Okay, so it looks like something is very wrong with my starter. _Apparently, it's getting juice because my headlights dim when I step on the starter button, but just to make sure, I also ran a jumper cable directly from the cable stud on the starter to the positive terminal of the on-board 12-volt battery. _That gave me a little sparking when the cable was touched to the terminal (expected, of course), but the starter did absolutely nothing. _Looks like the starter has to come off.
Of course, a '15 Ford isn't really supposed to have an electric starter, but this one was retro-fitted before I bought it—and as the bottom of the wooden dashboard and hood-former prevent access to the top, outboard mounting bolt on the starter, it seems likely that the dash and hood-former were elsewhere during the installation.
So, the know-nothing newbie needs to learn: What is the procedure for getting the dashboard and hood-former out of the way so I can get a wrench on the mounting bolt?
Silly question - do you trust the ground cable to be good and that it has a clean connection on the frame? I would run the jumper cables, both + and -, from the battery to the starter. - to the starter case or most convenient nearby ground and + to the cable connection on the starter. Run this simple test and if no good answers are found, remove the hood former and anything else that may happen to be in the way of getting to the starter bolts. If the firewall is in the way, it will either need to be trimmed in place or loosened and/or removed to get to the bolt. If mine, I'd modify the bottom of the firewall so any future work on the starter would only require removing the hood former. Your car, your choice.
Wait a minute. The 2 bolts that go through the starter at the end hold the whole thing together. They screw into the adaptor plate. By removing those bolts you should be able to remove the entire starter armature, body, end plate and all. Put scribe lines on all pieces to replace them in the correct position. The bendix must still be removed before disassembly.
Also: when removing the cable use one wrench on the lower nut and another on the top nut. Hold the lower and loosen the upper.
Charlie didn't say it, but his last bit of advice is to prevent loosening the terminal inside the starter. A loose connection there can disable the works.
When you remove the Bendix cover, don't lose the screws. They're an odd size the local hardware store won't have, and you have to get them from a Model T parts dealer. Only 35¢ each, but an unnecessary bother.
Charlie B said most of it.
The ubiquitous reminder. Regardless of the make of the starter. You need to check and probably remove the Bendix assembly before removing the starter itself.
It looks like a Chevrolet (other GM?) starter. Once the Bendix is removed, those two bolts on the front end of the starter should allow the main housing and armature to pull out easily. Those bolts are lo-ong and should thread into the adapter plate left on the hogshead. You shouldn't need to modify the firewall. They are a bit tricky to assemble because there is nothing to help you line up the bolts, but I know you can do it (I have done a dozen of them over the years).
There probably is a bearing or bushing in the adapter plate. Depending on how it was made, wear of that bearing would allow the armature to drag on the field and can cause starters to turn badly or not at all.
I am bothered a bit by your lights dimming when you hit the starter. Do they dim a lot? Or a little? It would be better to get a good measurement of the actual voltage drop. (I love my volt/ohm meter!!) However, even with that, condition of battery makes a huge difference in what the reading means. But for a general test, measure at the battery itself, from post to post. Hit the starter and note how much the voltage drops. Normal drop is about one to 1 1/2 volt drop when you hit the starter. (A drop of 3 to 4 or more volts at the battery when switched to a starter indicates a failing battery.)
If voltage drop at the battery is reasonable, try checking the voltage drop using long leads from battery negative to starter-post positive. Now hit the starter switch. If the drop now is considerably more than the drop had been measured on the battery from post to post? You likely have a failing in the hot-path. But it could still be mostly ground-path
A failing grounding point is a likely problem and can be tough to find and fix. This mostly because there are at least a half dozen possible different grounding routes and therefore places that could be causing your problem.
Sometimes, just adding a solid ground wire or strap from the starter itself (or next best, the hogshead) and going directly to the frame close by. Make certain that all connections are clean and solid, use stainless steel bolts and washers between copper and steel.
There is a simple test using a voltmeter. WARNING! Under certain conditions, it is possible to destroy a good voltmeter. But not likely if a precaution is taken. Always, for each individual test, first test with the meter switched to a higher voltage scale/range that you expect to need. If you don't get a surprise reading, then switch down to an expected scale/range for actual measurement.
With everything together, but not working right (very weak or no cranking), all cables, switches, battery ready to fire. Using good test leads from the voltmeter, connect the meter's negative directly to the battery negative post (assuming and first confirming a negative ground for the battery).
