Starter Relay

It’s been just over 4 years now since I bought the Buick and over 3 years now since I last posted to this blog. I still have the car, but after the initial repairs were done, very little has changed. I haven’t done any more restoration work to the car. It’s been driven just over 3000 miles since then, with a total of 14207 on the odometer (I’m sure it’s rolled over once).

The starter issue from the last posting was fixed by installing a rebuilt starter. It was never quite the same though, as the starter would occasionally grind, but it was manageable, and for as often as I was driving the car, I just tolerated the problem. That is until mid summer of 2013, when it apparently ground itself enough to no longer properly engage with the flywheel. That parked the car until now because I didn’t have time to work on it. I removed the starter and saw that the gear was actually only chipped on the leading edge, so why this was preventing it from working I don’t know. I figured perhaps the solenoid went bad and wasn’t engaging all the way. So I replaced the solenoid, but it didn’t change a thing! So rather that mess with it, I bought a rebuilt starter from a dealer on eBay and put it in. Now it engages fine, but it won’t let go! The starter will not disengage or stop cranking! The only way I could get it to stop was by  yanking off a battery cable. Turns out this is a problem that occurs with these old Buicks with their strange carb-mounted ignition switch (operated by pressing the gas pedal all the way to the floor). The wiring system for the ignition is a strange one that I don’t even fully understand or can explain. Bottom line is, the service manual suggest that I should replace the starter relay. No biggy right? Well, you can’t buy this part new anymore! It’s a strange relay with 4 connectors on it, mounted on a bulkhead on the left inside fender skirt behind the battery. Looking on eBay, I see that you can buy them NOS…. for $125 or so! Yikes! Not the $30 I thought they should be. Well, after Googling a bit I found that you can buy a similar replacement part that is supposed to work. You can find this part online for about $45 or so… it’s GM #1116969.  The original part was very close… GM #1116967. The difference? Something to do with the original being only rated at 6v continuous, while the new one is 12v.  Anyway, the newer one is supposed to work, but I got lucky and was able to buy an original one off eBay for $66 after shipping… I figured rather than spend $ to try something that MIGHT work, I’d go a little extra for the “correct” part.  Not that it matters, but it turns out that this relay is a something GM was using as a general-purpose relay on all sorts of different things, such as the rear power window on a 1960 Oldsmobile wagon. So after installing this part, the damn thing still won’t disengage! Wasted $66.00. What’s wrong with it? No idea at this point.

Here are a few shots of the car…. one with the wide whitewalls I ran for one summer. They SUCKED bad! Dried up old bias-ply tires. They look cool, but they are a nightmare to drive on.

BuickWithWideWhites

 

And how the car looks today, up on jack stands while I figure out this starter crap.

Buick as of 2-22-14

Starter Grenade

I finally was left stranded by the Buick. About 30 minutes from home, I stopped at a gas station to use their ATM. When I came back out, it wouldn’t start. It wouldn’t even try. Just a single click, and that’s it.  Having no idea what happened I called Marty for advice. He had me try some tricks like whacking the solenoid with a crow bar I had in the trunk, but it made no difference. The headlights did not dim when I would engage the starter, so I guess this means it isn’t stuck and drawing a lot of juice. After about 3 hours, my dad was able to get away from work to come give me a tow-start. Fortunately I had read in the service manual that you could start a Dynaflow equipped Buick by putting it into low gear and towing or pushing it. We had to get it up to about 35-40 mph before it would start.  I drove it back home and took the starter out to find that the gear had been completely reamed off, and the brushes in the motor were broken and ground into small bits, which also destroyed the armature while it was at it. DOH!  Apparently the starter had engaged while I was driving it… which, obviously it isn’t supposed to do… but, considering that the starter button is part of the throttle linkage, apparently whatever mechanism bypasses this while the motor is running must have failed. I have yet to figure out what the problem was. I have a new starter installed now and it seems to work just fine. Oh well, I’m putting the car into storage for the winter and will figure it out in the spring when I get the car back out.  I could install a starter button under the dash and just disable the original switch, but I think its pretty cool how it works and would like to keep it that way if possible.

Blown-up Starter

Blown-up Starter

Back Together

Before re-assembling everything, I decided to take this opportunity to clean up the rear axle assembly. I scraped all the crud off, de-greased it, painted it, and even duplicated the original factory paint markings just for fun! Putting it all back together was fairly straight forward… just follow the instructions in the service manual, don’t skip a step! I made the mistake of not turning the u-joint on the transmission so that the indexing slot was pointing straight up. This made it more difficult to re-insert the drive shaft. I had my dad at the rear of the car with the rear axle up on a jack while I held the drive shaft up to where it could slide in. It took a pretty good and quick shove for him to get it to go all the way in. So now it’s back together, and the good news it that the torque ball doesn’t leak! However, there are still plenty of other drips coming off the transmission, engine, etc…. I guess that’s just what ya get with an old Buick that hasn’t have the motor or trans fully serviced in at least 30 years.  The solution to these leaks is simple… it’s called a drip pan!

Rear Axle Housing and Differential Markings

Rear Axle Housing and Differential Markings

Torque Tube Marking

Torque Tube Marking

Torque Ball Repaired

After trying un-successfully to find a  good replacement torque ball, I took my original to my friend Gary who has a bunch of machine shop equipment set up in his shop. He was able to fix it for me with ease. He said he ground out the wear spot to a V, to ensure that he was down to clean metal, and to give the new metal some place to grab. Then he brazed it back in and chucked the piece up on a lathe, and turned it down nice and smooth all the way around. Came out awesome! Thanks Gary!

Worn Torque Ball After Repair

Worn Torque Ball After Repair