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1923 54 Engine Locked - Stuck Starter?


cpf240
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Hello,

 

I’m trying to start my father-in-law’s 1923 Buick, which I believe is a model 54 with a 6 cylinder engine. He had restored it several years ago, but it hasn’t been started in at least 2 years after his passing. 
 

When I pressed the starter pedal, there was a brief grunt from the starter and nothing else. The starter stuck engaged, and it was a scramble to get the smoking ground cable disconnected from the battery. 
 

I tried the hand crank, but it won’t budge. My thought is that whatever engages between the starter and flywheel is stuck. The starter pedal linkage seems to move freely, and now it appears that the rod that moves the brushes is out of the starter position. No sparks if I touch the ground strap to the battery. 
 

Any insight on how this system works, and how to resolve it?

 

And yes, it is in neutral, and the clutch was depressed when attempting to operate the starter. 
 

Thank you!

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cpf:

If the Starter/Generator is not "Motoring" when the switch is turned on then it is very easy to get the sliding gear jammed/stuck.  The photos show where the sliding gear lives in the trunnion area.

DSCF8001.thumb.JPG.9950a6bffd6c2b58a1b54c153e970be2.JPG   

Small gear engages the flywheel. The large gear engages the starter pinion gear.

 The gears in my 1925 master 6 were pretty chewed up as the adjustment was off at where the fork moves the sliding gear. The starter brush pin would be brought out before the gears engaged. This applied full starting torque  

DSCF8004.thumb.JPG.490baf94715a0a9637f2a00af28ebb1c.JPG

 A much better gear set from a 1923 unit that I had.

Spring tension on the pedal shaft is what removes the gear from mesh when you take your foot from the pedal. That should pull the gear back in the idle position. (See the top photo.) If the gear is back against the trunnion case then something else has things locked up. 

DSCF8030.thumb.JPG.51a033c9986ad9ae2d22c9ea0a20a9c1.JPG

Edited by dibarlaw
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Jfranklin:  I did not try the hand crank before trying the starter. The starter was turning it over last November, though I didn’t get it to start then. 
 

dibarlaw : Thanks for those pictures and explanation!  
 

When you talk about it motoring, how/when should it do that? I’m familiar with that term as it applies to a Model A generator, but didn’t know these will do that too. 

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cpf:

Motoring is when you first turn on your ignition switch. The starter motor begins turning slowly to be able to align the sliding gear to the flywheel when you depress the starter pedal. You should be able to hear a muffled chattering sound.

 The gear has an overrunning clutch inside. Once the engine starts it allows the gear disengagement without the flywheel now driving the Starter/Generator.

 

Edited by dibarlaw
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Two screws and you can remove the lid of the box that holds the starter gear. Shine the flashlight in and see if the gear is engaged with the flywheel on one end and the starter on the other. That will answer your question. 

 

The starter motor doesn't move like on a modern car with a solonoid and bendix. It stays put.

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Dibarlaw: Thank you for the motoring explanation. That makes sense, and I’ll have to see if it does that. 
 

Morgan: Thank you for that video! To get in to see those gears, are there other things that need to be removed? Other than carpet and floorboards of course. 
 

Is it common for the starter to stay engaged, electrically I mean, when this happens? It got pretty warm and the ground strap was smoking. Somehow the brushes moved after fiddling with it, but I didn’t see it happen. 
 

I’m thinking it needs some lubrication, but am not clear on what to put where. The cover on the rear of the starter is off. 
 

Thank you!

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cpf,  It doesn,t  take much to lock these engines up, such as a stuck water pump.  This could have  caused  the starter gear to jamb.  The starter gears should disengage as soon as you take your foot off the starter pedal.  When you take your foot off the starter pedal, the gears disengage with the flywheel and starter motor,  and the starter brushes disconnect from there commutator.  If something was smoking, it means the brushes were not disengaging.  At the same time the generater brushes reconnect  with there commutator.  Firstly check that the starter gears are not jambed. You can see these from Dibarlaws photo,s and Morgans video.  Then check that the engine is turning using the hand crank. ( remove the spark plugs to make it easier ).   If it is not turning using the hand crank,  don,t try and force it as you could damage the fibre camshaft gear. In which case you need to find out what is preventing the engine turning.  

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Since you are new to early Buicks, attached is some information to digest on these.  

I agree with Rod as the first thing you need to answer is if the engine rotates, then we will move to other areas.

1) Determine that the engine will turn over.  Ignition off.  In neutral, use the hand crank.  Remove the spark plugs to make it easier to crank.  Bump it gently at first.  Watch the water pump shaft for rotation if the engine does turn.  1923 is still a steel camshaft gear which helps, but I would not force it.   It should turn over fairly easily with no plugs in it.  Do not force it.  It is likely the water pump if it will not turn.   

