Winning a "renovated" VW Beetle might actually make you feel like a loser.

Dear Car Talk

Dear Car Talk | Feb 01, 1995

Dear Tom and Ray:

Can you help me? Last summer, my son entered a contest, in our family's name, with a local radio station to win one of four "renovated" VW Beetles, in celebration of the 30th anniversary of the Beatles (John, Paul, George, and Ringo) coming to America. Unfortunately, we won. By the way, renovated, in this case, means a new paint job and new tires. The VW has a 1973 body and a mid-60's engine. The electrical problem is this: We had the car for about three months and it ran fairly well. One morning, however, when my wife was trying to start the car, all that happened when she turned the ignition switch was a single "click" sound behind the dashboard somewhere. No starter, no lights, no radio, no electrical. I checked the battery -- voltmeter read 12.6 volts. I asked a nearby VW dealer what the problem could be, and he didn't have any idea. I asked local parts stores, they didn't know. Finally, I purchased a new ignition switch, mainly because that was the only electrical device the VW dealer had in stock. It fixed the problem, sort of. The car ran for all of half a day. The next time my wife tried to start it, we got the single click again. The ignition switch cost $28, and I can't afford to keep replacing it every other day. What do you suggest?

RAY: I'd suggest you hold a contest next summer to celebrate the 31st anniversary of the Beatles coming to America. And give the winner a renovated VW Beetle!

TOM: Actually, I suspect the ignition switch is a red herring, Dave. I think the clicking you're hearing behind the dashboard is a bad connection between the battery and the fuse box--probably right at the fuse box. The "click" you're hearing is the "arcing" (the spark jumping across the bad connection).

RAY: When you installed the ignition switch, you probably jiggled the wires enough to recreate the connection. And then the car worked until you went over a sufficient number of bumps and knocked it loose again. That's my guess.

TOM: I agree. It's a loose connection somewhere. If it's not between the battery and the fuse box, check between the fuse box and the ignition switch. And while you're looking for the problem, have your wife start printing up those contest entry forms.

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