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Old 08-06-2009, 08:38 PM
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alternator? Starter? What do I do?

I've got a problem, possibly 2 separate problems, but I don't know how to tell for sure, or which part of the problem to try fixing first. My caddy's got the stock 331, but with a later alternator installed to replace the generator. The first issue is getting her to start. Its been getting worse & worse since I bought the car...at first on rare occasion I'd turn the key, hear the solenoid click, but no crank. Then I shut it off, turn the key again & it'd fire right up. Gradually, more & more often I get the click & then nothing. Just recently I was having some carb issues & I think all the times cranking it while fixing the carb may have worn out the starter or the solenoid or whatever was causing that problem, because now I have to try multiple times to finally get it to crank. Once it cranks, it cranks at a decent speed & fires right up, but there's no tellin' how many times I have to try before it will engage. So that's problem #1. What do I do, replace the starter? Replace just the solenoid? Is there a test I should be doing?

Problem #2 came while I was trying to rule out possibilities on the starter thing. I checked the voltage on my battery, it was 12.65. Then I started it (took about 10 tries to get it to crank) and checked the voltage while the motor was running. It only went up to 12.68. Shouldn't it be 14 something? So, dead alternator right?

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Old 08-07-2009, 01:09 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bill-E-BoB
I've got a problem, possibly 2 separate problems, but I don't know how to tell for sure, or which part of the problem to try fixing first. My caddy's got the stock 331, but with a later alternator installed to replace the generator. The first issue is getting her to start. Its been getting worse & worse since I bought the car...at first on rare occasion I'd turn the key, hear the solenoid click, but no crank. Then I shut it off, turn the key again & it'd fire right up. Gradually, more & more often I get the click & then nothing. Just recently I was having some carb issues & I think all the times cranking it while fixing the carb may have worn out the starter or the solenoid or whatever was causing that problem, because now I have to try multiple times to finally get it to crank. Once it cranks, it cranks at a decent speed & fires right up, but there's no tellin' how many times I have to try before it will engage. So that's problem #1. What do I do, replace the starter? Replace just the solenoid? Is there a test I should be doing?

Problem #2 came while I was trying to rule out possibilities on the starter thing. I checked the voltage on my battery, it was 12.65. Then I started it (took about 10 tries to get it to crank) and checked the voltage while the motor was running. It only went up to 12.68. Shouldn't it be 14 something? So, dead alternator right?
There are many things that could cause your starter to behave such as it is, The major suspects would be the ignition switch is wearing (worn) out, the wire between the switch and solenoid is damaged or loose at a connection somewhere, there is a bad or missing ground between the engine and battery (this could also be a cause of your low charging voltage), or the solenoid or starter could be failing.

Problem 2 could be a problem or not. Low charging can be anything from the battery doesn't need much of a charge after starting the engine to the alternator or regulator are on the way out. Some GM alternators have a half moon shaped hole on the rear. If yours is one of these, a small screw driver can be passed inside the operating alternator to short the field. If the alternator is good but the regulator bad, the voltage will significantly rise. Just don't hold this in for long as the alternator will rise to the occasion of a full short and attempt to provide an infinitely big out put for the infinitely big load you're imposing on it. It won't do that for too long before you own a piece of really hot scrap metal. If the alternator is bad there will be no voltage rise no matter how long you short the field. This test of course assumes you have a 1 wire alternator with internal regulator.

Bogie
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Old 08-07-2009, 01:33 PM
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A "quick and dirty" test is to disconnect the positive terminal from the battery- if the engine stays running, the alternator is putting out something- although it may not be up to spec's. Just like when shorting the field, this is to be done briefly.

