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Larry Schramm

GM Engineers collaborate on the art of fine tuning

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Well today was a good day.  I had the 1915 truck out for a test drive getting ready to go to the ATHS (Antique Truck Historical Society) https://www.aths.org/ national meet this weekend.

 

I had the generator off to fix an overcharging condition and was having trouble getting the timing right so I called my good friend Brian Heil to help me see the forest for the trees.   It is great to know that an old Buick Engineer, now a GM "Global Propulsion Systems" engineer still makes house calls.  It is great getting two GM engineers ( one retired and one still working) together to collaborate on an issue. The cost of the house call was a diet pepsi as he did it on his lunch hour.  Just took about 15 minutes and was out for a ride.

 

Looking for a great summer and show this weekend.  :)

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What did he do?  Why, he did what I told him to LOL.

 

Best part about working on an engine that does not run when you show up is you can screw it up even more an no one will know since it still doesn't run when you leave.

 

Timing an older Buick is a pain.  You have to remove the cap, remove the rotor, loosen the rotor jam screw, install the rotor, move the rotor (hopefully) in the correct direction you need, remove rotor, re-tighten the jam nut, install the rotor, install the cap and see if it starts, and then where are you with the timing light.  We got it dead nuts the third try, or I should say Larry did, I just pointed at stuff.

 

Now when they ask that joke:  How many Michigan Engineers does it take to time a Buick, you know the answer.  2.

 

 

Squirrel.png

                     Brian

Edited by Brian_Heil (see edit history)
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And I remember a while back Dr. Heil even made a house call for an ailing 1923 Buick Coupe out in Rome, New York.  If my memory is correct on this, I think the '23 also had a timing issue.  Let me tell you guys something - if any of my Buicks ever have a timing issue, I'm callin' da Man, my Main Man Dr. Heil.  Larry, did his assistant come along too?  You know, the four-legged assistant?

 

Terry Wiegand

South Hutchinson, Kansas  aka Doo Dah

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5 hours ago, edinmass said:

Try a Sun distributor machine. Fast,simple, and easy.

 

Enlighten us, please. 

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I recently helped a friend get his 1923 Buick running again. It took a little while. You can have it where you are sure the rotor is pointing at #1 at TDC on the compression stroke and it still not run. There is a big difference in how the engine responds between the rotor being exactly where the rotor needs to be and it being ever so slightly off. It can drive you a bit crazy.

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6 hours ago, edinmass said:

Try a Sun distributor machine. Fast,simple, and easy.

 

I agree, since the flywheel is able to be put on in any number of degrees rotation.  It is not keyed to a particular cylinder.  The timing mark could be on any cylinder.  There is no "key" for only one way to put the flywheel on like an offset bolt, pin, etc..

Edited by Larry Schramm (see edit history)

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Since I was a kid there have always been instances where a person has come to the rescue and patiently guided the owner through an intricate timing reset process.

 

Common as the story is, it doesn't seem like the car is running along just fine and the timing goes all screwy or the owner walks out to the car in the morning and during the night the timing has changed.

 

Just reminiscing before I shut down for the night.

 

Anyone know the really tricky thing they did with the '53 Cadillac distributor drive?

 

Bernie

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17 minutes ago, 60FlatTop said:

Since I was a kid there have always been instances where a person has come to the rescue and patiently guided the owner through an intricate timing reset process.

 

Common as the story is, it doesn't seem like the car is running along just fine and the timing goes all screwy or the owner walks out to the car in the morning and during the night the timing has changed.

 

Just reminiscing before I shut down for the night.

 

Anyone know the really tricky thing they did with the '53 Cadillac distributor drive?

A month ago I dug into the dual-point dist on my 1930, since cold starts were taking longer 12 years after the last new points.  Rubbing block wear had reduced the gap from 0.020 to 0.014.  So of course I'm going to reset the timing!  Don't you reset timing after installing new points, Bernie?

 

Don't know about the '53 Cad dist drive, but it has to be better than the flathead's bronze drive gear. Thanks to the Pierce engineers for the tapered slot so that the 8 cyl and 12 cyl dist heads only go in one way. Did Cad get that memo for 1953?

