I inherited a 1922 Model T that we are trying to sell and I was told that the car needed a magneto along with the key to start the car. Can someone briefly explain what the magneto does and do we indeed need one to start the car?
The magneto, located on the fly wheel inside the transmission, provides the voltage to run the four buzz coils that are in a metal box on the firewall.
The magneto is not required to start and run the car. A 6 volt battery will provide the voltage to run the coils for starting, once running you would normally switch to magneto but that is not necessary if the Mag is absent or not working.The engine would normally run a little better on the Mag. The key as well as any other missing parts can be purchased from Chaffins in Corona, Ca 951-735-4791. There is a number on the key slot, just order that number key.
If the car is intact it has a magneto and a battery. The car will run either on magneto or battery. Most Model T's start easier on battery, and once started run better on magneto. The switch on the dash takes a key. Turn the key to BAT and you should hear the coils buzz. After the car is started, turn the key to MAG. For details on starting and driving, here's Mitch Taylor: http://www.fordmodelt.net/
Does your Model T have a generator and battery? If it does, then you don't need the magneto to start the car. If you look closely at the ignition switch, you will see that there are two positions for the key, BAT and MAG. If you have a starter and good battery, you can insert the key and switch it to "BAT", then you can try to start the car (make sure it has fresh oil, gas, and water in the radiator first!).
The magneto is out of sight, inside the transmission. It has a coil ring mounted to the back of the engine and 16 permanent magnets mounted to the flywheel.
If your car has a good magneto, then once it is running on battery you should be able to switch the key (quickly) from the BAT position to the MAG position and the car should continue running.
If the car dies when you switch from BAT to MAG, then the magneto may be missing or weak due to weak magnets or excessive clearance between the coils and magnets.
My recommendation is that if you can find an experienced T person (maybe a local club?) in your area, ask them to come over and help you start the car.
Here is an older thread about bringing a Model T out of mothballs:
There are many members in the San Diego/Los Angeles area that could give you assistance. One of them should be seeing this thread soon.
I would like to invite you to join the Model T Ford Club of San Diego. The dues are only $20 a year and we have many tours and other events during the year. We have members in Imperial Beach and Chula Vista who live close to you and are very willing and able to help you.
Our next meeting will be January 31 at the Butcher Shop restaurant in San Diego. It is the annual installation banquet and $27 per person by reservation. The other meetings during the year are at the San Diego Automotive Museum in Balboa Park, San Diego at no charge. There is a catered dinner at $11 per person at the museum. The dinner is optional.
I have a 22 T and this car has a starter. The 19 was the first year to come from the factory with a starter and it was still optional equipment in 22. My 22 has a magneto but when I first bought the car the magneto didn't work. The problem was excessive endplay in the crankshaft which moved the magnets away from the coils.
The car will still run on battery if the magneto doesn't work. I would recommend if the engine and transmission are otherwise in good working order, you can drive on battery until such time as you need to do other work on the engine or transmission, and then when you have the engine out of the car, fix the magneto at the same time.
I notice that you are trying to sell the car. Why don't you keep it? Also if you really want to sell it, club members would be the most likely to buy or contact you with a buyer for the car.
And then.....I can't tell you how many times I've heard someone call the coil a "Magneto", so maybe all that's wrong is a bad coil. It may not be as bad as you think.
I've heard them call the coils batteries too. I was thinking earlier there might be some confusion.
Yeah, I just bought a box of about 12 model t batteries (according to the auctioneer) for $20. 😀
Good luck, Kristen. I know a lot goes into the question of whether to sell or keep something that is inherited: space, interest, $$$. You are in the right place to find help getting it running or determining if it's best to sell as is.
The more things change the more they remain the same -- ""Then there is the waste spark ignition system. Auto manufacturers got clever at some point and realized that they could halve the number of parts in the ignition system (compared to the typical coil on plug system), if they fired two spark plugs from one ignition coil. The problem was that the two spark plugs would always have to fire at the same exact time as each other. With some creative placement of spark plug wires, they got one spark to fire at the top of the compression stroke (to make the power stroke happen of course) and the other spark plug fired on an opposite cylinder's exhaust stroke. This effectively "wasted" a spark. Half the parts means half as many things can go wrong!""
As for the Key, look at the ignition lock, there is a number stamped into it...that number is the key number you need. Any of the vendors have replacement keys...just order the key by that number. As for vendors...I recommend Langs Old Car Parts, they're Model T specialists, but any of the Model T vendors would have them.
Hey how about a picture of your car...ya know, there might be some interested parties here on the forum.