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Restorer32

1934 Packard 12 question

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Need advice . We have a fully restored '34 12 here that our client bought at auction.  We did not restore the car.  It won Best in Class at Pebble in the 1990's and has been run very very few miles since, only 300.  Engine will not crank over fast enough to start.  We installed a 1000 cranking power battery,  changed cables to 2-0 and ran a ground direct to the starter.  Also had the starter fully rebuilt.  Cranks fine with the plugs out but with plugs in will only turn over very slowly, way too slow to start.  What are we missing?  Any Silverbacks who can help?  We're pulling our hair out.  Almost has to be the starter but that has been fully rebuilt by a very reputable local shop and checked under load and tests out fine.  Anyone have a spare '34 12 starter laying around?

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Benefits of AACA Membership.

Do you think the valves are not opening correctly?  That would keep the compression high and make it difficult to turn the engine over.  With the plugs out the valves would not be an issue.

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If you have a battery disconnect switch in the circuit remove that from the equation and try again.

 

 

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We bypassed the disconnect switch earlier. No change. Looking now at the main battery to starter solenoid cable.  Appears new but theoretically could be corroded internally.

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Supposed to crank at 150 rpm.  Cranks now at maybe 50 rpm or less.

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Posted (edited)

I'm still a guppy, but I'm with Terry -  lots of valves & no exercise could be troubling.

 

On a lesser car some would say jump right to the starter with a 12 volt.

 

New cables & 1 more ground than you think you need is a much safer approach.

 

Even better would be to remove whatever constitutes the valve covers and check the valves for operation.

 

Again, a lesser car would get a little tap-tap on each stubborn valve.

 

 

Good luck!!

Edited by JRHaelig (see edit history)

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I would perform voltage drop test from battery to starter. If you have good circuit how about carbon build up raising compression. If car was run on choke a lot carbon could be issue. 

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Timing? Could it be prematurely firing on the upstroke?  I seem to remember that timing a Packard 12 was involved and needed to be done carefully, according to the late Jim Wells.  Jim brought the merry-go-round band organ that used to entertain us, parked next to the stadium at Hershey in bygone days..
Have you tried holding a cable from the battery direct onto the starter,  bypassing the solenoid?  (protect your eyes and hands).
Are you sure that the starter rebuild was done thoroughly?  You could inspect it to ascertain if the armature checks ok on a growler, or was dragging due to incorrect assembly of the field coils, or a worn bushing that wasn't replaced.
 

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Posted (edited)

I would do a compression check on each hole, wet and dry, with all the plugs out. I would also do a load test on the ground and positive cables while cranking............200-250 amps should be max draw if everything is good.........use  a Fluke, not some electronic snap on trash modern thing that thinks it can figure it out at the micro amp level........

 

I would also bench test the starter OUT of the car and check draw unloaded. Check to see if the nose cone has been broken and welded....a bad weld job will cause the armature to bind under load.......ask me how I know. Took me 70 hours to figure that one out. 

 

Be sure the battery is good....swap it out, modern load testers suck.

 

Unfortunetly I don't have a spare Packard 12 starter.......have one for just about everything else.

 

You also could put the hand crank on the engine and try and see how much drag there is. 

 

If you pull the pan, be sure the pistons are not in backwards.............a guy building V-12 Packard motors around then put a bunch of engines together with the pistons in backwards..........that only took me 15 hours to figure out, then I got to rebuild it again. 

 

 

Edited by edinmass (see edit history)
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A few thoughts and questions.

Just how good or "very reputable" is/was the shop? And was this done recently? Or thirty years ago? MANY "reputable" starter/generator re-builders fail to consider that all wiring, connections, and soldering within the starter, just like the wiring outside the starter, MUST be much heavier-duty for a six volt system than for a twelve volt system. Which brings up another question, is this in fact a six or twelve volt system? Electrical engineering (no degree, but I worked with it all my life!) is quite complicated and difficult to explain. However, the "load characteristics" of a massive twelve cylinder engine could cause a "failure to proceed" for an "under-built" starter whereas the same "under-building" may work fine enough for a typical V8 engine. Without full load testing equipment to determine the exact (for lack of a better term) "failure curve", and the requirements of the specific engine and its current condition, it would be very difficult to determine whether the fault was due to under-building. In short, when the wiring is marginally sized, as the drag/load goes up, the amperage demand goes up (rapidly), and the "electrical resistance" in turn goes up quickly (one side of Ohm's law). As that electrical resistance goes up, in turn, the amperage demand AGAIN goes up even further. It is what is known in engineering circles as the "cliff effect".  One (in effect) runs closer and closer to the edge, and then just drops off the cliff.

