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Old 08-30-2003, 03:13 PM
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1980 TA choke relay

Does anyone know what the choke relay really does? I have a 1980 Pontiac Trans Am. It has a relay, called the choke relay, that is somehow tied into the electric choke, and the alternator warning light. I don't see this relay on any models before 1980. It is wired into the choke telltale/alternator warning light. My alternator warning light was not working (key in the on position, your charge warning light should come on since your alternator is not producing any voltage, and mine was not). I removed the relay and jumpered a couple of wires, and now my warning light is working. If I can just jumper some wires, and get normal operation, what is the relay for?

Thanks in advance for any insight.

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Old 08-30-2003, 06:10 PM
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Have you checked the choke fuse in the main fuse panel?
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Old 08-30-2003, 06:22 PM
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The only fuse I can locate that correlates to this circuit is good. I think it is labeled C/H or CH. Is kind of worn on my fuse block, but, nevertheless, I ohmed it and it is good.

The whole circuit is kind of bewildering. The field wire (small brown wire) off of the alternator acts as the ground wire for the charge light when the alternator is not working correctly, but when the alternator is working correctly, it too has voltage, and since there is no differenc in potential, and the light goes out, indicating a good charge state from you alternator. It's kinda weird. I just have yet to figure out what purpose the choke relay serves.
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Old 11-16-2004, 03:37 PM
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Choke Relay and TellTale

Please contact me about the choke relay and Telltale.

Thanks...
George
tekmanic@hotmail.com

When I step on the gas or even let up off the gas, my choke light glows and the choke relay buzzes and vibrates! Very similar to the "key warning buzzer".

I replaced the choke relay with a new one ($10.00 at CarQuest) but that did not resolve the buzzing.

Wondering what exactly the "telltale" is and where it is located? Which wires did you jumper? There are green/white, brown/white, brown and blue wires at my choke relay.

Any info you can provide will be helpful.

Thanks...
George
tekmanic@hotmail.com

Last edited by Tekmanic; 11-16-2004 at 03:37 PM.
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Old 11-16-2004, 05:12 PM
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Choke relay

The choke relay takes voltage from the alternator to power the choke coil. Most electric chokes have been powdered by Alternator voltage. And if I'm not mistaken on GM products the choke relay does effect the charging system because it is a break in the system. This is something you do not want to try and by-pass with jumper wires. That's an accident waiting to happen. Replace the relay first and take it from there but it is something you need. GM used that set up on several Vara-Jet carb's. It's been quite a while since I worked on a choke relay system but I was there when they came out in the dealership. The Choke light is on for a failed relay or choke coil or C/H fuse (Choke Heater) fuse blown. Alt. light does not come on because it is still producing correct current but is broken at the relay.
Little rusty that was 24 years ago.......
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Old 11-16-2004, 05:32 PM
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Been there, done that

Whenever I encounter this problem, It is usually a bad diode in the alt. The alt has 3 sets of windings in it. If one of the diode sets for one winding goes bad, the alt will still charge, but it will not power the choke relay.
I have probably encounterd this at least 6 times in the last few years. Car usually has a low buck (discount house) alt. installed.

.
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Old 11-16-2004, 06:01 PM
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Diode set

Doc here:

Curley hit the nail right on the head..look at alt. Diodes..

The relay Chatters Because it is getting a low DC with the presents of AC voltage at the coil, Causing the coil to "Chatter" like a mini shaver...

Common problem, a set of diodes will clear it up.

As for what the relay does , It turns things on at the Start of a charge cycle..like the choke heater , you wouldn't want it powered up when the key was on, but engine not running...same with the light / tattletale..once the relay senses a "Charge It closes the contacts and turns stuff on..(or off) depending on how the relay is configured.

Jumping the relay is not a good idea.. you really want to repair the Diode pack in the alternator and return the relay to service.

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Old 11-16-2004, 08:27 PM
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WOW! Fantastic information! I really appreciate these answers to what has been at the very least a perplexing problem for me. I have been pouring over my wiring diagram trying to trace wires and figure out where somthing was shorting out.

