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1953 Starting Issue


Bulldog Car Guy

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I am the new owner of a 1953 Buick Super Rivera.  So, when I first tried to start it, I got nothing.  So I replaced the battery, still nothing.  

 

After checking over things for a while, the Ballast Resistor on the firewall is bad, but everything else seems to be working.  Looking at the shop manual, everything seems to be hooked up right. The crazy gas pedal switch at the carb, relays, etc. all seem to go hot when the pedal is pressed and be cold when it is not depressed.  When I bypass the bad resistor, you would think everything would be good. However, with the resistor bypassed, as soon as I turn the switch on, the car tries to start before I push the gas.  

 

That doesn't seem right. I really want to put gas down the carb and start it, but I am afraid something is wrong and I might damage the starter since something clearly isn't right with it starting without even pressing the gas.

 

Thoughts?

 

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A couple of questions for you please:

Did you see or hear the car running before you got it and this is a new situation?

What makes you think the ballast resistor is bad?  

How did you by pass the ballast resistor? 

May we presume you have a factory shop manual?

 

 

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What you describe is not right. If you do not have a shop manual get one right now. Proper manuals are your best investment for a new old car. The manuals have the wiring diagrams, descriptions of system operations and all the other things you will need as you move forward. Keep us posted!!! Also, pictures are always welcome...

 

Edit" Oops, I need to read better! You said you looked in the shop manual, so you must have one. Ignore above except that something is not right, which you already know....

Edited by 37_Roadmaster_C (see edit history)
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12 hours ago, Bulldog Car Guy said:

I am the new owner of a 1953 Buick Super Rivera.  So, when I first tried to start it, I got nothing.  So I replaced the battery, still nothing.  

 

After checking over things for a while, the Ballast Resistor on the firewall is bad, but everything else seems to be working.  Looking at the shop manual, everything seems to be hooked up right. The crazy gas pedal switch at the carb, relays, etc. all seem to go hot when the pedal is pressed and be cold when it is not depressed.  When I bypass the bad resistor, you would think everything would be good. However, with the resistor bypassed, as soon as I turn the switch on, the car tries to start before I push the gas.  

 

That doesn't seem right. I really want to put gas down the carb and start it, but I am afraid something is wrong and I might damage the starter since something clearly isn't right with it starting without even pressing the gas.

 

Thoughts?

 

 

 

I'm thinking the vacuum switch at the carb at stuck to the start position?   The broken ballast resister needs to be replaced obviously.  I would pull the carb and check/clean the vacuum starting switch.       

Edited by avgwarhawk (see edit history)
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18 minutes ago, avgwarhawk said:

 

 

I'm thinking the vacuum switch at the carb at stuck to the start position?   The broken ballast resister needs to be replaced obviously.  I would pull the carb and check/clean the vacuum starting switch.       

More than likely the starter relay...

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12 hours ago, Bulldog Car Guy said:

. . . Looking at the shop manual, everything seems to be hooked up right. The crazy gas pedal switch at the carb, relays, etc. all seem to go hot when the pedal is pressed and be cold when it is not depressed.  When I bypass the bad resistor, you would think everything would be good. However, with the resistor bypassed, as soon as I turn the switch on, the car tries to start before I push the gas . . .  

 

A 1953 Buick Shop Manual is not correct for 1953 Buicks built starting in June-1953 when the resistor was relocated from near the coil to the firewall. A Service Bulletin came out describing this change along with the change in the new wiring harness whereby the original two leads direct to the coil's positive terminal, one from the starter and one from the ignition/resistor, were spliced together before the single connection to the coil's positive terminal. Does your setup look original or does it look like it was changed after it rolled off the assembly line? This might be your problem . . . if not, my vote would be that the rolling ball in the vacuum switch is gummed up. You don't need to remove the carburetor to service this vacuum switch.  

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20 hours ago, JohnD1956 said:

A couple of questions for you please:

Did you see or hear the car running before you got it and this is a new situation?

What makes you think the ballast resistor is bad?  

How did you by pass the ballast resistor? 

May we presume you have a factory shop manual?

 

 

 

Yes I have the 53 manual.  It was very helpful at trying to follow the electrical wiring although it is still somewhat confusing.   We started at the vacuum switch at the carb and it seems to work correctly.  12 volts in, nothing when the switch is turned on and then when the gas pedal is pressed, it successfully gets 12 volts out.  Continuing to the follow the wiring.  Same was true at each step along the way until we reached the ballast resistor.  When we get to the ballast resistor, 12 in and nothing out with pedal pressed or without.  When we bridge the ballast resistor, though, the car tries to crank when switch is turned up before I can press gas.   

 

When I bought the car, it had not run in a couple of years, but the motor was completely rebuilt and all the wiring is a brand new wiring harness (each wire has the stickers still on them).  Previous owner did a ton of work to it, but didn't appear to drive it much so I suspect it has several things that need to be sorted out.  It did turn over without issue, but I know that isn't right so I didn't want to put gas down the carb until we figure out why it is starting before it should.

 

 

 

 

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8 hours ago, 60FlatTop said:

 

It's crazy?

