61 Ranchero not charging

Discussion in 'Ranchero Tech Help' started by toddrichert, Jun 18, 2021.

  1. toddrichert

    toddrichert In Second Gear

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    So I got the 144 pulled from the 1962 Ranchero and successfully installed into the 1961.

    Prior to the swap, the charging system was putting out 14 to 14.5 volts.

    Yesterday I drove the 61 under it's own power for the first time (yay!) however it is still not highway-safe just yet, and the first thing I need to address is why it quit charging.

    I transferred the regulator over along with the engine.

    In the 61, there is evidence that someone was intending to upgrade to a V8 (probably the reason that the entire driveline was missing when I acquired it) however there is no evidence that they had gotten around to tampering with the wiring. While connecting all the wires to the engine in the 61, all of the insulation color codes matched exactly to the ones I had disconnected when removing the engine from the 62. The wiring harnesses appear to be identical between the donor and recipient vehicles.

    The last step was installing the battery of course, and when I turned the key it fired up immediately. The fuel gauge responds, indicating power to the dash, however no back lighting evident to the dash display. The headlights, taillights, and turn signals all work. The brake lights do not.

    The red warning lights on the dash should turn on when the key moves to the on position, and should turn off after the engine starts. And the one to warn of insufficient charging should stay red in this case after the engine starts, due to the non-charging status. Neither of the red lights turns on at any point in the process, which may be a bulb issue, or considering that it is multiple bulbs affected then possibly a portion of the dash isn't getting power.

    So I will need to address the dash lighting eventually, and before I get to that the brake lights will be a bigger priority. However my biggest concern now is to fix the charging issue. If it was charging effectively before I swapped the engine, and zero charging now, what would be the first place I'd look to rule out problems?
     
  2. burninbush

    burninbush In Maximum Overdrive

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    Check the voltage when the motor is running; should be about 14v or maybe a bit more. If that's the case, it is charging and you probably have a bad bulb.

    Otherwise, consider changing it to an alternator (and buy a regulator for that combo also.) Wiring diagram is simple, check the web for how to connect it.

    Most obvious re the tail-light -- either the switch that enables it, or the turn-signal wiring under the steering column.
     
  3. DJ Clinton

    DJ Clinton In Third Gear GOLD MEMBER

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    There should be an inline fuse for the dash lights. I found my fuse close to the steering column & firewall.
     
  4. plumcolr

    plumcolr In Maximum Overdrive SILVER MEMBER

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    You may need to polarize the voltage regulator if it has a generator (stock on a '61 - '62). Momentarily connect the "batt" and "arm" terminals on the regulator.
    Momentary means just touch for a second.
     
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  5. beerbelly

    beerbelly In Maximum Overdrive SILVER MEMBER

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  6. toddrichert

    toddrichert In Second Gear

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    Thank you, this definitely helped! But it's still not quite there. I think you fixed one of my problems but now I have another.

    Before I did what you said, the meter was showing about three volts output directly at the generator, and 12.5 volts up at the battery (the same voltage at the battery as when the engine is off.) After I polarized, then restarted the engine, it now shows 13.2 volts up at the battery, and 14.7 directly at the generator. So the polarization was obviously needed and the generator is producing plenty now, but the regulator seems to be holding it back.

    I had fixed this same problem prior to doing the engine transplant by swapping regulators, and I was able to get up to 14.5 volts at the battery with this particular regulator. Then I swapped the engine (complete with all accessories attached) from the donor Ranchero to the recipient Ranchero, and separately also swapped the regulator from donor to recipient, since this is the regulator that was allowing effective charge. But now this same regulator seems to be limiting the top end at 13.2 volts, even when I spike the RPMs.

    Any other ideas I could try before I purchase a new regulator off the shelf?
     
  7. plumcolr

    plumcolr In Maximum Overdrive SILVER MEMBER

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    Yeah, check you have a solid ground between battery and engine and between engine and body. use your voltmeter between engine and battery ground post (negative) and between body and battery ground post. Both should be ideally zero but a couple tenths to a half-volt could be expected. Set the meter to at least 12v and work your way down the scale. Also between generator output and positive post. You have a not good connection somewhere. Is the ground strap between the engine and the body in place and tight? That could be causing some of your other symptoms. Goes from behind engine somewhere, usually the head, and the firewall. It's normally a flat braided connection.

    Ya gotta be old to remember the regulator polarization, either that or an old car fanatic.

    Regulators can be adjusted but I don't recommend without someone there who's done it before.
     
