Lotus Elan

1969 S4 - replacing old behind dash wiring (doh!)

PostPost by: SF69Elan » Thu Nov 15, 2018 10:37 pm

Hi folks - I haven't posted in quite a while - been pre-occupied with getting to retirement, selling a house, moving etc.

I just retired and moved to South Texas a couple of months ago, and was looking forward to enjoying my Elan more and doing some upgrades over time - suspension, clutch master/slave and some interior work. I've had the opportunity to take a few very enjoyable drives over the past couple of weeks (the Elan is enjoying the 93 octane gas here, as opposed to the 91 that was available in the SF Bay Area where I moved from).

Unfortunately, after a drive earlier today as I pulled into the driveway some wiring shorted out under the driver side dash and starting smoking. When i turned off the ignition, the car kept running and I had to quickly separate the wires that were shorting/smoking to get the engine to stop and to get the shorted areas to stop smoking. I then disconnected the battery and took a look under the dash. It looks like the green wire in the photos was the main culprit. The insulation was getting brittle and it apparently wore through and shorted into at least one, potentially several other wires. In fact the insulation on the green wire started to burn off along the wire until I got the engine off. I've attached a few pics to show the result.

I know the wiring was redone about 20 years ago by someone hired by the PO when the PO did his restoration, and it has been patched and added to over the years (most recently about 18 months ago when I had a Bay Area shop do some general work on the car). The good news is that all the electrical items were working before the short (lights, gauges, etc.), so I'm hoping that if I pull the dash and replace the obviously impacted as well as any other suspect wiring/connections I'll be back on the road.

I've only done minor wiring work on cars and around the house previously, so I've got my learning cut out for me. I'm looking forward to learning more about the Elan as I work on it, but I know I'll definitely be reaching out to folks here with the hopes of learning from your experience and expertise. I hope you won't mind some pretty basic questions coming your way.

I have the wiring diagram from the Workshop manual, as well as some diagrams that I've downloaded from this site. I'll be using those as my template as I follow the wiring on my particular car.

(1) Wire gauge - is there a common gauge/type that I should be using? When I look at the Holden site, it seems like the standard gauge for most connections is 14 gauge. Would 14 gauge be the standard with certain exceptions? If so, what are the exceptions? Is there a reference table of the required gauges for different connections available? I've looked through the Workshop Manual and Buckland manual, and I see some good information on the color coding, but not the gauge requirements.

(2) Wire supplier - where do folks purchase their auto wire here in the US? After some initial searching online I see quite a few suppliers that offer solid color wiring, but not some of the color combinations. Are there some suppliers that folks can recommend? I haven't had a chance to go the our local auto parts stores yet (Autozone, O'Reillys, Pep Boys) - I plan on doing that over the weekend to see what's available locally.

(3) Access to behind the dash - I'm using this thread as a starting point to figure out how to remove the dash (lotus-chassis-f36/how-you-take-off-the-dash-board-t22885.html). I do have the two bolts that are hidden by the console, looks like I get to figure out how to take the console out as well to get access to those bolts - this should be fun, lol, I'm sure as I make my way through I'll find lots of other repair items to add to my to do list.

So my first steps are to confirm the type and source for the wiring, and to read through all the threads that I can find on removing the dash and repairing wiring. Once I've learned enough to be dangerous and put together an initial plan, I'll jump in headfirst.

Thanks in advance for any advice that you may be able to pass on. Looking forward to sharing more pics as I make my way through the repairs.

Rich
Attachments
img_4237.jpeg and
img_4239.jpeg and
img_4243.jpeg and
img_4247.jpeg and
img_4251.jpeg and
img_4253.jpeg and
img_4254.jpeg and
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PostPost by: prezoom » Fri Nov 16, 2018 1:18 am

If you go to britishwiring.com, you will find all of the wiring, with the correct color code, bullet connectors in various wire sizes, connectors and tools to make the job easier. The wiring in your car is sized by the number of strands, not the wire gauge, but I believe, they have a conversion chart for comparable wires.
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PostPost by: SF69Elan » Fri Nov 16, 2018 1:31 am

Hi Rob - thanks very much for the link to British Wiring! Great site - taking a look at all the items they have available right now and plan to give them a call tomorrow.

Rich
"What kind of a man are you? Don't you even like dolphins!?" - Zorba the Greek

69 Elan S4/SE DHC
66 Ford Mustang Conv. (289ci)
71 Cadillac Eldorado Conv. (8.2L)
65 Buick Wildcat Conv. (425ci)
And a pickup truck full of Miatas....
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PostPost by: 1owner69Elan » Fri Nov 16, 2018 2:46 am

I too have a 69 S4 Federal that I recently rewired.

