I have a problem, but first some background.
My car (a 1922 touring with a 1924 engine and 1914 low head) has run a distributor for nearly 30 years. I recently bought a timer for it to replace my distributor. I bought a “New Day” timer and a new correct colored wiring loom for it, from Lang's. I had asked them if they thought the New Day was a good one or not and they didn't really know, because they hadn't played with it much themselves. But I knew that Steve Jelf ran one on his runabout and that Larry Smith said some nice things about them too (thinking back now though, I'm pretty sure that both of these gentlemen are probably running original or NOS New Day's and not the one you buy from the vendors), so I decided to buy one. It was very easy to install and following the directions on “the Dauntless Geezer's” website, I timed the engine and got the timer set correctly (I think). My coils however are just 4 that I pulled out of a collection of coils (I've got about a dozen of them), they were the ones that looked pretty good and were somewhat clean. So following something I got from this site I set the gap of these coils at .031 between the points and .012 on the spring side. Anyhoo, I got them set (pretty much) stuffed them into the car (and my recently rebuilt coil box that I did with Fun Projects waterproof kit) and proceeded to prime the engine and adjust the carburetor, climbed in and stomped on the starter...she fired right up, sounded good too, for the first time in nearly 30 years my car was running as Ford had built her...let it warm a bit and switched it over to mag and she settled right down and got really smooth, pulled on the throttle a couple of times and the response was quick and powerful sounding. I then noticed that there wasn't the familiar blur with silvered tips near the radiator, I looked around and saw sitting on the bench, the fan...after some groaning and some choice words as to my forgetfulness I realized I had forgotten to put the fan back on. Turned off the engine, drained the radiator and took everything apart (headlights, shell and trim) and removed the radiator. Grabbed that damned fan (telling myself to check next time to make sure I hadn't forgot anything) and put it back on the pulley and remounted everything and filled the radiator again.
Started the car again and again she sounded fine, satisfied that I had done everything correctly. I turned it off again (it was dark out so I didn't get a chance to test drive the car), and thought that I'd take Mike Arnds and go to the AMC Theater/car show in the morning.
That night I called Mike and suggested we go to the local theater/car show that happens on Saturday morning at 6:am every weekend. Starting out it ran a bit rough, but I got to Mike's place, picked him up and we took off towards Montrose...the car ran poorly the whole way, but we did get there before the closing time of 9:00 am. On the way back she started losing power even more than when we were going there (and we were going downhill too, lots of surging just like going the other way), and by the time I got her home she was running on 3 cylinders. I pulled the spark plugs to see what was going on, and the first 3 were that nice light tan color so I knew the mixture was right...but the 4th one was moist looking and smelt of water (uh oh spaghetti O's).
When I looked into the cylinder there was no water to be seen nor felt either, but the plug was definitely fouled. I thought maybe the coil gave up the ghost so I turned on the key and slowly rotated the crank watching all of the plugs fire, # 4 fired just fine...so I'm wondering...how did the moisture get into #4 enough to foul it? Could it be a bubble in the gasket or just misaligned? What caused the water to foul out #4 plug (I run the copper clad type)? Should I jerk the head and see what's going on (that's my first instinct, but somebody told me to check everything else out first, like coils and such, my answer is why)?
One thing I've got to do is either get those stupid coils tuned properly and or rebuilt or both, but since they buzzed I thought they were ok and the car ran really nice on mag idling...of course it wasn't under any load otherwise that may have shown things differently.
If I pull the head should I assume that the gasket was at fault and replace it with a new one anyway? What do any of you recommend for seating the gasket? Grease or that copper spray on stuff? Larry Blair recommends a bearing grease with fibers in it, but I'm not sure what it's called nor where I'd find it.
As to the coils themselves, I need some way to adjust them, so I guess I need some device for that right? The ones I've heard of are the HCCT (bulky and expensive, not to mentions weighs a ton), the ECCT (just expensive) and John Regan's Strobo-Spark (less expensive than the other two)...which does anybody recommend? Or should I just say screw it and buy new coils anyway, because they'll already have been rebuilt, tested and set up?
Would really like to know what y'all think!
Run the car again & see if the plug fouls up again. If it does the same over & over you'll know something is up. If not? Then it's not broken.
Move the coil and see if the fouled plug moves with it.
Your coils need adjusting, if for no other reason, because you set the gap. The gap is not real important, especially in and of itself. Blindly changing points, or even just adjusting the gap will goof up the adjustment on a coil. Also, just because a coil buzzes doesn't mean it's firing. And just because it fires on battery, doesn't mean it fires correctly on mag. It needs to be set up on one of the three devices you mentioned. If you are a tinkerer, go ahead and and get one. I'd probably go with the strobospark if I were in your shoes, but that's up to you. If this is the only set of coils you'll ever mess with, just have them rebuilt. But I can assure you they need rebuilding. The condenser are probably leaking and the points are almost CERTAINLY out of adjustment.
Btw, I don't recall having to remove the radiator to replace the fan.
Sounds like a head gasket failure showing its ugly head, and coils need to be set to factory electrical specs.
