Spent half the summer chasing down an ignition problem and that generated a long thread:
Folks stepped up to help me and, by process of elimination, the problem was finally solved. -My hope, now, was to get a month or two of pleasure driving in before the roads got salted and the ol' gal would have to be garaged till the spring thaw.
Phooey! -Yesterday, the starter gave a half-hearted crank and ran out of oomph as the weak battery gave up. -I hooked up the charger and brought the Optima red-top back up to a full charge with expectations of driving the next day.
Double phooey!! -Today, the starter wouldn't make a sound—not even a click. -No discharge reading on the ammeter, either. -Hmm. -I had plenty of power for lights, but no cranking. -Figuring something might be jammed in the ring gear, I flipped the crank a couple of times and hand-started the engine which ran just fine (but my crippled back is paying for it this evening).
Tomorrow, I figure to take off the hood, yank out the floorboards and get under to look for anything that looks disconnected. -And so it goes...
Bob clean all the terminal connections especially at the starter switch. That's what usually turns out to be the problem if the battery is good.
My money is on the ground. I would take it lose from the frame, clean the area around the bolt hole down to bright metal with a knife or sandpaper , put a coat of grease on the area and re-connect the ground strap. Also clean the battery end.
Don't feel like the Lone ranger. I expected to be driving my roadster two months ago. It's just one darned thing after another.
Bob, you have just started, we had several problems at the Lincoln Nebraska Hill Climb last year, we came in first in our class after a temporary fix on the carburetor float with a quick dry epoxy that dissolved in gasoline, some oatmeal in the radiator, and popping a valve back down with a screwdriver through the spark plug hole. We got there too late for a test and tune-up run so every run counted and we were only allowed two of them. So we had to do it (cold) right out of the box. They say if you can do it it ain't braggin.
We got home after a 1600 mile drive and proceeded to blow two head gaskets right off the bat. We paid to have the radiator re-soldered and soldered up the carburetor float. Then we got the head milled twice and a valve job and fixed the carburetor linkage as well as adding a choke that works from the drivers seat rather than reaching across the hot header pipe.
This hobby is not for wimps and you already have a good start on solving your problem. Keep us informed. There are a lot of folks on this site with good ideas. Listen to all of them and then jump into the fire pit out of your frying pan.
Considering the fact that it took the better part of 100 years for things to "wear out", and the fact that you are finding and fixing the malfunctioning items, AND there will be lots of indoor time on Long Island soon, you will be all ready for a great summer with your T in '15!
Hope you enjoy the challenge.
Part of the reason I don't update the car with roller bearing on the front wheels or replace the grease cups with Zerk fittings is that I'm in it for the experience of how it was back in the day. _Unfortunately, after three spine surgeries, I've no recourse but to resort to an electric starter (as my back is clearly reminding me, this morning).
But I find the constant tinkering, adjusting and lubing therapeutic and calming—except those times when I can't figure out why the electrons are misbehaving. _To me, electricity is magic and I approach its sibylline properties in the same way my mother used to drive a car; with total noncomprehension of how it works, but proceeding in accordance with instructions that seem to yield the desired result. _Disconnected cables and wires can be seen by even my non-electrician's eyes, so that'll be my first stop.
You might find something disconnected but it's not highly likely. You have lights so here goes: The easiest thing to do is start from the source and check the batt connections & frame ground. If their OK hook up a test light to the starter terminal & hit the button. Strong bright light? Possible starter. No light? Possible failed starter switch. Check for batt power at the starter switch and power at the output side of the switch by hitting the button with the test lamp on that switch terminal. No output? Switch is NG. You're still not on the ground. Report before pulling anything.
I would take a moment just to weep quietly before doing anything else. A little "alone" time never hurts.
If someone hasn't mentioned it above, some of the new starter switches are junk. Check there first.
If your lights and everything else worked, I would suspect the switch or the starter itself. If the starter had been locked, you wouldn't be able to turn the flywheel with the crank.
I have had one starter which would only bump the flywheel. I would hit the starter switch and it might give a slight turn. This happened even when the battery was fully charged. I switched starters with another T and the same starter gave the same symptoms on the other T. I bought a rebuilt starter and it spins the engine faster than any hand crank. Maybe your starter itself is just worn out.
As the old lady said when she got off the bus and her nose started bleeding, if it ain't one thing it's the other.
