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    CONVERTING FROM 6-VOLT POSITIVE GROUND TO 12-VOLT NEGATIVE GROUND

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    Grumpyoldman
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    Posts: 82
    Join date: 2009-12-01
    Age: 57
    Location: Upstate,New York

    CONVERTING FROM 6-VOLT POSITIVE GROUND TO 12-VOLT NEGATIVE GROUND

    Post  Grumpyoldman on Tue Nov 09, 2010 9:36 pm

    CONVERTING FROM 6-VOLT POSITIVE GROUND
    TO 12-VOLT NEGATIVE GROUND


    If you have an average car with no special accessories, this is basically a pleasant weekend project. I lazied around and my car was down a whole month, but that is not necessary. This is for a basic car. If you have power seats, power windows, overdrive, or some item not covered here, I can't help you on those. It should go without saying you need all your parts and everything mapped out before you begin. You can't just do it a little at a time, and drive as you convert!

    (1) Wiring. If your wiring is in good condition, everything can be used without modification. 50-year old wiring is usually cracked and would need replacing anyway. But if it's OK, there's nothing inherent in the wiring that makes it unsuitable for 12 volts. In fact, 12 volt can actually use SMALLER diameter wiring than 6 volt.

    (2) 12-volt battery . Make sure it will fit. Reverse the cables so you will have negative ground. You may need new cables to accommodate.

    (3) 12-volt generator & regulator. They are the same from 1956 on, until around 1962 when alternators were introduced. (I believe no Y-block ever came with an alternator new.) Generator and regulator are the same for either Y-block or FE. Also the same for 6-cyl, except the Ground and Field terminal posts are rotated to a different position on the generator; even so, it bolts on interchangeably and I have used either generator on either engine, V8 or 6-cyl. Generator & regulator are setup the same whether 12 or 6 volts, you wire them in the same way. NOTE ... I would advise you to do away with the generator and regulator altogether and go with a modern alternator. I use a one-wire GM Alternator. More on that later.

    (4) 12-volt coil. The coil is the only item on the car that is polarity-sensitive. When you replace the coil, reverse the leads. On Ford factory coils, the terminals were marked "Ignition" and "Distributor". If not marked as such, the coil will at least be marked Positive and Negative. Positive now goes to ignition (i.e., 12-volt power) and Negative goes to the distributor.

    (5) Ballast resistor. 6 volt cars do not have a ballast resistor. They were added in 1956, to protect the points from the higher voltage. I have heard some old-timers say the ballast resistor cuts the voltage by half, and so the points will continue to receive 6 volts as before. Actually that is not true, it drops only a few volts, so with a 12-volt system (actually running closer to 14 volts), with a ballast resistor of the correct rating, the points will still be getting around 11 volts. For 1956 the ballast resistor was mounted standing upright on the coil rear mounting bolt. That was not one of Ford's better ideas, as it seriously interferes with access to the distributor when you have to adjust points etc. Beginning I believe in 1957, the ballast resistor was relocated to the driver's side firewall, away from the distributor and I highly recommend that position for your '55. You'll have to drill a little hole for the screw. Make sure it doesn't interfere with the linkage or anything on the other side of the firewall. Cut the wire that leads to the Positive side of the coil, and wire the resistor inline.

    (6) Solenoid. You will need a new 12-volt starter solenoid. Ford 12-volt solenoids were the same beginning 1956 up until at least the early seventies. The extra little terminal on top is to be wired to the Positive side of the coil. This gives full voltage to the points (without going thru the resistor), ensuring hot as possible spark during starting cycle only.

    (7) Starter motor. The starter motor does not have to be changed or modified, or touched. Just leave it as is and do nothing. Switching polarity on the car does not reverse the direction the starter motor turns. If you don't believe me, remove and test it both ways. Better yet, don't waste your time, many people have already tested it, including myself. If you eventually want to change over, 12-volt starter motors are all the same for all Y-blocks (272-292-312) 1956 and later. (I think they are the same starter motor for 223 6-cyl, Y-block, and 332-352 FE, but I am not absolutely positive about that.) Please see the article at the end of this Guide for information about the starter.

