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1969 Buick Electra 225 a bit TOO Eager to Start

Today I purchased a 1969 Buick Electra 225 that, frankly, is way too nice for the 500 dollars I paid for it. It runs strong, but the problem I’m having with it is getting it started in a reasonable way. Right now, whenever the battery is connected, the beast roars to life, lack of key in the ignition be damned. Also, whenever the ground cable gets close to the battery lead, we get lots of sparks that melt the lead a bit, sort of unpleasant and unsafe.

The previous owner told me that he recently replaced the starter, which is when the problem started. We actually had to buy a new ground cable because the insulation on the old one had melted off. I’ve tried doing a little research on the internet, and the general consensus was that one of the wires connected to the starter might be out of place, but I’ve fiddled with it some and everything seems to be in place. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated, I’m happy to provide additional details if necessary.


Crawl under there (safely) and take a picture of the wiring at the starter and we’ll go from there.

Okay, it’s pretty late here right now and I don’t have it up on stands, but I got a couple of OK pictures. If these don’t cut it, I’ll snap some more in the morning.

I’m fully aware that one of the cables is disconnected; that’s on purpose, we were fiddling with the whole thing while waiting for the tow truck and ran out of time with it still detached. Here’s where it was originally positioned:

The positive battery cable is loose and touching the solenoid terminal.

Tighten the positive battery cable to the starter so that it is not touching the he solenoid terminal. The wire disconnected probably supplies power to the interior functions of the vehicle.

I think Nevada is referring to this: (look at circled area in this copy of your photo)

I concur with the good advice from @Nevada_545 about the terminal touching the smaller solenoid screw contact. I also think you have some other issues that are seen in the picture. The wire going to the yellow ring terminal shows signs of damage to the insulation of the wire and should be replaced. That wire most likely supplies power to the rest of the car. It should tie to a fuse or fusible link in case of an overload on that wire. That wire should be at least a 10 gauge wire if that is the case. Another issue is the smaller black wire on the left side of the picture. The wire is solid and it should be stranded wire and terminated with a ring terminal. I’m not sure, but that wire may be a ground wire for the solenoid.

Once you correct the main lead from touching the smaller solenoid terminal then hopefully the sparking with stop when you connect the battery connections. If it doesn’t then you either have a short or high current load most likely on the lead with the yellow terminal. If you isolate that wire and the sparking stops then you have to trace down the problem on that lead. If it ties to a fuse panel you can start pulling fuses one at a time to isolate things further.

Yes I would have to agree with the boys above…that Hot batt wire was indeed touching the solenoid trigger…so whenever the batt was hooked up…it completed the start circuit.

You will have this sussed out in a Jiffy… The guys called it just follow their “Lead” get it “Lead” haha

Another vote for the big battery cable touching the smaller “S” terminal on the solenoid.

Yes, a picture is worth a thousand words! I agree with the others. I would also get all new cables.

Yes. New cables. And the battery connection at the solenoid would benefit from a properly located 90* bend.

It would help if the main battery wire terminal was bent and also taped up so only the contact area to the solenoid was exposed. If that lead happened to touch the engine block or any other ground point then some real melting would very quickly happen.

Thanks everyone for your suggestions! I bent the main battery wire up and taped it, like Cougar suggested, and now when I hook up the battery, no sparks! However, when I try to start the car (the proper way), I get absolutely nothing. I checked the battery charge level, and it was a little low, but not quite low enough for completely nothing to happen. I’m gonna double check all the other connections, working on fixing the insulation and getting new cables as well.

Remove each cable and make sure the area underneath the connection is clean. There is also the possibility of a cable having internal corrosion.

How did you check the battery charge level? It could well be that the battery is damaged.

Well, I suppose this could be the problem. New cables are sounding pretty good right about now.

Bill - I checked the charge with a marine/automobile battery charger, it said 69%.

It takes two separate wires to crank the engine. The main power from the battery, usually a big thick wire. And the “start” wire, a smaller diameter wires, which is only powered up with the key in the “start” position. It may be your prior crossed wires has somehow blown a fuse or damaged a connection or something, preventing the “start” signal from getting to where it needs to go.

Did you connect the eyelet with the yellow insulator? That looks like the fusible link junction for the car. The ignition switch won’t work with the fusible links disconnected.

Edit; I now see the new picture, you’ll have to replace the burned fuse links.

Ok, thanks to your suggestions, electrical components of the starter all seem to be worked out now! Battery no longer sparks, and the starter actually turns! Hooray!

However, we have discovered a new mechanical problem. The starter, instead of engaging, turning the flex plate, then disengaging, gets stuck connected to the flex plate, and the two grind together. A (temporary) fix we discovered was to simply loosen the starter bolts until we could jiggle it enough for the starter to become loose and disengage. With this strategy, we managed to start the engine 3 or 4 times before it became stuck again. Think we’re gonna have to shim it later this week.

Shimming starters is pretty common on older GM cars. Last time I bought a package I think it was about 3 bucks at AutoZone. Use the thinnest shim that can do the job.

That being said, I think you got a steal and then some on this car. Nice.