Distributor, taking a risk

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Model T Ford Forum: Forum 2017: Distributor, taking a risk
Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of page Link to this message  By tommy coffey on Tuesday, October 24, 2017 - 06:27 pm:

I have a water pump on my car and now I'm wondering about a distributor. Two strikes, right? The distributor I'm considering is an Atwater Kent. How is starting and driving different with a distributor?


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of page Link to this message  By David Dufault on Tuesday, October 24, 2017 - 06:58 pm:

yes, I don't remember everything correctly, but awhile back, didn't you write that you had a questionable radiator, and that when you replaced it, you were going to remove the water pump?

You've had quite a few great lessons about the workings and possible repair of coils.

Your car, your nickel, but if you use the distributor (as many do), you'll miss out on one of the many joys of having a Model T.

To each his own...your choice...to answer your question...I don't believe that it is as much fun!! :-)


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of page Link to this message  By Charlie B actually in Toms River N.J. on Tuesday, October 24, 2017 - 07:02 pm:

Thought you were doing a set of coils?!! Do you have a distributor or are you buying everything from scratch? If you are you're tossing good $ away when you have a coil system now. There's no advantage to having a distributor over an existing coil system. None. No improved running or extra power. Not going to happen. The coils, properly re-built and HCCT'd are your best bet especially if that's the system you have now. Much better off throwing $ at what you have.


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of page Link to this message  By tommy coffey on Tuesday, October 24, 2017 - 07:25 pm:

No, I don't remember talking about removing the water pump. But my memory ain't what it once was. I can now hide my own Easter eggs and plan my own suprise party.The pump was on the car when I bought it. It leaked at the shaft but I bought packing at the local hardware store and fixed it.
I probably would miss the buzzing of the coils if they were gone. And if rebuilt and tested coils run as good as a distributor and single coil I guess I'll spend the money on good coils and be done. I would buy a Thomas distributor though, just for a wallhanger, since my legal name is Thomas. Is that dumb?


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of page Link to this message  By David Dufault on Tuesday, October 24, 2017 - 07:32 pm:

The person who owns the game gets to set the rules.

Your dimes - your rules. Dumb doesn't necessarily enter the picture.

Good Luck

Guess that it wasn't you that was going to replace the radiator...memory isn't what it once was :-(


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of page Link to this message  By Chad Marchees _____Tax Capital, NY on Tuesday, October 24, 2017 - 08:43 pm:

Tommy, I had a Texas T distributor for a little bit. Starting it is essentially the same as with coils---hand crank or starter. I actually feel it starts better on coils myself.

As far as running, I owned an Atwater-Kent, but never used it. Mine had a hook up for the advance rod, no internal mechanical advance. The Texas T being a similar distributor in that respect, I didn't have to pull down as far on the advance as I do with coils. But again, you will have to experiment.

I sold the Atwater due to lack of parts, and then sold the Texas T so I could go to coils after gathering all the pieces (I had nothing to begin with). As others said. It's your choice. One of the good reasons to keep coils is if one goes bad, the other three will get you home.


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of page Link to this message  By Gene Carrothers Huntington Beach on Tuesday, October 24, 2017 - 09:18 pm:

You already have coils in your car. You really need to consider an etimer then before switching to a disy. The Etimer will run better and you still get the coil experience of a T but superior performance even with your old coils.

The disy will require a coil and points that wear and fail. If you check out the Etimer you won't find anyone that doesn't love it and a couple of guys have many many thousands of miles and never touch it.


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of page Link to this message  By Steve Jelf, Parkerfield KS on Tuesday, October 24, 2017 - 10:24 pm:

Some folks of a poetic nature consider four buzzing coils the beating heart of the Model T. I have other vehicles that run on a disturbutor, and they're OK, but no such Fords. As Chad says, an advantage of four coils is that if one goes south on you the other three will get you home. I haven't been on many tours, but I'm told that a lot of the cars that break down have been converted to make them "more reliable".


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of page Link to this message  By Bob Coiro on Tuesday, October 24, 2017 - 11:10 pm:

I guess it depends. -If what you're after is an authentic experience, you'll want to keep the car in as close to original configuration as is practical. -But for the sake of argument, let's say that the distributor is more reliable than the original ignition setup. -If you keep a spare coil, a spare timer and a couple of spare spark plugs on board, you've come close to negating the distributor's advantage without sacrificing originality. -Can a magneto go bad? -Yeah, but I don't hear very many complaints about that on the forum.


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of page Link to this message  By Charlie B actually in Toms River N.J. on Tuesday, October 24, 2017 - 11:10 pm:

You know Steve, a lot of people use that "more reliable" term especially since the distributor system appears to use less parts. I'm positive that exact line was used years back to sell distributors to T owners. The fact is if you understand how the system works, coil or distributor, either can be easily repaired. The only reasons you get totally stuck with either setup are you don't know how to fix it or you don't have the spare part with you. Distributor's on T's are common enough to be OK in my book but I sure as he** woudn't change from coils to get one. My opinion only.


