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Old 11-06-2011, 01:54 AM   #1
Bobs29ModelA
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Default At my wits end, with this no-start problem!

Believe it or not, I'm STILL having a no-start issue with my '31 Coupe, after 3 months of working on it! Here's the scoop:

- When I first test-drove this car, it was starting and running just fine
- As soon as it was delivered to my home, however, the car would suddenly only crank, but would not even attempt to start
- I checked and verified all timing, compression readings, electrical connections, proper gas flow, etc... no problems were found and everything seemed to be properly set
- During the first month of this no-start condition, I tried replacing the 6-volt battery, installing a brand-new Tillotson carburetor, converting to a new 6-volt positive-ground alternator; installing new points, cap, rotor and wires; I tried different coils, wires, spark plugs, etc... yet, I still had a weak spark
- I then tried bypassing the power wire from the armored cable, and instead ran power from the ignition switch directly to the points in the distributor
- The car suddenly started (instantly!) and it ran fine this way for a full week... Subsequent starts continued to be just as instantaneous. However, on the way home from it's first real 20-mile outing, it suddenly started misfiring and running poorly again, backfiring a lot in the process
- The car ran poorly again the next day, and then finally stopped running for good, leaving me stranded on the side of the road
- Since then, I've tried upgrading to a new Weber downdraft carb and electric fuel pump system, along with a new manifold and gasket (to cure a leak I'd found), and I also upgraded to an FSI Ignitions pointless distributor with a mechanical advance. Still, no start!
- Thinking it might possibly have a "floating ground" issue, I replaced the positive battery cable with an original-style copper-strap type, but first polished the mounting-bolt area to a chrome-like shine with my Dremel tool. I then added a ground-strap from that very same frame crossmember to the left-hand frame rail... again polishing all connection spots with the Dremel tool. I then added a final ground-strap from the left-hand frame rail to a polished spot/bolt on the engine block. Impedance readings from the battery to the frame and body show perfect continuity readings... yet, the car still refuses to start and still exhibits a weak spark!
- I worked with the owners of FSI Ignitions, who were great with their technical help, and they ultimately sent me another new pointless distributor, in case their unit was defective... yet, the new unit has made no difference; the spark continues to remain weak, and the car still refuses to start!

I'm running out of options here.... does anyone have any more suggestions for something I may not have checked yet? H-E-L-P!

Last edited by Bobs29ModelA; 11-06-2011 at 02:17 AM.
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Old 11-06-2011, 02:17 AM   #2
Mike V. Florida
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Default Re: At my wits end, with this no-start problem!

Ok there are only a couple of things that an engine needs to run,

Fuel
Air
Compression
Spark
all that the right time.

So the first thing you need is to solve the weak spark problem. Without a good spark you will have a poor running engine if it runs at all.

I know that you have received another distributor but that does not mean it is a good one.

One of the guys in our club bought the "Zipper" from FSI. Although the spark was good, to get the engine to run well he had to throw away the instructions and play with the cam setting. Moving it a little at a time in each direction until it would run well. I'm sorry but I don't remember in which direction he had to move it, advance or retard.

What does the resistance read from the distributor body to the battery ground? Maybe corrosion in the head?
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Old 11-06-2011, 02:22 AM   #3
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Default Re: At my wits end, with this no-start problem!

check the terminal box. loose wires, nuts, some of the repo one have been known to short out via the bolts that hold the wires AT THE BACK. Sounds like something is earthing out , ok when new , now paint has worn & is shorting out. let us know what you find, Derek fro sunny Nelson now the snow has gone,
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Old 11-06-2011, 02:42 AM   #4
sturgis 39
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Default Re: At my wits end, with this no-start problem!

The distributor has to be grounded to the engine. I would polish the bottom of the distributor and the top of the head where the distributor sits. Paint can act as an insulator when you do not want it to be an insulator.

The wire in the cable from the ignition switch to the distributor is from the coil and not from the battery. Running a wire from the battery to the distributor will by pass the coil. The coil power is direct from the battery with no switch. Model "A"s are wired a little different than modern cars where the ignition switch turns power on to the coil. The "A" switch completes the circuit from the coil to the distributor points. I do not know why Ford wired the ignition switch this way.

I had a problem with a wire that looked good. The wire was broke inside the insulation and would make contact when it pleased. I took a long time for me to find the problem and I was frustrated and could not believe I found the problem.

I read you post again and you did the jumper wire correctly. I wish you had a Model "A" friend that lived close to you. I can understand your frustration. Lucky for you Model "A"s are cool even if they do not run.
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Last edited by sturgis 39; 11-06-2011 at 03:10 AM. Reason: added jumper wire comment
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Old 11-06-2011, 03:19 AM   #5
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Default Re: At my wits end, with this no-start problem!

