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Thread: Sprite woes

Discuss the Austin Healey Sprite and the MG Midget. Two different but similar cars sometimes referred to collectively as the Spridget.

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    Sprite woes

    Hello everyone,

    I am hoping that you nice, knowledgeable people can help me before I lose complete faith in my little car.

    I own a 1960 Sprite Mk.1 with matching engine. Despite a considerable amount of time, money and effort I don't think it has done more than two consecutive journeys without a major problem arising. I took the car out recently and it started first time and everything went well, however, the next day the car was dead, no power to anything. I checked the battery and it was fine, it was brand new in the car with an electrical cut out. I am presuming that with such a complete power failure it might be a faulty ignition switch but I am far from certain.

    I would appreciate any input on how and where to check so that the Sprite might set a new record of three consecutive journeys without a rescue vehicle in attendance.

    Many thanks,

    Vivien

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    Jedi Warrior
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    Re: Sprite woes

    Sounds to me like it could be a bad generator.
    If that is the case there is a new thing called a genernator that replaces the generator and is much better. It is actually a alternator that looks like your generator and looks like your generator, but is much better and runs your mechanical tach drive also.

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    Darth Vader Bayless's Avatar
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    Re: Sprite woes

    Well first, welcome to BCF Vivien. Now I don't think one can expect new car reliability from a nearly 60 year old anything. Something better than what you described is surely possible though.

    You say nothing works. The headlights and probably the horn should work even with the ignition switch off so check that first. If no work or really weak, I would suspect dirty connections at the battery cables first. Remove, clean and replace then try again. Also, it might be the ground where the battery ground cable connects to the firewall right close to the battery. The horn does go through a fuse that could be blown but the headlights do not. If not these then check back here and we will get you through this. It would help if you have a wiring diagram and a multi-meter to check the wiring. Either way, let us know how it came out.
    Was Man nicht im Kopf hat muss Man in den Beinen haben
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    Re: Sprite woes

    If the battery is good, as you say, "I checked the battery and it was fine, it was brand new in the car with an electrical cut out" meaning good voltage that stays there under load like when you turn the headlamps on, not the generator.
    Remember the first rule of Automotive Repair, which states "Just because it's a new part doesn't mean it's a good part."

    How much have you changed?

    At least get a test light (and ignore folks who tell you you can't do that), check from battery to load, looking for voltage or lack thereof. You can clip the light to the hot terminal of the battery to test for grounds.
    Battery voltage under load better than 12 check the load side of the cutout first, then proceed.

    Just a process of elimination.

    Now, if your good battery drops to 8-9 volts with headlamps on, that's another issue, charge the battery and see.

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    Re: Sprite woes

    Thank you for the various suggestions, I do appreciate your input.

    The car has a Dynamator, the alternator that looks like a dynamo which it has been running for about a year and an electronic distributor. The first thing I noticed was that the electric fuel pump wasn't working when the ignition was switched on and that neither lights or horn were operative.

    I have checked and cleaned the battery terminals and hopefully I can work my way back from there and let you know.

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    Re: Sprite woes

    Did you check fuses?

    clean the contacts of the fuse holder.

    Clean all of the green off of electrical connections and every bullet connectir
    Jim Gruber - Apollo Beach, FL
    Bugsy I - '68 Sprite w BE Bonnet - Gone but not forgotten
    Bugsy IV - '60 Bugeye - 1,275+.040 and a 5-Speed - CA Car - 2nd Owner from new - 10/12 Painting done, reassembly, cutting, and buffing in progress.

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    Re: Sprite woes

    Just thought I would give an update on this saga.

    I was checking over the car last night in respect of battery and electrical connections, even after cleaning and checking, the car remained lifeless. I put a meter on the battery and it was showing a distinctly low charge, I decided to put a trickle charger on it which was fluctuating all over the place and I abandoned that idea just in case I was doing more harm than good. Before I packed up I tried to start the car and it fired up first time, whereas 2 minutes earlier there was nothing working.

