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Hello all!

First post here as I recently (yesterday) acquired a 1981 El Camino Conqista with a 305 and a 3 speed auto. Diving head first into tinkering and getting this thing fixed up! First order of business is I want to get all the interior gauges working (especially water temp). So far I have no speedometer, no water temp and the battery voltage seems intermittent. The oil pressure needle is actually broken (strange) but I can see it moving, and it definitely has oil pressure 馃榿. As far as the speedometer goes, going to go through the cables tonight and do the attaching a drill to the cable inside trick and see if I can pinpoint that. Will report back on any findings. As far as the water temp gauge, I am a little confused. I have the sender, with the green sender wire connected to it on the driver side on the block, and that appears to head straight to the gauge. Now, I also have a sensor in the coolant elbow on my intake manifold with NOTHING plugged into it. Is something supposed to be plugged into it? I'm also trying to grasp the difference between the sensor and sender and there jobs. Any info on troubleshooting appreciated. As far as battery voltage, Im assuming something is loosely connected somewhere, as it bounces up and down. Sorry for the long winded post, but thank you for taking the time to read.
 

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Welcome
Possibly this thread will provide some insight.
 

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Discussion Starter #3
Welcome
Possibly this thread will provide some insight.
I'll give it a read through. Thank you!!
 

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welcome BK
try to wiggle or try pushing in and out on the lower right corner of the dash pod,
see if it makes any difference..
the connector/connections on the pod is a known weak spot,, doesn't work real well..
the volt gauge only needs a power and ground to work, so start there..

the speedo don't need any power, so yes on the "Reversible Drill"
spin it counter clock-wise.. if the speedo works ??
jack-up the rear-end and run it in gear to see if the trans gear is turning...

a sender is usually a variable ohm signal to a gauge..
a sensor is usually a volt signal to the ECM/Computer..

post a pic of the sensor in the water outlet [coolant elbow]..
are you still running the computer ??
 

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JJ and Old Bear are some of the best help available, as are many others here. They already know where I'll go. Getting the originals working good can be a quest and mine were about like you described almost perfectly. After assessing my gauges I went for the one and done option and bit the bullet. A new Dakota Digital dash. Best $800 bucks I have spent on my car yet! That's right, $800 bucks, like I said hard to take but I will not hesitate to go there again on my next ride. I applaud those of you that persevere and get those originals working though! Listen to these guys, they know their stuff. All I can say is after adding up everything you get anywhere near the cost, the DD dash is hard to beat! Best of luck!

Joe
 

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Discussion Starter #7
JJ and Old Bear are some of the best help available, as are many others here. They already know where I'll go. Getting the originals working good can be a quest and mine were about like you described almost perfectly. After assessing my gauges I went for the one and done option and bit the bullet. A new Dakota Digital dash. Best $800 bucks I have spent on my car yet! That's right, $800 bucks, like I said hard to take but I will not hesitate to go there again on my next ride. I applaud those of you that persevere and get those originals working though! Listen to these guys, they know their stuff. All I can say is after adding up everything you get anywhere near the cost, the DD dash is hard to beat! Best of luck!

Joe
Going to go the hard route (at least for now 馃榿) and give getting the OEM cluster working a shot! I won't hesitate to read into this Dakota digital dashes though!

welcome BK
try to wiggle or try pushing in and out on the lower right corner of the dash pod,
see if it makes any difference..
the connector/connections on the pod is a known weak spot,, doesn't work real well..
the volt gauge only needs a power and ground to work, so start there..

the speedo don't need any power, so yes on the "Reversible Drill"
spin it counter clock-wise.. if the speedo works ??
jack-up the rear-end and run it in gear to see if the trans gear is turning...

a sender is usually a variable ohm signal to a gauge..
a sensor is usually a volt signal to the ECM/Computer..

post a pic of the sensor in the water outlet [coolant elbow]..
are you still running the computer ??
I have a big long reply waiting for moderators to approve in response to this btw. Thanks for all the help guys 馃榾
 

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read thru this thread too, its got diagrams and a pic..
Need some help with my gauges

while we wait
for the temp gauge
ground the sender wire, with the key-on
that should make the temp gauge go full scale,
IF the power, ground, wiring, connections, and gauge is all good..
that test will work for most gauges .. [but not the volt gauge]
your looking for a change,
depending on the gauge, it may go full scale or 0 ..
 

