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MG MGA - Flat batteries.

Afternoon all, am needing help with ’the old lady’ my 1958 MGA coupe.

After seeing an end in sight to the bad weather I went to start her today and failed, in doing so I’ve run the batteries flat, I really do have so much to learn !

Anyway, moving on, what’s my best course of action in order to recover from this situation?

• Bump starting her
• Jump starting her
• Removing and charging batteries

and how best do I go about the suggested option, anyone near Glasgow able to help out ?

Thanks in advance, Matthew.
M Elliott

Just leave your batteries on charge overnight - even if you get started with jump leads or with the handle you need a really long journey to get them fully charged so you will still need an overnight charge. You can charge them in situ if you are careful but safer to take them out - I leave mine on trickle charge in situ during the winter when I'm not using it much.
Cam Cunningham

What type of charger is best / most suitable, any suggestions as to brands / model numbers would really be most welcome.

Ta Matthew.
M Elliott


I use a smart charger that can be left on for as long as you like. Useful in the winter months. It not only charges from dead but keeps the battery ticking over once fully charged. You can find them in most car accessory shops for about £30, maybe less - not checked.

I adapted my battery compartment so that I do not have to remove the battery panel to recharge. See the following link.
The schematic is for a negative earthed car: Then click on the battery charging link.

Steve Gyles

No necessity to modify anything for easy battery charging simply open the bonnet and attach the plus (Assuming the polarity of the car is negative earth, if positive earth then read negatve) to the live post on the starter solenoid and the other (Neg or pos dependant upon earth onfiguataion) to any decent earth point. I have an earth strap across the engine mount and I connect onto that.

I also used to use a smart charger on both my MGA and midget, after a year both batteries were stuffed so I have now gone back to the disconnection method, I have on both cars an isolator switch fitted and when this is used the batteries stay charged even if standing for extended periods.
Robert (Bob) Midget Turbo

Matthew -have you tried using the starter handle, if the engine's set up correctly it will often start and run on very low batteries as long as you provide the initial turning.
J H Cole

Sadly i don't have a starter handle but had earlier thought of it easy, can a replacement be used instead ?
M Elliott

Matthew, I have the smart charger that Steve mentions and it certainly brought my batteries back from the brink. They now hold their charge and start the car effortlessly. The charger kit I got was the CTEK XS3600. It came with the normal bulldog clip connectors and also an eyelet type connector that you can wire into the car so that the charger can be connected via a plug. It is safer that trying to connect a bulldog clip to the live solenoid terminal and accidently earthing it!
Batteries do need regular service when the car is not in use. A monthly charge with a conventional charger or a purpose built trickle charger/smart charger permanently connected through the winter months will keep your battery fit for years. Simply disconnecting a battery is not an option. Over time it will discharge itself internally, the plates will get sulphated and eventually it will reach the point of no return.
Lindsay Sampford

You don't want to jump start an A that has electronic ignition, if that's your case. Charge the batteries first, then attempt to start.
JM Morris

I keep automatic chargers on all of my cars including my two MGA's. In the case of the latter I have a small socket behind the driver's seat so that I don't have to open and close the bonnet each time I use the cars. Automatic chargers can be left on all of the time and are very convenient (but unfortunately they are not cheap!).
Barry Bahnisch

My previous 1600 MGA would always start on the handle even if the wasnt enough power in the battery to turn the engine over, so long as there was sufficient power to illuminate the ignition light.
So a starter handle is a good investment Matthew.

It was also really easy to bump start it, my drive slopes slightly and it would usually bump start in a couple of yards (usually before I ran it into the garage door!)
So if you park it on a slope you are laughing, otherwise a couple of friends (who wont be laughing!)can push start it.

Pretty much any battery charger you can buy will be fine (make sure it is a 12 volt charger)and ideally with a cut out that will operate if you connect it to the wrong polarity.
The more economic chargers will only charge at low amperages and therefore will take longer to fully charge the battery. The more expensive chargers will usually charge much quicker, some have a booster charge facility for really rapid charging.

To be honest, you would be better spending the money on a new battery (mine is a single 12 volt one) and just buy an economic charger for the occasional emergency.

Once the battery has been recharged, if you find that the car is still difficult to start, you will probably have to check out the spark plugs, fit some new points and a condenser and I would bet that all will be well again.

Colyn Firth

A "jump box" is a great accessory...

Sold by Sears and almost any auto parts store here, they have a battery with a pair of integral 18" jumper cables.

It charges by plugging into 110VAC (or 220V in the UK, I guess) and will start the car several times before itself needing to be recharged.

My old made-in-China one died, and I just purchased a Sears unit for about $50 US.

AJ Mail

Those jump start batteries can be used for more than just starting the car. We made it home (20 miles) using a jump start battery after the voltage regulator (among other electrical problems) failed. Had enough power to start the car and keep the lights and fuel pump on long enough to get home.
Don Carlberg
Don Carlberg

Hi Matthew

One other thing that is particularly an issue with twin batteries is the integrity of all the connections, not just terminal to battery, but cable to terminal.

I have had a number of experiences of poor starting and poor charging due to bad connections, particularly on the link cable between the batteries.

They have (maybe some left) "jump box" power packs in Aldi at the moment.

N McGurk

Thanks for all your advice.

Think I know exactly what I did wrong, a school boy error but we live and learn and I've a lot to learn...

I have acquired a trickle charger and am now looking at removing both batteries as thr garage doesn't have a power supply.

What procedue do I need to follow, namely which wires do I remove first, second etc. then charging what is recommended (time wise) and then putting it all back together.

