Solenoid? Solenot!

There was an unusual moment with the ‘Bird last week when the car failed to start. Odder still, because I wasn’t there at the time. (My son had the car, which is another story.) A jump across the solenoid was enough to get it running and home again, where I experienced the issue firsthand.

New solenoid
New solenoid wired up and ready to go.

Early on, I was going through solenoids like crazy. When they went, there would be no power to the car anywhere. This time, turning the key to start activated some systems (the seat belt warning light for one) but not the starter. Other stuff worked too—lights, radio, etc.

I replaced the solenoid; simple to do and cheap enough. I even replaced the aging connectors with new terminals, soldered in place. The result: no change. I was scratching my head until someone suggested fiddling with the gear selector.

The neutral safety switch!

The gearshift trick didn’t work, but I got a hand on the switch at the base of the column and pushed on the connector. It seemed tight, but it felt like the switch had been stuck—at least it felt like it snapped back into position while I was feeling around blindly. I also pulled the wiring out from under the carpeting and inspected it. Whether it was a stuck switch or a loose wire, when I turned the key again, the motor fired right up.

Flattening the carb
Sandpaper, glass, table saw. The metal on the base is very soft, took no time at all to make things better.

Cleaning out the garage last month, I came across the Autolite carb I had planned to use a year or so ago. Thinking I had nothing to lose, I pulled it apart and got some advice from the friendly folks on the VTCI forum. Working with them, I found that the baseplate was warped and there were serious defects around the seal for the secondary venturis.

I was able to patch the secondaries with epoxy putty, then used sandpaper on a flat piece of glass to flatten and straighten the base out. Once I dig up the ancillary pieces (linkage, choke tubes and the like), I’ll take another stab at installing and running it.