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Vintage Oldsmobiles Curved Dash, Limited Touring, Models 40, 53, 66; Series 60, 70, 90

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Old April 30th, 2017, 04:12 PM   #1
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Near Stranding!

I took my 16-year old daughter to the races out at Thunderhill yesterday. a 2 hour drive up, great trip for the Olds. I have a basic '55 Holiday 88. It runs great, but as with a lot of us, a continuing project. Had a fabulous time, and got some rides around the track in a 1960 MGA. My daughter wanted to go faster. I may be in trouble here, but that's another story.


250 mile round trip. Check the oil, and trans fluid. Burned my fingers on the oil dip stick, didn't think--it sits right at the exhaust manifold...dumb.


Anyway, we stopped to get gas on the way home, it was getting dark, and after getting back on the freeway, I noticed the ammeter showing a discharge. Uh oh. It has the original voltage regulator and original generator. Normal for a discharge at idle, more discharge at idle with the headlights on. But then off idle, needle moves to charge. I'm thinking the gage has been pretty accurate.


So, pondering my predicament, did this happen after getting gas, how long was it discharging and I didn't notice? I had an hour to go to get home. Verified the gage with high beams, and turning all the lights and radio off. All generator, battery, and voltage regulator wires were connected, fan belt was ok.


Now, it was a matter of time before the battery dies. Could I go an hour with headlights? Turns out you can, with a healthy battery, no radio, don't use any turn signals, go fast, turn the headlights off at the stop lights, use the parking brake at the stop lights so no brake lights!


Whew! Made it. The plan was to have one of my boys meet us on the freeway it the battery died, with a borrowed battery from one of the other cars to get it home.


It's been showing signs of weird behavior for a while, but I ignored it as, it's old, and good enough for now, I thought. I debated doing the generator when I did the engine compartment, but decided against it at the time.


So, the battery is charging as we speak in the garage, and a rebuilt generator ordered from Fusick. I probably could have gotten away with changing out the brushes, but it's almost easier just to change the whole thing. Once I have the parts, total repair time something under an hour.


One thing that annoyed me about the whole episode, wasn't my daughter--whom I was telling her the plan as I invented it on the way home--she was fine with it. It's old, things happen. My neighbor said, "Hmm, maybe shouldn't take old cars on long trips." That just ticked me off. I chalk this up to normal wear and tear. After all, the original generator went, what, 62 years, 131,000 miles? That's not reliable enough? Could happen to any one in any car at any time. Has nothing to do with the reliability of the Olds. I do take pride in keeping the car up, and amazed myself at seeing this develop and devise a plan. Why do people who don't have classic cars automatically assume they're old worn out pieces of crap! It just bugs me....

Last edited by DFitz; April 30th, 2017 at 04:21 PM.
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Old April 30th, 2017, 04:30 PM   #2
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Because they are scared of them
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Old April 30th, 2017, 04:35 PM   #3
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What, newer cars don't break on long trips?:confuse Ask him how far his newer car will go on just a battery.
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Old April 30th, 2017, 04:37 PM   #4
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On a lighter note, the last "Top Gear" episode with Matt Leblanc, they were in Cuba, and driving along side a "Classic" car in Havana. They had no idea what it was. They asked the guy as they drove along side of it. The guy driving said, "Ocho, Ocho."

He still thought is was a Pontiac. It was quite clearly a '55 Olds 88.....

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Old April 30th, 2017, 04:38 PM   #5
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What, newer cars don't break on long trips?:confuse Ask him how far his newer car will go on just a battery.
I was thinking that too. We have a 2009 Odyssey. It would never have made it.
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Old April 30th, 2017, 04:41 PM   #6
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In the amount of time it took you to type that up, you could of replaced the generator already
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Old April 30th, 2017, 04:55 PM   #7
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Hope you kept the old generator. The last three rebuilds I have gotten only lasted a year or so each. they were Wilson re manufactured and not my pick of re builders anymore. No problem getting them replaced but if you can't trust them they no good even if they work My local re builder can't get cores anymore so I'm always on the lookout for cores.... Tedd
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Old May 1st, 2017, 01:05 AM   #8
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Hope you kept the old generator. The last three rebuilds I have gotten only lasted a year or so each. they were Wilson re manufactured and not my pick of re builders anymore. No problem getting them replaced but if you can't trust them they no good even if they work My local re builder can't get cores anymore so I'm always on the lookout for cores.... Tedd
Local shop rebuilt our '56 generator for $79, and the starter for another $79. In a bigger city we still have options for rebuilding electrical, radiators and so forth, but I wonder how much longer that will be true.
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Old May 1st, 2017, 04:26 AM   #9
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Great story and glad you made it home safe!!
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Old May 1st, 2017, 06:13 AM   #10
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Good you made it home in one piece. People that don't understand cars are foolish. Who cares what your neighbor says? My 2011 Ford Flex broke down in Houston, TX recently over 700 miles from home. My wife and I decided to replace it. Even new cars break.
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Old May 1st, 2017, 06:04 PM   #11
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I've had all of the above. Belt tension, and voltage drop. All the connections are new, or cleaned recently. Could be the regulator, but it's consistently shown a healthy discharge at idle, about 5A on the meter, idle with the headlights on. I figure 131k, and the brushed are probably worn. I do suspect the regulator. Both are original, and I will be replacing both anyway. Don't need to be really stranded, but I don't plan on any long trips for a while either.