British Wiring is the go to place in the US for all the various color coded wire.

If you need a full harness they all seem to be supplied by Autosparks(UK), including all the ones offered through US suppliers.

From your pictures it is clear that the wiring has been upgraded from the original “two fuse” configuration. Hopefully it was done adhering to the color codes so you can readily understand what has been done.

Suggest you put in a master cutoff switch to guard against emergency situations like you experienced.
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PostPost by: stugilmour » Fri Nov 16, 2018 4:47 am

Wow Rich, good job getting things shut down.

A tip for when you are working on the loom. Place an in-line fuse (say about 30 amps) between your battery positive post and the main positive cable. That should hopefully prevent another incident while you are testing things out.

What colours are the burnt/melted wires? I see a frayed green/white, but that is usually just the left turn signal. Green is typically “Hot in Run and Start - Fused”, so it would typically blow a fuse prior to that much damage. Pay particular attention to Brown - Hot at all times, Unfused and White - Hot in Run and Start, Unfused.

HTH

Stu
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PostPost by: pcarew » Fri Nov 16, 2018 9:47 pm

I recently redid the dash on my S3 (I live in Austin, Tx by the way).
I also bought colour code wire from British Wiring and rewired the dash/Fascia to have 4 quick disconnect Molex connectors. Hopefully, this will help facilitate any future dash removal.

I created a spreadsheet for my dash that detailed each connection. I have attached it here, along with a photo of my Dash. Bare in mind, the S3s and earlier had somewhat less 'stuff' to connect to the wiring loom

Spreadsheet for wiring:
FaciaWiring.xls
Dash/Fascia wiring detail
(73.5 KiB) Downloaded 55 times


And the end result is shown here:
20180721_134258.jpg and
Rear of new Fascia, showing new wiring to 4 quick disconnect molex connectors


Good luck and feel free to PM or call if you want to discuss anything.
Paul Carew
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PostPost by: SF69Elan » Fri Nov 16, 2018 10:33 pm

Hi folks, thanks very much for the additional replies.

1owner69Elan - thanks for the additional info about British Wiring, the feedback on the fuses from my pictures and the recommendation to put in a master cutoff switch. I've found a few cutoff switch options and plan to add installation of one to my to do list.

Stu - thanks for the recommendation on putting an inline 30A fuse. Is that something that you would recommend as a part of the standard config, or temporary just when setting up new dash wiring? From the master kill switches I was looking at I found some that may serve both purposes, something like this - https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B07D7 ... 0DAX&psc=1.

Paul - thanks for sharing the pic of your dash and the detailed xls with your wiring plan. Great stuff! I love how clean and well organized you've got things with the wiring grouped into the Molex connectors. We're not too far apart (by Texas standards) - and thanks for the offer to discuss things further by message or phone, much appreciated.

I also traced the wires further and found what I believe to be the source of the problem. When I had a shop install a new clutch in 2017 they added a spring underneath the dash to aid with clutch pedal return. It turns out that the clamp they used was hitting the handbrake switch. Over time it seems to have worn through the insulation, and caused a short. Also, my handbrake engagement light on my dash would stay on when the e-brake was engaged even with the ignition off, so it must not have been wired to only have power when the car was running - not sure if that exacerbated the problem or not.

It looks like the wiring to and from the handbrake switch and the stop lamp switch is what went up in smoke. I took off the radio blank faceplate and ash tray to try to follow the green wire back to the wiper switch (per the wiring diagram), but I can't get to it because of the relay array that I found under the radio faceplate blank). I also found some unattached wires floating around (heater switch wire - green/yellow) and it looks like the vent hoses are also unattached and just kind of tucked up under the dash.

I did talk to Josh at British Wiring today and confirmed that they have an S4 dash loom in stock, but I think I'm going to loosen and/or remove the dash first to get an idea of what I'm dealing with. It could be that the wiring has been fairly "modernized" with relays and upgraded connectors, and what I can focus on is replacing the fried green wiring and a few other individually impacted wires (along with replacing the handbrake and stop lamp switch). Or it could be madness and a new loom may make sense. But I'd like to know what's there, perform any work required, and then take pictures for myself (and for a future owner) before I put things back together. For sure I know that I won't be adding a radio in the near term, lol!

I've added a few additional pics to show what I think is the originating point of the issue and the associated wiring. Once I have access to the back of the dash I'll share some more pics.

