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1949 Chrysler Windsor Not Getting Spark


Guest wbonebrake
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Guest wbonebrake

:)Hello! I have posted some threads in the past about my 49 Chrysler, and I am happy to say that I have successfully been able to tear down and re-build the original 251 Flathead straight 6. Unfortunately, however, now that everything is reassembled, I am not getting any spark to the plugs. I pulled the distrubutor cap and checked the points while turning them over, and I am not seeing spark there. I installed a new ignition coil, still nothing. I also ran all new leads to the coil and distributor according to the original shop manual. Any ideas?:confused: Thanks everybody in advance!

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With the ignition in the on position, you should see a spark at the points when opening and closing. Get points in the closed position and manually then open. A spark at the points should occur. If not change the capacitor

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Guest wbonebrake

Cool. I appreciate the insight guys. The car had sat for about 5 or 6 years before I bought it. The reason I had to rebuild it is because after sitting for so long, the rings had gummed up and seized the engine. I'll check the points and see if the is the problem. Unfortunately, automotive electrical issues always seem to confuse me! Thanks again guys. I'll re-post tomorrow when I get a chance to check it out.

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You may have to track it down step by step. First are you getting power to the coil, and from the coil to the points? When the points open and close does the power go on and off? You can check these things with a simple test light or mutli meter.

If the above tests are OK connect a spark plug directly to the coil. Does the plug fire? Remember it has to be resting on the engine to ground.

If the coil is firing you have narrowed it down to the cap, rotor and plug wires. I recently checked out a 49 Chrysler Windsor and found all that was the matter was a defective coil wire. It had a radio suppression resistor in it that would fire a few times then die. Wait a minute and it would fire a few times then die. Once I put on a new coil wire the motor ran like new.

I'm not saying that is what is the matter with your car. In fact I never ran into that particular problem before. The point is, if you follow up and test each part one at a time you will soon narrow it down no matter what the problem is.

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I'm experiencing the exact same problem in my 1942 so thought I would jump in. With the key on, I have voltage at both sides of the coil and at the connection where the primary wire connects to the distributor. Where do you attach the test device for the test I copied below where you check for power going on and off? Thanks, Jeff

You may have to track it down step by step. First are you getting power to the coil, and from the coil to the points? When the points open and close does the power go on and off? You can check these things with a simple test light or mutli meter.

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I'm experiencing the exact same problem in my 1942 so thought I would jump in. With the key on, I have voltage at both sides of the coil and at the connection where the primary wire connects to the distributor. Where do you attach the test device for the test I copied below where you check for power going on and off? Thanks, Jeff

With the distributor cap off, position the engine so that the breaker points are closed when you turn the ignition key on. Now with a thin screwdriver lever the breaker points open, being careful that the screwdriver doesnt earth on the distributor housing; as you do this a small spark should be visible at the points.

This proves the electrical continuity of the primary (low voltage) side of the ignition circuit, no spark here means you need to look at:

1. bad condensor

2. faulty earthing of the contact breakers

3. a break in the wiring between the ignition switch and coil

4. bad internal coil winding

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You can do the test as hchris says above. Connect a test light from the points side of the coil to ground. When the points are open it should light up. When the points are closed it should go off. Easier to see if your eyesight is not too good. You can open the points with a popsicle stick or other non conductor, or a screwdriver if you are careful not to ground it.

Every time you make and break the circuit the coil should fire. Connect a plug wire directly to the coil open and close the points and you should see it fire.

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Thanks guys. It took me a while to get some time in the garage to try these things. Opening and closing the points does not create a spark. I don't have a test light so I connected a voltmeter to ground and the points side of the coil (where the primary wire attaches). I get six volts or so whether the points are open or closed. I also get six volts on the springy side of the points (breaker arm?), but not on the other side of the points, even when they are closed. So it seems like the points must be fouled. I don't have the various tools and cleaners you all suggested at the moment. I tried running a clean piece a paper through a few times and that did not do the trick. I'll report back later after a trip to the store and some cleaning.

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Thanks guys. It took me a while to get some time in the garage to try these things. Opening and closing the points does not create a spark. I don't have a test light so I connected a voltmeter to ground and the points side of the coil (where the primary wire attaches). I get six volts or so whether the points are open or closed. I also get six volts on the springy side of the points (breaker arm?), but not on the other side of the points, even when they are closed. So it seems like the points must be fouled. I don't have the various tools and cleaners you all suggested at the moment. I tried running a clean piece a paper through a few times and that did not do the trick. I'll report back later after a trip to the store and some cleaning.

