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Help start my car.


fordmerc
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My car  won't start. While trying,  I flood it. I have barked up several trees. I thought I caught the critters in them, but I still can't start it.

The car ran relatively well until day "X". After that, It won't start. While trying, it becomes flooded.

(Relatively well means that it ran great until it became warm, than it would miss when going up hills, etc.. That phenomenon has been for the past 200 miles.)

Here is what I have done:

1. Fuel pump pressure 3.5 max. (Within specs)

2. Carburetor inspected by 2 experienced guys; then, I had it rebuilt by an "expert".

3. Spark happens from the wire to plug #1

4. Timing has been played with, but no drastic change from when the car was running well.

5. The pressure cycle in cylinder #1 shows peak pressure at the TDC mark  when I turn the engine over. (Of course I can't be sure if it is combustion or exhaust cycle, but..... the car ran well until relatively sudden failure.)

6. I have tried 2 different distributor caps (one new , the other old - no effect). Points are new and gap is within specs

7. The engine was rebuilt approx 2000 miles ago..

8. Plugs were new  at rebuild and look and measure OK now.

I think that covers my barks.

 

Any suggestions will help relieve my frustration. I'm out of ideas.

I considered a mispositioned distributor, but if the car ran well , why would it suddenly change?

 

The car is my '41 120 Packard

Edited by fordmerc (see edit history)
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Also how is the wiring going to the coil.

Do you get a good 6/12 volts at the input side of the coil all of the time? 

 

My first thought would be have you checked / replaced the coil with a new one? 

I would replace it with a new one.  About $20.00 at most auto parts stores.

I would also replace the condenser if you have not changed it to a new one

 

 

 

.

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Thanks. Here is my defense:

Voltage at coil is over 6V (approx 6.7)

I tried two "new" and 1 old coil; no effect

Wiring is all new.

Plugs spark

Condenser and points were replaced.

Please continue to shoot potential issues/fixes at me, since I'm out of ideas and my gut tells me I am missing something simple.

Edited by fordmerc (see edit history)
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Guest newbymachineworks

Just because plugs spark in open atmosphere, doesn't mean they are under compression. I would try fresh plugs, if you haven't already.

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I second the spark plugs.   I have had plugs DIE from having the car flood once.  My boss disagreed with my diagnosis but let me put new plugs in the car.  It started right up.  He cleaned the the old (driven on for 30 min)  plugs and put them back in....nothing.  Put new plugs back in and it ran.

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i will have to order new plugs, but I will blast the current ones tomorrow as a test while waiting.

I checked the tailpipe - no potatoes.

I did confirm that the wires to the coil seem to be hooked up properly.

the mice are a threat, but I can't see any wires that look like any critter's lunch.

The timing gear movement is a threat! How can I check that? This a car that has run marvelously well until recently. If the distributor rotor points to plug #1 when the cylinder is at max pressure I would interpret that to say that timing is OK - or is one revolution out of sync ...? ? ...? .. which seems highly unlikely.

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I agree with newby.

I had a flathead Studebaker in the shop many years ago for a tune up and absolutely WOULD NOT RUN on Champion spark plugs.

Fired fine laying on the head.

 

(good one Dale) LOL

As long as we are having fun is what I always say.

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Check the carbon button inside the distributor cap for condition or even presence. I recently dragged home a very unrestored '32 Pierce 8 which would start only with great difficulty.  It had a 1937-50 Cadillac dist cap (which will work, BTW), but the carbon button providing contact from coil to rotor was gone--the spark was jumping to the rotor from the metal insert around where the carbon button should have been.

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I'm not comfortable with sandblasting fouled spark plugs, as it is possible for sand to get lodged in between the porcelain insulator and the steel body, and work it's way out as the engine runs. I usually just spray the electrodes down with carb cleaner, and again with starting ether, which dries quickly.

Edited by Larry W (see edit history)
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How old is the fuel?

 

Some will disagree, but if it were mine, I would:

 

(A) set the points with a dwell meter

(Bee) set the timing

(Cee) glass bead the plugs

(D) wash the plugs in hot water to remove any residual beads

(E) get a helper

(F) remove the air cleaner

(G) open the choke butterfly about half way

(H) WHILE the helper is cranking the engine, squirt starting fluid down the carb for about 1/2 of one second

 

Jon.

Edited by carbking (see edit history)
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One can play the game of 10,000 guesses, or one can take the time to properly diagnose the car . You need three things to make it run compression, fuel and spark. If it only has 2000 miles on a rebuilt engine and you recently drove it two hundred miles things can't be that bad. Remember the old saying 95% of all carburetor problems are caused by the ignition system! Take your time and sort out each of the three requirements, it will start.

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Here is what I have done  in response to suggestions:

1. I did blast the plugs (for better or for worse) and spent some time with each blowing them out, tapping to dislodge  , etc.

