Maybe I could figure this one out given enough time, but I thought I would ask if any of you have an idea about it.
I just brought my 1914 runabout out of "winter" storage. A couple of things I did are to tighten the low band a bit and install a ground wire on my Texas T distributor.
The car was running fine when it went into storage. Now when I try to start it (I have a 12v starter powered by a big Optima 12v battery), it does not fire at all. Instead there is a click-click-click noise as the engine turns over and no attempt to fire at all.
Important to this malfunction is the observation that as the engine is turned over with the hand crank (ignition off) the distributor bounces up and drops back down with a "click" every so often. So the symptoms are pretty distinct. The question is what's wrong? Obviously something is wrong with the distributor, but what and how to fix it?
Does anyone have any ideas...?
Thanks for nay input!
Must be the bevel drive gears causing the distributor "bounce up and down" as you say, therefore, I would suspect that the distributor has jumped out of time. And that will sure cause an engine to fail to start, altho' they will usually cough and sputter and backfire a bit.
I agree with Harold. And if by chance it came out of the gear and is off by a tooth, from my experience setting up my distributor, it wont run. I have found the timing to be pretty finiky with the distributor on.
By best advise right now is to pull the distributor off and check the gears carefully. And then at that point too, you can see if the distributor spins freely or if it is binding somehow. If it seems alright, I would regrease it and try to retime it per the instructions.
I installed mine last November before winter came in, and it started right up fine last week for the first time this year.
Is the distributor head the only thing that is moving up and down? There is a slot that goes around the circumference of the distributor head. There is a small screw that is on the outside of the head body, about an inch below the cap snaps. If this screw backed out, the head will move up and down when the engine turns over because the screw is what holds the distributor head in the aluminum housing. There is also a vertical slot cut in the distributor head that allows the head to be removed for service. Check that screw.
Ok. Thanks for the suggestions. I will check these things out.
I might also add that "Dave" from Chaffin's Garage called and discussed the problem by phone.
As per his suggestion I will check the power to the coil before doing anything else since not firing at all is suspicious.
Thanks & Regards,
Jon - if you are getting the clicking and it is causing the distributor to jump up - that means that the teeth aren't engaged. It's never going to fire if the distributor isn't spinning. I think something is wrong with your distributor gear teeth.
Is it electronic ignition or points and condenser? Points can corrode in pretty short order if it has been sitting up. I can't tell you how many engines I have gotten to run that 'weren't firing' by simply drawing a piece of folded really fine (say 320 or 400 or so grit) sandpaper between the points.
Of course, this doesn't address your bumping up and down problem, but others have addressed that above.
Take the distributor off and check the gear on the camshaft, if it is installed backward with the wrench flats to the front the flats will hit the distributor gear and move it up and down without turning the rotor.
Ok, update. I just pulled all 4 plugs, laid them on the head, and with the ignition on, turned over the engine with the starter.
NO SPARKS AT ALL. Not good, but we seem to be closing in on the problem...
Maybe a bad condenser?
Whadda ya think?
Points, condenser, coil? Does the rotor turn if you crank the motor over? Pretty straight forward troubleshooting.
Do as Hal said. Also, do you have battery voltage at the points?
Jon: you're creating a bigger problem taking things apart unnecessarily. Check to see if the rotor is turning but if the dist body is jumping up & down it's probably skipping the gear teeth and is out of time anyway. there will be no spark if it's not turning. You seem a bit lost here. If you need help get it before you tear more stuff apart. "It ran last season". It's possible points and/or condenser went bad but not likely.
Yes, by all means take the cap off and check to see if the rotor is turning at least. I took for granted this was already done first off.
If it is, my next check would be two things. Check for voltage at the coil terminal + connection. And then---assuming the distributor is still jumping up and down, take it off and check the gears for any damage.
One step at a time. Check to see if the rotor is tuning.
Your clue, "the distributor bounces up and drops back down with a "click" every so often." is a hint that there is a problem there.
Another idea: pull the dist cap. hand crank to see if the rotor's at least turning. Pull up on the distributor body and try to turn the rotor by hand. If it rotates by hand the gears might be gone or not meshing because the body is lifted. whatever you do DO NOT try to start the engine. It's out of time if the rotors skipping or not turning. Does this have anything to do with the ground wire you installed? Loosen any clamps or screws that would make the dist body move?
