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Still cannot get 1930 Model A Ford to idle


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When it runs better than you have seen it run before you will be thrilled - AND having repaired or replaced most of the key components to reliable operation you will be posting about long Model A runs in no time!

After ALL this, I had a friend over yesterday who has worked on cars before, and it STILL appears that it is the carburetor, despite replacing components within. I do have the new condenser, as the old one wasn't right, so THAT needed replacing, though was likely never the issue. I am half-tempted (or, more than that), once the car is running, to replace the Bratton's coil with the old one that was on there, probably from the '40's or '50's, made in USA (!!!!!), by P & D company, L.I.C., NY. Seems so much more substantial and better than the new one I bought, and probably will last forever!

I am going to hire a fellow who works on Model A's to come over tomorrow and fine-tune this, as I think this is where we are at at this point. Probably he will have it running in no time like it should. I will say that I DID NOT replace the carburetor with a known one that works because I did not have one to do so with, and because the float, ball valve, filter, etc., were replaced and the carburetor was thoroughly cleaned and the jets are in working order, so I don't know why it does not work properly, but, such it is!

When do you think that sort of coil was manufactured? Bottom portions look like it is Bakelite(?)

With regards to the quote I included, yes, this is the plan. Right now, I am trying to get it running. Everything is there, it is a well-used, but not abused car, other than the fact the head was replaced once due to frozen water, so it should run.

I have heard of stories of these cars being run several hundred miles, maybe thousands of miles, without problems, maybe even more! So, how do I, in addition to finally maybe getting this thing working right, do I get RELIABILITY? I would love to be able to run it 50 or 100 miles, maybe park it for a few hours, start it up EASILY, and run it back home, with NO issues relative to RELIABILITY, or the thought of that it is 4:30 in the afternoon on a Sunday, and I am 100 miles from home, I need to get up for work the next morning at 4:15 am, and I won't have to spend the night dealing with being towed, or even the remote possibility of thinking of being stranded or having to get towed.

I do have a 1917 Maxwell, and, other than throwing a fan blade, which I fixed, and replacing a wire going to the distributor, I have not been stranded with this car, and have bailed myself out by myself. I have driven it maybe 150 miles since owning it. Right now, the only issue is that the leather fan belts stretch and cause the fan blade (with a 'wire' around it) to ride up against the radiator intake. However, the thought of being stranded has made me never drive this car further than 10 miles from home. This is always the fear.

SO, once this is running, how do I get it to be RELIABLE?

Edited by mrcvs (see edit history)
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Model "A"s are reliable.

Yours has some sort of odd ball problem.

When I was a kid, everyone had an "A". Everthing from 15 dollar beaters to nicely restored drivers. They all had one thing in common. They would all run. Some with a bit of daily tinkering, some with no extraordinary care at all. Just keep the fluids topped off and they'd go all day long.

Yours will, too, once you find the gremlin

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<!--[if gte mso 9]><xml> <w:WordDocument> <w:View>Normal</w:View> <w:Zoom>0</w:Zoom> <w:PunctuationKerning/> <w:ValidateAgainstSchemas/> <w:SaveIfXMLInvalid>false</w:SaveIfXMLInvalid> <w:IgnoreMixedContent>false</w:IgnoreMixedContent> <w:AlwaysShowPlaceholderText>false</w:AlwaysShowPlaceholderText> <w:Compatibility> <w:BreakWrappedTables/> <w:SnapToGridInCell/> <w:WrapTextWithPunct/> <w:UseAsianBreakRules/> <w:DontGrowAutofit/> </w:Compatibility> <w:BrowserLevel>MicrosoftInternetExplorer4</w:BrowserLevel> </w:WordDocument> </xml><![endif]--> How do you get it reliable ? Drive it. I bought the Model "A" in the avatar when I was 12 years old back in 1961. I pulled the body off the frame and completed a very amateurish restoration in the late 60's. The extent of mechanical work was pulling the oil pan and rmoving about 3 inches of gritty sludge, washing out the valve area with kerosene, and lapping the valves by hand plus setting the points, plugs and timing. It was finished at 4:30 in the morning the day I had to leave for college in Utica, 150 miles away.

