For 2 years now (since I got the car - 15 touring) I have always started it with the timer rod fully retarded. I was then able to slowly walk up to the steering wheel and advance the spark for a smooth idle. The timer rod and link were adjusted by observing the #1 piston as it went over TDC by a scoche (that's panhandle Florida talk for about 1/16").
I had a cooling system leak a few months ago (easily fixed) and the engine overheated a little (not badly as I turned it off immediately).
Ever since, the car does not want to start with the timer fully retarded. Sometimes it will start (barely) but long before I can get to the steering to advance the spark - it dies.
On the other hand if I crank it with the timer lever advanced about an inch, it starts fine and I have plenty of time to get to the advance lever and advance it a little more for a smooth idle. It has never backfired.
I have carefully checked the timing and it is set exactly as it was originally. Car runs fine EXCEPT that the timing lever must be run about an inch advanced for the same performance at the same speeds compared to before the overheating incident.
I've even tried a new timer (both the old and the new are New Day). No difference.
I'm going crazy on this one. How can everything be set the same and yet the timing must be advanced so much for the same results? Naturally I am concerned about cranking the car with the timing lever so advanced, even if it has never kicked back.
Have you checked your compression? The over heating could cause a decrease in the compression on one or more cylinders and make it run rough, especially at low speeds.
Off hand Bud I don't see the connection between the over heat and the starting problem unless during the repair you changed some thing like possibly bending the rod or linkage and changing the timer setting.
Another possibility is that the overheating was caused by retarded timing. Here is what I would do. remove number 1 spark plug and lay it on the head with the wire attached. Very slowly turn the crank with key on battery and the timing lever all the way retarded. Stop turning when the spark just begins to occur. Turn off the key and measure the position of the piston in the cylinder. It should be just passed top dead center. The pin through the front pulley of the crankshaft should be just slightly below horizontal on the driver's side of the car (assuming it is an American car with steering on the left as you sit in the seat) If you find that the piston is farther down or the pin in the pulley is past the 4 position of a clock dial as you face the pulley, the spark is too far retarded and the rod should be adjusted.
I have found that no two timers are exactly alike and every time a timer is replaced the timing should be set.
Possibly your overheating and also starting problem could be lean fuel mixture. Try opening the needle valve slightly. See if there is an improvement.
Have you checked the brush in the timer? Usually the pin fits rather loose in the brush and/or cam hole and you can time the car with the brush simply tightened up but the brush may eventually move a bit to take up the slack to a final position resting snugly against the pin and the pin snugly against the cam hole. This may be a slightly different position than it was initially if you simply put on the brush, dropped in the pin, added the special pin retainer, and then tightened the nut. Since the timer is running half speed from the motor, a small movement at the timer gives you twice that much movement at the crankshaft. Absent this I wonder if one of your coils has decided to start acting up a bit to make the car run rough. Often moving the timing lever seems to affect things when something has started to get flaky.
John - you may have hit it. I hadn't thought about the brush.
The overheating was caused by a radiator leak, I did have to take the radiator off to repair the leak. I checked the timing then, and it hadn't changed position from the original setting.
Actually the car doen't run rough, it runs smoothly and idles well. The ONLY difference is the extra advance I must use for all situations.
I guess if there were a lot of slop in the brush holder (perhaps due to a worn brush) that might explain it.
I will pull the radiator soon and really look into the brush situation. I guess the vendors must sell new ones.