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(1) 2 »

Getting a jump/Gener-Nator or Powergen/Intermittent power drop follow-up
#1
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Mark Buckley
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Hello, all,

For the past several months I have been posting queries (under several different headings) about my manyfold electrical problems. Between October 2011 and February 2012 my 1950 Packard has had the following installed in it: three batteries, three generators and five voltage regulators.

As of today (Valentines Day, 2012) it appears the electrical mystery has been solved. So I thought I'd give those of you who are interested the skinny on what happened, how the craziness evolved, and how it was resolved. I'm consolidating all my previous posts/queries into this summary document in order to bring the loose threads together.

It all started last autumn, when I noticed my ammeter--the "Battery Charge Indicator gauge," was occasionally swinging wildly from charge to discharge for no apparent reason. I use my Packard as a daily driver, so as the winter here in Seattle came on I began to experience electrical problems as my use of lights & blower (not to mention the radio) increased. The battery suddenly failed in October and I posted my beginning query here: "Getting a Jump," about how I had to call AAA to re-start the car. The AAA guy only had a 12-volt power source, and I wondered if the 12 volts had fried anything.

I bought a new battery but less than three weeks later it failed completely. My solution was to buy another new one. Fortunately, that battery is still working well.

As winter deepened I noticed my car was seriously losing power while I was sitting at an intersection waiting for the stoplight to turn. The headlights grew dimmer and dimmer, while the blower motor made howling sounds. When the light turned green I'd let up the clutch and depress the accelerator. When I did this the ammeter would swing wildly to the left, the discharge side. Sometimes the car would lose power entirely and I'd end up stalled in the middle of the intersection.

I assumed the old generator was giving out and was considering replacing it with a "Gener-Nator" or a "Powergen" unit. Those are alternators in a generator skin.

Several kind (and smart) people here urged me to lubricate the blower motor and to consider staying with the original equipment, i.e. a generator. I had the blower motor lubricated and it now hums smoothly. I also ordered a rebuilt generator and a NOS voltage regulator from Tuscon Packard.

Jerry my mechanic, installed those units but was very dissatisfied with the equipment. He reported that when he started the car the generator began to smoke. So he shut down the engine and checked the voltage regulator. According to Jerry, the contacts in the regulator were "frozen" in one position. He assumed this was due to age.

So Jerry removed the new, NOS regulator and re-installed the old one. The car ran well for a day or so and then the wildly-swinging ammeter problem returned. A new twist developed when the generator apparently had enough juice to charge the battery when no electrical accessories were running. But when I drove at night with the headlights on the ammeter would show significant power drain. At first this circumstance was intermittent. But over a few days it became obvious the "new" generator was putting out very little juice.

Jerry and I decided the problem was with the old voltage regulator. So I ordered an aftermarket regulator. That unit cost about $100, with delivery fees and taxes. Jerry installed it and for a day or so everything seemed to work well. Then the old problems returned: the battery wasn't charging and the car seemed woefully underpowered.

After running a few tests a week ago, Jerry admitted defeat. He suggested I turn to an expert: 76-year-old Les, owner of Acme Auto Electric, here in Seattle. I made an appointment with Acme and delivered the car the morning of Thursday, Feb. 9.

When I dropped the car off the original Delco generator that Jerry had removed was in the Packard's trunk. Its replacement--the rebuilt unit from Tucson--was still in place, in the car. At noon Les called me and reported the "new" generator (the one that was on the car, that I'd bought from Tucson Packard) was toast. He said it was all burned up and basically worthless. He also reported the voltage regulator was in need of replacement. Les's crew had tested the original generator and said it could be rebuilt, so I authorized the rebuilding and the purchase of yet another voltage regulator.

At about 3 p.m. I called Les and asked about the status of my Packard. He reported all was well and the car would be ready in about 20 minutes. I took a taxi to the shop and was greeted with embarrassed smiles. Turned out the car was not ready to go after all. With the newly-rebuilt generator and the new voltage regulator installed the old problem was still there: the ammeter was swinging wildly on an intermittent basis.

For the next 90 minutes Les and crew worked to troubleshoot the situation. Eventually they ruled out a faulty ammeter. The 61-year-old gauge was working admirably. They were literally stumped for an answer when Les suggested they swap out the brand new, tested-and-found-to-be-working voltage regulator for a different unit.

It turns out that there are three different kinds of voltage regulators for cars of my Packard's vintage: 6-volt positive ground (the kind my Packard takes), 6-volt negative ground, and a newer, "universal" type, that can handle either positive or negative ground. Les and crew swapped out the brand new, 6-volt positive ground voltage regulator--the fourth such unit that had been on my car since October--for a "universal" model.

