I have been running a Texas T distributor set up for many years. On the Poor Boy tour this week, I had something happen and want to know if anyone has had a similar situation.
Car was running very well and suddenly went dead, as if the key switch was turned off. We did all the standard tests and located what could be a bad Petronics pick up. We pulled that unit out and went to a point system, using the same distributor head. Still, no go. We could get fire to the coil wire to ground. But nothing would come out of the cap to the plugs.
I parked the car and got home last night.'
Today, I switched to another distributor head, using the same cap, wires, points, condenser, rotor. The car fired right up. I am still at a loss as to what caused the problem.
Any suggestions as to the cause would be appreciated. Keep in mind that this is not a new set up and has been on the car for several years. No apparent wear in the shaft is noted. I am religious about keeping it lube daily.
All common causes for the failure have been reviewed, with no answers.
Did it loose ground? Do you have an extra ground wire on the unit? I hear that is pretty common, although I have not experienced it.
Points are pretty reliable. So it seems odd that it didn't fire up on the initial switch of the unit. Unless the rotor was not tight on the shaft and just free wheeling in place?
Yes, auxiliary ground wire in place.
When I had that problem a few years ago, I found the spark came out of the coil alright, but went right to ground through the rotor being burned out.
Are you sure the distributor shaft is turning? Take the cap off and do a visual check that the shaft is turning and opening and closing the points correctly.
Here is the ground wire
John is on the right track. I had a fiber timing gear let go and the car went dead immediately. Pull your oil cap and see what the gear looks like.
But the OP stated he changed distributor head and it fired right up. Can't see it being a bad gear
The head is removed without removal of the housing, hence, the distributor gears aren't visible. Those may have failed also. My experience was with a failed cam gear. Same net effect. No turn = no fire
I re-read. I thought it wasn't running. You're right, the fired right up rules out all the gear issues.
could it be a short in the cap? look for little black lightning bolt lines inside the cap itself.
Tom, have your battery checked, I had the same problem a few years ago and Pertronix needs full power from a 12 volt battery. I let it sit for a minute and it started right up, pushed on the brake and it died, installed a new battery and it has been working OK for about six years.
Then too, the battery voltage may drop way down when cranking and that can be tested by actually measuring the voltage between the starter terminal and engine ground while cranking.
An alternative is to hand crank the engine or get a push from some friends and it may start that way, if the battery is weak or the cable are corroded.
We verified that the rotor was not shorted. We could feed the coil wire directly to the distributor button with the cap off to see if there was an issue with the button. That hook up fired a plug. When put back together, the fire does not come out of the distributor to the individual plugs.
It's almost like there is a dead short in the distributor. However, the amp gauge does not indicate a draw of any sort.
We also verified no issues with the cap. The same cap is now in the running car. As are the same points, condenser and rotor.
Anyone have an idea of how to check for a path to ground in the distributor? Kind of hard to do seeing as how it is already grounded to the block when installed.
Also, anyone have any idea of the amount of lift involved in the cam lobs on the distributor? Where the points open?
Does anyone have a way to check the Petronics? Ohms, etc. with the unit not connected to power source or coil? I am probably going to use points as with other distributor set up.
The ads in the dealers catalogs suggest a much improved 2X power output for a hotter spark. It appears to me that the Petronic unit and pick are a simple switch. Unless I am missing something, I don't see a hotter spark verses using points.
Wow, that is really baffling. How is it all the parts work in another distributor, but not that one. Once you gut the distributor, it is just a shaft with a lobe cam on the shaft. Could you put the gutted distributor back on the car and just verify it is turning properly? It just doesn't make sense. Somewhere we are all missing something here.
Is it grounded as I stated above? Oil gets up in the tunnel and it can't ground. I take the distributor off of the engine and chuck it up in a lathe. Then I cut a second groove like the one that lets the holding cap screw keep the distributor in the hole so the gears won't push it up out of the hole. I make sure that the groove is just big enough to allow the fitment of a big fat O-ring in that groove and that stops back pressure from shoving oil up the hole. Try it you'll like it. Please don't take the engine apart, just follow directions.
I had not run my 22 this past few years with to many other projects it has a Texas T distributor and did not start and run as years past the last time it was run. Decided to find the issue and after much checking found the rotor had lost continuity from the center to the end seven bucks later with a NAPA rotor the T fired up immediately and ran well after setting for about two years. Every thing worked as well as it did in the past BEFORE the ground wire was installed with the new rotor.
Problem is in rotor or cap. I know the distributor body was replaced and the same cap and rotor used, but during the change out a carbon track or micro crack in the cap or rotor was disturbed or altered.
Put your old body back on with new cap and rotor and you will be good to go. Also check out the primary coil wire ... that was disturbed during the change out also.
BTW I wouldn't expect a problem in the secondary circuit of the coil to make much of a difference in the primary where your ammeter is located.
Bud, I understand what you are saying, but we tried another cap and two rotors with no luck.
Frank, the oil deal sounds interesting. Maybe my daily oiling practice was too much.
The coil is the same coil as was in the car when it ran well. What I can't figure is how the spark is very good and yet we can't get it out of the cap, 2 caps two be exact.
