Voodootrance46s

What am I doing wrong!! 51 special

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Well where to start? I have a 263 straight 8 from a 53 that I can't seem to get running for the life of me. I have the manual for the car and have good luck getting info from this forum. I ran down the checklist over and over and on paper this car should run! Like i said the Buick is a 51 special with the synchromesh trans. The engine was dated to be a 53. I have great compression on all cylinders within spec. Valves are adjusted the best I can (hydraulic lifters). New coil, Starter, New 6 volt battery, rebuilt distributor i.e. new points, cap rotor, plugs and wires. I even had the head rebuilt after finding out that I had low compression due to some  bad valves. The wiring is shot and I had it temporarily wired to try and get it to fire. I followed the correct wiring diagram and is able to turn over using the gas pedal. I'm at a complete loss here and I have to be missing something. I tried the ole 12 volt to the starter trick to help crank it fast enough actually helped but nothing. I can get it to sputter but not catch! Any insight would be much appreciated. Thanks in advance! Added some photos that really help nothing.:blink:

-Harvey

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Building on what Matt said, I recommend opening the distributor cap, rotating the engine to TDC on your balancer timing mark. Then checking to make sure the #1 wire is in the appropriate port on the distributor cap, the one that aligns most closely with the rotor position. Sometimes, with good intention, installers will align the #1 wire with the position shown in the manual, whereas somewhere in the past the distributor was pulled, and put back in, a few teeth off the mark.

 

The next thing to do is to observe the points while still on the TDC position.  Then adjust the engine balancer to whatever your timing mark is supposed to be.   At that location, your points should be open. If not, loosen the distributor base and rotate till they are, and then snug it back down. 

 

Next, check the wires inside the distributor.  If they have never been changed there is a good likelihood that one or more has the insulation peeling off and the wire is touching the metal somewhere inside there.  This is the equivalent of the points never opening.  If they don't open then the spark will not go to any plugs.

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You didn't mention anything about the fuel system. Is the pump working when the starter is spinning the crank? Was the carburetor gone through? How's the gas tank and sending unit look? 

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Check timing and firing order. When the distributer is installed the angle of the gear teeth cause the rotor to advance one cylinder as the dist is seated.....Bob

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  JohnD, there is no timing mark on the balancer.  Timing mark is on the flywheel, viewed through a SMALL window in the fly wheel housing just above the starter.

 

  Everyone is correct on finding top dead center and checking the distributor timing against it. Just make sure it is TDC with both valves closed. When you are sure the timing is correct, dribble a little gas into the top of the carb and try starting.   

 

  Ben

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Distributor could be 180 degrees off.

That looks like a very rare model 46-S, with the divided windshield. Would love to see a few more photos of the car. I think it has the small, one-piece back glass?

Pete Phillips, BCA #7338

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Thanks for all the replies! I will check the insulation on the wire inside the distributor. 

 

Another thing I noticed is that the engine is flooding quite often. I look down the intake and can see a pool of fuel just sitting there. I have gaskets on the intake and exhaust manifold. I hear different suggestions on running those.  The only fuel being added is when I twist the throttle to engage the starter. I'm going to try and record a video to help give a better idea of whats going on.

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2 hours ago, Pete Phillips said:

Distributor could be 180 degrees off.

That looks like a very rare model 46-S, with the divided windshield. Would love to see a few more photos of the car. I think it has the small, one-piece back glass?

Pete Phillips, BCA #7338

 

 Good catch, Pete!  I completely missed that.

 

  Ben

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30 minutes ago, Voodootrance46s said:

Thanks for all the replies! I will check the insulation on the wire inside the distributor. 

 

Another thing I noticed is that the engine is flooding quite often. I look down the intake and can see a pool of fuel just sitting there. I have gaskets on the intake and exhaust manifold. I hear different suggestions on running those.  The only fuel being added is when I twist the throttle to engage the starter. I'm going to try and record a video to help give a better idea of whats going on.

 

  Aha, more info. The flooding may be a problem. May.  I would disconnect the wires at the switch on the carb. Simply touch them together when starting. For testing purposes.

 

   Buick, and others, did not use manifold gaskets. They wanted the exhaust manifold  to be able to slide as it expanded. Whether one needs them or not depends on the trueness of the mating surfaces. 

 

  Do you have a Shop Manual? CHEAPEST tool one can buy.

 

  Ben

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Put half a teaspoon of gas into each cylinder through the spark plug hole and see what it does. Put the air cleaner on and listen for a poof. It is less exciting that the 2 foot flame.

Ponder what it did.

Bernie

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8 hours ago, 60FlatTop said:

Put half a teaspoon of gas into each cylinder through the spark plug hole and see what it does. Put the air cleaner on and listen for a poof. It is less exciting that the 2 foot flame.

Ponder what it did.

Bernie

^^^THIS^^^

the air cleaner is also a flame arrestor

When you're having issue with timing, a flaming back fire should be expected.

