I remember some mention of there being two sets of Ford 6 cylinder solid state ignition modules as the heart of the True Fire. I can't find it, and mine appears to be dead. Any advice would be appreciated.
Step one would be to contact the manufacturer, they'll probably advise you to send the unit to them for checkout, but they might offer some simple tests you can do yourself before you send the unit in, and based on the results of those tests they might be able to point you to a fix you can do yourself.
I have not had much luck with True Fire. The phone number on the website has been disconnected for YEARS, and Ed Bittner does not answer his personal phone much. (You can find it by doing a search for him.) When he does answer, he is very nice and helpful, but I just have had not much success in contacting him. He rarely answers emails. In his own words he is very busy with a full-time aerospace engineering job.
I had one True Fire about 8 years ago that worked beautifully. The more recent one that I got died completely (like yours) after a few months.
I now have a Texas T distributor, and I am very happy with it. Anybody can service those and get parts (even me!). And it runs better than my John Regan coils and Anderson Timer.
The True Fire that does not work just sits in the garage collecting dust.
John, contact Ben Hardeman at Texas T Parts, i think he has parts and can help with service.
When I installed my Truefire a couple years ago, I had some troubles with it and it was impossible for me to contact Mr. Bittner.
So I disassembled it and looked and looked in the internet and I found out form which car the coils came from, to much regret I could not remember nor I wrote it down, sorry.
But my problem was with one of the resistors that are soldered to the points of the coil, it burned!, I replaced all of them with ones with a little more W and it has been running perfect ever since.
The trick when dismantling it is not to break the wood case that after taking the screws out, mine had a lot of silicon inside keeping all together.
Hope it helps.
This is the coil the true fire uses.
Hope this helps.
The link shows seven coils, which one is the type we need?
Pick one. They're all the same product from different suppliers. That's a Ford coil that was used on four cylinders and the early 4.6l engines.
The tricky part is getting the box apart to replace that coil.
None of those coils appear to be the same type, but they might work the same and look like a photo posted previously.
The Truefire coil is mounted by those two large screws on the box front. It was used on a 4 cylinder Taurus by Ford.
Perhaps the bottom two mounting holes are just not used.
I would like to see a photo of an opened TrueFire box.
There is a reason that is called a Waste Spark coil, as one spark is always wasted, in theory anyway.
There are two coils in that little package.
#1 and #4 or #2 and #3 both share a spark every time.
The spark is an AC voltage and the engine connects two spark plugs in series like the old Christmas tree lights were connected in series.
When one of those old lights went out, they all went out.
When one spark plug fouls or changes resistance at all, the other spark plug takes the full spark in this case. That makes the spark gap critical when using a TrueFire system.
There is a possibility that a new set of spark plugs might fix the problem.
There is also a possibility that the waste spark can occur later than normal, and then that Waste Spark will ignite a cylinder that has the intake valve already open and has started down to suck in a gas charge.
The timing has to be carefully checked to avoid that possibility.
That situation may only cause a backfire though your carburetor, but that backfire may start an engine fire, if the hot air pipe is not properly and completely attached.
Never having met a Truefire in person, what I'd like to know is: What does the Truefire use in place of the timer? And, is it susceptible to malfunction?
It uses a hall effect switch. It fits inside the timer case and uses the same wires, with an addition of a ground wire. I use it and find its major weakness is it does not work at low voltages. You must have good connections throughout your entire ignition system, including the ignition switch.
Ken, If you poke around the True Fire web site you can see that the internals of the commutator are replaced with a PC board. I think it uses a magnetic sensor.
The words are:
It only has one rotating rotor component that triggers the main module in your coil box. No friction in the system, no distributor cap, points, condenser or rotor to wear out.
Just remove your four old vintage coils and swap them with our beautiful single unit super coil module. Then, remove your commutator and roller brush from the cam and install our rotor and sensor module inside the vintage hardware.
Lastly, add the included ground wire in a place nobody can see and youíre finished. Typical installation time is 30 minutes. And if for any reason, you would like to put the vintage hardware back on your car for a show, you can, with little effort. It is designed to operate on any voltage between 6 and 12 volts DC and works very well in combination with our 12 volt magneto voltage regulator. The standard unit fits cars 1914 through 1927.
This picture is from the web site.
Here is a picture of one of their units from their website:
My 1923 touring/pickup came with one when I bought it this past June and it has worked fine so far. Its simulated coil buzzing doesn't sound exactly like real coils, but it is helpful for setting the timing.
