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1953 Super - popping sound, won't idle, low to barely any acceleration


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Now that we've had the first decent day without any rain or cold and I've finally gotten the brakes done over the winter, I'm wanting to take her around the block. The 'ol girl starts right up without any problem. However she'll idle for a few seconds and then die. When I manage to shift her into Low gear to drive her, she seems to have no power. When I give her gas, there's some pops and hesitations. There seems to be no difference in her sluggishness when I put the pedal closer to the floor. I'm terrified that I'm doing damage to her. I realize this could be a lot of things, but I'd appreciate any advice on where to begin my troubleshooting. Professionally rebuilt engine, rebuilt carburetor, new plugs/wires, new exhaust, Pertronix electronic ignition, new fuel tank and lines.

Lamar, wanna come over sometime? I can get some Fat Tire for ya!

Edited by WillBilly53 (see edit history)
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Sticking valves, but hopefully not bent valves from the pistons hitting them. Could be caused by gumming from running old, stale fuel or rebuilder set the valve to guide clearance too tight for a nailhead. Pulling the heads is the only reliable fix...don't count on any 'miracle in a can' for help. I've seen some seem to free up, only to poke a hole in a piston later.

Do a compression test and bleed down in addition to making sure the ignition and carb is right. (Right now you probably want to run over me with a Fat Tire :P)

Willie

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Sounds exactly like problems I've had with old, bad fuel.

You've jogged my memory

Could be fuel filter.,,

15 years ago after sitting dormant for many years we gave the Roadmaster a rebuilt carburetor, Pertronix, new plugs, new wires, new fuel filter.

The sediment in the fuel tank clogged the filter, resulting in a VERY lean mixture...

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Thank you so much everyone. I think I'll first drain the fuel tank (and put some in the lawnmower, lol!) Put some fresh fuel in and put on a new fuel filter. The fuel is definitely not fresh. Then double check the timing as I have a suspicion that's not up to par. Lol, Willie, I'm pretty sure I owe you a case of Fat Tire from all of your help over the years. Pulling the heads sounds fun! Could I pull the valve covers off and manual turn the engine to see if any valves are sticking first?

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Man, last I recall we finally had that thing running pretty good. The popping sounds like water in the gas. I'm bettin some fresh gas and clean fuel filter takes care of it. So you got the brakes done!!!?????!!!! Well alright!!!!

By the way, welcome back. Dayum that was a long honeymoon!!!!!

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Three passages were clogged on the carb of the '51 that I got going after 20 years of sitting. A couple you can check pretty quick. Even with the 3 passages clogged, my car would start & idle ok, but like yours, had NO power (it needed a running start just to get up the driveway).

Here is what they were:

1. Pump outlet nozzle. You can check this with the air filter / silencer off. Where the throttle linkage from the foot pedal attaches to the carb, turn this fairly quickly all the way (ignition off). You should see spray from a central nozzle out into both barrels of the carb. If not, it may be the outlet from that central nozzle. I unclogged this with a small piece of wire (pretty small, maybe .010 or less), with the nozzle off the carb so I could see the wire go all the way through.

or

2. If the pump doesn't spray, it could be the inlet to the pump chamber (this was also clogged on my car). This one is accessed from the bottom of the pump chamber. I didn't follow your other threads if you rebuilt the carb or not. By the time I got mine going good, I probably had it apart at least a dozen times, and could strip it down to castings in 5 minutes or less. If you don't have the original shop manual, get it. It has a good section on the carb. My car has the Carter. With the top of the float bowl off, and the pump out, I use a paperclip bent to a small L shape (maybe 1/8" of L) to pull the check ball cage out, then tip it so the check ball comes out (or maybe snag that with needle nose pliers). With all that out, put fuel in the float bowl. It should flow right up into the pump chamber with that check ball out of the way. If not, I cleared that by pushing small wire down in there. Hard to describe, but the pump chamber inlet passage angles towards the inboard side of the carb as it sits on the car.

