Hard starting: I'm out of ideas.

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Steve Jelf
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Hard starting: I'm out of ideas.

Post by Steve Jelf » Sat Oct 05, 2019 2:46 pm

This is getting really old, and I'm stumped. The 1915 runabout usually starts on one pull when it's warmed up. I even get an occasional free start. But starting when it's cold is another story. "Cold" includes an ambient temperature of 70º. This used to be an easy-starting car. A couple of chokes, flip the key, pull once, and it was running. No more. Now I have to pull several times to get just a cough. Especially maddening is when it starts for a couple of seconds and dies as I'm reaching for the spark lever. I never had to jack a wheel off the floor to start before, but now it seems that's a requirement. It shouldn't be.

I've tried choking once, twice, three or four times, different throttle settings, opening the carb setting an extra quarter or half turn, with both G and NH carbs. I've checked float settings.

In the parking lot at Stahl's I tried a different timer. I changed to a different set of plugs that all looked good in the tester. At Greenfield Village I had the coils checked and adjusted. That improved the running, but not the starting. A thousand miles later I cleaned the plugs, and the car started easier. Once. The next time it was back to making me work too much.

It occurred to me that it might be sucking air instead of fuel, so this morning I pulled the intake manifold and installed new gaskets with sealant and put in a new carburetor gasket. No change. I can still pull a dozen times and get just an occasional cough, and with more pulls get one of those feckless dying starts.

I've done all I know to do. What am I missing?
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Re: Hard starting: I'm out of ideas.

Post by DHort » Sat Oct 05, 2019 3:04 pm

Check compression
Put single plugs on block to check for spark
Are the plugs wet.


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Re: Hard starting: I'm out of ideas.

Post by John kuehn » Sat Oct 05, 2019 3:06 pm

Have you checked the gas level in the tank? My 21 seems to start better when I have at least a 1/2 tank or more. Or so it seems anyway. My 24 Coupe will start faster when it’s been sitting for a while than the 21 Touring. If the 21 sits for a while I have to back off the carb adjustment, choke a time or two and it eventually it starts after a while. The 24 will start easier when I back off the carb about 1/4 turn and that’s it. Readjust the carb and it’s done. Nature of the two beasts I guess. Maybe?


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Re: Hard starting: I'm out of ideas.

Post by Tim Williams » Sat Oct 05, 2019 3:12 pm

valves not seating good?
How are the plug wires?

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Re: Hard starting: I'm out of ideas.

Post by Charlie B in N.J. » Sat Oct 05, 2019 3:25 pm

What's the compression cold ? One classic & overlooked item. That bit more comp when warm does the trick some times.
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Re: Hard starting: I'm out of ideas.

Post by James_Lyons-WV » Sat Oct 05, 2019 3:30 pm

Steve... it may sound goofy, but have you checked the battery? I had the same problem with my 15 touring this year. After checking everything, I put a volt meter on the battery and found it at 5 volts. Now, I know the cars are designed to start on 6 or so, but everything considered, age, wear, state of tune, it all matters. I charged it to full capacity, and the car was back to it's old self.

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Re: Hard starting: I'm out of ideas.

Post by Steve Jelf » Sat Oct 05, 2019 4:04 pm

"Dry" compression: 36, 40, 35, 38. That's in quotes because naturally there's a little film of oil from when the car last ran, a few days ago.

All plugs fire in the tester at 60 psi. I cleaned them and checked the gap again anyway. Plugs are dry. Pulling the crank there's a sudden release at the top like it wants to fire, but no cough in a dozen pulls.

The dry plugs make me suspect a fuel problem, but I don't know what it might be.

Time to quit and head for Wichita. Movie night. The picture is unlikely ever to play down here in Podunk. I'll get back to the mystery car later.
Last edited by Steve Jelf on Sun Oct 06, 2019 12:55 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Hard starting: I'm out of ideas.

Post by ivaldes1 » Sat Oct 05, 2019 4:13 pm

Loose magneto wire or contact?


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Re: Hard starting: I'm out of ideas.

Post by Scott_Conger » Sat Oct 05, 2019 4:31 pm

Glad you took Dave and Charlie's advice.

I think you have found your problem. A T will start with a starter with that compression, but a stem winder is a LOT easier with better compression.