When I get home, I will do more investigating of the old stuff. I have a Texas T distributor on a Hack we built in 1999. The car has been driven more than 10K miles. That distributor has never been touched, no new parts and the car starts and runs like the day we installed the distributor.
A lot of my friends are timer and coil folks and they just love me suffering with this issue. The others that helped me on tour that run distributors were there for the duration, were late for lunch and still helped push the car on the trailer so I could get it home.
My thanks to all of them.
OOOPS, Skip is running coils but was still there to help.
Chad, the rotor was turning properly, witnessed with the cap off and the fact that as the points opening and closing to get the big time fire from the coil wire to ground.
I do have another question. How many folks that run distributors use points verses an electronic module? Just curious. We have 4 T's with distributors and this is the only failure I have had in 16 years on any of them.
The only other issue I have had with the Texas T setup happened probably ten years past. The T quit a mile from home. Turned out to be the lower set screw holding the distributor to the lower drive allowing it to slip enough to destroy the timing alignment I reset the alignment and made sure the set screw was tight. The rotor mentioned above had no connection at all from the cap spring loaded center to the four distributor spark buttons it tested O with an ohmmeter the new one tested perfect but was a different design.
I am going to say this once because I am very deeply invested in Volkswagens.
New distributors, known as 009's that are mechanical advance are Chinese built. All of them are. These new distributors are renown for having horrendous quality of the mechanical curve advancing components, and fail very quickly on our engines. That is why we use distributors that were built in the 40's and 50's on our engines and they are just rebuilt, if needed.
I would bet money that you're issue is because of a cheap Chinese dizzy.
Contact Glenn Ring at http://www.glenn-ring.com
He can build you a very nice and dependable german distributor that WILL NOT FAIL. Yes, it will run about $200, but you will have a nice distributor when you're all done.
I am not paid to say this, I promise. I just have experience.
You will want the 010 distributor found here:
Tom, I run points, but in all fairness it is on my doodle bug which doesn't see a lot of miles. It is in my opinion an almost fool proof system. If it stops, more than likely it is one of three things, points out of adjustment, bad condenser, bad coil. Yes you could have other parts be bad, but come on, it is a deadly simple design that works.
As far as what James states above, the mechanical advance if still present inside runs backwards on a T (at least on Texas T-parts distributors)---so it doesn't even move. That is what the advance rod is still in place for. So we have reduced this to a simple gear driven shaft in a housing. There was an issue years ago with there not being a screw to hold the lower bearing in place and that falling out, but that should not cause the issue here in my opinion.
Just curious, what parts fail on the Chicon distributors? Is it the shaft or the advance mechanism? A shaft and cam lobe to open the points is about all that is used to make this set up work.
I do appreciate your comments on the new ones not being very reliable. I wonder where Texas T was getting their heads? As stated before, the older ones have been very reliable.
I am not 100% sure of what fails. The older ones that are at least 5 or 6 years old are most likely ok, as is anything past that. I know that the cam lobes were made of plastic and over time can wear and brake.
Are you saying that Texas T modifies the distributor to inhibit the mechanical advance? Im not super familiar with the system.
Feel free to bash on me, honestly Id love to have someone explain to me how the conversion works and what they do to the distributor as well as where they get them.
James, no bashing here. The cam lobe on my T distributor is metal. I can certainly see where plastic would be an issue. I never looked super close at mine--or just forgot, but either the mechanical advance is in place, or it is removed. If it is still in place, it wont work because it is spinning backwards from normal rotation in a T engine. So to advance the distributor, there still is a "timer" rod to control advance. It just goes to the distributor from the steering column instead.
The only other thing that could fail past the lobe, would be the bearings or bushings. I know at least in the lower housing, they are sealed bearings--at least on mine. I bought one of the last batches before the chance over to Birdhaven, but I can not imagine they would change the design as it works well.
As far as Tom's original issue, I am still baffled. Why would all the internals from the "dead" distributor body work perfectly fine in a different distributor body. My only assumption was lack of ground.
Tom, just curious, but did you try putting all the stuff back in the old housing? I know it's a pain, but stranger things have happened.
If you go to the Texas T website and download the instructions on the distributor set up, I believe you will get a pretty good understanding on how the set up works. If you have questions, ask away after reading the instructions. I am not that sharp, but they are fairly easy to follow. As stated above, because the distributor turns in reverse, the advance is a non factor, or that's my understanding.
I use the 009's and always lock the fly-ball in one position. Then I put on a bell crank. On some distributors you must use a reversing bell-crank. VW's have a peak rpm and advance curve much different than a Model T. So wire it shut and connect it correctly. Look at THE PICTURES BELOW and be sure to cut a groove on the distributor for the rubber O-ring oil stopper, and oh yes, be sure to jump a ground wire from the distributor to the engine block.
Back to this thread.
It has been determined that the points are opening up at a different position than the location of the rotor which means no distribution of the spark to the plugs, or at least not a the right time.
We still have to determine if the timing cam, on the distributor, using electronic ignition, is different than when using points. But this at least explains part of the problem.
Now we have to determine if the root cause of the first problem was started by the electronic module or something else.
The cam on the distributor does not appear to have moved on the shaft as the top screw was very tight.
As this progresses, I will post more.
My thanks to Phil Piccard for his help on this diagnosis.