Category Archives: Lucas Electric

One Major Electric Issue Solved

Yes, that’s an alternator sitting in the engine of the Spitfire, replacing the generator.

Since bringing the car to Minnesota, we’ve had to deal with problems from the generator.  You may recall that this led to a harrowing drive home in the dark one night after getting yummy ice cream last year.

The old generator has now been removed.

Trying to remedy the problem including better grounding from the battery, adjusting the internal regulator and performing a minor rebuild on the generator.  However, nothing we did ever provided enough juice back to the battery to keep it charged, while providing electricity to the rest of the car.

Many people I talked to suggested that the best fix is to remove the generator and put in an alternator.  A couple of weeks ago, we made the decision to go that route.  Now, after a week of trial-and-error in trying to get parts to fit, the new alternator is in place, and it works!

The battery is now getting 14.5 volts while the car is running, which is right where it should be.  And the ignition light, which has been glowing red ever since the first drive, is now off when the car is running.

Ice cream anyone?


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Too Short, Too Long, And Just Right

Well, it has been decided.  We’re replacing the generator with a new alternator.

The reasons are not insignificant.  Primarily, it means that the battery will be charged continuously, allowing us to drive longer distances (and at night!).  It also means more reliability, and the ability to provide power when the engine isn’t running as fast (so the lights don’t dim when we come to a stop light, for example).  Some in the Triumph Club also suggest having an alternator will make the engine run better since we’ll be providing more electricity to the spark plugs.

I’ve been looking into this for a while and have now begun the project.  My biggest concern is the electrical connection setup.  There are a lot of wires, and I don’t want to get it wrong.

I haven’t been too focused on the actual physical attachment of the alternator — that seems pretty straight-forward, or so I thought.

Naturally, the alternator isn’t the same size as the generator, nor are the mounting bolts in the exact same position.

The bottom attachment is fine.  I have a universal bracket that I can use to mount the bottom of the alternator.

However, the top attachment is another story.  Alternators (and generators) attach to an arm that has a long curved slot, allowing you to position the alternator in the spot where the the belt is tensioned just right.

The original bracket arm is the one on the bottom of the picture on the right.  It’s perfect for the original generator, but it’s far too short for the new alternator.

Paul and I went to an auto parts store and picked up the only universal bracket they had, which is shown at the top of the picture on the right.  Of course, it turned out to be too long — the alternator would be sitting in the wheel well if we tried to make it work.

So I did what any self-respecting do-it-yourselfer would do and I cut the long bracket down to size.

I also drilled a hole in it to create a mounting point.

In fact, in the top picture, you can see the hole and the cut (if you look closely) — I put the two pieces next to each other to show what the original long arm looked like.

I loosely fit the new (shortened) arm into the engine and it looks like it will work.  It does, however, mean that the alternator will need to sit a little higher in the engine than I expected, though I don’t think it will be so high as to interfere with the hood of the car.



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Oh, And The Electrical Issue Isn’t Solved

Sorry, but no.  The Triumph’s battery is still not holding a charge as it’s supposed to.

The extra cord directly from the battery to the engine block does seem to help the voltage numbers, but they’re not high enough to continually charge the battery.

I may be going back to the voltage regulator.  It’s a tricky little device with three adjustable dials.

For what it’s worth, I tried messing with the dials when the electrical issues first popped up, but to no avail.

Perhaps the weak grounding made my adjustments worthless.  That’s the hope at least.

Oh, and there’s a tech session in a couple of weeks with the local Triumph club, where we will be diving into another Spitfire with electrical issues.  I definitely have a lot to learn about the electronics, and that’ll be a great place to start.

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Electrical Issue Solved? (Knock on wood)

You may recall that we’ve been having some type of electrical issue with the Spitfire.  Basically, the battery wasn’t being charged.

When I hooked up a voltmeter, it was showing about 7 amps when the engine was running.  That’s apparently low enough to slowly drain the battery.

I mentioned this at last week’s Triumph meeting, and one of the guys suggested a better ground from the battery to the engine block.  His theory was that connecting the ground to the body of the car was probably not creating a clean circuit for the electrical system.

So the other day, I disconnected the negative battery cable from the body, and connected it directly to one of the bolts on the engine.  After everything was re-connected, a quick check of the voltmeter showed 12.02 volts!  No doubt, that’s much better, though I understand it should actually be closer to 13 or even 14 volts with the engine running.

I took the Triumph to the auto parts store (it ran great, by the way), and picked up an extra battery cable.  That cable is now installed from the block to the body (just trying to get as much of a ground as possible).  The voltmeter now reads about 12.25 volts with the car running.

