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Trying to Start '53 Kaiser Manhattan


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Ok guys, need some help here. I've had my '53 Manhattan for a few months now but I've never tried to get it running. From what I understand it hasn't run since the 70's. This isn't the first time I've tried to get an old dormant engine started so I know the general procedure but I'm still having an issue with this one. I'll try to explain.

I bought a new 6 volt battery. I have it hooked up correctly. I know it is positive ground and that the + coil wire goes to the distributor. The engine will turn over and it has even begun to catch a few times but my main issue seems to be with the starter. When I am cranking the engine, the starter will begin to turn the engine and then it disengages from the flywheel and just spins. No grinding noises or anything. It just seems to randomly disengage while it's spinning. So the starter will not spin the engine long enough for it to come to life.

I thought maybe my battery was too weak so I had it tested. They said it tested good. I also thought maybe it might have something to do with a defective neutral safety switch or solenoid so I jumpered the battery directly to the starter for a few tries and it's still doing the same thing.

Any suggestions for me guys?

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Have you taken a compression test? It is possible that sluggish or stuck valves are preventing the engine from solidly catching on. If it hits on a few beats, the partial start-up could be what is making the starter kick out rather than a bad bendix. If compression isn't good and relatively even You could try injecting some Marvel Mystery oil, atf fluid, or similar product in the carburetor while cranking. Also pour some down the spark plug holes and crank lightly to distribute it, and then let it sit a few days before trying again.

Towing the car and letting the clutch out while it is in gear with the switch on is one way to get a long stored car running, because there is no starter drain and consequential voltage drop that occurs when cranking with the starter. Starting while towing allows the engine to run on a few intermittent cylinders while things loosen up. Beware though, don't pump lots of gas into it while doing this. It could blow the exhaust system when it fires if it is loaded up.

Another technique involves using a 12 volt jumper battery with cables attached to it. This gives the advantage of more voltage, (cranking a stiff engine on 6 volts results in a drop in voltage making ignition weaker). The name of the game is to never have both the 12 and 6 volts attached to each other, not in series or in parallel. Arrange it so you can crank on 12 volts with a 6 volt cable disconnected and quickly switch over to 6 volts as soon as it starts. !2 volts won't hurt the starter, but will damage the electrical system if the switch-over isn't fast. I have used all three of these techniques successfully.

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Thanks for the suggestions guys. I've posted this problem over on the Kaiser Club forum too and gotten the same advice. One fellow over there also suggested that I try a 12V power source to see if it would keep the starter engaged longer. I got some jumper cables and hooked up a good 12V battery out of one of my other cars to the starter on the Kaiser.....but the starter barely moved.....? I tried all kinds of arrangements and grounds to try to get the starter moving on the 12V battery. Nothing. It barely moved at first and then it just stopped moving altogether.

Oh crap. I thought I might have fried my Kaiser's starter. I unhooked the 12V and put it on the charger but the charger said "Charge Complete" so that battery is fine. Don't know what the deal was there (jumper cables too small?) but I decided to hook the 6V back up and make sure the starter would still spin.

Mind you, I was not trying to start the car at this point. Merely checking the starting system. I jumped in the car and hit the switch and the engine sputtered and backfired through the carburetor!! WHOA!! I got out, poured a little gas down the carb., and tried it again. IT'S ALIIIIIIIIIIVE!!!! IT'S ALIIIIIIIIIVE!!!!! It ran until the small gas supply I had rigged up ran out. It actually sounded really good too. This is the first time that this Kaiser has run since 1974. Video posted below. I was able to start it again later that night with my wife helping and got the second video posted below. It took about a minute to get the engine started.

You can hear what the starter is doing in the videos. Sometimes it disengages and spins and sometimes it just emits a click/clunk sound (which I'm told is probably the solenoid). You can hear all of this on the videos. That's what it has been doing the entire time. It's still doing that but I guess I finally got lucky and the engine caught.

No, I have not performed a compression test. I don't think I would be able to because the starter will not spin the engine long enough or consistently enough to get the readings. I'm going to clean out the oil pan, change oil and filter again, get a new solenoid, new battery cables, and new ignition parts. Then, I'll try to get it started again and try the Marvel Mystery and/or ATF fix. If the starter is still kicking out after this I'll pull it and put a new bendix in there.

<iframe src="//www.youtube.com/embed/PqZgg4uvqe0" allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="315" width="560"></iframe>

<iframe src="//www.youtube.com/embed/HE12AsKrtww" allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="315" width="560"></iframe>

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It looks as if there may be an intake valve not fully closing. The fluttering movement of the choke plate indicates compression getting past the intake valve. Be careful. You don't want to bend a push rod. The fluttering seemed to decrease as the engine warmed up. Good luck with the car. I look foreword to following your progress.

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Congratulations on getting it started. It sounds like it is not running on all cylinders. By shorting out the spark plugs one at a time with an insulated screwdriver while it is running you can locate the dead cylinder/cylinders. It could be something as simple as a bad plug, but may well be valve-related, either burned or stuck. A clatter would be heard if the valve is stuck very badly. Since this is a flat head engine it has no push rods to worry about.

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It looks as if there may be an intake valve not fully closing. The fluttering movement of the choke plate indicates compression getting past the intake valve. Be careful. You don't want to bend a push rod. The fluttering seemed to decrease as the engine warmed up. Good luck with the car. I look foreword to following your progress.

L head or flathead engines don't have pushrods, lol.

charles coker

1953 pontiac tech advisor

tech advisor coordinator

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One thing I forgot to mention, give the gas you are feeding into it a good dose of ATF or MM oil by mixing some with the gas and also giving the carburetor small sips of it while it's running. Doing this will give upper cylinders and valve guides some lubrication. Should be done outdoors because it will smoke a lot.

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I have a stuck inlet valve in No. 6 on my 1930 Dodge 8. I tried shorting plugs. Not much happened when I shorted 5, 6, 7 and 8. I think the mixture to that end of the inlet manifold is all being blown back out again by No. 6 puffing out through the valve. You may find the same thing.

Get some oil into it as above and then fix the starter while the oil does its work. When the time comes, remember you need 6 V cables for the starter. They are heavier than 12 V due to the higher (2x?) current they draw.

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On your starter problem---if it's still jumping out of engagement and spinning, pucker up and pull the tin plate off the bottom of the flywheel housing---if there isn't one, or any way to look at the flywheel teeth, you'll have to pull the starter and look in the hole---

What you don't want to see as someone slowly turns the motor over (plugs out) is places with badly worn ring gear teeth...

While 6s are better than 4s (4s tend to stop in four places, 6s in six, concentrating starting wear in those places) they do wear enough that the starter gear will slip out of engagement and motor until you release the key...Ring gears are cheap, compared to the labor cost of R&R flywheel...hope I'm wrong

If the teeth look good try washing the Bendix well; sometimes they just get crudded up.

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