I am interested in trying to change the diode pack, if for nothing more than a learning experience.

Is this something that I can purchase at the local NAPA or CarQuest?

How does this compare long term to swapping in a new/rebuilt alternator?

I know there are a couple different size alternators for my '80 TA, would it be beneficial to go with the larger one?

I appreciate all the information!!!

Thanks...
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Old 11-17-2004, 12:09 AM
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Diodes

Doc here:

Yes, you can get the diode brick at Napa , but I think there like $39 bucks there.

I did a CSK auto search (Kragen, checker, autozone sites) And found them for $9

http://www.partsamerica.com/PartDeta...pe=569&PTSet=A Go here your diode brick is a, DR86R If your running the 65 amp alternator.

It's a very simple repair, Disconnect the battery, then the connections and terminal bolts on the alternator, half the case, unbolt the diode brick, and bolt the new back in, Replace the case half and reverse the order of tear-down and your done.

I have it down to where I can do it on Corvette without ever removing the alternator from the engine about 15 minutes total...It's just about that simple.

Your T/A might be a bit "Busy" in that area tho...

In the older Vette's it's left top with nothing behind it....easy to access.

(about the ONLY thing on those Day~um Cars that is)

************************************
If you want the learning experience, Rebuild the whole unit if you want, However If it's not making noise, (bearings) or sparking at the armature it 's probably not necessary.

All that is needed parts wise, are bearings/bushings, Set of brushes and if internally regulated, a regulator resistor/ diode pack, in addition to the charging diode pack..

Pull it off the car..take the pulley / fan off (An impact gun works great for this, and usually, Kragens will do it for you for free if you can't get it off) and half the cases...and clean with gunk engine cleaner and hose.. as required...

Replace the bearings (or bushings ) on the end bells, If they are bearings, use a tiny sharp punch and dimple the end bell race in 2 spots slightly, as close to the center of the race as possible. This will hold the bearing from EVER spinning.

Clean the copper pads off with a light Emery paper until they are nice and shiny copper.

Then Clean the insulator Gaps between the pads with a hobby or box-knife or regular pocket knife .. so that no build up remains between the pads.

Locate and remove the brushes and spring retainers from the end bell on the brushes..

TIP: Get yourself 2 paper clips and bend them straight...and set them aside..

install your new brushes, (some come with new springs some don't) and install them , and the springs in the brush holders.

TIP PART 2..look at the back and you'll find a small hole going through each brush holder...push the brush past the hole and insert the paper clip through the holder.

This will hold the brushes in full up position while you reinstall the end bell. (will save you countless hours wondering how you get them to slide over the armature..as you try to put the halves back together!)

Locate the Diode brick and replace it...

If internally regulated, locate the diode/resistor pack and replace that..

Put the Half's Back together, (you will note that the ends won't slide all the way together, this is because the "Dimples" you punched in the races to prevent the bearings from ever spinning, are hanging the bearings Slightly (with a rubber hammer) Tap the ends together..should go right on.

Bolt the half's together, Install the terminal hardware/insulators, and reinstall the pulley/fan...and put it back in the car.

Your done! You'll have an alternator that should last for years, and you know how it was built!

The Downside on this except for the Learning experience, and the knowledge that it was done properly, you gain little or nothing dollar~wise..You can get the rebuild kit with all you will need

http://www.partsamerica.com/PartDeta...pe=876&PTSet=A

For $21.00.

BUT, you can buy the whole alternator for $29.00, ready to mount up! BUT again be advised the failure rate out of the box or shortly down the road is about 3 in 5...another thing to consider when doing this.

Doc
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Old 11-17-2004, 08:43 PM
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I believe all that I have done by jumpering /bypassing the choke relay is emulating how these two systems (alt. charge light & electric choke) would operate on a car like mine without a choke relay. I think '80 was the first year that this choke relay w/ combo choke telltale alt charge warning light was used on Firebird/TAs.

On my type of car, without a choke relay, how is the electric choke wired up? I'm assuming it would be an ignition switched 12V source, the same as the idiot light/field wire for the alternator.

