RO

Engine shuts down when putting into gear

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On our '57 Hudson with AMC 327 4-BBL, after a continued problem with keeping the car running albeit rebuilt Holley Carburetor, running from a gas can to eliminate any issues with fuel lines or filters, new Power Valve in the carburetor, etc., we decided to eliminate points and condenser and installed a Pertronix III with matching Ignitor Coil (this worked successfully on our '66 Ambassador.). In so doing the original 16 gage coil to distributor wire goes away. The distributor ground wire looks ok. All electricals tested ok. Fired up the car and let it warm up and STILL the car shuts down when placing into gear. We set the idle up pretty high but that may have worsened matters. Verified timing. Vacuum gauge at idle reads 19". Backed off on the idle a little and did manage to get the car in Drive and Reverse but no confidence this will occur next time. Obviously neither points, condenser, or wiring have been the problem. But the Pertronix and coil are on now. I just cannot understand why putting the car in gear shuts it down. We clearly expected the new ignition system to cure the persistent problem. Just cannot understand why placing the car into Drive or Reverse shuts it down. Ideas?

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Does the engine lug and stall when put into gear, or does it die immediately. The former would indicate a problem with the trans (converter or internal problem).  The latter would indicate that there might be a wire or something that shorts out when the shift linkage is moved or the engine torques over.

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Car dies immediately but  I'm certainly open to suggestions relative to this possibly being associated with the transmission. Last October we had a major transmission failure which necessitated a total rebuild of the Hydramatic transmission. We pulled and reinstalled the tranny ourselves but had it rebuilt at a local well known transmission shop where we did have to take it back to try to get the gears lined up with the gearshift indicator. But before the transmission work, other than one time when the car died making a slow left turn, the carburetor was ok. Previously I observed that when I came back down the hill into the drive, it would die unless I quickly shifted into neutral. Replacing the rebuilt carburetor power valve had no effect.

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Other than the idle problem, does the car drive well? Does the engine pull smoothly while under load or at road speed? Can it go up a hill smoothly with good power?

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The one time it did go into gear I only drove it a few hundred feet on level ground. I will not be able to get back to it until next week. But the problem is just to get it to run while in drive.

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It sounds to me like it is most likely an electrical issue caused by physical movement of the shifter most likely a wire somewhere near some linkage. One semi-crazy idea that I would try would be to jack the car up and put it on jack stands with the rear wheels off the ground. I would see what happens when you start it up and shift into gear with the wheels able to freely rotate. The results of that test might point you in the right direction. 

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OK, good idea. Next week we'll try that and report back. Have tried so many things already, great to have a fresh suggestion.

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If, when shifted, the engine dies like the key's been turned off, that could be the problem---all these ATs have a switch or something that prevents starting in gear. I know of one case where that lockout switch---I think on a Toyota?--malfunctioned in exactly that way: cranked up fine, idled, revved, smooth as silk until shifted into gear=immediately died as ignition cut off.

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11 hours ago, Bud Tierney said:

If, when shifted, the engine dies like the key's been turned off, that could be the problem---all these ATs have a switch or something that prevents starting in gear. I know of one case where that lockout switch---I think on a Toyota?--malfunctioned in exactly that way: cranked up fine, idled, revved, smooth as silk until shifted into gear=immediately died as ignition cut off.

 

I can't speak to Toyotas, but the neutral safety switch on every American car ever built has no connection to the ignition whatsoever. The NSS interrupts the STARTER circuit so you cannot engage the starter unless the trans is in Park or Neutral. Once the engine is running, the NSS has no affect whatsoever on the ignition.

 

Back to the OP, let's get back to basics.  Who did the engine swap, how was it wired, and is this a new problem? What is the trans - an AMC trans or something else?

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Guess I need to check this area out more thoroughly. Indeed this car had a vacuum operated starter switch (neutral safety switch) associated with the gearshift lever which one pulls forward to start the car. This device failed in some manner and we rewired around it to the starter solenoid via a push button switch I mounted under the dash. So the car will now start in any gear, so we have to be careful. But that device should be totally disabled now. 

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Yes, I concur about the Neutral Safety Switch electrically connected to the starter. It is now bypassed.