The solenoid has a contact that's suspect in cases like yours. The contact can be flipped around after dressing it smooth and this will usually allow for a lot more starts before the solenoid is well and truly hammered, but as inexpensive as they are (if you can find just a solenoid anymore, that is ), you'd prolly be better off replacing it while you have the starter out, if it's the problem.
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Old 08-07-2009, 07:10 PM
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Originally Posted by cobalt327
A "quick and dirty" test is to disconnect the positive terminal from the battery- if the engine stays running, the alternator is putting out something- although it may not be up to spec's. Just like when shorting the field, this is to be done briefly.

.
This is not really a good idea and it really doesnt prove anything. Some alternators will not self sustain and if you have any electronics in the car you risk burning them up. On some vehicles the alternator will run wild and could spike to over 20 volts. Not to mention the spark generated when the cable is disconnected could cause a battery explosion
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Old 08-07-2009, 07:37 PM
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This is not really a good idea and it really doesnt prove anything. Some alternators will not self sustain and if you have any electronics in the car you risk burning them up. On some vehicles the alternator will run wild and could spike to over 20 volts. Not to mention the spark generated when the cable is disconnected could cause a battery explosion
"A "quick and dirty" test is to disconnect the positive terminal from the battery- if the engine stays running, the alternator is putting out something"

This test was designed for vehicles with generators. On alternator equipped vehicles, it can, and will pop the diode trio. Much the same as when jumping a vehicle, and having a arch while hooking up the jumper cables.


I am of the mind set that this problem could just be a battery cable connection, or corrosion inside of the cable insulation.
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Old 08-07-2009, 07:55 PM
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The biggest reason to not do it would be on a vehicle w/an ECM. But for 80-back I would use a voltmeter, but then again- I own one . Side of the road, ain't got no's- different story.

But if it's something that anyone's uncomfortable with, or are worried about explosions and such- don't do it!!! There are better ways to check an charging system- that's for sure.

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Old 08-08-2009, 10:19 AM
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I've got a multimeter, so if I can test more than just the voltage output & don't have to risk blowing myself up...that sounds more appealing to me.

I think I'll start with the easiest things...carsavvycooks corrosion thought sounds like a good starting point to me. Cheap, easy, free, and safe to test. So to start I'll pull each cable off, clean its connection & put it back on...at both the starter & the battery...and see if that helps matters any. If not, I'll pull the starter out, have 'em bench test it down at the parts store & do all that mumbo jumbo...
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Old 08-08-2009, 01:43 PM
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Ok, I cleaned every connection & tried to start it again...still had the same problem, so i pulled the starter out & took it down to Autozone to be tested. Good news, solenoid is working fine. Bad news, starters shot. The dude there said he's pretty sure its the brushes. Worse news, nobody makes a starter for a 1955 Cadillac 331 motor and the delco remy part number on the side of it doesn't show up in anybody's computers at Autzone, Advanced Auto, or Napa. There's a shop that rebuilds starters & alternators nearby...but they're not open on saturdays, so it looks like I'm on hold 'til monday.
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Old 08-08-2009, 02:58 PM
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At least you identified the issue. You are probably better off with a local that can fix it anyway. The rebuilts that Autozone sell are low quality at best.
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Old 08-08-2009, 03:34 PM
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The rebuilts that Autozone sell are low quality at best.
That is a extremely polite understatement.
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Old 08-10-2009, 09:16 AM
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Originally Posted by Bill-E-BoB
Ok, I cleaned every connection & tried to start it again...still had the same problem, so i pulled the starter out & took it down to Autozone to be tested. Good news, solenoid is working fine. Bad news, starters shot. The dude there said he's pretty sure its the brushes. Worse news, nobody makes a starter for a 1955 Cadillac 331 motor and the delco remy part number on the side of it doesn't show up in anybody's computers at Autzone, Advanced Auto, or Napa. There's a shop that rebuilds starters & alternators nearby...but they're not open on saturdays, so it looks like I'm on hold 'til monday.
Check these guys out, they specialize in old car parts as rebuilds, New Old Stock (NOS), and aftermarket parts.

http://www.kanter.com/

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