2. Because plugs are not stocked locally, I have to order new ones

3. I have tried 2 distributor caps and rotors - both worked in the past, but one was worn and it was replaced  on principle. "sparking" is same with both

4. Timing is as close as I can get  without the car running. I think it should sputter a bit even if I was off . Since I do not own a dwell meter I have not set points by that standard.

5. I have had the air cleaner off, and have opened all butterflies. NO start with starter fluid. (I did have to dry out the manifold  first because of flooding - I did check to ascertain that plugs were dry.)

6. I have replayed the mantra of fuel, spark and compression over and over; I have too much fuel, I have spark, but……I measured compression in all cylinders: all are in the range of 80-85 PSI except #2 which is 30! -That is annoying in a recently rebuilt engine.

So, I think the compression is OK in 7 of 8 cylinders, and thus I have a hard time accepting  that one cylinder as the cause of all my ills. ??

I think I still need some more ideas and of course any comment on that low-pressure cylinder.

Edited by fordmerc (see edit history)
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When I troubleshoot anything, whether it be automotive related or not, I look for anything that is not perfect, and don't dismiss what I find by too easily saying "aw, that couldn't be it". You don't say what kind of car you're working on, but if it's a flathead, that low compression cylinder could be an intake valve stuck open, wreaking havoc with engine vacuum and causing a flooding condition. I'd investigate that nearly "dead lung", before going any further. Find whatever isn't perfect and make it so. Larry W

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I agree with Larry W in that you want to investigate and fix the low compression problem in that cylinder.  But that in no way is going to make an engine in otherwise a good state of tune from starting prompty.   I've seen MANY and 6 and 8 cylinder car with a completely dead cylinder (0 compression) start promptly.

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I had a 1952 Buick 8 that would start fine cold but hot would not start until colded off an the problem was the dist. was 180 degrees out of phase. When that was corrected all was ok.

 

I  don't think that is possible.

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I fully accept Larry W's advice not to dismiss any possibility. I'm just trying to  get the simple diagnostics and fixes done  first since some  suggestions are a lot of work for me and may be beyond my abilities. I certainly will rectify any problem that I find as I go. I did consider the "180- degrees out" hypothesis, but  I thought that if the rotor lines up with the #1cylinder contact when the timing mark is at TDC, they were aligned properly.

The low pressure cylinder problem makes me worry that I created it  while trying to start the engine. (Previously the car occasionally missed, but not consistently and the spark plug from that cylinder  was not fouled.)

I failed to note the the fuel is 6 weeks old; I had mentioned that the car is a '41 Packard.

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I did consider the "180- degrees out" hypothesis, but  I thought that if the rotor lines up with the #1 cylinder contact when the timing mark is at TDC, they were aligned properly. 

 

This is not necessary true. Remember the crank goes around twice for each revolution of the camshaft.   You probably timed the engine with #1 on TDC on the exhaust stroke, not the intake stroke.  Remember  the timing mark will come around to  TDC  on the exhaust stroke,  and the intake stroke.  This be the case the engine will not start . If it does fire it will be a backfire thru the carb.  

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Check the insulation for the point/condenser bolt that passes through he side of the distributor.  Make sure the rubber or bakelite insulation block is clean and there is no chance it is shorting to the distributor.  consider trying a third new condenser.  If you are using a NOS one, they can 'sort-of' work, show a spark at the plugs but the engine won't start. 

This is an odd one, but put a jumper wire on the distributor body, and then to the body, or the engine block to assure a perfect ground for the distributor.  Check that the condenser is tight, making a good ground to the point plate in the distributor.  Look VERY closely at the rotor, and cap. use a magnifying glass.  I've had a rotor develop an internal carbon track, it was found by looking in the recess where it sits on the distributor shaft.. just a tiny black spot that should not be there.  

 

Make sure your distributor cam has some lubrication on it. if it was or is dry, make sure the points have some gap, to have it exact at this time is not crucial, but the points must be opening at least .016-.020".  And make sure there is no oil or a finger print on the points' surface.

 

I've had terrible luck with 'C' spark plugs.  If they get flooded once, they often are then junk, good for lining trash cans. I do not know why, other than the porcelain in the insulator seems to get a coating that shorts the plug.  I know many people have no problems with them.. but try a previous 'used' set of plugs.  Just sandblasting won't remove the 'plastic-like' coating that gets on the plugs when they are flooded.  

 

Look at the chronology of when the car would not start.   Did you just buy a fresh tank of fuel?  Did you do ANY carb, fuel pump, distributor work or make adjustments ?   It cannot be driven into the garage and go out of time or become 180* off when it's sitting there.  Just think back on when it ran last and then later when it would not start.  

 

Why did it flood?  Operator error [ too much choke too long] ? That's what I sometimes do, I forget the particular way a car likes to be started. Then I flood it..  

