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I've got a confusing flathead generator problem

Discussion in 'The Hokey Ass Message Board' started by alchemy, Jun 27, 2012.

  1. alchemy
    Joined: Sep 27, 2002
    Posts: 13,995

    alchemy
    Member

    The '32 has been a driving car for probably five years now with only one previous charging problem, which was cured by a new voltage regulator. Now I've got a new problem and can't find the cure.

    It's a flathead with a late '50's/early '60's 12 volt generator with a '40 Ford front mount stuck on it. The car is wired using a diagram from a '60 Falcon.

    I was driving it Friday afternoon around the fairgrounds at Back to the Fifties and had noted it was charging according to the amp gauge. But going back to the hotel that night with the lights on I didn't see it on the + side. I didn't think much of it since the headlights and high-power taillight bulbs always pull lots of juice.

    Saturday morning it had a very weak battery, not enough to start the car. We jumped it and drove to the fairgrounds, but by the time we got there it was running rough. I thought it was the battery not able to hold a charge (six year old battery), so we bought a new battery and put it in. But the amp gauge would still not show a +.

    At home I removed the voltage regulator and noticed a little bit of pit transfer on the points on the battery terminal. I replaced the VR with a NOS Holley/Standard VR21 and took it for a drive. My brother and I watched it charge a lot at first, then settle down to just a couple + amps when running. We tried the headlights and it would be slightly on the - side, which is normal.

    We figured just to be sure everything was working right, we'd do the "pull the battery cable" trick. I pulled the - cable while the car was running and it shut off immediately.

    Crap. That means the generator is not working correctly, right?

    I pulled off the shelf a used generator that was previously corfirmed "good" by my local hole-in-the-wall shop. Switched the correct front mount and pulley onto it and cleaned the dust and dirt off of it. Installed it and started the car, happy to see it charging on the + side.

    Then I unhooked the negative battery cable and the car died instantly. WHAT IS WRONG?

    The wiring was new five years ago. There is a direct 10 gauge ground wire from the generator to the VR, then to the body. Another ground cable from the body to the engine block. Battery grounds directly to the lug on the torque tube clamshell. Yes I've polarized the generator every time I unhooked and reinstalled a component.

    All these new parts, and the car still dies when I yank the negative cable. Where could the problem be now?


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  2. Bruce Lancaster
    Joined: Oct 9, 2001
    Posts: 21,668

    Bruce Lancaster
    ALLIANCE MEMBER

    First bypass lots of possible problems: Run a jumper right from BAT terminal on reg to your coil, then yank the cable...if it still runs, problem was somewhere in cables and wiring, if not we gotta think and/or consult a good priest or parapsycholgist.
    Ammeter might be one point to worry abou too...
     
  3. JonF
    Joined: Mar 6, 2010
    Posts: 169

    JonF
    Member

    The engine will die everytime when the battery is disconnected - normal operation.
     
  4. tommy
    Joined: Mar 3, 2001
    Posts: 14,758

    tommy
    Member Emeritus

    I don't know the old remove the battery cable trick so I can't comment on that. I do know that if your meter on the battery while it is running is showing 14Vs it is charging. That's how I check a generator. I rebuilt mine myself and I tried to "motor" it before I installed it....nothing. So I got out the book and when tested as the book says it motored right along. I did not have a problem at all. Installed it and it charges just fine. 14Vs at the battery when running. I personally don't trust those wives tale tests. I go by the Motors Manual and it has never failed to find the problem.
     
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  5. Bruce Lancaster
    Joined: Oct 9, 2001
    Posts: 21,668

    Bruce Lancaster
    ALLIANCE MEMBER

    The engine will run fine on generator with no battery, although it may need to run slightly above idle for gen output to be sufficient to close the cutout in the regulator. You just pull out the hand throttle very slightly to be sure of that then disconnect battery.
     
  6. terryble
    Joined: Sep 25, 2008
    Posts: 541

    terryble
    Member
    from canada

    The engine needs to be running at a fast idle for a generator to keep it running with the battery disconnected.
     
  7. Sixcarb
    Joined: Mar 5, 2004
    Posts: 1,501

    Sixcarb
    Member
    from North NJ

    sometimes when you change the generator or the regulator you have to polarize the regulator but that shouldn't have been a problem from the start. anyway you jump the field to the battery post together on the regualtor if I remember correctly. I always do the quick check when it's running and disconnect the battery as well to see if it will run off the generator also.
     
  8. Slick Willy
    Joined: Aug 3, 2008
    Posts: 3,006

    Slick Willy
    Member

    I have three BRAND NEW voltage regulators in the junk bin in my cabinet from this exact same issue!!