The best part of the True Fire is the timer design. You use the shell of your old timer (take out the contacts). A magnetic button bolts to the cam shaft in place of a mechanical flapper. A drop in plastic disc fits inside the timer. The magnet passes close enough to the contacts inside to trigger the coil. There is no friction, and nothing to wear out. Since I use the "armstrong" starter, I appreciate how easy it starts. Is there a way to test this modern coil? Before I spend $$, I want to know for sure if the coil is the issue.
Hmmm Another TrueFire problem.
I don't see any post from Royce here blasting this one?
Luckily we see no issues with the E Timer after many miles. I just completed another tour in Death Valley recently and no longer think about servicing my timer.
The Better part of the ETimer is its design!
John I hope you get your TF fixed up and have no more problems.
Keith and I both run Trufires
I can't add much of anything. The True Fire is usually installed by folks who have a problem with coil box wiring or ignition switch or perhaps a dirty timer. The True Fire is easily wiped out by wiring problems or switch problems. It is made of modern electronics, easily defeated by inept installation or use.
I think the True Fire is similar to the E Timer - an expensive device that people buy because they don't want to spend the time finding the real problem.
The cold reality is that I went with a Trufire because I have a 1913 T with original Heinz coil box. I bought NEW Heinz coils from a reputable supplier. The Heinz point unit does NOT have the "rebound" spring that the KW type points have. As such, it is notoriously troublesome. The solution in the era was to install a "master vibrator" and just crank the points shut. At the time I was heading out on a 2500 mile 15 day tour. I did not own a master vibrator. The Trufire has worked flawlessly for me for many thousands of miles and more than 10 years. I charge a 12 volt gel cell battery from my working T magneto. From this I also gained signal and brake lights which has probably saved my life more than once.
My experience with modern automotive electronics is if they last the first 100 miles they will probably last at least the next 40 years (my experience on my "modern" Ford electronic ignitions)
Yes if you connect the T magneto directly to the Trufire you might have a problem. If you exercise even a modicum of care I would expect ZERO problems (unlike what I experienced with Heinz coils)
So yes, I could "bastardize" my car by installing a incorrect coil box, or some kind of potentially troublesome master vibrator.
Now that I have a E-timer I plan to slide the Heinz coils back into my ORIGINAL coil box.
Don't mean to start any e posts but unfortunately all too often we hear of problems with the True Fire and how difficult it is to get support when something happens.
I had a local club member ask me to troubleshoot his car with a TF on it and was quickly lost not being familiar with how it was supposed to be connected and operate.
They're quite different and I agree with Royce and others if your on a tour and have trouble most other drivers won't be of much help.
A TrueFire tester is easier to make than a BuzzBox tester.
The vertical metal straps represent the engine frame.
The pointers are the spark plugs and they are set .035 from the metal strips.
A slight detent is cut in the side piece to accomodate the timer and keep it in place.
Not shown is a big wing nut that turns the rotor to exercise the spar function when the battery clips are attached to a 6 volt battery.
Gene Carrothers :
There ya go, had to light a fire under Royce mentioning the E-Timer...... LOL !!
Yeah, the E-Timer..........
Something Royce was offered for free to be a Beta Tester, refused outright, and has wasted valuable space on this Forum vehemently denouncing something he admittedly has no practical experience.... documented on this Forum.
By the way, glad to hear you have not had any problems with your E-Timer after all these miles... I have over 4K on mine the past 4 years, also without any problems.
BOB.... SSSShhhhss, Quiet please
Let's not get this OT now.
Ya, I'm pleased that we don't see any trouble posts as well.
Question.. I wonder how many TF were sold as compared to the ET?
Okey Dokey !!! SSSSSSShhhhhssss !!!
I recently sent my E Timer back to its designer, Mike. He was able to download data from it such as how many times I had started the car, maximum rpm,s reached and highest and lowest operating temperatures reached while in the car! Amazing stuff which I had no idea it was capable of! A bit like a black box flight recorder! No other timer has that function and for my Magnetoless engine it is the best solution out there! I love it.
Did Mike mention making any more of them?
My TF system went bad and I was able to get thru on the phone. He replaced the bad coil and whatever else was bad for $38.00. I had run the system several years before it went down.
It's good to know that if you can reach him, the maker will back up and repair his product. I may go ahead and get one of the coil units for a ready spare, just in case.
