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1913 Model T will not start and run


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I have a 1913 Model T. The vehicle was restored years ago and has not been started for a long time. I have not been able to start it. This is what I have done so far:

·         Cleaned out fuel system including gas tank, fuel lines and carburetor.

·         Cleaned spark plugs and set gap.

·         Checked and tested Buzz Coils. I have a tester.

·         Checked for spark at spark plugs. Sparks good.

·         Primed engine before starting and the engine seems to be getting fuel

·         The car had a small 12V (lawn mower type) battery that I replaced with same. Battery used for sparking coils only.

·         Trying to stat car in Bat position

Results with starting:

1.       Engine does not make any noise when cranking. It does not sound like it wants to start even though it is getting fuel and spark. No roll over sound.

2.       I can crank engine, but it cranks hard. Feels like I have a lot of compression. I believe the engine was rebuilt.

3.       I did try a little starting fluid in each cylinder to assure it is getting fuel. Same results no engine roll over and it will not start.

4.       Tried raising rear of car with jack stands and making sure car is in neutral. No luck starting.

5.       I have changed oil and I put a little oil in each cylinder.

I am stumped. Does anyone have any ideas on what I can try or what I may be doing wrong? I have had Model Ts before, but this is the first one without electric start.

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 I think my timing may be off as is suggested in responses. I am not sure how to do this. Can you reference this procedure somewhere?

Also, I believe I have a lot of compression. Car is hard to crank but easy once I pull a plug. Any help on timing is appreciated.


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The simple way is to remove #1 spark plug and lay it on a head bolt next to the spark plug hole. With the key off and the gas shut off, parking brake set, rotate the engine while looking at the valves and piston. A flashlight helps. When you see both valves closed and the piston coming up towards top dead center you know that the cylinder is nearing the end of the compression stroke. Using a non – metallic tool, (like a plastic stir stick), you can feel as the piston passes top dead center and begins to move downward. The point where the piston is moving downwards is when the spark should happen with the timing lever all the way up. Once you see what is happening and understand when the spark should occur you can turn the key on and check to see when the spark plug fires on Battery.


You should be hearing the coils buzz as you hand crank the motor.  Firing order 1-2-4-3...  sometimes the wires get crossed at 3 and 4.

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I have looked at the two suggestions and this is what I found:

  • In every case when I was at top dead center the correct number buzz coil sparked
  • We  saw cross arcing on the firewall terminals as follows:
    • number 1 terminal had no cross arcing
    • number 2 terminal cross arced to the magneto terminal
    • number 3 terminal cross arced to number 4 terminal
    • number 4 terminal cross arced to the battery terminal

I was only able to see this cross arcing when we landed and stopped at top dead center in the bat position. Normal cranking and not stopping at TDC, the cross arcing is not seen.

So it looks like the problem is identified. Not sure why or what is causing the problem. Any ideas? Thank you for any help

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Today I Checked buzz coils and timer visually. Cleaned up all contact points on coils and coil box. Repaired one broken wire at timer. Oiled Timer.


Still see arcing on coils between coil 3 and 4. Number 4 coil will buzz randomly as I crank the car: Number 4 will buzz at the same time as number 1,2 or 3 buzz.


I moved coils in different positions in box: 1 to 4 and 4 to 1. Moving coils did not change outcome. Number 4 coil position still showed arcing and also randomly buzzed when other coils buzzed. So number 4 coil position is the issue and not the coil itself.


I also tried 3 coils only with nothing in the 4 position. 1,2,3 then worked corectly


Is this outcome telling me that my timer is the issue?

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Thank you  for the information JFranklin.

  • I did not get any cross buzz when I ran a wire one at a time from the engine metal to the commutator wire. Each coil buzzed individually with no cross buzz.
  • Even though I did not get a cross buzz, I still did part 2 from the coil box insulators to engine ground. Each coil again buzzed individually with no cross buzz.

Seems like this test would say it is in the timer harness or the timer itself. How do I know which? Or is it something else?


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I may have misspoke. I see commutators that looks similar but not exactly the same so I’m not sure which one to buy. Do I replace the cap as well as the rotor pin and retainer? Or do I adjust and clean? The parts look good to me. Three photos attached to show what I have.




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