hand drive. Most were sold on the American market but some went to other places where LHD was desirable.


Only three chassis of the AJS series were sold outside the USA. I’m not sure if any of the other three have survived. Remember, 65-75 percent of the Rolls and Bentley production was making its way to India then, and with the Continental chassis, most were RHD. Most of the cars sold were the small series engine/chassis, not the large/AJS/Continental.

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It's been many years since I looked at that stuff... I knew it wasn't many but I didn't know it was that few. Somewhere around here I have an owners manual with the chassis number written on the flyleaf. I think it is AMS220. It would be interesting to know if the car is still around. I don't think it was in the RROC book 30 years ago when I was a member.

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Recently I bought a P1 owner’s manual, when it arrived it had the chassis number written in it when new.............the car survived and made a movie with Robert Redford in Newport Ri back in 1974. The current owner of the car is not well and can’t take a call, so next time it changes hands, I will give the new owner a shot at it.........here is the car.......

DC993419-23BF-4B9F-B41A-79906A85AB26.png

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Last year I bought an original P1 key chain with the chassis number on it, it was known to still be driving after WWII but it seems lost to time.......or the junk yard............it was listed as having a woody body attached on it in 1939, and last seen in 1946........anyone know of a Springfield Rolls Royce Phantom 1 with a woody station wagon body on it?

Edited by edinmass (see edit history)

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I don't think that is body that was on the car when it was built... The movie was "The Great Gatsby".

Oddly enough, I worked for Ted Leonard who owned the car at the time the movie was made. After the filming, and before the release of the movie, it was on display in the lobby of the Gulf & Western Building in New York. For a month I had to sit by the car and talk about it to anyone passing through the lobby. Ted Jr. and I drove it through Manhattan for the premier of the film. I think our passenger was the producer...but as we weren't allowed in we just took the car back to the garage where it was being kept.  I was in the movie also with my Cadillac as was the late EA Mowbray whose SG Permanent Salamanca (S111BG) was "Daisys" car. Within the last few months I've had a call from someone who is running down the provenance of the car and was able to give him a few bits of information they didn't have.

Edited by JV Puleo (see edit history)

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Let's talk about more sorting stuff. Sitting in my living room watching a rerun of "Magnum PI" which is perhaps the greatest show ever made. But I digress.

 

One of the other things I always do when I get a new-to-me old car is tune up the starting system. I have yet to acquire an old car of any kind that started easily when it came off the trailer. Melanie's 1956 Chrysler? Dead battery because the cut-out in the regulator was bad and the battery was trying to turn the generator as an electric motor. '41 Buick Limited? Battery so weak it barely turned over and I had to pop the clutch backing off the trailer to get it to fire the first time I ever drove it. The Car Which Shall Not Be Named? Impossible to start when hot--like the battery was almost dead. '29 Cadillac? Same thing. Felt like no juice to turn the starter--not even a little.

 

The first thing a lot of guys do when faced with a hard start situation is install a new battery. And they're often surprised when it doesn't help. If they have a jump box, they'll throw that on there and sometimes it forces the car to start because of the additional amperage. After that, many car guys simply assume that 6V systems just don't have what it takes and that they were always a problem, and that's why automakers switched to 12 volts. Not true, but how many of you have purchased old cars with 8V batteries already installed?

 

The reality is that all old cars with 6V electrical systems started easily, hot or cold, regardless of the weather. They didn't struggle, they didn't need a boost, and they cranked easily. But the electrical system, like the fuel and cooling systems, needs to be clean and clear to do its job, and age takes a toll even on electrical connections.

 

The first thing I do with my personal cars when they arrive is to charge the battery fully. That way I can diagnose the other parts in the system. With a healthy battery, you can see if generator output is adequate and you'll know whether the starter is healthy when it cranks. 


Step two is to examine and possibly replace the battery cables. If your car is like most, the cables are either ancient or wrong. They are quite likely a big part of the problem. 

 

OldBatteryCable1.thumb.jpg.c67ca0a596042855f50c5af365bb2868.jpg

Typical battery cable in an old car. It's trash.

