1919 Speedster, 6v, new Texas T dizzy, no mag, no starter, Stromberg RF carb, electric fuel pump. Ran great for the last two months.
The Speedster ran great last Saturday morning. Started fine and ran about 20 miles to meet-up for my first tour; no problems. Shut her down and waited for the others to arrive. Attempted to start (crank only) about 30 minutes later, and she would start hard (if at all) and run very rough, and then quit. Long story short, called AAA and a flatbed brought her home.
On Monday, I found what I thought was the problem. The spark control rod had become disconnected from the distributor. I re-connected it, and re-timed it. It now runs slightly better, but still misses and runs so rough that she eventually quits. New Champion A25 plugs, wires all tested good. Plenty of battery power, good compression. I'm pretty sure the timing is correct. Laid the plugs on the head and got spark on each in the correct order (1-2-4-3).
Next on the list would be coil and condenser replacement. Also can drain the tank and fuel line and put in fresh gas. I pulled the needle valves out of the carb and replaced them after running a bunch of gas through. Also drained the bowl, and switched on the fuel pump with the drain open - got plenty of fuel flowing out.
Any other suggestions? Looking at the simple things first, as most of you have said on other similar threads. Seems strange that more than one problem would happen at the same time, so I've concentrated on ignition and timing first, as that looked the main culprit.
Thanks for the help.
What do the points look like? How about the ignition coil?
The Chinese made coils are a real problem. Ditto the condensers. Megadittos the points. Try to find one of each made in Germany or USA.
Thanks Royce, will do. The coil is an old Bendix coil from the '50s. It's been working fine up till Saturday. The points and condensor are new - came with the Texas T distributor. Points look good; no pitting. Maybe 100 total miles since it was installed. Gapped at 0.020". Plugs gapped at 0.040". Like I said, it ran great on Saturday morning, until I tried to start her again.
If your plugs are brand new then no problem but laying plugs on the head and them firing at atmospheric pressure doesn't mean anything. Plugs must be under pressure to check for proper firing. Do the stuff Royce said and also check your point gap (I see a lot of points only opening a few thousands).
Thanks Ken. Plugs are new. Laying them on the head, just wanted to check that current was flowing to/through them ok from the dizzy. Points are opening to 0.020" as gapped and checked.
Dave, don't discount the condenser just because it is new. As far as that goes, don't discount anything just because it is new. A bad condenser can drive you nuts. I've seen them go bad in several different ways and mimic other problems. Dave
Thanks, David. Not counting anything out that I can't verify as okay at this point. Hard to believe it would go bad so quickly, but stranger things have happened. Trying to be methodical in determining the problem so I can get it resolved correctly.
Try one step at a time. Set plug gap at 32. Try it. If it runs better, the gap was to blame. Set points to 18 do the same. Replace the condensor. Try again. Whatever caused your problem was one thing. If you find the one thing that's wrong, it should run again.
I notice that you have a fuel pump. Are you sure it's pumping has? Try loosening the fuel line at the carb and then turn on the fuel pump and see if gas comes out. If so, that is not the problem. If you don't get a steady flow of gas, either the pump is not working, the fuel filter is clogged, the line is clogged or you are out of gas.
The one thing you noted at first was that the spark rod had come disconnected. You re-timed it. If it was running good before, why didn't you just put the spark rod back on? Re-timing might have made it run worse. The timing would be the first thing I would suspect to be your problem.
Thanks Norm, that's my thinking also. My relative inexperience lead me to believe that it needed re-timing after I re-connected the rod, which was not the case.
In setting the timing, I used a Simpson analog meter set to ohms. Brought #1 cylinder to TDC on the compression stroke (uppermost travel of the piston, with both valves closed), then turned the dizzy head to the point where the circuit opened, then locked-down the clamp on the head without turning it. All per instructions from Texas T. I did the same procedure when I first installed it in April, and had excellent results until Saturday. I've checked the timing, and it looks correct to me, but something's still not right.
I'm certain the pump is working well, as I turned it on after I drained the bowl, and had very good flow out the drain. It was clearly pumping fuel. Filter is in-line before the pump. I also have a pressure regulator in the fuel system, with a gauge that confirms about 1.5 lbs pressure.
I'm out of town for a few days, so I'll take another crack at it on Friday.