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I applaud you for relishing the challenge and appreciating originality as long as possible like I do. There are a lot of used and new parts still available along with a tremendous amount of knowledge on this site. It seems like you just have a few mechanical or possibly worn parts to chase down and you will be please with the outcome. Welcome to the site.
 

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Discussion Starter #10
read thru this thread too, its got diagrams and a pic..
Need some help with my gauges

while we wait
for the temp gauge
ground the sender wire, with the key-on
that should make the temp gauge go full scale,
IF the power, ground, wiring, connections, and gauge is all good..
that test will work for most gauges .. [but not the volt gauge]
your looking for a change,
depending on the gauge, it may go full scale or 0 ..
I will give that a read through, and also I'll be digging under the hood some more today, and will definitely try grounding out that sender wire with the key on and see what happens! Hopefully mods approve my other post soon here!

I applaud you for relishing the challenge and appreciating originality as long as possible like I do. There are a lot of used and new parts still available along with a tremendous amount of knowledge on this site. It seems like you just have a few mechanical or possibly worn parts to chase down and you will be please with the outcome. Welcome to the site.
Thank you Youngstorm! Its a pleasure to be amongst the vast Elco knowledge on this site. I'm really excited for the future with the car, and getting it all buttoned up!
 

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Discussion Starter #11 (Edited)
read thru this thread too, its got diagrams and a pic..
Need some help with my gauges

while we wait
for the temp gauge
ground the sender wire, with the key-on
that should make the temp gauge go full scale,
IF the power, ground, wiring, connections, and gauge is all good..
that test will work for most gauges .. [but not the volt gauge]
your looking for a change,
depending on the gauge, it may go full scale or 0 ..
I gave this a shot (lacking good materials) with some speaker wire. Made sure plenty bare wire was showing and I wrapped it around the metal connection on the sender wire and walked over and touched it on the negative post of the battery. My phone was videoing the dash during this and no change on the temp gauge on the dash. Now with that being said, that sender wire goes directly from the sending unit right to a firewall mounted (im assuming its a computer) thing with a bunch of wires heading into it. Again, newbie here. I wish that other post would clear mods so you guys could see the pictures!
 

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Discussion Starter #12 (Edited)
Also sorry to keep writing messages, but can anyone tell me the name of the electrical looking junction box behind the brake booster? Mine is covered in some form of corrosion/black gunk. Is this a box that allows the wires to pass through to the dash? Also going to try to add pictures below this. #2 is the sensor (I assume) that tells my carb what the temp is and makes adjustments automatically? #3 is the sender unit. Tried grounding the wire, coolant temp gauge DID NOT move. #4 is the little box both the speedometer cables hook up to. The top cable (heading from box to dash) DOES make the speedometer move. Found out the hard way the needles are brittle 馃槶. Will be testing the lower cable this evening.
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go for it, keep typin, its your thread, more info is better..
good pics too..

but can anyone tell me the name of the electrical looking junction box behind the brake booster? Mine is covered in some form of corrosion/black gunk. Is this a box that allows the wires to pass through to the dash?
the junction box is the firewall connectors or bulkhead connector..
yes that's where the wiring goes in-side the cab..
the black gunk is a good thang, its like a thick black tar,
that's the sealer keeping the connections dry, and corrosion free..