Rich
Attachments
img_4258.jpeg and
img_4260.jpeg and
img_4264.jpeg and
img_4266.jpeg and
img_4268.jpeg and
img_4269.jpeg and
img_4270.jpeg and
"What kind of a man are you? Don't you even like dolphins!?" - Zorba the Greek

69 Elan S4/SE DHC
66 Ford Mustang Conv. (289ci)
71 Cadillac Eldorado Conv. (8.2L)
65 Buick Wildcat Conv. (425ci)
And a pickup truck full of Miatas....
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PostPost by: 1owner69Elan » Fri Nov 16, 2018 10:43 pm

img_5476.jpg and

Picture of some of my wiring that got replaced recently. This was an old "melt-down" many years ago that I actually didn't realize was under the dash and not fixed until recently. Melted insulation but no further shorting. Obviously I was very, very lucky that I didn't go up in smoke for many, many years. Time bomb.

All wires now replaced and new fused circuits and relays throughout. Note that one can now use mini fuses and micro relays, all in the spirit of "added lightness" and the limited Elan real estate.

img_8721.jpg and


I now always turn my master switch off when the car is parked. And I can readily reach it on the back wall at a moment's notice (kills battery, coil, and grounds the alternator through a resistor). Also, I carry a fire extinguisher. Scared of the horrible stories of Elans burning to the ground.

img_0255-1.jpg and
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PostPost by: stugilmour » Sat Nov 17, 2018 6:04 am

SF69Elan wrote:Stu - thanks for the recommendation on putting an inline 30A fuse. Is that something that you would recommend as a part of the standard config, or temporary just when setting up new dash wiring? From the master kill switches I was looking at I found some that may serve both purposes, something like this - https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B07D7 ... 0DAX&psc=1.



Rich,what I had in mind was just something temporary while you are checking things out. Even just an in-line fuse barrel and some alligator clips would be fine to allow you to test things. If you make a mistake no big deal, replace the fuse and carry on. With the alligator clip setup you can use it as your temporary power supply to the main brown with the dash out. I laid the dash out on my family room carpet so it would not get scratched and happily fiddled away. :D

The Fused master switch will not work as your starter and generator/alternator momentary current to and from the battery can be very large. The 30 amp fuse idea is intended to be able to test any of the loom loads; the starter and alternator are generally separate from the loom itself. As a master protection for the entire loom I added a fusible link on the main Brown - Hot at all times, Unfused wire that runs from the starter solenoid area to power my whole loom. Your geography may be a bit different depending on whether you still have a voltage regulator and generator, but that is the general idea.

There are various options for master switches, and several good threads to look at. The Plus 2 Battery is mounted below the trunk floor, making access a hassle. I used a remote control style that allows shutting all the power off using a remote control on the key fob.

Looking at what you have, it is clearly non-stock. Nothing wrong with that; so is mine. The main thing is you will really be miles ahead if you take on a winter project to figure out each circuit and make up some schematic diagrams for reference.

I did my drawings using the modern BMW practice as a model. Rather than trying to contain every circuit on a single 11 x 17 sheet, I drew each circuit separately in pencil on individual 11 x 17 light cardboard sheets. I then went over some of them with coloured pens when I had them correct and working. This leaves lots of room for notations, etc., and if you make a mistake you just ditch one page There are separate drawings for the fuse and relay boxes, loom layout, etc. If you look at this link at any of the BMW ETM’s you can see what I mean. You will also see easily the conventional way of wiring all those undocumented relays you have.

http://wedophones.com/BMWManualsLead.htm

Agree completely with the suggested use of block connectors to allow easy removal of the dash. It is actually going to be bonus that the previous owner mounted the relays on the dash as it simplifies the main block connectors that isolate the dash from the front/engine loom and the rear loom.

Rather than Molex brand, I used generic blade multi connectors from the two classic UK suppliers linked below. Their web sites are very good for seeing what is available, even if you choose to buy from other suppliers. I also bought stuff from British Wiring, and they are great as well, but their web site was not as well developed when I was doing the job.

https://www.autoelectricsupplies.co.uk

http://www.vehicle-wiring-products.eu

In addition a wide variety of multi-connectors are available on eBay from the Far East. They are fine, but watch out for the delivery times. If you want to go that route, you can order a large selection of sizes and basically remove any bullet connectors. That is essentially what I did, but you decide.

For sure go to any of the major wiring suppliers and purchase high quality crimper tools and the probes for removing the blade terminals from the blocks. Suggest looking over all the available tools, and if you are new to this take a look at a few YouTube videos and so forth.