3. The no power - sounds like it could be a clogged main jet. This is the passage that hangs out over the center of each barrel. With the car running, open the throttle. Above idle speed, with the car running, as you open the throttle, you should see fuel be sucked out of each main jet down into each barrel. When my car had no power, it was only drawing fuel into one of the 2 barrels, as such only 4 of 8 cylinders moving the car! I cleared that one with small wire down the center, and spraying B12 Chemtool down the inlet.

Or maybe you just pay for a carb rebuild service. But all the symptoms you describe pretty well match what my car did with clogged carb passages.

The dying on start - my car still does that until it's warmed up a little. Probably still something not quite right. I pump it a couple of times with the ignition off to get some fuel sitting in the manifold - it won't just start on one push of the pedal.

And for the fuel - I did end up replacing the tank, level sender, the complete line along the frame, the hose between frame & engine, the tube between the hose & fuel pump, and had the pump rebuilt by Then and Now. Also pulled out the original filter next to the carb & replaced it with a see-thru type up near the carb so I could see fuel delivery. The tank was not usable, and the frame-mounted fuel line was nearly gummed up solid about a foot out from the level sender.

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.... Pulling the heads sounds fun! Could I pull the valve covers off and manual turn the engine to see if any valves are sticking first?

You can pull the valve covers and then ( with out the starter) push and pull on each rocker. If any actually move ( a lot) , then you either have a sticky valve or a empty lifter. You can see a sticky valve by observing if that valve sticks up into the valve cover area as much as the other similar valves.

But I would definitely change out the gas. And I would also drop a can or two of STP Gas treatment into the tank when you put in fresh gas. If you notice an improvement then chances are it's just the old gas causing problems. You have not said how old your gasoline is but over a year with less than a half tank is a recipe for problems.

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It certainly could be old gas, but the experience I have had with old gas is VERY hard to start. I have been able to burn out old gas by starting on starting fluid, and running at a fast idle until up to operating temperature before attempting to actually drive. But if you can drain the tank, it would be good insurance.

You mentioned pertronix. Did you install an alternator at the same time? ALL electronics really like a stable voltage, more so than is possible with a generator.

Even though the engine is rebuilt, I would suggest a compression test. Like Willie said, possibly one or more sticking valves from sitting.

I would also check the automatic choke on the carburetor to make certain it is functioning normally.

Jon.

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Thank you everyone, this is all excellent advice. I'm going to try and get out there today/tomorrow and I'll report back. The gas is about a year old :o

Lamar, Marie is one helluva woman!

carbking, I did not install an alternator - I've kept the original (rebuilt) generator. Sounds like I should look into getting an alternator?

Edited by WillBilly53 (see edit history)
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Thank you everyone, this is all excellent advice. I'm going to try and get out there today/tomorrow and I'll report back. The gas is about a year old :o

Lamar, Marie is one helluva woman!

carbking, I did not install an alternator - I've kept the original (rebuilt) generator. Sounds like I should look into getting an alternator?

Cheaper to go back to junky old points/condenser that only last 15-30K miles:rolleyes:. As a test, disconnect the vacuum advance (eliminates breaker plate movement) and see if it improves. Report back...

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When we got the 53 it had only run once briefly 15 years ago and the gas was from 1990. I had to get it running to ship so I used a 1gal can hosed to the fuel pump. It had your symptoms so I disassembled the carb and cleaned as best I could without a kit. I got it to run onto the transport. Later a proper rebuild turned up 1 main jet clogged and 1 partly obstructed. The carb is a Stromberg but I have had similar problems with a sitting Holley. The tank had 11 gal of dark brown gas and 5 gal of roofing tar in it. It was successfully boiled out and a liquid liner applied by a radiator shop. I flushed the line on the frame with a squirt bottle and new gas and then lacquer thinner. I put a kit in the fuel pump as it was gummed up too. The car runs well now but my 4th see through plastic filter is dark brown. Still, I think the line is almost clean. Good Luck.

