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Petronix electronic ignition 1932 Buick


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Hi all, just a heads up, I had installed the Petronix electronic ignition module in my 1932 96s and it ran great until I installed the .6 ohm 45000 volt flame thrower coil. What happened was that the module fried itself by Electro magnetic interference due to my mistake of leaving the solid core wires on the car. Like I said it ran fine for 200+ miles with a 1.5 ohm 6 volt coil, there is a thing called the corona effect of EMI around the solid core wires. The new coil apparently exemplified this to the point of failure. Petronix people were great and pointed out that on the instructions they state suppression wires are required, they also gave me a great deal on the second module. My mistake just thought I'd pass that along. I would recommend carrying a spare module or the old points in case of failure. 

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It was most likely fact that too much current was passing through the module when you change to the 0.6ohm coil.

 

If you are running the  6v battery then the 1.5ohm coil was correct.

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Posted (edited)

Another solution looking for a problem that doesn’t exist. So now modern wires must be installed on a 1932 car. Buick’s ran countless billions of miles with points and there was no problems.........and the reason for change is?  Wait till the battery gets low and the ignition won’t fire because of under voltage. 

Edited by edinmass (see edit history)
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Ditto on what Ed said.

 

Another thing to consider: Modern electronic devices do not do well under high heat situations. In modern cars, the electronic elements are well shielded, insulated and are typically far removed from hot surfaces such as engine blocks, heads, etc.

 

Old cars operating under normal conditions generate lots of heat under the engine hoods-especially after a long day of driving in warm weather.

 

The problem with Petronix and similar ignitions on older cars is that most distributors are typically mounted on the top of cast iron cylinder heads that get really warm or are mounted on the block underneath a really hot exhaust manifold. These create prefect conditions for modern electronics to start to break down. 

 

One of the frustrating aspects of a Petronix- and modern electronics in general-  is that they can work fine. Then get flakey. Then work fine again. Then fail. Then work OK again. Then get flakey again, and on and on. This makes for very frustrating diagnosing and problem solving.

 

 

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Agreed with all post, Edinmas pretty much nailed it as it was running fine before I changed coils. My center inboard 4 cylinders run a bit rich, so I was experimenting with hotter spark plugs in those 4 cylinders, outer cylinders are fine. So thats why I went to the hot coil. I'll go back to points if I have another problem. Thanks for the comments.

Other note of interest,   a brass era friend showed me a neat trick, he put a small piece zinc on a welding rod and hung it in his radiator. I tried it and was impressed how well it worked after a week.  

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4 hours ago, edinmass said:

Another solution looking for a problem that doesn’t exist. So now modern wires must be installed on a 1932 car. Buick’s ran countless billions of miles worth points and there was no problems.........and the reason for change is?  Wait till the battery gets low and the ignition won’t fire because of under voltage. 

So no Buick in those days did not have the the points re-adjusted and/or replaced, the condensor never failed, the bushes in the shaft didn't wear, distributor cams didn't wear out unevenly and create varying dwell, etc, etc, etc...

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You need a properly working distributor for the Pertronix, too. Their reputation would probably be a lot better if more of their customers realized that simple fact.

 

 

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For what it's worth, I discovered that my '41 has a Pertronix system after I bought it.  It has worked flawlessly for the four years since I've had it.  However, having read the previous comments about heat, I note that the distributor on the Buick engine is mounted on the block on the right side, on the opposite side from the exhaust manifold.

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Ya know,  the car manufacturers sure goofed when they went to electronic ignition. Look at all the points and condensers they do not sell now!!!!

 

  Had electronic on mine for eight years, almost twenty thousand and NO PROBLEMS.  

 

  Go ahead with points.  Not me, though.

 

  Ben

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Posted (edited)
On 5/20/2021 at 6:40 PM, Steves Buick said:

My center inboard 4 cylinders run a bit rich, so I was experimenting with hotter spark plugs in those 4 cylinders, outer cylinders are fine.

I'm putting my Army helmet on about now because I know many who have these old cars with the updraft Marvel heat control systems say with today's modern fuels you don't need to fix your burned out heat riser system, just block it off so exhaust gas doesn't get recirculated into the intake charge and you are good to go.  I hope you guys will take this as humor from an old geezer, not an attack on your point of view.

 

Most of us who own these old cars wouldn't dream of getting up on a zero degree cold snowy January day and relying on an old car like we are discussing here to get to work but the Buick engineers had to come up with something that assured that could happen and it wouldn't happen without carburetor heat, the cylinder to cylinder fuel mixture would have been way off.   So that's different than relying on it on a 70 degree day to start and run for the car show without carburetor heat.  I went to great lengths to restore my heat riser system so it works as it was intended for the very problem you are trying to solve.  The intake manifolds on these cars are so long that without supplemental carburetor heat you have 3 choices on fuel air mixture adjustment.