This seems to indicate the points are grounded out. The points act as a switch. When the current is "on" the coil gets saturated with electricity. When the points open the current is "off" and the coil fires. I know this sounds backwards but that is how it works.

Check the wire is not grounded and the movable point is properly insulated. The points must switch the power on and off.

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This seems to indicate the points are grounded out. The points act as a switch. When the current is "on" the coil gets saturated with electricity. When the points open the current is "off" and the coil fires. I know this sounds backwards but that is how it works.

Check the wire is not grounded and the movable point is properly insulated. The points must switch the power on and off.

When the points are open (or completely fouled) I should have voltage at the points side of the coil, correct? I gather that from an earlier post in which you said a test light would light up when the points are open. If that is true, doesn't completely fouled plugs [points] explain why I get voltage there whether the points are open or closed?

I'm not questioning your advice - just trying to understand how this works and why what I wrote before led you to believe the points are grounded out. The points don't look that dirty to me so I'm not surprised if there is something else going on. Thanks again for the help.

Edited by jcmiller
Wrote "plugs" instead of "points." (see edit history)
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Jeff, The points wont always look dirty. When these get parked for long periods of time the points can simply glaze over. They just may need a little roughing up.

Here might be a trick. with the cap off and the points closed, carefully hook a jumper to where the wire screws to the points, then turn the ign on and quickly ground the other end of your jumper to the block (dont hold it there, rather just tap it). If you get a spark then it is most likely your points. Especially if it does the same with the points open. I usually hook up an air gap to the coil wire when I do this. The air gap wil jump a blue spark if the rest of your ign is working.

I have some spark testing equipment here if you need any help.

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You should have voltage to the points side of the coil whenever the ignition is turned on. The points act as a switch to turn the power on and off. When they are closed they ground the circuit and power flows. When they open they switch off the power. But the power is still there, it just isn't going to ground. The ground completes the circuit.

Hope that part is clear.

Fouled plugs have nothing to do with it. They are on a separate circuit. At the moment we are still trying to get the coil to fire. Once we get the coil making sparks we will go on to the part where we get the sparks to the plugs.

If you connect a 12 volt test light to the movable point, when it is open the light will light up because it has power. When the points close the light will go off. The power is still there but it is going away through the path of least resistance, the ground point.

If out of commission for a long time, points can grow a white fur on them. This acts as an insulation and prevents them from working. The solution is to clean the points with a points file, fine wet or dry sandpaper or spray contact cleaner. Points can also get burned black after long use especially if oil fumes work their way up into the distributor.

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When the points are open (or completely fouled) I should have voltage at the points side of the coil, correct? I gather that from an earlier post in which you said a test light would light up when the points are open. If that is true, doesn't completely fouled plugs explain why I get voltage there whether the points are open or closed?

I'm not questioning your advice - just trying to understand how this works and why what I wrote before led you to believe the points are grounded out. The points don't look that dirty to me so I'm not surprised if there is something else going on. Thanks again for the help.

On re reading your question I believe you used the word plugs when you meant points.

In that case the answer is yes.

"If that is true, doesn't completely fouled points explain why I get voltage there whether the points are open or closed?"

Answer: Yes

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On re reading your question I believe you used the word plugs when you meant points.

In that case the answer is yes.

"If that is true, doesn't completely fouled points explain why I get voltage there whether the points are open or closed?"

Answer: Yes

Yes, I meant points! Sorry about that, and thanks again for the help. I hope to get back to it this weekend. Jeff

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I cleaned the points with 800 grit sandpaper and spray contact cleaner and did not get spark at the points. I tried Jack's suggestion of connecting a jumper to the points wire and tapping on the block and got sparks. I did more sanding and spraying and now have sparks when the points open and close - progress!

I then hooked a plug directly to the coil and set the electrode on the block as Rusty suggested earlier. When my wife first turned it over I saw a single spark but nothing after that. It seems like the coil must be firing and the problem is narrowed down to cap, rotor, or plug wires per another of Rusty's posts. The plug wires are pretty bad so I think I will start there.

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I would replace the points and condensor.

And cap and rotor and plugs and plug wires. A simple tune up cant hurt.

