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mrcvs

Any way to see if you have a spark singlehandedly?

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I would LOVE to think that each and every failure to start is due to a dead battery, which can be charged or replaced, or a clogged fuel line, or even no gas.  Simply address any aforementioned issues, move on!  Well, replaced the battery, and checked today the fuel line, runs free and clear.  Next thing is to check spark.  Remove spark and place against engine block and crank, but if I'm in the car depressing the starter, I'm not out front observing a spark jump, or not.

 

While I'm at it, if the key is off, and the positive terminal is ground on my 6 volt battery, I first remove or apply last the negative battery cable and I get a spark.  Why?

 

I have a healthy respect for a charged battery.  Don't ask me how I know.

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Please move to the General Discussion section.  I'm not sure how this ended up in this section.

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Posted (edited)

If you're getting a spark, current is flowing somewhere. Is the ignition on? Headlights? Brake light switch stuck? Even the map light might pull enough current to make a spark. If none of those things, then you have a short somewhere, most likely in the ignition switch or the breaker plate inside the distributor is grounding to the housing (I presume we're talking about your Model A).

 

Suggestions for checking spark:

 

Aim your cell phone camera to take a video of the spark plug in question while you crank.

 

Use plug #1 and lean over far enough with the shop lights off to see a flash through the windshield.

 

Bring a buddy (preferred method)?

 

 

Edited by Matt Harwood (see edit history)

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Yeah bring a buddy is by far and away the preferred method.  Not always so easy!

 

Yes, headlights work well, nice and bright.

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I would use a remote starter switch or just jump the solenoid. On your car (model make and year not stated) it seems to have a mechanical starter foot button. In that case I would look for a way to pry it down from under the hood.

 

The spark indicates a current draw. Is the ignition on? Key on? Lights on? Could be something as simple as the dome light if you left the door open. Does the battery go flat if the car is parked for a week? If not it is probably ok, or maybe you should disconnect the battery when not using the car. There are quick disconnect switches that go on the battery for this.

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I have a tool left over from my days of working on boats so I would guess I bought it as a special tool.

Its an air gap affair and is adjustable (an electronic ign should jump a wider gap)

 

I use it almost daily and its one of those things that I don't know how I ever would get along without.

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2019-05-09 new house 002.JPG

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I have one of these types of tools that I have used many times over the years.

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Posted (edited)

I would also recommend the tool that zephyr mentioned. I have one, but can't remember where I got it. Most auto parts stores have them, I'd guess. Just need to position it on a plug that has its wire visible from inside the car.

Edited by JamesR (see edit history)

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You didn't state what kind of car / truck.

If you are a spark when removing the battery cable with every thing off you have a drain some where.

This could be from a glove compartment light, defective clock, bad radio noise suppressor capacitor    charging system etc. 

Pull fuses one at a time and look for a spark.

 

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56 minutes ago, 28 Chrysler said:

You didn't state what kind of car / truck.

If you are a spark when removing the battery cable with every thing off you have a drain some where.

This could be from a glove compartment light, defective clock, bad radio noise suppressor capacitor    charging system etc. 

Pull fuses one at a time and look for a spark.

 

Ford Model A, 1930.

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This is his Ford Model A which he says will turn over but not start with a new battery installed.

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Yes, that's correct.  Ford Model A.  I am trying to isolate why it won't start.  I have good gas and no issues with flow to carburetor.  I know gas didn't sit the last time it ran as I always run and stop by shutting off fuel line and burning any remaining gas.  I think I need to see if it's spark or not.  Might have a buddy come up this weekend or utilize methods you all suggested.

 

Due to storage issues, might have to get running by the end of the month to move elsewhere.  Easier to move under its own power.

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Look at the generator cut out relay to see if the battery is being drained though it.  If the relay is stuck closed it will kill the battery.

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22 hours ago, mrcvs said:

While I'm at it, if the key is off, and the positive terminal is ground on my 6 volt battery, I first remove or apply last the negative battery cable and I get a spark.  Why?

