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Thread: Short Circuit

  1. #1
    President Member Aussie Hawk's Avatar
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    Short Circuit

    My son's 1955 Champion with a 185 six developed a short circuit yesterday, luckily he managed to disconnect the battery before any fire could start. He's in the Army and based 1,000 miles south of me, so it looks like I'll have a plane trip in my near future. Because he's not that experienced with old cars and has no workshop facilities on base I'm trying to diagnose the problem so I take the right parts with me on the flight. Here is what happened;

    He'd just gassed up and went to start the car, it started three times then died after a few seconds each time. One the fourth attempt he said smoke started coming from under the dash, he jumped out and opened the hood to disconnect the battery and noticed there was smoke under the hood too. The cable running from the solenoid to the starter has melted the insulation, and so too the power cable that goes from the ignition switch to an after market radio I fitted - this cable has a 15 amp in-line fuse. He's at work today (Monday here), and is getting me photos this afternoon. He said before any of this happened the car was running normally. I'm leaning towards the ignition switch. Any ideas would be helpful.

    Cheers
    Matt
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  2. #2
    President Member TWChamp's Avatar
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    Is it the original 6 volt positive ground?

    I'd bring some wire and a test light or multimeter along. A poor connection can also overheat and burn wires, but that burn should be next to the poor connection, while a short will burn the wire along the entire length. Look under the dash for any wires shorted to ground.

  3. #3
    President Member Aussie Hawk's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by TWChamp View Post
    Is it the original 6 volt positive ground?

    I'd bring some wire and a test light or multimeter along. A poor connection can also overheat and burn wires, but that burn should be next to the poor connection, while a short will burn the wire along the entire length. Look under the dash for any wires shorted to ground.
    Yes, it's the original 6 volt positive ground. Thanks.
    Matt
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  4. #4
    President Member thunderations's Avatar
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    The bad wire is going to be one of the crispy ones. Did the 15 Amp fuse blow? That might be a clue to what happened first. When replacing that wire, put the fuse as close to the ignition switch as possible to eliminate un-fused wire that could short out . Is the starter wire running close to anything it could wear on or be heated up by? Insulated clips to hold it away from harm would be in order. Good luck and let us know what you find.
    1966 Daytona (The First One)
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  5. #5
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    Don't forget that an overheated wire with melted insulation can droop and contact another, unrelated wire and short that one out too. That's often what causes whole wiring harnesses to go up.

  6. #6
    President Member Aussie Hawk's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Skip Lackie View Post
    Don't forget that an overheated wire with melted insulation can droop and contact another, unrelated wire and short that one out too. That's often what causes whole wiring harnesses to go up.
    My son sent me up some photos of the damage, it looks worse that I thought and can't really see the extent of it. So looks like the trip down is off and I'll have the car shipped back home to papa for repairs. Now the issue of finding a car carrier who will ship a non-running vehicle - a lot won't, and the ones who will want an arm and a leg!
    Thanks all for your comments.
    Matt
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  7. #7
    President Member TWChamp's Avatar
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    Can you clip some burnt wires and hotwire it just to drive it home?

    Have to hotwire due to hot wires. LOL

  8. #8
    President Member Aussie Hawk's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by TWChamp View Post
    Can you clip some burnt wires and hotwire it just to drive it home?

    Have to hotwire due to hot wires. LOL
    I did think about doing that, but it's a 1,000 miles from home, (roughly the same distance from South Bend to Houston), and I don't know if there has been any other damage done by the short - generator, lighting, instruments etc, and the plane tickets to get down there are about $500. I would hate to get down there and find I can't hot wire it to run and still have to get it shipped home after spending on the airfares.
    Matt
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    Matt;
    I think I would rent (if I did not have) a truck and trailer. Pack some tools and drive down. If I could not repair the car, then trailer it home. Or have my son load the car on a trailer and bring it home.
    I did that when my Avanti transmission front seal would no longer keep the fluid in the transmission.gave up the ghost in Gettysburg Pa. If I remember correctly It cost about $600 for the trailer and 1 ton truck one way for 400 miles.
    I was lucky when my daughter was in Grad School in Chicago (about 1000 miles from NY) for 5 years; we were able to have the car fixed in Chicago, when needed. Costly, yes but cheaper then a 2000 mile trip with the car twice .The first time she needed a car in Chicago; the wife and I drove her 98 Pontiac ( I know it was not a Studebaker) out and took the train back home.
    Ron

  10. #10
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    If the car still has its original wiring, chances are that you`ll find a lot of cracked or missing insulation of you thoroughly check it. The best solution is buying a new wiring harness from Studebakers West or one of the other Stude vendors. This was replaced on my `47 Champion about 15 years ago, and was definitely worth every cent spent and every minute used.
    Bill Jarvis

  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ron Strasser View Post
    Matt;
    I think I would rent (if I did not have) a truck and trailer. Pack some tools and drive down. If I could not repair the car, then trailer it home. Or have my son load the car on a trailer and bring it home.
    I did that when my Avanti transmission front seal would no longer keep the fluid in the transmission.gave up the ghost in Gettysburg Pa. If I remember correctly It cost about $600 for the trailer and 1 ton truck one way for 400 miles.
    I was lucky when my daughter was in Grad School in Chicago (about 1000 miles from NY) for 5 years; we were able to have the car fixed in Chicago, when needed. Costly, yes but cheaper then a 2000 mile trip with the car twice .The first time she needed a car in Chicago; the wife and I drove her 98 Pontiac ( I know it was not a Studebaker) out and took the train back home.
    Ron
    NY to Chicago is about 800 miles. Perhaps it just seemed like 1000 or you took a scenic route.
    Gary L.
    Wappinger, NY

    SDC member since 1968
    Studebaker enthusiast much longer

  12. #12
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    Looking at a possible diagnosis, the starter may have a short whereas the armature is going to ground. If the armature is grounding the line from the solenoid will almost instantly become red hot. This will in turn heat up the solenoid and the small solenoid starter wire back up to the ignition switch and possibly further on to your radio circuit. The fuse may not blow immediately because there is no load on that circuit. I would therefore suggest the problem is with the starter motor. A possible quick test would be to bump start it and not use the starter and see if it runs even with the burnt wires, if the gods are not with you, turn it off immediately. When the battery is reconnected if the circuit is still closed stop there, if open then only try to bump start.

