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Old 10-31-2019, 09:06 PM   #1
Straw530
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Default Timing? Coil? need help!

So I had discussed how my car had died. It ended up that the pad on the points had worn off. I put new points and condenser in the car. I timed it with a light as said in the book, and got it looking right according to the test light. I drove it and it still had a sputter in high gear, and not nearly the power it had before. I then set the timing again with a new rex wrench. I drove it tonight and in about 5 miles it started to boil over, (it had some before when I timed with the light as well) and had lower power again. The headlights also seemed dimmer than normal, but not sure how good the battery is either. (has a new alternator) Could it be the coil? When it first died, I bought a new coil at the parts store in town. (6 volt) The guy at Little Dearborn told me that the coil needed to be the right type, something with the resister. I plan to throw the old one in and see what happens, but I am thinking the timing may still be off. Any thoughts? Thanks
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Old 10-31-2019, 09:12 PM   #2
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Default Re: Timing? Coil? need help!

Are you adjusting the spark lever while you drive?
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Old 10-31-2019, 09:34 PM   #3
Mike V. Florida
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Default Re: Timing? Coil? need help!

"The guy at Little Dearborn told me that the coil needed to be the right type, something with the resistor." True if you have 12 volts.


One without a resistor for 6 volts.


With the ignition switch on and a piece of paper opening the points the voltage at the movable arm should be about 6 volts if you have the correct coil.
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Old 10-31-2019, 09:47 PM   #4
Straw530
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Default Re: Timing? Coil? need help!

I will check the volts. I never had to adjust the lever before. I was full advance on the road. It did it on a flat road at about 45 or so miles per hour tonight. Its only about 35 degrees out also.
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Old 10-31-2019, 10:41 PM   #5
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Default Re: Timing? Coil? need help!

Even a 6 volt coil should have a resistor built in or as add on to drop voltage to the points to around 4 volts after the coil warms up. People need to learn how to use the spark lever. It never was meant to pull it down after the car was started and leave it there. It needs to be adjust to load and engine speed. Could part of the problem (over heating) be the adjustment of GVA running too lean or rich? You might want to have the battery load tested.
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Old 10-31-2019, 10:51 PM   #6
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Default Re: Timing? Coil? need help!

How much change is there in running when you fully retard and fully advance while idling and on the flats?
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Old 11-01-2019, 03:18 AM   #7
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Default Re: Timing? Coil? need help!

Put the old condenser back in.
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Old 11-01-2019, 05:06 AM   #8
Straw530
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Default Re: Timing? Coil? need help!

When it is idling, there is a definite change with the spark lever. Sounds like maybe no one is thinking timing may be off? Before all of this, I could drive the car around 52 MPH and it seemed like it wanted to go much faster, but I would keep it there to keep it from bubbling the radiator after a distance. It also seems like it is not idling as smooth as it should either. I can try the old condenser, and I think I will try the old coil before I time it again. Could the detent on the gear be off with top dead center? I was thinking about that this morning that I could check that with a plug out to see. Thanks
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Old 11-01-2019, 05:37 AM   #9
Patrick L.
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Default Re: Timing? Coil? need help!

Seems like your timing could still be off. If you are using 6v then you need a 1.5 ohm non-resistor coil that should be epoxy filled.

If the engine always had a tendency to overheat you may also have a radiator issue.

When the timing is about right,
lever up, idle very slow
lever 9:00, idle speeds up
lever down, idle fast with a roll

Last edited by Patrick L.; 11-01-2019 at 11:20 AM.
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Old 11-01-2019, 09:17 AM   #10
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Default Re: Timing? Coil? need help!

If your radiator is old, it is probably plugged. Also, check your head torque.
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Old 11-01-2019, 12:12 PM   #11
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Default Re: Timing? Coil? need help!

Some of the below is a rehash of previous posts, and you may know some of it. Trying to be thorough. Also info is for an A with Stock 4.2 Heads. If you have a high compression head, timing and spark lever settings are different


If you followed the instructions on the Nu Rex Wrench, should not be a timing issue.


Quick check timing - Motor running, set idle for slightly off slow idle (about 600 RPM), adjust spark and GAV for best running. Then set Spark for full advance (down), slowly retard (lever up) until you notice where motor speed starts to decrease. Should be 1/4 - 1/3 down the lever adjustment. My truck changes from 600 RPM to 550-560 rpm from full advance to full retard.


Try swapping in the old condenser - test. Then the coil - test. Just because they are new does not mean they are good. Make sure you wired the coil properly, if wiring is backwards can reduce coil output voltage by 1/3 to 1/2.