 

2) It does sound like you should remove the inspection plate on the starter gears.  It seems lubrication is in order that the gears should engage and disengage easily.  Again - key off, Like shifting the transmission, a few gentle taps on the starter pedal and the gears should line up and the pedal should go all the way forward.  Once the line up occurs. You should be able to push the starter pedal in multiple times, and it should spring back out.  If it does not, it may require some oil on the lubrication points, and perhaps removal for cleaning.

 

3) motoring - If you turn the ignition switch to "on", not touching the starter pedal, do you hear the generator spinning?  

 

What is the status of these 3 items?    Thank you     Hugh

 

 

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Brian: Thank you for the suggestions. I know that my father-in-law rebuilt this car from the ground up, and that would have included a full tear down of the starter.
 

Rod & Hubert: This car was running prior to 2016, when he passed away. While it has always been stored in a garage, it hasn’t had much care in the last few years. 
 

Last thanksgiving I tried to start 3 of his cars. The T started easily. The ‘27 Buick run briefly, as I missed the fuel valve on the glass bowl. Couldn’t get it restarted after that. The ‘23 Buick turned over, but never fired. 
 

Last week the T was easy, the ‘27 started and ran perfectly, though I feel the carb heat cable is hanging up. I was surprised it would die if I tried to move it off Hot even after running for a while. 
 

On the ‘23, I don’t recall hearing the starter ‘motor’ when the ignition was on. When I pressed the starter pedal, the gears engaged, and there was a brief grunt from the starter. Realizing it was stuck, I scrambled to disconnect the battery. The ground strap was smoking, and the starter got warm/hot. 
 

Not being completely familiar with this starter system, I don’t know at this point if the starter brushes were stuck, or if it did switch back to the generator brush when I released the pedal. I can’t recall at what point I switched off the ignition. As the generator brush is somehow activated by the ignition switch, wouldn’t the smaller gauge wires have gotten hot and melted if the starter gear got stuck? I can say that I no longer get sparks if I try to reconnect the ground strap, though the ignition is off. Being cautious, I left it disconnected for now. Operating the pedal, I can see the bar move that switches the brushes. 
 

I did pull the plugs and try to hand crank it. No movement at all. As this was a brief trip to moms, I didn’t have time to pull the cover off as shown in the pictures posted here. I was also unsure how much of the linkage, etc that would have to be removed. Not to mention the carpet. 
 

We may be back there again next month, so I’d love to have a solid plan of action  It was painful having to leave it in this condition.  One side note, mom said she remembers having to rock the car to get the starter unstuck in the past. She also said this was a common problem with this system. I don’t know about that, I just want to get it corrected. 
 

These cars will be moving into my care, and it seems Buick info, parts, etc are harder to come by than for the T or my fathers A. 
 

Thank you all for your help!

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On the 1927 - There is no carb heat cable.  There is a pull out knob which closes the choke.  This will make the car run rich.  Are you saying that the car dies when you begin to push the knob in, or take it off full choke?  

There is a lever for heating the carburetor that is below the choke knob.  This should have no effect to the operation with modern fuels.  So is it the lever or knob that is effecting the running?.

I would suggest that the carburetor needs rebuilding.  It is very likely that the venturi has grown and is effecting the air valve operation.  Attached is a carburetor rebuild procedure.  There are some replacement venturi's now available.  I would suggest replacing the venturi rather than filing it as it will only continue to grow.  

 

https://forums.aaca.org/topic/322950-1927-buick-carb-removal/?tab=comments#comment-1851489

 

On the 1923 - I would suggest that the water pump is likely your problem.  I also think if you engine were not locked up, the starter pedal may have released on it's own.  Before getting into the starter stuff, I would just focus on the water pump.  

Inspect the cooling system. The antifreeze is atleast 4 years + old, so no loss to draining it.  I would drain the radiator and remove or loosen the water pump hoses enough to tell if the pump is frozen to the shaft or not.  You need to put a little play in the housing connections to verify the pump will rotate.  If it will not rotate we can walk you thru the pump removal process.  I would not try to free up a water pump with the engine hand crank, or rocking the car in gear.  That is looking for trouble. 

Hugh  

 

Edited by Hubert_25-25 (see edit history)
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Hubert: Yes, on the '27 I was referring to the lever under the choke knob. I was following a printed starting procedure my father-in-law left in the car. One of the things it said was to move that lever to 'hot' once it started. I *think* that lever uses a cable to change the position of whatever valve provides the heat. It is hard to move between the middle setting and all the way up to hot, and it won't move down from the middle setting. Sadly, I don't know where the printed starting instructions came from, it appears to be a page from a book.

