Electrical issues - Team Camaro Tech
Electrical & Wiring Troubleshooting electrical.

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post #1 of 25 (permalink) Old Jul 6th, 12, 07:04 PM Thread Starter
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Brian
 
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Electrical issues

I was driving home from a local cruise tonight and I had some strange things happening.
I was driving along and the radio cut out. Everything was working ok then I noticed my signals were not working.
It was one of the hottest nights yet this year. I was able to get home and I kept the car running and checked my charging system at the battery with a multi meter.
I had 10.5 volts.
I have owned the car for 8 years. When I purchased it I saw it had a chrome alternator and I was told they are not that good. It has served me all these years with no issues.
A while back I noticed that my volt meter was not working.
Up until today the car has been working fine and starts right up. After I pulled it into the garage I could not restart it and it seemd as if the battery was low. After about an hour I checked the battery and it is back at 12.5 volts, so I know it isn't the battery. Now I am wondering if I have a problem with my alternator or my voltage regulator.
Knowing nothing about electrical I was wondering if anyone could give me some tips on how to diagnose what is actually the problem and narrowing it down to a specific part.
I don't want to go the route of try this then try that. I have been there and done that with electrical issues before.
Thanks for any help, and remember to be very specific.

I have owned 3 69 Z/28s: Garnet Red 30,000 mi unrestored.
Glacier Blue, documented Canadian Z
Rallye Green purchased new in 1969
1968 Camaro Coupe L30 275 horse. ]
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post #2 of 25 (permalink) Old Jul 6th, 12, 07:20 PM
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Re: Electrical issues

I had a problem with radio cutting out, after a bit it would work fine. It turned out to be the voltage regulator.

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post #3 of 25 (permalink) Old Jul 6th, 12, 07:45 PM
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Re: Electrical issues

What's the voltage at the battery with the headlights on and the engine running at idle? If it's under 12.5 your charging system isn't working. Could be alt or regulator (if you still have an external one).
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post #4 of 25 (permalink) Old Jul 7th, 12, 05:54 AM Thread Starter
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Re: Electrical issues

When I got home I left it running and checked. I had 10.5 at the battery.
Today I looked at it and it was 12.4. I tried to start it but it slowly died.
I went and checked the battery and it was slowly coming up from 10.5 in increments.
So the battery is trying to stay charged.
I put the charger on it and I will try to start it and run with with all the elctrical things on, which only consists of my lights, and radio. My amp gauge is not working or so I thought.
I there any way I can test each component. separately. I do have a voltage regulator.
I really don't know what I have in place because it all came with the car.
The alternator has a chrome cover.

I have owned 3 69 Z/28s: Garnet Red 30,000 mi unrestored.
Glacier Blue, documented Canadian Z
Rallye Green purchased new in 1969
1968 Camaro Coupe L30 275 horse. ]
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post #5 of 25 (permalink) Old Jul 7th, 12, 08:04 AM
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Re: Electrical issues

Hey Brian - Troubleshooting is always a fun investigation. Here is a little electrical system primer to help you. Break the system down into the original three units in your mind first to avoid chasing your tail.
  • First is the "Energizer" (A.K.A. the Battery).
  • Second is the "Alternator" or "Generator"
  • Third is the "Voltage Regulator"
While these are the three main components of the system, wiring is a close fourth and is the highway these three use.

Troubleshooting your issue:
I would start with a visual inspection of the wiring at the big three. Look for a loose connector or fried wires at the Voltage Regulator. You mentioned that your Volt meter had stopped working a while back, where was it connected? Or are you speaking of an factory amp meter on the console gauge pac? Look for shorts or arc spots from loose or missing insulation on wire, or bundles of wires.

Check the Horn Relay Bus-Bar connector for loose connections and the main junction block behind the battery. Reference here for these systems: TC Reference - Radiator Support If all the wiring at the Battery, Alternator and VR look okay, no issues found at the subsystems such as Junction Block and Horn Relay, then move on to the big three themselves.

Most Auto Parts Stores will bench test the Alternator for you free of charge or at a small fee.

Voltage Regulators are also bench testable if the vehicle is running. Everett has posted a number of times how to adjust your original design mechanical regulator so look that up if you go that route. I suggest just upgrade to newer design Solid State Voltage Regulator unit. I find that most of the time you can get a Wells Solid State Voltage Regulator on Rockauto.com using our discount for less then ten bucks. Better unit then original design and requires no maintenance, and it looks OEM in shape and mount - you can mount your larger cover on the unit so it looks exact like factory.

Battery strength and ability to hold a charge doesn't sound like your issue but you should charge it to full and then test its output.

All that said baring a wiring issue, Alternator output and or Voltage Regulator issues seem to be the likely culprits, but also consider these:
  • You said it was the hottest days so far, so did you have heat related drive belt slippage?
  • Radio cut out may also be thermal related to the radio itself, or the typical first generation electrical gremlin issue - GROUNDS.


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Last edited by 69-Pace; Jul 7th, 12 at 01:19 PM.
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post #6 of 25 (permalink) Old Jul 7th, 12, 08:47 AM
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Re: Electrical issues

Good post, Brian, you beat me to it.

