Lost my spark... not sure where it went...

Pete

Founder/Owner
Staff member
Administrator
Sep 17, 2009
8,043
Hailey, Idaho
First Name
Pete
Willys Model
  1. Wagon
Willys Year:
  1. 1960
My son and I took the wagon out yesterday to chase a few deer in the hills. We covered a lot of ground on old back roads, maybe 80 or so miles.

The wagon ran perfect over hill and dale, through mud, rocks, creeks, and down the highway back home. I let my son (12) drive about half of that, he'd never driven a car before... He got the hang of the clutch in a jiffy, and drove me around in style :D

A couple of hours after we got home, I decided to look under the hood, to check the oil and see if anything obvious needed attention.

First thing I noticed, was that the bolt that holds down the distributor timing was loose. I could move the distributor back and forth a little bit, so I fired it up to see where it ran best. When I touched the distributor with it running, it shocked the bejezzers out of me, my arm was numb for an hour...

After that, it started running a little rough, and didn't want to idle. It stalled out a few times, and then wouldn't start at all. I pulled the #1 spark plug, and found no spark at all. Ran out of time to troubleshoot, so I'm not sure what happened.

I did look over the wires to the distributor and coil. Looked inside the cap, the cap and rotor look good and the condenser wires look fine too. The carb is getting fuel, I can see it squirt.

I'm assuming it is the coil, the condenser, or the points. I'm sure they could all stand replacing, but what is odd is how it quit so suddenly.

Thoughts?

Also, I noticed that there is quite a bit of slack in the distributor, in that I can rotate the rotor back and forth about a half inch... How much is acceptable? I'm not familiar with these distributors, and where the wear happens between the rotor and the oil pump. It seems that the dominoes are stacking up... One thing leads to another, and before I know it, I'll have the engine out and torn down for a rebuild. :roll: I'm hoping to get a few thousand miles out of it before hand though, so I'd like to get it running again on the cheap.

Pete
 
Pete said:
My son and I took the wagon out yesterday to chase a few deer in the hills. We covered a lot of ground on old back roads, maybe 80 or so miles.

The wagon ran perfect over hill and dale, through mud, rocks, creeks, and down the highway back home. I let my son (12) drive about half of that, he'd never driven a car before... He got the hang of the clutch in a jiffy, and drove me around in style :D

A couple of hours after we got home, I decided to look under the hood, to check the oil and see if anything obvious needed attention.

First thing I noticed, was that the bolt that holds down the distributor timing was loose. I could move the distributor back and forth a little bit, so I fired it up to see where it ran best. When I touched the distributor with it running, it shocked the bejezzers out of me, my arm was numb for an hour...

After that, it started running a little rough, and didn't want to idle. It stalled out a few times, and then wouldn't start at all. I pulled the #1 spark plug, and found no spark at all. Ran out of time to troubleshoot, so I'm not sure what happened.

I did look over the wires to the distributor and coil. Looked inside the cap, the cap and rotor look good and the condenser wires look fine too. The carb is getting fuel, I can see it squirt.

I'm assuming it is the coil, the condenser, or the points. I'm sure they could all stand replacing, but what is odd is how it quit so suddenly.

Thoughts?

Also, I noticed that there is quite a bit of slack in the distributor, in that I can rotate the rotor back and forth about a half inch... How much is acceptable? I'm not familiar with these distributors, and where the wear happens between the rotor and the oil pump. It seems that the dominoes are stacking up... One thing leads to another, and before I know it, I'll have the engine out and torn down for a rebuild. :roll: I'm hoping to get a few thousand miles out of it before hand though, so I'd like to get it running again on the cheap.

Pete
Pete sounds like the coil is going bad and possibly old or bad sparkplug wires. Also there should be a timing mark on the harmonic balencer for timing. And what are you saying about the distributor rotating??? Are you referencing the amount it turns when the bolt is loose or tight? Dist. shouldn't rotate when bolt is secure. Might be a cap problem.

The oil pump is driven by the rod that slides in the bottom of the dist. There is a high capacity oil pump on the market, but these engines have a problem with the pickup tube when goin on incline or decline over 45 degrees (up hill/down hill). There is a tech bulliton out to fix that with adding a rubber "O" ring to the pickup tube for stabilization.
 
kramwit said:
Pete sounds like the coil is going bad and possibly old or bad sparkplug wires. Also there should be a timing mark on the harmonic balencer for timing. And what are you saying about the distributor rotating??? Are you referencing the amount it turns when the bolt is loose or tight? Dist. shouldn't rotate when bolt is secure. Might be a cap problem.