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10 hours ago, MCHinson said:

I recently helped a friend get his 1923 Buick running again. It took a little while. You can have it where you are sure the rotor is pointing at #1 at TDC on the compression stroke and it still not run. There is a big difference in how the engine responds between the rotor being exactly where the rotor needs to be and it being ever so slightly off. It can drive you a bit crazy.

 

That's right Matt, you were a big help to Tom Getz.  Well done!  You and Tom were 'deep in the woods', Larry had just 'wandered off the path' a bit.

 

On Larry's 1915, the adjustment jam screw is rather small and on the top side of the distributor shaft under the rotor and you use a small screwdriver to loosen and tighten, other than that, much like the 1923.  And Larry is hand crank only so you don't want to be at it all morning since he has new pistons and rings and some real compression.

 

When any hand crank engine starts with just half a pull up on the crank, you know that owner has a dozen things on his engine all dialed in and in top shape.  I always pay attention to that at shows and on tours.

 

 

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Another good trick once you have it dialed in with a timing light is to bring it up to TDC and mark on the distributor housing very accurately the position of the rotor, and always be turning the engine in just one direction (as in the same as when it runs) to have all the lash in the system taken up.  I had that for years, then I updated the cap and rotor and had to make a new mark, as you say, it's that touchy.

 

When doing this whole adjustment, I always seem to at least once leave the rotor out and wonder what the heck happened, then I see no rotor in there when I take the cap off and look in my hand to find it or not tighten the jam screw, turn the engine and then you get to start all over.

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10 hours ago, Brian_Heil said:

 

Enlighten us, please. 

 

To correctly set up any distributor, you need a distributor testing machine. Dual points synchronization, checking the advance curve is correct, point flutter and arcing, bushing float, and a host of other issues. Example, I had a dual point Cadillac V-16 with a ignition problem that no one was able to figure out. 100 point cars are hard to work on without scratching paint, and the entire ignition system is covered so you can't see the wires, plugs, never mind the two coils and 18 high tension wires. I removed the entire system from the car, distributor, and cap with all the primary and secondary wires, placed on the Sun machine, and found the issue in about ten minutes. Photo below shows where the point arm was intermittently grounding out to the base plate........impossible to find while still in the car. I can also check the condensors at the same time. And by the way, these points are INCORRECT, and I was able to determine that while checking the synchronization, thus they were bent to fit, grounded out, and could not be properly synchronized. Try figuring that out without a machine. I recently had another dual point car with an ignition breakdown over 4500 rpm. Placed the distributor in the machine, and at speed you could see the points flutter and arc..........bushing was shot in the unit and the shaft would wobble at speed. 

IMG_7137.jpg

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9 minutes ago, edinmass said:

 

To correctly set up any distributor, you need a distributor testing machine. Dual points synchronization, checking the advance curve is correct, point flutter and arcing, bushing float, and a host of other issues. Example, I had a dual point Cadillac V-16 with a ignition problem that no one was able to figure out. 100 point cars are hard to work on without scratching paint, and the entire ignition system is covered so you can't see the wires, plugs, never mind the two coils and 18 high tension wires. I removed the entire system from the car, distributor, and cap with all the primary and secondary wires, placed on the Sun machine, and found the issue in about ten minutes. Photo below shows where the point arm was intermittently grounding out to the base plate........impossible to find while still in the car. I can also check the condensors at the same time. And by the way, these points are INCORRECT, and I was able to determine that while checking the synchronization, thus they were bent to fit, grounded out, and could not be properly synchronized. Try figuring that out without a machine. I recently had another dual point car with an ignition breakdown over 4500 rpm. Placed the distributor in the machine, and at speed you could see the points flutter and arc..........bushing was shot in the unit and the shaft would wobble at speed. 

IMG_7137.jpg

I don't disagree with your comments, but when you take the distributor off the Sun machine and re-install the distributor to the engine, you still have to go through the procedures outlined above.  A Sun machine will not correctly adjust and set the timing of your engine. 

 

A 1915 Buick Delco distributor does have advance weights (earlier cars have none) and we did check for the timing advancing with ERPM increase to ensure the weights were moving the breaker plate and returning too with the timing light.  I've never seen an advance curve for a 1915 to know if you have the correct weights and springs.