Thanks to all for the advice; I'll keep you posted. I know she'll run, as it has run very well for two months. Just need to isolate the problem and solve it.
You've gotten some good advice. I particularly am inclined to agree with Norman on closing up the spark plug gap. I also tend to believe that it would be electrical in nature since it happened after running well and sitting just a short time. Intake manifold leaks can manifest themselves like you're describing, but that's on a car with old gaskets that simply/gradually go bad. That doesn't sound like your car, or your prelude to the problem. On the other hand,that 1950's bendix coil would sure be high on my list of suspects, too. With a high compression head (that I'm sure you're running on a speedster), 0.040" gap on plugs and a "cooked off" coil...would answer the mail on this one. Sounds to me like the coil may have gotten too hot once too often (a 60 year old coil doesn't owe you anything any way). I also second Dave's suggestion, (and your suspicion) of the condenser, though the few times I've dealt with faulty condensers, I could not get the car started at all, much less by hand cranking.
Thanks Scott. You're correct, I have a Rajo model 30 head on it. Texas T dizzy installation instructions specified 0.040" plug gaps, and they did run very well for two months. The coil sat unused for 35 years, so obviously is also suspect, as is the new condensor. I'll recheck/reset (if necessary) timing on Friday. If that doesn't do it, I'll replace one part at a time until I find it. Cheapest first.
Also considering a electronic module to replace the points/condensor. Opinions? It's 6v, no mag, original genny with a FP VR. I think I've read that some have had problems with the electronic modules on 6v power. That way I can eliminate points and condensor from the equation.
I don't know if this information would apply to your Model T or not. I once had a 38 De-Soto which would run for a mile or two and then stop. After it cooled down it would start and I could drive about a mile before it stalled again. I tried many things to try to get it fixed, to no avail. The body was shot and the front end bent because my uncle who had the car before me had run it into a stone wall. When it stopped running I bought it from him and tried to fix it. I also had a 38 Plymouth so I took all the interchangeable parts off the De Soto and then called a wrecker who toed away the De Soto. One day when I was working on the Plymouth, I broke off the stud from the ignition coil where one of the primary wires was connected. I then installed the coil off the De Soto. I drove about a mile and the Plymouth stopped. It was then I found out why the De Soto stalled.
Getting to your Model T. When you tried to reset the timing, was the spark lever all the way retarded? If you were to adjust it the way you did with the spark lever down, you would find your spark too far retarded when you push the lever up. That could be the reason it runs poorly.
Norm, thanks again for posting. The spark lever was all the way up when I set the timing. However, I'm beginning to second guess myself on the firing point. With #1 on TDC, I turned the dizzy head to the point where the points were just starting to open (using the ohm meter), then locked down the clamp. I may need to bring the piston down slightly after TDC for proper, fully retarded, firing point. My first check will be to determine the firing point with the spark plug laying on the head, and adjust if necessary.
When I set my Dist. I use a TW timing unit and it states to set at 15 Degs. after TDC. I've had good luck with this, but I'm no expert, hope this might help.
The 15 degree After TDC setting isn't critical but is a bit more retarded than one might expect because it is done for safety to the person who might be hand crank starting the car. There is plenty of advance range built into the hand lever setting on the steering column so starting out at 15 retarded still leaves plenty of advance adjustment left in the linkage while ensuring there is no chance of the timing not being After TDC to thus ensure safety.
UPDATE: I set-up to check the timing and found that now I have no spark at the plugs at all when hand cranking. I replaced the coil (brand new from Texas T) and still no spark at the plugs. Good battery, and I have power going to the distributor. With the cap and rotor off, I can see spark at the points when they separate. Have good continuity through the cap on all wiring (plug wires and coil wire). Condensor wire to negative side of the new coil (per instructions from Texas T), and power to the positive side. The dizzy housing is grounded, as it has been since I installed it. No shorts in the wiring as far as I can tell.
What else could it be, other than the condensor? Would a bad condensor show the symptoms I've described? Getting a little frustrated, but will persist.
Thanks for any and all input. Wouldn't be able to do this alone.
Also, I pulled the coil wire off the dizzy cap and placed it near a head bolt. With the key on, I got good spark when hand cranking.
Rotor may be shorting through to the shaft.
