Buickborn

'54 power antenna problems

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A few days ago, in my garage, I was proudly showing off the power antenna operation in my '54 76R when the thing surprised me by failing to climb to its full height even though the motor continued to operate.  Then I found that it would not retract either.  In manipulating the antenna by hand, I find that I can manually extend it to its full height, but I cannot lower it below the nearly-full height it had achieved when it quit.  This is a pressing problem because the antenna at its current height is too tall to clear my old-fashioned swing-up garage door.

 

Further, I'm thoroughly flummoxed not only by extremely limited access to the power unit inside the fender but also by the question of how I can expect to drop the unit out of the car with the antenna extended about 42 inches.  Clearly, I need to figure out how to lower the antenna before I can remove the unit.   Can anyone enlighten me on this puzzle?

 

Once I have the unit out of the car, I plan to focus on repairing or replacing it, which will no doubt lead me to further questions.  But for the time being I just need to retract or remove the antenna so that the car doesn't continue to be marooned in the garage!

 

Thanks!

         ~ Charlie Manes

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Posted (edited)

@Buickborn, what almost certainly has happened is the nylon "tail" attached to the mast which moves it up and down, has snapped.  Where it has snapped, it's probably now binding and/or not catching where the gear must apply pressure to force it down.

 

If it snapped near the top, you should be able to run the "tail" down into the coil, then push the antenna down.  However, since it failed while up it probably snapped near the bottom.

 

You might get lucky enough to work it into a position that will allow the intact portion to catch in the gear again so you can retract it enough; if you apply light pressure, maybe with some jiggling, while somebody else activates the switch toward down position, it may be possible.  If this fails your only recourse is probably to try to take it out while fully extended. 

 

Jacking the driver side of the car up, combined with the play you will have when the nut and spacer is off the fender as well as the greater flexibility of the top part of the mast, will hopefully allow you to angle it enough to slide it out.

 

Good luck, I know how long these are!

Edited by lancemb (see edit history)

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your power antenna was made by casco, there's a tension adjustment screw near the top of the motor where the drive gears and spools are, if you can access the screw, you can back it off a turn or two, maybe then the nylon lead can be pushed past the spools and into the storage tube - there by allowing you to lower the antenna mast. use a small flat blade screwdriver to turn the adjustment screw. i hope you have success in getting the mast lowered. 

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Iancemb & Pontiac53:  Thank you very kindly for your insights, which I truly appreciate.  At least now I'm confident that I won't have to liberate my imprisoned 4-holer by means of a tubing cutter!!!

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Not much chance of getting it apart in the fender, but you might be able to unbolt it from the fender, drop it to the floor or at least lower down, and take things apart from there.  Tape up your mast to avoid marring it.

 

Remove the black antenna cable from the antenna housing.  Undo the antenna fittings on top of the fender.  Pull the left kick panel to access the wiring.  Undo the wiring at the switch and the power lead.  There is also a ground wire screwed in near where the wiring passes through the cowl, and that needs to be freed up.  All the wiring then can bass through the rubber grommet.

 

The motor housing is topped off by a cap with three screws.  Undo that and you should be able to remove the mast assembly from the motor and retract the mast by hand.  Or you can undo the mast housing at the top motor to free it up.  I think it is two screws there.  Keep us posted...

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When you get it out talk to @Barney Eaton who is on these forums.  He repairs these antennas and replaces the nylon with steel.

 

Bill

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Once again, Guys, thanks for all the helpful info!  Fr. Buick, this is the '54 76R for which I bought a first-class black steering wheel from you some years ago.  So your current guidance will serve as your second, thoroughly appreciated, contribution to the well-being of this very sharp car.

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Here are some photos that should look like your antenna.

The 6v version is on the left and the 12 v that your Buick should have is on the right.

The cord is pinched between the two grooved rollers..... the problem is this design used a rectangular plastic cord and

all later versions used round plastic.    I have not found a source for the rectangular plastic....one owner said he had a shop machine

plastic to work.   Round plastic might work for a while but I have only seen two of these antenna and both needed lots of parts so

they were not repairable.

As Douglas noted above,  once you get to the antenna,  you can remove 3 screws and separate the top cover (with the mast attached)

from the lower motor/drive section.    Without seeing the unit apart,  it would be impossible to say what is actually wrong.

If one of the plastic gears stripped........good luck finding one of those.

Also the 12v version is adjustable for tension.. the 6v design the pinch roll position is fixed.

DRIVE .jpg

Early motors.jpg

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Barney -- Profuse thanks for your very clear photos and explanations.  I was having a heckuva time trying to visualize the layout of the components in these units.  I suspect that the gears in my unit are OK, because operation sounds normal, whereas I'd think failed gears would affect the sound of the motor (???).  In any case, my biggest challenge so far is in properly accessing the unit, particularly in the sense that positioning my hand in the tight space above it blocks my view of it.

