I requested advise on this matter several weeks ago and have tried everything with no results. I am completing my 1915 roadster restoration. I purchased the car as a running vehicle. It ran and started so well that I did not include engine work in the restoration. The trouble I have is with starting the car on battery. When cold the car just will not start on battery. It starts with one full turn on magneto and once I run it for a minute it will start on the first 1/4 turn on battery. In fact, I usually can't keep it from starting on compression once it is warmed up. Sometime starts on compression 2 hours later. I have installed a new 12 volt battery which is fully charged. All new wiring and yes I have it wiring correctly at the coil box. My battery is on the drivers side in a metal tool box all the way back to the rear fender so I used #8 wire. When I turn the car on battery and a coil is buzzing I get funny readings at the plugs with an electrical tester. Usually the #4 plug will show some voltage and all the others the read out on the meter jumps all over the place. Is this normal ? I know the problem stems from not getting enough voltage to the plugs for cold battery start up but I have jumped from the battery to the coil box and engine ground with jumper cables with no better results. I have even put my battery charger on boost and tried to start it with no results yet I can start it on mag and then switch to battery and the car continues to run. Shut it off and it will usually start on compression and if not then I just touch the crank and it starts. I am at wits end! Has anyone ever encountered this problem? Thanks
Do you still have wood in the coil box?
Sorry if these questions make no sense, but I have a 1926 coupe and the questions are based on what I know about the '26.
1. Why are you using a 12 volt battery? Shouldn't it be a 6 volt?
2. Have you had your coils adjusted by Ron Patterson or another qualified coil man on this site who adjusts coils?
3. Does a 1915 have a generator? If so, is it working to keep the battery charged?
Sounds like your battery will not hold a charge and only starts on battery after receiving a charge after running for awhile. Sometimes even brand new batteries are bad and need to be returned. Take it back to where you bought it and have them test it.
Don are you using a digital meter? Try using a analog meter. I have a 12v battery in my 26 roadster and it cranks and fires real good now that I've replaced the "new" battery. It was made in May this year. Also what is your voltage while cold cranking? Might be a high current draw from the starter causing low voltage, poor spark.
Don, I am thinking that if your cars starts and runs on magneto and also starts on compression on battery then all is well with the electrical system. It sounds like you have an issue with cold starting only which may only be a lack of fuel. Try priming with choke on before starting. I am assuming you do not have a starter if the car is a 1915?. Another possibility is if you have a starter your battery is in poor shape and when you try to crank it over the voltage drops to a level where it can no longer operate the coils. Try starting the car with the handle and listen to the coils buzz. If the cold buzz and there is fuel, knowing that the car already runs it should fire for you. Good luck.
The 1915 did not come with a starter or generator or battery. A battery can be used for starting and then switch to magneto. I made that statement, because you said you have a 1915. We can do a bit better helping you to solve your problem if you will answer a few questions. Do you have a starter on your car?
Are you cranking on battery or using a starter? Do you have a generator on your car? Have you charged your battery before you try to start the car? If we don't know how your car is configured, we can't answer all the possible problem areas. If you are using a digital voltmeter, it is very often that the needle jumps all over. An analog voltmeter works much better and more accurately on a Model T.
I do not have a stater or a generator. I start the car only by cranking. Battery is new and I have tried with a booster charger on it so I know I have enough voltage. I always crank the car over twice with the choke pulled out prior to turning on the key (unless car is warmed up). I have choked it enough so fuel overflows. I do need an analog voltmeter! I bought the battery new two weeks ago. Only used for crank starting car. One person asked why 12 volts and not 6. It's because I have converted my headlights to 12 volt battery. Yes the headlight are off when I try to start. Thanks again everyone.
Actually another question. How many turns open should the carborator adjustment needle be turned. I may be starving the engine. However it starts on Mag?
Somewhere in the neighborhood of 1 & 1/2 turns open when cold then adjust accordingly as engine reaches operating temperature.
Use a screwdriver to check the spark at each plug as you turn the engine over on battery. If you get a healthy spark, which you should, your problem is elsewhere, likely you need to open the carb needle 1-1/2 turns and choke it when you start it cold.
Since the car will start on Mag, but not on battery my bet is on number 2 of Jim's possible causes. If you can hand crank on mag and start, but not on 12 volts from the battery (the 8 gauge wire should be good for this length of run) it sounds like the coils need work/adjustment.
This is waaaay out there in left field, but may help.
