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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Alrighty then, so you've cleaned the terminals and connector spades and the damn thing is still getting hot and melting the inside of the instrument cluster.  WTF is going on here?  :(

It's not that the ammeter assembly can't handle the current in the vehicle's main charging circuit because, after all, that's what it was designed to do, at least on the short term.  LOL  :)

Turns out the factory merely pressed the steel terminal cap screws into the brass or copper busses on the meter assembly.  Over time, this connection tends to corrode and physically separate, the terminal screws tend to loosen up even more and, of course, the typical end result is ever-increasing resistance and generated heat...  ;D
 

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Discussion Starter · #2 ·
A valid long-term repair would entail removing the pressed-on terminal cap screws from the ammeter busses and installing machine screws, washers, and nuts in their place.  Unlike the solution shown, brass would definitely be the preferrable option here...  ;D
 

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HHHHHHHHHMMMMMMMMMMMM  very interesting.........  ;D
 

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Could you have just soldered the studs in?  I always just bypassed the ammeter in the older models.  It rarely tells you anything useful and causes more problems than it solves most of the time, in my experience.  I find a voltmeter to be much better.  I tried for a while to fins a voltmeter that would easily fit in place of the ammeter in my '74 models but everything looked to require a lot of butcher work so I just used one in a pod.
 

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I mounted the optional voltmeter where the factory ammeter was. Now I just need the lettering changed on the lens from "ALT" to "VOLTS". I also glued an old needle to the voltmeter so all the guages match.
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
Me, I'll always err on the side of "factory correctness" when I can.  I do like having a fully-functioning ammeter in my cluster since that's what our trucks came with.  :)

What I plan to do now is attempt the machine screw fix using brass fasteners and then soldering those in place on the ammeter busses in order to achieve the ultimate long-term repair.  {yes}

Next quest, obtaining the needed brass hardware.  ;D
 

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not  sure the problem is as described, having gotten into this on 4    75-79 trucks; the original ammeter had nuts on the PC card squeezing the PC card Bakelite between the nuts on back and the  headed studs inside the dash ..maybe as said above the press fit is not good, but if that is tight you do not need a press??  but I found the INNER  nuts get loose...due to the PC card shrinking, leads to a loose connection, heat and then burning up -----not the nuts on top holding the wires, the nuts under those.If the nuts against PC are real tight, it squeezes the inner head against the strip of copper=no problemo. So take apart the connection and tighten the inner nuts real tight  first..I added flat washers and lock washers  too, to spread out clamp force . even if corroded it will squeeze down enough to fix it.No problems after doing this .On the other hand if you pull the whole dash,  i agree about soldering and brass studs, but probably not needed..it worked ok for 25 years before pc card shrunk .

Also related, the 8 pin connector gets bad contacts where the pins are swaged into pc card,,gets loose as card shrinks shine those up with small razor knife and solder to trace too..makes gauges stop acting funky , and dash lights stop going on and off.

related I shine up and solder the riveted connections on fan switch..again PC card material squeezed by a rivet==bogus design , it gets loose and burns up.You can save old fan switches with this for sure. but has to be shiny on both parts..real shiny--or solder will not take.

If you have ammeter burn, you probably  have burned 1/4 stake - ons in bulkhead connector. Cut off wires and jump around that with two #10 wires soldered on both sides and shrink sleeved twice..

I think this all starts when you put on more lights...
 

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But Pete, machine screws aren't "factory correct"! ::) :p

Don't forget to address the firewall feed through, which has connections that are just as bad if not worse. Of course.....the best way to fix it is........you guess it, I'm posting the Mad link: ;D

http://madelectrical.com/electricaltech/amp-gauges.shtml

Forget the "factory correct" sillyness and make it better than the factory by doing the above and adding a voltmeter. You get more useful information about your charging system, and it is FAR more reliable.

;D
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
KThaxton said:
But Pete, machine screws aren't "factory correct"! ::) :p

Don't forget to address the firewall feed through, which has connections that are just as bad if not worse. Of course.....the best way to fix it is........you guess it, I'm posting the Mad link: ;D

http://madelectrical.com/electricaltech/amp-gauges.shtml

Forget the "factory correct" sillyness and make it better than the factory by doing the above and adding a voltmeter. You get more useful information about your charging system, and it is FAR more reliable.

