British Car Dept. Tech # 1

This department is dedicated to all of you who know who the "Prince of Darkness" is. NOT that Prince of Darkness. I'm talking about the one we love to hate: LUCAS! I plan to have at least one page dedicated to the "Prince". If your responses request more, then I will add more. For you newcomers here are a few of the standard jokes that British car buffs know and often use when the opportunity arises.

Why do the British drink warm beer?------------- They have Lucas refrigerators!

Who is the Prince of Darkness?------------------- Lucas!

(Bumper sticker reads): "Do not follow too close, I have Lucas brake lights!"

I know, That's an awfully short list. Send me the ones you heard and I will add them to the list.

I'm familiar with most of the Lucas short comings over a good number of years. However, I also have to speak out in defense of Lucas.

  1. Compare the color coding of Lucas wiring with any Japanese, German or Italian car. You can open up the harness of any British car and without a wiring diagram, tell from 50 to 100% what each wire does on a Lucas system. Try that on any Japanese or Italian car. The Germans were not too bad.
  2. Many British cars came with only a 4 fuse fusebox and a harness of only a dozen or so wires. The same number of electrical components on a Fiat for example netted a harness of several dozen wires and over a dozen fuses. It seemed like each time the Fiat would get a short, it melted the harness down and don't bother looking at a factory wring diagram because none of them ever matched their cars and no two cars of the same year and model ever matched each other.
  3. Probably the most contributing factor of the Lucas reputation came from their switches. Many times I had a salesman come back to me in the shop with a hand full of switch parts that he said fell apart in his hand while demonstrating a car. The only redeeming fact was that when a Lucas switch failed it was easy to take apart, fix and put back together.
  4. Hay! guess who recently beat out Bosch for a major contract for electrics on a major airlines? YEP!, "The Prince".

Ele. Tech Tip # 1

Need to polarize your generator? Make up a 12 gauge jumper wire so that you have a short jumper or pig tail connected to one end. Look at the back of your generator to determine what kind of ends you need. (Flat spade or Eyelet) The pig tail can be a smaller gauge wire if you want as it will have the smaller connector. The small connector is the Field and the large is the Armature connection. Now you have the field and the armature connected together with a long 12 ga. test lead.

Now, it's not a bad idea to remove the fan belt although it's not necessary. Disconnect the two wires on the back of the generator and connect your test lead with the pig tail to the generator ONLY.

Connect the battery up which ever way you want the car to be. Positive ground for most older British cars as original. Negative ground if you want to convert it to use a new type radio or what ever.

Now, take the end of your 12 gauge jumper wire and touch it to the "HOT" post on the remote starter solenoid which is usually easy to reach on most British cars. Hold your jumper on it for about 5 seconds then remove it. Wait for a minute and repeat the process. I usually do it three times. If you had the belt off you should see the generator run like an electric motor in the direction that the engine would run. If it didn't run then give it a spin by hand in the direction the engine will run while you touch the hot post with your jumper wire.

If you do have the belt off and it does "motor" in the correct direction then you don't have to only go for the only 5 seconds. You can leave it connected for 30 sec. or a minute. I usually only run one 30 sec. or so. I have probably done well over a hundred of these over the years and I only had two give me trouble. Both were within the first few months I started doing this. I was in a rush on both of them and I tried to short cut the procedure. The first one let all of the smoke out of the wires between the generator and regulator. "Real Bummer"!

Since those two, I worked out a safety test to see if the polarizing took before I connect up the car harness to the generator. Reinstall the fan belt and connect a volt meter to the hot post on the solenoid and to a body ground so you can monitor battery voltage while you are under the hood (bonnet). Hand brake ON, GEAR in NEUTRAL, and Ignition ON.

Now! look in front and in back of the car to see where the car is going to go if you didn't get it into NEUTRAL. Push the end of your jumper lead on to the hot post at the same time push the end button on the remote solenoid to start the engine. Keeping the jumper on the hot post, look at the voltmeter as you raise the RPM. Do not allow the voltage to go over 15 volts. As soon as you confirm that the voltage does INCREASE as the RPM increases, the test is complete and you can safely connect the car harness in place of your jumper. If the polarizing didn't take, the voltage would show excessive discharge as the RPM was increased and the jumper wire will get hot. I have seen a mechanic in our shop get a couple of branded fingers when testing a generator that he polarized, so be careful.

If you are changing the polarity on a car, there are several things that need to be done other than polarize a generator and switching battery cables. If the car has a Smiths electric tach you must open it up and unsolder the red and black wires and switch them. You also must switch the leads on the coil and the heater fan. Even the windshield wiper motor should be switched. The SU fuel pump would work either way but some aftermarket replacements will need to be switched to work at all. Note! The regulator does not need to be polarized.

If there is a subject you would like to see covered as a British car tech tip, e-mail it to me or write and snail mail it.
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