When I put an Anderson timer on my car I understood the timing rod needed to be adjusted because the "firing point" was different than a roller timer. I did that, but apparently not as much as I should have.
The result is, the engine absolutely will not start when cranking (with starter) on battery, unless I advance the timing lever about 1/4 of the way. But it will start on Magneto with the lever all the way up.
Could your timing be off, like mine is? I couldn't begin to say why it works better on Mag than Batt when over-retarded, but it seems to.
I'd suggest you check the timing. The coil should begin to buzz just after Top Dead Center, with the lever all the way up -- but you knew that.
"My battery is on the drivers side in a metal tool box all the way back to the rear fender so I used #8 wire"
#8 is way too small, For 12 volt you want at least #2, preferably larger. Both for ground, to the starter switch and from the switch to the starter.
Donald does not have an electric starter on his car. #8 wire is fine.
I would check the timing and coils. Also if it is being choked for two full turns, that is likely too much.
I'm going to assume that the problem is electrical, as your T starts and runs on mag.
Shut off the gas and drain the carb bowl. Remove all plugs, reconnect them to their respective wires and lay on the head in such a way that the base of the plugs make good contact with the head.
Turn switch to battery position, and slowly crank the engine over watching for the spark at each plug. All plugs should fire in two revolutions of the crank,
1. Strong spark at each plug? Forget measuring with a voltmeter as you need special equipment to measure secondary voltage. Average voltmeter won't do it.
2. Plug number one firing about 1/16" past top dead center ?
It has to fail one of these tests or it will start on battery!
Buy or make a spark tester. My store bought one wont work on a T because it only takes modern snap on spark plug wires. What this thing is is a simple device that has a clip on one end to attach it to a good ground (Like a head bolt). The other end attaches to your spark plug wire. There is an adjustable gap between the two. Set that to 1/4". If your spark will jump that, then there is probably not a problem with your ignition system since you say it runs OK after it is warm. While it is always a good idea to have coils rebuilt by a competent builder, the results show up much more while running on magneto than on battery. I doubt a coil out of adjustment is going to keep you from starting on battery. Also, as said above, don't bother trying to measure spark plug voltage with a multimeter.
First, I would make sure the timing is set properly. Then, upon starting a cold engine, I open the mixture 1/4 turn from it's normal RUN position, give it about 1/4-1/3 throttle, then choke for one pull of the crank. It usually starts on the next pull. It will run for less than a minute before it starts to surge. When it starts to surge, I turn the mixture back in and it smooths right out.
I agree with Peter
Ahh...maybe a stupid question...but have you addressed the obvious? Where do you put the spark advance for a battery start?
If things are set up right and good...The lever position point for 'mag' start and the lever position for 'batt' start are two different places! Usually 2-3 clicks different with the 'batt' being advanced.
Other than that...many have a set and forget view to lean/rich setting on the carb. Find one magic place that handles both a cold start and a hot start. My view is 'good for them if it works'. I have never been so lucky! Maybe it is how I set things in the first place and some may even suggest that I run too lean, but I never get red manifolds...my cars tend to be consistent runners...and all my cars need an additional 1/2 turn on the mixture knob to start 'cold'. Standard procedure now...open the carb 1/2 CCW, switch off a few choke pulls, check advance lever for maybe 4 clicks down (with 'mag' being 'up'), switch to 'batt'. Either get a free start even when cold, or, 1-2 pulls does the trick. While it is finding itself, switch over to 'mag', then immediately 1/2 turn CW on the carb. (I have added a 'dot' at 12 o'clock high on those with the carb knob...actually bend the twisted wire type to be vertical on those cars equipped that way...to show my normal running position, so I never lose sight of where I'm at carb wise).
Another one, mentioned above...do you hose down the car before those cold starts like starting out for the day? A while back my '15 could turn into a mule for what never seemed obvious...because all the checks said 'good to go' and it just sat there and snarled back refusing to start 'morning cold'. Once hot and sun baked, no mule. I gave it a treat and bought it a Fun Projects coil box kit...hasn't happened since and once disassembled I did find that the wood graining on the original had 'green' cast to it! My morning hose down created a 'short' by tracking thru the grain!
I'm with George (except George has battery and mag backwards on which should be advanced when you start).
Donald, can you start from the beginning on exactly what you have and exactly what you do? It'd be easiest if you just copy my post and answer each question individually - we can get this thing licked.
What carb does the car have?
What timer does the car have?
