I decided to move this to a non-Orleans thread 'cause I now seem to be having a continued electrical issue trying to get her to start and perhaps someone else has had the same. Here's the order of events:
1. Installed new/used starter motor
2. Turned the key - a little backfiring, but often a "pffft" sound followed by the gauge lights going off.
3. If I turned the key to "off," waited about 60 seconds, turned the key back to the "on" position, gauge lights were working again.
4. Pushed the starter button - "pffft." Did this a few times until:
5. Pulled the seat - noise and a small puff of smoke was coming from the NEG battery lead.
6. Tightened the lead, tried again.
7. "Bzzzzt" from the starter relay, lights would go off, same scenario. Once I even got some smoke from the relay.
Put battery on McKnight and he started right up, so the battery's ok.
1. Tried a voltage drop test and didn't get far.
a. Battery read 12.5 volts
b. Power side test (POS to POS battery lead, NEG to POS terminal on the relay - turned to "on" and pressed starter button) yielded miilivolts.
2. Pulled power wire and the connector from the wire to the relay looked torn - partner said, "That looks burned!" Perhaps somehow related to last night's smoke incident? Anyway, clear from the connector that relay wasn't getting sufficient voltage ("bzzzt" clue, per an earlier post).
3. Replaced relay with a new/used one I had in my toolbox and tried the voltage drop test again.
4. "Pffft" - gauge out and smoke from the NEG battery terminal.
5. Went back to starter motor and reattached cable, thinking maybe I was shorting to ground accidentally.
6. Engine on, starter on, "pffft", gauge lights out, same ol'.
What the heck am I missing??? The no-start issue is not at the top of my list at the moment, 'cause clearly I'm shorting out somewhere in the starter circuit. Or I think I am - what's puzzing me is the "pffft" from the NEG terminal combined with the gauge lights going off - and then back on again if I turn the key to "off," wait about 60 seconds, and turn the key back to "on." My only other thought is that I've got a short in the ignition switch or circuit - but I could be chasing thing forever with my understanding of electricity.