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motive
07-25-2006, 09:03 AM
'55 Speedster in Colorado. Car is fatory stock and not modified in any way. 259 Passmaster with automatic.

The car has an intermittent problem that all electrical power is gone. Everthing goes dead - no lights, no horn, no dome light, no ignition, nothing. Only does it sometime and it always returns after I fiddle with the ground strap, starter relay and igntion relay. All connections are clean and tight, as I have taken them apart and cleaned them. Car starts and runs fine as long as the electrical power is present. I'm thinking bad ignition relay. Any other ideas?

Also losing engine power when climbing steep grades in the heat at elevation (5,280 - 7,500 ft climb to get home). Engine seems to begin surging and/or missing, and the automatic tranny seems like it is trying to downshift but can't quite decide if and when to do it. Shifts down fine when it's cooler, but not when hot.

Also experiencing hot re-start problems - car will crank and try to start, but if it doesn't re-start quickly, it'll crank more slowly and maybe not re-start until cooler. I'm thinking either vapor lock or possibly flooding from heat sink. Holding pedal to floor while cranking does not work, so looks like vapor lock. Fuel pump is of unknown age, but probably not too new. Would a new one help? Hate to modify, but would a low pressure electric fuel pump help and does anyone know where to find a 6 volt? Would removing the oil bath air filter and replacing it with a dry element help keep things a little cooler on the intake side enough to help at least a little.

I want to drive this car during the summer, but it's obviously having a little trouble with the altitude and summer heat (high 90's yesterday). I have re-jetted the carb to altitude and if anything, it's probably still a little on the rich side.

All help and advice wil be greatly appreciated!

Mike with Speedster

Roscomacaw
07-25-2006, 01:50 PM
FIRST question: HOW BIG (wire gage) are the ground and battery cables? 6volt cars can be as reliable as 12 volt but they require larger gage cables than 12 volt systems. It's quite likely that it's had a cable or two replaced along the way that wasn't of adequate capacity. It should be 0 gage or better yet, 00 (double ought gage)
Next, you can clean all the connections all you want but if the ends of the cables are corroded INSIDE where the wire is crimped, cleaning where they attach is not gonna cure THAT malady.
With the car cold, crank it and immeadiatly shut it off. Do this 5 times in a row. Then get out and use your hand to feel the cables and where they connect. If you find a warm spot, there's your problem. If a whole cable's warm, likely it's too small for the job.
Going back to intermittent loss of all electrical power - AGAIN, even tho everything LOOKS OK - INSIDE the ends of the cables, there might be a corrosion problem. Another suspect place is the two connection terminals on the back of the ammeter. All the power on the car (save for the starter's cranking power) moves thru that meter. Over time, corrosion or a loose connection can cause those terminals to get hot as they try to pass enough amps to meet the demands of the system, that heat just makes things worse until they literally fry themselves to the point where you're lucky to get anything to work, let alone intermittently[xx(]

As to the climbing problem - do you know if that WCFB is jetted for YOUR altitude? There's about 3 different sets of jets and metering rods in the parts book.

BTW, what's an "ignition relay"? Is this some sort of anti-theft thing?

Oil bath - dry element, not gonna make a difference.

Miscreant at large.

1957 Transtar 1/2ton
1960 Larkvertible V8
1958 Provincial wagon
1953 Commander coupe
1957 President 2-dr
1955 President State
1951 Champion Biz cpe
1963 Daytona project FS

kmul221
07-25-2006, 04:20 PM
It's always a good idea to check the ground strap from the block to the frame located right front of block near motor mount.These usually are laden with gunk over the years & it can't hurt to clean it up.

Guido
07-25-2006, 05:32 PM
I was the first to view this topic but there were too many questions for me to run through at work. I appreciate Mr Biggs taking to time out to post his reply (obviously avoiding the warm California sun). I would replace the battery cables as well as the one to the starter with 00 cables. If you can't find any made up, welding leads will work well. Be sure that if you make them up to use new terminals and get a tight connection. Many times the cable will look good but have a break or unseen corrosion.

Also be sure to clean up any point of connection for the cables, including the battery posts. I have also seen battteries develop a bad cell, but that should only present a problem with starting.

Hope this helps.

Guido Salvage - "Where rust is beautiful"

1946 M-16 fire truck
1948 M-16 grain truck
1949 2R16A grain truck
1949 2R17A fire truck
1955 E-38 grain truck
1957 3E-40 flatbed
1961 6E-28 grain truck
1962 7E-13D 4x4 rack truck
1962 7E-7 Champ pickup
1962 GT Hawk 4 speed
1964 Avanti R2 4 speed
1964 Cruiser
And various other "treasures"
Hiding and preserving Studebakers in Richmond & Louisa, Va.

8E45E
07-26-2006, 12:04 AM
[quote]Originally posted by motive

'55 Speedster in Colorado. Car is fatory stock and not modified in any way. 259 Passmaster with automatic.