  8. plumcolr

    plumcolr In Maximum Overdrive SILVER MEMBER

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    PS: Give the battery time to charge. The generators don't charge nearly as fast as an alternator. Give it an hour run time and check the battery voltage again. If it's gone up, you're probably OK. Regulator only allows so much current to flow between generator and battery.
     
  9. 65restomod

    65restomod In Overdrive BRONZE MEMBER

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    Also check that there is a ground to the VR and if needed add a separate ground wire to the mounting bracket screw and attach the other end to the body ground attachment point near the steering column support bracket. I also added a quick disconnect if I had to remove the cluster in the future.
    I had to do that on my '65
     
  10. toddrichert

    toddrichert In Second Gear

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    The voltage when the motor is running is ranging from 14.7 to 15 volts directly from the generator, and 13.2 volts up at the battery. My goal is 14 to 14.5 volts reaching the battery.

    I believe the bulbs are a separate issue, unrelated to the charging. In my experience bulbs will work independently of charging as long as there is a strong battery attached. But in any case the lighting issues are low priority until I first get my charging system up to par.

    I understand many have converted the old generators over to alternators but I'm not ready to do that here, especially since this electrical system worked perfectly prior to transplant. On May 26, I got a regulator swapped into the 62 Ranchero that allowed 14.5 volts to reach my battery. May 31, I finally fixed the oil flow issue. June 2, I pulled the engine from the 62 Ranchero. June 15, I swapped the regulator from the 62 Ranchero back over to the 61 Ranchero, the same regulator that was allowing 14.5 volts to reach the battery. June 16, I installed the engine (with generator still attached) into the 61 Ranchero. So now that same system which was delivering 14.5 volts to the battery when it was in the 62 Ranchero, now is delivering only 13.2 volts after taking up residence the 61 Ranchero. Why?

    As for the tail light, I do not see a switch on the brake pedal lever underneath the dash, but I do see 2 wires attached to what I believe would be the master cylinder under the hood. My guess would be that there is a pressure switch at this location, in lieu of a mechanical switch on the foot pedal lever. I imagine there must be some way to test a switch like that... I've never dealt with one of these before but I'll circle back to it after I get this charging issue sorted.
     
  11. toddrichert

    toddrichert In Second Gear

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    61
    I'm not sure if this is a voltmeter because it says multimeter, but I've got one of these:

    multimeter.jpg
    Is this the type of meter I need for the testing you are suggesting? What do I set it on and what do I look for?

    I tried putting it at 20 on the upper left of the dial (approx 10 o'clock on the dial) and put the leads from negative battery terminal to engine, and to firewall, and to the base of the ground strap where it connects to one of the starter's bolts. In all cases it continued to read 0

    I don't know if this is the correct machine or what I'm even looking for. The only thing I know how to use this device for is to check for active current, and I *barely* know how to do that.

    This meter showed that I was getting 14.5 volts up to the battery with the engine running in the 62 Ranchero, and only 13.2 from the same engine/generator/regulator/battery after they were installed in the 61 Ranchero.

    If this meter can give me some clues about where I am having electrical connection troubles, please feel free to dumb down your answers for someone who probably doesn't know 1/10 of what this meter can do!

    As for the polarization, I did buy a new regulator off the shelf today, and it has polarization instructions printed right on the case! I've never seen this before:

    regulator polarization instructions.jpg

    Well that was a waste of money because I swapped in this new regulator and it still shows only 13.2 volts getting up to the battery. However it is interesting that they are starting to try and get the word out about polarization to those of us hobbyists still trying to use a generator.

    My first 1961 Ranchero was my very first car (circa 1985) and over the years I replaced much of what was under the hood, but never the regulator. What I did replace THREE TIMES was the generator! When it didn't charge I would replace the generator, and trade in my old one for the core fee. NOBODY ever bothered to mention "did you polarize?" and I never even heard of that until just recently.

    Well I'm pretty well convinced after what I've learned on this forum that I probably had bought 3 perfectly good rebuilt generators to replace 3 other perfectly good working generators on my first 1961 Ranchero back there during the 80's and 90's... when really all it needed was re-polarization because maybe it had sat too long since the last time I'd parked it!

    As for regulator adjustment, if it comes to that it is definitely something I would hire out. The trick is finding a place willing to tinker with them, and that isn't easy...
     