#2 is the sensor (I assume) that tells my carb what the temp is and makes adjustments automatically?
#2 that was a TVS or thermal vacuum switch,
its like the other one on the water outlet, but for a different vacuum control loop..
the CTS or coolant temp switch is just to the left, with the black and yellow wires..

the Carb
by the way that is a [link>] E4ME electric version of the Qjet Carb for Computer control,
you can tell by the 2 extra connectors on the carb..

#3 is the sender unit.
yes that is the Coolant Temp Sender for the gauge..
probly need to make sure the power and ground is getting to the Dash Pod,
before checking it further.. get the volt gauge working full time first..

#4 is the little box both the speedometer cables hook up to.
that is/was the Cruise Control Transmission..
with no wires or vacuum hoses going to it now, all it does is connect the
2 speedo cables together,
it could be bypassed with a longer cable,,
if it turns-out to be the problem, the plastic gears in them do break too..

Found out the hard way the needles are brittle 馃槶.
a thin flat toothpick and some orange paint will fix those fairly easy..
 

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Discussion Starter #14
go for it, keep typin, its your thread, more info is better..
good pics too..


the junction box is the firewall connectors or bulkhead connector..
yes that's where the wiring goes in-side the cab..
the black gunk is a good thang, its like a thick black tar,
that's the sealer keeping the connections dry, and corrosion free..


#2 that was a TVS or thermal vacuum switch,
its like the other one on the water outlet, but for a different vacuum control loop..
the CTS or coolant temp switch is just to the left, with the black and yellow wires..

the Carb
by the way that is a [link>] E4ME electric version of the Qjet Carb for Computer control,
you can tell by the 2 extra connectors on the carb..


yes that is the Coolant Temp Sender for the gauge..
probly need to make sure the power and ground is getting to the Dash Pod,
before checking it further.. get the volt gauge working full time first..


that is/was the Cruise Control Transmission..
with no wires or vacuum hoses going to it now, all it does is connect the
2 speedo cables together,
it could be bypassed with a longer cable,,
if it turns-out to be the problem, the plastic gears in them do break too..


a thin flat toothpick and some orange paint will fix those fairly easy..
JJLT1, thank you for taking the time to write all that, it means a lot. It seems the fuel gage works, and the voltage is intermittent. When I turn the key to the on position, it jumps up but sometimes driving it bottoms out and then comes back up and its pretty finicky. My worry was something was wrong with either the bulkhead or the dash pod itself. Is there a ground I can check for the entire dash pod? Otherwise could the coolant temp gauge itself be bad? Of all the gauges that's really 1 I would like to work (for peace of mind). Going to try to diagnose the problem with the speedo cables by tonight with simple diagnosing. Will report back on findings. Wiring is so much fun 馃檭. Also, this has what appears to be an 02 sensor in the driver side manifold that is just cut with 2 wires hanging out of it. Motor runs great so assuming this isn't that big of an issue. As far as the computer goes, is it possible for me to get rid of the computer all together for a simpler setup with an electronically assisted carb like mine? Thanks in advance for all the help!
 

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Is there a ground I can check for the entire dash pod?
the dash ground would be 1 or 2 or 3 black wires screwed down
above or In front of the E-Brake assembly.. clean it real well..

as said most problems are the dash pod connector, both power and grounds
all the gauges, dash lights, everything goes thru there, if its a intermittent
ground there every thing will back-feed thru all the grounds, make weird things happen..

did wiggling the pod not do anything ??
sometimes its tight but still has a bad connection,,
sometimes loosening the pod mounts and wiggling it works for a while,
or at least shows you its part of the problem..

I would not work on the bulkhead connector, or the temp yet,
plenty of things to check in that thread,, 2 power wires,
and ground, and they split on the PCB or printed circuit board
multiple times going different places..

could be a crack in the trace on the PCB..
when you find something that fixes or affects the volt meter,,
without loosing something else that works, lol
and when you find it, it may fix several things..

when you know you have good power and ground to the pod,
then look for single problems..

