Hi, A Space City T's member came by to diagnose my T not starting and concluded that it was the timer. See attached picture of the timer insides and the timer wheel in the background. It had a dirty watery fluid inside when I first opened it up. I cleaned it some with a paper towel. Can this be fixed? If so, how? How do I test that it is working properly?
The timer doesn't look too bad in your photo. If the surface is worn evenly, it can be cleaned up with sandpaper and used. Don't use emery paper as emery is conductive. If the surface is uneven and has waves in it then it might be able to be machined in a lathe and made like new. The metal shoes in your timer are sheetmetal folded over the head of the timer stud. Only a light cut can be made to clean it up. If it takes a deep cut to clean up the surface, you will likely cut through the sheetmetal shoe and your timer is toast unless you want to make new solid metal shoes for it. I don't think you need to remove the outer ridge as your roller runs inside of it, or you wouldn't have the ridge.
All that tape wrapped around the wire suggests to me that wire itself may not be in great condition. If all four wires look that bad, I'd replace them. New wires would at least look better, and will conduct better too if these are bad.
You can see some in the picture that it is worn down where the wheel has gone round and round. I sanded it and wiped it, put it back together but it doesn't start still.
Ignacio, When slowly cranking by hand with the key on, can you hear all 4 coils individually buzz?
How many degrees do you crank to get from one coil buzzing to the next?
Two full turns of the crank (360º + 360º) should buzz each of the four coils once. The firing order is 1, 2, 4, 3.
If you look at the photo you'll see that the space between the metal segments is roughly the same size as the segments themselves. Therefore the crank turn between buzzes is roughly equal to the crank turn during a buzz. Roughly.
Let's circle back to the "dirty watery fluid." If that was something that got into the timer from the outside, through road splash or maybe from work on the radiator, then it's more or less benign. But, if it got there because the seal around the camshaft (behind the rotor) is leaking, that tells us there is water in your oil, and that's far from benign. In fact, in that case it's probably a good thing the engine won't run, because doing so could toast the bearings.
I'd suggest you drain your oil, and see what shape it's in. If it's got water in it, either mixed up and looking like a milkshake or not mixed up and simply a layer on the bottom of your catch pan, find out where it came from before running the engine. If there's no water, put it back in the engine (or put in fresh oil) and keep looking for the electrical problem.
The timer looks worn, but I find it hard to believe it's what's keeping it from starting. It might make it run rough, especially at higher speeds, but I kinda doubt that alone is keeping it from starting.
The first thing to check is to see if all of the coils are buzzing. Slowly turn the crank (with the spark and gas lever up!) to make sure all are buzzing individually.
Eventually you need to replace all the wiring to the engine going by the pics you have of the engine. You possibly can get your T to run but new wiring throughout and rebuilding the coil box will help a lot in the long run.
Its not hard to do. The new wiring is color coded and there are wiring diagrams available through the forum.
Drain and put in fresh oil, make sure your getting gas to the carb and if all the coils are buzzing it should start.
Hopefully when you drain the oil it wont have any water in it. If it doesn't your on you way to getting it going.
You need to get an experienced T guy over to help show you how to operate the car. That timer looks pretty good. Just pack it with some red grease and forget about it. The wires look like poo, time to replace those.
I'm with Hal and Ted. The timer doesn't look all that bad. I doubt that it's the cause of your non-start. You can test it.
1 Disconnect the four wires. (Don't lose track of where they belong.)
2 Use alligator clips and a test light. Find a live wire on the terminal board and attach one clip there. Attach the other clip to one of the timer terminals. It doesn't matter which one.
3 The timer is just a switch. It should turn on your test light when the roller inside makes contact and provides a ground for the test light circuit. Slowly pull up on the crank. Somewhere in the first two revolutions the light should go on.
4 When the light goes on, stop right there. Move the alligator clip counter-clockwise to the next timer terminal.
5 Pull more. The light should go on again.
8 If all four terminals turn on the light, the timer is working at least well enough that the car should start.
If the timer is working, reattach the wires and turn the ignition switch to BAT. Pull through two full rotations. The coils should buzz in order: 1, 2, 4, 3. If they don't, the timer isn't the problem and we can look for something else.
There were a couple posts about turning the key on and cranking very slowly to hear the buzz. The key must be turned to battery and you must have a battery connected to hear the coils buzz. They won't buzz on magneto. Secondly, be sure that the spark lever is retarded when you make this test, just in case it should kick.
Dirty fluid in the timer isn't all that unusual unless it's water instead of oil. _These engines do run dirty; it's part of the car's charm, part of the warp & woof of the Tin Lizzie.
Depending on what type of timer you have, it will run moist, juicy or downright wet. _I use both types of seals (the felt seal behind a circular plate plus a modern neoprene seal) and the engine still seeps dirty oil into the timer. _On top of that, my personal habit is to give the timer a squirt of either 3-in 1 oil or 5W-30 or WD-40 before the day's ride, so after a while, liquid will collect on the bottom of the timer and it'll be dirty, so the thing will need to be wiped out and cleaned up more or less on schedule. _I do that about every fuel-up or every other fuel-up, depending on how lazy I'm feeling.