As for checking spark, you may be losing ground at your test plug, Make sure the metal to metal is good and clean on both sides. Also, you wont get shocked if you hold the metal body of the plug tightly against the block. Just keep your fingers away from the business ends.

You want to ground the body of the plug, not nesessarily the electrode, although its ultimatley the same piece. Make sure that gap is clean as well.

This test plug should fire when you do that jumper trick. It fun to lightly drag the jumper wire along the block (mimicking the points) the plug will fire rapidly. Put a piece of match book cover between the points (or insure that they are open) when you do this.

Edited by JACK M (see edit history)
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When the points are open (or completely fouled) I should have voltage at the points side of the coil, correct? I gather that from an earlier post in which you said a test light would light up when the points are open. If that is true, doesn't completely fouled plugs [points] explain why I get voltage there whether the points are open or closed?

I'm not questioning your advice - just trying to understand how this works and why what I wrote before led you to believe the points are grounded out. The points don't look that dirty to me so I'm not surprised if there is something else going on. Thanks again for the help.

Yes you are right. I may have miss spoke. If the points are NOT grounding the coil won't fire. In this case you would need to clean the points.

If you want to know if the coil is working connect a spark plug directly to the coil and lay in on the engine so it will ground. Now connect a jumper wire to the coil (points side) and tap it on the engine. Every time you do this you should get a spark. This is a crude approximation of what the points do.

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When I was 17 (1971) I bought my first old car, a Plymouth bus. cpe. ($40.00) I don't know if it was a 46 or 47 but it had 16" wheels, anyway I couldn't get it running and my Girlfriend's father ( I capitalized Girlfriend because she deserves it but he doesn't) told me you have to have spark at the points before you get spark at the coil. That is all he would tell me, I found that the wire to the points was grounded killing any further electrical activity. He also enlightened me to the existence of flare-nut wrenches when I couldn't get a brake line loose.

Most times things go much easier if someone with experience will share and those with not do heed!

Good luck with your car,

Jay

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  • 2 weeks later...

I thought I'd check back in with a progress report. I did the coil test with a jumper and got plenty of sparking so the coil seems good. I decided to heed Jack's advice to replace all the standard tune-up parts. I pulled the distributor to do it, which wasn't as difficult as I thought it might be. The outside was really dirty so I cleaned it up a bit and learned that it is the original 1942 distributor even though the block is from 1949. I don't see how people replace the points while the distributor is in place because it was hard with it on the bench. Maybe there is a trick.

As you can see from the attached photos, the points look really bad up close so I hope this will be a major improvement. The end of the rotor is pretty bad too. I thought these looked OK when they were on the car so I learned you really have to have a close inspection to be sure.

My manual says there should be a felt wick under the rotor but I don't see anything like that. Should it actually be visible or do I just put a few drops of oil at the top of the shaft?

There was no gasket between the distributor and the block. Does anyone know where I can get one? Or should I just make one out of cork?

I also bought a set of plug wires (Napa, #700170) but have not cut them to length yet. These are resistance wires. I see that Andy Bernbaum sells copper core wire sets for these engines. Any thoughts on what would be better? Ultimately I want the car to look as original as possible, but for now I want to get the best functioning wires so I can get this thing running.

Thanks.

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Original spec is solid core wire not resistance. If you have a problem with radio interference put a resistance wire between the coil and distributor. If you plan to use your car in wet weather buy the Everdry kit from Andy too. It costs some money about $35 but will save you from wet weather hard staring worries. Your car came with it back in 49.

Yes you can make a gasket out of cork, I don't know where you can buy one except as part of a gasket set ($$$$).

If there is no felt buy a tube of distributor grease at the parts store if they still have it. A tube costs about 79 cents and will last for years. All you need is a dab the size of a match head, smear it on the points cam. If you don't have any, white lithium grease will do.

Clean the new points with contact cleaner, brake cleaner or alcohol and a clean strip of white paper. Keep cleaning until the paper comes out clean. The points have a coating of grease on them, they will last longer if you clean it off.

It is quite correct to take the distributor off to replace the points. They make the hold down in such a way that you can put it back on in the same place BUT you must be sure the tab lines up back in the same spot. You will need to turn the engine to TDC and time it from scratch, you have to retime the engine whenever you change clean or adjust the points.

There should be some felt stuffed in the end of the distributor shaft, it may not look like it but if you poke it you will see. A few drops of oil here will not do any harm.