    (Cool Horns. Use any 12-volt horns, but be aware the two holes on the mounting bracket probably won't line up. I used Ford Mustang horns from the 1960's. I had to move the horns anyway when I installed A/C. They are mounted securely with one bolt each as I wasn't in the mood to drill new holes that particular day. You can continue to use the 6-volt horns if you choose but they will sound at a higher pitch.

    (9) Horn Relay. You will need a 12-volt horn relay. The 1956 Ford 12-volt horn relay looks the same as the 1955 6-volt version. If you can't find one, you can get a generic horn relay from the auto parts store.

    (10) Light bulbs. Label all the light bulbs with masking tape as you pull them. Otherwise you'll have trouble "finguring out" what goes where later. These are all common bulbs, and everything has a 12-volt counterpart at the auto parts store. Pay careful attention in the instrument panel. There are a lot of little bulbs, and some of them are different shapes; don't mix them up. Make sure you get all the lights. There are headlights, parking lights, taillights, backup lights, license plate light, dome light, instrument panel lights (I'll try to map them later), heater control light, radio light, clock light. Messing around behind the instrument panel is probably the most difficult part of this whole project.

    (11) Flasher. The flasher on this car is an odd-looking little rectangular doo-dad clipped onto the inner dash near the ignition switch. Replace it with the common cylindrical two-pole 12-volt flasher you find at any auto parts store.

    (12) Heater motor. Use a heater motor from a 1956 or 1957 Ford. You may have to switch out the mounting plate and/or the squirrel cage fan, if it doesn't clear the housing. It is not a big deal. You will need an Allen wrench. I thought the fan would be permanently seized on the motor shaft, but surprisingly, it loosened easily and everything came apart with no problem.

    (13) Instrument voltage regulator. Gas gauge and Temperature gauge are wired directly to 6-volt auxiliary supply. After your 12 volt conversion they will still need to receive only 6-8 volts. I do NOT recommend R***z Resistors, little electronic gadgets made for this purpose. They are expensive, you need one for each gauge, and mine failed quickly. Worst of all, when they fail, they fail in a bad way. Of course anything made by humans can fail, but you would think if the voltage drop mechanism fails, the gauge would then get zero volts, which would be inconvenient to be sure, but at least safe for the gauges, and polite. No, when the R***z Resistor fails, the gauge immediately starts getting the full 12-14 volts, which hm, I think is bad for the gauge. Therefore rather than using these unpredictable third-party components (fittingly associated with a famous rodent from Hollywood), do what Ford did. Even after 12-volt systems were introduced, Ford retained the 6-volt gauges for many years, from 1956 up into the 1970's. They made a voltage-drop "regulator" which is exactly what you need. Get it from a Mustang dealer, or search Ebay for "Ford Instrument Regulator". They go for about $20. Now, it does not just simply put out 6 volts. If you connect everything and then test output with a voltmeter, you won't get a steady 6 volts. You'll get readings jumping all over the place, from 0 to 13 and everything inbetween. This is because the regulator doesn't put out one steady voltage, it pulses between open and closed, giving an "average" of 6-8 volts which keeps the gauges happy. Hey, I'm not an electrical engineer, but works for me! You only need one such regulator, and branch output to both gauges. Also, don't just leave it hanging -- it MUST be mounted on "ground" in order to work. I have it bolted on the stationary brace above the brake pedal.

    (14) Instrument dimmer switch (on the headlight switch). I have heard this is supposed to be changed, but I haven't done so. I believe it would entail changing the whole headlight switch assembly. I do often drive at night and have used the rheostat occasionally, but haven't had a problem.

    (15) Lighter. The lighter element is also a 6-volt unit. I don't use the lighter, or allow smoking in my classic car! It's there for looks. The 6-volt lighter gets hot quickly and pops out forcefully (actually comes flying out) if you try to use it. I'm sure it would burn out pretty soon if used too often.

    (16) Radio. Please don't connect your radio to 12 volts, or mess with Mickey-Mouse resistors. It needs to be professionally rebuilt. Mine came from Ebay user "DBCUDA" --highly recommended.

    (17) Clock. I've been informed by clock rebuilders that 6-volt electrical clocks can be run on 12 volts, since the winding mechanism is engaged for only a split-second at a time. Just make sure it has its own fuse. Reversing polarity is also not a problem. If you are uncomfortable with that you could just get a wind-up version. 1955 was the last year for Ford wind-up clocks. Either clock will still need a 12-volt bulb.


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