First,choose a good looking ground on the top of the engine (head-bolt or spark-plug base), make a good contact with the positive lead from the voltmeter. Set meter voltage test range at least double the battery, a 50 volt range is a good place to start. Now, hit the starter switch.
Ideally, you shouldn't even wiggle the needle. Then drop the voltage range down near (or even slightly below) the battery. (Ranges vary a LOT from different meters and sometimes getting an ideal range isn't an option). Hit the switch again. Again, ideally, there should be no reading. If there is, make note of what the voltage is.
Next, leave the negative alone just as before. Move the positive lead to the starter housing itself (clamped tightly under one of those two bolts on the front plate would be a good place to connect). Switch the meter back again to a higher range.
Hit the switch! If you get a voltage reading? Make a note of it. If not? Again drop the meter range back down and hit the switch again. If you get a reading? Take a note.
Electricity likes to take the path of least resistance. Your meter and leads are very low resistance compared to iron and rusty bolts. Even with reasonably good grounding, you may get as much as a quarter of a volt to show up on the meter. If you get a couple volts showing on the meter? You've got a serious grounding problem. It still may be easy to fix.
This test procedure can help find and fix a ground-path problem.
To narrow down the point of failure. Carefully bridge each connection point with the meter. Getting good contact with the leads at all places may not be easy (especially if chassis parts are rusty). But there is NO place under a few inches that you can bridge that should show ANY needle movement at all when you hit the starter switch (provided that place is okay). If you show a bypass voltage at all, there is something inside that needs serious cleaning and tightening. Remember, this ground path goes through the starter housing to the hogshead to the pan and eventually into the frame and finally connects to the battery itself. Sometimes the electricity doesn't go the short way.
A hot-path problem can also cause hard starting. The simple old-timers trick to find it, is that as long as you have enough path to dim the lights, hold the starter switch down for several seconds. Quickly, run your hands and fingers all over all the wires and connections in the hot-path. With a few significant exceptions, everything should be about the same temperature, and close to ambient temperature. If you find something noticeably warm? That is likely your problem. The primary exception is the starter itself. It can get noticeably warm even if it is fine.
Another warning. Do be cautious when sticking hands and fingers around wires that may have a hot spot. I actually have a small burn scar on the side of my left index finger from locating an electrical failure on one of my modern cars.
IR (infra-red) temperature probes were recently discussed in another thread on this forum, specifically for checking radiators. They are a good thing. And this is another good place to use one. Really no need to brand your finger tips.
Good luck! Have fun! Later, I'll think of other things I meant to add to this.
Drive carefully, and enjoy, W2
Walt, Charlie, Steve and Wayne; you took the time to explain a lot and though I don't really comprehend all of what Wayne said at this point—because to me, trying to understand electricity is like trying to understand magic—I'll read it over and over until some of it sinks in.
Meanwhile, there's a short or a ground-problem somewhere, else I wouldn't be getting a reaction from my headlights and turn-signals. _If it's within the starter, I'll have to take the durned thing out, and before I attempt that, I'll need to get a hold of a drawing of it so I'll know how the cable-connection stud transfixes whatever is in the housing. _I think the previous owner gave me a receipt for it, so hopefully, I'll be able to identify the unit and thereby get the correct drawing.
But before I even start thinking about taking things apart, there are two more things I think need be done:
#1.) Get a hold of a couple of mechanic's alligator-clip cables (because the starter cables I own don't have insulated clips and so, are a little dangerous for this purpose), run one from the hogs-head to the battery's negative terminal and the other from the starter's connecting stud to the battery's positive terminal (momentarily) and see whether the starter turns over. _If it does, the problem isn't the fault of the starter — right? _(Please confirm)
#2.) Regardless of what happens with #1, disconnect, clean and re-install the cable connection between the negative terminal of the battery and the car's frame.
#3.) Permanently install a short length of cable between the hogs-head and the car's frame because the additional grounding contact couldn't hurt and might actually help.
If #'s 1, 2 and 3 don't make any difference, the starter has to come out — right? _(Please confirm)
I should also get a volt-meter like Wayne says.
I'm with Bob as to the understanding of electricity. (I sometimes wish that I could come back in a different time, and apply for a job in Tesla's Lab - what a genius to learn from).
But for now, you wrote:.."... try checking the voltage drop using long leads from battery negative to starter-post positive...