You don't need to add an engine fire to your troubles

 

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There may be an issue with the timing marks.   IF the flywheel has EVER been removed for resurfacing during a clutch repair, it may have been installed wrong.  Yes it can happen!

  Check the flywheel by pulling the plug on #1 cyl and turn the engine over slowly til #1 piston it at TDC with both valves closed.   Do the timing marks show on the flywheel?  If not then you may have to 

re-mark the flywheel to match the correct engine timing.

   I believe engines with hyd lifters were only used on DynaFlow cars, but I am not sure.   Someone MAY have been playing with the crankshaft and flywheel.

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If you havn't changed anything like timing since it was last running you are probably flooding it seriously.  With the starter on the accelerator every time you press down to engage the starter you give it a new shot of gas.  The only solution is to hold the gas pedal down and turn the key off and on to engage the starter and then off to let it rest and cool and then on to go again.

In 1960 I has a 53 Buick that had only sat 8 months in a garage in Moose Jaw and it took me two days  and three batteries to get it running.  Finally after I saw that it was flooding I took the plugs out and dried them completely, put them back in and by switching the ignition off and on was able to start the engine in about fifteen minutes.  Once I got it running I left the next day to go back to Winnipeg.  It had never been out of the city limits so had never been driven over 25mph for 7 years.  Took nearly 300 miles before it would reach the speed limit of 70mph.  Once it got decarboned though did it ever run.

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Ok small update seems the compression is way too low on the front cylinders. I'm talking about 30 psi up to 120 for cylinders 7 and 8. Kinda surprised seeing that when I installed the new head I had great compression across the board. Not sure why the change! I know the valves aren't staying open checked it several time. I had a shop do a leak down test and it came down to the piston rings. Can a head gasket give similar results? Kinda at a loss here as I don't have the kind of funds to do a straight 8 rebuild. I'm not really into to losing the straight 8 either. I'm thinking of actually selling the car to someone who can actually do something with it. Thanks again to those that chimed in really appreciate the input.

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Even with low compression on 2 cylinders it should run.  And if it runs check again after a few thousand miles including prolonged highway driving.

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Most of the time, I will offer encouragement to people having a go at car restoration, but car restoration basically requires a combination of 2 things, knowledge and money. The more you have of one, the less you need of the other.

 

I read the entire post and without being able to see/ hear and feel the problem with the car, all anyone can offer is a guess.

 

I see you have had it at a mechanical shop (good idea) and they have told you it has an issue, they have had the advantage of seeing/ hearing and feeling the problem, their diagnosis will be far better than the guessing that can only be offered on the net.

 

I assume they could not get it running either or you didn't ask them to do so?

 

Guessing is an expensive way to fix a car, it is possible to walk someone through an engine diagnosis step by step, but that takes a really long time.

 

Getting back to my first sentence, I am getting the idea that you are inexperienced and not rolling in money, educating yourself on the basics of what an engine needs to run and how to properly test it all will save you money and will cost nothing but time.

 

All forms of diagnosis is a logical step by step process that checks and eliminates causes of a problem and unless you are very familiar with whats going on, you cant skip steps or dismiss them

 

Good luck, but if its all to hard to learn and/or you cant afford to fix it, then best advice is to sell it and buy a car more suitable. A hobby that causes you big problems no longer is a hobby and turns into a burden

 

 

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Can you advise how you went about adjusting the valves?  In the picture you posted the rocker adjustments look to be pretty well turned down.

 

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I say that because it looks like there are a lot of threads visible above the lock nut on the rockers.  Turning the adjusters that tight may be limiting the amount the valves can open, thus reducing the amount of charge in each cylinder, and impeding the ability to run. 

Looking at the hometown Buick site I see the 53 manual only seems to deal with the heads and adjustments for the new V8.  I did not see the section for the straight 8.  So looking at the 52 service manual I see that the recommendation is to run the engine to operating temperature under road driving conditions.  Otherwise you need a wider valve adjustment to begin with.  I assume wider in this instance means there would be less threads visible above the lock nuts, similar to your # 1 cylinder adjustments.

 

 

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48 minutes ago, JohnD1956 said:

Can you advise how you went about adjusting the valves?  In the picture you posted the rocker adjustments look to be pretty well turned down.

 

IMG_20170402_120331725.jpg.074529e90fc3c2cf956028be7223c760.jpg

 

I say that because it looks like there are a lot of threads visible above the lock nut on the rockers.  Turning the adjusters that tight may be limiting the amount the valves can open, thus reducing the amount of charge in each cylinder, and impeding the ability to run. 

Looking at the hometown Buick site I see the 53 manual only seems to deal with the heads and adjustments for the new V8.  I did not see the section for the straight 8.  So looking at the 52 service manual I see that the recommendation is to run the engine to operating temperature under road driving conditions.  Otherwise you need a wider valve adjustment to begin with.  I assume wider in this instance means there would be less threads visible above the lock nuts, similar to your # 1 cylinder adjustments.