Is this the kind of test light you mean?
Bob, for some reason your comment about misbehaving electrons made me think of James Thurber's grandmother, who "...lived the latter years of her life in the horrible suspicion that electricity was dripping invisibly all over the house. It leaked, she contended, out of empty sockets if the wall switch had been left on. She would go around screwing in bulbs, and if they lighted up she would hastily and fearfully turn off the wall switch and go back to her Pearson's or Everybody's, happy in the satisfaction that she had stopped not only a costly but a dangerous leakage. Nothing could ever clear this up for her."
My money's on the ground to frame. Clean it up and drive on.
Bob, your post had me tearing up a bit. I had my third back surgery in January 2008. February 2008 I slipped on the ice on my way to physical therapy and broke my ankle. That slowed things down a bit. Then in September I fell out of a tree stand I was putting up while trying to hook a safety harness (go figure). I dropped 15 feet backwards and broke L2, L3, L4 and L5. I tried to heal on my own, but after 2 months gave up the fight and had 2 more back surgeries in December. Early in 2009 I started chemo-therapy for a blood virus I picked up in Viet Nam but had to quit after a couple months because I became very weak and with my back being so screwed up and ended up falling at the Veterans Medical Center in Minneapolis. I went back on the chemo in March 2009 for 17 months until August 2010. And then the recovery began. In April 2011 my wife of 33 years filed for divorce and we split. In August of 2011 I bought my first Model T. And life has been wonderful since then. I don't crank my Model T unless I have too. Thank God for electric starters.
Mike, be careful. You have had more injuries than anyone should have to endure. I'm glad that you enjoy your T.
Norm, forgive me. Sometimes I go on a little too much about my injuries and health problems. I started out by attempting to let Bob know I understand his plight and ended up going a little overboard. None of us want to get old and injuries and illnesses don't help. I have actually cranked my T a few times and I'm grateful that I can. It's got to be no fun not being able to get the starter to work and having to consider the crank as an alternative. I have a problem with raking leaves, shoveling snow and sweeping floors so I hire the raking and sweeping done and bought a skid loader for the snow. But what's Bob to do? Hire someone to crank his Model T. I think we all need to help him get his starter working. Oh, and I still think it's something with the ground to the frame.
Starters are for Model Ts that don't run well. Totally unnecessary at my house.
Sure Royce, rub it in. But I figure it's a neat deal when I see someone crank their Model T. A few of the members in our local club have the brass T's and though they don't use starters, they take great pride in getting it set to where they get a "free" start by flipping the switch. I've had it happen several times but not to where I can count on it like they do.
Yeah. That's it.
Some folks can still hand crank at age 90, or even 100, but not everybody is that lucky. It takes not only the mechanical skill to have your T in shape for it, but also the genetic good luck to have your body in shape for it. If you can still do it, be grateful that physical misfortune hasn't overtaken you yet.
Osteoporosis in men is in the news. The first symptom is a broken wrist..
Does that mean that everyone who gets a broken wrist by cranking a T which kicks, has Osteoporosis? Maybe yes , maybe no.
I'm lucky that my Model T starts easily when hand-cranked, but (I suppose) like any other brass car, when my engine is stone-cold, it still requires a couple of priming swings and then one or two live swings to get it started. -For normal folk, that's no problem, but Mike and I (and no doubt, others) can't do that without injuring ourselves, so for us, an electric starter is the only way into the beautiful brass car hobby. -Yes, it's cheating—but ain't nothing we can do about it.
There's also one other thing: The reason I didn't drive my car after hand-starting it the other day was because I live in a high-traffic area, and stalling the engine without being able to re-start instantly is hazardous. -Getting out and up front to hand-crank, with cars whizzing by on both sides, would be even more so. -Shutting down was the prudent thing to do.
Now, some might be tempted to say that I have no business operating a brass car under those conditions; that I'm endangering myself and others because the car wasn't designed to be operated on heavy-traffic boulevards. -Yes, good point—and that's why I have a gently massaged induction system & high-compression head, Rocky Mountain Brakes, 4-way flashers, turn-signals, extra brake lights—and the aforementioned electric starter. -Those things, all of which would give the purist apoplexy, do make the exercise reasonably safe.
