Back to Basics – Healey troubleshooting

This article appears courtesy of PEDCer John Sims, The Email Mechanic©, www.healey6.com. It originally appeared in the January 2006 issue of Healey Marque magazine, the official publication of the Austin-Healey Club of America (AHCA), http://www.healeyclub.org. It subsequently appeared in the May 2012 PEDC club newsletter

For some time I have been writing columns for various publications and now have the opportunity to contribute to Healey Marque. In the early 80s, after a lapse of some 20 years, I purchased my second Austin-Healey with stars in my eyes and did not fully contemplate the fact that it was a real basket case. Hey, I wanted a Healey! I quickly found that there were few information sources readily available, other than a Haynes workshop manual that was in the car when I bought it.

The car needed considerable work mechanically as well as cosmetically, and, when I woke up, I found that the frame sagged worse than a mattress retrieved from a house of ill repute. After some frustration in trying to source parts and otherwise get information, I located a person who had been interested in the car when I bought it, and I ended up selling it to him. My not being aware of the national and regional clubs had handicapped my efforts to rejoin the Healey fraternity.

The gathering of our Austin-Healey aficionados: John Sims, right, in front of his 1958 red and white AH 100-6 (BN6), chatting with Ray Carbone, left, in front of his 1964 AH 3000 Mk 3 (BJ8), at our 2011 “Brits on the Beach” show in Ocean Grove.

By the time I purchased my latest Austin-Healey 11 years ago, the Internet was in full bloom and the first thing on my mind was to access it for information. A search led me to the “Healeys Mail List” (also known as “The List”), which has proved to be a great source of information, tips, and news. Equally important, there were copies of several club magazines in the boot of the car that I had purchased.

Only a small percentage of club members use The List and, because of this, it was and is my belief that excerpts from The List may prove to be valuable to the membership of the Austin-Healey Club of America through Healey Marque. Many of the items discussed on The List cannot readily be found in books or manuals; rather, they are the result of years of experience in Healeydom. It is always refreshing to read e:mails where you see a problem described, and, within a few minutes, hours, and days, see responses come in from all around the world from Healeyites who have had the same, or similar, problem.

Recent exchanges (called “threads” on The List) run the gamut of specific problems, general ones, or information requests, as follows:

Dominoes anyone? Often a solution to one problem can clear the way for another. In the following scenario, once the car was running, other problems cropped up. Sound familiar? Read on.

Simple Problem, Difficult to Fix

Bill Moyer wrote about a problem that again demonstrated the value of The List when he emailed this:

Well, now I’ve had two mechanics work on the intermittent start problem. It’s time for The List. The latest fellow installed a standard ignition switch in the dash, which takes an ignition key function out of the steering wheel lock (Euro model BJ7). That didn’t work as the same problem came up yesterday after a short drive. This doesn’t mean the old switch wasn’t bad, as there could be more than one thing going on at the same time, but maybe that’s just my suspicious nature. Before I turn myself into a pretzel working behind the dash, I’d like to get some ideas about where to start.

Here’s the problem. Turn the ignition on, and fuel pump clicks. Press button, nothing happens: no clicks, buzzes, or whirls. Press the solenoid starter button, and it starts right up. One complication is that it doesn’t happen all the time, but so far it hasn’t happened from a cold start.

It’s not the distributor ground, fuses, battery switch, or terminals. I’m pretty sure, as I’ve checked those. I’m hoping that it’s the starter button on the dash, but I can’t find that on my wiring diagrams. The ignition switch is there, but no separate button. Is there some way to test the button without having to take out gauges to get to it? What wires go to the button? Can I assume that it completes the white/red circuit to the starter solenoid? How can I get at the connection to the solenoid? It looks way back in there from the engine bay perspective.

I’d like to get an idea before I crawl under the dash. It’s been a decade since I rewired the dash, I don’t have happy or specific memories of the process, and I’m a good deal larger and less flexible than I was then.