I've had my "jumper" in place for quite some time, and my alternator charges flawlessly. Actually, with my choke relay in place, the alternator was not functioning properly. Could be a bad choke relay (although I took an Ohm Meter to it, and can here it click when I turn the key off/on) or perhaps because I currently do not have an electric choke hooked up? Not sure how this would affect this perplexing system, but I doubt that GM would have engineered it so that if your alternator died your choke would not function and Vice ~ Versa.
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Old 11-17-2004, 11:48 PM
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Choke Relay (sorry, long post!)

Doc here:

First, Let me apologize For the long post..But defeating Built in Safety items or malfunction warnings is a soap box for me, and try to speak as to what CAN happen .. even if it dosn't...

As I said before, It's not a good thing to "jumper " around that or any other relay in the car (other than for testing).

The Engineers Design Circuits around relays for a few reasons, One to current handle circuits that would require a BIG switch and wires, and second and most important, to reroute and multi~task related circuits to a single input/Output and even in some cases (like headlight doors) Reverse power to an output.

As you say, because you have "mimicked" the relay with a series of jumpers It runs just fine...

That may be the case, But an Alternator that has a bad diode pack and is driven a reasonable amount everyday, usually will not be evident if only one diode is bad and the is relay bypassed...until you let it set for 4 or 5 days maybe in the dead of winter..then it won't start!

Because the rate of charge is somewhat less, the battery maintains a "Surface Charge" and start/stop within short time spans (24 hours or so)work OK, but taxes an amount of the deep charge each time, and slowly depletes over time.. you end up with random dead batteries, usually time related..

Do this long enough, and your battery will die forever in about 1/3 it's normal lifespan.

The second issue is If the diode pack is faulty, and the relay is chattering because of it, and you bypass the relay to ignore the warning, you are Inducing a small amount of AC into the DC system because a diode IS bad.
(This is why the relay Chatters)

Semiconductors Won't tolerate this abuse very long...If at all, Depending on how bad the diodes are.

Linear Op amps (Radio/CD players, Computer power supplies, Boom amps are ALL linear) Will burn up over time if exposed to "Dirty" DC...

They are ALL required to run on Clean Flat line DC...Ever listen to your Car radio while Charging the battery with a 10 AMP charger? you'll know what I mean..The hum is so loud you have to turn it off. Even though It's a DC charger, It 's Not well filtered, It will charge your battery..but is very hard on semiconductors.

Some Items that have internal Power regulators. Op Amp regulators (like instrument gauge regulators, or any plug in accessory), will not function if they don't see 12 volts or higher at the regulator input to the chip.

A bad diode and lower than normal battery CAN run your system under 12 volts,If an op amp regulator see's 11.75 at the input,(because 1/4 of the charge cycle is AC passing through the bad diode) it will shut down the output side of the chip until the voltage returns ABOVE 12 volts.
(after a long run time with no drain, And remember, every time you stop at a light, It costs you 30 amps....brake lights)

When that happens, The regulator will turn back on, but have an AC ripple in the DC input..This will cause double the heat to the semiconductor and will put it into thermal shutdown. In many cases Permanent Thermal shut down.

The Second Issue, The Electric Choke, It is not used during "KEY ON" functions because it uses current, for one, and for another, If you sat in the car with the key on for a few minutes before starting,The Electric heater will be up to temp, and the Choke will OPEN on first throttle/pump making the engine Hard To start Cold.

When the relay fires because the alternator is putting out sense voltage, (meaning the engine is running) it puts power on the choke heater and THEN the warm up cycle begins to open the choke.

The other Issue of the Charge light / Tattletale, caused by what you perceived as a bad relay...is actually doing the job it was designed to do...

If the relay does not latch up, the light/tattletale will be on or flash...Telling you there IS a problem...That problem is a bad diode pack..You see the power to energize That relay comes from the alternator and if it's low or has a ripple on it the relay will chatter and set off those "Alarms" to fix it!

A diode pack is only about 10 bucks or up and a 1/2 hour out of your time to fix, or REBUILT Alternators start at $29.00 and up..and is the proper fix.

