July 1925 - December 1970

Gus Wilson's Model Garage

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By Martin Bunn (John L. Bellah)

    It was a warm spring day and as Gus Wilson opened up the Model Garage the phone interrupted him. "Gus, its Jack Philpott, service manager of Stanfield Motors. I've got a problem I need you to solve."

    "What seems to be the problem, Jack?"

    "I've got a customer with a 1972 Datsun 510. He bought it new from us, and it's almost off warranty. The problem is it burns up alternators--so far he's on his third alternator. And we never have alternator problems on that model.

    I'm going to send the car down to your shop--as it sits, along with one of the burned out alternators. I'll send the other alternator down along with a replacement along with copies of the service records on the car."

    Gus asked, do you have a history on the other alternator?

    "Unfortunately, no. He took a trip to Atlanta, and a dealer there replaced the unit."

    An hour later the Datsun arrived at the Model Garage in back of a tow truck. The tow truck driver identified himself as Bill Lester, a gangly redhead.

    "Hi Gus. You probably don't remember me but I met you some years back when you lectured at the local trade school. If you can't find the trouble on this car--nobody can."

    "So where are we at so far?"

    Lester replied, "Right now it is as it came into our service department, the battery is dead and according to the owner, the alternator won't charge. Owner said one night the headlamps got dimmer and dimmer until the car finally died."

    Gus called out to Stan Hicks, his assistant. "Stan, charge up the battery on this car and yank the alternator." Lester said, "Look I have to get the tow truck back to the dealership. Give a call when you come up with some answers. Nice to see you again, Gus"

    Later, with both alternators disassembled on the workbench, Gus approached Stan. "Find anything?"

    "Not a thing, Gus. I can see where both alternators burned out, but nothing to show for it."

    "Well something obviously burned them out. Just a hunch, but water could damage an alternator."

    Opening the radiator cap, Stan replied, "C'mon Gus I looked at service records. This car has always been dealer-serviced. There are no overheating complaints and as you can see it still has the factory coolant in the radiator."

    "Stan, there's something you missed."

    "What's that, Boss?"

    "The obvious. Pressurize the cooling system."

    Five minutes later Stan pressurized the radiator and examined the area below the front of the engine. "Hey Gus, check this out." Pointing to the water pump's lower radiator hose connection they observed a series of small green coolant droplets landing on the alternator below."

    "Okay, Stan. Tighten up the hose clamp and install the new alternator and we'll get this buttoned up. I've got work to do."

    Several minutes later while Gus was in the middle of a brake job, Stan called out. "Gus, we may have a problem--the new alternator doesn't work, even though the indicator light isn't indicating a failure."

    "Did you check the fuses?"

    "Er, no. Not yet, anyway"

    "Armed with a test light Stan probed the fuses in fuse box on the firewall. "Aha, got it! But this is strange. I think you need to call the service manager of Stanfield Motors and let them know what's going on."

    Early the next morning Gus was greeted by Jack Philpott and a slight man identified as Sam Klein, the Datsun Technical Service Representative.

    Gus began, "Okay gentlemen, the car is ready to go. The problem was a loose lower radiator hose at the water pump. The problem cropped up after a hard drive and the car was shut off. Heat and pressure was cause the coolant to seep out and drip into the alternator, blowing the fuse protecting the alternator and causing the unit to fail. Stan, here will tell you the rest of the story."

    Stan began, "The problem on the Datsun 510 is the alternator fuse not only protects the alternator, the fuel and temperature gauges and the alternator and oil pressure warning lights are also on the same fuse. When that fuse blows, it also shuts off your gauges and warning lights, so there is nothing indicating the alternator failure.

    Three months later Gus received a note from Jack Philpott.


 Dear Gus:

            Thanks for getting us out of the alternator snafu some weeks back. Enclosed is a check covering your troubleshooting efforts. You'd be pleased to know Sam Klein, the area technical rep. not only wrote a Technical Service Bulletin on the problem you uncovered, but the 1973 Models have redesigned circuitry to prevent the problem from reoccurring.

Bill Lester also said to say hi. Again thanks.



ŠJohn L. Bellah, 2018