I will bet that a leak down test will show burned exhaust valves following that trip you took. Kiss the valves on a good valve face grinder and tweek the seats with a Neway cutter kit and I am pretty sure this is a recipe for an easier starting engine.
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Re: Hard starting: I'm out of ideas.

Post by kmatt » Sat Oct 05, 2019 5:51 pm

Steve: I assume that when you rebuilt the 1915 engine with the SCAT crankshaft you used adjustable valves. Check the valve clearances to see if any valves have gone out of adjustment.


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Re: Hard starting: I'm out of ideas.

Post by 2nighthawks » Sat Oct 05, 2019 6:02 pm

Dang! Thought I just posted a reply, but don't know where it went,...??? I'll try this again.

If the advice you just got makes sense to you about dry cylinder walls, you might try something that I've been doing for awhile:

I've had a problem now and then with an engine that doesn't want to start due to what I've suspected was dry cylinder walls. What I've been doing is to add a bit of something like Lucas Oil Treatment to help prevent oil from draining down into crankcase. FWIW ,....harol


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Re: Hard starting: I'm out of ideas.

Post by Dallas Landers » Sat Oct 05, 2019 6:42 pm

Steve, my 26 RPU was hard starting cold. Yes it has a starter but starting cold with the crank was a bear. My compression was about the same as yours. I finally lost all compression in number 3. I installed new valves and problem was solved. Number 3 was burnt. Two priming pulls on the crank and I get a free start about 1/2 the time. My TT with a Joe Bell engine free starts most of the time cold after a couple priming turns.


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Re: Hard starting: I'm out of ideas.

Post by Henry K. Lee » Sat Oct 05, 2019 7:49 pm

Steve it definitely sounds like a valve issue.

Hank


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Re: Hard starting: I'm out of ideas.

Post by Henry K. Lee » Sat Oct 05, 2019 7:57 pm

Hard starts other than lack of fuel, valves leaking or improper clearances, weak magneto output, bad electrical connections to include ignition switch. As dumb as this one sounds, check to ensure it is grounded well to include chassis to engine.

Hank

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Re: Hard starting: I'm out of ideas.

Post by MKossor » Sat Oct 05, 2019 8:25 pm

Steve, good troubleshooting approach. Fuel/mixture could be at issue. Good process of elimination checking for intake leak. Another thing to try is swapping the carburetor for a known good one to rule that out. Good luck identifying and resolving the root cause. Looking forward to learning what it was so thanks for sharing with the forum.
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Re: Hard starting: I'm out of ideas.

Post by George N Lake Ozark » Sat Oct 05, 2019 9:42 pm

I’m finding this whole thing mysterious. Steve went through a total rebuild and a careful break in period . While on the way to OCF spent a rainy night here and we did an oil change. Had trouble starting and had strong smell on gas and ended up pushing him down the hill to start. Hard starting continued. As I understand engine has new Scat crank , Low head, domed pistons, rebabbetted and refreshed rods, balanced etc. I’m curious about those compression numbers. With domed pistons and low head I’d think it would be a little higher.

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Re: Hard starting: I'm out of ideas.

Post by Ruxstel24 » Sat Oct 05, 2019 10:03 pm

I agree that the compression should be higher.
Did a wet compression test yield any change ?
If so, it could be dry/washed cylinders from too much fuel.
I have to believe that the poor fuel mileage on the trip, obviously a rich mixture, has carboned the whole works. Enough carbon buildup on the valves and they start not sealing properly...doesn’t take long to get worse after a leaking valve starts.
Another possibility is with the carbon on top of the pistons, the fuel charge when cold is being absorbed by the carbon like a sponge.

Just curious, how do you clean your plugs Steve ?
I’ve never had much success other than sandblasting them. Gotta get the glaze and carbon off the porcelain... ;)

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Re: Hard starting: I'm out of ideas.

Post by Matt in California » Sat Oct 05, 2019 11:26 pm

Steve,
Sorry to hear about how much trouble you are having. I am imagine as others have said it is likely a engine problem.

But when I listen to it you say it reminds me of the first time I got my very first Model T engine running. It was on the chassis and been sitting out for sometime. I believe that the former owner only used a starter to start it. I’m pretty stubborn about wanting to use the hand crank. After cranking for a few hours and feeling like I was going to have a heart attack I went inside and looked online. I was only 30 too young to have a heart attack, but strong enough to crank for two hours. :-)

That is when I came across starting your car with one wheel jacked up. I tried it and sure enough it worked right away. I got my car started. So there’s a small chance that perhaps your transmission has just enough drag.