I drove it back and forth every weekend, 300 miles round trip, all winter and the next year as well. Never had a tow but here are the things that I remember had to be fixed.

1. The repro solenoid broke and shorted - lots of sparks

2. The repro ignition cable end came loose inside the distributor - wiggled it and got to a gas station - the guy soldered it for me..

3. The generator and/ or cut out fried (twice). Once in a blinding snowstorm at 20 below zero at 2 AM. I was 25 miles away from school and after pulling the fan belt it made it all the way back with very dim lights. Had to pull the battery and take it in the dorm to keep it from freezing.

4. Threw a fan blade and I made the entire trip with the belt removed (it was cool out and daytime - battery had enough charge to keep going).

That's it except for tearing a couple of teeth off low gear making a dropped clutch start on gravel without having low gear fully engaged - not the cars fault. That also broke one of the rear spring shackles and I had to have that welded once I discovered it a few months later (the ride did feel a little funny with that rear spring held by only one shackle and the other one bouncing). The "A" starts fine in second - even uphill if you slip the clutch a little bit.

As for reliability get the best parts you can afford. Get all the catalogs and before you buy something and read the descriptions. Some vendors have different quality parts (condensers come to mind - some of the new ones have a fairly short life span.) After you look at the catalogs you will see a pattern and be able to sort the good and bad. By the way - in all the years I have been on other forums, including Ford Barn, I don’t recall anyone ever having anything bad to say about Bratton's. They seem to be recommended more often than any other vendor.

When I finally find the Model "A" I want (hopefully this year) what will I be sure to take along on a long trip? A carburetor, a distributor, and a generator. All 3 will be items picked up at a flea market and cleaned up and adjusted. Add to that the usual fan belt, "tune up kit" and a few hand tools as well as a copy of a couple of books for when I"m stumped and I would feel comfortable. Back in the 60's a parts dealer drove from Rochester to Hershey every year in his 1917 Larrabee truck loaded with parts.

Can’t wait to hear that your car is running and that you are out enjoying it …. they really are a great car..

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Update: Had a fellow over yesterday who works on old cars and it's not the distributor or carburetor or other usual culprits. He left and will be coming back but had me pull the head in the meantime. There is some pitting around two of the valves so it needs a valve job at the very least.

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I have just come across this thread and your experiences really pain me. It shouldn`t be that bad!!

Matt Hinson has given some really good advice. From what I have read, it is a matter of checking all the fundamentals, one by one, to ensure everything is as it should be . Believe me, it is not your ethanol gasoline! your Model A will probably run on moonshine!!

What is crucial is to verify that the fuel tank is clean, the fuel supply pipes and filters are clean and that the carburretor is clean. Not just superficially, but every drilling, jet and air tube (there aren`t many on a Model A). Do not worry about adding additional filters, the problem is already in existence and if all the system is clean it will not be necessary. Failing all of that, I would definitely be suspicious of an inlet manifold air leak. new gaskets between carb and manifold and between manifold and cylinder block is the way to cure this. The manifold flange will need checking for flatness too, if you remove it from the block. A quick and crude test for an air leak is to spray all of the manifold joints with penetrating spray. If there is a leak, the thin spray will temporarily seal the leak and you will hear the difference in how the engine runs.

A separate thought is on the ignition side. You said someone had looked at the distributor, but has the condensor been substituted for a known good unit? and has the coil been swapped? I have seen slow degradation in these components cause all sorts of problems.

Last thought, but less likely, I assume there is a clearance at all the valves? A loss of compression thus created could cause this problem.

As I said at the start, there are no shortcuts, you must be methodical and verify every part of every system (mechanical, ignition, fuel) to ensure success.

Please do not give up on it, but let us know how you progress.

Kind regards

Adam..

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It is a compression issue; I have little to no compression. The head is pulled, awaiting an expert to come look at it. Valves are not stuck, nor are the pistons, but there is pitting between some valves.

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Ah ha !! Well at least you have a diagnosis. A compression test early on might have saved you much frustration, but hindsight is a wonderful thing.

