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My electrical life

Posted by rkj 
rkj
June 06, 2010 04:54AM
So, for the last year or so I’ve been having regular visits from my old friends the electrical gremlins; this started out many years ago with damp weather issues, car wouldn’t start when it was damp (out here on the east end of Long Island that can be a real drag, it's damp here!),I put a good set of ignition wires and cap on and it seemed to fix it; car started and ran 100% rain or shine.

For the last year I’ve been having problems similar but with a new twist, in wet weather (unless I’ve driven the car the day before, if I have it starts and runs fine even if it’s a down pour). When this first started happening I’d check spark at the plugs and always got a good healthy spark so I figured it was fuel related; I changed out, first the main relay (that fixed it for a few months) and then the fuel relay which had the same results, but always the same wet weather starting issue comes back. Lately I’ve done a good visual on the three relays on the left inner fender and can’t find any tired looking connections or wiring (I remember Bob having plug/wiring issues on these three relays; main, fuel and 02 warmer). It’s really starting to get maddening, the car is basically useless.

Any how, about four months ago I was down watching the ocean and went to crank up to come home (dry day, fully functioning everything) and the car slowly tries to turn over like the battery is dying but no start and then the dreaded wisp of smoke from under the dash (left side somewhere) and nothing; dead as a doornail, I had my friend come down and jump me and everything seemed fine; car started right up, came home put it on charge and everything was back to normal (usual wet weather no starts but hey, no smoke or fires!)

So ever since the flame out at the beach I’ve really been trying to narrow this down, it seems every time I can’t get it going it has spark and if I continue to crank away, if I really need to get somewhere that rainy day, it will start eventually but when it does it’s stinks of gas and acts flooded after a long cranking session.

For a few weeks now it’s been doing a new trick, I’ll start it and all the idiot lights will stay on and when I give the motor a slight rev everything will go out and run fine (on short trips around town), yesterday I was about 100 miles from home and it did the same thing when I started the car to come home. It was a stinker of a hot day so I had the AC on and was using the radio too; about 40 miles into the trip I see the OBC lights getting dim (I’ve been here before when my charging system went out a few years ago) and the gauges start to fall off. I shut the AC off and everything started to look better; the obc came on bright and I almost made it home. About ten miles out she conked at a gas station, I had them charge the battery and she started right up, no idiot light issues and came home. So, I guess when I start the car and those idiot lights all stay on until I gave the motor a gentle tap it does not charge. I don’t know what else to think!

I plan on putting my meter (I have a lighter hook up) in the car all the time so I can at least tell something about the charging sate of affairs and battery condition.

I’ll start there and see what happens but the first full day I get to work on the car will be taking what’s left of this burglar alarm out of this car. That will be a good first step to sort things out.

Cheers, Rick
June 06, 2010 10:34AM
Alternator/regulator? But that wisp of smoke from the dash is troubling. Connector from the ignition switch under the steering column ( assuming there actually is one). It sure sounds like you have a marginal connection somewhere (salt air matey) that is just tipping the whole thing over when the voltage drops below a certain value.

Grounds?

alan



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 06/06/2010 10:35AM by alanrw.
rkj
June 06, 2010 04:40PM
Quote
alanrw
Alternator/regulator? But that wisp of smoke from the dash is troubling. Connector from the ignition switch under the steering column ( assuming there actually is one). It sure sounds like you have a marginal connection somewhere (salt air matey) that is just tipping the whole thing over when the voltage drops below a certain value.

Grounds?

alan

The alternator and regulator was done by my marine guy not to long ago but the readings will tell the story on that. That connector for all the steering column switches does run down to the firewall area I think, it's been awhile since I was in there. The ignition switch could stand a replacement with 230k on the clock but it seems funny those idiot lights staying on at idle being, just a sometime thing... Ah, electrical! ya gotta love it :?

Yeah, I see myself chasing after this one for some time to come but getting rid of that alarm is going to be a good start, there's one main wire that goes right in to the fuse box, not in a good way either, can't wait to see what's in there... I've been over the grounds but plan to revisit.