 

Back to the '23... I wish I had taken a picture of the linkage at the starter. I'm having a hard time reconciling my recollection of it with the pictures and video dibarlaw provided. As I recall, it appears to be one piece on the top of that gear set that also supports the linkage, which is why I was reluctant to get into it with the little time I had. Perhaps it would look different from inside the car. I didn't take the carpet out. I'll be looking into it again the next time I am there. Its making me crazy not being able to work on it.

 

Thank you!

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  • 8 months later...

Hello all,

 

I’ve finally had the chance to look into this problem once again.

 

I pulled the top off the housing for the starter gear, and it was not stuck. 
 

Still cannot turn engine over with the hand crank, no movement at all. 
 

As suggested, we drained the coolant and loosened the two hoses at the water pump. I also removed the clamp holding the pump to the block, and backed off the packing nut on the back of the pump. 
 

After some effort, the pump housing can be rotated as far as the block allows it to move. Turning the hand crank is now possible until the pump housing reaches the limits of its freedom. 
 

I do believe the shaft from the pump to the distributor moves a bit as well. 
 

Now I’m trying to understand why the pump body can be moved, yet the crank only turns until the pump housing reaches the limits of it’s movement. 
 

If the impeller was frozen, I’d think the housing wouldn’t move at all. 
 

I’m happy to hear any and all thoughts and advice!

 

Thank you!

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Posted (edited)

If it were my car, I would pull the water pump and shaft.  The first order of business is getting the waterpump shaft clean enough to be able to slide the drives on each end toward the waterpump.  There are three 1/4" taper pins thru the water pump shaft.  One on each end, and one on the impeller.  

 

sand and clean up the water pump shaft to ensure the ends will slide toward the pump.

 

Front taper pin - remove the nut (may be reverse thread) on the front shaft bearing holder.  You will see that the nut is covering an acme screw thread used for oil control.  The hub of this screw has the front taper pin in it.  It only goes in one way. and I wonder if the water pump shaft is in the right place to allow you to drive the pin out.    If you could get the front pin out, then you can slide the acme screw hub to the rear.  Then if that is out of the way, you can remove the bolts on the flange and slide the front bearing housing to the rear.  Do not pry on the flange.  This casting will break.      

 

Rear taper pin - You can see this one in the photo.  

 

If you cannot get these 2 ends to slide toward the pump, then you have to pull the Starter Generator unit.  With the Starter Generator unit out, you can remove the waterpump shaft without removing the pins.  Then you work to remove the pins on the workbench.  

 

With the water pump shaft out of the way, you can attempt to turn the engine.  

 

Can you take a photo like this of your shaft?

  

Hugh

2071143236_1923waterpump.JPG.8761188ce2081198abfae259e4271b04.JPG

Edited by Hubert_25-25 (see edit history)
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Hubert:

Thank you very much for your response!

 

Does this picture help?

 

I presume the rear taper pin in your photo is the protrusion on top of the piece the rear shaft sits in just in front of the distributor?

 

For some reason, there is a hose clamp in that location on this car. 
 

81A87436-E48C-4276-BE34-07AC23135416.jpeg.43c7b0495c8ea903a3f2803d90c46a0c.jpeg

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Your photo is good. 

 

If you were to remove the water pump hoses,

 

a)  the waterpump should rotate back and forth - hitting the top of the upper outlet pipe against the block, and then the lower inlet pipe against the block with little effort.  If you find tight spots, you should remove the pump.

 

b) it looks like the water pump shaft could rotate 20 degrees or more before the pump hits the engine.  Consider pulling all the spark plugs and pushing the car back and forth in 1st gear - without allowing the pump to rotate into the engine.  Just to see if the motor is moving.  

 

c) You could also remove the lower flywheel cover, leave the car in neutral, and see if you can rotate the engine by turning the flywheel.  Again watching that the pump is not rotating into the engine. 

 

Looking at the condition of the waterpump shaft.  I would just pull the shaft.  Clean up the ends and put neverseize on the parts.  It would be good to go thru the waterpump.  It appears that the taper pin is missing or relocated, and they installed another pin to hold the drive mechanism to the starter generator and the hose clamp holds the pin in place.     

 

So that you know what this looks like (A slight difference for 1925).  Some photos and a procedure attached.

1031494702_Waterpumpremoval.JPG.e7d55e7514e9b34b997e1bda5352b4d8.JPG608190340_WaterPumpparts-highres.JPG.349041c991f0395f2b6e4e622a885aa8.JPG489621156_WP8WaterPumpAssembly.JPG.ea341d791f4e5927b21a8746b45b4456.JPG

 

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Posted (edited)
5 hours ago, cpf240 said:

Turning the hand crank is now possible until the pump housing reaches the limits of its freedom. 