Pat

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Alright! Looks like I've got a full day tomorrow. I managed to drain the tank this evening (it was tons of fun, :D ) I'll put some fresh gas in her and start going down the troubleshoot list. I also picked up a compression tester. Looking forward to using this for my first time. Willie, I know your feelings about Pertronix, lol! I hope to report back with some good news tomorrow night.

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If you put in fresh gas, make sure you also put in a new fuel filter. If there is any sediment in the tank, and most assuredly there is, the fresh gas will cut it loose, and guess where it will go??? Maybe buy two or three filters!!!

Jon.

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May be a lot simpler to just run it off of a good clean fresh gallon can of gas until you get the engine / carb setup cleaned, tweaked and functioning properly. Then attack the fuel delivery system at that time. This way you will be eliminating culprits and varmints and working in a systematic way.

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It certainly could be old gas, but the experience I have had with old gas is VERY hard to start. I have been able to burn out old gas by starting on starting fluid, and running at a fast idle until up to operating temperature before attempting to actually drive. But if you can drain the tank, it would be good insurance.

You mentioned pertronix. Did you install an alternator at the same time? ALL electronics really like a stable voltage, more so than is possible with a generator.

Even though the engine is rebuilt, I would suggest a compression test. Like Willie said, possibly one or more sticking valves from sitting.

I would also check the automatic choke on the carburetor to make certain it is functioning normally.

Jon.

Cheaper to go back to junky old points/condenser that only last 15-30K miles:rolleyes:. As a test, disconnect the vacuum advance (eliminates breaker plate movement) and see if it improves. Report back...

Good Advice !!

My experience;

I've been running Pertronix for 15 years.

The Pertronix has out lasted a generator and a regulator.

Two years a go I replaced a failed generator and voltage regulator.

I haven't touched the Pertronix since it went in in 2000

I hate the ethanol, too. Marvel Mystery oil (4 ounces every tankful) seems to help.

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I'm playing on her right now. Gas was over a year old. I drained it last night and it was clearing with a hint of Amber. The timing is good and carb is spraying into the barrels well. Just about to disconnect the vacuum advance, then take a look at the automatic choke. Stay tuned...

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okay, so here's what I've done so far:

Brand new fresh gas in the tank as pretty much everyone suggested here.

New fuel filter.

This seemed to take care of the popping sound quite well!

She started like a champ, but still won't idle and stalls after a few seconds. I can keep her idle all day if I hold the throttle just a little (is it possible I need to adjust the set screw for the fast idle cam?

checked the timing. - good

checked the carburetor - jets are spraying, fast idle cam and choke all seem to be in order

I disconnected the vacuum advance as Willie suggested, but all I got when I tried to start her was a BRAAAAAAP sound similar to trying to start when the battery is dead.

I removed the valve covers and tried to push and pull on the rockers as JohnD suggested, but they wouldn't budge. That's a good thing, correct?

Put the covers back on and did a compression test and here's where I am worried:

1-3-5-7 all are at 145 lbs/sqr. inch.

2-4-6 are at 130 with 8 being at 135

The manual calls for 170 lbs/sq. inch with only a 10 lb leeway. Yikes!

The battery is charged, but probably not fully. Is it possible this is causing the low compression?

Thanks for everyone's help so far!

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The lower compression might be from the new pistons from the rebuild.

Perhaps the tops are dished.

Or, the head gasket may be thicker.

Or, both.

Consider the 10 lb leeway, the piston at 130 is the only one outside the 10 lb margin.

The battery won't have an effect on compression psi.

You would get the same compression whether you turned it with the battery, by hand or it's own engine power

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The compression test looks abnormal but it may not be a problem. Lets talk about how you did the test.

Did you buy a hand held compression gauge, or one that screws into the spark plug holes?

Did you remove all the spark plugs before starting the test? Or just do one at a time?

Did you do a test of all cylinders and then re do the test putting a few drops of oil into the cylinders as they are tested?

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okay, so here's what I've done so far:

Brand new fresh gas in the tank as pretty much everyone suggested here.