When I smell the burning and see smoke (what a lovely smell that is to) my first thoughts are to look for another car eye rolling smiley

Thanks Alan, my wife's away for a few weeks so I'll have some time and a car if I need one. more later B)
June 06, 2010 04:58PM
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rkj
Quote
alanrw
Alternator/regulator? But that wisp of smoke from the dash is troubling. Connector from the ignition switch under the steering column ( assuming there actually is one). It sure sounds like you have a marginal connection somewhere (salt air matey) that is just tipping the whole thing over when the voltage drops below a certain value.

Grounds?

alan

The alternator and regulator was done by my marine guy not to long ago but the readings will tell the story on that. That connector for all the steering column switches does run down to the firewall area I think, it's been awhile since I was in there. The ignition switch could stand a replacement with 230k on the clock but it seems funny those idiot lights staying on at idle being, just a sometime thing... Ah, electrical! ya gotta love it :?

Yeah, I see myself chasing after this one for some time to come but getting rid of that alarm is going to be a good start, there's one main wire that goes right in to the fuse box, not in a good way either, can't wait to see what's in there... I've been over the grounds but plan to revisit.

When I smell the burning and see smoke (what a lovely smell that is to) my first thoughts are to look for another car eye rolling smiley

Thanks Alan, my wife's away for a few weeks so I'll have some time and a car if I need one. more later B)

When the idiot lights stay on, it can be the charging system but it could just as easily be the unloader relay(s).
I had one stick and the lights stayed on even with revving it a bit. Also, the accessories which are unloaded didn't work so I had a clue. I just unplugged the relays and reseated them; problems solved and hasn't returned.

When my battery went bad last year, it caused several strange things to happen for quite some time before it actually died. The econo gauge and tach stopped working or did weird things; the clock behaved erratically(mostly losing time) and the seat heaters didn't get very warm.

The electronics in our old cars require a minimum voltage level for them to work. If there is a weak battery or poor ground return, the voltage will drop drastically when cranking the starter. It may sound healthy and spin the engine as normal but there may not be enough juice for the ECU to operate properly; throwing out ignition timing, injector timing or duration; all things that need to be spot on for the engine to start and run.
rkj
June 06, 2010 06:52PM
Quote
Archeo-peteriX
Quote
rkj
Quote
alanrw
Alternator/regulator? But that wisp of smoke from the dash is troubling. Connector from the ignition switch under the steering column ( assuming there actually is one). It sure sounds like you have a marginal connection somewhere (salt air matey) that is just tipping the whole thing over when the voltage drops below a certain value.

Grounds?

alan

The alternator and regulator was done by my marine guy not to long ago but the readings will tell the story on that. That connector for all the steering column switches does run down to the firewall area I think, it's been awhile since I was in there. The ignition switch could stand a replacement with 230k on the clock but it seems funny those idiot lights staying on at idle being, just a sometime thing... Ah, electrical! ya gotta love it :?

Yeah, I see myself chasing after this one for some time to come but getting rid of that alarm is going to be a good start, there's one main wire that goes right in to the fuse box, not in a good way either, can't wait to see what's in there... I've been over the grounds but plan to revisit.

When I smell the burning and see smoke (what a lovely smell that is to) my first thoughts are to look for another car eye rolling smiley

Thanks Alan, my wife's away for a few weeks so I'll have some time and a car if I need one. more later B)

When the idiot lights stay on, it can be the charging system but it could just as easily be the unloader relay(s).
I had one stick and the lights stayed on even with revving it a bit. Also, the accessories which are unloaded didn't work so I had a clue. I just unplugged the relays and reseated them; problems solved and hasn't returned.

When my battery went bad last year, it caused several strange things to happen for quite some time before it actually died. The econo gauge and tach stopped working or did weird things; the clock behaved erratically(mostly losing time) and the seat heaters didn't get very warm.

The electronics in our old cars require a minimum voltage level for them to work. If there is a weak battery or poor ground return, the voltage will drop drastically when cranking the starter. It may sound healthy and spin the engine as normal but there may not be enough juice for the ECU to operate properly; throwing out ignition timing, injector timing or duration; all things that need to be spot on for the engine to start and run.

Yes Peter, I was starting to think about the unloader relay, sticking probably. I wonder if that could have caused the meltdown on my trip home. I'll replace that and clean all the connections while I'm in the fuse box getting those alarm wires out of there. Funny, after I had the battery charged and put the cables on the terminals the idiot lights went right out on start-up, and it could be I have a marginal battery (it is 8 years old) causing problems; tipping the balance, thanks guys.
June 07, 2010 10:25PM
Sorry for hijacking, but what's the unloader relay? My car occasionally leaves the dash lights on, so I'd like test mine.

