LOOK AFTER YOUR ELECTRICAL
MANY and furious are the arguments which develop among owners as to what is the most troublesome item of the modern car, and there is no doubt that the electrical equipment comes in for a deal of abuse. Actually the modern car is a very remarkably reliable piece of mechanism, an the real answer to the above argument can probably be summed up as that part which the owner most neglects. The keen owner usually takes good care of his engine and chassis, for he can immediately notice any falling off in per
formance and wishes to get best out of his car. In the matter of the dynamo, battery, etc., he is often not so careful, and is inclined to think that as long as they work, all is well. Then one day—or more likely one night—something goes wrong, and he is left cursing the manufacturers of these items when the fault is mainly or entirely his own.
If you are just taking delivery of a new car there is little to be done beyond looking after the level of the electrolyte in the battery, but if you are just finishing a summer’s hard motoring, and intend to have a trouble-free winter’s driving, there is quite a lot of work to be done, especially if it is not the car’s first season. If you have plenty of money you can, of course, run the car into the maker’s service station and say, ” Make this electrical gear as new.” The result will be (a) (we hope) complete reliability, (b) (we fear), a large bill and (c) (quite definitely), no more interest in this part of the equip
If, on the other hand, you wish to make your money go as far as possible, the service station can be kept as a resort for essential jobs that are outside your scope, and most of the work done at home.
Probably the most sensitive and the worst treated object on the car is the battery. If the starter has been getting sluggish during the summer months it almost certainly means that the battery has seeil its best days and requires renewing or at least overhauling. As the effects of this will be become far more marked as the cold weather comes on, with consequent gumminess in the engine of a morning, it is very unwise to postpone .attention to this point.
Batteries are often much abused, and. -it says a great d.eal for their maker’s skill and the quality of their material that they stand up as well as they do.
The average sports car is subjected to vibration and hammering far beyond that .of a gently-used town carriage, and therefore the battery cannot be expected to give the same length of service. An.other thing about a sports car which gives the battery a harder job is the fact that a high compression engine takes a lot more turning over than its more” woolly” ‘brethren. One of the best points in the regulations ;for the sports car races which are now such
A little attention to details obviates many common troubles.
a feature of the international calendar, is the necessity for starting the engine on the starter at all times. This has meant that batteries have to be built to stand. very severe vibration and the benefit has been passed on to the private owner. Therefore when buying a new battery, an essential expense in the case of any sports car of more than a season or two’s service, be sure to go for a wall known make, with a reputation to keep up, and beware of ” cheap lines.” Several of the leading makes have recently been reduced in, price and this makes this renewal easier on the pocket than it was.
Having got the battery in good order the next thing is to see that the means of charging the same is also in good condition.
In a car which has seen much service it is often the simplest part of the system, that is the actual wiring, which is the chief source of trouble. Much of the wire is led under the bodywork and exposed to all the mud, and water available, and although of good quality, may eventually perish and break at one of the clips. The practice of leading wires through gaps at the edge of the floor boards or valances is also one not to be encouraged, as the chafing effect usually causes trouble before long.
The best thing to do before any trouble starts is to trace out the complete wiring system of the car, and make a real note of it, so that in an emergency you know where to get at any part. This job entails a good deal of contortion and crawling under the car but it is worth it when you have to trace out some broken connection on. a dark night.
To avoid as much as possible any of this night work, any doubtful wiring should be replaced with really good quality wire, great care being taken to avoid chafing or long unsupported sections which can flap in the breeze. Also avoid leading wires near the exhaust system. There is a great feeling of satisfaction in carrying out a neat piece of wiring, and a little thought will make for symmetry and accessibility, as well as avoiding those mysterious short circuits and breaks which occur after much use.
The Dynamo. Having verified the condition of the wiring the dynamo should be looked over. The few drops of thin oil which are supposed to be inserted in sundry bearings every few hundred miles—but so rarely are—may be dealt with, and the brushes and commutator examined and cleaned with a rag dipped in petrol, and the brushes replaced if much worn. Apart
from this the dynamo needs no attention, or if it does it should be taken, to the maker’s service station or some firm who Specialise in this class of work, as rewinding etc., is beyond the scope of the amateur mechanic. The switch gear and cut out must also be treated, with respect and although the mechanical details of the switches can be attended to by any intelligent owner, the remainder should be left alone. In any case, no work on these parts should be required if they are well made, and if the charge rate suddenly falls or ceases, it is usually a case for the service station unless the owner is an electrician.
There are many drivers who prefer travelling by night rather than by day, and there is a great fascination in a long run on a fine night. The first essential for this is first class head lamps correctly focussed, and once the rest of the system is in good order a few hours spent in getting the head lamps just right will be well repaid,. For those who can afford it, special head lamps, such as the big Lucas, are well worth buying as an extra if not already fitted to the car, and always new bulbs should be fitted, before the winter comes on, as although the old. ones may still work, they are certain to have deteriorated after many months hard driving, and some illumination will be lost.
With regard to size of bulbs, that is their current consumption, there is always a temptation to get the largest possible type without making certain that the dynamo output is equal to the load. The lamps should never take so much current that the ammeter is registering even the slightest discharge with everything turned on and the engine running.
Apart from the fact that the battery will gradually become exhausted on a long run, such as a night trial, the actual brilliance of the light is markedly greater if the dynamo output is slightly greater than, the current required. This is due to the fact that a battery actually “on charge” has a slightly higher E.M.P. than, the normal figure when. in use. Therefore, if you have set your heart on some outsize in lamps you may have to exchange the dynamo for one of greater capacity. The actual charging rate can be altered slightly by rotation of the bru,shes relative to the pole pieces, but this is only available for small adjustments. Any attempt to get much more than the designed output from any dynamo is almost certain to lead to trouble.
The starter, being comparatively little used, should require nothing beyond cleaning, and oiling of the bendix pinion, with a very light oil to prevent gumming.
The above jobs have none of the interest or excitement of engine tuning, but when your car is humming along on a frosty night behind a healthy beam of light, the feeling of confidence that the beam will not fail is well worth a little trouble and expense.—B.
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