The transmission is a Hydramatic. The concise synopsis is:

We acquired the car in 2014 from an estate of a friend we knew. We took it to a number  of car events until last October when the transmission failed on a return trip home fro a show. We drained the fluid and it looked like Pepto-Bismol. We then pulled the tranny pan and the bottom had a thick layer of black crud. So we pulled the transmission (NOT an easy job on this car because of the unique AMC "Torque Tube Trunnion" associated with the drive train) and took it to a well established transmission shop with a good reputation. Tranny was rebuilt with parts from Fatsco and we reinstalled it. We had a very difficult time getting the gearshift lever on the steering column to match with the actual gears the tranny was in. Never could get all the gears. We would either have Park at the Top or Reverse at the bottom. So we had the car roll backed to the tranny shop who then indicated it was fixed. I did not check for Reverse before trying to drive the car home as I should have. Didn't make it home w/o a trailer because the car would keep shutting down any time I got to a stop and finally no restart. We then did the carburetor work, replacing the power control valve and adjusting idle and air/fuel and choke which seem to be functioning. Problem continued. But we did manage to get it into gear once or twice and that is when we discovered no reverse. So temporarily we just have worked the gear adjustments ourselves so that it will go into Reverse. Having some experience with a problematic '66 Ambassador, we went with Pertronix, but shut down problem continues. I will say that until the transmission went out on us, the carburetor was functioning ok except for one time. 

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There is a very simply test you can run to eliminate the wiring as a potential problem.  Simply run a temporary power wire from +12V to the + terminal on the coil.  Disconnect the other wiring on that terminal.  You may want to put a fuse and an on/off switch in this jumper wire also. This bypasses all other wires, so any intermittent shorts due to engine motion when in gear should be removed from the equation (though be sure to inspect the wires from the distributor to the coil for any breaks or shorts).  Now start the engine and put it in gear.  If it still stalls, the problem is NOT the ignition, but excessive drag in the trans.

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We did that type test on our '66 Ambassador and on that car what would happen is the car would die in Park or Neutral after a few seconds with no restart until a bit of time had expired; then it would do it again. We never did figure exactly what was causing it but installation of a Pertronix and matching coil on that car cured it. After installation, the car was immediately driven over 700 miles w/o incident. 

We did not yet do that test on this '57 (same 327 engine, Hydramatic, Delco) because the Pertronix eliminates the original coil to distributor wire, we verified the ground wire in the distributor, and the two Pertronix wires to each side of the coil are new and we can visually see all these wires. And of course the coil is new. And the firewall- mounted ballast resistor is eliminated since with the Pertronix you must have a minimum of 12 volts at all times for the system to function.

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6 minutes ago, RO said:

We did not yet do that test on this '57 (same 327 engine, Hydramatic, Delco) because the Pertronix eliminates the original coil to distributor wire,

 

That's irrelevant.  The jumper wire I suggested bypasses the power from the ignition switch to the + terminal on the coil. Doesn't matter if you have a Pertronix or not.

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Understand. We will try that next opportunity Tuesday.  Thanks.

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Thanks for the help guys. No success today. I'll get back to it another time. Burned out on it. I had a very difficult time just keeping the car running in neutral today. Then I tried the battery to coil + side and oddly enough the car would not even restart. Most peculiar.

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Do you have a good ground (strap) between the engine and firewall? Possible that dropping it in gear shifts/moves the drive line enough to disturb the ground? If you have +12 V to the coil, the other part is the ground needed by the points? Just my $.02.

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Thanks, when I get back to it again, I'll check that as well as the other suggestions above. Hope to pursue it soon.

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If there is an important vacuum loss, the mixture is too lean and the motor will die when put in drive. You cited that you have 19" of vacuum; it seems that it's a good value and my remark may not be relevant.

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Back with more data.

Today we verified the ground strap.

Even though I was getting an engine vacuum reading at idle of 19" I plugged the vacuum port on the rear of the carburetor that used to serve the now negated "pull gearshift lever forward starter switch."

As suggested above, we pulled off the coil-to-ignition switch wire and ran a jumper wire directly from the battery to the + side of the coil.Got the car started. After a warm-up we placed it  in gear but as before it shut down. However after repeated restarts, I decided to try to make the 2.5 mile drive and did make it including up a steep hill. But every time I slowed down for a stop sign, yield sign, or speed bump, the car shut down on me. Car was fully warmed up after the drive, but as I slowed down to turn into the driveway, again it died and I then just put it in neutral and coasted in. So with this bypass wire connected the entire time, that  shows the ignition switch to coil wire is not the culprit. I will add that we had to do away with the Park position in order to have a Reverse in the gear shift selection as we never could get all the gears to function. A couple of suggestions above have pointed to the rebuilt transmission which we took back to fix it so we would have all gears, but they still didn't get it where we have P at the top and R at the bottom. This is NOT an easy disassembly to pull the tranny again because of the unique AMC torque tube trunnion design that necessitates pulling a lot of stuff off first before the tranny can be pulled.

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