Starters, Alternators and Headlights....Oh My!!

Discussion in 'Sparky's corner' started by pancher1, Apr 28, 2020.

  1. pancher1

    pancher1 Well-Known Member

    After a lot of years of my 1973 Buick Regal being out of commission, I am about to get it back on the road.
    Here is a quick list of what is not stock:
    1) It has a 350TPI motor from a 199o camaro replete with the alternator, power steering pump and serpentine belt setup.
    2) Sniper EFI system and fuel tank and an HEI distributor with an MSD box.
    3) Powermaster starter that has just two terminals: the power terminal and the switched power connection

    With that said, the Buick did start and run before I started all of this work (the original 350 was going south quickly). The 350 ran when it came out of my 1990 camaro street/strip car.

    Now, onto the problem: There is no power to anything except the headlights! The first issue I found is that I had the purple wire from the original starter wiring hooked to the switched power terminal on the new starter instead of the battery connection. That change made it so my headlights would turn on, but there is no power to anything else. Radio, horn, etc are all dead. Other issue is that there seems to be a wire missing for the other terminal on the starter. Which wire originally went there?

    The wiring harness is 99% original. I had converted to HEI on the original 350. The only other change I made was cleaning up the wiring routing to make room for the Sniper harness. I have never wired a newer alternator and starter into an older car. I think combining that with the Sniper was my downfall :(
  2. LARRY70GS

    LARRY70GS a.k.a. "THE WIZARD"

    On the big lug of the starter solenoid, there should be 3 connections, the +battery cable, and 2 main power feed wires. One of the power feeds is 10 ga, the other is 12 ga. The smaller power feed is for the HEADLIGHTS only, the larger power feed is for EVERYTHING else. BOTH of the power feeds are protected with fusible links. The fusible links are the last 6" or so of both power feeds, they are 4 sizes smaller than the wire they protect. They are made to sacrifice themselves and cut power in the event of a major short. This is so your car doesn't burn to the ground. Either you are missing the larger power feed wire, or, the fusible link is blown.

    The purple wire is the solenoid activation wire. The other smaller terminal was for a resistor wire bypass. You only need that with points. You have an HEI, you don't need it.

    Last edited: Apr 28, 2020
  3. pancher1

    pancher1 Well-Known Member

    Thanks Larry! So the purple does go to that other terminal. Looks like I had that correct and didn't realize it. The "other wire" that I was remembering must have been the one associated with the points. I'll have to test the fusible links to make sure there is power on both sides of the link. Maybe it is as easy as replacing those.

    Any thoughts on the wiring for the newer CS alternator?
  4. LARRY70GS

    LARRY70GS a.k.a. "THE WIZARD"

    Have a look at this video,

    Last edited: Apr 28, 2020
  5. pancher1

    pancher1 Well-Known Member


    You have been a big help! Thank you so much. I hope to have time tomorrow to go the garage (with my 15yr old son in tow) and test the wires for the starter and get the alternator hooked up correctly (I believe I did a good job of wiring it incorrectly at the moment!).

    Last question: I have several circuits (Alternator, MSD and Sniper) that need a switched 12v wire. Where is the best place to pull that from?
  6. LARRY70GS

    LARRY70GS a.k.a. "THE WIZARD"

    Have a look on your fuse block. There is usually a connection marked IGN.

  7. pancher1

    pancher1 Well-Known Member

    UPDATE! I had a chance to go work on the car last night. As with most things in life, reality turned out to be much stranger than fiction ever could be. I only had one red wire, 12g, going back to the bulkhead connector. It had power directly form the battery (connected at the lug on the starter) and it was powering only the headlights. Just like Larry said it would! So, where was my other red wire? The heavy 10g wire?

    I started at the starter and began removing loom and chasing wires. There were two wires (besides the main feed from the battery) connected to the starter. Both had a fusible link and both links looked good and tested ok on either side. Further up the loom, the wires, the one must have combined with another wire at a soldered connection. The wire that remained (Black with red stripe) went to the buzzer on the firewall. A little further along, I found a yellow wire that wasn't hooked to anything and it had a butt-end connector that was uncrimped. That was my "aha" moment! I remember when I started this project months ago that the yellow wire was a little rough. I clipped it back and meant to replace it and join it back to the junction on the power wire mentioned above. I also wanted to fix the soldered junction. But why was the wire yellow instead of red? And why was it only 14g instead of 10g?

    I traced the wire all the way back to the bulkhead connector and found my answer! At some point, the original red wire must have burnt (maybe because of the bad soldered connection??). The PO removed the entire wire and put in a new, very thin gage, yellow wire in its place. He (or she) also pulled the spade from the bulkhead connector, drilled a hole in the connector, and squeezed in a crimp-on spade that was attached to the yellow wire. And the bolt for the bulkhead connector was gone! I did the best I could....

    I ran a n new 10g RED wire with a new spade connector from the bulkhead all the way back to that splice joint. I cut out the soldered connection and put in a heavy butt connector and heat shrink tubing. Now, I have power everywhere I am supposed to have it when the key is in different positions.

    Now for the new problem: My GEN light and BRAKE light come on even when the key is not in the column. The GEN light is very dim and it only comes on with the radio turned on (Aftermarket radio of some sort). The radio doesn't play with the key off or even light up. The power switch is just in the on position. If I turn it off, the light goes out. If I turn the key to start, the light goes out (even if I turn the radio on and play some music). The Brake light never goes out, no matter what. Key on, key off, key out and thrown across the room in frustration....the light just stays on. The connector to the proportioning valve is hooked up and it is a newer valve. There is brake fluid in the system, they are bled and seem to work fine (on the lift anyway). I haven't started the car yet, but I did give the starter a test hit with the key and it turns. The buzzer on the firewall seems to be very intermittent. Sometimes it runs and sometimes it doesn't (not sure that means anything).