I agree with the others. The fact it is moving up and down and clicking, you have a mechanical problem that needs to be addressed first.
More update. To check the coil, I disconnected the wires. The crimped connector on the negative side just fell off of the wire! The coil checked out Ok - less than 1 ohm resistance across the input terminals, over 10,000 ohms across the output and either of the inputs. I then put a new connector on the negative side, crossed my fingers and tried to fire it up. It popped a few times, but absolutely refused to start.
The ominous thing is that as it is cranking over, the distributor, along with the click-click-click sound, is jumping around. To be more specific, it pauses and jumps forward, pauses and jumps forward repeatedly as the engine turns over.
This does not sound good, and I am thinking that I almost have to pull the radiator, and take the distributor off and inspect the drive gears and shaft.
The only good news, if you can call it that, is that I have another complete Texas T distributor sitting right here that was intended for a speedster. Worst case scenario is that I could just replace the whole thing if necessary...
Pray for me!
Any thoughts appreciated.
Thanks & Regards,
Jon, please listen to the advice from myself and others. Do NOT try and start the engine until you have checked things out.
-Make sure the rotor is turning by hand cranking.
-Check the retaining screws/pins on the distributor body to distributor head for looseness.
-Pull the distributor off the car---no, you do not need to pull the radiator if the distributor was installed per the directions.
-Check the cam gear AND distributor gear for damage.
At this point you should have found something that is causing the bouncing of the distributor head. Please heed the advice before you do possible damage to your vehicle. There is obviously something wrong, and you seem to be skipping around checking other things than the advice we have given you.
Once you find what is making the head bounce up and down, then make sure the electrical side is in good order. Obviously that wire end wasn't helping and that was a good find. You also need to make sure the coil is getting proper battery voltage to the + side too, or even a good coil will not fire properly.
I am sorry if I sound a little harsh, but I get very aggravated with ones that come on here and ask for advice then check everything but what was told to them.
To add to what Chad said, it may be as simple of a little piece of something stuck in one of the gears making the distributor "jump" or "bounce", or just one slightly damaged gear tooth!
And a different way to say what Chad said, you can be pretty sure that whoever installed that distributor probably did not take the radiator off to do it!
I'm sorry and I don't mean to sound like a wise guy but he's just not listening. I've seen this twice before on the Forum: My car ran fine and today it won't start. I'm going to pull the head". Stop taking things apart! Get some help. You need it.
Check the cam gear and be sure it is engaged with the distributor. Is this a new project or was the car running before? if so...on coils or the distributor?
I had a similar problem with a '27 roadster that belonged to a member of the Lone Star T's. The distributor was turning but not in time with the engine. I eventually found out the gear / nut was loose on the end of the camshaft.
No need to pull the radiator. Just remove the distributor and check the gear. Pack it with grease before reassembly, lots of these are stripped out because of no grease.
A bit more update. I pulled the plugs and my wife watched for sparks as the engine turns over with ignition on. Now all 4 plugs are sparking, whereas before fixing the loose connector on the negative side of the coil, none were sparking.
So now it is time to remove the distributor. One thing at a time, and this is the last thing to do, and because of the uneven pausing and jumping of the distributor it certainly needs to be checked.
I am the one who installed this distributor about a year ago, so it is possible (rather likely?) that I did something stupid when I installed it. It seemed Ok, and has run fine until now, but almost certainly something is wrong with the drive.
I will pull it today, and we will see what is going on in there.
I will let you know.
Thanks & Regards,
Ok. Another update. I pulled the Texas T distributor. There is NO noticeable damage to the drive gears. The shaft seems straight. I am comparing the rotation of this distributor with a brand new Texas T distributor. There is one VERY SIGNIFICANT difference in this distributor and the new one. On the new distributor, when you hold the body still and rotate the rotor by hand, the rotor turns freely with slight resistance every 90 degrees from the points opening and closing. On the old distributor, when you hold the body still and turn the rotor, IT LOCKS UP COMPLETELY every 90 degrees! This is NOT good, and while I still do not know why it is doing this, it prompts me to put on the new distributor and see if that fixes the problem.
My guess is that it will then run just fine.
I will let you know once that is accomplished.
Thanks & Regards,
Ok. A further update. I still have not determined why the distributor that came off the car is locking up every 90 degrees.