Hugh,  It sounds like the engine is turning  until the water pump hits the housing.  So  a siezed pump is the problem.

Edited by Rod Wise (see edit history)
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Rod is correct, if I rotate the pump body, I can then turn the engine with the hand crank until the pump comes into contact with the block. 
 

Thank you very much for the detailed information!

 

I’m going to look through my FIL’s spare parts, as there could be a spare pump out there. If not, rebuild parts might be. 
 

Two questions for you guys then:

 

1) How to keep the timing when doing the R&R?

2) Where to buy rebuild parts?

 

Thanks!

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I think the only timing you need to be concerned about is the distributor to the timing marks on the flywheel.  Since you can't turn the engine, to get to the flywheel marks, I would take a photo with the distributor cap removed, so you can assemble close to what you have now and then make a final distributor cam adjustment when you can turn the  engine to the timing marks.

 

Bob Engle

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Like Bob says.  Put a dot on the flywheel thru the timing mark hole.  Then fully retard the spark and using a marks alot, label where the rotor is pointing on the distributor cap mounting of the housing.  That way if anything gets moved, you know where it was.  Put everything back in this same location after the rebuild.  Then before starting the car, you can roll the engine to the 1-6 line and verify that your rotor is under the #1 wire in the cap.       Hugh 

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Hello everyone,

 

I had some time to poke at this again today, and came away with some observations and questions…


After reconnecting the battery, I was able to observe the starter ‘motoring’. I wish I’d understood this better last year, as then the troubleshooting would have been much quicker. 
 

On the sg end of the pump shaft, I presume the cover on sg housing where the shaft enters will have to be slid along the pump shaft for the coupling to move forward once the taper pin is removed. Is that correct?

 

What keeps the taper pin in place on the sg end of the shaft? My FIL had placed a hose clamp over it. Is it not held captive in the same way as the one on the timing gear end?

 

It looks like it is a bit of a bear to read/see the timing marks through that inspection cover on the top bell housing. Any tips?

 

Lastly, where is a good place to purchase the parts needed to rebuild the pump?

 

Thank you!

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Posted (edited)

cpf240:

 The pump shaft will have to be cleaned up with emery cloth before the coupler at the S/G can slide forward. That is a problem with these units that have been ignored for years. The front bearing housing nut is Left Hand thread. The taper pin inside needs driven out and the collar needs slid back. Then the bearing housing bolts removed. Since you already have the pump stay bracket removed and the hoses disconnected you should be able to lift at the rear and slide out the pump with the timing gear. It takes a lot of strength and patients to get these out.

DSCF8087.JPG.97f2782ad611705fb792026d7a2f26c5.JPG

The pumps I have worked on recently.

 For my 1925 Master. Top.

 From 1924 6 cylinder parts engine. Bottom. This is closer to the design of your pump since the entire pump body is clamped to the engine. The 1924 has much longer bearings,

DSCF8615.JPG.f3fe822b27160a4e9f1419b6a2d57939.JPG

Rebuilt 1925 Master pump. I made new stainless steel shaft and new bushings.

DSCF8616.JPG.4d73049c015f30e6c75db92ba718257b.JPG

1925 Standard pump. I did the same, new shaft and bushings.

 To answer the "Lastly "question. Do you know a good machine shop? Because that is what it takes to rebuild these pumps.

 If we knew where you have the car located we may be able to give a recommendation.

 

 

Edited by dibarlaw
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Dibarlaw:

 

Thank you for the pictures and descriptions. 
 

The car is presently in Arizona, near Bullhead. I live in the Far North of Idaho, and so only get to work on the car when we visit. 
 

My thought was to get the pump out, and take it home with me to work on. 
 

It sounds like these are more involved than just ordering all the parts one needs from the many suppliers out there for the T or A. I’m guessing there aren’t as many vendors for early Buick parts.

 

I have a lot to learn!

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Your focus is to get the pump out.   If you pull the Starter Generator, you can pull the pump shaft out whole, and then work on getting the ends of the shaft to move while it is clamped in a bench vise.  The front bearing on the shaft has to slide straight back past the block casting first.  Only then can the shaft be tilted up for removal.   

 

There are no "kits" for these pumps.  You buy the components - mainly from McMaster Carr.  It will require a machinist for some of the steps.  A few threads back is a link to a rebuilding procedure.  Egge in California may be worth a call for pricing.  This is not an enormously heavy part, so it could be rebuilt anywhere in the US.  I do not know if you are going to do any of the work yourself, or just hand it over as a unit.   

 

You also have to decide if you want to stay with packing or convert to a more modern seal alternative.  That is also a discussion to have with your pump rebuilder.

Hugh

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