Is there still the original wood in the coil box?
Have your coils been professionally rebuilt?
How is the battery connected? IE, do you have the positive side of the battery going to the battery post on the coil box? It sounds like you may have a switch issue. It's not very hard to pull the switch and double check that the contacts and wiring are ok.
Once we know the answer to those -
When you go to start the car on battery, where do you set the spark advance lever?
When starting on battery the spark lever SHOULD be all the way up, fully retarded. If you don't have it set here, it can (and will) kick back on you when you try to start it. When you are starting on magneto, you should pull the spark lever down (advance) about 3 or 4 notches. If your settings for starting are different than these, then you will need to adjust your spark advance connecting rod (from spark lever arm to timer).
The carb (depending on which one you have) should be screwed all the way down tight, and then open it back up 1 to 1 and 1/2 turns in order to start the car when it is cold. Then adjust it to make car run smooth.
Every Model T is a little different because of the type carburetor, wear on the engine and condition of the coils and set of the timing.
With that in mind, you should do some experimenting. I have one car which starts with crank on battery in this manor. I open the fuel mixture 1/4 turn and with the key off, pull up on the crank with choke out. One pull up, then one full turn without the choke. Turn on the key and either get a free start or one pull up on the crank and it starts.
I have another car which takes two pulls up on the crank to accomplish the same result. That car needs choke even when warm such as stopping at a gas station, filling the tank and then to get it to start takes a one pull up with choke.
I believe these differences are in the carburetor. One of the cars has a kingston and the other has a holly.
The timing is very important. It is interesting that your car starts on mag, but not on battery. Most cars would be just the opposite. For some reason the spark is not getting to the spark plug at the right time when on battery. The mag spark is determined by both the timer and the position of the magnets in front of the mag coil inside the magneto. So your spark on magneto would be more likely to come at the right time even if the timer is slightly off. Try adjusting the timing rod to get the spark to come 15 degrees AFTER top dead center with the spark rod all the way up.
To find the correct adjustment of the timer, put the spark lever all the way up, and then with the key on, turn the crank VERY slowly until a coil starts to buzz. The pin in the front pulley, that is the pin to which the crank connects when you are cranking the car. That pin should be at about the 10:20 position as you would look at a clock, looking from the front of the car. If you can't see the pin, you can feel the position with your fingers. That is the side toward the driver on an American car, would be lower than the side toward the passenger. At the same time the top of the piston would have just passed top dead center and starting to go down as the crank is turned. If the spark comes much later than this, it will not start on battery, and if it comes before the piston reaches top dead center the engine will go backward and break your wrist!
If the battery is charged, the fuel mixture is set right and it is choked just enough the car should start. Try choking less, then if it doesn't start, choke more and see if you can find the right amount of choking necessary to start your car. If the fuel is dripping out of the carburetor, you have choked too much and the car needs to sit a while before trying again, or a few quick complete spins with the throttle all the way open might clear the flooding. Note if you spin the crank always do it with the spark all the way up and the key OFF. Then turn on the key and pull up only to start the car.
I guess I misread the initial post, when DR said it wouldn't start on battery I took it as being cranked w/the battery vesus cranked by hand.
Oops, vesus should read versus.
Donald, I noticed you have 44 posts to the forum, so are familiar enough with the Model T to start it and drive it, so please forgive me if in the next paragraph of this post, I tell you something you already know.
In your above post, you mentioned that it starts on magneto with one full turn of the crank. I hope you are not cranking the car with full complete turns of the crank. Shattered arms have resulted whenever the Model T decided to backfire as the unwise T owner was pushing down on the crank. Something's got to give and it's not going to be the crank. Always start your car by, first fully retarding the spark, then after choking, Position the crank at 7:00, then using just the 4 fingers of your cranking hand (never wrap the thumb around the crank), rapidly pull up on the crank and let go of the crank at 12:00 getting your hand and arm out of the way as fast as possible continuing the upward motion of your arm. NEVER continue cranking past 12:00 and on down to 6:00 then around again. It is just a disaster waiting to happen (especially if the timing is off and it does not fully retard) and can ruin your whole year.
Many say to use the left arm for cranking but I am just one of many on this forum who do not agree with this. I'm a righty and will always be a righty and I guess I'm just to uncoordinated (or too stubborn) to change cranking hands after 43 years of cranking my T with my right hand, using the above 7:00 to 12:00 technique. Jim Patrick
George should just say 'up' or 'down'...
