I'm new to Model T's but have lost of experience with newer engines. Last year I rescued a 1917 engine from the junkyard. I did a quick valve job, installed new rings and tightened up the bearings a little. I bought a new timer and 4 new coils. The engine turns freely, sparks at the right time, and I can feel it "helping me" when I crank it trying to start it....but it doesn't make enough power to keep running. I'm using a lawnmower carburetor for now, but it seems to work OK. I've tried a little ether in the carb and even down the spark plug holes but that doesn't help. My arm is getting sore from cranking! What am I doing wrong?
First I would remove the Lawnmower Carb and install one made for Model T's. It sounds like you are not getting enough fuel. The Model T carb has a nob on the top to adjust the fuel mixture. I usually turn my out until I get the engine to start and then once the timer is advanced I adjust the fuel mixture in.
Have you checked the spark to be sure it's set at 15 degrees after top dead center with the arm all the way up?
You should not need to turn the engine over fast. Use your left hand and gently turn the engine over. If the fuel is right, the engine will start once the spark occurs at 15 degrees.
I hope this helps.
In cold weather the gas mixture needs to be rich to start the engine. Your carb may not be supplying enough gas. Try a swayback NH carb. Inexpensive to buy and rebuild. A good all around T carburetor. If that doesn't solve the problem, its either the timer or coils.
How did you set the timing? Spark should occur about 15 degrees AFTER TDC. If you have more retard than that it might be difficult to get it started. I am presuming you have the valve timing correct since you did a valve job. If you don't already own the Model T service manual (known as book T-1 in the hobby) then get one from Lang's old Car parts at 1-800-TPARTS-1 and read up on what you might have missed. There is a rather large model T Ford chapter in the chicago land area. They are the Midwest Chapter of the Model T Ford Club International. Send me a PM and I will get you contact info since there is nothing better than having some help who has experience with T's. I am in St. Charles, IL so not real close to you but we will get her going.
When we rebuilt [ourselves] the not correct 15 after much cranking we towed it!!!Bud.
With correct timing and fuel, and a battery buzzing the coils, it should start like this: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3pv6HWWOGYA.
Even if you think the timing is right, check it with this: http://dauntlessgeezer.com/DG97.html.
Try it with a Model T carburetor. A Holley G would be correct for 1917, but a Holley NH is likely to cost less, is reliable and easy-starting, and all the parts for rebuilding it are easily available. I gather the engine is on a stand, not in a car, so it should be easy to have the tank high enough to assure a good flow of fuel to the carb. But if the engine is in a car with the tank in its usual position, be sure there's plenty of fuel (two gallons or more) in it. When it gets down to a gallon it might as well be empty.
OK it sounds, at least, as though you have spark. What bothers me is that there's no real reaction to spraying. That usually produces a result of some kind. Unless it's not getting to the cyls. or something else is missing. Like compression. Any idea what that might be? "Engine turns freely". New rings. You might be so low in comp + possible cold weather that it won't even kick.
It should start easy enough without using ether. I wouldn't use to much of it. Old engines can get addicted to ether and that's not good.
I would get a Holly NH. You can pickup a decent one to rebuild fairly cheap or buy a good used one for around $50.00. They are the most common to find.
A basic setting to start a T with a NH is 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 turns out with the main adjustment needle.
Assuming that the magneto magnets still have enough charge left in them to spark it should start.
Thanks to all for the many quick responses! I have fiddled with the timing between a few degrees after TDC and roughly 20 degrees retarded with no luck. I have not put a compression gauge on it yet - I'll try that next. What PSI should I expect? 4:1 ration should be about 50 or 60 PSI I think. My sparks are good and hot, I'm using a battery now but I hope it will run on the mag once it starts. The mag coils check OK and I recharged the flywheel magnets. The engine is on a stand, not in a car.
Check the comp and get back here if possible. The #'s you gave are a bit high but possible.
Are you using the proper firing order? It should be 1-2-4-3.
After rebuilt from breaking a crankshaft Joe Bell started my totaly rebuilt not starter engine using a large powerful eletrict drill! The engine was in his running stand and i watched it run before i picked it up.Put a teaspoon of gas in each cyl and slowly carefully crank.Do you have the book?? Your coils in the coil box might not fire the timer at the right time depending on wireing so check the book!! If your scared of cranking,get a plug to fire before putting a little gas in a cyl.If it will not fire when the switch if turned to batt you have trouble!! Are you using a battry or trying to mag start?? Bud.
Did you hone the cylinders before installing the new pistons? If the cylinder walls are as smooth as glass, you might not be getting enough compression to make the engine run. However I would go along with the above posts about installing the proper carburetor. If the engine will run for a few seconds on starting fluid but then stops, it would be a sign the ignition system is working but it is not getting enough fuel.
You said you did a quick valve job/Do you have adjustable lifters?? Have a friend crank while you hold your hand over the carb. Do you get a strong suction?? Bud.
I have heard that if to much ether is used it makes the cylinder walls to dry and eventually you lose compression. This happens with old tractors and they finally get to the point of no compression.
The old time remedy was to pour a little oil down the plug holes to give it a little more compression to get it started.
Had a farmer neighbor who did this to get his old Farmall to start. And it was worn out.
Thanks for all of your suggestions. I'll let it rest for a few days and get back into it on Friday. It's close to running, it makes enough power to help me turn the crank....it just won't keep going by itself. I'm going to try a little oil down the cylinders and an electric drill to save my tired arm.
Happy new year to you all!
Model T is an "updraft" system for intake and the carb you use pretty much has to have a good functional CHOKE or you won't get it going. Even when warm the T sometimes needs a bit of choke or it won't go. As otheers have stated, I would get a Holly NH for it and forget the lawnmower carb.