You may have some decisions to make about how far to go with the reconditioning. The best cure would be a full overhaul of course. Fortunately, Model A engines are not too expensive!! If the bottom end is sound (only evident on strip-down), you may get a away with rings and valves, or perhaps a rebore, with new pistons etc.

Please let us know what the verdict of the inspection is.

Adam..

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The fellow who will work on this car, and helped me last weekend, will hopefully be over again this coming week. Talking with him and describing what I see, he said it will likely need a 'valve job' and cost $600 to $800.

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  • 3 weeks later...

Well...

 

I have learned a TON about early cars now.  Probably just scratching the surface relative to the 'old timers' out there...

 

And, here is where we are at now.  Did the valve job today with a friend.  Once you know what to do, it isn't all that bad.  Got the head back on, torqued to 55 lbs, and...

 

Okay, STILL won't start, BUT, I get a spark, variably...and, it must just be that I have been getting a spark variably, and, when I checked it with another friend, my variable spark did not act up.  But I DID have low compression and needed the valve job.  So, it is the ignition switch, and I shall order that tomorrow, and, hopefully, I will have a working automobile!

 

All this stuff needed to be done...new water pump, new coil, some new parts for distributor/new condenser, new head gasket, NEW TOOLS (Needed those, but really disliked going to Wally-world to get Stanley tools made in China.  Wanted to find Made in USA stuff at an auction, but could not find one locally having what I wanted anytime soon), and new automotive hoses.  By the way, any tips on installing 3 new hoses using six clamps and I have as tight as I can go and yet 3 or 4 of the six clamped areas are leaking, more or less?

Edited by mrcvs (see edit history)
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Glad you are making some progress.  A fresh set of hoses available from Brattons and a set of hose clamps (unless yours are OK) will stop the leaks. Sometimes it is difficult to get a set of old hard hoses to seal without leaks.  

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Glad you are making some progress.  A fresh set of hoses available from Brattons and a set of hose clamps (unless yours are OK) will stop the leaks. Sometimes it is difficult to get a set of old hard hoses to seal without leaks.  

That's what I used.  A brand new set of hoses and hose clamps from Bratton's.  I cannot physically tighten them further...and yet, leaks.

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Never had that problem. Are the surfaces where the hoses attach clean and smooth? If there is any residue from the old hoses or rough castings that could cause problems? I would remove them, clean everything good reposition the hoses slightly and slowly and carefully tighten the clamps.

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In addition to following the excellent advice in the note above make sure that the hoses have sufficient overlap (centered between the fixed points) and that the clamps are perhaps 1/4 inch in from each end of the rubber hose. Which type of clamp are you using - normal stainless screw type clamps or the originals with two wires and a captured nut ? Either way I have never had a problem either.

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Okay...NOT that impressed with products from Bratton's.  Hose clamps made in CHINA.  Left the ones not leaking on there and replaced the leaking ones with ones that were already on there and leak problem solved.

 

Valve job needed doing, so that's good.  The fellow who helped me with the valve job thought it might be electrical due to the variable light flashing on the test light.  So, I replaced the ignition switch first, and still the same thing, turns over but won't fire.  Ignition switch foreign-made junk from Bratton's.  Then thought I would replace the cable, and the cable was way too long and no real way to remove the wire within, so I fit it as best as I could, which put tension on the wire leading to the ignition switch.  I shut off the switch and mowed the lawn, and it bothered me that the speedometer was stuck at 20, so I pulled it and smelled smoke.  Coil incredibly hot, and then fire at screw behind ammeter, so I pulled battery cable, and then realized that wires behind coil and leading to generator were on fire, too.  When the panel was pulled, I noted that the cheap clamp on the wire going from the cable to the ignition switch had separated due to the tension described above.  Okay, despite using words like fire and smoke, not that bad, but need to replace that wire going along the left side of the engine.  Insulation completely fried, not sure why.

 

This problem is a nightmare.  Coming to the conclusion that Model A's aren't as simple as I thought.  Any ideas as to why this happened and what to do now, other than the obvious, which is to rewire.