 

If you have any concerns at all about the condition of the battery cables, replace them. If you have a 6V car and the cables are smaller than your thumb, replace them. In the grand scheme of things, they're not expensive and they're cheap insurance. As we've discussed here many times before, it is not uncommon for people to install 12V battery cables on a 6V car simply because that's what is available at the local Autozone. They don't understand how electricity works. According to Ohm's Law, lower voltage needs more amperage to do a given amount of work, and more amperage needs bigger cables because current travels along the outer surface of a wire. Less surface area = more resistance and less current moving (it's also why stranded cables are better than solid). Resistance is why undersized wires get hot. It's like a hose trying to pass a given amount of water--the smaller the hose, the higher the pressure. Eventually the hose will burst. 

 

Anyway, you can get nice, big 0 or 00 gauge battery cables at many automotive electrical shops and there are mail-order places like Rhode Island Wiring that will make you custom battery cables any length you want. I'm lucky that I have Certified Auto Electric a few miles away (Jeff, the owner, posts here occasionally) and they make beautiful silicone-covered cables that are not only plenty large but also incredibly flexible. So that's step two: upgrade your battery cables (but don't go buying them yet, there's another step first).

 

NewCable1.thumb.jpg.320d04c29c3ab197a42fcdd7aa103591.jpg
Heavy-gauge battery cables are a MUST. Check out the
awesome flexibility on these made by Certified Auto Electric.

 

In many cases, a strong battery and big cables will be enough to start your car. Plenty of current is flowing, the battery is healthy, and the starter should turn under most circumstances. But heat is still the enemy--as temperature goes up, so does electrical resistance, both in the cables and in the starter itself. Heat is the starter's enemy. You know what generates a lot of heat in an electric motor? Resistance. You've got a big hit of current flowing TO the starter, complements of your new battery cables, but to do actual work, electricity has to move from power to ground. Resistance inhibits current moving through a device and you lose energy as heat instead of doing work (i.e. turning the starter). To use the hose analogy again, if you're using a 1-inch hose on the input side, but your output side is only a 1/2-inch hose, that bottleneck is going to waste a lot of energy doing nothing but fighting its way out.

 

While you're installing your new battery cables, it should go without saying that you should clean every cable contact point to bare metal. Use dielectric grease to seal the union. Don't paint it.

 

Ground1.thumb.jpg.e7a13208c6244382d45a8b13ac96e3f8.jpg  Ground2.thumb.jpg.659e0301aeb892a792cadb0bd7761faa.jpg

All your ground points should be bright, clean metal before installing your new cables.

 

Step three is to improve your grounds to give the power an easier path to follow to and from the device it's powering. Most starters are grounded through their housings, which are bolted to an engine block or transmission bellhousing, which is bolted to the chassis somehow. When it was new and all the metal was clean and fresh, there was probably an adequate ground path. Decades later? Meh. Grease, rust, paint, and dirt have surely accumulated on the various parts, which interferes with the flow of current. Many frames are riveted and that means separate parts that are only connected to one another by the surface area of those rivets, which doesn't provide much of a path for big current. To improve the ground, clean all the various contact points for the starter. If you feel ambitious, remove the starter and really clean all the mounting points and flanges. No paint, no grease, just bright, shiny metal. When you reinstall it, use a little dielectric grease to keep the contact points clean.

 

Still, if your engine is the ground path and it's sitting in rubber engine mounts in a painted frame, it may not be enough. I always add a second and maybe even a third ground strap. You can't have too many grounds, so connect everything to everything else. The most important one is from the battery's ground to the starter housing--this gives the starter a clear ground path back to earth. Since this cable is assisting the starter housing's ground, it doesn't really need to be 00 gauge (although there's no such thing as a wire that's too big). This is one place where the 12V parts store cables are OK to use. They come in various lengths and with different terminals, including bolt-on loops at both ends, which is useful. Clean the mounting bolt or stud, as well as the starter housing around it, and attach your ground cable here and to the battery's ground.

 

StarterMount1.thumb.jpg.fb2b2f517286d1e64052f54dd658a003.jpg  Ground3.thumb.jpg.1d8868ecb97a1c985db099d0bae85d42.jpg

Give your starter's ground path an assist in the form of an additional ground cable

directly to the battery's ground.