Hope your problems get sorted, Alan.
rkj
June 07, 2010 11:25PM
Quote
nomis3613
Sorry for hijacking, but what's the unloader relay? My car occasionally leaves the dash lights on, so I'd like test mine.

Hope your problems get sorted, Alan.

It's a relay to unload, or disconnect various systems when the starter is activated. I think smiling smiley
June 07, 2010 11:47PM
Quote
rkj
Quote
nomis3613
Sorry for hijacking, but what's the unloader relay? My car occasionally leaves the dash lights on, so I'd like test mine.

Hope your problems get sorted, Alan.

It's a relay to unload, or disconnect various systems when the starter is activated. I think smiling smiley

sure, does it live with the other relays in the fusebox?
June 07, 2010 11:53PM
Quote
nomis3613
Quote
rkj
Quote
nomis3613
Sorry for hijacking, but what's the unloader relay? My car occasionally leaves the dash lights on, so I'd like test mine.

Hope your problems get sorted, Alan.

It's a relay to unload, or disconnect various systems when the starter is activated. I think smiling smiley

sure, does it live with the other relays in the fusebox?

K5 and K7 smileys with beer
rkj
June 08, 2010 08:16PM
Well, a good day. The first thing I did was to pull all the relays out of the fuse box and clean, what looks like fine copper dust from the floor of the box under the relays, the dust was exactly like what you might find in a generator: in the end cap where the brushes are housed (not as bad as you would find in a generator but still). All the unloader relays in there looked good but still I replaced them.

After I got that all finished up I made a wire and hook up from the battery to the cockpit where my meter, that now resides over the hand-brake on a folded tshirt, all nice and comfy like. I took the car out and at first everything was reading just as it should, but then after a few stops the charging went down and then after the next stop, on start-up the idiot lights all came (like before) on and there was No charge and the from then on the car just ran off the battery; slowly, the voltage dropped so I headed home and grabbed another car to finish our errands.

My guess is the regulator is shot because the alternator was hand built by Joe, my marine electrician and his stuff usually lasts forever...

So, not the end of the fix but definitely a few movements forward eye rolling smiley

When I saw that dust in the fuse box floor I was thinking damp weather trouble... again, maybe not the answer to my damp weather starting blues but cleaning that stuff outta there can't hurt! and in a few days, after Janet takes off, I'll be back in there to clean all that alarm wiring out of the lower part of the fuse box and will do some more cleaning house.

Up at four in the morning for a seven o'clock fight... no love-ins for two weeks... eek sad smiley

Cheers, Rick
rkj
June 14, 2010 10:28PM
Okay, so today I picked up my alternator, it needed a new regulator as I suspected and the brushes were down to the nubs. Joe took the whole thing apart and test all the diodes and all inside, everything checked out fine. It has been four years since he did the unit.

After a few different things, while I was in there, that needed attention got done the car charges way better then before smiling smiley now I can use the AC again... Yeah thumbs up anytime I lose the car to repairs and then get back in it, it feels like the nicest car in the world!

Now, after a few days I'll get it in the shop for the fuse box R&R. Tomorrow, trailer, race bike, power lines smiling bouncing smiley found a new spot to ride.

Cheers, Rick
rkj
June 23, 2010 10:29AM
Okay, so the latest episode of my damp weather starting problems continue, I guess cleaning the brass dust on the fuse box floor didn't help much, although the car did start with much less fusing than before this morning after a good soaking last night. Maybe better... who knows?

One thing I have noticed is, with the alternator freshened up, the car runs better, starts better (even though dampness still affects it, maybe not as much though confused smiley ) and generally works better all over; gauges, AC and things like that.

Still at it, Rick....... a work in progress B)
June 23, 2010 02:34PM
Boy, ya gotta wonder if living on the ocean just has a cumulative effect on the electronics (connections) over time and the ill effects are just a stacking up of resistances. I know my cruise control, every 6 months I have to pull the right rear tail light, clean the contacts, reseat and all is good. And I don't live anywhere near the ocean. Of course, if I was smart, I would squirt some dielectric grease in there. I even have a can of it but keep forgetting.....