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You need to replace the entire ignition switch and armored cable, preferably with a popout ignition switch. Even if you use an aftermarket ignition switch, you need to replace or rewire the ignition wires from the switch to the distributor. The wire inside the armored cable could easily have been shorting out inside the armored cable and causing your igntion problem. (I though you had already done the voltage testing checklist which should have identified this if it was the problem.) 

 

Rewire everything back to original condition. Make sure it is wired according to the original wiring diagram that you should have available. Follow the voltage test checklist in your Model A Mechanic's Handbook. As soon as you have all of the proper voltages everywhere, you should have a running Model A.

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You need to replace the entire ignition switch and armored cable, preferably with a popout ignition switch. Even if you use an aftermarket ignition switch, you need to replace or rewire the ignition wires from the switch to the distributor. The wire inside the armored cable could easily have been shorting out inside the armored cable and causing your igntion problem. (I though you had already done the voltage testing checklist which should have identified this if it was the problem.) 

 

Rewire everything back to original condition. Make sure it is wired according to the original wiring diagram that you should have available. Follow the voltage test checklist in your Model A Mechanic's Handbook. As soon as you have all of the proper voltages everywhere, you should have a running Model A.

Yes, I rewired with a NEW ignition switch and armored cable, and THAT is when I had the flames!  Did not have this problem before.  So, I don't know why the NEW switch and cable caused this.

 

Also, is it possible that something on the distributor is grounding, as the lower plate where the black wire inserts shows voltage, but nowhere else on the distributor does.  I know I did not insert the washer between the screw and the cam under the rotor earlier today, or last week, for that matter.  I will have to look for it as I did not even realize that it was missing until reading about the distributor further.  Will have to wait until tomorrow when I have light.

 

Matt, do you really think once I rewire, this Model A will run?  It just seems like it will NEVER run!

 

After ALL this, now that I look back, it seems like to me, since it was running, and stopped, replacement of one simple part would lead to a running car???  Or, maybe the problem all along was figuring out just what simple part was the problem???

 

Okay, also, my coil got extremely hot during the episode, which leads me to believe the switch was never really off, or maybe this would be so because the wire was not attached?  Do you think it might be fried, or is getting extremely hot okay for this?

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A MAJOR problem here, by the way, is because the car is in HER bay, and she wants it.  I have space rented in a barn, but it needs to be in running condition before I can get it over there.  I told her it would be a minor problem, and it is going on months now.

 

The problem is, of course, that suburban living is NOT ideal for this hobby.  What our house cost, we could get an old house with outbuildings and land, but we are where we are because she wants all brand new.  In order to BUILD NEW what would be ideal, or at least acceptable, would be prohibitively expensive.  There are LOTS of places out there that would work, but the buildings are 100+ years old.  Fine for me, but not her.  Just goes to show you how incredibly expensive the cost of building supplies and labour is these days.

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Make sure you get everything wired correctly and follow the voltage chart in the book and you should get it running. It might be easier to have another local Model A guy to bring his Model A over so you have it there to look at sort of as a visual wiring diagram to use to make sure you have everything wired correctly on yours. You could also take the same voltage reading on that car to compare to yours. That might make it easier for you to follow the voltage troubleshooting charts in the book.

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Wiring is on order from Bratton's, but...thinking about this on this rainy day today...Is it just possible that the wire going from the junction box to the starter and generator was shorting all along, and this was my problem, and my smoke/fire incident just ended up causing what already was wrong to go up in smoke?  By replacing this and other wiring, is there a very good chance the car might just start?  Won't be able to get to it to Friday, in all likelihood.

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I think you're onto something!

That stupid junction box is a PIA.......  :angry:  .......there is barely room in the thing for air much less wires.........and leaving the lever nuts HOT to the juice wasn't too brilliant a move either.......  :wacko:

Edited by cahartley (see edit history)
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When you install the new wiring make certain that the back of the ignition switch posts are clear of the gas tank (ground). Seems that I recall some of the switches that have been produced over the years have a clearance problem - could be a faulty memory but it's not something that you would normally think about.