Not all "new" coils are adjusted properly
Good job on going stock! When I got my '24 Touring, it came with a brand-new Texas T distributor. That was one of the first things to go
Your coils certainly need to be rebuilt. They'll need new codensers and points, as well as having their windings checked. You can send your coils off to get them rebuilt, and many rebuild them, myself included. I've found that simply adjusting the gap like the book says will get you out of a bind, but rarely gets the coil to where it needs to be. You're just taking a shot in the dark at that point.
I personally use a Strobospark. Really, any of the three big ones, the ECCT, Strobospark, and HCCT will get the job done. I listed them in what i believe is from best to worst, but they all do well.
If you want to spend the money on one of these pieces of equipment and rebuild the coils yourself, you certainly can. Just do some research to see exactly what's going on. There are a lot of little tricks to rebuilding coils, and their operation can be a complete mystery to some.
If you want to go the DIY route, feel free to PM me if you have any questions.
Bob's right. Just because you buy new coils from a vendor doesn't mean they're "right". They'll still need checked on a good tester. I suspect the #4 plug could just be fouled from un-burnt fuel, but I'm no mechanic so just guessing. Possibly even a bit of oil getting past the rings fouling it? I'd get a nice rebuilt set of coils from one of the two major suppliers, Brent Mize or Ron Patterson. Go from there. What shape is the wood in your coil box? You'd be surprised how much difference the Fun Projects kit with their coil contacts will make! Just my thoughts.
Hal, I don't see how you can not have to take the radiator off to put the fan blade back on...there's no way to get a screw driver on those 4 little screws with the radiator in the way.
Tim, I just rebuilt my coil box with the Fun Projects kit, so I think it's good to go.
Cameron, actually I'm quite familiar with what's inside one of these little gizmos. I already drew the exploded view of one and with Ron Patterson's help...he actually wrote the blurb on how to wire in and solder the new capacitor...I'm just not too wild about gouging all that tar out of there to get to the bloody capacitor...Ron told me there was a way to melt the stuff out, but I forgot what he had said now.
Bob, that's what I figure too, the head gasket failed on or around #4 someplace. I bolted the head down using some old pattern diagram I got and then found the one I used was totally different from the one Ford said to use. So, if it failed I'm figuring it may be my fault it did.
In the mean time, I think I'll do as Kep and Gene Carrother suggested...run the car changing the positions of coils and see if it fails in some other location.
I personally am leaning towards John's StroboSpark unit. It would be nice if there was a club round here that had one, the Long Beach Chapter has an ECCT, but they're in Long Beach and I'm in the Northeastern end of the San Fernando Valley. There is a San Fernando Valley chapter of the MTFCA, but I can't get their new president to either return my calls or answer a simple email. I had heard from Ed Largey that this new president was trying to rebuild the SFV Chptr. with real Model T guys and not just the Speedster and V8 Fords crowd that it had previously. Guess I'll try again, maybe they've got one of these gadgets.
Just a thought based on what you said you did. I am a believer in the adage, "when something goes wrong, look at what you did last". You said you put the fan on. Could you have moved the wire on the timer so the belt touches it and causes it to miss fire when the engine is running. I know you said you checked the firing on each plug when you hand crank. It may be different when the engine is running and the fan belt is flexing. Just a thought. Dick C.
Send your coils to Ron and be done with it!
you get to the fan screws by taking the fan/arm assembly off with one bolt.
live and learn!
Unless you removed the head, I don't think the gasket would be your problem. Is it possible that while you were filling the radiator, you might have gotten some water on the head which got into the depression around the spark plug and leaked into the cylinder? Not very likely. I would suspect that your problem is either in the coil or the spark plug in that cylinder. First try switching the coils around and see if the misfire follows the coil. Then also try switching the spark plugs around and see if it follows the spark plug. If you take a screwdriver from the top connector of the spark plug to the head, while the engine is running, you should notice a slowing down of the engine which would indicate that plug is firing. If it does not slow down, that plug is not firing. That test will let you know if the spark is getting to the spark plug, but will not tell you where the problem is.
Another thing which could be causing the problem would be the connections at the timer. A loose connection there or contact with something grounded will cause misfire on the coil connected to that wire.
Someone in a local club should be able to tell you where you can get access to a coil tester. Or Larry Blair at the Tin Shed help you. If not, you could send the coils to Ron Patterson in Kentucky.
By the way, I grew up in Montrose and lived about a mile from Walt Rosenthal. He was one of the people who got me interested in Model T's.
You are welcome to give me a call about Model T Ford ignition and electrical issues.
You can buy a tester if you contemplate rebuilding coils as an ongoing activity. If you plan to just get four good working coils and perhaps a spare, spend less by sending them to Ron or Brent.
Yep, like Scott said, take the fan bracket off and put the fan on on the bench.
Also, a good sign of a coolant leak into the cylinder is a perfectly clean white insulator on the plug. It will make it look brand new.
Thanks, everyone for your recommendations and advice. I think what I will do in the mean time though is put the car back on the Stoltz distributor for now. That's what the bloody thing is for anyway, to keep the car running when there is a coil problem...like now. I'll send the coils out and have them gone through and adjusted correctly and when they get back switch out the distributor for the timer and coils. This way my car has no down time.