Jump to content

55 Wagon carb vs ignition diagnosis


Recommended Posts

Yesterday, I took my wagon out for a three hour tour. Like the fateful trip Gilligan took, I was stranded. Fortunately for me, I have Hagerty who sent a tow truck. 
In 2013, I drove the wagon across the country, finishing up driving Route 66 as a Great Race support vehicle. The car ran flawlessly until the final day of being out for 6 weeks. After getting it home, I changed almost everything I could think of, finally discovering what appeared to be a matchbox in the gas tank. We shan’t delve into how it got into the tank. 
 

Last week I drove the wagon and it performed well. I had to run the electric pump once after stopping at a traffic light, but it didn’t show any signs of being affected by the heat last week. Yesterday, it was a little hotter (low 90’s) and I drove further but near the end of the drive, I experienced the same symptoms that killed it before. At first it felt like vapor lock until it was full on surging and almost dying going up any incline.  The electric fuel pump couldn’t pass the bubble IF that was the issue. 
The car had been sitting for at least one year (probably more). In the past month, I rebuilt the carb, flushed the fuel lines, replaced a non-operating fuel sender unit which had frozen in the down position. When I swapped that, I didn’t see anything out of the ordinary in the tank (like cardboard). 
When I finally gave up trying to push on with driving, the car felt like it was getting gas....getting  gas...getting gas.  

As an aside, I was excited to find a place yesterday that was selling ethanol-free gas, which I had never seen in Texas so I put about ten gallons in. 
 

My list of things to check:

carb (again)

electric fuel pump

mechanical fuel pump

Fuel lines 

condenser

coil

drain the tank

 

Anybody else have any ideas? 
 

 

BFB712D3-17DE-49F6-B567-2500A3544A14.jpeg

Link to post
Share on other sites

I doubt the fuel is bad.  If anything it is better. I get eth free in town outside Fort Worth.  Cars love it. Basic check list.  If just quit running check for spark and fuel. Will it fire with a quick shot of starter fluid? A splash of gas down the carb?

Link to post
Share on other sites
Posted (edited)

Assuming that you installed the electric fuel pump close to the fuel tank, would guess it is not a fuel issue.

 

In order, my checklist would be:

 

(1) electronic whiz-bang in distributor (if present, replace with points and condenser)

(2) coil

(3) condenser

 

I would try to find a small 12 volt fan, temporarily mount it to blow on the coil, and test.

 

You could also try installing a fuel pressure gauge right at the carburetor, and check it when the car fails. This test would confirm/deny fuel issues.

 

Jon.

Edited by carbking (see edit history)
  • Like 3
  • Thanks 1
Link to post
Share on other sites

Thanks guys.

The car continued running. It never died all the way. I drove on the shoulder until there was no shoulder and there was a welcome Lowe’s parking lot. It still had power at low speeds to limp.

Yes fuel pump is right at tank, maybe six inches above (closest you can mount AFTER an in-line filter).

This occurred after the Great Race running points but I DID install pertronix (which I never removed) right when I got home last time, assuming that the cardboard in the tank had been the issue. I have some points I will reinstall. I haven’t checked anything, filters included yet. Just want to get opinions of other things to check. 

Link to post
Share on other sites

As noted, check ignition first.  Backwards flush the main hard line and replace the flex line before the mechanical fuel pump...may be some crud that acts as a valve to inhibit flow.

This sure sounds like water in the gas, but that should be easy to find ( and not expected from that local high volume station ).

Link to post
Share on other sites

Take the fuel line loose at the carburetor, crank the engine, and have someone verify that you're getting a good, strong flow of gas out of the fuel line. Catch some of the gas in a glass jar. Is it old (brownish or yellowish color)? Does it smell bad? Are there rust particles in it? Years of ethanol use tends to loosen up the rust particles and dirt in the gas tank, clogging up your fuel filters.

  • Like 1
Link to post
Share on other sites

All good suggestions. Will try everything.

One advantage of specializing in one year / one make including years of restoring those same cars means I have parts on hand, but I want to go at this in a smart way and not just start ripping good parts out. 

 

909F2F26-C4F4-4068-9357-BD02602A2A88.jpeg

Link to post
Share on other sites
1 hour ago, buick5563 said:

Thanks guys.

The car continued running. It never died all the way. I drove on the shoulder until there was no shoulder and there was a welcome Lowe’s parking lot. It still had power at low speeds to limp.

Yes fuel pump is right at tank, maybe six inches above (closest you can mount AFTER an in-line filter).