    I charged and changed the battery like 5 times. No change
    I reduced the pulley diameter on the generator. No change
    I replaced the amp guage twice. No change
    I ran dedicated pos and neg wires. No change
    I rebuilt the generator and had it bench tested. No change, other than new parts!

    Finally, I bought a regulator from a 60's big ford with a higher/lower amp cut in cut out point and I havent had a problem since!

    I dont know what difference it makes but I think the lower amperage 12v "for early ford" conversions are just junk and the points fry out almost immediately...

    Just because its "new" doesnt mean it works!
     
  9. alchemy
    Joined: Sep 27, 2002
    Posts: 13,995

    alchemy
    Member

    Tonight I will revitup before I yank the cable to see if it will continue running. I guess it makes sense that the VR may not be "excited" at a low RPM and may not be passing the + molecules through.

    If no success there, I will run the jumper like Bruce says. I will also stick a meter on the battery posts to see what I'm actually getting.

    Slick Willy: I know what you mean about "new" parts. That's why I used one of my NOS voltage regulators from my stash. Nothing like pulling an NOS part out of the box.

    Think positive thoughts for me everybody!
     
  10. Ole don
    Joined: Dec 16, 2005
    Posts: 2,915

    Ole don
    Member

    Anytime a regulator or generator is replaced, it must be polerized. I had good luck with a regulator for a 57 Ford pickup, its the right amps for a rod with only starter and lights. The guy said 27 to 32.
     
  11. alchemy
    Joined: Sep 27, 2002
    Posts: 13,995

    alchemy
    Member

    Well, I tried some things. When revving it up, the remove-the-cable trick did not kill the engine. It stayed running until I let it down to idle, then it died instantly.

    We checked the voltage at the battery, and it was 12 volts when the engine was not running, and 12.5 when running at above idle all the way up to "screaming". Not where it's supposed to be huh?

    I ran the jumper wire from the VR batt terminal to the coil positive, and it did the same thing. So I'm assuming the generator is the problem.

    I'm going to order a new armature and field coils to put in my generator. Hopefully they will do the trick.

    Or maybe need to adjust the voltage regulator too? Anybody ever adjusted the contact points on their VR? Any pointers on how to do it? Should the engine be running? :)
     
  12. Flatman
    Joined: Dec 20, 2005
    Posts: 1,975

    Flatman
    Member

    Did you full field the generator to see if it's capable of charging? I'm looking at a '50-'60 Chilton manual on how to adjust the VR, but a lot depends on exactly which regulator you have (points cleaning, air gaps, etc) Some are more easily adjusted than others.

    Flatman
     
  13. Slick Willy
    Joined: Aug 3, 2008
    Posts: 3,006

    Slick Willy
    Member

    Just a shot, but just pull the back plate off and see if the copper braided wires are burnt or shorting out or if one of your brushes is cracked. It might be a simple new brush and clean problem.
     
  14. F&J
    Joined: Apr 5, 2007
    Posts: 13,174

    F&J
    ALLIANCE MEMBER


    Listen to him :)

    It is nuts not to do the simple full field test. It proves if the generator is bad or not, and takes just a few minutes.

    The voltmeter should have been the first test right at the start of this problem. Amp gauges are worthless for this problem, as well as taking the cable off. Taking the cable off proves very little at all. It's smoke and mirrors, as you have no clue if you are just barely a tick over what it needed just to keep up to the coil, let alone lights or heater.



    Kisam went through the same problem and she fixed it herself without new parts. Did the full field which showed the gen to be good, then she swapped the shit new reg, to a old USA used reg, and it ran right where it should on the VM.


    Yes, older regs can and were, adjusted back then, We live in a "throw away - go buy your way out", world.
     
  15. tommy
    Joined: Mar 3, 2001
    Posts: 14,758

    tommy
    Member Emeritus

    You must have access to a borrowed Motors Manual or a Chilton's from the 50s that have a series of test procedures to narrow down the problem. I don't try to memorize the test procedures that I may need every other decade. I get the book out and do what they say. It can save you a lot of money instead of throwing expensive parts at it and hope you hit something. It's worked for five years so it should be something relatively easy to find with the correct tests. IMHO
     
  16. Bruce Lancaster
    Joined: Oct 9, 2001
    Posts: 21,668

    Bruce Lancaster
    ALLIANCE MEMBER

    I've posted full field instructions. Doubt you need generator innards, but check brushes. You need also direct wire ground gen--regbase--ground cable, because grounding resistance gets subtracted out of generator output, and of course good connections everywhere. If all that is good get some '56-63 Ford shop manual and torment the VR part of regulator til it gets on the ball above 14.
    Also, there are LOTS of different pulleys for Ford if you want gen to be online earlier. There is also some possibility if actual output is happening to tinker with the cutout portion of reg.