One of the things I forgot to mention is that, in addition to all the other ground-straps I installed, I also ran a ground strap from the distributor body itself directly to the engine block (to insure a good distributor ground), and then again from the right-hand side of the engine block to the body of the car, as well as to the frame on the right-hand side. Everywhere I test it, I have virtually no resistance, thereby indicating a very good ground between the battery and all components.

And, although all of the older wiring tested good, I went ahead and replaced most of it with brand-new modern wiring of the proper gauge, in order to eliminate the "broken but hidden" wire issue.
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Old 11-06-2011, 03:42 AM   #6
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Default Re: At my wits end, with this no-start problem!

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1. check charging voltage for burning points.

2. hook a timing light to coil wire to verify faulty spark.
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Old 11-06-2011, 04:43 AM   #7
jerry shook
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Default Re: At my wits end, with this no-start problem!

I had the same problem . Run a wire from your ing switch to the battery .fixed mine. Electronic ing needs at lease 7 amps to crank.
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Old 11-06-2011, 07:07 AM   #8
Bill Goddard
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Default Re: At my wits end, with this no-start problem!

One thing you might not have done - check to see if your pig tail wire in distributer is grounding out on the coil spring between the plates. Sometimes in effort to clear the distrib side wall the wire terminal is turned too far inward and touches the spring.
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Old 11-06-2011, 07:31 AM   #9
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Default Re: At my wits end, with this no-start problem!

Mr. Shook is correct, the electronic distributors need a dedicated power source.
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Old 11-06-2011, 07:37 AM   #10
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Default Re: At my wits end, with this no-start problem!

You may want to pull the distributor cap and make sure the rotor is turning.
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Old 11-06-2011, 08:58 AM   #11
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Default Re: At my wits end, with this no-start problem!

Don't take this the wrong way, but you spent a lot of money fixing what wasn't broke and have complicated the diagnostics, if not adding to the problem. With electronic ignition and changes in the ignition switch and wiring we can't give you the stock Model A diagnostics.

In the third statement, you mentioned doing many checks, but I didn't see "checking for a good blue 1/4" spark" mentioned.

When you say you have a weak spark, what is weak? Compared to modern cars with HEI all older cars have a weak spark, but if you have at least a 1/4" nice blue spark when holding the coil wire 1/4" from a head nut, then you have enough spark to run fine. Since checking for this good spark is the easiest check to make I'd do that first.

I'm wondering if a bad condenser wasn't the initial problem, but with all the changes made, it hard to know what's going on now. With an original Model A that quits running, there are basically 3 things to think of as a cause.
1. Did you loose spark?
2. Do you have gas in the intake?
3. Did the cam gear strip?

Just pull the distributor cap to see if the rotor is turning to verify the cam gear is OK.
Pull the choke and crank the engine for a few compression strokes and you should see gas dripping out the carb inlet. If you have gas dripping, then you should have enough fuel for at least some firings of the cylinders.

Is there no one near you that can help check for the problem? It's so much easier in person than over the phone or internet.

Last edited by Tom Wesenberg; 11-06-2011 at 10:29 AM.
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Old 11-06-2011, 09:26 AM   #12
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Default Re: At my wits end, with this no-start problem!

Tom, you said it!! Get back to the Model A!! Check the underside of the rotor for a crack from the brass outer tip to the inner shaft mounting area.
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Old 11-06-2011, 09:36 AM   #13
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Default Re: At my wits end, with this no-start problem!

i had a simular problem . it turned out the hot wire to the points (under the point plate) was to close to the bottom plate causing it to short out intermittantly . i just bent it away from the plate maybe 1/8 " & all was good ............... steve
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Old 11-06-2011, 10:16 AM   #14
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Default Re: At my wits end, with this no-start problem!

Quote:
Originally Posted by steve norcal View Post
i had a simular problem . it turned out the hot wire to the points (under the point plate) was to close to the bottom plate causing it to short out intermittantly . i just bent it away from the plate maybe 1/8 " & all was good ............... steve
That might have been the problem 3 months ago, but he has changed out so many things now that there is no telling what is wrong now.

"Weak spark" might have been something as simple as wrong coil for the voltage of the car, or coil polarity hooked up backwards.
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Old 11-06-2011, 10:24 AM   #15
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Default Re: At my wits end, with this no-start problem!

Did you change your coil wire,,caused me problems for a while
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Old 11-06-2011, 10:52 AM   #16
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Default Re: At my wits end, with this no-start problem!