 

When I bought my 1923 years ago the timing jumped all over at idle with the timing light.  That caused me to investigate the advance weights which were fine but the two small return springs were laying in the grease well of the distributor.

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You don't need a timing light to set the timing once you have set the distributor up on the machine, you can set the timing with a test light doing it static. Align the timing mark in the flywheel, install the distributor, and turn the distributor until the points open for number one (using the light) and lock it down. Perfect timing. Static timing was how it was done in the day before timing lights were invented in the late 20's. Often you see a kit for sale on eBay with all the levers, angles, light, and assorted distributor tools to sync and set the timing. On several makes the cam for the points is not fixed to the shaft, thus you can do all sorts of funky things setting it up, and often many people don't understand the concept. I regulary work on the 66E Seagrave fire trucks, Two dual point distributors and four coils with twenty four plugs.......try setting up just one distributor........then sync the two together .........its quite a feat to get it to work right. Photo of a dual drive distributor set up for trucks from 1936 to 1958.

IMG_7140.png

Edited by edinmass (see edit history)

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1 hour ago, edinmass said:

You don't need a timing light to set the timing once you have set the distributor up on the machine, you can set the timing with a test light doing it static. Align the timing mark in the flywheel, install the distributor, and turn the distributor until the points open for number one (using the light) and lock it down. Perfect timing. Static timing was how it was done in the day before timing lights were invented in the late 20's. Often you see a kit for sale on eBay with all the levers, angles, light, and assorted distributor tools to sync and set the timing. On several makes the cam for the points is not fixed to the shaft, thus you can do all sorts of funky things setting it up, and often many people don't understand the concept. I regulary work on the 66E Seagrave fire trucks, Two dual point distributors and four coils with twenty four plugs.......try setting up just one distributor........then sync the two together .........its quite a feat to get it to work right. Photo of a dual drive distributor set up for trucks from 1936 to 1958.

IMG_7140.png

 

Again, I don’t disagree with you and I have also set lots of static timing but when I’m done, I always put the timing light on it to confirm my work. I’m certain I am not as talented, as I always end up making a slight adjustment based on the light so I skip the static since I always ‘inspect what I expect’ with the light.  I can hear my Dad right now saying that. 

 

Having also worked on dual points, I am just glad our early Buick’s are single. Synchronization is not for the impatient when the adjustment is internal to the distributor. 

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3 hours ago, Brian_Heil said:

When any hand crank engine starts with just half a pull up on the crank, you know that owner has a dozen things on his engine all dialed in and in top shape.

 

We are working on a Model T to  get it back to this. Almost left us stranded as it took multiple trys  and multiple peoples arms to get it started.

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16 hours ago, Grimy said:

Don't you reset timing after installing new points, Bernie?

 

Now that I think of it, no. It is something I rarely do. After 9 years I put a set of points and condenser in my '60 Electra, put a dwell meter on them and came home on a flatbed a week later with the wire dropped out of the new condenser. Luckily, I still had the old condenser and put it back in along with a better set of Echlin points. The condenser is at least 16 years old now.

The '64 Riviera, I don't drive much, is on it's 1996 tune up and fine.

The few times in the last 20 years that I have used my timing light is when someone calls for help after they (and usually a friend, or only the friend, have been playing where they shouldn't).

 

Those tend to be eyeball estimations of where the rotor was pointing when they did the deed of removing the distributor.

 

I reflected on my personal experiences once and figured I must have been about 28 years old when I created a very successful personal policy. I always rotation the engine of a car so the distributor is pointing at the firewall in a 90 degree position  before I take a distributor out. And I never deviate from that no matter how tempted I may be to do otherwise, a wonderful personal rule.

 

On the '53 Cadillac, this drops in between the cam and distributor.

image.png.a962443bc940dc3739d87bf76025cd92.png

A krony helping to "set timing" can lift it, turn it, and reposition, causing all kinds of hair loss. Imagine what it takes to find that part when two old guys say "we were just trying to set the timing and now we can't get it running."

Anyone remember John Leombrone's gray '53 Model 62 coupe with the dark blue top?

 

Bernie

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