Any guidance on how to check the steering wheel lock switch with a volt/ohm meter? It looks from the diagram that when the key is turned on, the connection should be made between contacts 2 and 3 on the wiring diagram. If that switch isn’t bad, I’d like to wire it back into the system, but I’m not sure where the wires should go, as that switch isn’t on the wiring diagram.

Michael Salter of http://www.precisionsportscar. com responded:

The fact that everything works fine when you press the button on the solenoid isolates the problem to the starter button or its wiring, or the solenoid itself. When the problem next occurs, with the ignition off, touch a jumper from one of the big terminals on the starter solenoid (the one that comes from the battery and is live all the time) to the small starter solenoid terminal with the white and red wire. If the starter turns, the fault is in the starter button or its wiring. If it doesn’t, the fault is in the solenoid, which you should change.

In the former case, where the starter does turn, check the white wire that runs from the ignition switch to the start button and then the white and red wire that runs from the start button to the starter solenoid. I find it is often easiest to install a temporary wire with alligator clips to see if things come right. The starter buttons are pretty reliable, and, even when faulty, wiggling the button as you press it will usually make it work.

Bill then followed up with this:

OK, I’m trying the easiest solution first since I don’t have a spare solenoid. My much more limber daughter and I pulled the starter button. She did the behind the dash part. Curiouser and curiouser, there is a white wire as Mike said, but the other one is green with purple stripe. I should say this is a replacement harness, and it’s given me agonies before, as my car has stuff added and subtracted for the European market and the harness wasn’t “correct” from the beginning. The ends of both wires were corroded, so on goes the battery terminal spray, sand them a bit, and trimmed them up.

Then I put the starter button on the ohm meter and pressed it about 100 times. No failure there. While the wires were out, I carefully turned the power back on and manually touched them. The starter turned over; disconnecting the coil probably would have been a good idea so the car wouldn’t actually start. I reinstalled the button, ran the car around, and everything still works. While I was poking around I looked at the solenoid and the wire going into it is white with purple stripe, not green/purple as above. Just amazing, the harness isn’t even consistent with itself. I’m hoping the contact cleaning works; if not, it’s solenoid time. Thanks for everyone’s help!

Another problem solved by The List in about 3 hours. What appeared to be a difficult problem turned out to be something rather simple to fix, as long as there is someone who is slender and limber to get behind the dash!

Bill wrote a few days later:

Well, the ending isn’t very dramatic. I had the Healey out today. I stopped and started a few times and no problem. I’ll be happy if it was just dirty contacts at the button, but I’m keeping the new solenoid in the boot. I figure I can do that repair with a screwdriver and a wrench anywhere it decides to go kaput—as long as it’s not dark out and I figure out how to get at that lower bolt. Maybe I’ll just check out that situation beforehand.

However, it just goes to show that if it isn’t one thing, it’s another. All of a sudden during my journeys today there was a nasty vibration at about 2000 rpm along with a tic-tic-tic noise. No rattle or big noises. The vibration smoothed out above 2000 rpm. It didn’t matter what gear I was in—same symptoms. Sitting still and taking the engine up to 2000 produced nothing.

Since the engine/trans- mission has just been taken out to get at the seals, I immediately thought there was something wrong with the new mounts, and/or the drive shaft was messed up somewhere and rubbing against something. I was depressed. I don’t have a lift, and just hate getting under the car, even with jack stands and cinder blocks everywhere. Plus the older I get the higher I need to jack the car up to fit under it. Wonder why that’s happening? Is the car getting lower?

I once again tried the easy solution and got my little lead hammer out and gave all the knock-offs about 20 whacks; the right rear moved maybe an eighth turn. Now, no vibration. Never a dull moment. Keep those tools in the boot. I also stash in the boot a spare fuel pump, a gallon of water, upper and lower radiator hoses, fan belt, distributor cap and rotor, a set of spare plugs. You get my drift. I figure I’m actually driving about 1.25 cars with all those spare parts.