Matt

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Re: Hard starting: I'm out of ideas.

Post by Ed Fuller » Sat Oct 05, 2019 11:30 pm

I’m with James Lyons. You should check you battery voltage.


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Re: Hard starting: I'm out of ideas.

Post by wayne sheldon » Sun Oct 06, 2019 4:17 am

Battery voltage should always be checked twice, at least. First, what I call "cold no load". Just as it sounds. Nothing turned on, nothing running. Voltage should be slightly higher than the battery's "claimed voltage". A six volt battery should have about six and a half volts, maybe slightly more, but not much. A twelve volt battery should have nearly thirteen volts. Actual voltage will vary between brands and battery types.
Then the voltage should be tested with some load. In a car where the headlamps run off the battery, turning them on is a decent load. Since your headlamps run off the magneto, you could turn on the ignition and crank over to a constant buzz. I do NOT recommend leaving it there for more than a minute or two. Just long enough to measure the voltage. With a light load, either the headlamps (if applicable?) OR the ignition buzzing, the voltage at the battery MAY drop very slightly. But it should not drop much more than a half volt.
A possible third test is a heavy load test. Clip a simple volt (volt/ohm?) meter into the battery, and hit the starter. The heavy draw of the starter should drop the voltage very noticeably. About one volt for a six volt battery, or nearly two volts with a good twelve volt battery. Even the starter's load should not drop the voltage at the battery much more than that.

I have seen twelve volt batteries check at about 11 1/2 volts cold no load, and with the ignition running for about a minute drop clear down to 4 volts. Shut the engine off completely, wait a couple minutes, voltage is back up to over eleven volts. It isn't the voltage that starts or runs the engine. It is the current. Too much drop in loaded voltage is an indicator of a current failure within the battery.


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Re: Hard starting: I'm out of ideas.

Post by bobt » Sun Oct 06, 2019 5:35 am

I think every engine has it's own personality and you have to find what it likes to start. You know the sequence for hot weather as you described. This is the way my 15 touring likes it in cooler weather. The first thing I do is open the throttle ALL the way open before I do my choking.Then-- Choke on,Three cranks, key off, timing retarded THROTTLE ALL THE WAY OPEN. Then, Choke off,close the throttle to where you usually have it when you start in warm weather key on and it usually starts within three cranks. I've even had a few COLD free starts! My theory is by having the throttle all the way open while you are choking allows more gas fumes to enter the cylinders. I hope this helps.

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Re: Hard starting: I'm out of ideas.

Post by Jim_PTC_GA » Sun Oct 06, 2019 5:40 am

I had cranking problems on one of mine that matches yours. I found the pack nut felt on top of the carb was leaking air. I replaced it and added a few drops of oil to it to help seal it. Cranked fine after this. About a year later it started having trouble cranking again so I put a few drops of oil on the carb mixture shaft and allowed them to drip down into the same felt, cranked fine after that. I've just added this area to my spring oil list.
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Re: Hard starting: I'm out of ideas.

Post by Loftfield » Sun Oct 06, 2019 6:28 am

Your problem may be related to timing. Newly rebuilt (professionally) engine in our 1912 was hard to start, acted just as your does, had to jack up rear wheel in warm weather, until I advanced the spark lever a very few notches before cranking. Now starts each and every time with first pull, often enough a free start to be satisfactory. If you didn't get the timer adjusted just exactly, or if you recently fiddled with the control rod, you may need a little "advance" on the spark lever, not enough to hurt your arm, lust enough to get the sparking where it should be.


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Re: Hard starting: I'm out of ideas.

Post by babychadwick » Sun Oct 06, 2019 7:04 am

Are you cranking with your left or right hand?

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Re: Hard starting: I'm out of ideas.

Post by George Mills » Sun Oct 06, 2019 8:47 am

Since you tried everything else... I’ll just throw something on the whiteboard from personal experience. Ironically, it was on the ‘15 Roadster...

Coil box back panel wood? Maybe a green haze stripe here or there? A green stripe that increases conductivity when moist n wet?