I once heard an Army motor Sgt tell a private to be careful how tight he made the clamp on a brake light wire, since if it was too tight, it would cutoff the flow of electricity.
Well, my starter-switch is now immovable, so it's definitely shot.
Strange thing is, bypassing the starter-switch by bridging its terminals didn't cause the starter to crank (and yes, I had the battery-disconnect switch closed, which was confirmed by operating headlights).
Then, a test light showed there was power at the hot terminal of the starter-switch. -In fact, there was power at both terminals of the starter-switch, but not at the starter. -Odd.
Now, with the car's battery-disconnect switch open, I put a penlight battery-powered, continuity tester across the starter-switch terminals and it lit up, confirming the starter-switch was frozen in the closed position. -My continuity tester also said the cable from the starter switch to the starter was okay.
Theoretically, these things can't all be possible at the same time.
Nothing was making sense, so even though I had charged the car's Optima battery to full capacity less than a week ago, I tested it and found the charge was now down to 25%. -That was odd, too.
The immediate thing to do was recharge the battery, but that's as far as I'm going until I install a new starter-switch because I'm now of the opinion that putting heavy amperage through a damaged switch is a bad idea.
A Model T starter switch doesn't belong on a '15, and can be dangerous with the unwashed climbing in and out of the car. I use a modern solenoid and a concealed switch under the overhang of the seat. I have it wired so it works only with ignition switch on.
True: A starter switch doesn't belong on a '15. -For the folks who have heard me say this before, I apologize in advance for the repetition and for those who haven't heard, please take this in the gentle spirit in which it's given:
I'm crippled, so I can't crank. -I'm retired on disability, so I can't afford a 1912 Cadillac with the electric starter it's supposed to have, and the only way for me to get into the Brass Car hobby is through the cheapest brass horseless carriage ever built—and I had to have a starter installed on it.
That having been said, hopefully for the last time, I address the danger of the unwashed climbing in and out of the car with a battery-disconnect switch. -When the electrical system is dead, nothing bad can happen if some little kid steps on the starter button. -I accept the responsibility of making sure the car has been properly "safetied" before inviting spectators aboard and if you look at my Spectators and Funny Hats threads, you'll see that it's a nice little public relations tool that's good for the hobby and some money gets donated to the Wounded Warrior charity as a tangible end result. -Win, win—right?
And you're right, Rick; a solenoid would be an excellent idea. -I've used the forum's search mechanism to find information and photos that might show how to perform such an installation, but I could only find two such threads.
I think you could mount it on the bracket that holds the switch.
Nothing wrong with a T converted to a starter car in my book. Especially if you bought it that way. You don't know how long ago it was done. I don't know how common it was but it was done. Makes it more driveable. Particularly for women. While I doubt I'd do it to a really early model and the car isn't exactly "pure" anymore I still think it's OK. Now as to changing over to a solenoid: Leave it alone. The stuff in there now is more period than modern add-ons plus a safety cut-off keeps you covered.
Bob, those cut off switches can be a source of trouble. Most of the ones on the market are junk. If you are still having trouble with the starter I would check that before any other troubleshooting.
The battery-disconnect switch was the first thing I checked. _As you say, they're mostly junk and this one is five years old, so it's probably time to change it out for a new one. _Couldn't hurt—right? _Another safety add-on I'm considering would be an in-line fuse on the starter cable (not sure if it matters whether it's upstream or downstream from the switch). _I don't see a suitable one anywhere on the internet.
There should never be an inline fuse on the starter cable.
I have a starter on each of my T's. I might use the starter once a year if the car stalls in an intersection.
You need not pull hard or fast on the crank handle to prime or start the car.
Here's my dad when he was 91. Notice he stopped to turn the mixture open 1/2 turn to compensate for the cool (45 degree F) temperature:
You'll find a "main feed" wire for the rest of the electrical system (lights, ect. everything but the starter system) USUALLY coming off the starter button on the battery side. In other words there will be the pos. batt. cable and a thinner wire on the same terminal of the starter button. That's where the fuse should go. On that thinner wire. You can put it there under the car or follow it up to the terminal block on the fire wall and put it there for convenience. Fuse holders are sold in any parts store. A 30 amp will do. If anything beyond that fuse shorts it'll blow saving the wiring & possibly the car. I've always added one.
When you have time:
you might like the Fun Projects fuse....