 

Thank you again.

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Hey, Charlie, good to hear.  I have some spare parts for these if you need anything...

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I forgot to mention the two small bolts and nuts that mount the whole unit to the fender.  Access is not easy, but let your hands feel around and "see" for you.

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On a 55, I can remove some port holes for some access, but the fender needs to be at least detached and pulled from the rear to get the unit out.

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The picture above shows the three short screws that will remove the the antenna housing from the motor at the base of the outer galvanized tube.

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Posted (edited)

Sometimes the steel mast assembly is stuck to the aluminum top casting.....you can remove those three screws,

but if there is any corrosion it is difficult to separated the two parts especially inside a fender.

Douglas.......do you have any experience removing/replacing the plastic gears?

It is not obvious how they attached to gear to the shaft.... is the shaft splined?   Can you drive the shaft out of the gear with the

appropriate size punch?

I have a motor with a bad gear and would like to replace it as it cannot be used as is.

 

Below is a picture showing the round plastic line used on '60's and later power antenna.

I replace the (broken) plastic with steel cable that is plastic coated.    Almost anyone can do the

replacement as long as you have a way of soldering stainless steel.  

cord.jpg

Edited by Barney Eaton (see edit history)
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I have never pulled on apart.   It looks like the plastic gear is pressed onto the metal shaft and groved wheel.

 

So,  can we hear how to solder a stainless cable??

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Posted (edited)

Soldering to stainless is probably not an issue on the early antenna....just Delco after 1980

The pre-1980 antenna all seem to use a brass ferrel..

The attached connection photo is from a '60's -'70's Tenna antenna used on GM cars....the ferrel on the end is brass and can be soldered by normal solder process.

.

After 1980 all the Delco Slimline antenna used stainless ferrels and that is the majority of antenna I repair.

From the factory....the plastic line is installed in the ferrel and crimped.    You heat the ferrel and the plastic comes out.  Then clean the inside (I use a small burr in a dremel tool)  then solder the steel cable to the ferrel.

connection.jpg

Edited by Barney Eaton (see edit history)

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Thanks, that makes sense.  Are you selling cable, please?  I have a rechromed unit I would like to upgrade before it goes on the car.

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Barney -- Greatly appreciate your excellent, clear photos!  Just a question about the soldering . . . I don't recall solder (due presumably to its softness) previously being specified for anything that had to bear a physical strain or load.  Is solder alone strong enough to withstand the cable's tendency to pull out of the ferrule?  If not, should the ferrule perhaps be crimped or swaged?  Would a modern adhesive such as epoxy perhaps be more appropriate for resisting tension than solder?

 

One more question, if I may:  Can solder be expected to adhere to stainless as well as to ordinary steel or other metal?

 

Thanks!

      ~ Charlie

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Another puzzle, Guys:   it appears that the antenna nut above the fender calls for a special tool for unscrewing it..  It is tempting -- but far too scary for a confirmed chicken-heart like me -- to use a padded pair of Vise-Grips for this operation.  Any suggestions for a safer and less knuckleheaded approach?  Thanks!

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I believe they are being reproduced.  Check out CARS or Bob's Automobilia.  A good hardware store should have the proper tool.  Or find a piece of pipe that fits around it and drill a hole for a punch or dowl that fits the hole on the part.

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Posted (edited)
17 hours ago, Buickborn said:

Another puzzle, Guys:   it appears that the antenna nut above the fender calls for a special tool for unscrewing it..  It is tempting -- but far too scary for a confirmed chicken-heart like me -- to use a padded pair of Vise-Grips for this operation.  Any suggestions for a safer and less knuckleheaded approach?  Thanks!

As Fr. Buick suggested, they are in fact available new.  However, using a piece of dense rubber sheeting or a slice of rubber tubing that fits tightly around it along with large pliers or vice grips should do the trick without damaging it.

 

Same nut is used 54-58.  I probably have an extra nice original if preferred, and if it comes to that. 

Edited by lancemb (see edit history)

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Hopefully when you get it out all it will need is clean, lube and adjust.  Many years ago there were lots of vendors offering rebuilding and parts services.  There is only one that I found in Hemmings under services offered:  HERE

Years ago I bought a mast with attached flat ribbon from a vendor that worked great...until it got wet the first time when it locked up never to move again.  I attached the new ribbon to my old mast and it is still working.  If a replacement ribbon is needed, try the round one suggested by Barney.

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Old Tank -- thanks for the lead to a rebuilder.  That is very encouraging!

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