If the liquid in your timer is water (as opposed to oil) and it's not coolant, you likely just picked up a splash from a puddle somewhere. _ If you're running antifreeze and the color of the water in the timer is not green, you're probably okay, but if the liquid in your timer is green, you may have coolant in your oil and that's not good. _Either way, drain all the oil and examine it for coolant. _If no water rises to the top, you can either change the oil or pour the old stuff back in if it's not yet stale. _If you do have water in the oil, you may need a new head gasket or something more expensive than that.
If your oil is free of coolant, you still have the non-starting problem and that means your engine isn't getting one of three things: enough spark, enough fuel, or enough air. _This thread has already dealt with how to check the spark. _If you're definitely getting the spark plugs to light up, the next most likely and cheapest thing to check is your fuel-to-air mixture and that's pretty much the common sense approach of experimenting with the mixture knob till something (hopefully) happens. _If not, you need to check that the carburetor is getting gasoline.
You can either unplug the bottom of the carburetor bowl or disconnect the fuel line at the carburetor to check for that healthy stream we keep hearing about on commercials which sell pills to aging men. _If the gas is flowing, process of elimination suggests a problem in the carburetor, but dismounting and rebuilding it amounts to more time and effort than a compression check, so do the compression check next.
Either borrow or buy a compression checking setup and follow the instructions. _Model T Fords are very compression sensitive and a too-low compression reading on one of the cylinders can be enough to prevent starts. _If it turns out your compression is okay, it may be time to dive into the carburetor.
Dismounting and rebuilding a carburetor is just one of those things that most Model T owners end up doing sooner or later and it's a pleasant, mentally therapeutic tinkering job that'll leave you with a moderate feeling of satisfaction—if it works (and if the know-nothing newbie can overhaul a carburetor, you can do it too). _Order whichever rebuild kit applies from Lang's.
Bob, water rises to the bottom.
So I cranked it with an observer. All the coils buzz at the right time but 2 coils visibly spark and 2 coils do not visibly spark. Is that ok?
@Bob have been in carburetor hell for some time now. Fellow club member says carburetor is ok.
Compression on all 4 cylinders is 25 goes up to 40-50 with an oil squirt.
Still a mystery as to why this dude won't start.
Visible spark at plug or at points on coil? Significant sparking at coil points is an indicator of bad condensers. What does it do with a bit of starting fluid? Do you know anyone with a good set of coils you could swap out temporarily to help diagnose the problem? 25 psi is low, but I would still think it could be coerced to run.
Does "2 coils visibly spark" mean plugs sparking when laid out on top of the engine? If so, trade them with the ones that don't spark. If the non-spark follows the plugs, they're your problem. If all the plugs are good, something is keeping current from the coils from reaching two of them. The most likely culprit there is bad plug wires, but it could be that a couple of the coils aren't making full contact in the box. Bad plug wires can sometimes mean that the wire has lost contact with its terminals.
I think he may mean there is sparking visible on top of one or more of the coils. Normal.
You do still need to check that there is actually spark at each spark plug.
Y'know, Steve; I go over my posts with a fine-tooth comb and check for misspells and grammatical goofs and things that don't make sense and still manage to lay down entire concepts that are preposterous. _Yes, of course, water rises to the bottom. _What the heck was I thinking?
The sparking in this case refers to sparking on top of the coils.
We've pulled the plugs several times and have verified that the spark plugs do spark.
At the very beginning one coil was truly bad and any plug attached would not start. Spark plug wires are new.
I have a new commutator wiring harness and have ordered a new timer because I do not know what else to do.
Have tried practically everything the best I can get so far is 2 short rides but always very difficult to start. The best I can get is chuff-chuff, then nothing.
You might think about having your coils professionals rebuilt. At least borrow a set of known good ones and see if it helps. However, your 25 psi dry compression test shows you need an engine overhaul.
Laying the spark plug on the engine and noticing they spark isn't a real test, as the plugs need to spark under pressure. If you get a lot of sparking on the coil points, it's a pretty good sign that your coil capacitors are bad. A good set of coils will make a world of difference on a model T.
There are several people in the Space City T club who can check and rebuild your coils. Also you need to know that most of the available reproduction timers are not going to last more than a hundred miles before becoming unusable. You have a nice looking timer. Use it.
It was the coils!
I borrowed a tester and 2 good coils. The tester says 1.3 amps is the correct amperage. The new one was on point 1.3, one was at 2, the other at 0.9, the final one was about 1.4
I tested with 2 borrowed good coils and it starts much easier! It doesn't stay started though. It runs for about a minute then abruptly stops. I suspect the key switch.
I will try to adjust my coils or do I get them rebuilt?
Sounds like fuel starvation to me...But I'm here and they are there...