Hello everyone.....newer owner of a 1926 Model T with a question. I did some reading and I'm a little confused on the battery/charging system. In theory I should be able to run my Model T without ever charging the battery correct? I have a brand new battery (last battery died) and it has been starting great the last 4-5 times I have taken it out for a spin. Today when I went to start it nothing happened, the battery was dead. I'm thinking I have a generator but not sure. Could use some help and guidance....
Your photo is of the starter. On the other side of the engine there probably is a generator. When everything is working properly you are correct, you should be able to run your T without charging the battery. The generator should keep it charged.
There are probably 3 possibilities that could be the reason your battery is going dead:
1. Bad battery.
2. Generator not charging.
3. Current "leak" when parked.
Without more data it's pretty hard for us to help. Hopefully, one of the guys here on the forum can walk you through trouble shooting it better than I could. Electrical systems are not my strong suite.
You will need to charge your battery if you use the starting and lighting system. The magneto is a separate system from the lighting and starting system. If you crank your car by hand and put the switch to magneto, then you really don't need a battery.
You would be using the magneto to furnish power to the coils.
However, since your car has the starter and generator, the generator charges the battery to replenish what current the starter used during the starting process. This is why you need to charge the battery.
The magneto does not charge the battery, the generator does. If your generator isn't working properly, then the 4-5 tines that you started the car drained the battery low enough that there's not enough cranking amps to turn the starter.
The Ford magneto is a low tension device that produces up to 28 volts. It's basic purpose is to power the ignition coils. When starting the car, put the switch on battery. After the car starts, immediately switch to the magneto. The car now runs on its internal power source, the magneto. Just remember there are two electrical systems on the Model T. They are not linked.
I hope this helps.
Hi Scott, Don't overlook that the battery may be ok, but the current isn't getting past the starter switch and to the starter. Those switches do corrode and sometimes need to be cleaned. They come apart and can be cleaned with a wire brush or fine sand paper.
When it wouldn't start, did the coils buzz? Did the lights go on? Did the horn work? These are all indications that the battery is ok, but current is not getting to the starter.
Brent is basically correct. Give me a call tomorrow after 10am when I am in the shop and we can clear some of this up.
859 881 1677 (EST)
One of the things which happen to a Model T if it has the original type cutout on the generator is when the cutout sticks closed. In that case, the battery current is connected to the generator when the engine is not running. It will try to run the generator as an electric motor, but the generator is not strong enough to turn the T engine so it acts as a direct short which will rapidly drain the battery. It is not very good for the generator either.
There is an ammeter on a 26 T and when the engine is running without the lights out you should show between 5 and 10 amps charge. When the lights are on, it might drop to zero or slight discharge. But if the engine is not running with the lights off the ammeter should read zero. If it shows discharge, something causing a drain, either the lights are on, or something like a stuck cutout is draining the battery.
Since you are a newer T owner, that battery might just be old and tired. When a battery gets old it doesn't hold a very strong charge and will discharge quickly upon using the starter.
Try charging the battery with a charger and see if it will hold a charge.
Thanks for the comments.....I did hook up the battery to a charger (battery is only a couple weeks old) and let it over night. Low and behold it started up fine the next day, even though the battery charger said the battery was not charged. So new battery charger it is.
I took what Norman said about the ammeter and when the car is turned off it does read 1 to 2. So there is a drain somewhere. Any advice on what to look at first?
Scott: First check if it's a genuine drain - sometimes the ammeter needle is a little off at rest.. When disconnecting the battery, does the needle go to zero? If there is a small drain, you should notice a little arcing as you reconnect the battery.
So if there is a drain it can be at several places, but one place to start looking is the connection strip at the firewall. If you have a steel firewall, a too long screw may touch the steel underneath, causing a short. Anyway, you may disconnect one part of the wiring at the time to isolate the problem. The light and ignition switch is another suspect. Look at the connections at the rear side so they're OK and not grounding or wires fraying.
Someone will be offended --
With the various references book available on the Model T one would think that new owners of the Model T would first consult them and learn the location of the various mechanical parts on the car. Also it is a shame that when we look under the bonnet of a new car we find the motor wrapped in plastic so we have no idea what the motor may appear to be.
Finally lets hope that the up-coming mentors live as long as the Model T has. Someone will have to be the last person standing to explain the planetary system than moves the car.
George - thank you for your lovely comment. Letting me know that I should be reading a book instead of wanting to interact and gain knowledge from the many people on this site is so nice of you. Why didn't I think of that?
To those that gave me helpful comments thank you very much. I love to learn about new things in many different ways and learning from all of you is what makes this whole thing so much fun. THANK YOU!!