Coolant issue, do not over fill radiator, fill only to top of the core. Confirm it is overheating by measuring with a meat/candy thermometer, in case coolant is simply being pushed out. May need flush/backflush treatments, possible new radiator. Am not sure if sticky/stuck valves can cause poor running and overheating . Worst case would be a blown Head Gasket letting exhaust gas into the coolant. Do a compression test, and an exhaust gas block test. If compression is not great, try re-torqueing the head and take readings again. If one reading is off, might just be sticky or stuck valve, if 2 or more are off - most likely head gasket, but could be multiple valves.


Hope this is not too much info at once.
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Old 11-01-2019, 01:25 PM   #12
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Default Re: Timing? Coil? need help!

Need to learn how to drive with manual adjust timing. Need to learn ignition timing procedure and inner workings of a distributor. Need to learn about carburetor adjustment.

The challenge is to identify what it is that you don't know and to have a plan for getting the lessons / answers. There are tests for each and every system and component. There are procedures to follow in eliminating possibilities and finding the fault. You need some good stuff to read, might consider an old "motor" blue shop manual at a used book store. To bad that the search function is so limp because all of this has been covered hundreds of times if not thousands right here on the barn. I won't guess answers for you, you don't need them. Most of the knowledge is generic but some is specific to model A. Best of luck to you.
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Old 11-01-2019, 02:02 PM   #13
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Default Re: Timing? Coil? need help!

Will try to be diplomatic.


The guy seems to be new to A's. Perhaps he has little background in automotive. Trying to learn everything at once, knowing where to find info, basic troubleshooting on an A, can be overwhelming. I am speaking from my own experience, I knew nothing when I inherited my truck.


He most likely needs a mentor, help from a club, and help developing a plan on what to learn. At present he has issues with his A, and instead of trying to learn everything at once, is just trying to get his A back reliably on the road.


For me, especially early on, Ford Barn rescued me. I joined a club, hinted I wanted/needed personal help at my place or theirs, got no offers. Got lots of advice, a lot of which was contradictory.


My belief is he needs someone to show him the basics. And if he can not find someone, the FB should help him.


Hope I have not offended anyone. Some is my venting about my own experience.
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Old 11-02-2019, 06:21 AM   #14
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Default Re: Timing? Coil? need help!

Thank you for the responses. I do have quite a bit of experience with cars and engines. To be honest, I have never been good with electrical or ignition. I've always had a hard time wrapping my head around it. I have rebuilt several small engines, mostly two stroke for vintage snowmobiles I have restored, but I have also done work to engines and changed many engines including flatheads. In fact, most of the carburetors I have worked on are Tillotson very similar to this car! My oldest car before this was my 48 and 49 Ford. This car is literally twice my age! I have helped lots of guys younger than me, including my kids age to try to keep them interested as well. (both old snowmobiles and cars) I did rebuild this car myself, but did not do the engine. I just am looking to the experience here to be sure I get it right. I greatly appreciate all the help! Anyway, per the questions, my radiator is new and I did not add to it. I did not use the spark lever while driving before, because I had no issues while driving. 30 Closed Cab, thanks for the info, I will try that. Last night before reading this, I found the fan belt was loose. (I was going to swap may old coil back in) The car has been converted to a 6V alternator, and the arm that was pushing it out is too short! The battery was also very weak. I am going to weld a section in on the arm to give it more adjustment. My thinking is this this could be effecting as well, as voltage would be weak? I was thinking I would try this first. I am also thinking I should put a dial indicator in the piston hole to be sure I am at TDC. Can these things jump a tooth? I know flatheads are good for that. As I said, the engine was rebuilt when I bought the car as a basket case, so I did not work on the engine. I have 1200 miles on it to this point, running pretty darn good! Thanks again for all the feedback and help!
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Old 11-02-2019, 08:51 AM   #15
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Default Re: Timing? Coil? need help!

From the first post you said it once had good power, that leads me to think the problem, no offense, is the recent work. So, along with that I wouldn't think there is a problem with the timing gears. But it wouldn't take too much to do a quick check on that.

The timing lever does need to be moved. Up for start, 1/2 down once started and for most driving, 3/4 down for highway work. A little change in that for each engine tends to like something a bit different.

If the radiator is new and you're still running hot, then there is a timing issue or an internal engine blockage.

OH, belt loose, it could be your belt is just too long. Try one a 1/2" or an inch shorter.