    This old thread covers full fielding and also fancier testing:

    http://www.jalopyjournal.com/forum/showthread.php?t=278956&highlight=generator+test&showall=1
     
  17. kisam
    Joined: Feb 28, 2005
    Posts: 1,920

    kisam
    Member

  18. alchemy
    Joined: Sep 27, 2002
    Posts: 13,995

    alchemy
    Member

    I've ordered a new armature kit ($30) to replace the current one. Both the armatures I've tried have dried and flakey insulation on the windings, so maybe there's a problem (or potential for future shorts) when they are heated up in use again.

    I did do a full field test, but not at a higher-than-idle RPM. When it's assembled with new parts I'll try it again.

    I have a 1960 Motor Manual, but the adjustment proceedures for the voltage regulator were not real simple during my first perusal. And I definitely don't have the many different odd-size gapping gauges they require. I was hoping there was a general "move this gap __ larger" type instruction to up the volts by a certain amount so I can get 14 at the battery. I'll study them more after I make xeroxes tonight (then I can cross out the Delco stuff so it won't confuse me more.

    And I'm gonna crawl all over the car and clean every ground strap it has.

    Electricity makes my head hurt.

    Thanks all for your help.
     
  19. Slick Willy
    Joined: Aug 3, 2008
    Posts: 3,006

    Slick Willy
    Member

    [​IMG]
     
  20. Bruce Lancaster
    Joined: Oct 9, 2001
    Posts: 21,668

    Bruce Lancaster
    ALLIANCE MEMBER

    Magneto, get the handcrank out of the trunk. Electricity is too confusing.
     
  21. F&J
    Joined: Apr 5, 2007
    Posts: 13,174

    F&J
    ALLIANCE MEMBER


    Ha, actually a simple magneto like a Wico model EK for those hit-and-miss pop engines can show just how simple electricity is and, how it is made.

    That little Wico, had an iron trip rod, passing through a magnet, that I doubt moves 1/4" on each stroke to fire the plug. It almost looks like magic to see it work.

    Generator is the same principle, except it spins, rather than one stroke per spark, like the EK.

    The fun part, it learning the simple basics on how the generator makes current, then it gets so much easier to diagnose. Same is true with regs, kind of very complicated in a way, but understanding how/when it kicks in, and also what happens to make it kick out, is real helpful.

    Then you'll know which points contact, with motor off, and which ones open. Many times on crusty barnfinds, you can see the points are closed, to charge, but it does not change the voltage. Then a simple test light on either side of the points can show the connection is not being made when closed....and a quick filing, and it works.

    Yes, I agree the standard tests and setting for regulators hurts the brain, but you are right, that there are simple tweaks to just bump the output voltage...without all the hoopla.


    I think you already know, but the full field test has no validity at low rpm.
     
  22. alchemy
    Joined: Sep 27, 2002
    Posts: 13,995

    alchemy
    Member

    Has anybody here done these tweeks? Any advise you can give, other than finding a set of .038, .042, .049, .052, and .063 air gap gauges?
     
  23. F&J
    Joined: Apr 5, 2007
    Posts: 13,174

    F&J
    ALLIANCE MEMBER

    Never looked at a flathead Ford reg. Some types of regulators make it easy with adjusting screws.. determine which screw adjusts hi rpm voltage cut off point and you just use a voltmeter while setting it, with a fully charged , known to be good, battery.

    Other types you need to bend a tang. Same result only not as easy.

    Just need to read up which tang is the one you are after. Once you know which one; Trial and error seems to work :)
     
  24. I wish i had taken auto electrics at tech school :confused: I have rewired a few model A,s but that,s easy with a restorers book. The sort of trouble shooting as above is what gets me . I do know that as a novice to get involved in wiring and electrics you need to lock the garage from inside and have absolutely no distractions or lingering mental issues.
     
  25. tommy
    Joined: Mar 3, 2001
    Posts: 14,758

    tommy
    Member Emeritus

    I've had a lot of generators over the years and never once did I need to adjust a VR. I admit that the parts stores carried made in America parts during most of that time. If the VR was not working right I was just another "parts replacer". I was worried about an off shore VR for my 56 when I found a NORS Atlas regulator with great graphics and a reasonable price. Who knows how long it sat on the shelf but they don't go bad sitting around.

    It has been my experience that it was not very common to go inside a VR. I have had the lid off and I seem to remember that the put a dab of paint on the adjustments once they were set at the factory to tell if Harry homeowner had his grubby little fingers in there.