 

It is also very possible (previously mentioned by Restorer32) for good looking, and even new, battery cables to have poor or failing connections inside the cable or connectors.

An old but simple trick to find such failures or weak connections. Allow everything to sit for awhile, indoors or shady area. Let everything reach ambient temperatures. Then try running the starter for five to ten seconds, then stop. Quickly run your fingers over ALL connections from the battery all the way to the starter itself. Do be a bit careful. I still have a small scar on one finger from a burn I received doing this a few years ago. Any poor connection will get hotter than it should, and a bad enough connection will usually show up easily this way.

Using this method on both modern cars and antiques over the years, I have located numerous bad connections. Including one where the battery post connection INSIDE the battery had failed (heat traveled from inside to the post itself outside the battery. Had I not found it, and kept trying to run it, the battery would have likely exploded within a few days (failing connection inside sparking within a hydrogen/oxygen rich contained atmosphere). I went looking because it just wasn't sounding quite right when starting the engine. I suspected a failing battery, but the basic voltage tests showed nothing wrong, so I looked closer, glad I did. I did have a battery explode one time (my old work truck), not fun.

I have also found a few cable failures this way. Both inside the cable itself, and/or inside the end connector. Even clean looking connections (inside the cables or anywhere else!) can have microscopic corrosion and fool you. It was one of those that branded my finger.

Even poor grounding can sometimes be found by looking for the hot spots. I once saw a puff of smoke come from a motor mount where three other grounding points had failed completely. If all the original grounding pathways have failed due to age, corrosion, or too much paint? Even a small ground wire added may not be enough to spin the engine properly.

To get really good at this takes some time and experience. Many components and connections will generate some amount of heat even under ideal conditions,. The trick is to get an idea of how much is normal, or how much is too much. However, what you are looking for MIGHT show up quickly in this case.

 

Happy hunting!

 

An engine averaging ten miles a year for thirty years? Could have any number of odd issues that could add to starting problems and excessive drag. Water pumps could be nearly seized. Wrist pins, clutch issues, even the generator could have a frozen bearing inside. Simply removing the fan belt may eliminate a few things. But others? Not so easy to check.

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Try turning the engine over by hand. You may find what is stuck.

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Posted (edited)

Gentlemen, this is a well respected restorer with a very well run shop, what ever the problem is, it’s not going to be battery cables. It’s going to be some obscure or subtle problem.

 

PS- a bad field will cause slow crank under load.......only shorting when high amperage draw.

 

 

If it was an easy fix, they would have found it by now, and another starter is a very reasonable thing to try.

Edited by edinmass (see edit history)
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Posted (edited)
15 minutes ago, Brass is Best said:

Try turning the engine over by hand. You may find what is stuck.


Agree.......that’s why I said try the engine crank. Bet it’s a poorly done engine from back in the day by a Ferrari mechanic who knows everything about Model T Fords. Heard it a hundred times. 2/3 of the engines we do, are do overs from “great shops” that regularly do Massy Ferguson tractors and 1964 Ramblers. Hey, it’s just an old car.

 

The quick test.....did it get a new 4K timing cover when it was done? No? Another job done on the cheap.

Edited by edinmass (see edit history)
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1 minute ago, edinmass said:


Agree.......that’s why I said try the engine crank. Bet it’s a poorly done engine from back in the day by a Ferrari mechanic who knows everything about Model T Fords. Heard it a hundred times. 2/3 of the engines we do, are do overs from “great shops” that regularly do Massy Ferguson tractors and 1964 Ramblers. Hey, it’s just an old car.

 

 

I suspect that you are 100 percent correct. I have seen that many times myself on my end of the country. I do know that Restorer32 is one of the best on your end of the country (which I suspect has a much higher standard of excellence than my end of the country can possibly claim!). I have found a few failures in cabling and/or connectors by feeling for hot spots that some of the best on my end of the country had been looking for. The old trick works, very often very well.

 

I suspect that even if they find an electrical issue, they will likely also have a much more serious mechanical issue to attend to.

 

I have never really gotten into showing cars, or show cars, myself. But I do know several people that do, and even a few that show at Pebble Beach often. It was always enjoyable to be able to hang around and sometimes even get my fingers into the show cars.