This occurred after the Great Race running points but I DID install pertronix (which I never removed) right when I got home last time, assuming that the cardboard in the tank had been the issue. I have some points I will reinstall. I haven’t checked anything, filters included yet. Just want to get opinions of other things to check. 

 

  I have always been taught the electric pump should { needs to ] be mounted LOWER than the gas tank.  I do not think it is the Pertronix!  They should be go or no go. Nothing in between.  MAYBE coil, but I doubt.

   Suspicious the problem reared it's ugly head after filling with gas.   Agree with checking rubber gas line hoses.  Especially at the new sender. Perhaps drain a bit of gas, if tank has a drain, to check for impurities.

 

  I will buy the donuts if it is ignition, anything but loose or corroded connection.

 

  Ben

 

   

  • Like 1
Link to post
Share on other sites
Posted (edited)

My personal experience would tell me to swap out the condenser with a known good one with symptoms like that. "Known good" does not mean new.

 

Carburetors and ignition systems create similar symptoms when they fail. Lots of automotive diagnostic equipment from the last century is available online at hobby prices. Years ago I picked up a Sears high voltage inductive meter that clamps on secondary ignition wires. If you haven't picked up an oscilloscope that old Sears job will get you almost as close on the old cars, most new cars can't even use it, makes the prices good.

 

I would be surprised if it is not the condenser.

 

Edit: OOps! you have no condenser with the Petronix. Then you need to check the secondary ignition voltage in your diagnostic sequence.

Edited by 60FlatTop (see edit history)
  • Like 2
Link to post
Share on other sites

I’m a fan of the pertronix systems but that being said i did have one go out on me that wasn’t a go no go situation.. this went on for weeks in my 66 f100 middle of summer hot hot here in Albuquerque and I’d always get stuck in bad stop and go on this one spot.. after a few minutes of this the truck would run bad but once i got going it would clear and be perfectly fine until the next time i got stuck there..i tried everything fuel related as i was convinced it was vapor locking on me.. after about a month of this one day I’m stuck there again and it starts acting up again but this times actually dies.. yup no spark bad ignitor.. replaced it with a mallory unilite points eliminator and never a problem again.

  • Like 1
Link to post
Share on other sites

My V12 Jaguar had a tight engine space and the distributor nestled deep between the heads. It had a filtered and restricted fresh air passage through the distributor cap for just a little extra cooling, not really a hard modification. I would consider it if I lived where it was hot or had any suspicions.

Link to post
Share on other sites
15 minutes ago, Ben Bruce aka First Born said:

 

  I have always been taught the electric pump should { needs to ] be mounted LOWER than the gas tank.  I do not think it is the Pertronix!  They should be go or no go. Nothing in between.  MAYBE coil, but I doubt.

   Suspicious the problem reared it's ugly head after filling with gas.   Agree with checking rubber gas line hoses.  Especially at the new sender. Perhaps drain a bit of gas, if tank has a drain, to check for impurities.

 

  I will buy the donuts if it is ignition, anything but loose or corroded connection.

 

  Ben

 

   

It should be mounted lower than the tank, but then it would be sticking out lower than everything else. There’s no part of the frame that is lower than the tank. Also, I have probably installed 20 electric fuel pumps on customer cars over the years, and have never had an issue as long as they were close (within a foot). I have also had very good luck with the Holley brand fuel pump which is also similar (if not the same) as the Mr. Gasket brand. Now the DISADVANTAGE of working on a bazillion mid 50-s Buicks is that I always think I will remember what I did and when I did it, but I have no idea when I did replace that pump. 
I doubt I will look at the car today. Will keep you all posted. 

  • Haha 1
Link to post
Share on other sites

I have vapor lock problems on my  51 Super in Phoenix sitting at long stop lights in 85 degree or higher temps, have a electric pump that I usually just use on start ups (blew a plug out of the float bowl with too much pressure). I installed a 12 volt 4” blower made for exhausting the engine compartment on a inboard boat with a flexible metal hose pointing at the front of the carb. If I get stuck at a long light I flip the switch to blow air over the carb and this has worked so far. Yes, I am using ethanol gas with lead additives and some Marvel Mystery oil also.

  • Like 2
Link to post
Share on other sites

Dennis, you are one of the only people on this forum who probably regularly have hotter temps than here. My Aussie mates are in the running, as well.

Link to post
Share on other sites

Temps are over 100 now so just driving in the am and evening. Heading for Minnesota soon so 51 can rest and I will my drive my 56 Special and 56 Century there in cooler temps.