I don't understand...the battery positive goes thru the starter switch to the starter post, so wouldn't hooking the battery negative thru the voltmeter to the starter post create a direct "short"?
Thanks for your time...
Your starter resembles Ford starters from the 1930's. They have the same single post connection, similar housings and extended armature shafts. Yours is probably one of these with a T adaptor plate on it. Many of these starters are sold on-line converted to 12 volts so finding parts shouldn't be a problem. Your short could be caused by the stud the cable connects to. The insulating washers wear/crack causing a short to the case. Disconnect the cable at the starter turn on the lights and hit the starter button. If the lights don't react (I don't think they will) it's the starter. Dave: no short. positive to negative connection. Doesn't matter where you connect to. Bob: Quick check for a bad engine ground is just using one cable from a jump starter set. Any where on the engine to the frame. Is your battery charged and have you checked/cleaned the neg cable connection at the frame?
Here's another thought. Using one of these oscillating cutters you could cut out the offending piece of firewall. Northern Tools. Under $25. By the way, REALLY stupid question: there actually is a bolt in that hole right?
I'll try again.
Normal wiring is Battery Negative to Frame (somewhere). Positive Battery through starter switch to Pole on Starter, I think.
"If voltage drop at the battery is reasonable, try checking the voltage drop using long leads from battery negative to starter-post positive. Now hit the starter switch....
So now those itty bitty electrons are going which way?? both positive and negative battery terminals are pushing (pulling?) electrons through the Positive Starter post.
Positive charge to starter through the starter switch, Negative to the SAME starter post through the voltmeter. I'm not understanding today's lesson.
from your 9:05 message - yes on all counts.
Okay, I disconnected the starter cable at the starter stud, turned on the headlights and stepped on the starter switch—and the lights stayed nice and bright and steady.
In the photos below, you can see what the starter looked like after I disconnected the cable and I suppose the next step is to unscrew the remaining nut and inspect the insulating washer beneath.
Meanwhile, below is a photo of what my starter looks like from behind the firewall and you can see that it does indeed have a bolt in that fourth hole. It also appears that it would be necessary to remove quite a lot of firewall material to unblock access to the bolt. Unless you guys tell me otherwise, I think that's looking like a last resort.
Dismantling the starter while the aluminum adapter plate remains attached to the hogshead will let you check the armature and brushes and you could probably have the armature tested. However, a shop probably wouldn't want to do anything with just 3/4 of a starter. They would want the whole thing to be able to fully test it so that you and they could have confidence that any repairs made really solve your problems. Unless you really want to do the work on the starter yourself, I'd modify or remove the firewall and take out the entire starter (after removing the bendix as discussed before). With the starter out, you can disassemble it and see if you have problems you can manage or you can take it to a shop and have them deal with it for you.
It's obviously your car and your choice but if mine I would modify the bottom corner of the firewall so any future maintenance wouldn't require as much fussing around.
Man yer screwed. That carriage bolt doesn't look like it'll clear the adaptor plate so removing it before cutting the firewall is probably out. DO NOT REMOVE THE BOTTOM NUT FROM THE STUD!!!! Unless you can back it off by finger pressure only it will twist the stud and break the internal connections. It'll have to come apart to replace the lower (internal) part of the insulating washer anyway if that's what's actually wrong. (I'm thinking totally shot brushes or a bushing myself). I've told you how to remove the starter with minimum trouble (in your case anyway). Remove the 2 bolts from the back of the starter. You might need a bit of help as it'll be best if someone else gently applies force to the armature end where the bendix was just to feed the whole thing out in one piece. You'll get the whole unit without the adaptor plate.
Charlie doesn't want you to remove that nut because of what is in the starter housing connected to that stud....
To answer Dave D's question.
The volt meter has resistors in it that act as a load, balance the actual voltage with the meter movement's voltage range, and effectively block the connection between test points from being treated as a full short or activating the starter (bypassing the starter's switch).
The reason for testing at the battery posts themselves and also across the full (what I refer to as the "hot-path") length of the run to the starter post is that in an ideal world, those two measurements should be the same (less a very small loss due to the resistance loop for the length of the cables which if things are working properly should be nearly zero).
If, however, there is a noticeable, somewhat significant, difference between the two measurements, it indicates that there is a problem in that run of cables and connections. This is due in part to the current draw of the starter creating an increase of resistance (which in turn drops the voltage) across the trouble spot. These type of problems are cumulative. If an undersized cable is used, it may work okay until a little corrosion develops in some other connecting bolt or cable connector. Either problem alone may not stop the system from working. The cumulative effect can kill it suddenly (sometimes referred to as the "cliff effect", over the edge a little, over the edge a little more, sudden drop to the bottom).