Bill Moyer, BJ7 aka Chimera.
The wild wonderful world of Healeydom!

The Beating HEART of Our LBCs

Raymond A. Carbone (First published in the February 2012 PEDC newsletter)

I‘m always amazed at the communication and camaraderie that exists among LBC owners throughout the world. In a recent web response to a call for help on an SU fuel pump problem, a Healey owner in Italy referenced an article by Eric Lembrick in an English MGT club newsletter called T-Type2. Eric‘s article, along with additional research, formed the information- base for this presentation and suggested modification.

The Old Ticker

Over the years I have found the SU pump to be quite reliable and the familiar ticking a comforting sound. However, many of us have experienced a fouled-points failure that had stopped our SU fuel pump in mid-tick. Stranded, it is not unusual for a driver to resort to the elegant hammer for relief from frustration and sticking points. Even with the potential for problems, I and many others still prefer to retain their points-triggered pumps, and some have even installed a second modern pump to dampen any fuel- delivery concerns.

However, can we improve point reliability and pump longevity to the point of eliminating the need for insurance?

The Heart Attack

Since many of us infrequently drive our LBCs and often store our vehicles over the winter, naturally forming oxidation on the tungsten points usually leads to a non- functioning pump. Dressing the points prior to a post-hibernation start is not an uncommon act; however, more often than not we rely upon the oxidation being burned off by the high switching voltage developed by the pump. Although a remedy for oxidized points can be a high-voltage burn-off, high point-switching voltage is the common cause of flashed and burned points and the most common cause of pump failure.

Many of us were under the misconception that because power to the pump normally ranged between 12 and 15 volts, the voltage across the points was also within that range. However, since a coil is used as an active component, several hundred volts are actually generated across the opening points, similar to the way the ignition system coil produces a high voltage across the ignition points. Under these high voltages it is not uncommon for the points to burn, flash, and even weld together during operation.

And the Beat Goes ON

Over the SU pump‘s existence, a number of different diodes have been applied by the manufacturer to help control high-voltage point flash. Although moderately successful, one unintended consequence is the creation of polarity restrictions. Finally, the manufacturer introduced a transistorized triggering mechanism for the SU pump that would eliminate the points and their problems all together, but even these transistorized switching circuits are somewhat sensitive to high voltages and power fluctuations.

More disturbing is the fact that if a transistorized pump fails, there is little to no chance it can be revived to get you home.

Within recent years, electronic components called transient-voltage suppression (TVS) diodes have been designed to protect sensitive electronics from power spikes. This device controls overvoltage by shunting power to ground when it exceeds a specific brake-down threshold.

When applied to our SU pump‘s points, a TVS will shunt off excessive flash voltage while allowing the pump to function within a normal voltage range. The result of applying a TVS to the points of an SU pump is the elimination of high flash voltage with a substantial extension of point/pump life.

TVS Selection

TVS Diode

When selecting an appropriate TVS, a number of operating conditions must be considered. First, the device must be able to pass power through an LBC‘s normal range of electrical operation. Also, we would like the pump to function even when a (generator/alternator) voltage regulator fails and puts out as much as 19 volts. Additionally, since our objective is to prevent high-voltage point flash and burn, voltage must be kept below a level where this condition is created.

TVS Cost

My choice of a P6KE20CA TVS (manufactured by Vishay), at a cost of around $1.50, was made to meet selection objectives. This device will pass power below 21 volts and safely allow the pump to operate under our stipulated conditions. Additionally, the TVS will react at millisecond speeds to impose a clamping (ground-shunt) voltage of 27 volts to eliminate point flash and burn, before automatically resetting for the next points cycle.

Please keep in mind that my TVS component selection was based on the criteria set above, and others may identify additional or alternative conditions from which to select and apply an alternate device. It should not be difficult to identify an appropriate TVS to meet your selection criteria, as there is a large selection of TVSs from which to choose.