BUT, the main thing as I suspected above, the car started right up with 3 cranks and runs fine with the new Texas T distributor.
So what is wrong with the old one? If I figure it out, I will let you know and post it here for the record.
Thanks to all of you for your help.
Every 90 degrees. In other words every time one of the lobes opens the points. Are you turning it in the right direction and are the points still in it? Turning it backwards with the points still in it might cause what you describe.
Sounds like some part of the centrifugal advance is messed up. Remove the cap, rotor & plate that the points are attached to, to expose the advance mechanism and you'll most likely discover the trouble.
Yes, it locks-up both ways. The points are still in it.
I agree 100%. That's what I am going to do. "Dave" at Chaffins Garage suggested the same thing.
Glen at Chaffins: GIVE DAVE A RAISE! He deserves it.
Thanks & Regards,
I just got a call from Bill Devine, owner of Birdhaven Antique Auto Supply. They bought Texas T Parts in December when Ben Hardeman retired.
Since Bill will now be handling the Model T distributors, he wants to see the one that went bad. These distributors have a good track record, and so he wants to know what is wrong with this one.
Bottom line is if I send it to him, he will repair it or replace it if necessary. I will pack it up and send it to him, and I will keep you informed as to what is wrong with it.
So we will see what he finds when he opens it up.
I will keep you posted.
I decided to just pull the points plate myself and have a look at things. After pulling the condenser, I tried once more to turn the rotor by hand. Surprise, surprise! Whereas before it had locked up, IT NOW TURNED FREELY!
Ok. Something under the points plate was hitting on the condenser screw.
I removed the points plate, and the following pictures revealed what was wrong:
In the first picture you can see that the spring arm for the old mechanical advance is hitting the condenser screw. In the second picture you can see the condenser screw from the outside.
Ok. How did all this happen? Well, I wanted to put a dedicated ground wire on the distributor as is suggested in the directions (and on this Forum). They suggest the place to connect the wire is the condenser screw.
When I removed it, the condenser screw had 2 flat washers, a star washer and a lock washer. This seemed a bit like overkill to me, especially since I was going to include a ground wire under the screw. I wound up using one flat washer, one lock washer and the ground wire. Even that small change caused the problem outlined here.
I guess the lesson is that one seemingly small change can have unintended consequences. In particular, for those wanting a ground wire on a Texas T distributor, be careful about the condenser screw penetration into the distributor body after installing the ground wire.
Thanks to Bill Devine at Birdhaven Antique Auto Parts and Dave at Chaffins Garage. Thanks also to everyone here for their helpful comments and suggestions
One last comment that might be helpful to some folks. I removed the condenser screws from the "old" distributor and the "new" one. Here are pictures of the two screws side-by-side.
Pay attention here! Which one do you think came from the distributor where the screw was hitting the mechanical advance arm inside...? Of course, the longest one. It was TOO long, and to compensate they(?) had put two flat washers, a star washer and a lock washer under it so it would not hit the mechanical advance inside. I unwittingly omitted two of the seemingly extra washers when I put it back.
The longer screw is a metric (made in China?) screw measuring M4-.70 x 12. The shorter one is the same except for the length. Apparently during assembly of the "old" distributor, the shorter length screws were not available, and four washers were inserted to take up the slack on the longer screw. I unwittingly took a couple of the seemingly extraneous washers out when putting on the ground wire thus causing the problem.
So who's to blame for this "screw-up" (pun intended)? Well, nobody likes to take the blame for anything, so I will claim that honor. However, it might serve as lesson for whoever is putting these distributors together now to TRY to use consistent parts that are "foolproof" from guys like me...!
Self-inflicted wounds are the worse !!!
Glad you rectified the problem.
It is probably metric because it is a Bosch Distributor based off a VW.
Glad you found it, but you sure took the long way around to get there.
Taking the long way around is how you learn all those things you didn't know you didn't know. I happen to excel at this. PK
What I find good about this thread is that Bill Devine was willing to take the distributor back and repair it or replace it so he could find out how to correct any future problems. It's great to have vendors stand behind their products.
Dennis and Everyone,
What you should all know is that BOTH Dave at Chaffins and Bill Devine at Birdhaven called me after looking at this thread. I think that says something really good about both of these vendors. The both took the initiative to cold call me without me having to contact them first.
I am impressed!