 

I have a healthy respect for a charged battery.  Don't ask me how I know.

 

Hard to follow what you are doing - you always first remove the ground cable (+ in your case) first and install it last - hope this is just semantics.

 

What was the last thing you replaced on the car and when?

 

Are you using an original popout switch or a replacement?

 

If you do not have spark at the plugs do you have spark at the points?  If you screw the switch cable too far into the distributor you can short out the plate.

 

If you have a replacement switch and cable it could be the button tip on the cable broke - I had that happen one dark winter night out in the boondocks. You can either solder it back on or just buy a new cable. I lucked out in that mine had been soldered once before and with a pair of pliers, a cigarette lighter and luck managed to re-solder it by the side of the road - took over an hour to diagnose and fix and in that time not one car went by.......

 

Good luck

 

.

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Yeah on the healthy respect part I would only add if your 14, working on a 41 plymouth with the batt under the hood, and your testing for spark while your elbow comes into contact with the ground side of the battery, you learn RESPECT really fast!

 

All good advice above mrcvs!

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I always thought you want to be grounded, so I have always removed or attached the negative terminal after the positive ground is applied.

 

The switch is a replacement and is not the pop out part.

 

Not sure if I have a spark or not.  Might have help this weekend, we shall see.

 

Thank you!

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Common error installing one of these is overtightening the cable at the distributor base, it will ground out and can be hard to figure out for a novice model A-er. PM me if that is not clear, if i can help virtually, great.

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If you have an ammeter, watch it when you step in the starter.  If the points are opening and closing the ammeter will flicker from zero to discharge and back as the engine turns.

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quick easy way to  do spark check when alone: remove dist. cap and if a stick shift, rock the car in high gear. if an automatic, pull fan belt tight with one hand, and spin the fan with the other. if you see a spark at the points, you got spark. no tools or helper required.

 

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If you know your way around a muti-meter you can do some voltage checks around the coil and ignition points to ensure battery voltage is at the coil and the points are working correctly.  My usual go to first check is to make sure the points are opening as they should when the distributor lobe hits the rubbing block and also to file and clean the points if the car has been sitting a while.

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4 hours ago, mrcvs said:

I always thought you want to be grounded, so I have always removed or attached the negative terminal after the positive ground is applied.

 

The switch is a replacement and is not the pop out part.

 

Not sure if I have a spark or not.  Might have help this weekend, we shall see.

 

Thank you!

 

If you are removing or attaching the ground cable and your wrench hits ground nothing happens. If you are removing or attaching the power cable and your wrench accidentally hits ground with the ground cable attached you will get a lot of sparks - decent way to weld in an emergency but dangerous. Check out the dozens of articles and youtubes and you will find that every single one recommends disconnecting the ground (negative in the case of modern cars) first and attaching it last....

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Right, Vermont. Always remove the grounded (connected to chassis) cable from the battery first. Always attach the grounded (attached to chassis) cable to the battery last.

 

If Positive ground vehicle, then remove the positive lead first and attach the positive lead last.

 

If Negative ground vehicle, then remove the negative lead first and attach the negative lead last.

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+1 on Frank. Modern computer cars are particularly sensitive to this. Always remove negative (with negative ground) first and reconnect last. Can ignore if use a keep alive device.

 

+2 on Zephyr - I have several of these in both straight and angled.

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Posted (edited)

Did you ever buy a copy of the Model A Ford Mechanics Handbook? I think I recommended that to you a few years ago. The ignition trouble shooting chart in it should help you. Also, on a Model A Ford it is fairly easy to take one of the spark plug connectors off, bend it near the plug and see if the spark will jump from it to the plug. With the car in neutral, you can depress the starter switch with your hand from the driver's side of the engine compartment and see the spark (or lack of spark) easily from there. 

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Edited by MCHinson (see edit history)
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