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What’s all this then? ‘38 Special


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Doing some steering box lubrication today and was surprised at what I found. Lots of white oxidation all over the steel fuel line, the coil, on the distributor and on the frame. Looks very much like battery residue powder everywhere!  Evidence of the oxidation on the cover over the spark plugs and on the engine block too!

Battery is always on a tender, with positive lead disconnected. Charging system has been tested, the charge seems to drop to zero once it has charged from starting.

Have cleaned it all off, replaced the Bosch 6V coil with the original Delco that was on it before, made up a heavier lead from distributor to coil and will put a thin piece of timber between the battery and the tray, The P.O. made the tray from stainless steel and has stainless bolts tapped into the chassis rail to secure it. I added an extra heavy earth cable from the engine to the chassis.


Is all this different metal making electrolysis like a battery. 





Edited by rodneybeauchamp
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Hi John,

thanks for that. Forgot to mention that battery level was as least an inch below the caps, so thinking that may not be the case.

Although the top of the battery always seemed to have evidence of electrolyte, like it was being overcharged.

See what others say!

Rodney 😀😀😀😀😀😀😀


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Hi Bob, 

yes I can understand the practicality of the Optima sealed battery as I have had these in a caravan and as auxiliary battery in a station wagon. But I’m hoping to keep this battery ( and all my other batteries) going as long as they have good life. Seems a waste to toss out a working battery!

Since this post I have changed over the charger to a C-Tek unit that came with the car and hoping that might resolve the issue. Perhaps the maintenance charge on the Bosch unit is too much. However I have another of the same unit on a 12Volt battery in my Riviera and that seems fine.


I did read on the forum where a member advised NOT to remove the battery cable from the vehicle when not being used and on a battery tender. I suppose is does make sense as batteries always remained connected when these Buicks were new. Might be our being over cautious that we disconnect them even though it has new wiring.


Whether that has any bearing I don’t know, but I will keep a check with the new charger. Heck I might even leave it connected!


Rodney 😀😀😀😀😀😀

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What voltage does the tender provide?


Also, consider just putting the tender on for shorter periods of time.  I never use one and simply pull the negative terminal when the car is not in use.  If the car remains un-used for longer than a month or two, I put my standard charger on it for a day, just to top off the charge.  If your battery is in good condition, this should work fine.  A tender is really for a more modern vehicle that has multiple computers - each with full-time quiescent current draw.  Some new cars are in trouble as soon as 2 - 3 weeks (airport parking lot scenario).  The only full time current draw in the '38 is the clock, when the solenoid rewinds it.  Again, mine is usually left disconnected, or is disabled when I pull the negative terminal from the battery.


Also, a great source for '38 Buick batteries is Interstate.  They sell a battery in the same package size as original, but with something like 750 CCA.  I was told that they still carry this battery due to agricultural use - apparently two are used in series in the engine compartment of many combines.



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We use battery tenders at our shop--we have about 40 of them, both 6V and 12V. I am not convinced that they are any better than simply disconnecting the negative battery terminal in terms of preserving the battery, although they are quite useful on late-model cars with electronics that stay awake all the time. Batteries on tenders die all the time and batteries that are simply disconnected remain healthy after weeks of just sitting, and there's no common denominator. Battery quality is so spotty today that it's probably a crapshoot either way. I do like using the tenders to bring up a slightly soft battery just before using a car--for example, when a car sells, we immediately put it on a tender so the battery is 100% charged when it leaves. But in terms of making the batteries last longer during storage, our jury is still out.

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