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Discussion Starter #1
Hey guys,

So I bought this 4th Gen Elky about a month back now and I knew it was going to be a project. When I went down to take a look at her the fella selling it took me around seeing as I didn't have my license yet. When I did finally get down there to pick her up. I realized that when I turned the key all the way nothing happened. The lights and everything turned on, but the starter didn't crank, so I asked the fella before he took off what the deal was. He directed me to a button under the dash, said that if I turn the key 3 clicks and then push the button it would turn on, and so it did. I didn't really think anything of this at first, but it being my first car, as long as it ran I didn't care.

Anyway fast forward to this week, I decided to replace the dome light seeing as there wasn't one there when I bought it. Little did I know that the door doesn't shut tight enough and the light stayed on all night.

A call to triple A later and this guy was here to give me a boost. He plugged everything in and the light goes on. He gets behind the wheel and as I told him turned the key and pressed the button, I hear maybe one crank from the starter and the lights go out, he readjusts the jumper cables and does this maybe two more times with the same thing happening. Last time he does it the red cable started to smoke just a bit.

So he turns the key off and tried it just the button, now this was strange, without any lights or electrical systems on the starter cranked but real slow and wouldn't disengage. So he tells me that the starter is probably sucking way to much juice from the battery causing the smoke, also that the previous owner had probably rigged this button right to the starter, and that it's probable the starter wasn't disengaging when I was driving it, best part is the AAA fella told me that it seemed to be wired with speaker cable. I should probably add it was around 9 at night so nither of us could see very well.

So heres my questions:

Firstly, The car ran all the way up here which is about 120-140 miles, so if I charge up the battery would it probably just run the same as it did? Secondly, I would think that if the starter was still cranking while I was driving that it would be audible, right? When it was working if I would let off the button early the starter would stop cranking. Lastly how should I maybe go about fixing the way this guy had it rigged, get a new steering column and just plug it up like it was originally? The starters new and seems fine, and I really don't want to have to tare the engine out.

I'm really hoping this isn't something catastrophic like the AAA guy was making out to be. I'm broke and pretty much alone when it comes to this car, no dad or mechanic friends to help me out. So any advice you guys can offer me would be very much appreciated and thank you in advance.

Also sorry for the long story, I just wanted to get everything important in there.
 

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Wow, I don't even know where to begin. If it is wired with speaker wire, I would fix that first. I would get another steering column like you said and replace yours. Somewhere on here is a wiring diagram to help you out. Use the search function, you should be able to find it. Welcome to the site and good luck and keep us posted.
 

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My 72 is also wired up with a button under the dash,(bit of a theft deterent)to be honest ive never checked the wiring to see where it goes,but its been like that for the 6 or so years ive owned it and never had a problem,but as said above,i would FIRST be changing the wire to something more suitable,then see if that fixes your problem,speaker wire WONT take that amount of current .
 

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Discussion Starter #4
Yeah that's what I figured Martin. I've actually taken the bottom panel off to see where it goes, I'll take pictures of the set up tomorrow. But you know, I checked it earlier today and side by side the wire to the starter doesn't seem to be as thin as the speaker wire, in fact it almost looked like regular wire like of a fan or a light.

So, what kind of wire should I replace it with? Like thick industrial wire? I'm totally out of my element here, and I build computers and repair small electronics in my spare time. :???:

Thanks guys.
 

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Yeah that's what I figured Martin. I've actually taken the bottom panel off to see where it goes, I'll take pictures of the set up tomorrow. But you know, I checked it earlier today and side by side the wire to the starter doesn't seem to be as thin as the speaker wire, in fact it almost looked like regular wire like of a fan or a light.

So, what kind of wire should I replace it with? Like thick industrial wire? I'm totally out of my element here, and I build computers and repair small electronics in my spare time. :???:

Thanks guys.

Here's a start. I would use #12 wire maybe type thhn stranded copper wire it comes in all colors. They should have it by the foot at any hardware store.
http://www.maliburacing.com/wiring.html


This has all you need i use it all the time and it's like $19.00 try Midnight auto on line they ship next day.

 

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Start by inspecting the battery cable all the way to the starter and make sure it is not melted against something metal! The starter wire only engages the solenoid which doesn't pull that much current. Smoking battery cables is not a good thing. Find the problem there first.
 

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Start by inspecting the battery cable all the way to the starter and make sure it is not melted against something metal! The starter wire only engages the solenoid which doesn't pull that much current. Smoking battery cables is not a good thing. Find the problem there first.

X2 check and clean grounds and power cable, look for green corrosion at cable ends. Also fully charge your battery.

If your starter stays engaged you may or may not here it depending on how loud your exhaust is but after 120-140 miles of staying engaged it would NOT crank a second itme. It would be toast. I would say thats not an issue.
 