 

1.  The 4 end cylinders receive exactly the right mixture and the center cylinders run rich.

 

2. The 4 center cylinders receive exactly the right mixture but fuel condenses and falls out of the intake charge by the time it gets to the outer cylinders so they run lean.

 

3. None of the cylinders get the optimum mixture but once the car warms up and you get it rolling at speed it runs pretty good.

 

The heat risers on these cars ARE a problem, they are prone to failure due to burnout or rust out.  The rust situation is hastened by use of fuel that contains ethanol because of the massive amounts of water produced in an unsealed fuel system because the ethanol  absorbs water readily.  I'm not convinced you can ever completely overcome the cylinder to cylinder mixture variation with star wars ignition remedies.  

 

 

The "marvelous" Marvel heat control system.  Oklahoma crude for sure but made these cars so you could get a pretty correct fuel air mixture to 8 cylinders, not just 4.  By the way, many cars today STILL have carburetor pre-heat, often with an exhaust manifold runner that passes near the base of the carburetor.  Marvel made the heat control systems for piston engine aircraft for years and a lot of that equipment is still in service and relied upon by private pilots today to prevent carburetor icing...

 HR 045.JPG

 

Breaker point ignition got replaced on modern cars because it was the right answer for modern cars which have to get 100 miles per gallon, pass tailpipe testing and pretend they are as good as the coming wave of electric vehicle to the environment.  There is a real reason for electronic ignition in a modern car because the ignition timing is controlled by a symphony of sensors that measure engine rpm, road load, crank position and are all audited by knock sensors which can result in unheard of range of timing for emissions and fuel economy while avoiding catastrophic engine failure from too much spark advance.  It also has to work correctly in unison with electronic fuel injection which has it's own host of sensors and parameters to mind.   A simple mechanical distributor just can't do what a TFI module talking to an ECM which has more computing capacity than was sent to the moon.  Pertronix is a dumb system that only replaces the points as a trigger for the coil, it is not sophisticated.  To each his own, if you like old stuff and aren't afraid of the work and troubleshooting needed to fix it on the side of the road that's one school of thought.  If you would rather not mess with points and have a distributor that is otherwise up to snuff Pertronix is appealing because like aluminum siding it's maintenance free.  But like aluminum siding if it craps out, it has to be replaced so make sure you have a spare setup just in case.

 

Look at that old stuff- first I have to set 0.018" point gap, then I have to pull the valve cover and rotate the engine until the 5th valve starts to move, then watch the birdie in the bell housing port for the Adv 11 Deg mark.  Now I have to set the front points so they just break which I can do with a screwdriver while the ignition is on while I hold the coil wire close to ground- SPARK!  Now I have to rotate the engine 90 degrees and watch the birdie in the bell housing port for the Syn 6 mark.  Now I can synchronize the moveable point with a screwdriver while holding the coil wire near ground with ignition on- SPARK.  You can have one of the kids sit on the fender and just hold the bare end of the coil wire while you adjust the first set of points- they'll be sure to let you know when those points break!  Then, assuming his little sister wasn't present for the first point adjustment have him go get her and tell her Dad needs your help for a minute and get her up on the fender holding the coil wire while you adjust the second point set.   If he's like most brothers he will really enjoy her reaction when the second set of points break!   Ok- lets go I'm thirsty....

Dist 3388 027.jpg

 

 

 

Edited by Str8-8-Dave
Insert humor... (see edit history)
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Thanks Straight 8 Dave, I totally rebuilt my heat riser assembly then blocked it off as recommended on this forum. Of course I rebuilt the marvelous Marvel to spec. I dialed in the carb, and it ran fine, except for the slight richness in the center 4 cylinders. That's when I thought a hotter spark and maybe hotter plugs in those center 4 cylinders, enter the petronix and the 45000v flame thrower coil. Runs great better than new almost.. I'm thinking of going back to unplugging the heat riser as I recently pulled plugs on an untouched 96s running on ethanol free fuel. All 8 plugs had an even burn pattern, my cylinder temps are all even and fuel air mixture seems correct,  I increased the spark plug gap .05 and cant tell the difference. when I get the perfect combo I'll post it. Nothing wrong with petronix, its not the heat that causes failure it the EMI. Amazon sells a remote temp sensing 4 channel unit for $35.00 if you want to see what temps are, my engine runs cool @ 130 F. So I'm thinking you're correct about leaving the heat riser operationally stock, but first I'll try balance cylinder burn with a hotter plug.  This engine runs as good as any, I prefer 100% stock but if I can improve ignition and fuel delivery why not.  Just striving for the best performance of an old engine, the Buick engineers deserve allot of credit.     

