Electrical Issues

Why won’t it start?!

The Brougham really is in pretty great shape mechanically, considering it’s age.  The shocks are shot – but what can you expect for a vehicle that size of that age, and they are easily replaced.  The carburetor needs rebuilt, but, again, it’s a relatively small task.  If I knew a little more I’d buy a carb rebuilt kit and do it myself.

The first major task I have been able to tackle has been the wiring.  Life in the northwest did a number on the wiring connections – all of them are coated in rust – and custom wiring jobs done by someone who was clearly completely insane haven’t helped either.

We started out on our first real trip – to Spokane – with the needle on the fuel gauge close to empty, not sure if it was right or not, and had to pull off the freeway to get some gas, only to find the vehicle wouldn’t start again.  Not a great situation to be in in the middle of the night.  All of Katya’s possessions were loaded up in there and we were a long way, and an expensive tow, from anywhere we wanted to be.

We knew it was either a problem internal to the starter, or the wiring, but were unsure where to start with determining the cause.  Luckily an awesome guy named Gordon, whose truck was parked in the truckers’ lot next to the gas station, saw us puzzling over what to do.  He came over, poked around under the hood, listened to the solenoid switching, and, when I mentioned that occasionally I’d see sparks on the connector terminals when I tried to start it, he grunted, asked for a screwdriver and disappeared under the vehicle.  Seconds later, the starter was spinning.  Turns out the issue was nothing more than extremely corroded, rusted wiring at the starter terminals.  I grabbed a socket set and some sandpaper and cleaned up the wiring and the connectors.  Thanks to Gordon we were on our way again.

We had one other issue with starting the vehicle.  Occasionally, we would turn the key..and get nothing.  No clicks, nothing.  After a while we found that shifting back and forth between park, drive and neutral we could eventually get it to start, usually when in neutral.  After hunting through the repair manual I finally found where the park/neutral/reverse signal comes off of the transmission – providing an indication to the start relay that the vehicle is in park or neutral, and turns the reverse lights on.

Like many of the other problems, we guessed that it was likely caused by wire corrosion, so I set to cleaning them up.  The transmission end of the wiring was coated in what must have been at least a quarter of an inch of oil and dirt, which took forever to clean off enough that I could check the connections.  Of course, after all that, that end of the wiring was perfect, having been protected by a water (and oil) tight rubber cap.  The wiring connectors at the starter relay weren’t so lucky – they were pretty well rusted.  After cleaning them off, we haven’t seen the same problem again.

So, our starting problems are gone – now we just need the carburetor rebuild and some repairs to the exhaust system, and we’ll be able to keep the Brougham running once he’s started too.

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