;D
Further proof you're not a die-hard Mopar guy, Kendall. LOL :-*

I've seen very few problems with the bulkhead connector relative to those caused by the ammeter. There's really no decent reason to hack up a good portion of the factory wiring system if the only major issue is solved by a minor modification to the instrument itself, huh? ;D
 

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Honestly, I've seen a few of the bulkheads melted but I always figured it was connected more to the blower motor switch since it and the fuse in the fuse box all seemed to go at the same time.  Perhaps a combination of the two?
 

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PowerWagonPete said:
Further proof you're not a die-hard Mopar guy, Kendall. LOL :-*
It also proves I have a life. ;)
No "product" defines my life. My needs are my priority. While Dodge happens to be my favorite truck, I do not have a Dodge flag in my living room, I do not have an "Oakley" or "Monster" decal on my truck. These are just consumable products, no product defines who I am.

I've seen very few problems with the bulkhead connector relative to those caused by the ammeter.
I've had one pre 81 Dodge vehicle, and the ammeter actually was in decent shape, not perfect, not melting either, but my bulkhead main feed/alternator connections were all black and melted.

Its a crappy design, no two ways about it, Mark explains it perfectly in the article. Poor connection at a high current drawing, continuous use circuit is a recipe for failure. The poor connection creates heat, which causes more resistence and corrosion, thus creating even more heat....and it just snowballs.

There's really no decent reason to hack up a good portion of the factory wiring system if the only major issue is solved by a minor modification to the instrument itself, huh? ;D
The crappy ammeter is not the cause of bulkhead connector's problems, they each have the same cause and potential for failure and can fail independantly.
 

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Newb questions here guys...

How do I identify a factory Ammeter?

Can I replace it with something made in the USA??

How long until my trucks catch on fire???
 

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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
KThaxton said:
It also proves I have a life. ;)
No "product" defines my life. My needs are my priority. While Dodge happens to be my favorite truck, I do not have a Dodge flag in my living room, I do not have an "Oakley" or "Monster" decal on my truck. These are just consumable products, no product defines who I am.

I've had one pre 81 Dodge vehicle, and the ammeter actually was in decent shape, not perfect, not melting either, but my bulkhead main feed/alternator connections were all black and melted.

Its a crappy design, no two ways about it, Mark explains it perfectly in the article. Poor connection at a high current drawing, continuous use circuit is a recipe for failure. The poor connection creates heat, which causes more resistence and corrosion, thus creating even more heat....and it just snowballs.

The crappy ammeter is not the cause of bulkhead connector's problems, they each have the same cause and potential for failure and can fail independantly.
Q: What do emery boards, Q-Tips, sandpaper, and contact cleaner have in common?

A: They are all items which can be used to properly maintain electrical connections by removing dirt, oxidation, and other foreign material which can impede current flow and create undesirable heat-related problems. ;D
 

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Discussion Starter · #14 ·
philcojohn said:
not sure the problem is as described, having gotten into this on 4 75-79 trucks; the original ammeter had nuts on the PC card squeezing the PC card Bakelite between the nuts on back and the headed studs inside the dash ..maybe as said above the press fit is not good, but if that is tight you do not need a press?? but I found the INNER nuts get loose...due to the PC card shrinking, leads to a loose connection, heat and then burning up -----not the nuts on top holding the wires, the nuts under those.If the nuts against PC are real tight, it squeezes the inner head against the strip of copper=no problemo. So take apart the connection and tighten the inner nuts real tight first..I added flat washers and lock washers too, to spread out clamp force . even if corroded it will squeeze down enough to fix it.No problems after doing this .On the other hand if you pull the whole dash, i agree about soldering and brass studs, but probably not needed..it worked ok for 25 years before pc card shrunk .
The circuit board doesn't shrink, John, the plastic studs on the instrument cluster housing which hold up the ammeter do... ;D
 

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80SnoCommander said:
Newb questions here guys...

How do I identify a factory Ammeter?

Can I replace it with something made in the USA??

How long until my trucks catch on fire???
This really only applies to the '70s era trucks since the '80s models have a shunt to prevent these issues. I'm reasonably sure that all the '70s models have the ammeter and it can be identified by the typical "AMP" designation and the C/D (charge/discharge) markings on the gauge itself. The last few years of the D/W series trucks used voltmeter gauges instead.