Sorry, no offense intended.  It is just a very different system than anything I have seen on other vehicles.  Makes things more complicated than a regular ignition switch that just returns to on position once the car is cranked.  Will be kind of cool as a discussion point at car shows if I can get it working properly. 🙂 

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2 minutes ago, Bulldog Car Guy said:

Sorry, no offense intended.  It is just a very different system than anything I have seen on other vehicles.  Makes things more complicated than a regular ignition switch that just returns to on position once the car is cranked.  Will be kind of cool as a discussion point at car shows if I can get it working properly. 🙂 

 

It always makes the kids wonder when you "tell the car to start" and it does when you have BOTH hands on the wheel 🤣.

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7 hours ago, 1953mack said:

 

A 1953 Buick Shop Manual is not correct for 1953 Buicks built starting in June-1953 when the resistor was relocated from near the coil to the firewall. A Service Bulletin came out describing this change along with the change in the new wiring harness whereby the original two leads direct to the coil's positive terminal, one from the starter and one from the ignition/resistor, were spliced together before the single connection to the coil's positive terminal. Does your setup look original or does it look like it was changed after it rolled off the assembly line? This might be your problem . . . if not, my vote would be that the rolling ball in the vacuum switch is gummed up. You don't need to remove the carburetor to service this vacuum switch.  

 

The resistor is on the firewall, and the harness is basically brand new. The PO included the wiring paperwork and the description for the wires going into the resistor seem to be correct (as least according to the maker of the wiring harness). 

 

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7 minutes ago, 37_Roadmaster_C said:

I am not sure, but in your troubleshooting you say that the ballast resistor has 12 volts on one side and 0 on the other. Is this with the key on or off? If when on it would be normal with a bad ballast. 

 

With the switch in the on position it has 12 on one side and nothing on the other so I figured it was bad.  New one will arrive Saturday.  However, I still don't understand how bridging the resistor causes the car to immediately try to crank when the switch is turned to the on position when the vacuum switch at the carb seems to read correctly.

 

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Something is wired wrong. I looked at a 1953 wiring diagram (don't know if early or late production) and the only way it can crank, if wired properly, is by activating the start relay. That relay activates the starter solenoid and cranks the motor. Bypassing the ballast should have no effect on starting. The second wire mentioned above is actually a ballast bypass wire that comes from the starter solenoid. The purpose of this is to put a full 12 volts on the coil during start to provide a hotter spark when the voltage is lower when the starter is engaged. It is possible the wires are crossed at the starter solenoid. This would cause what you describe.

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Ok, looking at the wiring diagram it shows two smaller wires connected to the starter solenoid mounted on the starter. In factory wiring one is a 10 black and the other is a 16 black with natural tracer. The 16 is the smaller of the two. The first thing to do is always disconnect the battery before working on any wiring!!! Now, take the smaller wire loose and with it not touching anything and with the ballast bypassed, reconnect the battery and turn on the ignition. The engine should NOT crank. If this correct turn off the ignition, disconnect the battery and then switch the connections of those two wires at the solenoid. When that is done reconnect the battery. With the ballast bypassed turn on the ignition. The engine should not crank. If right then step on the accelerator and the engine should crank and you should have spark. If all is good you know what to do next 😀.  If all is good you can leave the ballast bypassed and continue to try to get her running. The bypassed ballast will not hurt anything for short term test running. If you run for a long time it will heat the coil and wear on the points, but that will not happen quickly. It will take hours of running. Good Luck and let us know.

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1 hour ago, 37_Roadmaster_C said:

Ok, looking at the wiring diagram it shows two smaller wires connected to the starter solenoid mounted on the starter. In factory wiring one is a 10 black and the other is a 16 black with natural tracer. The 16 is the smaller of the two. The first thing to do is always disconnect the battery before working on any wiring!!! Now, take the smaller wire loose and with it not touching anything and with the ballast bypassed, reconnect the battery and turn on the ignition. The engine should NOT crank. If this correct turn off the ignition, disconnect the battery and then switch the connections of those two wires at the solenoid. When that is done reconnect the battery. With the ballast bypassed turn on the ignition. The engine should not crank. If right then step on the accelerator and the engine should crank and you should have spark. If all is good you know what to do next 😀.  If all is good you can leave the ballast bypassed and continue to try to get her running. The bypassed ballast will not hurt anything for short term test running. If you run for a long time it will heat the coil and wear on the points, but that will not happen quickly. It will take hours of running. Good Luck and let us know.

 

You are the man!  That did indeed fix it.  And it fired right up for the first time in a few years.  It started making some noise that I need to figure out, but it was a day of great progress thanks to you!  Greatly appreciated!!!

 

Here are a couple of links to the success you created:

 

https://drive.google.com/file/d/1o7X2nY2eRFQtab-LUBSYyNsL77oOnnI7/view?usp=sharing

 

https://drive.google.com/file/d/1PMCxgEp1y1nUriiZaiFj5h5ztYyyESUs/view?usp=sharing

 

Thanks so much!

 

Bryan

 

Edited by Bulldog Car Guy (see edit history)
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16 hours ago, Bulldog Car Guy said:

Sorry, no offense intended.  It is just a very different system than anything I have seen on other vehicles.  Makes things more complicated than a regular ignition switch that just returns to on position once the car is cranked.  Will be kind of cool as a discussion point at car shows if I can get it working properly. 🙂 

 

Never miss an opportunity to take things literally. It makes you smile more than the other guys.

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