You are absolutely on the right track. Take the dash out, see what you have, figure it out, fix the obvious issue with the damaged stuff, Write it down as you go. Don’t rush, but check every circuit so you understand it and have it documented. Non-standard wire colours may have been used; your option if you want to replace them or document them as-is. If you get lost or frustrated, leave the project alone for a few days and it all magically becomes obvious and easy again.

HTH

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PostPost by: billwill » Sat Nov 17, 2018 12:57 pm

If I were to rewire my dash, I think I would ensure all the instrument cables are strapped down to the dash with nothing loose and with socket(s) actually fixed to the wood. Then the connection to the rest of the car would be by two well wrapped bundles with plugs that fit into the sockets fixed to the dash wood, and secured to the body parts with some sort of easy clip after the dash has been installed


Perhaps you can tell that I am irritated by the buzzing and other noises caused by loose-ish wires dangling behind the dash. :o :shock: :o :?
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PostPost by: SF69Elan » Sun Nov 18, 2018 3:26 pm

Hi folks thanks very much for the additional replies with feedback, advice and photos - super helpful.

1Owner69Elan - appreciate the photos of your relay/fuse setup, as well as the master cutoff switch. I've done some reading about this type of switch which also includes the alternator/coil circuits to ensure the car can't keep running - which is exactly what happened to me (pretty scary).

Stu - thanks for your lengthy reply and explanations. I have a better understanding of the test setup that you've outlined now. Interesting that there are remote type cutoff switches available, I'l have to do some research on those. The battery in my S4 was relocated by the PO from the driver side of trunk to center shelf. The good news is that it has quick disconnect connectors for both cables and both cables are easily accessible (easy within the parameters of working within the small trunk areas of these cars).

Thanks for your feedback on the visible fuse setup for my car, and for your advice on drawing up schematics as a part of the process (and the links to the BMW examples). Your feedback on the relay location on my car (behind the radio blank face plate on the dash) is reassuring, and thanks for the links to the additional wiring suppliers. I've got the following links as a good set of sources now:

https://www.autosparks.co.uk
http://www.vehicle-wiring-products.eu
https://www.autoelectricsupplies.co.uk/home
http://www.britishwiring.com

Also - thanks for the advice on getting the right tools and being patient as I work through each step. I find it daunting to get started on a project like this, but find that once I'm committed and working on it I enjoy it quite a bit. Always good to learn something new, even if there's a lot of trial and error involved - ha!

Bill - thanks for your feedback on securing the connectors/cables to the back of the dash. I've been thinking about that because the PO had a massive bundle of cables all coming out at the same place, next to the headlight vacuum switch. I'd really like to figure out a way to have the wiring better separated and better routed.

Paul - I spent some time yesterday reviewing the detailed spreadsheet for your S3 wiring project and cross-referencing it to the photo you provided. Thanks again for all of that great info - it's helping me understand the details of what i need to put together, and that picture of the end result is a good motivator.

Yesterday I spent a good part of the day searching through the forums here and bookmarking/reading all of the relevant threads I could find on dash removal, wiring options and strategies, mission creep (heater box, fan, seals, pedal assembly, etc.), saving photos... I also spent a fair amount of time looking through the web sites of the electrical component providers. I anticipate getting the car situated and getting started on the project within the next couple of days.

As I make my way through, I'll plan on periodically posting pics, and I'm sure I'll continue to come back with questions and requests for advice. Thanks for all of your responses - they have helped me get an idea of the scope of work, and thanks in advance for your assistance as I move forward.

Thanks!
Rich
"What kind of a man are you? Don't you even like dolphins!?" - Zorba the Greek

69 Elan S4/SE DHC
66 Ford Mustang Conv. (289ci)
71 Cadillac Eldorado Conv. (8.2L)
65 Buick Wildcat Conv. (425ci)
And a pickup truck full of Miatas....
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PostPost by: stugilmour » Mon Nov 19, 2018 4:40 pm

Sounds like a plan Rich.

Rich, this may already have been covered, but the UK manufacturers used pretty standard wire colours. There are a number of good reference charts available online. The standard is called British Standards Institution BS-AU7. If you Google the standard you can print out a chart that suits you.

Note Lotus on occasion departed from the standard and used different colour conventions in various models and versions, so watch for that. As I rewired my whole car I used the standard wire colours where applicable. As your wiring is non-standard, the previous owner may or may not have used these as a colour guide.

