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Amp gauge in '51 Champion

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  • Electrical: Amp gauge in '51 Champion

    This is really pretty minor, but I'm curious. When I start my 6-volt '51 Champion, the amp gauge shows a discharge. Revving the engine slightly increases the discharge. In fact, I almost never see the gauge register any positive charge, even at cruising speed. Yet I know the charging system is working simply because my car always starts and the battery has never gone dead.

    I've been thinking maybe a previous owner has the wires switched on the amp gauge. Or could it be a problem similar to that from the voltage regulator having been changed and a couple of wires put on the wrong terminals? Or is that just the way the gauge/generator combination works? I've been away from cars with generators for so long, perhaps I've just forgotten. If that isn't normal, what would you predict would be the most likely places to check for the problem? Thanks.

  • #2
    It sounds like the ammeter may be wired backwards. Without starting the engine, turn on the headlights. If it shows discharge, it's wired correctly. If it shows charge, it's wired backwards. Easy to fix.
    Skip Lackie


    • #3
      Of course it might be that your car has been changed, by accident or on purpose, to negative ground. Original was positive ground, but seems to blow people's minds somehow. Try Skip's test first, but then report back if your ground wire goes to the negative or positive terminal on your battery.


      • #4
        Interesting, I had no idea Studebakers were originally positive ground. When I got my Champion I was happy to see that it had a negative ground and I never thought any more about it.

        I just turned on the headlights and checked the amp gauge which did move to the charge side. So there you have it--that's exactly the problem; the amp gauge wires were never switched from their positive ground positions. Indeed, an easy fix. The heater/defroster motor has never seemed to be putting out much air during the few times it has been on, so maybe that's the problem there, too; the wires still in the positive ground position and turning the motor backwards. Thanks for the input. You've put my mind to rest and also given me a couple of new tasks to do. And isn't that part of why we love vintage cars?


        • #5
          Unless the heater fan motor has been changed to a newer one with a permanent-magnet motor, the polarity change won't affect it. The old ones are series-wound "universal" motors, which will run fine on AC, too. And your '51 should have a big fan motor under the right front fender, feeding the underseat heater, and a smaller motor on the firewall exclusively for the defroster fan. The defroster draws air from inside the car, reheats it to increase its moisture capacity, and directs it to the windshield. You get maximum defrost with the heater also on, which blows warm air toward the intake of the defroster fan.

          Bad airflow from the heater can usually be attributed to problem with the large flex duct running from the fan to the under-seat heater core. Of course, either the outer fender vent door on the right side, or the inner fender vent door on the right side must be open for the heater fan to draw air from. Outer door gives you heated fresh air, inner door gives you heated recirculated air, which may be preferable in very cold conditions. It's this flexibility of operation that led to it being called a Climatizer.

          Both doors open = a cold draft in Winter. Both doors closed = no source of air for the heater fan to blow.
          Gord Richmond, within Weasel range of the Alberta Badlands


          • #6
            Gord, thanks for the great explanation of the heater operation. I haven't really had to use my heater other than to turn it on to see if everything seemed to be working. I did notice that it was quite different than any other vehicle heater I've been around. I also wasn't aware of the use of the right side vents as part of the heater's air control system. Thanks for that.--Don


            • #7
              Wouldn't it be better to put the battery cable and ground strap on the correct terminals --- i.e., ground strap on the positive battery terminal?
              Bill Jarvis


              • #8
                Well, then it would be necessary to repolarize the generator, assuming it has a generator. I guess it depends if the battery polarity has been changed for a reason, or if it were just an error.
                Gord Richmond, within Weasel range of the Alberta Badlands


                • #9
                  99% probability that the generator was never re-polarized in the first place when someone put the battery in wrong.
                  RadioRoy, specializing in AM/FM conversions with auxiliary inputs for iPod/satellite/CD player. In the old car radio business since 1985.

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