New fuel filter.

This seemed to take care of the popping sound quite well!

She started like a champ, but still won't idle and stalls after a few seconds. I can keep her idle all day if I hold the throttle just a little (is it possible I need to adjust the set screw for the fast idle cam?

checked the timing. - good

checked the carburetor - jets are spraying, fast idle cam and choke all seem to be in order

I disconnected the vacuum advance as Willie suggested, but all I got when I tried to start her was a BRAAAAAAP sound similar to trying to start when the battery is dead.

I removed the valve covers and tried to push and pull on the rockers as JohnD suggested, but they wouldn't budge. That's a good thing, correct?

Put the covers back on and did a compression test and here's where I am worried:

1-3-5-7 all are at 145 lbs/sqr. inch.

2-4-6 are at 130 with 8 being at 135

The manual calls for 170 lbs/sq. inch with only a 10 lb leeway. Yikes!

The battery is charged, but probably not fully. Is it possible this is causing the low compression?

Thanks for everyone's help so far!

Disconnected vacuum advance will no effect on cranking. Timing is checked with vacuum advance disconnected and engine idling very slowly.

Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk

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I think you know more than you believe you know. Sounds to me like the compression test was done right. And there is only one tube to the vacuum advance in the distributor, so you got that right. But the noise you got when you tried to start it after disconnecting the vacuum advance may have been low battery voltage at the starter solenoid. How much a low battery can affect a compression test is probably subject to some debate. Lets not go there.

I recommend charging the battery fully. and then re doing the compression test with two or three drops of oil in each cylinder. Since you have a leftside to right side disparity, it almost sounds like you have mismatched pistons in there. A gasket leak or warped head may have one or two low cylinders. But three low ones of equal pressure on one side of the engine tells me it's not head gasket related. And if it's not piston disparity then it can only be blow-by on the rings, which the oil should compensate for.

Do you have paperwork from the engine rebuilder on what went into the engine by way of parts?

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Like John said: disconnecting the vacuum tube at either end has the same effect; charge the battery, the BRAAAAAAP sound is a low voltage condition (battery or starter relay). You have enough compression for it to run with no perceptible performance issues and there are no valves sticking during the test (but may be at engine running speed). You really need to get it to idle near 400 rpm to set the timing, otherwise the centrifugal advance will add 10* and if you rely on that setting it will be retarded and have no power. There are ways to get the timing pretty close using a vacuum gauge or static setting (vs dynamic with a timing light). Also check the dwell and keep reporting back, since all of us are usually wrong if over 20' away from the car!

Willie

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Thanks for sticking with me guys! I hooked up the charger and the indicator lights showed that the battery was indeed low. My charger is slow and takes hours, so I may not be able to do another compression test until late tonight or in the morning. In the meantime I'll see if I can scrounge up the paper work from the rebuild. I do know that I ordered the complete kit from Kanter back in '03 when the rebuild was done. I put oil in it back then, but never got to starting it because of other stuff I had to do on the car (electrical, fuel system, life). I drained the oil last October and put fresh oil in before I tried starting her. Then I got sidetracked with the brakes. Anyways at what point do I call in the big guns of a professional? I'm terrified that I'm going to do something wrong and screw it up. Thanks ya'll!

p.s. not saying that screw ups or maladjustments can't happen with a professional, but the guy that rebuilt my engine has been in business over 40 years and engine rebuilds are all he does (for what it's worth)

Edited by WillBilly53 (see edit history)
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Battery fully charged, put a few drops of oil in each cylinder. No change in the compression. :( Now I'm really worried...