The oil pump is driven by the rod that slides in the bottom of the dist. There is a high capacity oil pump on the market, but these engines have a problem with the pickup tube when goin on incline or decline over 45 degrees (up hill/down hill). There is a tech bulliton out to fix that with adding a rubber "O" ring to the pickup tube for stabilization.

I'm going to try and pick up a new coil today and give it a try.

My balancer is f'd up, last week the outer ring fell off and wedged between the pulley and timing cover. I managed to get it back on without removing the pulley (no puller...) but the timing marks are no longer in the right place relative to TDC. I'm going to have to get another balancer before I can use a timing light, or make new marks on the balancer after finding TDC. I'm sure it is a question of time before it comes off again, so I'm looking for another one in the mean time.

What I meant by the rotation of the rotor in the distributor, is that when the cap is off, I can grab the rotor and turn it quite a bit before it connects to the oil pump or rod that is driven by the oil pump. Seems to be quite a bit of slop there. It is not the housing/timing adjustment, but the rotor inside. The rotor itself fits tight onto the shaft, and looks new.

Pete
 
Bought a new coil today at lunch, from NAPA, $19

HECHO en CHINA stamped on the side... :roll:

I'll put it on tonight and see what happens.

Pete
 
hey pete

Not sure about the distributor thing but I had the coil on Willys truck just go from sitting..It ran one day and not the next...I had no spark at all...I remember checking the points and seeing if they were opening and closing on the cam lobe and they were...I had went to the parts store and it ran again...I am actually thinking about a 1 wire system that Carl Walck sells...I have swapped out the points twice and it was a bear to do...had to stand on head to do it and there is like a #6 screw that holds the points in place and the head was all mangled too...Not sure what kind of a job it is to swap it (the distributor) out tho...has anybody on there done that??

Good luck..keep us in the loop...

MikeC
 
Put in the new coil... Still no sparky...

Hmmmm.

Pete
 
I had the same problem 30 years ago when I was in high school with a small block chey I turned the motor off and the next time I tried to start it it was dead no spark it ended up being the capacitor in the distributor if it has one in the distributor I suggest changing it and the one on the coil
 
Pete, have your son crank the engine after you've removed the distributor cap. Check to see that the rotor is turning as the engine is spinning. If you can see the points, make sure they're opening/closing as the engine spins, and see if you can detect a spark arking between the point pads as they open. Make sure your condensor lead isn't shorted against the distributor body. With ign. key on/engine off, follow the voltage path to the coil, if you have a DVOM. IIRC, you should have a little less than battery voltage at the pos. coil terminal (voltage goes through a ballast resistor I think). If you have voltage all the way to here, then something in/around the distributor is the culprit. For those of us in the "trade", we've found the hardest problems to solve have the stupidest answers when discovered. Just take your time in your search. You'll find the cause

Later...

Lee
 
Pete,

If you got shocked when you grabbed the distributor housing, that's telling you the distributor is not grounding. However, if you happened to be touching the terminal where the wire from the coil goes into the distributor it showed you have a good coil!!

Look for a shorted condenser. Also, you can pull the distributor and be sure the small ground wire running from the points to the distributor case and not broken. Look to see if you have a ground strap from the engine to the chassis. Without a ground strap, the engine will ground through other places or not at all. I've seen the plastic coating on throttle cables melted off because the engine was grounding through the cable and the resistance got it red hot.

As for the slop in the rotor, don't forget if you turn it with enough force you will be moving the weights for the centrifugal advance. Try to move the rotor slowly until you feel the resistance of the counter weight return springs starting to stretch. Again, this would be easier if you just pulled the distributor, sat down at the work bench and gave it a good once over and cleaning.

Good Luck,
Old Willy
 
Old Willy said:
Pete,

If you got shocked when you grabbed the distributor housing, that's telling you the distributor is not grounding. However, if you happened to be touching the terminal where the wire from the coil goes into the distributor it showed you have a good coil!!

Look for a shorted condenser. Also, you can pull the distributor and be sure the small ground wire running from the points to the distributor case and not broken. Look to see if you have a ground strap from the engine to the chassis. Without a ground strap, the engine will ground through other places or not at all. I've seen the plastic coating on throttle cables melted off because the engine was grounding through the cable and the resistance got it red hot.