 

While you're at it, add a ground strap from the engine block or head to the frame, and from the body to the frame, getting them all as close to the battery ground as possible. Clean all your mounting points to bright metal and seal with dielectric grease. Add all the grounds you want, they can't hurt and may actually help cure other problems in the car such as wonky gauges or a radio that doesn't tune very clearly. 

 

Perhaps you want to add a cut-off switch as well. Good idea. If you use one of those green knobs on the battery terminal, go ahead and throw your tools in the lake and take up gardening or something. That's a terrible idea. Get a heavy-duty cut-off switch designed for just this purpose, and make sure it's rated for the substantial current levels of a 6V system. The are some switches rated at 50 amps and some rated at 300 amps continuous current (as much as 2000 amps intermittent). Guess which one you want? They look the same, but they're not. Buy the big, expensive one. It's common practice to put the cut-off switch on the ground side, which is what you should do. From the battery to the switch to the clean ground point on the frame or engine. More dielectric grease as needed, and tight connections. Put the switch somewhere that is easy to reach--you don't want to have to remove the front seat every time you need to turn off the battery.

 

cutoff1.thumb.jpg.e62bc9f5c1a5bc65f8a353fdcf449b28.jpg  Switch2.thumb.jpg.99f21f75cf8dc685bb9a32b69f5e351f.jpg

Cheap parts store 50-amp disconnect switch connected by crumbling and/or undersized cables.

More fail workmanship by someone who didn't understand what they were doing. No wonder

the cursed thing never worked right.

 

81CfHIRn9xL._SL1500_.jpg
This is the one you want. It'll handle 300 amps continuously and 

2000 amps for 30 seconds. Costs almost $50. Worth it.

 

51+4bzzaitL._SL1000_.jpg  image_12541.jpg

Crap and crap. Do not use.

 

With all this new equipment in place with bright, shiny, clean grounds, your car will crank. If you still have trouble, say, with a big cubic inch brass engine or a high-compression V8, then maybe you upgrade your battery. My '29 Cadillac starts fine on a single 6V, 800 CCA Optima. My '41 Buick is perfectly happy with an original-style long, thin Group 3EH which has something like 550 CCA. The Car Which Shall Not Be Named had 414 cubic inches of V12 to crank, so I went with dual Optimas in parallel, which kicks out 1600 cold cranking amps--there was just no way for that f*cker to NOT start, regardless of how hot it got. Oh, you want to see how to hook up two Optimas in parallel? OK, here you go:

 

Battery1.thumb.jpg.ee6a8036d670d71304fd5ba442407709.jpg Battery3.thumb.jpg.8763e7bea9d01f12a04f9f15481b9afe.jpg
Two 6V Optimas in parallel kick out 1600 amps and have enough reserve
power that you could probably drive your car home using the starter alone.

 

If you're still having starter problems after this, you're going to have to dig deeper. First stop is the starter motor itself--worn starter bushings are common and can lead to hard starts. If that's not it, you have bigger problems to solve and you're not just sorting anymore. But that's not really part of this discussion. 

 

Again, the bottom line is to do the entire system front to back and spend the money to get the right components to make it work its best. 

 

 

 

 

Edited by Matt Harwood (see edit history)
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Electrical cables and connections have been a well discussed topic on the PAS forums.

Matt is right, there are far too many cars out there with inferior cables and marginal batteries.

 

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3 hours ago, Matt Harwood said:

 

51+4bzzaitL._SL1000_.jpg  image_12541.jpg

Crap and crap. Do not use.

 

 

Point of fact, I am NOT technically an electrical engineer. However, my dad was. And I worked with my dad for much of my adult life.  And I was a contractor in electrical and communications systems most of my working life. I was a respected fault finder in most things electrical for many years. That means I was the guy people called in to find a problem after several other people spent a couple days, and could not find it! I would go in, ask a few questions. run a few tests with my various pieces of equipment. Make a few calculations, point and say "Dig here!" (Or cut into the wall, or whatever obstacle hid the failure.)

We also occasionally consulted with fire marshals after building fires to help find the cause if it was electrical in origin. 

 

Let me add to what Matt H said about those. They are BEYOND CRAP and WORSE CRAP and can actually CAUSE FIRES on their own!!!!!

 

Thank you Matt H for pointing those out here.

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