Warwick, Thanks! I still keep getting amazed by the ET.
I'll have to send mine back to get a download since I recently ran a new top speed when down at the San Diego speedster run. I've always wondered what sort of RPM I was turning. Maybe I don't want to know..
I would bet at some point more ET's will be available. I hope so since there such a great product.
It is also good to know that Ed had a day job and only works on TrueFire products in the evening, so the best time to reach him is in the evening.
Since exactly 2 years I have a true fire (directly delivered by Ed Bittner) that does not work. Many, many times I tried to reach the builder but no result. I gave up and take my loss totalling 500 usd(including transportation and customs costs.
kees steeman in Holland.
Here is the lesson that I have learned from much of this stuff about Model T parts & accessories. I try to avoid one-man-shows. The E-Timer and True Fire are perfect examples of this problem. If something goes sour with the source person, you are just s**t outta luck. I have used True Fires, Model T Coils from John Regan & Anderson Timer, and now a Texas T Distributor. I think by far the safest bet for continued support and service is a distributor. I know, it does not have the charisma and nostalgia of buzz coils, but I can get parts and service anywhere. I want to keep driving my T.
I don't have to send a distributor to the Coil man for expensive esoteric service or buy a $300+ dollar HCCT.
Jon so far after many more miles than we'll drive in a lifetime the ETIMER and its performance is Not an example as you state. In your case it would be the perfect solution for your engine, in my opinion. Sorry you've had so many problems
Just don't want someone to read your post and get the wrong idea.
I have never had a E-Timer. What I am saying is that if a product is made and serviced by just one person, as in the case of the E-Timer and the True Fire, then the product will not be supported anymore if anything happens to that person. A distributor is a much more serviceable kind of ignition system.
In fact I was just about to get an E-Timer when I found out that Mike Kossor had stopped making them, mainly due to the abusive criticism of the E-Timer on this Forum.
Frankly, I don't blame him, but I think it is a shame that such a promising product has now bit the dust.
What I am saying is that if only one person, for example Ed Bittner or Mike Kossor, is the only source for obtaining and servicing a product, then that product has a large risk of being unsupported.
I think the True Fire and the E-Timer are great products, but they both suffer from the one-man-show problem.
John Allen :
What problems did your engine have running on the standard Ford ignition system ?
Your 100% right Jon.
The perfect solution to most of the hard starting problems is to learn the difference between a 2 Gauge cable and a 2/0 Gauge or 00 Gauge cable and find and use the proper battery cables, including replacing the 2 Gauge ground strap with a 2/0 Gauge cable.
Measure the voltage between the starter terminal and engine to determine if that is your problem, as most engines will turn over with only 3 volts at the starter terminal and the other 3 volts being lost in route with bad cables and connections.
The TrueFire needs at least 5.5 volts there to properly operate.
I do not have any problems with the Standard Ford Ignition System or the E-Timer or True Fire for that matter. They are all good ignition systems. I just lean a little toward the distributor system because of ease in maintaining and servicing the system. Like many of you, I do not really like the look of a distributor, nevertheless there were period correct distributors for the Model T. And while the Texas T distributor is not "period correct", it is a good system that runs well on my car. Here is a picture of the installed system:
Hey Jon, I'm wondering what elbow you used for your vertical air filter connection to the OF. I have mine mounted in the horizonal and it's hard to change filters. BTW Nice looking engine.
The air "filter" is actually the breather cap from an overhead V-8, (a Chevy I think). I had to cut a little of the rubber seal underneath to get it on the Stromberg Carb. I also notched the filter to allow movement of the choke linkage. Here are some pictures:
Hope that helps.
Now that the secret of opening my TrueFire box has been revealed. I have made a modified TrueFire case with the top and back removed. The box allows me to use the test box I made to energise the Truefire and take measurements with an O'scope that should reveal the exact nature of my problem, which may or may not be the Made in China coil.
Measuring each input to the coil will narrow the problem and may even exonerate the coil.
I have made the test jig to expose my Truefire box for a few basic measurements with an O'scope.
Basically it is just another box with the top and back removed to access the printed circuit board.
While I presently don't know the value of any of the voltage levels, I do know that one side is working well and can serve as a standard for the other weak side.
