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1947 Ford flathead won't stay running


Matt Harwood
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I'm helping a friend whose father just bought a 1947 Ford coupe at an auction somewhere and I'm striking out with the basics. He drove it about 50 miles home and said it ran great, but now it's giving him fits. It's very hard to start, lots of cranking where absolutely nothing happens, not even trying to start. If you keep your foot on the floor, eventually it catches and roars to life. It runs rough for a few seconds, then smooths out and seems fine. Sometimes it'll stall right away and you have to grind and grind again, but we experimented and if you use the hand throttle to set it at a high idle, it'll run great for about 3-4 minutes, then seems to run out of breath. A few stumbles, they get a little heavier, and then it finally stops dead. It might start again, it might not. More grinding away on the starter.

 

It looks to me like the fuel system is in good order. No debris in the sediment bowl on the fuel pump and the fact that it doesn't start instantly when I put a tablespoon of fuel down the carburetor throat suggests to me that it's electrical, not fuel. I was thinking coil, but it's not really getting hot enough in a few minutes to affect the coil--or is it? I was also thinking condenser, but I've never worked on one of these front-mounted distributors before--how hard is it to change?

 

The battery also seems a little weak. Could low battery voltage during cranking be keeping the plugs from firing? I know electronic ignitions have problems, but points and condenser?

 

Any other thoughts? What am I missing? It's a completely stock flathead V8. Thanks!

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I had a similar problem with my 1939 Studebaker. Eventually we found only 2 V at the coil. All the connections are zinc plated brass on steel - lots of galvanic cells. Zinc oxide doesn't conduct well.

 

Are all the low tension (and high tension) connections clean? Earth OK?

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I had a coil on a 1949 Dodge do that and it drove me nuts. The coil would heat up in about 2 minutes of driving and it would stumble and die. 10 minutes later, it would start right up and go another 2 minutes or so and die. The new coil was heating up and shorting out.

Edited by keiser31 (see edit history)
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  • 4 weeks later...

Another possibility for your consideration--because this sounds quite a bit like the recent issues I had with my '53 flathead.  After many recommendations and replacement of the usual suspects, the actual culprit was the short fuel line to the fuel pump.  It was sucking air.  It was a far less inexpensive replacement than all of the other suggestions which involved new fuel pump, carb restoration, coil, etc.  Worth looking at.

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3 hours ago, CCruz said:

Another possibility for your consideration--because this sounds quite a bit like the recent issues I had with my '53 flathead.  After many recommendations and replacement of the usual suspects, the actual culprit was the short fuel line to the fuel pump.  It was sucking air.  It was a far less inexpensive replacement than all of the other suggestions which involved new fuel pump, carb restoration, coil, etc.  Worth looking at.

 

Good idea, that happened on the Imperial once, fortunately I found that before I spent any money.

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