My 15 would start like a champ...I’d drive it out to wash it for the next days fete...put it back away for til the next day only to find a mule...all day.

Tried everything...nada...until just for kicks decided a FP coil box rebuild kit would be fun. It starts so easy since, you could darn near sneeze while holding the crank and it will fire...

I then started digging thru the old plywood and found a few green runners. Maybe it was them...maybe it was a prior poor connection somewhere.

Worth a thought especially since Ozark George says it got cantankerous after a rain ?


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Re: Hard starting: I'm out of ideas.

Post by John kuehn » Sun Oct 06, 2019 9:00 am

George has a point about the coil box. My 1919 Roadster is a different car, starting and running wise since I rebuilt the coil box. I had a a good condition original in it and decided to rebuild it and after that it was a different starting and running car. After nearly 100 years I guess the original had lost its continuity somewhere.

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Re: Hard starting: I'm out of ideas.

Post by Charlie B in N.J. » Sun Oct 06, 2019 10:27 am

As to the possible valve problem; a wet comp test will tell you something. If the comp goes up after adding oil to the cyl it's usually worn rings. If it doesn't it's usually valves,. Honestly your comp, though not even between cyls seems high enough to start cold. I'm thinking fuel at his point too but again it seems you've gone through the "normal" problems associated with that. Dry plugs bothers me.
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Re: Hard starting: I'm out of ideas.

Post by Mark Gregush » Sun Oct 06, 2019 10:45 am

Good suggestions, but I would say you need to check your valves. Those compression number are really low for a rebuilt engine. Pull the side covers and check the gaps. When the engine is cold, try priming it by pulling the plugs and adding a little gas to the cylinders. Lack of compression = lack of suction. Are you starting on battery or magneto also? The only other thing might be rings, but I would think that it would be maybe one or two cylinders with low compression not all 4 on a rebuilt engine.
I know the voices aren't real but damn they have some good ideas! :roll:

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Re: Hard starting: I'm out of ideas.

Post by Steve Jelf » Sun Oct 06, 2019 11:03 am

I'll do a wet compression test, but I'll be very surprised if the problem is rings in a fresh engine with less than 2000 miles.

I'm with Charlie in leaning toward fuel (dry plugs), but I don't understand why. Yes, the compression is lower than I'd expect, but 35+ should be enough to start without it being a major undertaking. I'm starting on battery, and the coil buzzing sounds good, but I'll check the voltage anyway.
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Re: Hard starting: I'm out of ideas.

Post by Scott_Conger » Sun Oct 06, 2019 11:17 am

If you do not believe it is valve related, then put a vacuum gauge on it and rule it out for certain: https://www.modeltford.com/item/T-VAC.aspx
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Re: Hard starting: I'm out of ideas.

Post by Henry K. Lee » Sun Oct 06, 2019 12:23 pm

Bingo Scott!


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Re: Hard starting: I'm out of ideas.

Post by jab35 » Sun Oct 06, 2019 12:51 pm

With all the 'soot' visible in earlier pics you posted, I'd be surprised if valve function isn't compromised. The combustion chambers and valves are at least as sooty as the plugs you showed.

Are you using the same 4 coils in the car to fire the 4 plugs in your pressurized tester? Sound of coil does not guarantee the plug is firing under compression.

If plug and combustion chamber remains dry after choke priming, try priming the cylinders directly and replacing plugs and see if it will fire for a few revolutions at least, if it fires and dies you have eliminated the coils/plugs as the source of the problem.

Sorry for your problems, you are a brave soul to drive this car long distances and maintain a sense of humor when it doesn't cooperate. Best, jb

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Re: Hard starting: I'm out of ideas.

Post by Steve Jelf » Sun Oct 06, 2019 4:05 pm

Are you using the same 4 coils in the car to fire the 4 plugs in your pressurized tester?

No, the tester has its own coil.
IMG_2556 copy.JPG
Screw in the plug, turn on the air, and push the button. Look in the little window to see the spark under pressure.

IMG_2558 copy.JPG
There are not three sparks. The little ones are just reflections.
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Re: Hard starting: I'm out of ideas.

Post by jab35 » Sun Oct 06, 2019 5:15 pm

I'd rig it up with a 6v battery and some jumpers so you can test the coils with the plugs. Don't get bit! jb


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Re: Hard starting: I'm out of ideas.