Case in point, Had a "Bud" bring me his Vette because his $600 radio/CD player, first started showing the Time/frequency in Error (station 99.7 was actually at 89.5 etc..Player would ERR 1 out of 3 times on load, and the Deck&Ejected CD was Hella Hot!) Then the display started dropping digits..Soon it wouldn't run at all. and oh, he was having random dead batteries..Drive it daily fine ... store it for a week, dead...unless you FULL charged it before Storing it. Then it was fine.

I told him, Alternator..$120 bucks and your problems will go away...With Raised eyebrow, He said "Bunk" went and Bought ANOTHER $600 Player..

A few weeks later, The NEW player was dead under the SAME symptoms..We installed a new Alternator. and HE installed a $49 Player (for test, just in case, a non believer..)And it's been fine for months now..

The $120 alternator, ended up SO far (waiting for word of the player upgrade) $1369.00...and he got off Hella lucky! Had it spread To and damaged The DIC , he would have A Vette that most likely wouldn't run, and display Dashboard info, at a cost of SEVERAL thousand dollars replacement.

By jumping around the relay you are just Defeating the circuits it was designed to protect..and one thing for sure it won't get better on it's own.

But it's your Call on that one...Diode packs are just too cheap to ignore..and relays are to, compared to the damage (that nobody ever thinks about, or is aware of..)Defeating them can do...

Again, Sorry for the long post/ rant..but I thought you'd like to know...

Doc
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Old 11-18-2004, 09:52 PM
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No biggee about the long post...

Just a reminder though, I'm not the one with a suspected bad alternator. Mine is virtually brand new (less than a thousand miles on it). I did not jumper around the choke relay because my alternator was acting strange. Car charges fine when the car is seldom driven, and after some lengthy business trips as of late, the car sat untouched for probably 3 months or longer, and started up just fine.

Let me get this part straight though... you are saying that the choke relay gets it's power to switch on the electric choke part of the circuit from the alternator? So, the elelctric choke isn't working until after the car is running? Sounds kinda backwards to me, unless this happens very fast some how. My car has no choke at all, and I have to feather the throttle and keep it revved to about 1500 RPM for a bit to keep it from dying, so I'm not sure how an electric choke not operating 'till my car is warmed up makes any sense? So, if my electric choke (if I had one) was wired up all factory like, through this relay, then how would it help for cold starts in keeping my car running 'till it warms up? Please explain this to me, not trying to be argumentative... I just want to understand how this system works so I can make mine "correct"

Thanks - Josh
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Old 11-19-2004, 07:48 AM
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Choke anothe long one sorry...

Doc here:

The post was kinda meant for both of you ,and anyone else with the same problem, as it is a very common problem.

You did not say EXACTLY why you jumped around the relay in your post ,other than the systems associated with it were malfunctioning

(as the should if the relay failed.)

But is so doing you removed the protection of the relay in case of failed charge.

If the coil was bad, (common) just plug a new one in. If you replaced the Alternator 1000 miles ago I might assume the relay failed, maybe with it, by opening up the coil on the relay from "flutter". But that's just a guess.

CHOKE:
Yes, you are Correct..

The Electric Choke DOES Not receive power Until the engine is running, and the alternator is putting out a charge...
(This is how it knows the engine is running)

The principle of operation is very simple.

The Choke at First of the day start, or "dead" cold, Is MECHANICALLY adjusted To Full closed by turning the Electric choke adjuster

(the plastic plate where the wire attaches)

until the choke just closes off the throat...maybe back it off a little depends on how hard to start your car actually is cold...

SO Dead cold the choke is CLOSED .

(some require one tap on the throttle to "slip the lockout detent" and close it)

Inside the Electric Choke is a Bi~metallic spring and heater. The linkage side of the bi~metallic spring is hooked directly to the choke butterfly or linkage...

As Power from the alternator is applied to the choke heater, The Bi~metallic Spring heats up and coils shut. The direction of the coil under temp is COUNTER to the closed position on the Choke..I.E. as the spring gets hot, it OPENS up the choke.