    Whilst I was pleased to hear it fire up I still haven't found the root cause of the problem and I would be nervous taking it out for a run on that basis. The investigation goes on.

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    Re: Sprite woes

    Could you describe “electrical cutout “.
    "Age considers; youth ventures." Rabindranth Tagore
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    Re: Sprite woes

    I still think it is your generator. The fact that putting a battery charger on it makes me lean strongly in that direction.

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    Re: Sprite woes

    So, here's the issue.
    You have a problem.
    Ask for help.
    All good.

    Could be this, could be that.....but the DIFFERENCE between a parts changer and a mechanic...is the mechanic figures out what's wrong before throwing parts and money at a problem

    Voltage readings.

    I mention battery early on as being something to at least charge....."looks good" has zero relevance to the issue.
    Cadavers at the mortuary "look good".

    5 minutes of flickering trickle charge ain't gonna miraculously fix it.

    You can listen to folks tell you what to change....or figure it out for yourself.

    Like in math, you can learn thousands of "answers", but once you learn the few "principles" you can answer any question, without trying to remember which answer and which one!

    I am surprised nobody told you it's the coil.

    It's ALWAYS the coil.
    Just read these forums and you'll see.

    I had an issue a couple of months ago...truck stuttering in the morning, much worse with headlamps on....charge system not really working right....but sure looked like the coil....low voltages, stuttering...but you know how many actual coil failures I have had personally? I think it's like zero. Running and owning shops? Mechanics changed dozens. Brought them all home and tested them on my old Snap-On coil tester.

    Two. Whole life working on cars, two.
    My problem?
    Testing...voltages...to the point of confirmation with a hot-wire....and it's the ignition switch. High resistance, low voltage...Ohm's Law. Stakes had come loose, bakelite backing had backed out almost 3/16".

    You NEED a voltmeter. You NEED a test light.

    I don't mind the time to walk you down the path, so YOU can see and understand...become a better owner and mechanic....but nobody else is asking for any data.

    Run off, swap out the parts. In the process you might just disturb the point that is creating your problem, and IT'S A MIRACLE!.....except two weeks from now, you hit a pot hole, and it dies.

    Find the problem, Develop a repair scenario.

    I'll watch, but won't contribute to this thread any longer until I see some real data.

    NOBODY is going to be able to ask you to put your smartphone on the bonnet and remotely diagnose your issue.

    Others have asked about your cutout switch, as have I. You NEED to answer the questions...the answers give data to those trying to help.

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    Re: Sprite woes

    My suspicion is the battery itself. When batteries went from the hard rubber case (any old timers out there remember those heavy buggers) to the thin plastic case the manufacturers also went to thinner, less substantial internals. A battery tech with Exide about 35 years ago told me to shake the battery along the long axis with a voltmeter and watch the readings. What apparently happens is the plates / cells break loose and can be one of 3 situations: Full voltage (all plates in contact but possibly loose internal connection), no voltage (plates shifted and create an open circuit) or partial voltage which occurs when one or more cells become a direct short. Each cell being ~ 2 volts, one shorted cell would be a nominal 10 volt battery, 2 cells an 8 volt battery, etc. I have had this happen on several occasions through the years. Car goes dead after running fine or won't start or even make a sound. Jump start, slam the door, shake the battery, etc. all of a sudden it is back to life with a full charge like nothing ever happened and you stand there, scratching your head wonder what demon is possessing it now? Just my 2 cents worth!

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    Obi Wan
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    Re: Sprite woes

    Even some rudimentary diagnostic equipment -- test light and voltmeter as TOC indicated -- would probably go a long way to finding your problem. If you're really unsure of the problem, the best bet is to start from square one, the battery, and follow the electrical flow.

    A mentor of mine always had a fairly simple approach: Analyze the problem. Come up with a solution, and if you think it through long enough, there is always a solution. Come up with a "Plan B" for your solution just in case your initial solution is wrong. And, his approach almost always works whenever I've hit a road block.

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