Am so looking forward to being back in the road, Ta Matthew
M Elliott

Matthew, always disconnect the earth wire first and re-connect the earth wire last.
Lindsay Sampford

Your new charger will probably have an indicator light that will illuminate when the batteries are fully charged.

If it is a 12 volt charger then you will have to charge your two 6 volt batteries whilst they are still connected together (just leave the wire linking the two batteries connected).

If you have bought a dual voltage charger (6 and 12v) you should select 6 volts and charge them individually.

I have usually found that an overnight charge is normally sufficient time to charge a battery fully.

Colyn Firth

I used to leave my batteries on trickle but had a fire start due to faulty charger. (no big damage because my mother extinguished it using a hand held garden hose onto a 240volt live charger !) I have a number of little used cars and machinery and my solution has been a solar driven trickle charger (about 1 amp I think) and by fitting a discrete plug to all the vehicles it can be easily connected without opening the car or bonnet. I can still isolate the mains power from the shed with this set up and the ease of connection makes sure I rotate the charger.

Works in sunny Australia !
John McMaster

Many thanks to you all, here’s an update and some more questions…
I have been looking at the old lady closely and am not too confident about removing the batteries for charging as alls very secure with bolted clips etc.
So I am thinking of buy a jump box or using my Mini and jump leads to help start her and then head out for a long long run, in hope of getting a charge in to her.
Questions now
What is the recommended procedure (especially as I’ve two 6 volt batteries) what do I attach and to where and what how should the choke and ignition be set ?

is this a good option or should I persist in removing the batteries and charge then replace ?

if so what’s the best way of undoing said clips, am a wee bit concerned what with metal an electricity being in close contact !
An extra one, I've find a starter handle, how do I go about using this, again how should the choke and ignition be set ?
Thanks to you all, Matthew.
M Elliott

Matthew, those batteries are going to need more than a drive up the road, they need some conditioning at a low current over a period of time. As I said before, diconnect the earth wire from the battery post first and you will have no problems with metal and electricity (if there is any left in the battery). The only danger is doing your back lifting those relatively heavy lumps in a confined space (you have to have the hood up).
Lindsay Sampford

Battery removal it is then...which is the earth wire and on which battery...some simple simple instructions please - lol...

will let you know Monday how it went, am looking forward to it 
M Elliott


I understand now, by earth you mean negative, I apologise for my confusion am rather sleepy today, other things playing on my mind...

Thanks again, M.
M Elliott

Not necessarily. The earth is the chassis polarity.

If the short battery lead (not the one between the batteries) which is bolted to the chassis goes to the battery positive terminal you have a positive earth car. The "earthed" battery is normally the left hand one (looking from the back of the car forwards) but again things get changed so beware.

As originally supplied the cars had positive earth but quite a few have been changed to negative to allow modern electronic devices to be fitted.

Malcolm Asquith

Batteries out, not too bad a job thankfully but kinda sore on the back !

One charging and the other to go on charge tomorrow, so can't wait to be out in the old lady again.

Will keep you updated, thanks again to all, Matthew

M Elliott

"""One charging and the other to go on charge tomorrow,"""

How are you charging just one battery? have you a very unusual charger.
Most people would connect the batteries in series and charge them both at the same time with a normal 12 volt charger
Robert (Bob) Midget Turbo

Bob. Not to sure, I've borrowed a 6V charger from a contact, he suggested this was best and besides additional wiring is utilised !
M Elliott

OK mate if it is a 6 volt charger then fine simply charge one battery at a time. I was worried thinking you had used a simple 12 volt charger to charge only one battery. This of course would result in a tad of damage.

You could charge both in parallel but best for the time being to keep thins simple.
Robert (Bob) Midget Turbo

Bob - keeping things very simple is needed for the time being - lol...

Thanks for concern, was worried myself about blowing up the whole thing !!!

M Elliott

She’s alive ☺

Spent an hour last night putting the old lady’s batteries back in.

Was a wee bit longer than expected due to a slight problem with one of the trays that needs addressing another day (one lip at the back is flattened) and the fact there heavy as *£$% !!!

Tonight I wired her up and tightened all the terminal fixings while hoping I wasn’t fried alive, then with much trepidation and with my eyes tightly closed she puff puffed back into life .

Am so proud of my first fix, albeit from my initial mistake.

I have learnt a lot and in doing so gained confidence that I’m not a total mechanical dunce, the girlfriend is happy seeing me out and well occupied, yay.

Thank you all for the advice and come the next problem I’ll be back but in the mean time a wee journey is in the offing, think it’ll be down the Clyde Valley, stopping for some tomato picking.

M Elliott

Glad you have it running again Matthew, this forum is really brilliant for helpful advice and also for making you smile.
Its kind of addictive too!
I tend to log-on at least once a day for my "fix"
My wife calls it my MGA "porn site"

Once your car batteries are fully charged you ought to see if you can start the car using the starter handle.
It really comes in handy in a situation where the battery has insufficient power left in it to turn the engine over fast enough. All the voltage is used up by the starter leaving little to produce a spark.

If your car is in a relatively standard state of tune with standard compression ratio, then it should turn over on the starter handle fairly easilly.

Pull out the choke fully and twist it anti-clockwise to lock it in place.

Switch on the ignition and wait a second or two to wait until the fuel pump fills up the carbs.

Insert the starting handle and turn it to locate it into its socket on the front of the crankshaft.

Wrap your fingers around the handle but NOT your thumb! (if the engine kicks back you dont want your thumb in the way!)

Then turn the handle as fast as you can, it may take a bit of effort but with the plugs and points in good order I have known the engine to fire on the first rotation.

Best of luck

Colyn Firth

This thread was discussed between 31/05/2011 and 09/06/2011

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