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of page Link to this message  By Brass TT on Tuesday, October 24, 2017 - 11:56 pm:

I have a couple of Atwater kent units and from memory, they are not an actual distributor but merely an elevated timer. If you want to go down that road, forget the old crap (and most of it is) and put on a brand new modern bosch distributor or a "true-fire" system. much more reliable.


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of page Link to this message  By Chad Marchees _____Tax Capital, NY on Wednesday, October 25, 2017 - 06:14 am:

Brass TT. That is very true in my opinion also. Get the new Bosch unit---unless you have plenty of spares for the older unit.

I agree with Charlie B also, distributors are plenty reliable, you just need to know what your doing and have spares with you. No different than carrying an extra Ford coil just in case.

Gene's point of an E-timer is also a good one. I do believe they are a great unit (although I don't have one). I few club members run them and won't switch back anytime soon.

Tommy, there are many choices out there, in the end it is yours and you need to be happy. If you had nothing on the car for an ignition system, they all price out in a similar range as I found out. I wanted to try the distributor, I did, I had zero issues and it ran fine, and I was happy to get rid of it----it just felt wrong having it on there to me. That for me was the cheapest way out at the time.

Whatever you decide, just think it through and make sure your doing it for reasons that will please yourself.


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of page Link to this message  By Jeff Hood -Long Beach, California on Wednesday, October 25, 2017 - 03:54 pm:

I have had two T's with distributors, one a VW / Bosch, and one an Atwater-Kent. I didn't experience any trouble with either one, however I replaced both with standard T coils running on 12V battery power since neither car had working magnetos. I prefer to have the buzzing coils.

There are a few things to consider with the distributors. Parts for the A-K such as cap, rotor, points, condenser, are rare, and the same parts for the VW /Bosch are becoming more rare and of poor quality. I say this because on a trip two years ago, two cars out of five were equipped with the VW units and both developed condenser failures. No problem right? We'll just stop at a nearby parts store and pick one up! Well it seems that neither Autozone nor O'Reillys stock the parts for a 50 year old distributor, but could order one for delivery the next day. They sent us down the road to a place that works on old VW's where the guy took one look at the condenser in our hand and said "Those are crap." When we asked where we could get a "good" one, he said "You can't, they are all junk now." He also told us that he had sold his last one earlier, and sent us on down the road to Car-Quest. Luckily they did have one and we were back on the road shortly, but only after wasting several hours on the hunt. If you go this route, carry spares!

Something else, if a stock T coil fails, you can usually limp home on the other three, and complete timer failures are rare. If a (poor quality) part in a dizzy fails, you are most likely dead in the water.


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of page Link to this message  By Jeff Hood -Long Beach, California on Wednesday, October 25, 2017 - 07:06 pm:

Correction to the post above. One of the VW dizzies had a bad condenser, the other had a rubbing block failure on a new set of points. Either way, you need to carry spares because the chain auto parts stores don't have the parts for a system that hasn't been used for 40-50 years. You might consider installing a Pertronix setup in the VW / Bosch.


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of page Link to this message  By Donald Conklin on Wednesday, October 25, 2017 - 07:58 pm:

I have a Atwater Kent on a T that I have been running for 54 years. It's a clip on type with a centrifical advance. (Type LA , I think). What I like about this unit is you can set it and forget it. Just be sure the lower bushing is getting oil, don't depend on oil running down the shaft from the top oiler. Freeing up seized shaft on the road is not fun, but can be done. The clip allowed the distributor to move leaving the gears undamaged.
This distributor has only one very light return spring. I have acquired several other AK's that had two and/or heavier springs, one light spring works fine for me.


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of page Link to this message  By Hal Davis-SE Georgia on Thursday, October 26, 2017 - 07:46 am:

To each his own, I guess. My enjoyment of antique cars comes from learning, and making work, the original systems. I'm not opposed to distributors. I just don't like them on a model T. I have a Model A. It has a distributor, just as Henry intended. Both the T's have their original set-ups and start on mag, just as Henry intended. Manual spark advance? To me, that is part of the experience. I wouldn't give that up for anything. My wife has a '67 Mustang. It, of course, has a distributor. But you know what? It has points and condenser, just as Lee intended. It has always baffled me why people want an antique car, then want to go about modernizing it. Like I say, it takes all kinds. That doesn't mean I understand it, though.

A funny aside.....When Harley Davidson first introduced electronic ignition, I guess there were a lot of problems because there were a multitude of bikes that were converted to points and condenser! Go figure.


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of page Link to this message  By John Codman on Thursday, October 26, 2017 - 09:49 am:

I go along with Steve Jelf - part of the T mystique is it's ignition system. I have driven Model Ts with both mag and distributor systems; there just isn't enough for the driver to do in a distributor car. JMO - but if I wanted a distributor, I'd buy an A.


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