Life-sustaining Operation

Installation is rather simple in that a TVS is wired between the ground screw and points fixing- screw on the head of the SU pump. It should be noted that although not sensitive to polarity (positive/negative), a TVS must be directionally oriented toward the ground. Although some manufacturers print an arrow on the TVS pointing toward the ground end, some have writing on the unit that is read from the ground end. Once the TVS is installed and the points are adjusted per the standard SU procedure, you can pre- test and drive with added confidence.

NOTE: Photos for this article are courtesy of the author.

What’s in your boot?

First published in the July 2013 PEDC newsletter

PEDCer RALPH KNUTSEN managed large-system technical support groups for 37 years, so it’s no wonder he is super organized when it comes to preparing his British cars for long drives.

Ralph keeps things he thinks he’ll need for these road trips in two bags: the yellow and red bags go behind the seats, and the rest fits handily in the spare-tire boot. Ralph says that what he takes depends on the destination and distance that he and his wife, Jan, are traveling, but most of the time it’s all in the car. He relates, “Our travels have taken us to some places where services for LBCs are hard to come by, if at all. A break-down could become a homestead.”  

Incidentally, we are happy to know that Ralph and Jan have plenty of room in the boot for a few duffel bags, in place of suitcases. Below are the lists of Ralph’s LBC spare parts and tools, which certainly give new meaning to the motto Be Prepared! 

IN THE
YELLOW BAG: 

 plastic bag 
 leather gloves 
 fuel filter (2) 
 condenser 
 points 
 distributor cap, wire nuts, washers 
 rotor 
 coil 
 spark plug (2) 
 radiator hose repair kit 
 hose repair tape 
 towels (2)—white, red 
 fuse assortment 
 hose clamp assortment 
 electrical connector assortment 
 O-ring assortment 
 vacuum line—8 inches 

IN THE
RED BAG: 

 bungee 
 electrical tape 
 pliers 
 angle pliers 
 needle nose pliers 
 double-end adjustable wrench, large and small 
 adjustable wrench 
 hacksaw 
 Philips screwdriver, bent shaft 
 OE wrench – ½” to 9/16” 
 knife 
 feeler gauge (2) 
 miscellaneous hose clamps, hose, wire, weld tape, zip ties 
 alligator jumpers 
 inspection mirror 
 extension magnet pickup 
 screw/driver handle 
 small screw/driver set 
 small ratchet set 

IN THE JAGUAR TRAVEL KIT: 

 duct tape, electrical tape, radiator self-seal tape 
 JB Weld 
 set of combination wrenches (at least two ½”) 
 set of sockets 
 a screwdriver with interchangeable tips 
 a set of pliers (standard, needle- nose, vise grips, snap-ring) 
 a small puller or two 
 Big freaking hammer (BFH) 
 telescoping magnet & mirror tools 
 wire and alligator clips 
 flashlight 
 voltmeter 
 jumper cables 
 a set of Tyvek coveralls, disposable gloves, leather gloves, umbrella 
 rags 
 degreaser 
 hand cleaner 
 some fluids: brake fluid, oil, bearing grease, Kroil 
 repair manual DVD 
 wiring diagram 
 parts catalog DVD 
 AAA card, JCNA card, cell phone, ignition key, e-mail address of JagLovers 
 spares: V-belt(s), bottom radiator hose, Facet fuel pump, fuses, electrical connectors, and an electrical stripper/crimper, brake light switch, bulbs, air horn, fuel filters, points, rotor, condenser, coil, distributor cap + nuts, spark plugs, flares 

My 60-Year Love Affair with the Allard J2X

Lindsey Parsons
First published in the January 2013 PEDC newsletter

The Allard J2X was a car designed for high performance throughout. Only 83 were ever built. It has a rugged rail frame supporting a very spartan light aluminum body and a semi-independent suspension system. It utilizes a deDion rear-end arrangement and a split-beam front axle. High-performance Alfin-manufactured aluminum brakes are employed inboard on either side of the differential in the rear and are oversized on all four wheels.