Last edited by Patrick L.; 11-02-2019 at 01:37 PM.
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Old 11-02-2019, 09:38 AM   #16
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Default Re: Timing? Coil? need help!

A quick check for timing gear/etc. - locate timing pin for TDC cylinder 1, Rotor should point to Dist. Contact for spark plug 1 - 1st picture. If this lines up as shown the valve train is timed correctly to the crank.


If needed the second picture shows cam timing marks, and that the timing marks are slightly above and to the right of the small gear keyway.


It is pretty difficult for timing to jump on an A if the motor was initially set up correctly. Everything is indexed and can only go on one way with the exception of how the timing gears are assembled/meshed, which is the function of the timing marks. If the timing jumps, there is some thing major wrong like a bad timing gear with extremely/worn/chipped teeth, or the dist. shaft has some how jumped, pretty difficult for this to happen since the ends of the shafts are keyed and only mate one way.


If spark is too late (retarded), can cause loss of power and overheating. An example is if at slow idle and with the lever at full retard for a period, coolant temp rises significantly. However you mentioned you were running at full advance at high speed when overheating. As Patrick mentions rarely do you set the lever much more than 3/4s down, danger is pinging and can be hard on the motor/valves/etc.
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Old 11-02-2019, 10:35 AM   #17
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Default Re: Timing? Coil? need help!

Ford added automatic advance after the model A era so model As are fully mechanical and need to be adjusted for starting (fully retard the spark) so it won't kick back and ruin the starter bendix or your arm if hand cranking. The spark is then advanced for running as you increase speed. Some folks just go to full advance after it's running but the engine would likely prefer about half way at idle. The spark control should be at fully advance for road driving until you start pulling up a long hill. It should be retarded a bit when pulling a load like that. The car with run cooler and get a bit better mileage when a person properly adjusts the spark control during operation.

The model A ignition system is about the most simple a person can learn on. The model T was a lot more complex by comparison. An ignition coil like the model A used was more simple than the later V8 type. It didn't need current control since it was made to take a full current on a 6-volt system so no ballast was necessary. The internal primary coil resistance is generally pretty close to 1.5 ohms on all of the can types that were used on 6-volt cars. If these are used on 12-volts then a ballast is required for current control. All you have after the coil is an ignition switch, a condenser (capacitor), a set of breaker points, spark plugs, a high tension lead, and a distributor to get the high tension spark to each spark plug when properly timed.

The best condenser is the blow proof types but any condensers could be defective. We take it for granted that a new one will be good but it's actually better to purchase two or three so you will have spares. In the breaker type ignition system the condenser provides two functions. It builds a charge when the breaker is closed and releases the charge when the points open. This keeps the points from arcing and it makes the reversal of the magnetic field in the coil core last longer (prolongs the induction just a bit longer). This allows for a good high voltage induction to the secondary coil winding and on to the distributor & spark plug. If the condenser is bad, there may be no spark at all or a weak spark with arcing of the breaker points that causes damage to them.

The ignition coil can have a crack in a winding of the primary coil and allows function until it warms up. After it gets warm the expansion causes the cracked wire to open up the circuit with failure of the coil. A person also has to know the coil's polarity. Most coils just have a + and a - symbol on the terminals. Polarity is important to get full function of the coil in operation. It can lose 30% of its function if the polarity is off due to the positive ground system. A person can purchase a polarity tester (Nu-rex for one) to make certain they have the correct polarity of the coil for proper function. Generally the + side is connected to the breaker points and the - side is connected to the ignition switch but now days you just don't know if a product was made as it should be

If a car is running lean on mixture due to GAV adjustment or crud in the passages, it will run hotter. If you pull the choke a bit and it runs better then it's too lean. There are more than a few things that can cause an engine to run hot.
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Old 11-02-2019, 10:42 AM   #18
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Default Re: Timing? Coil? need help!

Don’t tighten that belt too tight. Just enough to run the alternator. The water pump shaft end does not like a tight belt.
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Old 11-02-2019, 10:58 AM   #19
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Default Re: Timing? Coil? need help!

@straw30
Did the overheating start before or after replacing the radiator? Some after market radiators do not provide sufficient cooling capacity.


Was the Head/Block chemically flushed/backflushed?
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Old 11-02-2019, 12:20 PM   #20
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Default Re: Timing? Coil? need help!

Also, check your points gap, should be in the .018-.021 range. Next what are the gaps between the rotor and contacts in the distributor body? With the spark plugs out, key off and cap off, using the hand crank turn the engine and check each one. There should be an air gap of approx;
https://www.fordbarn.com/forum/showthread.php?t=5980
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