Post by Billdizer,Spencer In » Sun Oct 06, 2019 8:45 pm

1. Basic timing. If I remember you changed timers on the trip. Would that have changed the timing? Timer roller/brush on securely, not changing timing. 2. Coils- checked at OCF, running ok now, after it starts? 3. Fuel quality. Modern summer blend is made to not vaporize as well, so it won't evaporate as quickly in hot weather. It may not vaporize at all in cool fall weather in an updraft slow cranking model t. Fall/winter blend should be a bit better. Might try a gallon or two of avgas mixed in. 4. Carburator function. Seems like the fuel mileage was low, think I remember you switched carbs when you got back. Known good? 5. Valve adjustment, valve timing a tooth off? This could cause low compression, low power, hard starting. 6. What, if anything, was changed, updated, or improved while rebuilding the engine, besides the crank, rods and bearings? From past posts, it seems like the old engine made decent power, started reasonably well, and drove out pretty well overall. From your post to and from OCF, I got the feeling the new one wasn't doing so well? Didn't remember comments on how well it was doing, performance wise? 7. Restricted exhaust? Anything new there? Different head, or piston tops, changing flow characteristics?

My late mother always said " change the spark plugs " anytime dad or I were having trouble getting an engine to run! More often than not, it worked! I now have 45 years experience as an auto mechanic and it's still good advice! With unleaded fuel, once the plugs get the shiney black coating on them, they are very hard to start. Sandblasting until the porcelain is clean is about the only thing that helps. Good luck!


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Re: Hard starting: I'm out of ideas.

Post by JEC » Sun Oct 06, 2019 10:05 pm

When it came time to try and start my 15 runabout which was assembled when I bought it I had two problems.
If I pulled it through choked for two revolutions it was flooded and I would wait a day to try again.
If I advanced the spark about 1/2 inch from full retard it would start on the first pull after one revolution on choke.I haven't
Pursued the timing issue as I have been replacing old old tires and just developed a leak between the head and block.
I would think that firing the plugs as soon after TDC would be optimum.
The tires are as hard as a wedding and I had to use c clamps and pry bars to get one edge loose. It had a really nice Fisk tube in it.
I am finishing up with a hack saw and will use the same process on the next tire.

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Re: Hard starting: I'm out of ideas.

Post by RustyFords » Sun Oct 06, 2019 11:52 pm

My 24 wasn't starting as easy as some T's (like John Mays') that I've seen in person.

Just about everything had been touched except the coil box. So, today I installed a FP coil box kit. I knew the existing box was probably original and never touched, so I was expecting it to be in bad shape. It was.

After installation, I tried hand cranking it and it started on the first pull (after a couple of choke pulls).
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Re: Hard starting: I'm out of ideas.

Post by John Warren » Mon Oct 07, 2019 1:06 am

Hi Steve,
You say you now have to jack up the rear wheel when you start it cold and you didn't use to have to do that. Did you change the clutch when did the rebuild? Have you checked the adjustment. My 25 RPU has a ford clutch, I have to jack up the rear wheel to start it cold with the crank. My 26 touring has a modern clutch in it. The clutch does not drag and turns over easily hot or cold. I like driving with the ford clutch .
24-28 TA race car, 26 Canadian touring, 25 Roadster pickup, 14 Roadster, and 11AB Maxwell runabout
Keep it simple and keep a good junk pile if you want to invent something :P


samuel pine
Posts: 17
Joined: Sat Jan 12, 2019 5:47 am
First Name: samuel
Last Name: pine
Location: dighton mass.
Board Member Since: 2004

Re: Hard starting: I'm out of ideas.

Post by samuel pine » Mon Oct 07, 2019 9:12 am

Have you tried putting your hand over the carb while somebody cranks it: no vacuum ?
it will never start ever. 30lbs or so shop air in the spark plug (piston up valves closed)
listen to the exhaust pipe and carb. Thats just a quick first diagnosis . My brain keeps
saying exhaust valve seats dirty / carbon maybe, and maybe accounts for compression
pressure you have or tight valve lash ? Remembering as a kid, ya jack it up, I tied a
string on the spark lever to the front, cause I couldn't run fast enough for it. Those days
are long gone, I can't crank the thing now if my life depended on it but it starts on a dime. I'll keep thinking sam

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