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1923 54 Engine Locked - Stuck Starter?


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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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If the brushes are worn too far the brush arm can contact the other commutator and cause a short.  Also check for cracked and or missing round insulator on the brush arm fork.  Common issue as the insulator material breaks down with age. 

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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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