I found the itemized receipt for the rebuild not sure this will help:

Special Front Cam Bearing

Disassemble Engine

VAT Complete Engine

Debore? and something (there's a fold on the receipt can't read)

Install Cam Bearings

Polish Crankshaft

Resize Rods

Press Pistons OFF &/ On Rods

Drill out broken bolts (10)

Repair Oil Pump

Rebuild Rocker Shafts

V8 Valve Job

Surface Heads

Install Valve Guides

Assemble Engine

Any ideas of what I should do next?

post-31222-143143019148_thumb.jpg

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Just reading back through this and got lost. Is it cranking now but with abnormal compression on one side or still just Braapapapaping and not running now. If it is cranking and running, I wouldn't worry a lot about the compression, yet. I always add seafoam to the tanks of old gas and include a quart of Marvel Mystery Oil when I change oil to all my cars as they sit along time between cranking and I feel it helps keep the upper engine lubed. The seafoam helps with keep the moisture out. That may help level out your compression problem. May...

Do you know Gary at Masters Garage down on Commerce Highway at the river bridge. He can probably rebuild your carb if needed and figure out whats going on. He's old like me and knows his stuff, not like me.

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Let's back up a bit. The Buick was running fine a few months ago correct? If that is the case I do not believe major engine damage has occurred. I suspect a gummed up carb and as Lamar suggested, pull the carb and have it rebuilt or simply spray the crab out of it(ports and all) with carb cleaner. Install it and see if she starts and provides power when the gas is applied.

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She'll start up great without a hitch and I can keep her idling if I hold the throttle just a little bit. and she sounds great to me (but my ears probably aren't tuned to what is good and what is bad) As soon as I let the throttle go she'll die down and slowly putter out. The popping is gone since I put fresh gas in the tank. The braaaap sound was when i disconnected the tube at the vacuum advance. But I think Willie was saying that this could be because of a low battery? (this was before I fully charged it today) I'll pick up some seafoam and Marvel Mystery Oil. I don't know Gary, but I may swing by next week and see him. Thanks for the tip Lamar! "He's old like me and knows his stuff, not like me." You're too funny!

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Let's back up a bit. The Buick was running fine a few months ago correct? If that is the case I do not believe major engine damage has occurred. I suspect a gummed up carb and as Lamar suggested, pull the carb and have it rebuilt or simply spray the crab out of it(ports and all) with carb cleaner. Install it and see if she starts and provides power when the gas is applied.

Thanks Chris,

Lamar and I got her running back in 2012 for the first time. She sat for a bit as I still had a ton of other stuff I was trying to get done on her to get her roadworthy - fast forward a couple of years to august/september/october of last year. I was trying to get her ready for my wedding and she started fine but died down like I'm describing. Wedding/honeymoon/holidays - I had to let her sit over the winter and decided to concentrate on the modified brake system (that's a whole other story) finally got that done and wanted to start her up to go for a test drive around the block. and that's where we are. Fixed the popping sound with fresh gas, but she won't idle without me holding the throttle just a little bit and when I tried to drive her the other day there was little to no power. I forgot to mention that she seems to do fine when I put her in reverse. I will do as you suggest also and pull the carb and spray the ever loving crap out of it with carb cleaner!

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Suggestion - BEFORE you pull the carb (you may still need to do so, but maybe not).

First, go back and reread Willie's post 32 about idle speed.

Now, you have posted that you have to hold the throttle slightly to keep it running. This will allow the the fast idle cam to advance prematurely, and prevent a normal idle until the engine is completely warm.

So the suggestion, and you will probably need a helper: start the engine, and keep it running at a fast idle for at least 8 ~ 10 minutes using the throttle. This should warm the engine to normal operating temperature. AND, IF FUNCTIONING NORMALLY, THE AUTO CHOKE SHOULD HAVE THE CHOKE BUTTERFLY IN THE WIDE OPEN (VERTICAL) POSITION. You may need the helper to check this. If the choke butterfly is not vertical, find out why, and fix it. If it is vertical, then try to get the lower idle suggested by Willie, and check the timing.

And if this doesn't work, there is still time to pull the carb.

Just for the record, the older updraft carburetors were much more reliable than the downdraft carburetors. ;) Why ? Because the updraft carburetors were normally so difficult to get to that the real problem was fixed before the carburetor was removed! :P

Good luck.

Jon.

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