 

Someday, I hope to be able to spend a couple days around Monterey during the auto show week! A very good friend runs at the Historic Races most years.

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Wayne.......come on down to Pebble.....we can keep you busy in the lot detailing, cleaning, and general show stuff.........happy to show you around.........we have open spots on chassis cleaning Friday.......pays lunch and a few celebrity meet and greets. We provide all supplies, sun burn, bad coffee, and lots of good humor. Join the team.....you will never forget it.

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Sounds like FUN! All the more I would need would be a place to camp for the night! However, my family situation will have to change drastically before any of that can happen with me.

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1 hour ago, wayne sheldon said:

Sounds like FUN! All the more I would need would be a place to camp for the night! However, my family situation will have to change drastically before any of that can happen with me.


Yup.....big fun laying on a tarp over a dirt parking lot, getting covered in oil, grease, mud......bleeding from all the sharp edges cleaning a frame where no one will ever see it without a scope. Having a sore back and neck along with arm cramps.......all while everyone is busting your ass to work faster and get out of the way.......Pebble cars are ridiculously time consuming so that even if your lucky enough to win, your 8000 hours work buys you ten minutes of glory.........and we go back again and again.........such is the way of competition. 👍👍👍

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It may not have enough miles on it to loosen up a little.  Not really a fan of them but installed an eight volt battery in a freshly rebuilt Marmon that wasn't cranking very fast.  I managed to get a little time on the engine and now it does fine on a six volt battery.

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Remember Packard had the best engineers in the world. Period. It worked fine in 1934 it should work fine today.

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4 hours ago, Brass is Best said:

Remember Packard had the best engineers in the world. Period. It worked fine in 1934 it should work fine today.


 

100 percent correct.

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Pull coil wire to make sure it’s not a timing issue? Once put two starters on a 49 Ford before finding distributor had advanced itself.  I know, I know. Pardon the simple suggestion.

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Starter was totally rebuilt, actually twice.  We even had it align bored.  Tested out fine.  It's looking more and more like the engine is still tight though it was driven on one of the tours at Pebble Beach in 2010,  or so we are told.  When the car arrived here the transporter said it wouldn't start and they had had  to winch it onto the truck.  We assume it drove across the podium at the auction.  We may try starting it on 12 volts so we can run it a bit.  No idea if the timing/water pump cover was changed.  We recently went thru that with a '39 12,  also an auction car.  We are also going to loosen the belts in case the water pump is dragging. Nevertheless, she's a beautiful car. '34 12 Conv Victoria.

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Here is my opinion:  When I see 100 point Pebble Beach car the first thing that crosses my mind is TOO MUCH PAINT.  

 

There are a few people on this forum like ED and they get it as they drive their 100 point Pebble Beach winning cars, but the cars were restored under their watchful eye and restored for driving as well as show.  

 

Think grounding and you need bare metal to metal contact.  You need to grind the paint off at the ground strap connections, you cannot have paint on the face of the bell housing at starter, you cannot have paint on the front plate of the starter, you cannot have paint between the housing and end caps on stater, and ...

 

You also need a battery cut off that you can move some power through - that is a special order item that takes research.

 

You need good spark too - a decent gauge of wire on the coil to distributor wiring and with correct polarity.  And, good coils, and clean cap contacts (and a lot of  Packard 12's barely run on junk caps)

 

Stainless hardware is not the best conductor either - brass is nice for nuts on starters and ...

 

Also, I have had a few starters where the electrical connection stud gets twisted and partially breaks the wire connection. 

 

And just to get everyone going:  I think Packard engineering is generally marginal and a GM car has tons more engineering smarts  - and I also believe Packard designed a good car by bulk of metal in a casting/machining.  Now the flip side of the Packard coin - Packard made some OUTSTANDING brass era cars, the first generation Twin Six is FABULOUS, the second generation Twin Six prototype FWD is fabulous, the second generation Twin Six production cars are FABULOUS, the Twelve is FABULOUS, the 55-56 V-8 is great engineering (but they seem to not breath well), and the torsion bar suspension is fabulous engineering too. 

 

 

 

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Why not just tow it to try starting it, then go from there.   I recall starting a long sitting '37 LaSalle that way in the '50's.  (the ratty old rope we used is not recommended however).  One by one the cylinders started catching as the lifters got pumped up.  After being towed a few miles it was hitting on all 8 and could be started by the battery. 
I understand the '32 Packard 12 has some type of hydraulic device actuating the valves, so it might be worth a try.

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