The results were immediate. The system calmed down and everything began to work as intended.

Over the weekend I put more than 250 miles on the Packard. I can honestly say it has never run better in the eight years I've owned it. Acceleration is smooth and it seems as if I have about a 15% increase in available horsepower.

Over the past eight years I've replaced just about every part of the car's electrical system. It's been completely re-wired and I've installed numerous new relays & switches, not to mention motors and bulbs. As of today the only electrical part that was on the car when I bought it in 2004 is the starter motor. I replaced the starter solenoid last year.

But with 20/20 hindsight I'd have to say that if I were to do things again I'd do two things differently:

1. I'd find a company like Acme--or a guy like Les--to do the electrical work. At the end of the day on Thursday Les commented that electrical system was a car's most complicated system--and I agree.

2. I'd ask that company (or person) to replace the existing generator and voltage regulator as part of the electrical system rebuild. This is no slam on Jerry, who is a very competent mechanic, but it appears to me electrical problems are best left to the experts.

All I can say is that I paid for two rebuilt generators and three voltage regulators before the problem was fixed--not to mention labor costs, which were significant. In my humble opinion going to Acme first would have saved me a fair amount of time and money!

I hope you find this saga useful.....

Mark

Posted on: 2012/2/15 1:12
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Re: Getting a jump/Gener-Nator or Powergen/Intermittent power drop follow-up
#2
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Randy Berger
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I am glad your problem is finally resolved. Many mechanics are befuddled by electricity. I know this from watching some from various vantage points. A local was having trouble with a customer's pickup truck. When they turned the key on the headlights would also come on but the truck wouldn't start. Turned out to be a vary bad ground and the electricity was merely looking for a path. It found it thru the headlights.
Have many more enjoyable miles with your Packard.

Posted on: 2012/2/15 3:10
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Re: Getting a jump/Gener-Nator or Powergen/Intermittent power drop follow-up
#3
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PackardV8
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Glad u got it fixxed.

" Les and crew swapped out the brand new, 6-volt positive ground voltage regulator--the fourth such unit that had been on my car since October--for a "universal" model."

WHat is BRAND NAME and ANY numbers/nomeclature on the 4 regulators that did not work?????

What is the brand name and part numbers for the regulator that DOES work now????

Posted on: 2012/2/15 10:42
VAPOR LOCK demystified: See paragraph SEVEN of PMCC documentaion as listed in post #11 of the following thread:f
http://packardinfo.com/xoops/html/mod ... ewtopic.php?topic_id=7245
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Re: Getting a jump/Gener-Nator or Powergen/Intermittent power drop follow-up
#4
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bozonono
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Mark, I also live in the Seattle area, used to live in Alki and then moved to Bremerton. I have a 54 convertible that has been quite an odyssey getting on the road. Until recently i was working at a mental health agency at Pine and Melrose, just a block from the old Packard agency on Melrose that is now Utrecht Art supplies.
It would be great to meet sometime and swap info. There are to my surprise some competent mechanics and body work facilities over here. I used Murray Motors in Monroe for a complete engine rebuild and they did an awesome job, are very knowledgeable about Packards, and did a lot of head scratching on my engine. It turned out to be quite a challenge.
Be nice to meet sometime and share info.

John

Posted on: 2012/2/15 14:39
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Re: Getting a jump/Gener-Nator or Powergen/Intermittent power drop follow-up
#5
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BH
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Cap'n -

Very glad to hear the issue is resolved, at long last. Problems like this can be very difficult to troubleshoot remotely (on a forum), without the laying on of hands.

Glad that the experts at Acme ruled out the ammeter, itself, but it looks like even they got "bit" by one of the "new" regulators.

As I said in another thread, your electrical system, as designed, is fully adequate for the car, as equipped. The problem is finding the culprit in an intermittent condition.

Your experience in this case just reinforces my notions about rebuilt/exchange units. I'd rather rebuild my own, or sublet the work to a local expert. However, if I have to buy an exchange unit, it better be from a supplier with a good track record.

A shiny coat of paint don't mean squat.

Posted on: 2012/2/15 18:28
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Re: Getting a jump/Gener-Nator or Powergen/Intermittent power drop follow-up
#6
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PackardV8
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Yes BH. That's why i was asking about ANY markings or tags or other information that mite be on the regulators. Sometimes they are stamped on the bottom with a rubber ink stamp. More specifically i am wondering if the regulators are all stamped with something like "N grd", "E grD", or anyhting that mite indicate ground polarity. Any numbers or manufacturer names etc.