  13. #13
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    Hi Matt- I bought a 1962 GT from a gent in the Hunter valley (Maitland ) last year and had it freighted to the northern Suburbs of Melbourne. It cost $785 total. The brakes were not functional hydraulically, except for the handbrake. This carrier was the best price given to the non functional hydraulics- 'Door to Door car Carriers and delivered within the same day as pickup. http://www.doortodoorcars.com.au
    Regards Steve, SCCA Victoria

  14. #14
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    Hi Matt, Man am I really sorry to hear of the unfortunate issue with Ziggy. I'm glad the young owner didn't get hurt,and the Champion didn't get burnt ! curious how many miles are on the odometer now ?


    Joe.
    Joseph R. Zeiger

  15. #15
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    You have a real puzzle here. Looking back at the beginning your starter and ignition system were functioning normal enough to turn the engine over and fire it up for three or four times and the problem was it wouldn't stay running. I've had two ignition switches go bad and cause the same problem. Then there is the smoking wire to the radio which means there is more current flowing through the wire than it is rated for. Possible causes the wire is pinched to ground before the fuse holder or the radio is shorted and the fuse is too big. I have experienced a healthy starting system smoke the heavy battery cables when cranking longer than normal. What sticks in my craw is the radio wire. It is possible that a dead short on the wire would allow the engine to crank and fire up but when the key is released to run position shunt the primary voltage to ground killing the engine. What ever the case may be it looks like you are the victim of a snow ball effect. I would remove the radio wire from the ignition switch then proceed like previously suggested to hot wire the ignition give it a push start and see if the engine stays running then back track from there. Where did you find a modern radio that is 6 volt positive ground?

  16. #16
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    Aussie Hawk;
    As graylark says when the ignition key is turned to start I believe that the only electric circuits that are energized is the starter and the ignition. The engine would start and when the key is returned to run, the rest of the electrical system is energized. If the radio circuit is shorted; that would kill the engine.
    Now for the cable to the starter. It is possible that the starter failed due to the number of attempts to start the engine.
    And for Gary; it is about 860+ miles to where my daughter was on the North West side of Chicago from my house via route I90 not counting miles driven for food and fuel.
    Ron

  17. #17
    President Member jbwhttail's Avatar
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    Here would be my solution and probably the quickest and most economical in the long run. With a 60 year old car I would replace the whole wiring harness. Buy one from a SDC vendor. Then what I have found to be the easiest method is to cut the old harness in half just past the firewall. Remove the dash(about two hour chore) and rewire, this way you are only working one wire at a time. When finished there is a dash brace directly behind the ignition switch, be sure to cover it with some rubber or electrical tape as this is a grounding culprit for many a ignition switch and wiring harness. Re install the dash, push wiring harness thru the firewall then hook up the outside wiring. Should not be more than a days chore.
    It is an addiction!

  18. #18
    President Member Aussie Hawk's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by 63t-cab View Post
    Hi Matt, Man am I really sorry to hear of the unfortunate issue with Ziggy. I'm glad the young owner didn't get hurt,and the Champion didn't get burnt ! curious how many miles are on the odometer now ?


    Joe.
    Hi Joe,
    The mileage is now 476541. I've suggest that Liam join the forum and send you messages directly. He's pretty cut up about the damage caused by the short, he loves that car. It's booked in to be picked up next Tuesday and shipped back up here to me so I can get him back on the road. Did you get the pics I sent of him before he was sent to my son?
    Matt
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  19. #19
    President Member Aussie Hawk's Avatar
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    To: Graylark, Ron Strasser & jbwhittail,
    Thanks for your input, I have thought through all of the possible causes you have suggested, but until it actually gets home, (should be later next week), I/we am just theorizing. I'll have a good poke around when it arrives and let you know.
    Thanks again
    Cheer
    matt
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  20. #20
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    Matt, try sending the pics to this email : champ63@yahoo.com

    look forward to seeing them !


    Thanks, Joe.

    Quote Originally Posted by Aussie Hawk View Post
    Hi Joe,
    The mileage is now 476541. I've suggest that Liam join the forum and send you messages directly. He's pretty cut up about the damage caused by the short, he loves that car. It's booked in to be picked up next Tuesday and shipped back up here to me so I can get him back on the road. Did you get the pics I sent of him before he was sent to my son?
    Joseph R. Zeiger

  21. #21
    President Member Aussie Hawk's Avatar
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    Well the '55 arrived home this afternoon so got under the dash straight away. It was obvious at 1st sight - the ign switch has turned and the main power wire lined up exactly with a point on the new speaker frame - you couldn't organize that if you tried! Maybe it was the Gods of Automotive Engineering stopping the car before something worse happened ! Anyway the next thing is to strip back the insulation tape and see how much damage has been done to the other wires. Not looking forward to spending considerable time hanging up side down under the dash. :-)

  22. #22
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    Have you looked further in to the heavy wire from the solenoid to the starter?

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