As far as replacement, there isn't a direct replacement and most people just bypass them and add in an aftermarket voltmeter gauge. In this thread Pete is looking into repairing and restoring the factory ammeter and making it safer.

As far as how long your trucks have, it will depend on what condition your wiring is in. Check your fuse box, ammeter gauge, firewall bulkhead and related wiring to make sure that all the factory fusible links are in place and not bypassed with normal wire or other hack repairs and look for any signs that the terminals and wiring are not overheated/melted. It should be mentioned that more often that not, these trucks do not spontaneously catch fire, rather they slowly deteriorate as repairs are ignored, put off or hacked up. Ideally the fusible links should cut the power before anything gets to the point of catching fire but since most backyard mechanics have little knowledge about fusible links, they typically think when one blows that it was the problem and bypass it rather than seeing it as a safety fuse that did it's job preventing a meltdown. Make correct repairs as needed and it's very doubtful that any of your trucks will ever catch fire from wiring issues.
 

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PowerWagonPete said:
Q: What do emery boards, Q-Tips, sandpaper, and contact cleaner have in common?
Non of which are necessary when following the Mad method, better yet, you get a better functioning system.

Hmmm, antiquated, poor design charging system that requires contact maintenance and provides almost useless information, OR, modern, well designed system that requires no maintenance, is safer, performs better and provides more useful information (voltmeter)?

You decide. ;)

Elwenil said:
This really only applies to the '70s era trucks since the '80s models have a shunt to prevent these issues.
'81 is when they went to the shunt system.

Ideally the fusible links should cut the power before anything gets to the point of catching fire but since most backyard mechanics have little knowledge about fusible links, they typically think when one blows that it was the problem and bypass it rather than seeing it as a safety fuse that did it's job preventing a meltdown. Make correct repairs as needed and it's very doubtful that any of your trucks will ever catch fire from wiring issues.
Actually, fuses or fusible links will not protect the the bulkhead or ammeter connections as they are not drawing more current when they begin to melt. As I mentioned before, it's all about heat build-up as current attempts to pass through a poor connection. It gets hot, just like a ballast resistor gets hot. As it gets hotter, it creates even more resistance and even oxidation and it gets worse and worse. These failing connections do not draw more current from the system which is what will cause the f-link or fuse to blow. They do obviously...reduce current after the connection. This is why there can be all kinds of electrical issues with these trucks as these connections go bad.
 

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Elwenil said:
This really only applies to the '70s era trucks since the '80s models have a shunt to prevent these issues. I'm reasonably sure that all the '70s models have the ammeter and it can be identified by the typical "AMP" designation and the C/D (charge/discharge) markings on the gauge itself. The last few years of the D/W series trucks used voltmeter gauges instead.
They changed from a standard ammeter to the safe "shunted" ammeter in 1981. It was still labelled with C/D but was redesigned ( more like a voltmeter in design). That was replaced with a real voltmeter around '89 I think.
 

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Typically I refer to the '72-'80 trucks as the "'70s era" since they are all the same bodystyle and 90% of them are all built in the 1970s.  Similarly, the "80s era" refers to the '81-'93 trucks, again, because 90% of them are built in the '80s.  I thought that was self explanatory.  ;D
 

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Elwenil said:
Typically I refer to the '72-'80 trucks as the "'70s era" since they are all the same bodystyle and 90% of them are all built in the 1970s. Similarly, the "80s era" refers to the '81-'93 trucks, again, because 90% of them are built in the '80s. I thought that was self explanatory. ;D
I know YOU know it, but I wanted to make sure HE knew it ;)
 

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Discussion Starter · #20 ·
Okay, I found the desired 10-32 brass hardware at one of the local big box home improvement stores although they didn't have enough of it on the shelf to satisfy my project requirements so, apparently, I'll be off to one of the other local big box home improvement stores a little later.  ::)

The current plan is to slice the existing steel terminal studs off the ammeter's busses using a Dremel Moto Tool with a cut-off wheel and replacing them with the brass machine screws, washers, and nuts.  Washers will be used under both the screw heads and nuts in order to maximize the contact surface area between the busses and the newly-installed hardware.  I'm not planning to solder the connections at this time unless I determine in the future this additional step is absolutely necessary.  ;D
 
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