It should be noted that there are connections inside the battery that can fail, they can be tough to diagnose because they are difficult to connect to the meter leads.
Most people have no idea how many connections are involved in such a circuit.
Battery post to cable connector.
Cable connector to cable (internal).
Other end of cable to other end connector (again, internal).
That end connector to the switch-bolt nut (rarely does the current go directly to the bolt).
Nut to bolt.
Bolt to switch contact plate. (Inside switch)
Switch contact plate other end to other bolt. (Also inside switch)
That bolt to nut.
Nut to cable end connector.
That end connector to that cable. (Again, internal)
Other end of that cable to yet another end connector. (Internal)
The starter's connector bolt's nut (Again, rarely does the current path go directly to the bolt)
Nut into bolt, and the bolt goes into the starter where there is a whole another series of connections including brushes and crimp connectors, any of which could also be the trouble.
The reason to compare voltage drops in different places is to try to determine if the primary trouble cause is the battery itself, my "hot path", the starter itself, or the ground path. It gets difficult to explain because the "cheap and dirty" voltmeter test involves several variables of circuits, types of cables, battery condition, etc, that mean I can't give a simple voltage reading at a simple point that fits all cars. And again, electrical problems can be cumulative. So there can be several minor issues in different areas of the circuit.
Yeah, electricity is funny stuff. I worked much of my working career in radio frequency distribution. I used to tell people that it "was as close to pure magic as anything firmly rooted in the laws of physics and mathematics could be".
Bob C! You can do it! Just step by step, eliminate and narrow down the problem to an area, then it should be a simple fix.
Do drive carefully, and enjoy, W2
Thanks for your time & explanation. I will at some point in the future attempt those diagnostic steps....
no current problem, I just want to see the results on the meter.
Today, I'm planning to go out and get me an oscillating cutter like the one Charlie recommended and then remove a big enough chunk of wood from the firewall that will allow for dismounting the entirety of the starter. _I'm done butchie-booing around with this thing.
Who do we know that can do a fairly quick turnaround on a 12-volt starter overhaul?
Just remove, or loosen, the body mounting bolts and remove the firewall bracket bolts and lift the body the 1" or so that you need. It's not a big deal. (Might also need to remove the steering column bolts and remove the radiator stay rod.)
Jerry has the right idea. I was talking with a friend this morning that is going to pull the engine from his '13 and he says the easy answer is to simply loosen the 6 bolts that hold the body and the bolts for the frame to steering bracket and then lift /jack up the body about an inch. Less invasive than the butcher the firewall approach that I'd suggested earlier.
Bob: I think you also find that the firewall bracket will be in the way too. All the early cars I have worked on that have a starter, this bracket must be ground to let the starter pass. You will need a die grinder for this. Take a look before you take the starter loose. You do not want to get the mag full of the metal grinding. Dan.
The firewall bracket will raise up with the firewall when unbolted from the frame.
Take your time and no one will ever notice that chip of wood being gone. Unless of course you point it out. If you've never used an oscillating cutter before try it out on some scrap wood first. You can make some pretty accurate cuts with it if you practice a bit. A decent solution. Easy plus you can remove it again if necessary with a minimum of fuss.
At this point, I'm sort of committed to going the oscillating cutter route because I've already blasted through some of the wood at the bottom of the firewall on the driver's side.
And Dan is right, the dad-blasted firewall bracket is in the dad-blasted way. _It looks like I need to get that thing out of there, stick it in a vice and have a go at it with an angle-grinder (so that in the future, when I need to remove the stupid starter, all I'll have to do is unbolt it instead of taking half the car apart).
Okay, so the new problem is one of how to get the firewall bracket out of the car. _The carriage bolts that hold the firewall bracket to the firewall are so long, there isn't room enough to pull the nuts out from behind that wonderful 1915 hood former. _That seems to leave me with two choices: _Is it better to use a punch and a hammer to pound the carriage bolts rearward so I can remove the nuts and thereby dismount the firewall bracket; or is it better to use a Dremel cut-off wheel to shorten the carriage bolts so I can slip the nuts off the carriage bolts and out from behind the hood former?
I suspect it will be easier to shorten the bolts for future occasions if you take them out to do it. Don't just cut them. Give the cut ends a good wire brushing so the nuts will go on easily.