Constructing at a block diagram of this unit, there are five basic sections, a power supply, on the printed board, that roughly doubles the 6 volt supply to make the 12 volt waste spark coil function, The dual waste spark coil, the timer module electronics that turn on the coils, one AC generator and two circuits, on the printed circuit board, that amplify and isolate the coil switching signals.
James, thanks for the pictures and descriptions, I'll be very interested in your findings and observations.
What is the rating of that fuse that I see in the picture?
I still need to go to the auto parts store and get another coil unit for a spare.
Mark, the fuse is 4 amps.
Check E-bay for a C924 spark coil.
The prices start at $18.95 and climb rapidly.
The coil used is made for the Ford Ranger 4 cylinder Mazda B2300 engine built in Lima.OH. It is a very common engine, used in many vehicles such as, the Thunderbird, Ranger trucks and, Taurus as mentioned above. They are also used in many Mazda cars and trucks. The ignition system uses 2 of these coils and has spark plugs on both sides of the head. The computerized ignition is built to start on the intake side coil only and switches to both coils for run. The coils are readily available at most part stores for in the 50$ range. I have a Ranger with this system and it runs great. The engine is short on power but it starts every time.
Probably more than you wanted to know but, there it is.
James, a most interesting piece of information!
A friend had one of those Ranger pickups with a 4 Cylinder, Two distributor engine.
He claimed it was a factory prototype used for research and never went into production.
Seems like the paperwork he had showed it was made in a factory in Kentucky.
With enough information, we might be able to determine these TrueFire problems or lack thereof.
I have noticed a Model T engine will turn over slowly with only two 3 volts measured at the starter terminal.
I have also noticed that the TrueFire doubles that voltage for operation.
I am beginning to suspect that the real problem is not getting quite enough voltage through the Model T battery and starter cable to operate the TrueFire.
One reason for my suspicion is that I have noticed in several cases that the engine will quickly start when hand cranked or pushed.
Unfortunately, in none of those instances did I have a meter handy to measure the voltage.
James, what are the 2 devices w/the heat sinks? I would suspect they drive the coils.
Often times poor T cranking with the starter is caused by poor grounds. The strap attached with paint in between to a rusty frame. The engine attached with paint in between again to a rusty frame. The painted starter attached to a painted "hogshead" with a gasket in between. I hope you see where I am going with this!.
If you connect the negative of your volt meter to the battery terminal and the positive to the starter, you will get no reading when it is not cranking. Hit the starter button and see what you get. It should still read zero, if it doesn't then you have identified a problem. Also try with the positive to the positive of the battery and the negative to the starter terminal. You will get full battery voltage. Now hit the starter button and you should now read zero. Again if it doesn't, then you have found a problem.
For the Trufire (and any other battery powered ignition), consider running the power wire right to the battery.
I have seen more problems associated with poor grounding than most other things.
Ken, your suspects appear to be correct. The center device has the Green/Yellow wire marked 2-3 going to the coil input and the right device has the Black wire marked 1 - 4 going to the other coil. The brown center wire on the coil is ground or common. Look up Patent 6,976,482 for more details on the design and function of the circuit board.
Les, I was told by a very knowledgeable individual yesterday that unfortunately the starter draws more current and the voltage drops some more as the piston comes up on the compression stroke and when the TrueFire needs the voltage the most to properly operate it is not always available, unless you are willing to crank or push your T to start the engine. Your suggestion to run the yellow wire all the way to the battery and add it behind the nut on the terminal clamp was also suggested to improve starting and bypass any loss in the cabling or starter switch.
if your car really runs better on distributor than on coils, you either needed the coils adjusted, which I'm sure John would have done or something was wrong in your wiring/coil box. That's too bad. To me, a T isn't a "T" if the coils aren't chattering. But, to each his own. Interestingly, my dad went to a distributor for just the same reasons as you...for reliability and ease of repairs. His car was lame, at best for the next 30 years. It was that mediocre performance which kept me uninterested in T's and thus, out of the hobby for years. Years later, I drove a "T" which was tuned correctly. WOW. Eventually, I convinced him to let me rebuild his coil box and repair a set of coils for him, and he'd tell you that his car runs much better on coils than it ever did on his distributor.
If you do much touring, be sure to carry a spare distributor, as no one is likely going to have spare parts to loan, though there'd be dozens of coils and original parts at a tour to help you out. I've seen it happen many times.
