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Old 03-19-2019, 08:28 PM   #1
Daves55Sedan
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Default '55 Ford car instrument repair

I had done all I could to correct faulty guage readings and constantly faltering speedometer mechanism, although in the past was able to correct speedo malfunctions several times by cleaning and re-oiling. I decided to also remove my electric clock from the dash and get it repaired.
I removed the speedo mechanism, fuel and temp guages from the instrument cluster, created protective cardboard & foam barriers along with the clock and packed them in a box.
I set out to investigate instrument repair services shops and sent out bids to three different shops. By Nov 27th, I had received quotes back from all three and finally selected Williamsons Instruments in Chester Arkansas to do the work. Reason why I picked them is that they were offering a decent guarantee on their work, while the other bidders had shallow warrantys, and Williamsons was a little more reasonably priced (for the work I had requested done) than the other two guys.
I had everything packed in one box and shipped it on Dec 7th, 2018. It was expected to be received there by Dec 11th.
The shop called me on Dec 17th and said that the guages and speedometer were done and there was no problem with them. He said he would repair the clock, but wanted to run it in his shop for one week before calling it good and shipping everything. Many weeks went by and I had wondered if the shipment got lost during shipping or something. I called and left a message for him to send the tracking number. A few days later after receiving no word from him, I sent an e-mail requesting the tracking number.
Finally on Feb 19th, there was a reply to my e-mail. He apologized for the delay and indicated he needed to swap my clock with a different one, but said it could be finished in one week.
March 12th I was still waiting and wondering what was happening with my stuff. I called him that afternoon and he said everything was finished and boxed up and it would be in the mail in the morning. I actually received the shipment on Saturday, Mar 16th.
As I write this, nothing has been installed in the car yet, although I have re-installed the rebuilt speedo and re-calibrated guages in the instrument cluster on the workbench.
Inspecting the shipment, here's what I find:
Clock: He sent a completely different '55 Ford Westclox electric clock, identical to mine and sent my clock back with it. It appears that he has the clock speed adjusted during the testing stage. The clock he had in stock had a badly corroded chrome bezel, so he swapped my good bezel and put the bad bezel on the non-functioning clock, same thing for the chromed hand adjustment knob. He used the good clear plastic lens that was on his clock instead of the cracked one that was on mine. He also repainted the clock hands with the fluorescent orange paint I sent him along with the instruments.
Fuel sending unit: It was previously cleaned and protected with acid-etch many years ago and still looked good when I sent it to him. Now, it appears that the top is painted black, which should be un-necessary. He polished up the brass push-on terminal and also installed a new float on the float arm (which I did not request). I did not send the unit with the float attached as I feared it might incur damage during shipment. Oh well.
Temperature sending unit: I sent him a brand new one along with the instruments for testing only. He returned it. It appears to be still as good as new.
Guages: I am hoping that he did get both guages re-calibrated with my sending units properly. They don't look any different, except that he beefed up the paper insulator on the back of each guage. I had already re-painted the needles on the guages prior to shipping out, and had told him they did not need to be re-painted again.
Speedometer mechanism: The unit I sent him was having problems hanging up and then completely died. The very tip of the needle was also broken off. It appears he went through a lot of work with this thing. He cut off the whole back of the mechanism and either replaced it with a different one including it's guts, or just did that to pick it all apart for a thorough cleaning. Then he soldered the back on to the mounting portion at the front. It appears ha also installed a completely different odometer that has good numbers on it. Some of the numbers on my original odometer were wiped out. He replaced my bad needle with a good needle and apparently painted the back of it with the fluorescent orange paint.
This whole thing costed $820.00 including shipping back to me. Per my request, he did use the same protective packaging for the components I had everything backed in, but used a bigger box due to the addition of a second clock.
So far, my only complaint is how long it took to get this stuff back and that there was a lack of communication around the new year which had me worried.
I hope to have everything re-installed in the car by late next week and intend to report back about how everything functions or if there are any problems.
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Old 03-20-2019, 10:28 AM   #2
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Default Re: '55 Ford car instrument repair

hopefully they work out for you you mentioned you sent him the paint along with gauges.maybe he took that to mean you wanted them painted by a pro?communication is a missing thing nowadays much like common sense
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Old 03-20-2019, 03:26 PM   #3
Daves55Sedan
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Default Re: '55 Ford car instrument repair

