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mrcvs

Help needed--car won't start.

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Any ideas due to the following?

I was driving my old car and it started to backfire and seemed like it wanted to stall. I shifted into neutral a few times, which kept it from stalling (I was 1/2 mile from home), and then I got within 200 yards of home, stalled, and couldn't get it going again. The starter works, but it just won't turn over. I put fresh gas in it (I had emptied it in the fall) on 31 January when this all happened as it was such a nice day and I decided to run the old girl.

What do I need to do? The backfiring means maybe it is something with the spark and this led to the inability to start? It is a 1917 Maxwell. Thanks!

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I Probably need more information. Do you have battery voltage to the starter? If so and it won't crank, with the car in nuetral, can you turn the engine over using a hand crank? If so, take off fan belt and see if the drive pulley is turning. If so the timing gear is probably ok, so pull distributer cap and see if roter is coming to #1 plug wire some where close to TDC on 1st cylinder. If this all checks out, I would try to crank it over and check for a spark. Hopefully it's just a timing gear and not camshaft of crankshaft problem. Also, it the clutch release normally thats a good sign! Hope that helps!

Gary

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The backfiring is also caused by running low on fuel and finally out of fuel. Since it was running it sounds like it was still getting spark. I would add more fuel and see what she does before you start tearing it apart. Also if you have a fuel filter, I would check that also.

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Yes, I thought that it was the distributor causing this, namely condensation. But that wasn't it. I tried shifting into reverse, first, second, and third gears. The clutch is strong and it shifted ieasily into reverse, first, and second, but I couldn't get it into third (but I could the other day when it was running). The distributor cap seems fine, except the insulation on the top where the wire comes out is missing (the other 3 are not)--this goes to the 2nd spark plug.

I put 5 gallons of fresh gas into the car and drove it less than five miles, so I don't think the fuel is the problem.

Any ideas now and what I need to do?

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Also, with regards to hand cranking the old girl, how does one do that? I have never been able to do this myself, although I have never seen it done and don't know how to do it, so if there is a tutorial somewhere on how to hand crank a car, that would be great.

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mrcvs,

Where are you located? Perhaps someone from the forum or an AACA Chapter or Region is close by and could help you. I would first check the fuel system, working back from the carburetor to the fuel tank to make sure you have good fuel flow. If that is good, I would check out the carburetor.

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Yes, I thought about the carburetor, too! I had rebuilt it last year, but I had had it adjusted last year such that the air/fuel ratio was perfect, and she was running real good, with the exception of, on some occasions, the float getting stuck and she will dump some fuel. A tap or two on the bowl will solve that problem. The float is cork and in good condition. I could pull this apart again, but I think it is okay. I am in Pennsylvania, between Easton and Stroudsburg.

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I think I shall replace all 4 spark plugs and see what happens. Now that I look at them, they aren't all that new, and she did backfire, indicating it could be the spark plug.

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Also, with regards to hand cranking the old girl, how does one do that? I have never been able to do this myself, although I have never seen it done and don't know how to do it, so if there is a tutorial somewhere on how to hand crank a car, that would be great.

Set the spark and throttle levers as you would when using the starter. If the engine is cold, set the choke to the normal position. Before turning on the ignition, insert the crank, push it in to engage the crank pawl and give the engine a couple of quarter turns starting from about the 9 o'clock position. This will prime the engine. At all times when using the crank, put your thumb UNDER the crank handle. Putting your thumb over the crank runs the risk of breaking your wrist if the car backfires. After priming the engine, turn on the ignition and give it another quarter turn. All things being equal, it will start - once you've cured the current problem.

Terry

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mrcvs..........remember a car needs three things to run fuel, spark, and compression. Analyze each of these to determine which is at fault. Then figure out what is causing the trouble.

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Let's get our language terms together here...

(1) by "backfire", do you mean a loud sound, almost like a pistolshot, out the exhaust pipe, sounding like it comes from behind the car ?? (often blows holes in mufflers)---OR, do you mean it "coughs back" thru the carburetor (a much less pronounced sound, often making the car jerk a little)...I know this sounds odd, but spent several emails re' an FC in a Fairmont Railcar before realizing was "backfiring" thru carb (too lean) rather than back out thru exhaust (too rich, etc)...

(2) "starter works but won't turn over"---I think what you're saying here is the electric starter turns the engine over OK (rrr-rrr-rr-rrr-rr-) but it won't start up and run???