Here are some links that outline the structure of the standard pretty well

https://www.tscusa.org/tech/Deciphering ... Colors.pdf

https://studylib.net/doc/18672810/lucas ... olor-codes

https://books.google.ca/books?id=9kQ941 ... &q&f=false

And here is a colour chart I found helpful, although there are lots of versions

http://www.mgb-stuff.org.uk/colourcodes.htm

Good points on basic loom layout. Note that relay use also means more wires to tuck away. Take a look at what you have, but if you want block connectors to disconnect the dash you will want to divide the wire bundles to fit the connectors. I opted for two separate left and right side runs to the front and one run to the rear (on the right side along with the main battery cable). It is good practice to run any audio cables down the opposite side from the rear loom.

This point is by no means insisted upon for your car, more a description of the issue. I am assuming your aftermarket fuse box is located under the bonnet on a fender? This layout means a lot of separate wires run through the firewall to the dash. A lot of us with non-standard loom layout have moved the fuse box to the dash; a popular spot is under the glove box or attached to the glove box back wall. This greatly reduces the wire runs off of the dash assembly.

Here is a link to the brand of remote cutoff switch/relay I installed. Note that any form of cutoff switch removes all battery power, so a modern radio may loose it’s station memory.

https://www.summitracing.com/int/parts/ ... /overview/

And in the UK

https://www.batterybrain.co.uk

There appears to be some similar Far East knockoffs available now

https://www.ebay.com/itm/Car-Auto-Remot ... 2849abb1f3

HTH

Stu
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PostPost by: 1owner69Elan » Tue Nov 20, 2018 12:29 am

The cutoff switch with alternator/coil shutdown that I used:

https://www.pegasusautoracing.com/produ ... RecID=1464

"Why Use a Battery Cut-Off Switch with Alternator Protection?"

If you disconnect the battery on an alternator-equipped car while the engine is running, the alternator could be damaged by a voltage spike. This spike can be avoided by giving the alternator output a safe path to ground just when the switch is turned off. Our Part No. 4430 Master Battery Switch with Alternator Protection has an auxiliary set of contacts (labeled "W") which are open when the switch is on, but which make contact when the switch is turned off.

A spinning alternator can still put out electricity, so just disconnecting the battery will not stop a running engine. The 4430 switch has a third set of contacts (labeled "Z"), which interrupts the ignition circuit when the switch is turned off.
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PostPost by: USA64 » Tue Nov 20, 2018 6:57 pm

1owner69Elan wrote:The cutoff switch with alternator/coil shutdown that I used:

https://www.pegasusautoracing.com/produ ... RecID=1464

"Why Use a Battery Cut-Off Switch with Alternator Protection?"

If you disconnect the battery on an alternator-equipped car while the engine is running, the alternator could be damaged by a voltage spike. This spike can be avoided by giving the alternator output a safe path to ground just when the switch is turned off. Our Part No. 4430 Master Battery Switch with Alternator Protection has an auxiliary set of contacts (labeled "W") which are open when the switch is on, but which make contact when the switch is turned off.

A spinning alternator can still put out electricity, so just disconnecting the battery will not stop a running engine. The 4430 switch has a third set of contacts (labeled "Z"), which interrupts the ignition circuit when the switch is turned off.


Where did you place the switch exactly?
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PostPost by: SF69Elan » Tue Nov 20, 2018 7:42 pm

Hi USA64 - if you look a little earlier in this thread there's a great picture of the switch on the back wall between the seats. And I think the other option highlighted in this thread was to install a remote control switch in the trunk.

Hi Stu - thanks for the multiple links to the wiring color coding. I've added those to my list of electrical related bookmarks for reference - I'm building up a good library of reference info - thanks! Also, thanks for the link to the remote control cutoff switch you've installed.

1Owner69Elan - thanks as well for the link to the specific cutoff switch you've installed. My battery has been moved by the PO to sit on a custom center shelf at the back of the trunk, probably directly behind where your switch is located on your car. When I get into the depth of planning out my electrical updates I'm going to see what kind of real estate I have in various places and finalize the location.

It's a bit windy, damp and supposed to rain a bit today and perhaps tomorrow, so I'll likely have chance to get back to the car at the end of this week. I'm working outside under a covered carport, so good weather is definitely my friend. On either Friday or Saturday I plan to pull the seats, center console and steering wheel, then take out the dash bolts and pull the dash forward to take a first look at what I've got to work with.

Thanks!
Rich
"What kind of a man are you? Don't you even like dolphins!?" - Zorba the Greek

69 Elan S4/SE DHC
66 Ford Mustang Conv. (289ci)
71 Cadillac Eldorado Conv. (8.2L)
65 Buick Wildcat Conv. (425ci)
And a pickup truck full of Miatas....
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