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you mentioned you sent him the paint along with gauges.maybe he took that to mean you wanted them painted by a pro?communication is a missing thing nowadays much like common sense
I mentioned that I would be sending the bottle of paint along with the instruments in my request-for-quote to each of the venders, and along with that a detailed list of exactly what did and did not need to be done. The guy at Williamsons did leave the guage needles un-painted as I had instructed. I also told him that we didn't need to paint the clock hands, but that became moot upon discovering that my clock was not salvageable. So he used another '55 Ford Westclox, and he DID paint those clock hands with my fluorescent orange paint. Fine with me, since he had it all apart anyway, but I could not have complained if he didn't. I simply would have removed the bezel and lens and painted the hands myself when I received the shipment. That's no big deal.
My complaint about lack of communication is that several weeks and months were passing by beyond when he had previously told me everything would be finished, more than once. This caused me to believe that maybe the shipment got lost in the mail.
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Old 03-20-2019, 03:35 PM   #4
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Default Re: '55 Ford car instrument repair

I also recall that at the time when I sent out requests for quote (around last week of Nov, 2018), Bob's Speedometer told me that their clock guy was waaay behind, so I wouldn't be seeing my clock anytime soon if I awarded him with the bid.
Along with that, his prices for guage re-calibration were way higher than what Williamsons quoted. So I decided not to send the stuff to Bob. He rebuilt a '55 Ford wagon sending unit for me a few years back and does excellent work, but very expensive. Other than that, I don't think anybody else out there has a guarantee like Williamsons.
Reason why I am furnishing all this information, is so other folks who might be forced into getting some instruments repaired/restored might read this stuff and get some idea of what they might run into once they send their stuff to the shop.
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Old 03-21-2019, 03:48 PM   #5
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Default Re: '55 Ford car instrument repair

that was nice but I do not know many that are anal about the gauge being out a bit to spend money on it.let us know how you know they are now accurate when you put them back in and start driving.the proof will be in the pudding as they say
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Old 04-01-2019, 12:46 AM   #6
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Default Re: '55 Ford car instrument repair

One thing I did not notice was that my fuel sending unit which I had sent along for testing purposes only has also incurred some changes. It was a factory unit that had been cleaned real good some decades back and still looked good and was in working condition. When I got it back from Williamsons, I noticed that he apparently popped the top off, removed the rivet that held the push-on terminal down to the red plastic insulator. The push-on terminal was now cleaned by means of baking-soda blasting and the red insulator was replaced with a black insulator. It is unknown if he did any other internal replacements.
Maybe he goes the extra mile to eliminate nuisance returns on his lifetime limited warranty. Don't know for sure.
Anyway, I re-installed the fuel sending unit and clock in the car on Thurs Mar 28 and the speedo and gauges in the instrument cluster Fri, Mar 29.
Obviously, I had removed the battery previously and stored it in the laundry room for the last two months so it would be warm and dry during the winter season. Last light, I put a 6amp charge on the battery for several hours and this morning I put the battery back in the car. When I tried to start the engine, it wouldn't even click the starter solenoid. I turned on the headlights and they were so dim you could barely see them. I Just bought that battery last July 11th. It is only 8 months old. Tomorrow morning will take battery back out and take it back to the auto parts store to get it checked.
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Old 04-01-2019, 12:52 AM   #7
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Default Re: '55 Ford car instrument repair

BTW, I made a video in wmv format so it could be viewed on all windows media players and many other popular video players. The video shows how I positioned the instrument cluster on the steering column (setting on cloth towels) while I plug in the bulbs and connect the wiring. Then it shows how I re-install the clamps under the dash without removing the front seat. I was gonna put it on youtube, but you need to have a google account, so I didn't. The video runs about 25 minutes long and the file size is 449 megs. This was the first time I have attempted to do a video documentary, although I have done a few photo documentaries of restoration/repair projects, some posted here in fordbarn.
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Old 04-03-2019, 12:13 AM   #8
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Default Re: '55 Ford car instrument repair