But on the sunny side, my trusty E30 just had the driver's seat reupholstered and the roof and deck lid repainted. She is looking quite fetching!!!!

alan
rkj
June 23, 2010 05:31PM
Quote
alanrw
Boy, ya gotta wonder if living on the ocean just has a cumulative effect on the electronics (connections) over time and the ill effects are just a stacking up of resistances. I know my cruise control, every 6 months I have to pull the right rear tail light, clean the contacts, reseat and all is good. And I don't live anywhere near the ocean. Of course, if I was smart, I would squirt some dielectric grease in there. I even have a can of it but keep forgetting.....

But on the sunny side, my trusty E30 just had the driver's seat reupholstered and the roof and deck lid repainted. She is looking quite fetching!!!!

alan

On the ocean really describes it, I'm right on a thin part of the Island before it ends! The salt water is everywhere; puddles, air etc. Poor me right, the beaches are killer though B)

Any pictures of that sweety of yours, sounds like shes ready for summer fun smileys with beer
June 24, 2010 06:44AM
I saw it mentioned earlier, but nobody seems to have to replace the ignition switch (and it's little bit of loom) .

E30-1 was getting harder to start, and I would get out with a medium ratchet and hit the starter/solenoid in the hope of getting it working. After trying another starter and having no improvement, we looked elsewhere, and eventually settled on the switch wiring. Ordered the new part and waited the weeks for it to arrive. When fitted, it started perfectly.

Unfortunately, the recently acquired at the time E30-2 discussed this with E30-1 one night and decided it would try the same trick. Same fix, same good result.


The strange thing is I had both of mine suffer this problem, but nobody else seems to mention it much..?
rkj
June 24, 2010 10:13AM
Quote
TimH
I saw it mentioned earlier, but nobody seems to have to replace the ignition switch (and it's little bit of loom) .

E30-1 was getting harder to start, and I would get out with a medium ratchet and hit the starter/solenoid in the hope of getting it working. After trying another starter and having no improvement, we looked elsewhere, and eventually settled on the switch wiring. Ordered the new part and waited the weeks for it to arrive. When fitted, it started perfectly.

Unfortunately, the recently acquired at the time E30-2 discussed this with E30-1 one night and decided it would try the same trick. Same fix, same good result.


The strange thing is I had both of mine suffer this problem, but nobody else seems to mention it much..?

Oh absolutely Tim, I restore cars for a living and one of the first things that gets replaced is the ignition switch, it gives everything a good solid blast of power. My readings have been so good with the meter I don't think it's my problem but I will go back and check again, Thanks for the tip smileys with beer

Rick
June 24, 2010 12:43PM
You know Rick, I reread this thread. Initially you said you had smoke coming from under the dash. There is a stack of grounds that screw into the firewall behind the instrument cluster.

I can't help but wonder if the issue here is multifactorial. You did fix the alternator so that is out of the equation. Peter mentioned how a weakening battery threw all kinds of symptoms, possibly time for a new battery? And yet you posted that when you replaced the plug wires and cap, all was good for a while.

This is a tough one, no?

alan
June 24, 2010 09:16PM
Quote
rkj
.

On the ocean really describes it, I'm right on a thin part of the Island before it ends! The salt water is everywhere; puddles, air etc. Poor me right, the beaches are killer though B)

Any pictures of that sweety of yours, sounds like shes ready for summer fun smileys with beer

Here ya go:





alan
July 08, 2010 07:16PM
The nice clean interior looks great!

Congratulations.

smileys with beer
rkj
July 08, 2010 08:56PM
Quote
Jose Pinto
The nice clean interior looks great!

Congratulations.

smileys with beer

Really nice, I got one that color smiling smiley


rkj
September 08, 2010 12:56PM
Could it be, a new battery has solved my wet weather starting condition? seems so thumbs up
September 08, 2010 01:14PM
What's that saying....when you hear hoofbeats think horses not zebras? We always go to the complex solution without checking the basics.

smiling smiley

alan
rkj
September 08, 2010 06:19PM
Quote
alanrw
What's that saying....when you hear hoofbeats think horses not zebras? We always go to the complex solution without checking the basics.

smiling smiley

alan

Yup, it was only nine years old.... what was I thinking! This time I bought a diesel truck battery; an interstate that cost me 185 bucks, take that winter!