Link to post
Share on other sites

It appears you have repaired, replaced, cleaned and rebuilt everything fuel related.  Return your ignition back to points and related components.  Check the vacuum advance holds vacuum and the plate in the distributor moves. 

  • Like 1
Link to post
Share on other sites

Mike, 

 

Had the same problem with my 57. All of the sudden, started to have issues and seemed like fuel problem. I did everything you did, and finally took out the Petronix ignition that I put in, and put points / condenser in, and re-timed it. Runs like a champ. I did some research and the Petronix does have some issues, especially with heat. That was my experience. Try that and see if it doesn't help. 

 

Jim

  • Like 1
  • Thanks 1
Link to post
Share on other sites
Posted (edited)

I am not a fan of Pertronix - have replaced them for friends and resolved multiple intermittent issues - points can be cleaned and reset, even on the road.

That being said, having the electric fuel pump near the tank is good, but having it as low as reasonable is better, even if not quite as close - but surely not higher than the gas tank.

I suggest an alternative to the cheaper "PULSE" type electric pump -

Look into the rotary vane type pump - it is a bit more expensive, but is far more efficient and effective, will outlast the cheapie, and comes from a better manufacturer-

As me how I know ...

 

Here is a Carter 12 Volt: https://www.amazon.com/Carter-P4070-Line-Electric-Fuel/dp/B000CIQ5DG

 

And Here is the 6 Volt: https://www.amazon.com/Carter-P4259-Line-Electric-Fuel/dp/B000CIS4IU

Edited by Marty Roth (see edit history)
Link to post
Share on other sites
13 hours ago, Marty Roth said:

Will the mechanical pump pull through this one when it is off?

I use the Carter P90091 as a stand-alone or looped around with a check valve if using the mechanical pump; no failures in 5 years unlike the Airtex pumps.  Also  the pigtail wires on all these pumps is 14 gauge and you will get a 2 volt drop if the wire from front to back is 14 gauge;  I use 10 or 12 gauge.

 

  • Thanks 1
Link to post
Share on other sites

You will need a bypass and a check valve with the Carter pump. The Airtex pumps are draw-through, but the Carter is not. I agree with Marty that the Carter is a superior pump. It's louder (which can be a plus) and needs a bypass, but it'll last for years and years.

 

Here's how I set up my 1935 Lincoln K fuel pump (arrow points to the check valve). I'll be doing a similar setup on my '41 Buick, maybe as soon as this weekend.

 

Fuel3.thumb.jpg.f7611528371e9c854b5ebf5bfe592161.jpg  Fuel6.thumb.jpg.aaa45e2f5a39216c0554dc5a6d1a4e8c.jpg

 

 

Here's a similar setup that was already installed on a later car. Not as pretty, but functional enough:

 

20200221_125603.thumb.jpg.0d40a628c24d8ba72b078749e6bf205c.jpg

 

PM me if you want part numbers and suppliers for any of the stuff.

 

 

  • Like 1
Link to post
Share on other sites

Knocking on wood.  I never had a need for an electric pump.   Mike has an electric pump from the looks of it.    I like the set up Matt is running. 

Link to post
Share on other sites

What part# and manufacturer is the check your using on your set up?  The lower looks like a simple swing check I install on water heaters which I would not think is optimal for a vehicle do to the start stop motion on the swing part. I am thinking yours is a spring check and curious to where you found one rated at such a low PSI

Link to post
Share on other sites

I ordered a smaller Carter. I had the one Matt shows and it was way too loud. It worked fantastically without my factory mechanical pump when I wasn’t running one in another application, but I decided to go back to the quieter electric pump. 

I also got a couple NOS loaded breaker plates, caps and rotors. 
Drum roll please.... 

 

Wait, drum rolls are my job.
 

Combo of ignition and mechanical pump. The rotor was starting to chew itself up like I have seen before on Pertronix cars. This also shredded a new distributor cap. The mechanical pump was letting go and seeping into the engine. I got a rebuilt Mech pump from Willie yesterday so will install that. Carb was fine. Tank and lines also clean and fine. Rebuild a distributor tomorrow with fresh NOS parts and then have a nice day. 
Oh yeah. I will check and see if the car runs ok with these repairs before ditching that sweet, sweet ethanol free gas.

Gracias amigos!

Dump that fugging electronic POS if you are running it. Smashing video will be posted separately. 

8A1A7792-40B9-4D62-92C2-0502AAB1D355.jpeg

5AAA00CE-505B-4C4C-9DB8-526E2AB0B214.jpeg

3FFA16FD-5FE9-4059-8EE4-94D329C8338E.jpeg

  • Thanks 1
Link to post
Share on other sites

Oh, and you know it wasn’t the carb after rebuilding it with one of those fancy kits from Eldon, Mo!