My guess was condenser also! BUT you have made many updated changes and may be hard to diagnose. How about changing back to a standard Model A set up including Alt to gen. points cap rotor etcetcetc. and see how it goes! Best of luck!
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Old 11-06-2011, 11:25 AM   #17
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Default Re: At my wits end, with this no-start problem!

Quote:
Originally Posted by Tom Wesenberg View Post

Is there no one near you that can help check for the problem? It's so much easier in person than over the phone or internet.
You should get someone out there. With as many A's as there are, there must be a club or another A in your vicinity.

An experienced mechanic can see, feel, smell and hear things that you might not be relating. Long distance communication is very limited in effectiveness. I had a similar incident where the guy was struggling for weeks with a no start, and I found the problems (there were 2 interacting) in less than 5 minutes . He had not accurately described the symptoms because, being unfamiliar with an A, he did not notice them and was chasing one theory while not seeing a few facts. Sometimes another perspective is needed to break away from a theory that is not working.
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Old 11-06-2011, 11:37 AM   #18
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Default Re: At my wits end, with this no-start problem!

What kind of ignition switch to you have? Some of them are to
long and can rub on the gas tank behind the instrument panel
and short out.

Bob
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Old 11-06-2011, 12:22 PM   #19
Bobs29ModelA
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Default Re: At my wits end, with this no-start problem!

Thanks to all of you for your suggestions and advice. Yes, it is no secret that I have changed-out a lot of things, all to no avail. However, all of the suggestions made in the last batch of posts have already been tested and/or otherwise checked, with good results. I should clarify that, when it was actually running for a few days, that was back on the original distributor with points... and only after I had bypassed the original armored cable set-up... because I had at first found the exact situation that "Steve Norcal" found... that is, that the "the hot wire to the points (under the point plate) was too close to the bottom plate causing it to short out", due to over-tightening of the armored cable. Once I did the bypass and got it running, I used a clear distributor cap on it and I could see that it had a very hot blue spark going on inside the distributor... the hottest it had ever been. A few days after that, it died on me again and has not run since. That was why I had decided to try going to an electronic distributor system and the Weber carb system... to try to get to something that was (theoretically) more reliable and less troublesome. I have since tried putting it all back to stock again, and yet it continues to refuse to start.

To answer some of the other suggestions... I do have power to the ignition switch (a new one) running directly from the battery post, as the instructions required. And, I've even tested it with the switch hanging down (away from the gas tank) but there was no difference, nor are there any signs of it ever shorting to the tank (due to the fact that I have it heavily-wrapped in electrical tape, as insurance). I've even tried it with the (new) ammeter removed from the circuit as well, as I've heard that those can cause problems as well.

And, again, we have proven fuel-flow; the rotor is turning just fine, and there is no condenser to worry about (at least in the new electronic distributor). And, the condenser was already replaced on the original stock distributor.

And, finally, I've already had two senior members of my local Model A club chapter come out and go over the car with me. These guys have over 75 combined years' experience with these cars... and yet they couldn't find anything obviously wrong with the car or in the way I had it put all together, even after all the testing and electrical readings we did.

It was because of the fact that it ran well for one week (before dying again) that I thought perhaps there might be an intermittent frame ground issue (due to theoretical flexing and potential corrosion in the frame joints where they meet and are riveted), so I then pursued trying the installation of multiple ground-straps throughout the frame and the engine block. Unfortunately, that hasn't helped whatever the real issue is, and I'm still back to square one...

Ironically, I've been a home mechanic for all of my life, and I've restored a few muscle cars recently, all with great results. This Model A, however, is far simpler than anything else I've ever worked on... yet it is the one that is giving me the most grief! Who woulda thought?
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Old 11-06-2011, 12:23 PM   #20
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Default Re: At my wits end, with this no-start problem!

Quote:
Originally Posted by Bob C View Post
What kind of ignition switch to you have? Some of them are to long Bob
I agree that you should check the ignition switch. The originals are notorious for having problems at their age, and I have had to replace about four of the modern replacements before finally spending the bigger bucks to get a quality one. They can fail intermittently and drive you crazy trying to diagnose. The fact that it ran ok for awhile IMMEDIATELY AFTER fiddling with the ignition wiring is an important clue. Just jumper a wire across the ignition switch lugs, or temporarily twist the two wires together, and give it a go.

Steve S

just read your last note, and see you have a "new" ignition switch. I would still try jumping around it. Continuity testing isn't reliable; a feeble connection might still test ok.

Last edited by steve s; 11-06-2011 at 12:36 PM.
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