 

 

I went off the manual for 51. The issue I was having is that the lifters would collapse. Just to get by I had to take up the slack on some and tighten as necessary . The mechanic at the shop narrowed it down to the pistons  as he did a leak down test, only 7&8 did well.

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Could you expand on what you mean when you say the lifters would collapse?  Adjusting valves on a straight-8 can be a little touchy, and it's easy to get one too tight when you think it's just right.  I'm not saying the mechanics are wrong here, because with cars, anything's possible; but if had more compression before you changed the head, it doesn't make a ton of sense that the pistons or rings are your problem.

Edited by Aaron65 (see edit history)

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1 hour ago, Aaron65 said:

I'm not saying the mechanics are wrong here, because with cars, anything's possible; but if had more compression before you changed the head, it doesn't make a ton of sense that the pistons or rings are your problem.

 

I can't diagnose that further, because I don't see anything that says this car actually ran.  What I mean is, this car obviously was abandoned/junked for 40-50 years outdoors, going by paint appearance.  Why is that important?   If most of the rings are corroded into the aluminum pistons, you certainly can lose compression the more the engine is turned, or run.  If a ring is totally corroded stuck, and as that piston travels to the bottom, the bore gets much tighter due to cylinder taper on worn engines.  The ring cannot move, so as it gets crammed into the tighter part of the bore, it rapidly wears either the cylinder or ring, or both.

 

Seems like this corroded piston and ring issue is common in 50s GM barn-find cars that I've worked on, and also read about on forum "barn finds".   I'm not sure if it is the piston/ring alloys or what, but these years of engines with stuck rings, never do any better by getting them to run, getting them hot many times, and they still will not free up.  The engine will progressively get more difficult to start the more it gets run.

 

To make matters worse:  Say what they will about "6 volts were adequate when designed, so it should still be"....but with no compression and a big engine....it just is not adequate enough to start it.  Worse yet is Buicks having a starter switch that activates with carburetor "floored".  A frozen ring, low compression motor, won't start with carb wide open.  It should be almost closed, and it should be cranked with 12v.  But if the rings are frozen, getting it to run is pointless anyways. ( in my own experiences).  I suppose there is a possibility it might get better with running, and doing heat/cool cycles.  The way to start it, is to tow it.  It would start then, but the only place to dare try this, is NOT on a public road. :)

 

.

9 hours ago, Voodootrance46s said:

The mechanic at the shop narrowed it down to the pistons  as he did a leak down test, only 7&8 did well.

 

 

^ This is the only real piece of "professional, on site info" that we can trust.  If they did the leak down, and said it is ring issue, then it cannot be valves.  They heard the air in the crankcase, not out the carb, or tailpipe.

 

 

 

 

The only way it can be valves or lifters, is "if" that professional shop does not know how to do a leak down test......and I can't believe that.

 

.

 

 

 

 

 

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I have found that long term idle 8 cylinder cars will generally have four low compression readings and four pretty good readings, if the valves are working and no holes are in the pistons.

The last time they were shut off four pistons were around the top of the bore and four were near the bottom. The rings at the top were expanded in the wear area and usually not deep in the ringlands. The lower part of the bore has less wear and the rings will be compressed and likely stuck, creating a lot of blow by.

If a valve on a cyinder is open and the piston is low in the bore condensation can cause rust and scale on the cylinder walls. Sometimes the rings will push all that ahead of then and jam in the cylinder. Sometimes the rust will scrape away leaving the pits to cat oil and make a smoker.

Stuck rings on four cylinders make a car hard to start. If you do start it you will probably have to help it with a shot of ether each morning until you get a couple hundred miles on it and free up the rings. I had a friend who left his car for 3 or 4 year periods and brought it to me to get it going.

I told him he needed to drive it more and let me give the engine a gentle going over. He told me "I don't care what you say. I am not going to let you talk any sense into me."

 

I didn't see what results you had with putting half a teaspoon of gas in through the spark plug holes. Was that idea rejected by the guys who counted get the car running? In the worst case it might have warmed up the intake runners and help the fuel atomize.

 

Bernie

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The redneck in me would coast it down a hill and pop the clutch.   Even if the valves are tight, or the timing is a bit off the beast should try to run enough to help identify the problem.

   In spite of the shops diagnosis, I am betting on mal-adjusted valves.   In your first post you stated that it had hydraulic lifters.    You probably adjusted the valves with some collapsed lifters (a Buick habit) that are now starting to pump up, causing the valves to become tight.   LOOSEN the valves, an engine with loose valves will start easier than one with tight valves. 

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Well for the lifters, basically I can push down on the rocker arm and move it up and down. I removed the distributor right when I installed the head and primed the oil system till the push rod tubes were pushing oil into the lifters. Now that I'm sitting here thinking about it I probably had great compression when I installed the new head is because I added some oil to the cylinders to do my own leak down test. Cleaned the cylinders as best I could to remove the excess oil. Gave great readings initially but once the left over oil was gone then there goes my compression. 

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