My Tru-fire is on a "wind-up" T with a 12 volt battery, so I have no first hand experience on a 6 volt battery start. I have however seen people have trouble starting their buzz coil T's with a 6 volt battery and electric start. I start my '27 on a 6 volt battery and just fire up the buzz coils right of the T magneto. Works great on hand start too!!. We should remember that Henry did not provide batteries on the pre-electric start vehicles. Yes he did provide provisions I agree, but the battery did not come with the cars. I had a early Fordson tractor with T type mag, buzz coils and only crank start. NO provison for a battery at all. Only 450 cu in 4 cylinder engine to hand crank. No problem hand starting it with a good hot set of magnets.
Probably your dad had a 12 volt coil running on 6 volts. It will work but not well. I bought a '48 Ford that the owner had installed a "modern" coil on. It was short on power and was prone to overheating. I installed a fresh correct coil and properly adjusted the timing. LOTS of power and no more overheating. The guy just bought the car back from me, he was so impressed!
Later today, after the silicon had plenty of time to set, I was ready for another test.
To my surprise, the #2 and #3 sparks were excellent, but the #1 and #4 sparks were weak.
Looking down from the top again, I could see sparks between the box and the test frame on #1 and #4 terminals. There was at least a 1/16th or more gap between the coil box terminal buttons and the #1 and #4 test box contacts.
A small wedge at the back of the box provided a solid contact for all buttons and contacts and excellent sparks at all four positions.
Now I'm wondering how many TrueFire boxes or systems have been given a bad rap or returned as defective only because the button to contact areas were not clean and solid.
I have been running a Tru-Fire system for years in
my 11 T for years.
The only time it let me down was going up a four
mile hill in Luray Va.
My fan belt broke and the car got so hot that the
unit in my timer melted.
The engine did not stop, but ran retarded. When
I got to the top of the hill it would not start
I called Ed Bittner and he sent a new part the
I lost one day on the tour
in my timer melted.
As you found, the problem was bad contact in the coil box. This is the typical type of problem that causes the novice Model T owner to buy a True Fire, E Timer, or other such device that reduces reliability while costing more than it would to fix the actual problem.
Bad connections can destroy a True Fire box, or at least the components inside. Seen it happen a couple times on tour.
Just as Peter and others have said, you end up on the vulture wagon when your one of a kind ignition fails.
The E-Timer has earned an excellent record of proven reliability with NUMEROUS MULIT-THOUSAND mile tours to its credit, through some of the most environmentally challenging regions of the country. The latest being an 8100 mile trip this summer through the 116F temperatures of death valley. It performed flawlessly without the considerable burden of 16 timer maintenance stops every 500 miles.
In the unlikely event of an E-Timer failure, the corrective action is exactly the same as a stock timer failure with one additional step; Simply replace the E-Timer with a stock timer following the usual procedure then remove the jumpers from the coil points. Thatís it!
One distinct and unfortunate disadvantage of the E-Timer is the myth, misconception, misinformation and confusion generated regarding its use and actual performance. You can't fix... well, you know.
How are you doing with your new coil points setting tool? When and if that is available it would make it much easier to switch back to the original ignition system from an E-Timer without packing around a HCCT.
I think the E-Timer is a good alternative for some folks.
Thanks for the interest in the ECCT. Development continues and hope to have it available for next touring season. Doing a lot of quantitative road testing using the TDAS to make absolutely certain the ECCT is equal to or better than recognized and accepted methods of coil point adjustment.
Not that anyone would ever think about fanatically discrediting it by spewing blatant, unsubstantiated lies about its effectiveness or performance, but want to have a solid quantifiable basis just in case.
Mike, Jim's note raises another question.
There is a rumor going around that you plan to attend the MTFCI Annual Meeting in Arlington, Virginia early next year.
There are also questions about whether you are just coming as an interested club member or whether you plan to demonstrate the E-timer or ECCT while you are there and what equipment might be required for your demo.
Perhaps you have already discussed this with other club members and I will have some answers this evening.
The Nations Capital Model T Club will sponsor that meeting and their November meeting is this evening.
Perhaps my questions will be answered, as I plan to attend.
I did not end up on a vulture wagon. I went and picked up my car myself.
The reason I started using the Tru-Fire was because the heinze coils would not hold up. I had
them gone over acouple of times. The heinze coils
would run about 60 -70 miles then mess up. I did not want to change the coil box to accept modern
coils. So I went to the Tru-Fire system.
I have worn out four sets of tires. The longest
day so far has been 240 miles. The Tru-Fire has
let me down once.