Make sure the mechanical advance and vacuum advance work smoothly, the points are gapped correctly and clean the inside and outside of the cap and you should be good to go.

Edited by Rusty_OToole (see edit history)
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  • 4 weeks later...

I'm checking back in with a progress report. I replaced the plug wires with copper core from Birnbaum, and also went with the ever-dry kit as recommended. I also did the points, rotor, and condensor and cleaned up a few other connections. I repainted the loom so it at least looks pretty good now. I also found a source for the distributor gasket: Olson's Gaskets. They were very helpful and friendly and the gasket was less than five dollars including shipping.

I tried to fire it up today and, not surprisingly, it did not magically start up and run like a top. I checked the spark at one of the plugs and it was firing regularly but not as rapidly as I expected, maybe once per second or slightly faster. Should it be firing more rapidly while cranking?

In the last few weeks I also drained the tank and blew out the fuel line and replaced the fuel with some ethanol-free. How much cranking should it take for that fuel to get to the engine? I'm sure my fuel pump works, although can't be certain it is working at 100%.

I squirted a bit of gas into the top of the carb and that made it actually fire up for a second or two. Assuming the spark frequency during cranking is about right, I'm thinking that I need to focus on fuel now (and some problems with my linkages).

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Sounds like no fuel to the carb. If it starts for a second or two by pouring down the carb and then starts, then dies you will need to pull the fuel line at the carb and and crank the engine over and see if fuel spurts out and into a can under the fuel line.

The pump could be bad. The "Oilite" non-repairable/cleanable filter in the tank could be plugged up. What condition is the suction side fuel hose at the fuel pump like? A pinhole in that hose will prevent the pump from drawing fuel. Is the steel fuel line rusted through anywhere along its 10" lenght, up around the front of the fram under the radiator or under the battery tray? Is the connection at the tank good and proper as stock or a rubber hose jerry rigged there?

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You have to remember that if you are checking for spark at the plug it is only 1/6 of the speed compared to spark at the coil.

Yes it is a fuel supply problem. I always use a boat tank or similar hooked directly to the pump to eliminate the lines and tank as these are indeed problem areas.

I have a can that I put gas into that can be pressurised, kind of like a paint can. Its called a shur shot or something like that. If one is careful he could keep the engine running for quite some time by the direct spray into the carb in an effort to get fuel up from the tank.

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you will need to pull the fuel line at the carb and and crank the engine over and see if fuel spurts out and into a can under the fuel line.

QUOTE]

I'll try that first. If everything was working properly, how much cranking should it take to get gas from the tank to the carb? I ran out of gas once in a Barracuda and it seemed to take less than a minute.

Before I drained the tank and put in fresh gas I was using a gas can attached to the intake of the fuel pump and it was pumping fuel because it leaked at the connection between the pump and the steel line going up to the carb that I recently replaced. The rubber hose at the intake of the fuel pump looks pretty good, but I've not inspected the rest of the fuel line yet.

It was good to hear it "run" even if only for a second or two. Thanks again to all of you.

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  • 2 weeks later...

It's running!! Thanks again for all the help. It wouldn't be running without all the help I got here.

The only new things I did were to replace the hose between the tank and the steel fuel line and mess around with the choke a bit when starting. Not sure if those things had anything to do with it; may have just been fuel finally getting to the engine after draining the tank.

Jeff

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  • 9 years later...

Good Morning ...........I am brand new to the site and have a 1949 Chrysler Windsor that has this same problem.....Have done the the light test and the light does come on...However, when cranking the engine it doesn't flash as it should, it just goes out....Have also bench checked the coil and got one spark to the plug then nothing...Possibly, a weak coil???? One other problem....Since I got the car, nothing happens when I turn the ignition switch, however, if both battery cables are connect the engine turns like crazy....have rewires the ignition switch per the wire diagram with no luck....Solenoid problem ??(possible short)....Any thoughts....Thanks ....

 

Ernie

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  • 3 weeks later...

 Two possible causes? Try removing the second wire from the coil that goes on the secondary side. Not he one that goes to the distributor,  (It shuts off the ign, when the car shifts, (if you have a semiauto trans) ( If it uses the same trans as a 48)

 (Your governor in the trans may be stuck)

 

 Second, Your solenoid switch on the starter may be bad. Mine did that and when I took apart the switch, there was a wire that was pinched that shorted out causing the starter to go on.

Edited by Roger Walling (see edit history)
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  • 4 weeks later...

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