Daves…. Thanks for sharing your dealing on restoring your instruments. Overall it seems that Williamsons Instruments has done good for you. Like you, I do like to have more feedback and updates since this took so long. Something that I always think about is that we are lucky to find people like this to do this precision work in today throw away world. My only experience with this is for my MGB. I have had speedometer and mechanical temperature gauge rebuilt by a local, to me, shop in Reseda CA. Name is West Valley Instruments. Excellent results. When these guys retire who will do this stuff?? - Bob
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Old 04-03-2019, 10:33 AM   #9
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Default Re: '55 Ford car instrument repair

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that was nice but I do not know many that are anal about the gauge being out a bit to spend money on it.let us know how you know they are now accurate when you put them back in and start driving.the proof will be in the pudding as they say
I'm one of those that wants all of my gauges to work correctly.
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Old 04-03-2019, 10:45 AM   #10
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Default Re: '55 Ford car instrument repair

I have used Bob's Speedometer several times with great results. They restored all the gauges in my '69 Hurst Olds 442 to like new, as well as my '62 Impala speedo My only complaint was that I had to return the Olds speedo because they installed the wrong sized pins on the back. I spoke with the guy at Williams a few months back about restoring the gauges in my '34 Ford truck. I'm interested to learn if you are happy with the performance of the gauges.
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Old 04-03-2019, 05:44 PM   #11
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Default Re: '55 Ford car instrument repair

where is said video?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Daves55Sedan View Post
BTW, I made a video in wmv format so it could be viewed on all windows media players and many other popular video players. The video shows how I positioned the instrument cluster on the steering column (setting on cloth towels) while I plug in the bulbs and connect the wiring. Then it shows how I re-install the clamps under the dash without removing the front seat. I was gonna put it on youtube, but you need to have a google account, so I didn't. The video runs about 25 minutes long and the file size is 449 megs. This was the first time I have attempted to do a video documentary, although I have done a few photo documentaries of restoration/repair projects, some posted here in fordbarn.
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Old 04-03-2019, 11:04 PM   #12
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where is said video?

In case I failed to mention it, I did NOT upload the video to youtube, since you cannot upload without having a google account (actually, there is a way to do it if you don't mind having your non-google e-mail linked to google). And I do very much mind.
The video is on my computer. It is in Windows media format so anyone having a windows media player or many others like VLC can view the video if they had the file.
I am un-willing to e-mail the video due to its' size, it would need to be uploaded to "one-drive" and linked in my outlook e-mail. I don't store anything in a "cloud". Very sorry.
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Old 04-03-2019, 11:19 PM   #13
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Okay so, everything installed, I go out to start the engine for the first time. A few seconds later, smoke starts coming out of the dashboard and a smell of burning plastic. I shut the engine off and disconnect the battery again.
After blowing the smoke out of there, I stick my head up under the dash to inspect the damage. The entire black/green circuit from the "ACC" terminal of the ignition switch to the gauges has all the insulation burned off. It got so hot that it burned through the electrical tape holding the wiring harness together.
First I closely inspect the whole thing and confirm again that the wiring was NOT touching ground or smashed between the instrument cluster clamps or anything like that. Right now, I am stumped as to why this happened. This was a brand new repro wiring harness circa 1995ish.
So far I have removed the burned up black/green wiring and have made a new guage power wiring harness ready to install. Before I bother with that, I am going to disconnect both sensor wires and test for continuity between each guage terminal and case ground. To my knowledge, if everything is right, the readings should show maximum resistance, right? And if it doesn't, that means that the internal wire inside the guage is touching the guage housing. Gonna do that first thing in the morning.
If that is okay. Then I am going to first re-connect both sensor wires and attach test leads with alligator clips from the BATT terminal of ignition switch and reconnect the car battery cable. If the gauges operate without catching on fire, I should then be able to disconnect the test leads and install my home-made guage wire harness.
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Old 04-03-2019, 11:31 PM   #14
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Default Re: '55 Ford car instrument repair