When you get it startedand engione is on fast idle, and your meter is across the battery posts, you're measuring electrical system voltage, meter should indicate min 13.8 volts min with no accessories on.

As the engine is running at fast idle, you should see a drop in the voltage, maybe , optional. As long as it does not go below 13.5 volts.

If battery voltage is still present, the next measurement would be on the blue wire and alternator case and you're looking for Field voltage. No field voltage, no alternator working, bad regulator. Get an electronic VR, Wells P/N VR715, plug and play. Disconnect battery cable first. Don't leave any wires/straps out, remove the items and replace the items.

If you have field voltage, VR is good, but alt is bad. Might as well change alt belt.

These older charging systems, recharge the battery with a high rpm, typically above 2000 rpm and for about 20-30 minutes run time. The output of alt is low, especially at idle, typically the battery would be supplying power to the electrical system rather than the alt, until the engine speed increases.

For the benefit of doing it, disconnect the neg cable and follow the red pigtail from the positive cable to a junction block. Remove the connections and wire brush them, reassemble. Do the same to the horn relay buss bar and the wires attached to it. Reconnect the battery and test again.

Your OE ammeter should swing to the left side with ign on only, or lights on.
If alt is working, it should swing to the right, showing the battery is being charged.

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post #7 of 25 (permalink) Old Jul 7th, 12, 01:11 PM Thread Starter
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Re: Electrical issues

Thanks for all the great help guys. I think some of the problem is that I took my battery out of storage and never really gave it a good charge. Also I have not really given the car a good run at high RPMs. I have only driven it 3 times and not very far. I am cruising at 1500 to 2000. I checked it at higher RPM and it is getting 13.68 at about 3000.
I am charging the battery over night. It currently has about 13.17 volts. I will run it with the lights and radio on tomorrow and see how it runs at idleand at higher RPMs I also tightened the belt a little.
I am thinking it was a combination of factors, but I have not seen anything approaching 14.5 volts from my system. I have checked all of the connections and they look good, however I will do as you say and clean up all the connections.
If I can't get it to charge I will pull the alernator and have it tested.
Again thanks for the help.
Brian

I have owned 3 69 Z/28s: Garnet Red 30,000 mi unrestored.
Glacier Blue, documented Canadian Z
Rallye Green purchased new in 1969
1968 Camaro Coupe L30 275 horse. ]
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post #8 of 25 (permalink) Old Jul 8th, 12, 09:40 AM Thread Starter
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Re: Electrical issues

I charged the battery back up to plus 13 volts and ran the engine up to 2500. I was getting a solid 14.8 at the battery. I have tweaked several things nad I think it was just the lack of use that caused the problem. After reading some about the charging system I am wondering if the amp meter gauge is a good way to go. I have heard that they could be a fire hazzard and a volt meter would be much better.
I am wondering how I can safely disconnect the amp meter and install a volt meter gauge.
The amp gauge is not working properly anyway, and I am worried now of a fire.

I have owned 3 69 Z/28s: Garnet Red 30,000 mi unrestored.
Glacier Blue, documented Canadian Z
Rallye Green purchased new in 1969
1968 Camaro Coupe L30 275 horse. ]

Last edited by Stewie; Jul 8th, 12 at 11:12 AM.
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post #9 of 25 (permalink) Old Jul 8th, 12, 01:02 PM
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Re: Electrical issues

Hey Brian,
In the nutshell - Yes you can disconnect the amp meter and install a voltmeter.

Volt Meters or Voltmeters are easy for folks to understand with scales of volts at the battery being displayed, while amp meters or ammeters confuse folks with the simple + and - scale. There are also a few different designs of them to add to the confusion.

So if you want to go with an easy to read Volt Meter, and If you have factory original 68 saw tooth gauge pac on the console you can buy a voltmeter from AAW- American Automotive Wire at http://factoryfit.com that is a dead ringer for the original "Battery" amp meter. Think it was around 150 bucks last time I checked. Just remove the current gauge from the pack, alter the wiring as per directions included with the gauge and you are good to go and most folks would not notice your battery gauge has battery readings in volts vs -40 to +40 of the factory unit.

If you are currently using an aftermarket gauge pack check with the gauge vendor to see if they make a volt meter in that design style.

As to the mystery of a true amp meter, yes the original purpose and design is that they were part of the charging circuit reporting on its current state charging or exhausting reserves and most did deliver full power to the gauge - therefore into the passenger compartment and could short or cause fires. These style gauges were common in MOPAR and some Ford vehicles. As the wiring aged and insulation cracked they shorted out and could lead to fires. MAD Electric has a good tech doc on removing a MOPAR style system on their website.

GM's approach was NOT to direct full power leads to the gauge. The GM "Amp meter" is actually more like a multimeter diagnostic tool registering the condition of the system between two points - the horn relay bus-bar and the junction block behind the battery. If it finds more power on one side then the other you get positive or deflective results on the gauge face.

