Has anyone used this system? How reliable is it and how difficult to install?
Do a search on past threads and you will decide yourself if you want to invest your time & money.
My car came to me with no magneto and a Truefire ignition installed, it runs fine. It is a "wasted spark" system, so it fires plugs 1 and 4 simultaneously, then plugs 2 and 3 simultaneously.
Although the directions say that you should not have to adjust your timing rod, I highly recommend that you set the timing and adjust your timing rod per the procedure below, starting at step 6. The instructions call for two people to set the timing, but I was able to do it alone. It is easy to turn the engine over with the crank when the spark plugs are out. On step 7, use your thumb over the #1 spark plug hole to make sure that #1 is coming up on its compression stroke before you start watching the piston movement.
On my car, I had to rotate the timer further over to the passenger side to get the timing right, so I ended up making a custom, longer timing rod to ensure plenty of clearance between the rod and timer posts over the full travel. Here is a picture of where the timer typically ends up with the timing set and the lever fully up:
Setting Proper Timing with Truefire Ignition
1. Set the Spark Rod all the way to Retard or at the top.
2. Remove all four spark plug wires.
3. Remove all four spark plugs.
4. Attach plug wires back to plugs and set each of them on the head, turn on the ignition key.
5. One person now has to slowly turn the crank, by hand, just until the #1 and #4 plugs start firing, while a second person peeks in the spark plug hole with a small pen light to note the position of the piston. If the piston has just reached Top Dead Center and started down about 1/8th inch, you are good to go and can turn off the ignition key, put the plugs back in and attach the wires.
Alignment Procedure (when the above did not indicate alignment)
6. Remove the Spark Rod from the Timer and rotate the Timer Connection about 1/2 inch closer to the Passenger Side or Counter Clockwise looking from the Front.
7. One person has to turn the crank, by hand, while a second person peeks in the spark plug hole with a small pen light to note the position of the piston. Stop turning the crank when the #1 piston has just reached Top Dead Center and started down about 1/8th inch.
8. Slowly move the Timer Connection toward the Driver's Side or Clockwise from the Front. Stop when the buzz noise starts.
9. Bend the Spark Rod until it will go back in the Timer Connection without moving the timer position.
10. Repeat the Test Procedure to insure the setting is correct. Wear in the linkage may move that setting several degrees.
Walter, I bought my '20 same as Mark Strange...no magneto, but with Tru-Fire. This was my "learning T" so to speak, as it was my first! It runs great with it, but not a whole lot difference than my other stock T's with magneto/coils. The biggest thing about the Tru Fire system is, keep all the contacts CLEAN...the least little bit of dirt (and moisture) it seems, will affect how well it works. I've learned that I have to completely take it all apart from the cars firewall, etc. and clean all the contacts. Not really a big deal frankly, on a bad-weather day it's a good way to spend about two hours, then it really does perform very well after that.
" Although the directions say that you should not have to adjust your timing rod "
Two weeks ago I had a 1923 here to look after, because starting was very difficult. I noticed that the timing was not good. After looking at the Crankshaft starting pin how the timing was. I find out that when the sparkrod is all the way up the timing was 45 degr. BTDC and not 10 - 15 after.So the timing was 60 degr. of . So always check your timing. It is a car with True fire.
Love my True Fire. My 1912 roadster always starts, and runs strong. In addition to never fussing with coils, you also eliminate the mechanical timer and problems that can result there. It uses a magnetic trigger to fire, so no wear on the parts. I have a modern camshaft seal, so I don't get any oil or crud in my timer. Had some trouble after 6 years, but Ed Bittner fixed it for the cost of the part plus shipping. I think the bill was $40.
I have not used a tru fire in my car, and don't really see the need for one. If the magneto doesn't work, the coils, if they are any good will work fine on battery. I ran one that way for about 5 years until I finally fixed the magneto.
On a tour over the last weekend, another T driver was having trouble pulling the hills and the car overheated. He also had a lot of popping and backfiring through the exhaust when going downhill. The next morning he started up his car, and I said let me see if I can adjust it. I asked if he had a magneto, and he said he is running tru fire. I tinkered with the mixture and found it was just about right. Then I asked if I could look at the spark lever. I pulled it down farther and the engine sped up. It ran best when it was almost all the way down as it would go. I said try running it like this today. I followed him that day and could hardly keep up with him. He didn't overheat or have any problems after that. So I would say, the only experience I have had is that the spark advance is a little different than it is with coils.
Strictly my opinion- Model T's should run on magneto. Period.
But, in a pinch, the True-Fire is a good, dependable substitute for a defective magneto system until the magneto can be repaired. I know because I used the True-Fire for 2 years until I learned to repair the magneto.