I'm getting a rebuilt generator from Fusick. Any track records from their rebuilds? I got a starter from them about 15 years ago and it's still going strong.
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Old May 2nd, 2017, 06:16 AM   #12
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I've only ever had good service and high quality parts from Fusick.
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Old May 30th, 2017, 11:01 AM   #13
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Original Generator tag




New Generator from Fusick




Failed Brushes



Last week I got around to changing the generator. I got one from Fusick, so far so good. But it didn't have a Delco tag so that took me a bit to affix and stamp the proper numbers.

Upon inspection, both brush holders had failed. Both brushes were just dangling out the back of the generator. This explains why every once in a while, it would charge, but mostly not. The brushes show a fair amount of wear, but really the holders seemed to the the issue. I'm fairly certain this is the original generator, at 130k miles.

It works much better now. At idle, the ammeter shows neutral, no discharge like it used to with the old generator. Thought you guys would be interested in the failure mode. Don't know if this is common or not. I thought it very weird, I've never seen the like.
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Old May 30th, 2017, 11:31 AM   #14
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Thanks for following up. Are you going to rebuild it for a spare?
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Old May 30th, 2017, 08:40 PM   #15
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I do like stories and ones with good endings as well.
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Old May 31st, 2017, 08:44 AM   #16
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Thanks for following up. Are you going to rebuild it for a spare?


I thought about it, but I went ahead and sent it back to Fusick for the core. I know some of you have not had a good experience recently, but the new one behaved well, and looked pretty good.


Time will tell. I've been driving the car about 2000 miles/year, so I'm hoping this will last halfway into the century. Hopefully my kids will have to deal with replacing it again.

I am curious, have any of you experienced a failure like this?

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Old May 31st, 2017, 10:19 AM   #17
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I think I have had four, no five go bad that is counting the original also which was working fine when rebuilt, one was my fault for putting to much tension on the belt. The rest were re manufactured Willson generators of which one was dead on arrival and the rest gave it up in less than a year. They replaced them all at no cost but I travel too many miles a year in this car and and don't need the worry of generator troubles 500 miles from home. I didn't pull any of the Willsons apart so I don't know what was the issue was but they most slowly quit charging and would not keep up with the lights at night. One had a bearing, bushing also go bad shortly after instillation. Still have a bad taste in my mouth on anything Willson ....Tedd
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Old May 31st, 2017, 10:51 AM   #18
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Thanks. This rebuilt unit I put on looked identical to the Delco I pulled. Fingers crossed.
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Old September 9th, 2017, 07:16 PM   #19
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I was thinking that too. We have a 2009 Odyssey. It would never have made it.
Was driving down freeway in my 2010 E250 when I noticed the voltage gauge showing discharge, did not make it a half a mile and truck just shut off. Luckily I had moved into the right lane soon as I noticed gauge reading. Shop said the engine computer shuts off engine when voltage drops to low.
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Old September 10th, 2017, 05:27 AM   #20
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My wife's 2005 Peugeot, and many of its contemporary cars will shut down selectively if the charging system fails. First to go will be radio and ac, heater blower next, then wipers and headlamps. Leaving the engine critical systems like ignition or diesel injection system, ecu and fuel pump until last. Kind of like a critically injured animal I suppose.
But if you're driving an old dynamo generator equipped car that you maintain yourself then you will be smart enough to do this yourself. Three amps to run the ignition system should last a long time.

Roger.
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Old September 11th, 2017, 02:59 AM   #21
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Yup. I drove for an hour on the battery with the headlights on. No problem.


So far so good. Still works.
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Old September 11th, 2017, 10:55 AM   #22
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Drove 20 miles home one night with a bad alternator. Turned everything else off no problems. Lights were getting a little dim.
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