Posted on: 2012/2/15 18:36
VAPOR LOCK demystified: See paragraph SEVEN of PMCC documentaion as listed in post #11 of the following thread:f
http://packardinfo.com/xoops/html/mod ... ewtopic.php?topic_id=7245
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Equipment follow-up
#7
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Mark Buckley
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Hi again,

It's taken me awhile to sort out the question about what equipment I went through during this process. I don't have a complete list, but I'll give you what I can.

When all this started the car had a Delco 1102715 generator and a Delco voltage regulator, part unknown.

I ordered a rebuilt Delco 1102715 from Tucson Packard. To the best of my recollection I also ordered from Tucson--and received--a NOS Delco voltage regulator, part number unknown. I clearly recall a Delco stamp on the regulator's shell. I also clearly remember the folks at Tucson stressed they needed the exact Delco generator number so they could match the regulator with the generator.

After the Tucson regulator failed I purchased a voltage regulator from a local source, Blanchard Electric. They sold me an aftermarket unit that they ordered from a supplier in Ohio: J&N Electric:

http://www.jnelectric.com/

This unit has an internal J&N part number of 231-12018

I have attached three photos of the J&N unit to this post. I can't get any more info on the unit than what I have shared here.

The final regulator (the one that's working and in the car right now) that was installed by Acme Electric was made by Regitar, part number 8040-6161. I have attached a screen capture from the Regitar website of that particular unit.

I don't know which unit Acme installed in the Packard before they opted for the Regitar 8040-6161. All I know is it was a 6-volt, positive ground regulator. The unit in the car right now is a "universal" model.

I hope this helps!

Mark

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Posted on: 2012/2/17 15:39
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Re: Equipment follow-up
#8
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Owen_Dyneto
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I believe the correct OEM regulator was Delco-Remy #1118360, and generator 1102717. But then you already knew this if you checked the parts book. Can't help other than that as I can't decipher the aftermarket part numbers.

Posted on: 2012/2/17 16:02
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Re: Getting a jump/Gener-Nator or Powergen/Intermittent power drop follow-up
#9
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Tim Cole
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Wow! That sounds like a lot of trouble.

Anyway, when I run into this kind of situation I usually start with the vital statistics. I check all the wires and make sure they are going where they should. I have had reproduction harnesses with mistakes in them.

One thing I don't see in your story is whether these new regulators were being polarized. Usually there is a piece of paper in the box that says "Warning this unit must be polarized prior to initial start up" Since I always do this I don't know what happens if it is not done except that the Delco manual has all kinds of wild declarations of disaster.

The only way a generator can "burn up" is if the field wire is shorted to ground, or if there is an internal short either in the generator or in the regulator. So these parts must have some kind of problem. If disconnecting the field wire doesn't stop charging then there is a short in the components.

Now theoretically speaking I believe if you hook the battery up backwards and repolarize the regulator, the only problems will be with gauges. Maybe these regulators are wound in a different direction for ground polarity, but I really don't know. I only know there are people out there who hook batteries up backwards (they don't know any better) and the cars don't explode.

There are ways to isolate your kind of problem using power resistors to lock out the regulator, and an oscilloscope would really zero in on what exactly is going on. The whole system itself can be locked out and tested using an out of car battery. However, in many situations if the wiring is good, and the battery is good, and if the generator doesn't have visual damage a set of brushes and a new regulator gets the thing working again. However, this swinging ammeter indicates a voltage spike probably caused by a short or open in the armature or in the regulator. I think if the field coil in the regulator wears out it can make and break causing a voltage spike.

I handled a case of repetitive battery failure once and the problem turned out to be a defective harness causing overcharging. So I lean toward voltage spikes burning up your batteries.

Armatures do wear out, and fields wear out, and regulators are electro-mechanical devices so they also wear out.

Posted on: 2012/2/17 19:30
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Re: Getting a jump/Gener-Nator or Powergen/Intermittent power drop follow-up
#10
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steve-52/200
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After several rebuilt generators and replacment regulators,a harness and still having mystery problems ; Ive decided to try a powergen ,Im having an original old pulley mounted on it ,I had the wrong one installed on one of my rebuilts ,am also planning a protronix points replacer module in the distributer .will send out a cretique when installed and up and running
after having my brakes fade a couple of time am now curious about the disc systems for the fron brakes ,Kanter sells them

Posted on: 2012/2/19 21:13
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