    As far as the "air gap",you have a set of feeler gauges I'm sure. .020 and .012 pinched together gets your odd .032 No need to buy a special feeler gauge of a particular thickness.
     
    Last edited: Jul 3, 2012
  26. alchemy
    Joined: Sep 27, 2002
    Posts: 13,995

    alchemy
    Member

    Thought I owed you guys an update. After reassembly of new armature and bearings in the generator (good brushes and the field coils didn't ground out), a NOS Holley brand voltage regulator, adding an additional heavy ground cable between the frame and engine block, and checking for loose connections everywhere in the 'lectricity system, I drove it an hour away and all seems kinda normal.

    The amp gauge would show about -1 at idle, probably due to the electric fuel pump. After using the brakes with the heavy-duty bulbs, it would charge a bit at 10, then down to 5, then back to -1 for a few miles. Every few miles of 65 MPH highway driving it would jump up to 5 for a few seconds.

    On the way home I used the headlights, and the amp gauge would show -10 for about ten seconds, then swing wildly over to +10, then back down to +5 for a little bit. Then back down to -10 for a while then wildly back up and all over again. When the headlights are on the amp gauge seems to show the charging jump around a lot. And the needle bouncing around crazy seems rather excessive.

    Should the needle bounce so fast? The gauge is a vintage Stewart Warner standard series, ala 1950. Maybe the deluxe series gauge would have had a dampner to slow the needle a bit? The dash hole is only 2", so I can't fit a deluxe series in there to try it out. Never seen a car with an amp gauge bounce so fast.

    Otherwise, the system seems to be charging. Haven't driven it enough to test the longevity, but I hope it lasts.
     
  27. Andy
    Joined: Nov 17, 2002
    Posts: 4,435

    Andy
    Member

    WARNING---------
    This ONLY applies to FORD generators. Check to see what is right for whever you are using!!!!!
    The smoke might get thick!!!!

    I posted this over on the Barn. I had been fighting a no charge deal forever. It seems that the voltage setting was all that was wrong. I used a voltmeter to set the voltage in the regulator. An ammeter was used to make sure the current was in range. I would make sure the gen and reg were grounded together. I also cleaned the points with some 1000 grit paper.

    from the Barn---
    I have been trying to get the 32 5W gen. to charge. I've had two gens and 5 regulatore in it. I've checked and doubled up on all the wires. I finally got down to analizing the thing.
    You can check to see if the problem is the gen or the regulator by jumping the arm, and the field leads at the reg. If the gen charges, it is in the reg. No charge means someting wong with the gen. My gen charged but would not charge the battery unless jumped. When you jumper the gen at the reg, you are checking the wires and also the cut out part of the reg. The only thing left are the relays that control the voltage and the amps. They both have to be closed for the gen to charge. I desided to just jumper the voltage relay to make it like it stayed closd. The gen charged. The only thing wrong was that the voltage was set too low to charge. I increased the tension on the voltage relay spring and all is fine.
    I hope this helps someone. I sure could not find any help.
    I have no idea why 5 regs could all not work due to low voltage settings. Whatever!
     
    Last edited: Aug 14, 2012
  28. porknbeaner
    Joined: Sep 12, 2003
    Posts: 40,987

    porknbeaner
    Member

    Alchemy,
    I my be way off base on this but my understanding has always been that a generator will not run a car unless you modify the Voltage regulater.

    Oh while I am thinking about it I just happen to have an echlin vot reg in the garage that I will never use, I think it is new but missing the box, it is all clean and shiney inside and shoes no wear whatsoever. Yours if you need it.
     
  29. alchemy
    Joined: Sep 27, 2002
    Posts: 13,995

    alchemy
    Member

    Andy, next time I'm out at the farm (where the car is stored) I'm going to do the jumper thing again and see what it shows. The voltage regulator came with an instruction sheet showing two testing methods involving "jumping". Since everything is semi-normal now, they should show all OK, right?

    Beaner, this system is set up basically as a '57 Ford. The armature, field coils, back cover with brushes, and the VR are all parts like a '57 Ford would use. They are in a '40 Ford housing, but there are no modifications. So I'd hope they would work without any modifications to the VR. If you can find some more info on adjusting the VR, I'm all ears. And thanks for the offer of the new VR. If I'm ever down there I'll make sure to come shake your hand and you can give it to me then.
     
  30. porknbeaner
    Joined: Sep 12, 2003
    Posts: 40,987

    porknbeaner
    Member

    I think I actually posted instructions a while back like an old instruction sheet. let me see if I can find it.
     

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