From 4PM one afternoon till noon next day, the electric clock lost about an hour. Williamsons already had the speed turned up quite a bit. I turned the speed up some more, but the guage wiring problem happened right after that and I disconnected the battery. Will check again later after guage problem is solved and battery is re-connected.
I had installed an on/off toggle switch to turn off the clock if I had planned to use the wagon for a couple days. Hopefully that would help save a little bit of clock motor run time. I had everything planned in advance for longevity. I am still holding out hope that this thing will be good for a while. We already scrapped one unsalvageable Westclox.
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Old 04-04-2019, 10:08 AM   #15
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Default Re: '55 Ford car instrument repair

WOW sorry to hear that.I think your switch to clock more then anything will save the wear on solenoid that operates the windup mechanism.williamson should have in the least made you aware of the clock problem.I will be watching to see what you find with the wiring
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Old 04-04-2019, 12:52 PM   #16
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Default Re: '55 Ford car instrument repair

Is there a quartz reproduction of the clock you have in your car?
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Old 04-04-2019, 02:42 PM   #17
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Is there a quartz reproduction of the clock you have in your car?
Actually, I have a quartz conversion of a real nice looking '55 Ford electric clock. The conversion was done by Instrument Services Inc many years ago. The clock didn't last very long, a few months maybe. When I inquired about returning it for repair, they said it would cost an additional exhorbitant amount to replace the polarity inverter or 6 volt resistor. I did not send it back.
When I was investigating other outfits prior to sending out bids this past November, I noticed very few would do 6-volt quartz conversions, claiming that the inverter/resistor units they were being supplied (probably from China) have proven to be un-reliable.
You could probably strip out the inverter/resistor units out of my converted clock and have a good 12-volt quartz converted clock. But my car still uses the 6-volt electrical system and I am not going to change it.
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Old 04-06-2019, 11:50 PM   #18
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Default Re: '55 Ford car instrument repair

Okay so I did connect a test lead with alligator clips between "ACC" terminal and both guage (-) terminals then reconnected the battery, turned on the ignition switch and kept my fingers on the test lead to detect heat build-up. I left it like that for a minute and detected no heat at all. So I disconnected battery again and installed my home-made power harness to the gauges permanently. Connected the battery again and the gauges work just fine.
There was sluggishness in the operation of the temperature guage needle. It seemed to skip large intervals between its default position and cold. I removed the guage and noticed that the needle was rubbing against the black faceplate, so I bent it back straight and re-installed it. Tested again and now it operates smoothly. Still have not driven to see if speedometer is working. Will do that tomorrow. The clock switch is still shut off. Probably will not make another speed adjustment till I need to take a long trip.
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Old 04-07-2019, 09:46 AM   #19
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Default Re: '55 Ford car instrument repair

Did I miss the reason for the burnt wire? did you fix that and add a fuse in line?
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Old 04-07-2019, 09:33 PM   #20
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Did I miss the reason for the burnt wire? did you fix that and add a fuse in line?
You did, because you didn't see the video (because I haven't posted it anywhere).
Removing the black/green wire from the harness and replacing it with a new wire & terminals was a complete success. There are no problems with the gauges or anything else.
The only thing I can think of is that the black/green wire may have become too stressed during the installation, causing the insulation to tear inside the wire harness. This would not have happened if I had wired the instrument cluster from under the dash. But that is not the way I have ever done it. I always pull the instrument cluster out of the dash and set it on top of the steering column to disconnect wiring and bulbs from the cluster and reinstall the wiring in the same way.
Even though the wire harness is no longer held in place by the wiring hooks at that point, the harness is still pretty unforgiving as far as flexibility. The guage wires get stretched pretty bad. Many years ago on a different '55 Ford, I extended those two black/green wires with butt splices to relieve some of the stress and never had a problem and had much more room to work as far as tilting the cluster while connecting everything.
But now, with this car, since the new power wiring for the gauges is separate from the harness, there won't be a problem if I ever need to do this again.
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