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On 5/20/2021 at 9:42 PM, maok said:

So no Buick in those days did not have the the points re-adjusted and/or replaced, the condensor never failed, the bushes in the shaft didn't wear, distributor cams didn't wear out unevenly and create varying dwell, etc, etc, etc...



And your point is????? Having driven tens of thousands of miles in pre war cars from 1897 to 1942......I have never had a issue with points I couldn’t fix on the side of the road.......and then, it only has occurred twice......on cars all over 80 years old that weren’t properly serviced. Ever try and fix a diode on the side of the road.....or a Hall effect sensor? My 1917 will start with a totally dead battery.....or with it removed. How’s that work with electronic ignition? Hell, just buy a Tesla and then you don’t need gas, or 99 percent of the other moving parts. 

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ED, I was experimenting with petronix, looking for a hotter spark thats it. It ran slightly better and allot of guys have used it for years with out issue despite the obvious drawbacks of electronics. I hope to meet you at the next National meet in Lisle Ill. I'll bring my 32 Buick, always appreciate your contributions to the forum. Tesla for me or anyone on this forum... highly unlikely!!

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I have had a Petronix on my 1938 40-41 for the past 5 years and it runs good though not all that much better than the old points and capacitor.  However I did run into problems with low battery voltage.  The Petronix voltage range low end spec is 5.2V. I found that without a full battery charge and with the drop in voltage across the wiring from the battery to the coil that my car would not start. I measured the voltage at the coil between 4.5 and 5V during cranking.  So I changed the battery cables to new 000 gauge and ran new 10AWG wiring from the battery starter terminal to the coil and that did make a difference.  However I think it is still marginal since when I tried to start the engine with the temperature around 35 deg. it would not start and the voltage was below 5V during cranking even with my Optima battery constantly on maintenance charge and fully charged. 

 

5.2V minimum operating voltage is simply not low enough for reliable starting; once it starts the generator provides plenty of voltage for good operation. So I will be removing my Petronix and going back to good old points ignition. I believe that the Petronix is a good design with the one major flaw of too high minimum operating voltage. 

 

Steve D 

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On 5/23/2021 at 12:54 PM, Steve_bigD said:

I have had a Petronix on my 1938 40-41 for the past 5 years and it runs good though not all that much better than the old points and capacitor.  However I did run into problems with low battery voltage.  The Petronix voltage range low end spec is 5.2V. I found that without a full battery charge and with the drop in voltage across the wiring from the battery to the coil that my car would not start. I measured the voltage at the coil between 4.5 and 5V during cranking.  So I changed the battery cables to new 000 gauge and ran new 10AWG wiring from the battery starter terminal to the coil and that did make a difference.  However I think it is still marginal since when I tried to start the engine with the temperature around 35 deg. it would not start and the voltage was below 5V during cranking even with my Optima battery constantly on maintenance charge and fully charged. 

 

5.2V minimum operating voltage is simply not low enough for reliable starting; once it starts the generator provides plenty of voltage for good operation. So I will be removing my Petronix and going back to good old points ignition. I believe that the Petronix is a good design with the one major flaw of too high minimum operating voltage. 

 

Steve D 


This is the best and most honest opinion I have seen on Pertronix.........and I agree with it 100 percent. Properly serviced stock pre war cars start quickly and easily when the current condition of the car is “like new”. 

 

 

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Still running my '32 57S,as original.  Just found some leaks in my heat riser, had it repaired and anxious to try it on the road.  Running at stand-still seems fine and better than with the leaks.  Appreciate all the comments, especially edinmass and Str8-8-Dave.    I have electronic on my '86 Riviera and that work fine with the "newer" cars.  Much better than the original.

 

John

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Posted (edited)

Buick’s were GREAT cars in 1910. They had it figured out. Above average performance for the size of the package..........and twenty five years later, a mid 30’s Buick with electronic ignition is going to be better than what the Gm engineers designed? Don’t think so.......GM was the largest company in the world, and a leader in technology that practically single handed brought America into the space age. Points were fine in 1914, 1924, 1934, 1944, 1954, and 1964. It was a PERFECTED technology......just years, hack work, poor Chinese parts, and lack of knowledge prevents them from being 100 percent reliable. If people spent as much time making their car factory correct as they do screwing it up, they would have ten times the miles on their car. The one thing I will acknowledge as a possible reasonable upgrade to early cars is an electric boost fuel pump......gas is chemically different today, and in many but not all applications a boost pump is critical to your cars enjoyment.