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Discussion Starter #8
Thanks for the diagrams on the link Robert, and I saw one of those manuals at my local auto zone. I'll be sure to go pick one up asap.

Maybe I should have been clearer, the wire was smoking from the point where the jumper cable was attached, the AAA fella told me my rig apparently was sucking up too much juice causing the smoke, it doesn't regularly do this. But I will definitely check the cables all the way down for corrosion and make sure of clean grounds.

That's what I was thinking Sean, but with that being said would it be presumable that it'll 'run as it did before' with a charged up battery? This is something I want to fix asap and if it would be best to do it NOW then I will. I'm just curious, it might behove me to drive it to a buddy's place for a helping hand.

Thanks all around fellas.
 

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dont use industrial wire in your car the insulation isnt up to the automotive needs.get the 12 gauge automotive wire from the local parts store.sounds like a calamity of errors.check to see if the original wireing for your starter works first. a simple test light works great for this.starter buttons are usually a mickey mouse way to get a failing starter to crank, but you could have other issues as well. like a bad ignition switch or nuetral safty switch. does it have a tilt column ? some times they wont crank until the column is all the way up or down due to a misadjusted ignition switch.also sometime in the late 70 s some came with a seatbelt starter interupt system that some people bypassed in any number of ways. your dome light could be as simple as a misadjusted light switch.make sure your headlight switch is not turned full right or left, with a light in your dome light ,try pushing in the door pin switch. it should be between the two hinges. if it goes off you can adjust the switch by useing a claw hammer to pull the pin part out about a 1/4 in then closeing the door and it will self adjust.if it doesnt go off check both sides
 

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I agree with others here as far as clean all connections from battery to starter don forget to clean the ground. jump starting a car generates alot of heat some smoke can be expected if the battery clamps are oily or have some sort of anti corrosion jelly on them and not having a good "bite" with the jumper cables themselves . car batteries don't like long slow draws ( unless this is a deep cycle battery such as a marine battery) take your battery out to your local parts store most will charge them for free and when charged they will load test it to make sure its ok... Hope this is helpful
 

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Discussion Starter #11
Alright, well I've basically decided to charge the battery up and see how it runs. I checked the red cable all the way down, everything was clean. Black grounds are clean, for the most part.

I've got some pictures but I'm pretty confident replacing the wire will help out the situation. It's a new starter after all.

This is of speaker wire on the left and the starter button wire on the right. I don't know if you can tell, but the starter wire is much thicker:


The button itself:


And where the wire leads to, a whole were the majority of the wires come out on the other side of the firewall.


I doubt these pictures will bear any new information but you never know.
 

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Discussion Starter #12
*UPDATE*

So as I assumed, it was as simple as charging up the dead battery and putting it back in the car. Everything runs the same, although I did have to try it 2 or 3 times until it turned over. Other than that everything was business as usual. However, I did notice a frayed, thinning and exposed. grounding wire, so that's pending replacement.

I guess the moral of the story is don't trust everything the AAA guy tells you. I thought it was strange that right after he put the clamps on, he jumped in the cab an was smashing on that button. :dontknow:

Anyway, thanks guys for all the help. :You_Rock:
 

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*LAST UPDATE*


I just wanted to come back here to clear things up for any other noobie's that might run into a problem like this.

It turns out it was the alternator all along. I decided to test it out after thinking back to my shop class, and the basic troubleshooting for electrical problems that the teach taught.

I got the battery charged by Auto-Zone for free and hooked it back up, then started the motor and disconnected the battery. The car turned right off, due to the alternator not powering the basic electrical system. Blah blah blah, this is basic stuff I totally forgot. I just feared that someone who isn't mechanically inclined might read this thread for some reason and get even more lost than I got trying to figure this problem out.

Sorry for the necro-post I just didn't want anyone who has similar symptoms to read this and think they have a much bigger problem then they do. Just check the alternator.
 

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Dont apologize, that is EXACTLY the kind of info that needs to be passed along.:beer:

This is something that we all do, get ahead of ourselves and forget the basics.
 

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I suspected the alternator when you told the story. Thanks for the update.

Is your key in the steering column? If so, you may have a problem with the actual starter switch, which is mounted low down on the colum, beneath the dash and close to the floor. When you turn the key, you actually push a rod that pushes a button in that switch. If the switch moves a little (often from people trying to find an electrical problem), the rod may not push the switch's button enough to engage the starter.

Now, the sneaky part. The switch on the colum is fairly low draw, so you don't have huge wires under the dash. It engages the starter solenoid, on top of the starter, which is a huge relay than can handle 100 amps or more. That is the actual switch that connects the power to the starter. That is why the huge red wire goes directly from your battery to the starter.

Now, why that second switch is on your car, I don't know. It may be the previous guy didn't know about the switch on the column, or was too cheap or lazy to replace it.
 
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