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Thread: Caught an electrical fire while it was happening!

  1. #1
    Senior Member bfloyd's Avatar
    Join Date:  Nov 2014

    Location:  Lebanon, Tennessee

    Posts:    269

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    Caught an electrical fire while it was happening!

    Took my car to the AACA car show yesterday up in Red Boiling Springs, Tennessee. Typical show... cars everywhere, people everywhere, and more "flux capacitor" jokes than should really be allowed. Anyway, I was sitting in my lawn chair at the rear of the car talking with an elderly gentleman about my car when he said, "Is there supposed to be smoke coming out of there?" I looked up and smoke was starting to pour out of the right side of the engine bay, right above the alternator. I leaned over into the engine and sniffed to see if I could tell if it was fuel or electrical. It was definitely electrical. I ran around to the passenger side of the cabin, flipped up the passengers seat and flipped off the battery cut-off switch which is installed in the battery compartment cover. The smoke stopped, but the smell and smoldering continued for a little. By now I had a decent sized crowd around my car. I really think the old Chevy and Mopar guys wanted to see a Delorean burn.

    I crawled under the rear of the car and found the source of the fire. On my car, there are 6 brown wires all coming together and terminating to one bolt on the rear of the alternator.
    One of the wires was bent over in such a way that it's insulation was rubbing the rear case of the alternator. I guess it eventually rubbed-thru and was shorting out on the rear of the alternator. It got hot enough where it started to melt the wires above it too. I removed the key from my battery switch and then used a flat blade screwdriver to bend the ring terminal out away from the alternator case and then wrapped the crap out of it with electrical tape. If I hadn't been right there when it happened, it probably would have caught the whole car on fire.



    Drove it an hour back home after the show and everything seems to be fine. I'll clean up the wiring mess and heat-shrink everything one night this week.
    Barry Floyd
    Lebanon, Tennessee
    VIN 3294 - Aug. 81

  2. #2
    Senior Member Gregadeth's Avatar
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    Location:  Los Angeles, CA

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    Man, close call. I'm glad you were able to catch it quick before anything bad happened. How long had the car been parked for when this started happening? What are the extra wires for?

  3. #3
    Senior Member OverlandMan's Avatar
    Join Date:  May 2011

    Location:  Rowlett, TX

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    My VIN:    5482

    Very glad you caught this before it got worse. Now I'm going to check mine just to be safe! I also have a battery cutoff switch on my car and highly recommend having one for a handful of reasons including this one.

  4. #4
    Senior Member bfloyd's Avatar
    Join Date:  Nov 2014

    Location:  Lebanon, Tennessee

    Posts:    269

    My VIN:    3294

    What are the extra wires for?
    I'm not really sure. The alternator is a cross-reference from an 84' Cadillac Eldorado. When I bought the car, it had the same alternator, and when it died, I simply replaced it with the same. I haven't added any wiring to it, it's how I got it from the previous owner.
    Barry Floyd
    Lebanon, Tennessee
    VIN 3294 - Aug. 81

  5. #5
    '82 T3 Turbo FABombjoy's Avatar
    Join Date:  May 2011

    Location:  Lansing, MI

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    My VIN:    10270

    Quote Originally Posted by bfloyd View Post
    I'm not really sure. The alternator is a cross-reference from an 84' Cadillac Eldorado. When I bought the car, it had the same alternator, and when it died, I simply replaced it with the same. I haven't added any wiring to it, it's how I got it from the previous owner.
    Looks like a GM "SI" style alternator. One goes to the battery light, and one is a 12v "sense" wire.
    Luke S :: 10270 :: 1982 Grey 5-Speed :: Single T3 .60/.48 Watercooled :: Borla Exhaust :: MSD Ignition :: MS3X In Process :: DevilsOwn Methanol Injection

    Console5.com - Game console parts, kits, games and more. [shop] [wiki] [RSS] [f] [t]

  6. #6
    Senior Member DavidProehl's Avatar
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    Location:  Maple Grove, MN (Minneapolis)

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    Glad this turned out well. Good thing this happened when you were by the car and not after driving it home, parking it in the garage, and walking away!
    David Proehl

  7. #7
    Senior Member Bitsyncmaster's Avatar
    Join Date:  May 2011

    Location:  Leonardtown, MD

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    My VIN:    03572

    For everyone, inspect and tie all those wires away from metal on that side of your engine. Nothing there is fused and a wire cutting the insulation to engine ground will most likely start a fire.
    Dave M vin 03572
    http://dm-eng.weebly.com/

  8. #8
    '82 T3 Turbo FABombjoy's Avatar
    Join Date:  May 2011

    Location:  Lansing, MI

    Posts:    491

    My VIN:    10270

    Quote Originally Posted by Bitsyncmaster View Post
    For everyone, inspect and tie all those wires away from metal on that side of your engine. Nothing there is fused and a wire cutting the insulation to engine ground will most likely start a fire.
    This 100x

    The factory routing for some of the high amp wires had them against the frame and frame seam. I went through and added looming at key positions for added abrasion resistance.

    When you assess these wires, a person also needs to be conscious of the fact that the engine moves around a fair amount during normal operation.

    I would also suggest that the B+ wires on the alternator should be tightened after the alternator is in position. Don't tighten the positive post and then tension the alternator against the belt or those cables might want to rotate around to their naturally neutral position.
    Luke S :: 10270 :: 1982 Grey 5-Speed :: Single T3 .60/.48 Watercooled :: Borla Exhaust :: MSD Ignition :: MS3X In Process :: DevilsOwn Methanol Injection

    Console5.com - Game console parts, kits, games and more. [shop] [wiki] [RSS] [f] [t]

  9. #9
    Senior Member Josh's Avatar
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    there are a few un-fused circuits with the factory harness, kind of scary.

  10. #10
    Senior Member bfloyd's Avatar
    Join Date:  Nov 2014

    Location:  Lebanon, Tennessee

    Posts:    269

    My VIN:    3294

    Good thing this happened when you were by the car and not after driving it home, parking it in the garage, and walking away!
    I had just gotten back from the food tent after being gone almost 30 minutes while standing in line, and I was getting ready to go walk over to the vendor tents when this elderly gentleman walked up and started talking. I guess I got extremely lucky on Saturday.
    Last edited by bfloyd; 09-11-2017 at 03:11 PM.
    Barry Floyd
    Lebanon, Tennessee
    VIN 3294 - Aug. 81

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