I didn't know I had two holes in the tray for the hold-down bracket confused smiley
September 10, 2010 12:20AM
So my battery being ten years old might be a worry. My battery is BMW oem, I kind of want to see just how long it will last. The car is my Wife's now, soon to be mine. I just hope it doesn't leave her stranded.
Hope your fix is a good one.

Cheers, Steve.
September 10, 2010 01:51AM
The problem with an old battery is that one cell will fail first and the alternator then over charges the others to try and maintain the proper voltage. This eventually overloads the diode pack in the alternator and it will fail.... The alternator might be replaced and the weak battery damage the new one before the problem is recognized as a dead cell in the battery. I have a long story explaining how I know this....

Bob in Everett
rkj
September 10, 2010 10:31AM
Hi Steve, Using an overdue battery is risky stuff especially if the best girl is at the helm- just sayin

Batteries, these days, have a life; 4 or 5 years is a decent life span, anything after that is asking for trouble. For us, going past this is one thing but for the girls are another.... As Bob sez, a crap battery can (and often does) take down a charging system; this charging/battery system really has to work as a unit, one depending on the other.

Time will tell if my damp weather issues are fixed but I will keep on it!

Another quick thing on our cars. These cars run on a higher amperage and if the charging system is marginal the motor is lackluster too.

Rick
September 10, 2010 08:08PM
With the E30; it seems that battery problems go hand in hand with a lot of gremlins. For cars that are all 20+ years old, our electronics are pretty advanced.
My previous battery experience with the iX highlights this very well.

Before my twelve year old battery finally died, I experience a couple of weird symptoms. Before I could diagnose them, the darn battery quit sad smiley

So in went a new one and before you know it; I'm getting problems that point to SI batteries, instrument cluster problems and grounding issues. Then the car became hard to start and finally refused to do anything more than 'click' when turning the Key. The instrument gages were acting strange and some didn't work at all!

Turned out that the new battery had or developed a bad cell and was only delivering 10 volts or less to the starter which is enough for a healthy turn over but not enough to run the electronics sad smiley

Lesson learned...have the battery checked before trying to diagnose if the engine coolant sensor is out of spec grinning smiley
rkj
September 14, 2010 09:18PM
Quote
Archeo-peteriX
With the E30; it seems that battery problems go hand in hand with a lot of gremlins. For cars that are all 20+ years old, our electronics are pretty advanced.
My previous battery experience with the iX highlights this very well.

Before my twelve year old battery finally died, I experience a couple of weird symptoms. Before I could diagnose them, the darn battery quit sad smiley

So in went a new one and before you know it; I'm getting problems that point to SI batteries, instrument cluster problems and grounding issues. Then the car became hard to start and finally refused to do anything more than 'click' when turning the Key. The instrument gages were acting strange and some didn't work at all!

Turned out that the new battery had or developed a bad cell and was only delivering 10 volts or less to the starter which is enough for a healthy turn over but not enough to run the electronics sad smiley

Lesson learned...have the battery checked before trying to diagnose if the engine coolant sensor is out of spec grinning smiley

Oh without a doubt; Janet's car was the first car that got that industrial strength battery, it went bad a year later and I was scrambling all over that silly car looking for trouble! When it was obvious I checked the battery, yup, bad cell :?

Interstate didn't even prorate the battery; gave me a new one straight out!
September 14, 2010 09:38PM
The iX battery is getting a bit of a test.
I'm driving the S-10 for one month to see if I bond with it; if not, away it goes.

I'm hoping the iX will fire right up when I get in it in a couple of weeks winking smiley
rkj
September 14, 2010 10:33PM
Quote
Archeo-peteriX
The iX battery is getting a bit of a test.
I'm driving the S-10 for one month to see if I bond with it; if not, away it goes.

I'm hoping the iX will fire right up when I get in it in a couple of weeks winking smiley

Now wait a minute cowboy, our cars do have memory looses, after a few weeks these babies get run down. Lets give the red max a fair test Peter!, and why can't you have two; one work truck and one fun car, you don't ride anymore, how are you going to clear your head (in an S10?), I don't think sooo.
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