Did that fix it?  I hope so!  I’ll be checking the voltage periodically to make sure we don’t have a repeat of the infamous ice cream run.

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Ice Cream & Electric Issues

This has been a fun weekend.  Paul has been home (yay!) and yesterday (Saturday) we bled the brakes (again) — it’s so much easier with two people.

After a relaxing nap this afternoon, we decided to take the Spitfire out for a ride for ice cream.  We took the long way around to Lake Harriet and Lake Calhoun… then made our way down to Sebastian Joe’s Ice Cream (the one just west of Lake Harriet).

Mmmmmm… Grapefruit Mint Sorbet for Paul, Dakota Berry for me.  The patio was nice as it was just getting dark and they had strings of little electric lights hanging through the trees.

And the Triumph had run like a little champ all the way there.

With the ice cream and homemade cones consumed it was time to start heading home.  We meandered our way back to Lake Harriet and the moon was spectacular as the light danced on the lake.

Odd, though… we heard a bit of sputtering coming from the engine.  No worries… it has done that before.  As long as I don’t push it, it doesn’t sputter.

Then it got worse.  After stopping at a stop sign, the Spitfire could barely get going again.

And then we realized the lights were all really dim.  It was well past sunset by this point and we could barely see in front of us, despite the headlights.  Paul suggested turning the headlights off, and that definitely seemed to help reduce the engine sputtering.

I won’t go into depth about every harrowing turn and dark street, but we eventually crawled our way home.  The engine seemed to run better with the choke out.

Now comes the task of trying to figure out what was wrong.  At the moment, my best guess is that the generator is failing (or at least not able to keep up with the drain of all the lights for such a long period of time).

Either way, we’re home safely now.  No accidents were caused.  And we weren’t stopped by the police.  And now Paul and our good friend Jose Cuevo are helping me relax a bit.

UPDATE: Things are definitely pointing to the generator or the regulator.  From what I’ve read online, a problem somewhere in those two components is consistent with what we experienced.  And I think the sputtering was caused by general low voltage, which caused the fuel pump to not deliver as much fuel to the carburetors.

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Um, Some of the Magic Smoke Got Out

It has been said that Lucas Electric components rely on this mysterious “magic smoke.”  Whilst the smoke is inside components, they work fine.  But if you should, say, cross two wires, the smoke gets out and things stop working.

That’s what happened today to the radio.  Some of the magic smoke got out.

I’m not sure when the radio last played, but it hasn’t worked since being parked in Minneapolis.  So today I tried to diagnose the problem by removing the radio and fiddling with the insides.  Keep in mind, this is the original radio — there’s a stamp inside that reads “Dec. 1964.”

The radio powered up (that is, there was a light on inside, and if  you wiggle the speaker wires, you would hear a crackle of static).  But it wasn’t picking up any stations or even the odd squeaks between stations.  Complete silence.

After playing with it for a while, I smelled the scent of fresh rain on a dry desert.  I thought one of my neighbors was up to something.

And then I saw it.

A little plume of magic smoke drifted up from the top of the radio.

There it was: the magic Lucas Electric smoke.  It drifted carelessly up through the cabin, free from the confines of the radio wires.  And with it went any hope of getting the radio to turn on.

This is where the magic smoke escaped.

In its place, the magic smoke left behind one charred little component on a psychedelic circuit board.

Everything has been put back together (radio, fascia, knobs).  And the power has been disconnected from the radio to keep the rest of the magic smoke inside.

That’s too bad because, while I’m not sure what the next steps are for the radio, it won’t be playing any lovely tunes anytime soon.

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This is What I Like About Classic British Roadsters

License Plate Light Housing with Glass Insert

Take a look at this:

It’s the little housing for the light over the rear license plate on the Triumph.

It was a bit loose (one of the rivets holding the bracket down had popped), so I took the little housing off in an effort to repair the bracket.

The housing is a piece of formed sheet metal with ornamental lines pressed into the top.  It has a little hole at the back into which a screw is used to mount the housing to the body of the car.  The bottom of the housing is open to let the light from the two little light bulbs shine through.

Inside the housing is this:

Glass Lining for Inside License Plate Light Housing

It’s not just a little strip of glass to protect the bulb — it’s a full glass lining for the inside of the housing.  Wow!  How cool is that??

I took the glass lining out (obviously) and cleaned both the glass and chrome housing.  Two new bulbs now illuminate the license plate nicely.

Here’s  another shot of the two pieces side-by-side:

License Plate Light Housing and Glass Insert

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