 

I've also found water in the float bowl of a carburetor, just a coincidence that it was running ok, when parked but would not start or run properly, and it  needed the float bowl cleaned out, and the fuel tank sump drained.. Have you looked at or changed the fuel filter??  I know it's flooding, but maybe if you have a hidden see-through filter it might offer some clue, like a bunch of rust? or water ?  

 

When you do find the culprit please post it here, so we all can learn from your experience here. 

 

I hope you get your 120 on the road again soon.

GLong

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 It cannot be driven into the garage and go out of time or become 180* off when it's sitting there.

 

  This is very true, I thought he had the distributor out for service.  

 

It has enough compression, It has fuel, it has to be spark.

I had a problem like this years ago, where a wire inside of the distributor had chafed and grounded on the distributor body.

Is it possible that the starter could be internally shorted and draw an excess of current, resulting in a very weak spark?

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I expect new plugs next week (not stocked locally). That sounds like a potential solution (I hope)

I will go through the list from GLong.

The "starting technique" issue isn't one I considered,but it makes eminent sense. I'll try some variations if and when I get it going.

I'll report after going through the lists again.

Thanks for all the thoughts (and any more that can be offered). This is driving me nuts since I thought I had a really good and reliable car that was enjoyable to drive regularly.

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I know you said you had the carb rebuilt by an expert but I have a thought. If there is a problem with the float or needle/seat assembly it would cause the flooding. If you seemed to have lack of fuel I would say to check the power piston (some call it an accelerator pump) on the carb. I had a '57 Chevy that had me in fits for a couple of months until I replaced the power piston. The car would run really well and once in a while would die on me. It would sometimes restart quickly. Other times it took a while. Over time the problem got continually worse. I changed all ignition parts. I changed the fuel pump. I adjusted and rechecked timing again & again. Finally my dad said to just get a carb rebuild kit and change out  just the power piston. Problem solved! those ten cent parts can sure cause lots of problems.

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I have not been able to start the car.

new plugs did not love the problem.

I am focusing on the spark part of the equation since compression is OK, and there is no lack of fuel.

I must admit that I have run out of real novel ideas, since any measurement I make seems within specs. I have tried 3 coils, all of which test "OK". I have had only 2 condensers, but two distributor caps and rotors. Spark has always "looked OK".

So, the car sits in the garage, and I stare at it periodically, fiddle a bit and then walk away . Because of the gremlins in the garage which seem to be the plague, I made a search for American Motors parts hiding somewhere,but found none. The next steps are to take antidepressants!

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Guest Barneys_Bud

OK by the numbers.

You have got compression so you can check that off.

You say you have plenty of fuel so we can mark that off.

 

So let's concentrate on the spark.

   Remove a plug and connect to to the spark plug wire.  Clamp that plug to a ground so you can see the gap.  Does it generate a spark that you can see when you crank the engine over?

 

If no then you need to look at your ignition module or points / condenser or your coil.

Make sure that you are getting power to the ignition system (bad ignition switch or blown fuse or fuseable link).

 

If you so have a spark  then it is probably time to begin again and look elsewhere.  

 

I have a spark plug that I have welded a metal tap onto.  I clamp it to ground some where where I can see it.  You can buy a similar item at the parts store.  It is quick and dirty but that is how we roll.

 

Hope this helps.

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I'm not sure what your ignition system setup looks like. I had a 66 Dodge that would crank and kick to start then it would just stall out. I made all the checks. Went through compression, fuel, spark. The car showed spark when cranking so I was a little lost. Turns out the system cranks at 12V through the ignition switch "start" position. Then when in the "run" position it goes through a ballast resistor to run on ^V. (I'm told this saves the points from arcing very quickly). Does your car crank and give a kick or does it just crank continually because of the starter? I think it's most likely something in the ignition circuit or the ignition switch.

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Just to let you all know: I am frustrated! No start!

In response to fordrodsteven: the car will fire once or twice if I have removed all "flood gas" from the manifold. That is at the beginning of my attempt to start it; then nothing  (except subsequent flooding). Holding the accelerator pedal to the floor does not help.

I disconnected the line from the fuel pump to the carb,m without benefit.

I  disconnected every wire I could find  in order to isolate the R9 overdrive electrics from the car.  That did not help.

So.....

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Where are you located? My guess is a stuck float in the carb causing flooding, possibly exacerbated by timing that is just a bit off. The 120 is a simple motor. If you have sufficient fuel, compression and spark at the right time it has to run, it has no choice. Changing plugs will make no difference.

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If you were closer, I would come over just for the challenge.

 

By chance do you have an oscilloscope or a friend that has one for doing ignition work? If you do this would help you determine if the distributor is firing.

Yea, so would I. At one time we had 3 120 Packards in the family. We're in the same state but at almost  opposite corners.

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If you were closer, I would come over just for the challenge.

 

By chance do you have an oscilloscope or a friend that has one for doing ignition work? If you do this would help you determine if the distributor is firing.

Having an oscilloscope and knowing how to use it is a completely different mater.   They look like rocket science to me.

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