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  • Electrical: Gauges Stay On When Key is Off

    Over the weekend I got into my '63 R2 Hawk for a drive and was met with a dead battery. The battery is less than a year old, so I knew something drained it. I had a spare battery so when I started the car, ran it to operating temperature and shut it off, I could see that the ammeter was slightly in the negative. After about an hour of trying to determine what it might be, I noticed that both the temperature and fuel gauges were still registering active even though the key was off. When I disconnected the battery, they both dropped to the "off" setting. Am I looking at a bad ignition switch, or is there something else I should be looking for? Any help here is appreciated!

  • #2
    Could be a bad ignition switch. Is it possible you were able to turn the key all the way to the "accessory" position and then remove the key. Next time you try it, see if the heater fan will run with the key in the "off" position.
    Gord Richmond, within Weasel range of the Alberta Badlands

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    • #3
      Originally posted by gordr View Post
      Could be a bad ignition switch. Is it possible you were able to turn the key all the way to the "accessory" position and then remove the key. Next time you try it, see if the heater fan will run with the key in the "off" position.
      Thanks. I just tried your suggestion and yes, the fan turns on without the key. So does the radio and the turn signals as well. I attempted to remove the key from the accessory position, but it would not pull out.

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      • #4
        Gord makes great points and is someone's opinion I pay attention to. Your car is 57 years old. There are many wires that meet at terminal studs on your ignition switch. The clearances for completing circuits in that switch are very close and the thickness of insulation between the wires is also not very thick. So, all it can take to cause a circuit to complete to ground is for one of those small terminals to make contact/jump to ground, is a small movement, wear, or accumulation of conductive trash to complete the circuit.

        If using one of those small cans of electronic cleaner spray and repetitive operation of the switch does not clear up your problem, as uncomfortable and awkward as it can get, you might have to either remove the switch to examine the wires or leave it in place, lie down and contort your body to get a good view of the switch and check each wire that way. I have had to do all of these exercises over the years. But, I can't recall any switch I had to replace. Instead, I have been able to clean, repair and restore to good operation.
        John Clary
        Greer, SC

        SDC member since 1975

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        • #5
          Originally posted by jclary View Post
          Gord makes great points and is someone's opinion I pay attention to. Your car is 57 years old. There are many wires that meet at terminal studs on your ignition switch. The clearances for completing circuits in that switch are very close and the thickness of insulation between the wires is also not very thick. So, all it can take to cause a circuit to complete to ground is for one of those small terminals to make contact/jump to ground, is a small movement, wear, or accumulation of conductive trash to complete the circuit.

          If using one of those small cans of electronic cleaner spray and repetitive operation of the switch does not clear up your problem, as uncomfortable and awkward as it can get, you might have to either remove the switch to examine the wires or leave it in place, lie down and contort your body to get a good view of the switch and check each wire that way. I have had to do all of these exercises over the years. But, I can't recall any switch I had to replace. Instead, I have been able to clean, repair and restore to good operation.
          Thanks. I have electronics cleaning spray, so I'll try that first. I don't relish the idea of having to remove that switch as it's on the far left hand side of the dash, and not easily accessed (as it would be on the right or somewhere close to the middle). It's also at a very tough angle for viewing as well... but, it is what it is. I appreciate your thoughts on this!

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          • #6
            Originally posted by radioadman1 View Post

            Thanks. I have electronics cleaning spray, so I'll try that first. I don't relish the idea of having to remove that switch as it's on the far left hand side of the dash, and not easily accessed (as it would be on the right or somewhere close to the middle). It's also at a very tough angle for viewing as well... but, it is what it is. I appreciate your thoughts on this!
            I've had exactly the same experience as John, and also have always been able to restore the opperation of the switches. On the GT, the ignition switch is actually the easiest switch to remove. There is a small dash support bracket held in by a couple of screws at the corner of the dash, one screw at the bottom of the dash and one to the support behind the dash; once it is removed the switch is super easy, and the wires are usually long enough to do it easily too.

            I've been under my dash so many times and found it so painfull to do with the seat in place, and got so tired of removing and replacing it, that I actually mounted the rear of the seat on hinges. This way I just remove the two front bolts and tip the seat back against the rear seat. This gives room to easily access the under dash plus makes it WAY easier to line up the bolts to put the seat back, just tip it down and put the front bolts back in. I also don't need to find a place to put the seat when working under the dash.

            Even without removing the seat, the ignition switch is quite easy to remove on the GT, even with that small bracket in place, but it's easier to get back in with the bracket out.