Thanks for catching that, I really am not sure which is which...haha
Actually I've made that upside down description several times in the past...think I'd have known better by now.
At the risk of opening up the "correct starting" can of worms again, here's how I, a righty, start a 1915 Model T on battery: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zCWnmPrxKo0&list=TLC74tL5lMOfA.
Pulling a crank is not like throwing a baseball or writing. No coordination or fine motor skills are involved. Unless there's some physical impairment dictating otherwise, just pulling up with the left hand is no harder than with the right. That's my only disagreement with Jim. His directions are otherwise perfect.
Having actually experienced a broken arm from incorrect cranking, I tend to preach on this whenever the subject comes up.
Steve, believe it or not, I broke my arm too cranking my T in 1982. Luckily it was just a reverse chug instead of a full blown reverse start, but it cracked my right wrist, just the same. My break was the result of inattentiveness and forgetfulness due to a beautiful girl walking into the garage of the storage facility I was storing my T in at the time and began asking questions. I had the T started once but it died as I was advancing the spark and I neglected to retard it before attempting another start. That is when it happened. The girl never knew I sustained a broken arm and I never saw her again as I bid her a quick goodbye and drove myself to the hospital.
I have no problem with the advice to crank with the left hand to others but as for me, I have tried it and it feels unnatural to me and really is difficult for me, just as writing is with my left hand. My left arm is not as strong or coordinated and I can't get as much strength behind the pull as I can with my right hand.
I really should have left out the last paragraph because until then, the choice of hands to use was not mentioned and totally up to to the reader. I don't want to get into a left or right discussion either, because it doesn't matter to me, but, for this discussion, I will concede that everyone should crank their T with your left hand, if you can, because if the T backfires, it will throw the left hand clear of the revolving crank and therefore is safer and less likely to result in a broken arm. Jim Patrick
Sorry, I read the title of your post and all I could think of was this:
On my T, if I cranked it two full revolutions with the choke out, it would be flooded. Mine needs (2) 1/4 turn cranks with the choke out. She will start right up after that.
How about a post telling us what you've done and if you found the problem ?
There has been a lot of advice. But I have a question. The battery needs a good ground. How do you have the ground completed? My recommendation is to strip the paint away and use a star washer to make a good chassis ground. I would also recommend making a good ground between the engine and the frame. On my 26’ If I recall correctly I removed one of the added 26’ engine braces, stripped the paint at each connection point and again used star washers to ensure a solid connection.
Thanks everyone. I did the test for timing and found that I was trying to start the car with the spark lever in the mag position. When I tested the car at 1/16 turn past TDC on number one cylinder I had to turn the engine another 1/4 turn for the #1 coil to buzz. So I am quite a bit out of time and found that I need to move the lever 6 notches down to have the coil buzz at the right time. This surprises me because I always thought that a T would not start on compression unless it is in prefect timing? I haven't actually started it yet because I have the exhaust/intake manifolds off awaiting a new gasket set. Will post results once back together.
Your timing is set improperly. You need to bend the spark rod to set the timing properly. The coil should buzz just past TDC, with the piston just beginning to move downward and both valves closed.
You can see the valves through the spark plug hole with a flashlight. I use a plastic drinking straw through the #1 spark plug hole to detect piston movement, but any object that is 8" long and won't scratch metal can be used if it fits through the spark plug hole.
Donald, Be sure you get the original style 12 piece rings and glands type manifold gasket set or the new 6 piece copper gasket set with the ring and gland built into one piece. Either of these are preferable to the flat 2 piece asbestos gaskets set because the rings and glands provide support to the manifolds and keep them in place with the glands that tie the manifolds to the ports in the block and create a tunnel through which the hot gasses can pass and the copper ring which provide the seal between the block and the manifolds. The flat asbestos gaskets allow the manifolds to move and shift away from their designated ports so leaks and warpage can occur. Jim Patrick
The 12 piece set is what I am getting. Started with the flat one piece and what you said could happen is exactly what did happen.
You say it was in mag position. Actually, you have to ADVANCE the spark lever to start on mag. Your timing is WAY retarded. Just advancing it with the lever till it gets to a point it will start is not good enough. While it Wii start, you will not be able to advance it far enough to break 15 mph.
The timing needs to set so that
Dang phone wont let me edit.
I was trying to say you need to set the timing so that with the lever all the way up, it fires just after top dead center on battery. That way, you have full lever travel to advance the spark for driving.