The car has an intermittent problem that all electrical power is gone. Everthing goes dead - no lights, no horn, no dome light, no ignition, nothing. Only does it sometime and it always returns after I fiddle with the ground strap, starter relay and igntion relay. All connections are clean and tight, as I have taken them apart and cleaned them. Car starts and runs fine as long as the electrical power is present. I'm thinking bad ignition relay. Any other ideas?

I would check your ignition switch, and your leads to the ammeter under the dash to make sure they are fastened tight. Then check the starter solenoid, and then like others here have said, your battery cables.

Craig

whacker
07-26-2006, 12:20 AM
Since you say that all electrical power is gone, the problem has to be at the source of all power - the battery. Most likely problem is a broken ground strap, with the break inside the insulation where you can't see it. Replace the ground strap first. I think your transmission problem is unrelated to your electrical problem, and should be addressed after you replace the ground cable. As to the hot restart problem, this is an easy one to test. Drive to a fast food place on a hot day. Buy a cold drink with ice in it. When the engine refuses to start, put some of the ice on the fuel pump and see if the engine will start. If it does, the problem is vapor lock. Do a search on vapor lock on this forum for recommended solutions. 6 volt electric fuel pumps are available on eBay, or look for an ad in Hemmings for a product called the "Parade Saver".

motive
07-26-2006, 10:47 AM
Mr. Biggs and all other helpful responders - Thanks, I'll definitely check/replace the battery cables. Here's more information.

Electrical Problem
1. Hot battery cable appears large and in good shape. But I'll do that 5x start test and feel for hot spots. Ground cable is braided steel strap in good shape. Cleaned the connection at the engine prior to this problem and all power seemed a little stronger. Cleaned battery termnals with wire brush and battery is clean and strong.

2. Ignition relay is a stock electrical item shown in the 1955 Manual Supplement. It sits high on the firewall in the engine compartment on the drivers side. It is a small rectangular netal box, similar to the voltage regulator but slightly smaller. It connects the battery to all the electrical systems. It has a hot lead from the battery "in" (actually this comes from the same terminal of the starter relay that the hot battery terminal goes to), a hot lead "out" for things that are always hot like lights, and horn, and a hot lead "out" for things that are only hot when the ignition switch is on. When the no electricity problem occurred, I had voltage at the starter relay where the battery terminal came in, voltage at the ignition relay hot "in", but no voltage at both the ignition relay always hot "out" and ignition on hot "out". That is why i suspected the ignition relay.
3. I have already checked the ammeter connections and they are clean and tight. By the way, the ammeter goes competely dead also when the system shuts down, as there is no current flowing anywhere.

Vapor Lock Problem
1.I rejetted Carter WCFB with second to leanest jet kit when I got the car here in Colorado. That leaned it out pretty well, but it still stumbles for just a little while when accelerating from slow speed, until it clears and leans out under load. From that point upward in RPM it pulls clean and strong -- except when hot and climbing at altitude -- when the vapor lock kicks in. We are forced to use gas with alcohol out here in Colorado, and the thin air certainly doesn't help matters. the other thing I want to check is the heat riser valve on the exhaust. I looked at it a while back and it was working. Exhaust gas pressure at the passenger side tailpipe seems a little weaker than that of the drivers side, so it might not be opening all the way, making things even hotter. I've heard this can also cause that stumble discussed above.
2. The car holds temperature at 185 deg F with a new radiator cap, but can climb a little higher under heavy load when it's hot, but it always comes right back down to 185 when the load is reduced. It's not boiling over when it won't hot re-start, it's typically right on the stat at 185, and it'll crank forever on the battery (although it will slow down after a while)but just not start!

Roscomacaw
07-26-2006, 07:03 PM
Whacker, that ice on the pump strategy might work.[:I] It's one I've never tried. But I gotta say, I can't imagine what bystanders would think if I raised the hood of my Stude was was observed helping it to have a nice, cool slurp from my lemonade![:0][:p][:o)]

Miscreant at large.

1957 Transtar 1/2ton
1960 Larkvertible V8
1958 Provincial wagon
1953 Commander coupe
1957 President 2-dr
1955 President State
1951 Champion Biz cpe
1963 Daytona project FS

whacker
07-26-2006, 08:35 PM
If you do get an electric fuel pump, be sure to getone that is compatable with alcohol. Read the label, if it doesn't say it is compatable with alcohol, don't buy it. I also live ina state with alcohol in the gas, and I learned the hard way. My first electric fuel pump lasted for a couple of years, until I started to use the gas with alcohol additve in it (5 - 15%). It lasted two months after that. The diaphragm in the pump dissolved, and that was the end of it. I still have it in parts in a box somewhere. The second one I bought, I very carefully read the label on several different ones until I found one that was advertized as "compatible with modern fuels". I still don't put the "super unleaded" into my gas tank, but I'm supposed to be able to. Kind of like the cat that touches the hot stove - he will never touch the hot stove again, but he also will never touch a cold stove either. Yes, Mr. Biggs, the ice on the fuel pump trick works. Sometimes you also have to rub a little on the fuel line as well. An old flathead Ford guy taught me that trick.