The Allard J types were offered with several different engines, but the most successful ones in international racing were powered by the Cadillac 331, usually modified to a high-performance status. Three-speed Lincoln transmissions were also usually installed. The result was a car that weighed only a few pounds over one ton with up to 300 horsepower. Needless to say this was a truly dazzling performance combination for any cars of that early 1950s era. These machines were great race winners back when they were introduced and played a dominant role in the sports car racing scene up to the mid-1950s.


April 1953: Lindsey in his first Allard J2X (#3147) shortly after delivery. Photo courtesy of Lindsey Parsons

It seems that I acquire an Allard J2X about every 50 years! I purchased my first one (#3147) new early in 1953 and used it exclusively for about a year and a half before regretfully selling it upon entering pilot training in the USAF late in 1954. During that time I developed a great affection for the car, which I used as my only transportation and also raced at several national Sports Car Club of America (SCCA) events, including the Watkins Glen Grand Prix in the autumn of 1953. In the intervening years of family and career building I always held hopes of someday purchasing another Allard. 

That happy event occurred in 2001 when I was able to buy my current Allard J2X (#3077). This machine had left the factory in October of 1952 and was shipped to a California dealer. It was equipped with the usual Cadillac 331 engine with a three-speed Lincoln transmission. It is believed to have been raced locally in California, and its first known owner was “Tiny” Gould in 1975. It later passed through the Don Marsh Collection and then traveled back home to the UK in the late 1980s where it was club raced and featured in an article in Classic & Sportscar magazine. 

Lindsey’s current Allard J2X (#3077). Lindsey, shown in the middle, greets enthusiastic spectators at the 2011 Monmouth County Concours d’Elegance, Holmdel, NJ. Lindsey won a best in class award at their 2012 event.

Since purchasing the car, I have driven it some 26,000 miles around the country. It has always been driven in the same configuration it has been shown in, that is, without a top or windshield. In many ways driving the car over long distances is more like motorcycling than automobile touring. One’s greatest wish in summer trips is for the presence of light rain as that helps defray the considerable heat one is exposed to from the floor/firewall, the hot transmission at one’s side, the relentless wind, and the sun. It’s all worth it, however, for the fun that motoring in the car always is.

The machine is astonishingly fast with acceleration performance that is remarkable at any speed. One must throttle the car gingerly when passing, for example, as traction is easily lost with throttle bursts, even at speeds exceeding the very high ones encountered on our Western interstates. 

#3077 at our 2011 “Brits on the Beach” show in Ocean Grove, where it placed first in the Other British Sports Cars class and also won Best in Show.

In #3077 I have made round trips to Florida, Texas, and twice to the West Coast and have participated in three 1000-mile rally tours, including the wonderful Colorado Grand, which is considered the finest invitational classic car tour event available in the United States. The car has also been shown two times at the Amelia Island Concours and numerous local shows, including the annual PEDC shows in Spring Lake Heights and Ocean Grove. It has also appeared twice at the Monmouth County Concours and the Pittsburgh Concours among several others. It has received numerous prizes at these events and always seems to attract interested and interesting viewers.

Two photos: Lindsey leaving our 2012 Father’s Day show in Spring Lake Heights, NJ.
Shown at our 2011 Father’s Day show

Bringing the PEDC archive to life

Over the next few weeks, look out for a number of ‘NOS’ articles taken from past issues of the club newsletter scheduled to appear on the updated PEDC website .

The articles, mostly written by club members will be guaranteed to make interesting reading, bring back memories and may help with a few technical niggles.

These articles will cover topics such as maintaining an SU fuel pump, an owner’s profile of the Allard J2X, what to carry on a long drive and how to fix your hot-running Healey.

Classic Motorsports spotlight of the PEDC newsletter from 2013