  12. plumcolr

    plumcolr In Maximum Overdrive SILVER MEMBER

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    Don't think you will find anyone willing to attempt adjusting a regulator anymore. Generators haven't been used on cars for close to 60 years and hands on knowledge is disappearing / just about gone. The only place to find out how is in an old manufacturers shop manual. That kind of knowledge goes back to the days when shock absorbers were rebuildable and valve jobs were a regular thing. Just see what the new regulator does, but don't expect to put it on and voila! 14+ volts. The battery needs some charge time before it's full, and the regulator will not allow the charge rate to exceed the generator's capacity.
    Generators had 2 problems: low output (most were 30A or less), and extremely low output at idle, in some cases not enough to keep the headlights bright. Even the turn signals would flash slower with the headlights on at idle.
     
  13. beerbelly

    beerbelly In Maximum Overdrive SILVER MEMBER

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    My first car was a 1957 VW, 6 volt generator car. Idling at night, it was like flashlights for headlights.
     
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  14. burninbush

    burninbush In Maximum Overdrive

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    Your multimeter will check brake switch; set it to '200' on the scale near the bottom (to make an ohms measurement.) Then probe across both pins on the switch while somebody else pushes on the break pedal, should go to nearly zero ohms because the switch has closed. If it stays unchanged, then there's your problem. If it goes to near zero and brake lights still don't work, then the next step is the switch under the horn button (which also works the turn signals,)
     
  15. 65restomod

    65restomod In Overdrive BRONZE MEMBER

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    Also a quick check for the pressure brake light switch is to disconnect the 2 wires and then use a piece of wire with bare ends and bridge the 2 wires connectors
    look and see if the Brake lights work if so the it's the pressure switch
     
  16. toddrichert

    toddrichert In Second Gear

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    Yeah I'm starting to think I was chasing a phantom. I got behind the dash and found that 4 of the 6 bulbs were bad, including the generator warning. Replaced the bad bulbs, which didn't fix everything but did fix the generator warning. Now when I turn the key that generator light comes on as it should, and when I start the engine it goes off... so at least the Ranchero thinks it's getting enough juice! I've always had bad experiences before when charging systems were < 13.5 so that was my concern, not because my battery is low (it's brand new and way more CCA than a 144 will ever need) but rather my concern was to keep the battery from discharging prophylactically. I've just never had a battery able to maintain over time on this low of a charge. But at this point I think I'm ready to assume the regulator is just "gonna be that way" and see how it goes. Maybe it'll be just fine and I was seeing a problem that doesn't really exist. I feel like the dash generator light is now telling me that old Groucho Marx line "who are you gonna believe, me or your own eyes?!"
     
  17. toddrichert

    toddrichert In Second Gear

    Messages:
    61
    That *was* a quick check! And now I have brake lights, woo hoo! I went out to the barn and pulled the pressure switch off the donor Ranchero (from whence the engine/transmission came) and didn't even have to order up a replacement. Plus, that was the last thing I needed to feel safe enough for a highway test so I drove my newly reassembled 61 Ranchero to town for the first time today. That's about 20 minutes each way. Seemed fine when I got into town but when I stopped back in my driveway it started to steam, sooooo.... there's something else on my list!
     
  18. handy_andy_cv64

    handy_andy_cv64 In Maximum Overdrive SILVER MEMBER

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    I have been off the forum due to my busyness over the last three weeks, but remember one thing--what you see at the battery during running will drop about a tenth of a volt. If you have more than a volt drop, you have a wiring/cabling problem, and it could lead to wiring damage.
     
  19. toddrichert

    toddrichert In Second Gear

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    Thanks, that was definitely an education running those electrical tests; helps me narrow things down a little and also to understand a little more what's happening back there. It appears my mini-regulator behind the dash display is working correctly, as are the left and right gauges (fuel and temperature.) The generator light works and one of the lights behind the dash blinks on and off when the turn signal is activated. The wire for oil pressure is missing a connection terminal at the sending unit in the recipient vehicle, so that light is possibly going to work once I get that sending unit wired correctly under the hood. That leaves 3 other bulbs behind the dash which don't turn on, despite having good bulbs in them now, and I don't know exactly what each of them does. How many of them are just back lighting? 2 maybe? Is there supposed to be a second bulb flashing when the turn signals are on? The dash display is identical between these 61 and 62 Rancheros, so if there is a wiring diagram anyone knows about for a dash from this era, showing what each bulb is supposed to be connected to, that would really hit the spot right now! The link you sent was definitely super-helpful but it only shows 2 gauges and 2 bulbs; nothing on the diagram about the other 4 bulbs.
     
  20. toddrichert

    toddrichert In Second Gear

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    61
    So far the only inline fuse I've found was supplying the non-working radio. But I'll keep looking...
     

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