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Had this very condition with a cheap replacement switch on our first model A. Don't know the brand though, as it has been a few years. A&L sells an inexpensive replacement that works if you don't want to go with a pricier pop out right away. He is very close now...

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Okay, here is where we stand now:

 

I rewired the wire going from the instrument panel to the junction box and coil, the wire going from the junction box to the coil, installed a new coil, and rewired the wire going from the junction box to the starter and generator.  Touched briefly the negative cable to the battery and a little bit of smoke.  Reassessed and it was at the ammeter (which, the first time I opened the instrument panel, wired going to it were wrapped in paper towels and electrical tape).  Bypassed the ammeter and no smoke, no problems whatsoever with wiring.  So I need a new ammeter.  Noted when doing voltage checks that there is voltage to the generator at the end of the cutout wire, so one would think that lights would work, but they don't.  When lights are turned on, voltage at coil, generator, starter, etc. does not register.  Not sure why.  I replaced the points in the distributor previously, and, now, when a piece of paper is placed in the points arm, no voltage.  But it could be me.  I have a Model A mechanic coming tomorrow, and he will place a good distributor on and see what happens.  Also, the starter never had any problems, and, now, it made the whirr after all this for one second, and then now nothing, not even a click.  I removed the starter switch and cleaned that up and still no better.

 

As I have a mechanic coming tomorrow, and REALLY want to get this going, and want to have everything available that I need, obviously need him to bring a new ammeter, maybe points, but what about the starter? 

 

Anything ELSE come to mind?  Trouble with this car, once you get one thing improved, something else becomes a problem.  Now it's the starter.

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Yes, electrically the car now has no problems.  Compression now 25 psi in each cylinder (should be 55), turns over, and fires for 10 sec...then kaput.  Next step is to pull the engine and have it assessed and see what really needs to be done...but this won't happen for awhile.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Vacuum leak is a good guess, but in my humble 56 years experience, most "carburetor problems" are electrical. Condensers are a M.A. problem and when they go bad, it's normally no ignition, in other words: Found On Road Dead. Maybe an atypical condenser failure? Cheap enough to replace. Better yet, a "known" carburetor and distributor transplant would be the next try. If that doesn't do it you need a divorce........................FROM THE CAR!

Hmmm. What's the body style? I can always find another garage space.

Regards,

Hank

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  • 10 months later...

I just got a phone call from Ian. The follow up on this story is as follows. The prior owner had exposed the car to a hard freeze with water in the engine. He had replaced the head and thought that everything else in the car was OK. Apparently this was not the case. The engine block had major internal damage which is what caused the low compression and other symptoms. A local Model A guru is almost finished with rebuilding a different engine block to put in the car. This Model A should be back on the road soon.

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  • 2 weeks later...

I find this thread very interesting. The suggestions are all spot-on and you are getting really good advice. It's worth reading even though I don't have a Model A - the general detective work is great.

 

Can I make a suggestion? Find someone in the Model A club who has a good, running car. Then, swap carbs. Does your car run well with the 'new' carb? Does his A still run well with your carb? You should find some answers very quickly. 

 

If one car runs well then you've isolated the problem.

 

And heaven help you if both cars run poorly. Then you know it's your carb and something else on your car.

 

Let us know what happens

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RansomEli,

 

Swapping carbs was mentioned in post #18 (and probably some others as well). Also, if you look at post # 69, it explains that internal block damage from exposure to a hard freeze was causing the problems in his car.

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There is nothing more important to do when you get a car that you're not familiar with, is to buy all the literature you can and study it.Trying to repair something that you know nothing about will only lead to more trouble. Once the repair is complete, then you do have a better idea of what to do if it fails again. I must say that I had purchased many parts from Bratton's, and although many are made overseas and they have been for years, that Bratton's does try to weed out the poor quality stuff.There used to be a repro pop out switch on the market which was very nice and I never had a problem with it, but now I see that they're no longer available. Just the cable or a replacement, modern style ign. switch! Glad he found the major problem. One has to be careful when buying cars, even "restored" cars as many are just plain junk!

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