Edited by edinmass (see edit history)
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I also have been using an electric fuel pump for the past 20 years on my 1938 40-41 but I found out early that these pumps are typically set to 5-6 pounds pressure which is too high for our carbs and my carb ran rich and slightly flooded.  I added a pressure regulator between the electric fuel pump and the mechanical pump set to 3 pounds nominal and it runs just like the mechanical pump. An electric pump is great for the infrequent starting typical for many of our hobby cars and eliminates hot weather vapor lock due to our modern high volatility fuels. Just be sure that your mechanical pump diaphragm is in good condition as the electric pump will pump gas into the crankcase if it leaks.

 

Steve D

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Posted (edited)
1 hour ago, edinmass said:

Buick’s were GREAT cars in 1910. They had it figured out. Above average performance for the size of the package..........and twenty five years later, a mid 30’s Buick with electronic ignition is going to be better than what the Gm engineers designed? Don’t think so.......GM was the largest company in the world, and a leader in technology that practically single handed brought America into the space age. Points were fine in 1914, 1924, 1934, 1944, 1954, and 1964. It was a PERFECTED technology......just years, hack work, poor Chinese parts, and lack of knowledge prevents them from being 100 percent reliable. If people spent as much time making their car factory correct as they do screwing it up, they would have ten times the miles on their car. The one thing I will acknowledge as a possible reasonable upgrade to early cars is an electric boost fuel pump......gas is chemically different today, and in many but not all applications a boost pump is critical to your cars enjoyment.

Amazing the difference a guy can make on performance with a dwell meter, vacuum gauge and a dial in total timing light on a breaker points ignition equipped engine. It’s proven on a dyno that points distributors properly curved make better HP at high rpm compared to an hei style distributor. 
 

Being 44, I feel pretty certain that most my age and especially younger, don’t know how a dwell meter applies here. 

Edited by BobinVirginia (see edit history)
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This week, I successfully removed a intermittent failure Pertronix unit from a Cadillac distributor and put it back to points. This is the first time I have worked on one in over ten years. The Hall effect sensor definitely is cheaper in construction and manufacture that the earlier units I worked on. I set up the distributor in my machine, checked for advance as well. Unit was working fine. It was dropped back in the Cadillac and owner reports all is well. 

A3AC6EEE-8520-4665-A2E3-7CF165176DB8.jpeg

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I'm going on 10 years and 12k miles on our 31' Buick tuneup with points and condenser.  I keep spares in the car but haven't touched them.  Most have forgotten to bend the points flat so they actually close flat and not on a corner.  It helps with life.   Modern/Cheap condensers is a bigger concern than the points will ever be for me.  

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I’m 31 years and well over twenty thousand miles with my Pierce V-12 dual points and dual coils set up. About four years ago, I put the distributor on my machine just to check it. It was still exactly where I set it. Everything looked as new. Rebuild the distributor correctly and do it once. I expect the same points will be in the car till I die. Hopefully another 31 years.........that will make me 86. 

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5 hours ago, edinmass said:

This week, I successfully removed a intermittent failure Pertronix unit from a Cadillac distributor and put it back to points. This is the first time I have worked on one in over ten years. The Hall effect sensor definitely is cheaper in construction and manufacture that the earlier units I worked on. I set up the distributor in my machine, checked for advance as well. Unit was working fine. It was dropped back in the Cadillac and owner reports all is well. 

A3AC6EEE-8520-4665-A2E3-7CF165176DB8.jpeg

Just let me know where to send mine to get it checked.  :)

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Posted (edited)
On 5/29/2021 at 2:11 PM, edinmass said:

The one thing I will acknowledge as a possible reasonable upgrade to early cars is an electric boost fuel pump......gas is chemically different today, and in many but not all applications a boost pump is critical to your cars enjoyment.

 

Unless you have gravity feed from the tank to the carb, but even then I do put some of the high temp insulation over the line as extra precaution.  Something like this. 

 

 https://shop.advanceautoparts.com/p/design-engineering-heat-sheath-aluminized-sleeving-0.75in-x-36in-heat-protection-for-wires-lines-and-cables-010403/16120024-p?product_channel=local&store=1706&adtype=pla&product_channel=local&store_code=1706&gclid=Cj0KCQjw78yFBhCZARIsAOxgSx2UysNPSK1OPs6yZ868l5qarrYfe3j1Ivy9syLrc_dlQXJZ-iXezpgaAkd2EALw_wcB&gclsrc=aw.ds

 

I have had no issues.

Edited by Larry Schramm (see edit history)
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