My 1915 has a starter on it. Easiest way to fix the problem is to first take off the hood. remover the former ( it should only be held on with some wood screws) undo the coach bolts and remove them.
The trickiest part will be to get the bolts holding the dash bracket which are through the chassis as the starter makes it hard to get them out but it can be done. Then you can cut away the piece of timber.
You will find if you grind away the bracket it will leave very little metal left so it would be better to keep the original bracket and make one with the required step in it so the starter can be put in or out without all this fuss.
Unfortunately my 1915 is not at home to show you what I did but I will see if I can draw a sketch.
In the 20 plus years no one has noticed the difference.
While I am at it great tire article, are you going to do the same with tubes?
Bob: I have done the grinding with the bracket on the car. If you have a die grinder and a burr it is a quick job. If you do not have a die grinder, it is time for a trip to HF. Dan
Okay, here's the next new plan:
1.) Remove the 1915 hood former (Would somebody please tell me how to do that?).
2.) Remove the dashboard\firewall bracket, take it to a welding shop and have them add some metal so it will look like Peter Kable's drawing. _Grind away the lower right hand corner of the bracket.
3.) Shorten the bolts that hold the dash to the bracket and replace the square nuts that are impossible to manipulate beneath the 1915 hood former with hex nuts.
4.) Trim away whatever wooden part of the dash is still in the way, dismount the starter and send it to someone who can fix it.
Who do we know that can fix a 12-volt starter? _If you can recommend someone, would you please send me a PM with that info?
Bob, if memory serves me right, to get the hood former off, the cowl has to come off first. I remember dismantling all that two years ago to get my engine out. I literally held the cowel up via a small piece of rope slung over the windshield, and tied it to the now mostly pulled out steering column that had the wheel laying on top of the front seat back. Yes, I think you may need to also unhook your steering column from the drag link and raise it up to get it out of the way of things. I then raised my wood firewall up some, which may also help you get the starter out. This post was so long I didn't read hardly any of it, so maybe getting to the starter has already been covered. I think Becker Auto electric down here in Norwalk Ohio does them. They're like 20 minutes from me.
Bob...I checked some of my pics...I'm backwards on removing the cowl to get the hood former off! Nothin' new there! Anyway, there's about 4 big carriage bolts holding the hood former ONTO the cowel...unbolt those and now things will start to be able to be slid up and out of the way. Sorry for the confusion. Old-timers disease setting in!
Just a quick note - Analog meters have very low impedance (resistance). Digital meters have very high impedance. For Wayne's tests, an old analog meter would work best.
You state, "Okay, so the new problem is one of how to get the firewall bracket out of the car."
Why can't you just unbolt the brackets from the frame, leave them bolted to the firewall, and then lift the body with the firewall & brackets still attached?
I'm under the impression that lifting the body would be the most difficult of all options. _If I'm wrong, good—'cause I don't want to be cutting and grinding on an artifact if it isn't necessary. _Knowledge is power and I want to learn to do things right, so what's the technique? _Where are the body-attach bolts? _I don't have a lift, so at what hard-point can I jack the front of the body up, etc.? _Can you give me some a-b-c specifics as to how to lift front of the body one or two inches?
(I already have the Ford manuals and (forgive me, Steve Jelf) they do nothing but confuse me.)
Are you sure your battery is good and charged? read Wayne's post at the start of this thread and verify voltage with a meter.
The battery is good. _It's a red-top Optima and I have the Optima charger, the digital diagnostic feature of which, confirms the battery is in good shape.
I decided to unbolt the body and tilt it backwards to gain access to the starter. _At first, I imagined this to be a daunting task, but the mounting bolts were decently accessible and they're all loose, now. _The bolts and nuts holding in the firewall brackets are a little hard to get at with a wrench, so I'll fiddle with that next. _Then, I'll have to detach the throttle and spark rods from the steering column and dismount the steering column bracket. _It's a lot of taking-apart, but everything looks accessible. _I think this is the way to go.
I use a combination (Open End/Swivel Socket)wrench slide between the starter and inside frame to hold the bracket bolts from the bottom. Use the socket end. Need some help above to loosen the bolts/nuts. When re-installing the bolts, a little masking tape will help secure the bolt from falling out the socket. It's tight but can be done.
I'm not sure what you mean, Les. _Can you steer me to a photo of such a tool on the web?