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Electronics Need help wiring something up? Thinking of adding an electrical component to your car? Need help troubleshooting that wiring glitch?

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Old 01-10-2010, 06:49 AM   #1
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Hook up the Cable wrong.

Hi all,
I'm buying this 1982 camaro and picking it up on wednesday, but this happen yesterday.

I'm trying to find out if I hurt my car by hooking up the battery the WRONG way. I was not paying enough attention to how I unhooked it, both of the cable were red. I hooked it up for only a few seconds, to 5 seconds but there was a lot of smoking coming from behind the distributor, and smoking coming from the left side of the alternator.

I then put the cables right and tried to start the car and didn't get any fire at all. I didn't stay to much longer after that because I had to leave, I was wonder is there was no fuel in the car or did I really miss up the wiring.
I read online earlier today on some other sites that I could have fried all electrical components, including the computer. I also read that it could just be a fusible link.

Where should I go about this?

Thanks so much for reading, and for any advice.

CG
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Old 01-10-2010, 07:04 AM   #2
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Re: Hook up the Cable wrong.

Sorry, but the chances are good that you cooked something. From what you describe, you most likely burned your alternator and distributor ignition module. Smoke is usually a bad sign.

So, what now? Troubleshoot. The easiest way to TS the alternator at this point would be to remove it and take it to a parts store. They will usually test it for you for free. If you just want to see if the car will start, disconnect all wires to the alternator and try to start it, making sure that you tape over any exposed wire ends to avoid a short to ground. If the car starts without the alternator, then the worst case scenario is you need to replace the alternator.

If the car still won't start with the alternator removed/disconnected, pull one spark plug wire, insert a philips screwdriver in the boot, and secure it so that the shaft of the screwdriver is about a quarter inch from ground. Have someone crank the engine while you watch. If no spark, pop the distributor cap off, and remove the module. With smoke coming out of the distributor and no spark, I'd think it's a safe bet that the module has been fried. You may see visual evidence of damage, or not. In any case, at this point, I'd replace the module.

One thing I will say: although the electronic components in your car are subject to failure from incorrect connection, it is often the case that they will survive such an incident. I've been lucky a few times myself. If you are lucky, your ECM has survived this little episode.

Rather than write a book, I'll wait until you have completed the above to comment further, if necessary. Good luck.
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Old 01-10-2010, 07:37 AM   #3
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Re: Hook up the Cable wrong.

When u say the module in the distributor, is that the whole distributor or the control module?
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Old 01-10-2010, 11:30 AM   #4
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Re: Hook up the Cable wrong.

if the ignition was not switched on,the ignition module
would not be damaged(the module under the rotor)
smoke from behind the distributor was probably a fuse
link or ground strap.Alternator as almost certainly fried
i can't remember if the ECM has a protection diode-if it
does, may have only blown the fuse. If the ignition is
working,car will start with ECM inop-just will run nasty
with no power.If there is no spark,check that there is
power to the red distributor wire.
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Old 01-11-2010, 05:30 AM   #5
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Re: Hook up the Cable wrong.

Nick, as the other poster warned, smoke is usually the after effect of damage done to electrical components. Some survive, some don't.

The fusible link is however a good place to start. The problem is identifying this apparently orange wire will be difficult if it's cooked. The fusible links on my much older Chevys were just a wire of a certain resistance, and too much heat would simply melt the wire at some point.

So I would look back by the distributor which is where this wire usually is running and see if you find a wire that is crispy or may not even have any insulation left on it. If you find such a wire, then pull it a bit and see if it's just dangling. If so find the other end and replace it, and see if you can start it. My recollection is you can replace this with any guage wire - short term, but don't go with something like speaker wire. If you put too heavy a guage wire in there and make a mistake later, you will definitely cook things. Remember to disconnect the negative side of the battery when you are doing this work, as this link looks like it is always hot in the 82 wiring diagram.

The other thing by the distributor is the ignition module. I'm not familiar with them on this year vehicle but it may be cooked as well (in other words even if you replace the fusible link, it still might not start).

The alternator is likely a much easier fix. Chances are that you only fried the diodes in the built in voltage regulator. These are probably still well under $20 and pretty east to replace (after disconnecting the negative side of the battery so you don't short something out when you are wrenching on it). If I recall correctly, it's like three nuts and 1 wire, you slide it out and slide in the new one. The alternator might have further damage but you won't know until you try the new voltage regulator.

I've included a link to some wiring diagrams on a 3rd gen Camaro site. When you open the diagram that fits your car, you can left click on the diagram and save it to your own computer so you can blow it up or print it out. (That may be a right click, some of my mice are reversed and I always get confused which is which but you get my point, use the button that you don't normally use to click on something).

My personal bet is that you did fry the ignition module, which is under $30 at Advance or Autozone type places if they have it in stock. There are some other parts back there that are less likely candidates (a ballast resister may be there based on the Autozone parts available, so if you can find that check to see if it looks cooked - it will probably just about crumble if it's gone).

I normally don't advocate part swapping to find problems, but it sounds like you might not be in a position to have the tools to properly trouble shoot this, so I'd go buy the ignition module and give it a shot.

If it starts then, but the alternator light is lit (and there is no screaming noise from the fan belt) then replace the voltage regulator in the alternator. If when you start it, the belt is screaming quickly check to see if the alternator is spinning, if not then the alternator itself got welded. These are not hugely expensive items, under $100.


Someone sent me this so I just want to post it for more information.
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Old 01-13-2010, 08:56 PM   #6
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Re: Hook up the Cable wrong.

Alright, so I got it start for maybe 5 secs then I died, GF wants me to call it a night. It was all right I burnt the red wire to the distributor, and I believe I'll need a new alternator. I'll tape it up tomorrow and get the beast running good. I would also like to know if anyone can recommend a battery for me to use, it seem like I wasn't getting all the power to start the car, in other words just wasn't turning very well.
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Old 01-14-2010, 12:41 PM   #7
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Smattery Of Batteries

I like Optima.

The dual terminals let me easily hookup all the electronic goodies I added.


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How bout those nitwits too scared to drive without headlights in the daytime, and the nitwits that need headlights for a little rain

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Old 03-23-2010, 02:45 PM   #8
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Re: Smattery Of Batteries

Recommended Cold Cranking amps is about 525 for these cars. The Optima replacement battery uses 720 CCA. The yellow top uses even more, but is more for stereo systems and heavy electronics, whereas the red top is for performance and starting. I enjoy the lovely look of my SpiralCell Optima.
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Old 03-23-2010, 02:45 PM
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