(3) "it wanted to stall, shifted to neutral which kept it from stalling"---d'you mean when you removed the load on the engine it'd run OK in neutral?? if so, just idling, or revved up in neutral??---and when you put it back in gear (added load to engine) the engine tried to die/stall??

(4) bad plugs generally won't kill an engine uinless they're fouled (wet) with oil. Engine smoking out the exhaust (burning oil)??

(5) it's not unusual to be unable to shift a non-running car into one gear; this won't have anything to do with not running as long as the starter is turning the engine over normally.

(6) if you've never hand cranked a car, DON'T START NOW--broken fingers, wrists, arms are expensive and sometimes are never the same afterward. Learn on a car that's running correctly. Good luck. Bud Tierney

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From another Maxwell owner - are you running a vacuum tank ? have you taken the top off the carb to check if there is actually fuel in it ?

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The backfire was like a pistol shot out the back. Starter will work and it turns over, but won't start. It would run in neutral, but in gear when you put a load on the engine, it tried to stall and eventually did. The carburetor did have fuel in it. When it stalled there was fuel running out of the carburetor to the ground below. Not at all unusual as the float will frequently stick. Does this help in assessing what's going on and what to do now?

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I still think that it is fuel related. If fuel is running on the ground from the carb that usually means that the engine is flooded. If you pull a plug I bet it is really wet from excess fuel. I think that you have a stuck float on your carb or vacuum tank or both. Both are easy to check before you enter the secret realm of electricity and ignition.

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I think you can probably find lots of AACA folks in your area. If you have not joined your local AACA Region, you should. Surely someone there can lend you a hand. The better you describe it, the more I am convinced you have a fuel system problem. It could easily be a little crud holding the carburetor float valve or a vaccum tank valve open causing flooding. If it were my car, I would disassemble and clean everything in the fuel delivery system.

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I was mislead when you said "it wouldn't turn over" as the engine being locked up. If the float keeps sticking or the needle valve doesn't seat the addition of a fuel filter sounds like a good idea, or even a sediment bulb. Usually a plug problem shows up one plug at a time, causing a miss and could cause a backfire, but usually engine will start even on 3 cylinders,

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Okay, so I charged up the battery and sprayed Instant Starting Fluid in the carburetor and, again, the same thing. It just won't start. There is gasoline going to the carburetor and the gas is fresh, so I really don't know what to do now. By the way, how did you all learn about what to do in these cases? I live in an area where I moved for my job, I have no friends to turn to for help, etc., so I have to figure this out myself, or else the car will sit forever. Everything I learn on my own, so I have to get it right on my own, or not. Thanks!

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If it turns over and you have fuel, do you have a spark to the spark plugs? If the coil is bad or the condensor shorted that would be what I would check next.

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Well as you have surmised it could be one of two problems, fuel or ignition. The fact that there are occasions when you have too much fuel (flooding of the carb) is not good, you need to get that one sorted first.

As to ignition, Garry asks can you establish that the plugs are sparking; by removing the plugs and leaving them connected to the plug leads, positioning the body of the plugs in contact with the block and motoring the engine over with the starter you should see the plugs sparking.

Before moving any further these basics need to be established.

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Okay, so I charged up the battery and sprayed Instant Starting Fluid in the carburetor and, again, the same thing. It just won't start. There is gasoline going to the carburetor and the gas is fresh, so I really don't know what to do now. By the way, how did you all learn about what to do in these cases? I live in an area where I moved for my job, I have no friends to turn to for help, etc., so I have to figure this out myself, or else the car will sit forever. Everything I learn on my own, so I have to get it right on my own, or not. Thanks!

Pull out a spark plug, hook back up the wire and set the plug on the block so the "nut" of the plug is grounded. Turn it over and you should see spark on the end of the plug. Doesn't mean the coil isn't completely shot, but if you don't have spark, then the coil or condenser could have failed.

Based on your #4 post, it sounds like you need new plug wires anyways. Also, remove the distributor cap and make sure that any wires passing through the metal to the points are not frayed and are insulated where they pass through. Matt

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On my 1917 Maxwell truck, I had to inop the defective condensor built into the Distributer cap and ad an external condensor in it's place. Just a thought. The technique described by Matt should either confirm or eliminate the condensor. The coil can be checked by somewhat the same technique. Take the tower wire from Distributer and position it about .030 from a ground while cranking with swich on. You should see a good strong spark jump to ground.

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Any resolve?.....................

A wire had severed coming fom the distributor cap and I fixed it...months ago. I've driven the car at least 50 miles since then.

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