So it is as safe as it can be. To figure out where your issue is test the wiring to the gauge to see if it is intact and in working order. Test by disconnecting the gauge then seeing if you have a circuit with a test light or probe to ground on each leg of the gauge connection plug will test the wiring. If you get nothing on one or both you have a wiring issue, if you get good results on both the gauge unit itself is dead. The dead original factory amp meter can be replaced with a quality reproduction unit from Classic Headquarters with no modifications.

If your testing results point to a wiring issue please note that as a safety measure the factory wiring had a "fusible" link at each end of the connection points, most likely orange in color. Check these for signs of fusing from overloads - brittle, crunchy, physically discolored. The black wire with orange link should be connected behind the battery in the "junction block". The black with white stripe wire and orange link should be connected to the horn relay "Bus-Bar". If you find the link(s) have fused you can replace the link with same gauge from any auto parts store. If they seem okay just check to see if they are terminated and connections on the bus and block are clean and tight. Both wires run back to the bulkhead connector in positions S-A & S-B you can also check on the drivers side once you remove the fuse panel cover in same locations S-A & S-B. If those points are tight check continuity from the connector at the console to fuse panel, fuse panel to bulkhead connector side, bulkhead connector to horn relay bus and bulkhead to junction block. Somewhere you will find the gap in the circuit.


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post #10 of 25 (permalink) Old Jul 8th, 12, 01:57 PM
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Re: Electrical issues

Here is the Voltmeter replacement for factory gauges 1968-1969


http://shop.americanautowire.com/196...etergauge.aspx


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post #11 of 25 (permalink) Old Jul 9th, 12, 05:09 AM Thread Starter
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Re: Electrical issues

No I have aftermarket 3 gauge set, sitting on the top of the console. Again it all came with the car. I can't even tell who makes the gauges. It is most likely a cheap set.
I have never had any issues with the car and I just noticed the guage was not registering.
It comes on an off. The only issue I had was a problem with the starter a couple of years ago and a new rebuilt unit solve that.
I would like to change out the amp gauge for a volt meter. I will probably take it to my auto electric place to make sure the wiring looks good. I looked and there seems to be a lot of suspect wiring under the dash. It also has an aftermarket radio. I will pick up a decent volt meter and have them install it. I am not good with electrical.
This "tutorial" has helped me understand how all this works.
Thanks for the help.

I have owned 3 69 Z/28s: Garnet Red 30,000 mi unrestored.
Glacier Blue, documented Canadian Z
Rallye Green purchased new in 1969
1968 Camaro Coupe L30 275 horse. ]
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post #12 of 25 (permalink) Old Jul 9th, 12, 06:30 AM
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Re: Electrical issues

Brian just for giggles, as Everett mentioned, if you have not yet replaced it, replace your Voltage Regulator with the Wells VR715. Its a direct snap in plug and go and will be much better for your whole system. They are only around $7 too, so they are cheap. They make quite a difference from the old points style VR. Your old cap will even fit over the new VR.

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post #13 of 25 (permalink) Old Jul 9th, 12, 08:47 AM
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Re: Electrical issues

Quote:
Originally Posted by Stewie View Post
I just noticed the guage was not registering.
It comes on an off.
Gauge intermittently indicating can be a loose connection.
Since the ammeter is an aftermarket product, I suggest you follow the ends of the wires connected to the back of the ammeter to the engine compartment and check/tighten their connection into the OE harness.

When you find them, let us know how they hooked it up. This could be the original problem of a loose wire causing a low state of charge on the battery.

The best place in the harness for ammeter connection is the horn relay buss bar. Disconnect the red wire going to the battery and connect one ammeter lead of the same wire gauge, if not bigger, to the buss bar, and the other ammeter lead to the red wire removed and insulate it. If gauge reads backwards, either swap leads at the relay buss bar or the back of the ammeter.

Ensure the ammeter wires are grommeted going through the firewall preventing wearing away of the wire insulation from vibration.

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post #14 of 25 (permalink) Old Jul 10th, 12, 01:33 PM Thread Starter
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Re: Electrical issues

Thanks Everett. I will look at all of those things when I remove the gauge. I am looking for a voltmeter and I will use that instead. I will have it all checked out by my Auto Electric guy.
I have had electrical issues with some of my other cars. You just don't know what people have done to it.

I have owned 3 69 Z/28s: Garnet Red 30,000 mi unrestored.
Glacier Blue, documented Canadian Z
Rallye Green purchased new in 1969
1968 Camaro Coupe L30 275 horse. ]
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post #15 of 25 (permalink) Old Jul 21st, 12, 04:59 AM Thread Starter
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Re: Electrical issues

Just thought I would check back in and thank you guys for the help. I did some thinking and I found that the battery was never really charged from winter storage. I put a good charge on it. I also looked at the fan belt and there was some slippage so I tightened that up. Everything is working now and I will just have to change out the amp gauge and put in a voltmeter, Thanks for all the help.

I have owned 3 69 Z/28s: Garnet Red 30,000 mi unrestored.
Glacier Blue, documented Canadian Z
Rallye Green purchased new in 1969
1968 Camaro Coupe L30 275 horse. ]
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