As for the slop in the rotor, don't forget if you turn it with enough force you will be moving the weights for the centrifugal advance. Try to move the rotor slowly until you feel the resistance of the counter weight return springs starting to stretch. Again, this would be easier if you just pulled the distributor, sat down at the work bench and gave it a good once over and cleaning.

Good Luck,
Old Willy

All vehicles come from the factory with the negative battery cable attached to the engine block and the ground wire from the block to the chassis is for all the accessory's, lights, heater, radio, ect. unless your negative cable is hooked up to the chassis witch isn't normal then the above theory is true.
 
Looks like my engine ground strap is fine.

Pulled the points and condenser out last night and used an ohm meter to check the condenser. I got no reading at all on the condenser, so I'm hoping that is the problem. Decided not to spend the $15 on a new set of points, the old ones look fairly new.

I'll know tonight after work if the new condenser is the fix... :cheers:

Pete
 
try replacing condensor. condinsor there to reduce amps accross points. the "slop" that Old Willy described is correct.Vac advance slop. hope that helps

Mark
 
Replaced the condenser this morning, and still, no spark....

The points look good, reset the gap when I installed the condenser.

There is power to the coil.

I have only checked for spark on the #1 plug.

When I get some time in the next few days, I will dig deeper to see what has happened. Maybe it's the wire from the coil to the distributor.

It's gotta be something simple-

Pete
 
Hey Pete. How's it going the last of the troubleshooting? I like the "it's gotta be something simple" statement. It usually is, isn't it. My two cents says that your coil probably fried on the secondary side when you grounded yourself at the distributor. Kinda makes ya numb for a while don't it. :D Anyway, I've enjoyed your ride videos. I'm hoping my engine rebuild is just around the corner, so I can join ya.
As frustrating as it can be with this stuff Keep smiling. It's a toy.
Steve
 
aquawilly54 said:
Hey Pete. How's it going the last of the troubleshooting? I like the "it's gotta be something simple" statement. It usually is, isn't it. My two cents says that your coil probably fried on the secondary side when you grounded yourself at the distributor. Kinda makes ya numb for a while don't it. :D Anyway, I've enjoyed your ride videos. I'm hoping my engine rebuild is just around the corner, so I can join ya.
As frustrating as it can be with this stuff Keep smiling. It's a toy.
Steve

Steve-

I haven't had a chance to dig deeper. I replaced the coil and condenser already. I'm suspecting the wire from the coil to the distributor, or maybe a cracked distributor cap.

Hoping to get some time late today to run a few more tests.

Pete
 
Let me get this straight. You're keeping all of us in suspense (on pins and needles even) in anticipation of your next move simply because you have other things going on in your life?? :lol:
All eyes are upon you Pete. See what you started. :D :thumbup:
 
aquawilly54 said:
Let me get this straight. You're keeping all of us in suspense (on pins and needles even) in anticipation of your next move simply because you have other things going on in your life?? :lol:
All eyes are upon you Pete. See what you started. :D :thumbup:

Yes, I know, I hate it when life gets in the way of my fun... ;)

Wound up with a job-site crisis to resolve and a 2 hour boy-scout meeting that took up the evening yesterday. No time left so I didn't get under the hood to do any troubleshooting....

Maybe tomorrow-

Pete
 
Eureka!

Got my wagon running again this afternoon.

I did a few tests to make sure the coil was firing, and that the coil to distributor wire was good.

I decided to watch the points open and close as I cranked over the engine, to see if there was a spark there.

When I cranked it over with the cap off, there were sparks all over the place, but none at the contacts... I took the points out and looked them over carefully, and found that the part of the points that hinges open and closed had worked it's way down the hinge to the point that it was contacting the base of the points. In effect, the points weren't opening, and the coil wasn't firing as a result.

I ran over to the Parts-Plus and got a new set of points, $10, and put them in. Hit the key, and it fired right up... :cheers:

I did find a couple of other issues in the process though. The spark plug wires are so bad I'm not sure how it runs. The ends that were put on at the distributor end of the wires were done incorrectly, and it looks like the spark must be jumping from the cap to the end of the wires because the metal terminals that are crimped on are on the outside of the wires only... Looks like new wires are next.

Also, when I hit the throttle, I noticed a little squirt of fuel jet out of the side of the carb and onto the manifold... :shock:
I tightened the screws on the carb and it seems to have stopped the little squirt. Might have to rebuild the carb too.

It is running, but missing a bit on takeoff. Might be the bad wires, might be the carb.

I think the points problem was a complete coincidence with looking under the hood the other day...

Pete
 
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