Servicing the Alfa’s Fuse Box

The calendar said that spring arrived almost 4 weeks ago, but here in central New Jersey, the weather had remained stubbornly cloudy and cool until a few days ago. This delayed me from uncovering the Miata and the Alfa so that I could begin enjoying the new driving season. I finally got both cars out of the garage and running under their own power last week. I have a list of maintenance tasks that I want to perform on the Alfa, as that car is my short-term focus because of all the events on the calendar.

First up is a show which is new to me: The Roebling Museum in Roebling NJ is hosting its 13th annual car show on Saturday April 29th. Registration is day-of-show only, and I’ve seen the grounds: it was a stop for the Glidden tour this past September, and it’s a lovely place for a car show. Next, the Alfa is already registered for the NJ Region AACA Spring Meet on Sunday May 7, at a new location: the Dodge dealer on Route 10 in East Hanover, NJ. Also on the calendar is the Carlisle Import Show on May 12 and 13; the Delaware Valley Alfa Club will be there and I plan to join them. I’m also honored that I have been personally invited to show the Alfa at this year’s Greenwich Concours d’Elegance. It’s a two-day show as always, and this year it’s on Saturday and Sunday June 3 and 4. Alfa Romeo is a featured marque on Sunday, and Rich Taylor, he of the infamous New England 1000 rallies, reached out to me with the invitation, so we (the Alfa and I) will be there. That’s a busy start to the car show season!

The fuse box cover: descriptions in Italian and English

Last week, I tackled a simple maintenance task: the servicing of the fuse box. You won’t find this procedure in many shop manuals. But I know from experience that fuse boxes, especially ones located in the engine compartment as it is for my Alfa, are subject to dirt, grime, vibration, and other external forces that can mess with the simplest electrical connections. I also know that the ceramic fuses that the Alfa uses (which are identical to the fuses in a Volvo 240) can weaken over time. Given that each fuse is less than 50 cents, it is a no-brainer to occasionally replace the fuses, and clean and tighten the contacts while I’m there. The simple fact is, the failure of any one fuse can bring the car to a stop, so I want to minimize that possibility.

Pre-servicing: you can see some dirt on the fuses and tabs

I bought the fuses from my reliable supplier, Classic Alfa in the UK, and again, they did not disappoint. An online order placed with them late Tuesday night was on my front porch at 3 p.m. Thursday. That’s less than 48 hours. Did I mention that they are in the UK? Anyway, I started the process by removing all 10 fuses, then spraying down the entire fuse box using a spray can of electronics cleaner. I used a brass bristle brush on all the tabs, then installed 10 new fuses, gently bending the tabs inward for a tight fit. As a final test, I got out my digital multimeter (DMM) and tested continuity across both tabs. I had good continuity at all the fuses. The entire job took less than 30 minutes.

The brass tabs after cleaning: the metal looks bright, which will provide the best contact

With that out of the way, I also plan to refresh the cooling system by replacing all hoses and flushing the system (the hoses are now 10 years old!) and also plan to replace the rear shocks, which are likely original to the car (making them 56 years old). I keep telling myself, I’ve got time! Tempus fugit.

All new fuses in place (note that Alfa provides places to carry spares; clever!)


All photographs copyright © 2023 Richard A. Reina. Photos may not be copied or reproduced without express written permission.


Automotive Fuses: A Somewhat Brief Tutorial (with Illustrations)

Have you replaced a fuse on one of your modern daily-driver automobiles recently? It’s likely you have not. Today’s motor vehicles have much more sophisticated electrical systems, and while your typical 2017 four-wheeled 2.5 ton behemoth still uses fuses, the days of fuses just “wearing out” are behind us.

If you have needed to replace a fuse, the first trick may have been to locate the fuse boxes. My wife’s 2017 Honda Odyssey has FIVE fuse boxes: two in the engine compartment, two under the dash, and one at the rear, containing a total of 107 fuses. It makes me pity the shop tech who needs to fault-trace an intermittent electrical problem.

My 1967 Alfa Romeo GT 1300 Junior, by contrast, has one fuse box, located in the engine compartment. Access to it is easy, as it’s mounted high up, on the right-side inner fender. There are a total of 10 fuses: one for ignition, five for exterior lighting, and three which are helpfully marked “other electric devices” (of which there are few; my Alfa lacks the power sliding doors, climate control, and ‘Lane Departure Warning’ of my wife’s minivan).

Ten little fuses, all in a row. Note bi-lingual fuse box cover.

Italian cars get a bad rap for their supposed temperamental electrics. But there’s not been a lick of an issue with mine, save for a battery which died shortly after I got the car (because it was 10 years old at that point). Preventative maintenance goes a long way toward keeping the electrons flowing in the proper direction and in a complete circuit.

With any old car, I will gladly get on my soapbox and preach the ’12-Volt Gospel’: 99% of electrical gremlins are caused by poor connections. Terminals must be clean and tight; ground wires must be securely connected to clean ground; and fuses and their terminals must be clean, tight, and protected with dielectric grease. In no case should an electrical component be replaced without first ensuring that all connections, hold-downs, and crimped or soldered terminals are in the best shape they can be.

Soon after acquiring the Alfa, I removed all 10 of the European-style ceramic fuses, cleaned the spring-tensioned holders with a brass brush, and bent the holders inward to make them tighter. Next, I applied a light coating of dielectric grease. Upon reinstalling the fuses, I ran continuity tests with my multimeter to check that there was minimal (ideally, close to zero) resistance in the connections.

This dielectric grease is magical stuff. It seems counter-intuitive to grease electrical connections, but it prevents corrosion from forming. You still need to have a strong mechanical connection. It should be used on battery terminals and spark plug boots as well as fuses. Don’t waste your $1.99 buying the point-of-purchase 0.001 oz. packet at the retail store checkout counter. I bought a 5-ounce tube about four years ago, and even after multiple applications on multiple cars, I’ve only used about 25% of it.

Dynatex brand dielectric grease – I use it frequently on electrical work

While on the subject of fuses: I recently cleaned out an old shoe box full of automotive miscellany which had belonged to my dad. In it were several tins of glass-style fuses. While none of the cars I own today use this style, my ’68 Mustang did, and I recall how difficult it was to reach the fuse box on that car, as it was mounted above the gas pedal.

Buss brand glass fuses – note old & new style packaging

Some people refer to these as Buss fuses, however, that is a brand name. According to Wikipedia, these fuses were also known as “SFE” fuses because they were developed by the Society of Fuse Engineers.  They varied in ratings between 4 and 30 amps, and in corresponding lengths between 5/8” and 1&7/16”. This was done by design in order to help prevent a fuse of incorrect amperage from being inserted.

Automotive glass fuses


Red Line brand fuses – box states that company is from N.Y.


Opening these is like going on an archeological dig

If you have a newer car, here’s hoping that you never need to replace a fuse (much less find the fuse box). If you have an older car, here’s hoping that you invest in a tube of dielectric grease, and in a half-hour of preventative maintenance. Let me know how it works out.


All photographs copyright © 2017 Richard A. Reina. Photos may not be copied or reproduced without express written permission.

Special photographic note: the 4 photos of the glass fuses were taken with a FILM camera, specifically, my Nikon EM, using Kodak Gold ISO 200 film.


On January 14, 1885, Thomas A. Edison of Menlo Park NJ, applied for a U.S. Patent for his invention of a “fuse-block”, to act as an electrical protection device.