    Anyone have any ideas? Should I just finish wiring the Sniper and fire it up and not worry about the warning lights for now? Should I unhook this crappy aftermarket radio and investigate the wiring nightmare that surely joins it to the Buick's under-dash masterpiece of wiring?
  8. LARRY70GS

    LARRY70GS a.k.a. "THE WIZARD"

    If it was me, I would buy a new engine wiring harness. The main power wire should tee off to the alternator. Your car originally had an external regulated alternator. That only adds to the problem. You are way better off starting with new wiring rather than dealing with a hack job.

    Yes, unhook the radio, that is low priority compared to the rest.
  9. BuickV8Mike

    BuickV8Mike SD Buick Fan

    My GEN light came on when I had a wrong external voltage regulator. Does the brake light go off when the emergency brake is released?
  10. pancher1

    pancher1 Well-Known Member

    I have the updated CS130 alternator and have not gone through the wiring for that yet (video attached above). That is next on my list. The Brake light does not change with position of the E-brake :(

    I did a little searching and wasn't finding wiring harnesses for a 1973 Buick Regal. Anyone know where they can be purchased? I restored a 1971 Monte Carlo years ago and that wiring looked VERY similar in layout to this wiring.
  11. LARRY70GS

    LARRY70GS a.k.a. "THE WIZARD"

  12. pancher1

    pancher1 Well-Known Member

    Thanks again Larry. I will reach out to Todd and see if he can supply the harness. Looking at the website, it seems like they have conversion plugs for different (newer) starters and alternators.
  13. pancher1

    pancher1 Well-Known Member

    No luck with a new harness. It doesn’t look like anyone offers one specific to the 73 Regal. I did make it to the garage tonight, and here is what I found:

    1) alternator was almost correct and now it is correct (per the video posted above).
    2) fixing the alternator made no difference to the warning lights. Unplugging it totally makes no difference.
    3) most of the systems appear to be working correctly. All of the lights, horn, radio, starter cranks, interior lights, etc.
    4) buzzer does not appear to be working correctly. It is hit or miss depending on key position. As soon as I connect the battery, I can hear a very faint buzz coming from the engine compartment. In addition, the brake and gen light come on (as mentioned above).
    5) I saved the weirdest for last! The wire to the brake switch in the engine compartment and the one going to the parking brake switch have 12v constant power. Shouldn’t these switches be grounds? I wouldn’t have expected there to be voltage in the wire going to the switch. If I unplug the switch in the engine bay, the dash light does go out.

    I’m stumped! If anyone has an idea or a lead on a wiring harness, let me know! I am tempted to buy a harness for a 72 and try to make it work.
  14. LARRY70GS

    LARRY70GS a.k.a. "THE WIZARD"

    BuickV8Mike likes this.
  15. pancher1

    pancher1 Well-Known Member

    I actually have one I bought off of this website years ago. I just need to locate it....LOL

    I was sitting up last night thinking about this. I haven't changed much of anything between when things were fine and now that things aren't. All of the "new" stuff (Sniper, Fuel pump. etc) is wired in its own, standalone harness and that harness isn't hooked into power yet. The changes were: new starter (that seems to be wired correctly and working), new alternator (wired correctly now) and that mysterious wire that I replaced with the correct 10g wire. The issue has to be in the bulkhead connector where that wire replacement happened. Somehow, there is power getting into a circuit that shouldn't have power. Why else would the tan and white wire going to the brake prop valve be showing 12v power when the battery is plugged in?
  16. LARRY70GS

    LARRY70GS a.k.a. "THE WIZARD"

    The brake warning switch closes to ground when there is unequal pressure in the front and rear braking. 12 volts on the tan/white wire might be normal.
  17. pancher1

    pancher1 Well-Known Member

    Aha. Thanks for that schematic Larry. It is possible that my switch to a 9" rear (and associated brakes) caused some imbalance. The breaks feel okay, but I haven't driven it around yet. I think my plan will be to get it started and then go from there. I'll leave the wires all out of the loom for now in case I have to do more diagnostic work.
  18. pancher1

    pancher1 Well-Known Member

    Wiring fixed (mostly)! There was a power wire I had hooked up incorrectly. Some of the wires in the harness are no longer original or original color, so when looking at the schematics, I got a little confused. I had to trace everything back to the bulkhead connector and work my way out form there and ignore the colors.

    I ran the setup for the Sniper last night and tested the fuel pump. Gas spray everywhere! It turns out that if you just finger tighten fittings, they will not seal well against 50psi. My issue now is: no spark :( I have a feeling it might be my 20 year old MSD 6A box. I need to run a diagnostic check on that tonight.
  19. LARRY70GS

    LARRY70GS a.k.a. "THE WIZARD"

    Easy enough to do. If the box checks out OK, it might be the magnetic pick up in the HEI.
  20. pancher1

    pancher1 Well-Known Member

    A little update (in case anyone happens to be enjoying my misery): The box tested fine. The coil tested fine. I think it is the pickup. I also tested some of the wires going back to the Sniper handheld LCD display. It is getting power, but the screen is not turning on anymore. I called Holley a few times and sat on hold for 1/2 hour. I'll have to try again.

    In the meantime, I pulled the Sniper off and put my Demon carb back on and also dropped in my GM Performance part HEI. My plan is to just get it running for now and then work on diagnosing the Sniper issue.

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