A normal Electric Choke stays in the choke position for around 3 minutes until the bi~metallic Spring is up to temp. When that happens, it applies (or removes) tension on the butterfly in the direction of the OPEN position.

Some Require a "Tap" on the throttle to get it to "backpedal" in stages (linkage detents) some just do it automatically Depends on the car/carb...

AFTER the engine is at running temp even if the choke heater is electrically defeated of defective, the normal engine heat will hold the bi~metallic spring coiled ..Choke open...

THIS is EXACTLY why you have so many cold start problems...The Choke is wide open at cold start...you have to pump the throttle to get fuel in the throat and pump it until the engine "Wakes" up...What you are doing is becoming a "manual Choke" for the car by holding it at high idle, and pumping throttle to keep it running...

True, the system would make absolutely NO sense at all, were it not for the fact that it is adjusted cold closed, and power heats the spring and draws the butterfly back to open...

To wire it hot in run at all times (which some folks do..)is problematic because, should you turn the key on, and take time to read a map, or belt in the kids, tune the radio, wipe the windshield, any function between 1 and 3 minutes, before you actually START the engine, the choke is already preheated, and will open before the engine has started...making cold starts an issue..

Also what you may not be understanding is the COIL for the relay get it's power from the Alternator.. not the Center-wiper ,or movable contact on the relay,
(although some do provide for that)

The Coil energize line from the Alternator (like the "s" on a starter solenoid) triggers the magnetic coil only, but does not power the output device,(heater or light) and pulls the movable contacts (CW) that are held Normally Open (NC) (to charge lamp circuit ) so that when that contact is pulled closed (NO), it applies signal (power or ground) to that circuit.

The Center Wiper is a constant 12 volts, usually fused from the buss or battery, and the normally open held closed (NOHC) contact is the choke heater.

The constant 12 volt contact acts like the Big battery terminal on the starter solenoid, and does the work..as the "S" terminal energizes it..On the relay, like the solenoid, the coil is only the control circuit.

The more poles on a relay, the more circuits handled, so pulling one may effect more than one circuit.

Clear As Mud right?
]Doc
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Old 11-20-2004, 12:26 AM
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I do think this is making more sense... I apologize for forgetting that the choke is MECHANICALLY adjusted closed when cold, not electrically. So, in light of that fact, the alternator providing power to the coil on the relay to create an "open" in the circuit, or move the center wiper removing the connection makes more sense now. I've been studying the relay, wiring diagrams for my car and trying to figure out how the choke telltale both indicates if your choke is on, and a alternator warning light.

This relay has 4 wires but only 3 terminals... a brown w/white wire which comes from the CH fuse in the fuse panel that goes to the armature that has the hinge end of the CW, and has one end of the magnetic coil attached to it. The second wire is Brown, which goes to terminal #1 on the alternator, and has the other end of the magnetic coil attached to it. The 3rd and 4th wires are "double tapped" and are connected to the other armature that the CW comes into contact with when closed. They are; Light Blue which goes to factory electric choke, and the other is Green w/white and goes to the choke telltale/alt. warning light. The other side of the light is a pink w/black wire which I know is switched 12V.

I'm going to get out the 12V test light this weekend and double check what wire is providing/acting as what in all three key positions; On, Start, and Run, to reinforce my theory on how this relay makes the choke/alt. waring light pull double indicator duty. I also plan on doing up some diagrams to post on my web site corresponding to the three different ignition position scenarios so we all have visual reference to this thing.

Thanks - Josh
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Old 11-30-2004, 07:51 PM
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Curly & Doc are Fantastic!!!!!

To Curly & Doc...

You guys are fantastic! You hit the nail right on the head for fixing my buzzing choke relay. I decided to swap in a new alternator since I had no idea of the age of mine. The new/rebuilt alternator with its new diode fixed the buzzing choke relay problem.

I appreciate the help you guys gave me in fixing this perplexing (at least for me) problem. I was on the right track by pouring over th ewiring diagram, but withoug your help I never would have thought the alternator diode trio to be the problem.

Again, Thank You Both Very Much!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

George
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