Other suitable substitutes are battery, distributor, and the newer E-Timer.
Dad bought a TrueFire the first year it came out. His mag didn't work well and batt wasn't strong enough in his opinion .That '01/02 ?? It worked well till his various wiring jobs made things unreliable for me. I just rewired the car last week after my old TF went south. Found out that the first year had some bad coils from a foreign land. Just received a new TF and I checked it out and looks real good with updates over the years. Am looking forward to hooking everything up tomorrow and will report back. The thing is like any ignition is you need real good wires and soldered taboot. My dad had so many splices all over the place with crimp connectors and crimps were many times crimped with needlenose pliers. Not strong enough. Ask me how I know.
I've run a Trufire for 10 years. Used to replace the Heinz coils in my '13. Heinz coils never were any good compared to the KW style which won't fit in a original Heinz coil box. I charge a '12 volt Sea-doo battery from the working T mag. I've had zero problems!!!
I think I've read in earlier threads about True Fire - the 12V version may be more tolerant to low battery voltage than the 6V version?
I think the 6V version cuts off at 5V(?) Anyway, no spark at all below a certain voltage.
That 5 Volt cutoff is the biggest problem with a 6 Volt battery and a Truefire system.
Read Milt Webb's article in the latest Vintage Ford.
He notes that the voltage measured when cranking can be 4.8 volts.
It can be a lot less than that with bad cables, a corroded ground strap, a weak battery, or a high compression head and the engine will still turn over slow and start with good coils.
The Truefire may cause a hard or no start, and be suspected as being defective, when it is only requiring a little more than the available voltage.
How easy are they to get repaired? One of my customers has one that is occasionally defective, loses spark on #4, but I am not sure the original manufacturer is still interested...
I guess this is a potential problem with most custom items built by enthusiasts, especially when their interests move on.
BTW my customer has decided to move to a distributor.
Tony, I love my True-Fire. Not being an electrical genius, I gave up trying to get original Heinze coils working reliably and fitted a TF. This was before new Heinze coils were made available.
It is my understanding that the TF runs on a waste spark system. When no.4 sparks, so does no.1 If you check, and only no.4 is out, it may not be the TF at fault. Perhaps a faulty plug, or a loose/dirty connection to no.4
Hope this helps.
Allan from down under.
For anyone interested, here is a link to the Truefire patent:
It failed on the return from the Joshua Tree tour, no spark on #4. We changed plugs and switched wire and it didn't work. I pulled the true fire out messed with the contacts in the box and still no #4. Then I bit the bullet and removed the six screws, quite interesting inside, found nothing I could see loose so reinstalled the cover. It then started to work on #4.... No idea why.
By the way, the T in question runs on 12 volts, so I doubt it was low voltage..
I just heard from the previous owner of the vehicle, the same problem occurred last year and there were no response to either phone calls or emails.
I have 3 Tru-Fire systems running with excellent results.
I did find a couple of issues with the hot spark in my wood coil box. It seems the spark is so hot it will jump and actually burn a path and short out.
I reread the installation directions and noted they call for some extra insulation on the inside around the contacts.
I glued in some strips of insulation material and problem solved.
I have run my systems a lot of trouble free miles and find my barn fresh 1912 easy to hand crank and it starts quickly.
I am running the stock timer rod and find it necessary to adjust like a standard model t.
I have had contact with Bittner who designed and built the systems. He was quick to respond and repaired one of my coil packs when I hooked up the battery lead to the wrong terminal.
I also have his magneto /battery charger and it keeps my 12v battery fully charged at all times.
If I remember correctly, at 20 miles per hour I am charging about 7 amps at 13.4 volts. This is well above the amps needed to run the tru-fire.
I just bought a 1926 touring and have ordered a Tru-Fire for it.
Walter, I don't think they're as reliable as the newer developed ETimers have proven to be. Installation is nearly equal except when something goes wrong it is pretty hard for another T driver to try to troubleshoot and to convert back to stock mag and coils is much more difficult in comparison.
I Have used two of them in two different cars for the last 8 or so years and have found them to be quite reliable.
Great to see that this has not turned into a great big debate about leaving T's original and having to use coils no matter what! Trufire has a place in the market, a good following and lots of good practical advice and observations offered here on its installation and operation. Good reading.
Couldn't agree with you more Warwick. The Forum has been very civilized past few months. Thank you for your observation.
I wonder if it could be a problem in either the coil box or the wiring. A loose crimp on the end of the low tension wire could cause intermittent open. Maybe no problem with the tru fire.