  • Haha 1
Link to post
Share on other sites
37 minutes ago, buick5563 said:

5AAA00CE-505B-4C4C-9DB8-526E2AB0B214.jpeg

 

Yep, arcing on the carbon rod, which would soon pop out or catch fire!  It is already scattering spark around inside the distributor firing all but the correct cylinder.  All of you hard-headed dudes running pertronix in the early nailhead distributor, please check the rotor frequently!...or get rid of pertronix

  • Like 1
Link to post
Share on other sites
3 minutes ago, 1956322 said:

I’m super hard headed I’m running a msd distributor and box..gasps heard around the room lol

Yours has a different rotor and will work much better.

  • Like 1
Link to post
Share on other sites

The Pertronix HAS worked for some people. I ran one of the first gen versions for a long time. I can’t explain why they appear to live shorter lives now. Maybe the gas is worse (it is). Maybe the summer is hotter and longer (it is for me). I’m not going to try and change anybody’s mind. BUT this is the second violent failure in the second car I have used one in. It sure seems like a good idea. Points are a straight up pain in the butt to install and even more so as you get older and have to hunch over the fender. 
Damn, that’s the first time I have admitted on the internet that I feel old sometimes. 
 

  • Like 1
Link to post
Share on other sites
1 minute ago, Ben Bruce aka First Born said:

 

 Doesn't the spark strength derive from the coil?

 

  Ben

This park is hotter because the ballast resistor is bypassed if you don't bypass it and it runs like crap.

  • Like 2
Link to post
Share on other sites

I have had pertronix now in the 49 for quite some time.  Haven't even looked at since i installed it. Runs fine with a hair miss once and a while put I can't focus on the timing light or mark so most likely just timing off a hair

  • Thanks 1
Link to post
Share on other sites
20 minutes ago, Brooklyn Beer said:

I have had pertronix now in the 49 for quite some time.  Haven't even looked at since i installed it. Runs fine with a hair miss once and a while put I can't focus on the timing light or mark so most likely just timing off a hair

The early nailhead has a distributor with a unique rotor which gives problems with pertronix...other models are probably unaffected.

  • Like 2
  • Thanks 1
Link to post
Share on other sites

UPDATE:

This is a weird development. I was trying to fit the new cap and rotor and they wouldn’t turn. I wonder if the newer caps are “universal fit” because the nub is bigger than the distributor notch. I widened the notch, and then the rotor would stop spinning. This happened on all three distributors I have with the new rotors I have. It didn’t happen with older used Delco rotors. 
I will wait for the NOS parts I have on order. 
I wonder if the rotor expanded in the heat and was grinding against the cap.

I took video of it but I guess the file size is too big. I will text or email to anybody who wants to see or help me post it. 

 

Link to post
Share on other sites
Posted (edited)
2 hours ago, buick5563 said:

UPDATE:

This is a weird development. I was trying to fit the new cap and rotor and they wouldn’t turn. I wonder if the newer caps are “universal fit” because the nub is bigger than the distributor notch. I widened the notch, and then the rotor would stop spinning. This happened on all three distributors I have with the new rotors I have. It didn’t happen with older used Delco rotors. 
I will wait for the NOS parts I have on order. 
I wonder if the rotor expanded in the heat and was grinding against the cap.

I took video of it but I guess the file size is too big. I will text or email to anybody who wants to see or help me post it. 

 

 

I would say the parts you received are incorrect.  Wait on the NOS parts. 

 

EDIT:  If I remember correctly I had a cap and rotor that simply did not work on my 54.  The rotor broke on the first start.  It stuck the inside of the cap.  

Edited by avgwarhawk (see edit history)
  • Like 1
Link to post
Share on other sites

Your cap is not seated on the distributor and is cocked, not allowing the rotor to turn.  All of the replacement caps fit too tightly if at all.  On top of that the replacement rotors made in Mexico fit too loosely.  Take an old cap and it pops right on and may even rattle a little and the latches work easily (another thing on the replacements that it takes a gorilla to snap).  Take the coil wire out and try tapping with a mallet while in a vise to see where you need to be after it is installed and the cap fitted again.  I have broken caps with that maneuver.  Now if I have to use one of those caps, I chamfer the edge of the cap and apply some silicon grease there and it seems to behave (except that the latches are still hard to get snapped).   If you have an old cap and it passes inspection use it.

  • Like 2
Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
×
×
  • Create New...