Also, this has what appears to be an 02 sensor in the driver side manifold
that is just cut with 2 wires hanging out of it.
usually the O2 is in the exh manifold, but only has 1 purple wire to it..
without it the computer cant go into Closed Loop and control the carb..
it will usually run rich, and get poor MPG..
with the computer its usually all working or nothing working,
it goes into Limp mode and usually sets the CEL or check engine light..
 

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Discussion Starter #16
the dash ground would be 1 or 2 or 3 black wires screwed down
above or In front of the E-Brake assembly.. clean it real well..

as said most problems are the dash pod connector, both power and grounds
all the gauges, dash lights, everything goes thru there, if its a intermittent
ground there every thing will back-feed thru all the grounds, make weird things happen..

did wiggling the pod not do anything ??
sometimes its tight but still has a bad connection,,
sometimes loosening the pod mounts and wiggling it works for a while,
or at least shows you its part of the problem..

I would not work on the bulkhead connector, or the temp yet,
plenty of things to check in that thread,, 2 power wires,
and ground, and they split on the PCB or printed circuit board
multiple times going different places..

could be a crack in the trace on the PCB..
when you find something that fixes or affects the volt meter,,
without loosing something else that works, lol
and when you find it, it may fix several things..

when you know you have good power and ground to the pod,
then look for single problems..


usually the O2 is in the exh manifold, but only has 1 purple wire to it..
without it the computer cant go into Closed Loop and control the carb..
it will usually run rich, and get poor MPG..
with the computer its usually all working or nothing working,
it goes into Limp mode and usually sets the CEL or check engine light..
Wiggling the pod didn't do anything for me, and I will look for the ground underneath the parking brake and clean it up regardless of what it looks like. The exhaust manifold on the drivers side has an 02 plugged in with 2 wires coming out of it though. I will add pictures when I get home and send updates as I go. Once again, your knowledge is beyond appreciated!!
 

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Looking at those underhood pictures, you obviously have some work to do there, but I'll pass along my recent experience with my '87, FWIW.
My gauges had all been inconsistent for a few years. I accumulated a new set of bulbs, a used set of center gauges and a tach, which I never had before and tore into the instrument panel. Using a combination of CRC contact cleaner, a soft wire brush in a Dremel and 2000 grit sandpaper, I gently cleaned every connection on the printed circuit, as well as every wire terminal and the pins and sockets for the gauges. I now have brighter lights, my voltmeter and oil pressure gauge readings are now accurate, even though I didn't change the gauges and my gas gauge doesn't occasionally bounce up to the full position when there's only a half tank.
It was a PIA to get it all apart, carefully cleaned and reassembled, but I can now trust all my Gauge readings, so it was time well spent, thanks to the pandemic stay-home restrictions.

Bill
 

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Discussion Starter #18
Looking at those underhood pictures, you obviously have some work to do there, but I'll pass along my recent experience with my '87, FWIW.
My gauges had all been inconsistent for a few years. I accumulated a new set of bulbs, a used set of center gauges and a tach, which I never had before and tore into the instrument panel. Using a combination of CRC contact cleaner, a soft wire brush in a Dremel and 2000 grit sandpaper, I gently cleaned every connection on the printed circuit, as well as every wire terminal and the pins and sockets for the gauges. I now have brighter lights, my voltmeter and oil pressure gauge readings are now accurate, even though I didn't change the gauges and my gas gauge doesn't occasionally bounce up to the full position when there's only a half tank.
It was a PIA to get it all apart, carefully cleaned and reassembled, but I can now trust all my Gauge readings, so it was time well spent, thanks to the pandemic stay-home restrictions.

Bill
Nice job! I'll definitely look into it. Would really like to get my gouges at least functioning for now, then start tackling under the hood like leaks, and other miscellaneous things. Appreciate it Bill!
 

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To paraphrase BillyJack...clean connections are happy connections. Clean 'em up! Use CAIG Deoxit D5.
 
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