Booster Masthead

Restoration Blvd.
December 2005/January 2006

Columnist — Allen Wright

Twinkling Lights: Good for the Holidays, Bad on Vehicles

Here we are at the end of 2005, moving into 2006. This year, with the gasoline and oil prices going nuts, has certainly been interesting.

A friend noted recently, "I haven't seen the white car (the '63 Plymouth). Did you break it?" The truth is the '63 Super Stock runs just fine — or at least it did the last time I fired it up.

The '63 has a couple of small electrical problems that need attention. Bulbs that are blinking, weak, or just aren't lighting up are the major issue. More about those Christmas blinking dash lights later.

Bill Woods of UDC Electronics Inc. sent me a "Battery MINDer BACT" which I will simply call BACT. Bill probably sent a lot of these out to people like me who write for magazines. I tested it out.

Basically, the BACT is a business card-sized instant battery tester that hooks up to the positive and negative terminals with your battery. Push a button and "shazam!" your battery condition is indicated as poor, fair, or good. It will also test your alternator with the engine running and let you know if there is any charging going on.

I gave it a pretty good test on the old cars. It is a lot more convenient than the old faithful Christie T-8 tester. Of course, it really can't load test the battery as the Christie can. The Christie T-8 is a piece of equipment that has served me well over the years.

In the battery tester/charger department of the garage the Christie T-8 tester and the Shumacker 40/200 charger are about all I need. However, all this said, for most people the small convenient Battery MINDer would probably be all they need. The BACT worked perfectly as advertised. I would recommend it for cars, RVs, and trailers — almost anything that has a 12 volt battery.

The first chance I get I am going to hook it up to the battery in my car trailer. No more guessing if the battery-powered winch will work.

For guys with the old 12-volt cars, the BACT will avoid the unhappy moments of a low battery. After years of dealing with old cars it always seems the day you're ready to take the old jewel out it won't start.

The only critical thing I can say about the BACT is its use of marine grade Velcro for installation. It has been my experience that Velcro under the hood simply doesn't work. I would like to see longer leads and a top and bottom eye for more permanent installation.

The website for the BACT is and the retail price is $14.95. I will probably get another for the Plymouth.

It is almost Christmas and I really enjoy twinkling Christmas lights. Twinkling, not working at all, or intermittent lights on the old cars, however, can be frustrating.

One of the key things in restorations is maintaining a strong ground point for lights and devices that are activated by 12 volts. During the excitement of putting the dash back in the '63, I overlooked the step of making sure the ground to the body was complete. Rust inhibitor, primer, and paint are great insulators and cannot be expected to carry the electron flow in an efficient matter.

An example: the 1963 Plymouth's AM radio has always been weak. Some days, Radio Disney was hard to get and you were stuck with KFI and nothing else. Simply by putting a jumper from a good ground to the chassis to the radio made all the difference in the world. With the good ground, AM radio stations from Oakland and the weak Asian stations from L.A. were easily tuned in. I really don't like rap or understand Chinese but the point is: the radio worked better.

With this in mind, I made sure on the current '62 Plymouth restoration that the 10 small screws and two large bolts were clean and wire-brushed. Using a volt meter and remembering Ohm's Law, I tested from the frame to the dash. Very little drop-off meant a good connection and possibly no blinking, weak connections, or other dash component problems.

Electrical problems weren't limited to my old cars this month. The Dodge Van also had issues with its heater blower.

The four position switch — low, medium, high, and blast — was only working on blast. How hard could this be to fix?

First, I checked the fuses. The Dodge has two sets of fuses, one in the glove box and one under the hood. All was well with the fuses and I was amazed how many fuses and circuits the Dodge van has in its wiring.

Next, I checked the wires to the blower. All looked well but the relay 1-4697146C was suspect. A Four Seasons #36103 was purchased from Orange Engine in Anaheim. Installed, it did make a difference. Low, medium, and high were still not working. The highest setting, the one I call "blast," was really blasting. So the new relay was probably needed.

The next thing I checked was the resistors on Chrysler Part #1-04885456AB. None of the resistor coils were a problem and all appeared in good order.

After a discussion with John over at Orange Engine, it was decided that the heater blower switch was the problem. Auto Star #35837 was ordered and delivered. The original Chrysler switch #306-182, made on 07-18-97, had obviously seen better days. The terminals were loose, the switch seemed sloppy and the handle was black plastic.

The Auto Star replacement switch had a chrome handle, tight terminals, and a very firm operating mechanism. I liked the chrome handle!

Again, however, the low, medium, and high functions were not working as hoped. The blast position was really blasting, the best I could remember in 130,000 miles. Another improvement!

After brainstorming and thinking about deeper electrical problems, I went back to the Chrysler resistor trio (remember part #1-04885456AB?). I got out the volt meter and checked all three resistor coils. All three were good — but wait! There was a tiny diode in the center. And, you guessed it, the diode was burned out.

To the Dodge dealer for the resistor block. That part was a $75 special order, cash up front. Sign me up.

When the part arrived, it looked nothing like the part removed. More checking and a $37 part was ordered. The correct part had an air dam plastic piece snapped on it that mine didn't have.

By the way, have you ever tried to get money back from a car dealer? To get my $38 back from my pre-paid order, they practically had to have someone from Detroit flown in to approve the transaction.

When I installed the part, the problem was solved. I now have low, medium, high, and blast. The improvement of blast is really dramatic. In fact it's a little annoying; now it's simply too much air.

I've got to start thinking about Christmas lights twinkling, chasing, flashing and, of course, whole strings not working. With my electrical knowledge, I may be able to turn the outside lights on this year. Or maybe next year — who knows?

Wishing you and your families the best for the holidays and a great New Year.

Originally published in the December 2005/January 2006 Automotive Booster Magazine.
Copyright 2005 by KAL Publications Inc.

Covering the California auto parts aftermarket since 1928.