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            • #7
              Originally posted by bensherb View Post

              I've had exactly the same experience as John, and also have always been able to restore the opperation of the switches. On the GT, the ignition switch is actually the easiest switch to remove. There is a small dash support bracket held in by a couple of screws at the corner of the dash, one screw at the bottom of the dash and one to the support behind the dash; once it is removed the switch is super easy, and the wires are usually long enough to do it easily too.

              I've been under my dash so many times and found it so painfull to do with the seat in place, and got so tired of removing and replacing it, that I actually mounted the rear of the seat on hinges. This way I just remove the two front bolts and tip the seat back against the rear seat. This gives room to easily access the under dash plus makes it WAY easier to line up the bolts to put the seat back, just tip it down and put the front bolts back in. I also don't need to find a place to put the seat when working under the dash.

              Even without removing the seat, the ignition switch is quite easy to remove on the GT, even with that small bracket in place, but it's easier to get back in with the bracket out.
              Thanks. So what you're saying the problem I'm having with gauges, wipers, fan, radio, etc. operating with the key in the off position is a problem you've had as well? And the fix was removing the ignition switch and checking the wiring?

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              • #8
                Attention bensherb and sorry to others for side tracking this post. You have mentioned before the hinging of your front seat, wondering if you could do a little feature here on the forum about how you went about it, style and size of hinges etc etc and a photo or two. It's such a great idea. Cheers Harryhawk
                Last edited by Harryhawk; 09-01-2020, 06:34 PM.

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                • #9
                  Be absolutely sure you have unhooked your battery before you begin to remove your switch!!!!!

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by radioadman1 View Post

                    Thanks. So what you're saying the problem I'm having with gauges, wipers, fan, radio, etc. operating with the key in the off position is a problem you've had as well? And the fix was removing the ignition switch and checking the wiring?
                    I think what he is saying is; all you have to do is, check that the wire terminals have not spun and touched each other putting Power onto the "ACC"> (Accessories) Stud all the time! They COULD be loose.
                    StudeRich
                    Second Generation Stude Driver,
                    Proud '54 Starliner Owner

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                    • #11
                      UPDATE: I have removed the ignition switch and have checked all of the wiring. All is in order with no shorts/wire crossing. I also disconnected each ignition switch lead to see if perhaps the switch itself might be bad. It appears fine. The problem still exists, so I'm open to other suggestions as the gauges, wipers, heater fan, radio and turn signals are still hot without the key on in either the acc or start position. Something is causing this...

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                      • #12
                        Did you check and see if the accessory circuit is still hot with the ignition switch removed? Could be maybe that a wire supplying power to one of the other gauges has chafed against a stud on the ammeter.
                        Gord Richmond, within Weasel range of the Alberta Badlands

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                        • #13
                          Did you check the function of the switch whith it disconnected from, the car? It still sounds like its not working correctly. There are not many other things that can affect so many different systems at the same time. I've dissmantled and cleaned switches internally to solve issues like this in the past.
                          Last edited by bensherb; 09-01-2020, 09:21 PM.

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                          • #14
                            Since I just helped a Forum Member fix his Stude. that would not shut down, and I suggested the Solenoid had internally shorted Power to the "I" Ignition terminal, and it did turn out to be the Solenoid, I have been trying to think how that could cause your problem.

                            If that were the case though, with power back-feeding from the Solenoid, through the Coil terminal and back to the Ign, Sw. and to Accessories, Gauges, Turn Signals, Heater Fan etc. I can't figure a scenario where you are able to Start and Stop yours.

                            Are you SURE no wires were moved, or otherwise "messed with" between when it worked fine and Now?
                            StudeRich
                            Second Generation Stude Driver,
                            Proud '54 Starliner Owner

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Originally posted by Harryhawk View Post
                              Attention bensherb and sorry to others for side tracking this post. You have mentioned before the hinging of your front seat, wondering if you could do a little feature here on the forum about how you went about it, style and size of hinges etc etc and a photo or two. It's such a great idea. Cheers Harryhawk
                              Next time I tilt the seat I'll take some pics, I checked and don't currently have any. Basically, I used a couple 1 1/2" gate hinges, bolted one side to the seat in the original mounting hole, then bolted the other side to the floor in the original hole. Don't remember off hand many details , but next time I have it tilted I'll take some pics and post what I did. I have to swap out the oil pressure gauge soon but am currently too busy to get to it.

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