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1936 1603 Starter Cranking Slowly

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Greetings to all,


I have recently gotten my 1936 1603 v12 running.  I note that is cranks very, very slowly and heats up the cables between the battery and starter after 10-15 seconds of operation.  All cables connections are in excellent condition, and clean.  I am seeking ny suggestions for next steps to address this issue, including vendors where the starter could be assessed / rebuilt.


I am in Colorado, therefore any potential sources of technical expertise nearby would be very welcome!!


Jon B Kanas


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If the cable(s ?) are getting hot, it most likely is too small of a cable, a bad connection on the cable, or less likely, a fault in the starter that is causing it to draw too much current or a poor battery.  I know you said all connections are clean, but, sometimes the crimp is bad and you can't tell. Also, woven ground straps can cause a lot of resistance. Cables should be #00 cable as a minimum, don't use cables designed for 12V, they are not heavy enough. What is the voltage at the battery when cranking. It should be at least 4.8v.  Check next at the starter, it should be close to the same. If not, start checking voltages and work your way back to the battery checking at each connection.  If you get an increase at one connection, it is either that connection or the one before it, depending on which side of the connection you put your voltmeter on, or that cable.  Check both - and + circuits.  Ground cable connections are notorious for being bad.  If you have not taken it apart and cleaned it, don't count on it being a good connection.


The Pierce-Arrow Society website tells me you are a current PAS member, so, if you are looking for Pierce-Arrow Society members near you, go to the PAS website under member pages and go to the Member Roster. In the search function enter CO in the state and you will get two pages of CO members.  I saw one other listed in Longmont. 


You can also do a technical search under Publications in the Members Area of the PAS site for articles on starter problems.


You might also post this on the PAS website Message Board. I think more of the PA gurus check that page. The Parts and Services Directory on the PAS site should list some vendors that rebuild starters.


Good luck. Let us know how this turns out



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Good Evening Dave et al,


I will take your advice and carry my question forward to the technical area of the PAS site. 


Per your diagnostic suggestion(s)

  • The battery cables on this car are huge, and in excellent condition.  The printing on the insulation reads "Direct Wire and Cable 600V Welding 1/0.  Measuring the diameter of the cable, over the insulation, is .550".  I don't have a good way to get to a bare conductor to measure it's diameter. 
  • I note that the heating of the cables is uniform, and is not noticeable until I've been cranking the starter for 15 or 20 seconds.  All of the cables and connectors warm up at about the same rate.  I can find no "hot spots" that would indicate increased resistance at that point.

I got it started easily this evening (probably less than 5 sec cranking), got it up to 180F engine temperature, then ran out of fuel.  That's enough for tonight.  I'll make a run for some E0 fuel later in the week, then check the voltages at the starter when cranking.


Thank you again,

Jon Kanas


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Jon et al,


I had the same problem with my '33 1242 after a ring job (yes, the gaps are ok).  We did 3 things to make sure we got good voltage at the starter: 1) Pulled the starter and turned the commutator on a lathe for a uniform contact surface, 2) bypassed the security/shutoff switch, and 3) changed from a 2-year old Optima battery to the biggest standard lead-acid battery we could fit in the box.  Problem solved.  (I have 3 concerns about recent Optima batteries both for quality control, and the fact that they only have 50 amp-hour capacity, versus the prescribed 150+ amp-hour batteries in '33 and the present huge lead-acid batteries.  Also, Optimas have a slightly higher cell voltage, so some "smart" battery chargers may not charge them fully.  No conclusive proof, just concerns.)

Everything has to be right for the 12 to start easily, since starter has the same guts (only a different label) as the 8.  Cables should be at least 1/0, or better yet, 0/00.



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