Royce mentioned that the Chinese made coils are a problem. I agree....had 2 fail soon after installing the Texas T 009 dist kit. Replaced the coils with Bosch and no more problems. I also use a Pertronics pick up.....no problems to date. I carry a backup module and points just in case....like I once carried extra coils. Also running on 12 Volts.
When you set the timing, you need to turn the distributor in the opposite way the rotor turns. When the points open is where it will be when the spark happens. You should do this with the #1 piston just past top dead center. The rotor should be pointing to #1 on the cap at that point. Could it be possible, that you rotated the distributor the wrong direction until the points opened? That would throw your timing off.
Anyway, something to double check.
After you double check the position of the distributor, with the spark plugs laying on the head, slowly turn the crank until you see one spark plug fire. Stop and check the position of the piston for that cylinder. It should be just past top dead center with both valves closed. You can see this easily by looking or feeling the pin through the front of the crankshaft. It should be just past horizontal as you stand in front of the car the right side (drivers on an American car) would be just a bit lower than the left side. The plugs should fire in the order 1,2 4,3. Rotate the crank at least two revolutions to check to see if the firing order is correct.
I know a guy who lost 5 of the chinese coils within a year. Got a Bosch VW coil, no more trouble.
Continued thanks to you all for the advice.
At this point, my goal is to get spark at the plugs. Once accomplished, I'll re-look at timing to be sure all is correct.
But first things first.
After installing my brand new Texas T coil yesterday, I checked the spark from the coil wire to a head bolt, and had a nice spark. Small spark at the points, and good continuity from the cap contacts, through the wires, to the plugs. Just no spark at the plugs, which makes me think it's the condensor. I have one on order from NAPA, and another on order from O'Reilly's. I'll also take a hard look at the points plate to be sure it's grounded correctly. I think it is, otherwise I wouldn't have spark at the points when they open, but I'll check to be sure. I suppose it's possible the rotor isn't making contact with the contacts in the cap, but the darn thing's only two months old, and looks nearly new (which it is).
Not sure what else it could be.
How is your rotor and cap? If you get a good spark from coil wire to head bolt and good continuity from cap to plugs, the only thing in between is the cap and the rotor. The cap and rotor can easily get a carbon path to ground and the spark will not get to the plugs. This is especially likely if you have the plugs disconnected and turn the distributor. The spark will take the easiest path to ground and then will continue to go that way as it burns a carbon path.
Upon re-examining the cap, I found that the center spring-loaded contact is pushed in and stuck, resulting in lack of contact with the rotor. I don't think this was the cause of the original problem, but was likely the result of putting the cap on the head incorrectly in the days since the initial problem occurred (due again to my own experience level).
I'll be ordering a new cap, along with the condensor and points. Might as well get a new rotor too, just to cover all possibilities. Likely won't get much further on it until late next week, as the parts need to be ordered, and I'll be away from home until Thursday.
I'll keep you posted as the situation progresses. Thanks again, everyone.
"Small spark at the points,"
That's good, if you had a big spark at the points that points to a faulty condensor.
Ken - So with that, I can consider my condensor in good condition?
Yes. If everything else checks out you could always try another condenser, but it's a pretty good bet that that one is OK.
For grins, disconnect the condenser and see what kind of spark you get at the points.
As I said earlier take a good look at the rotor. Sometimes they will arc through from the top contact to the shaft. Sometimes it's very hard to see the small burn marks.
Thanks, will do. I have all new parts on order from NAPA, and will replace one at a time until I get spark. Then I'll have replacements to carry with me also.
Well, Ken gets the prize! (Or at least bragging rights.) Followed closely by Norm.
It was the rotor.
I replaced the coil first, no change. Then replaced the cap, no change. Then the condensor, no change.
Finally, since I was getting spark at the points, the only thing left that I hadn't changed was the rotor. Put a new one in and she fired right up. Took it for a drive for a few miles; no problems. Got home, shut her down, and re-started after about 30 minutes. Started on one pull of the crank (as expected).
I now have spare condensors, coils, and points. Will also get a spare cap and rotor to carry with me, just to be sure.
Thanks to all who gave advice and comments. It was a very good feeling to get the problem found and solved, and the advice given here was invaluable. I hope that someday I can provide the kind of help to someone who needs it that I've received here.