no spark


Gear Grinder
Jan 16, 2011
Willys Model
Willys Year:
Hi all,
I've a '46 Willy's military jeep that I was driving up a steep hill when I hit a (medium sized) bump and immediately lost power. Backed off the hill but couldn't restart. Starter turns but no plug wire or coil wire spark. Everything looks and feels solid as far as connections etc. Distributor shaft is turning, points seem to be opening and closing ok but I cannot quite see them myself while turning the key. The system was switched over to 12 volt years ago and the coil shows voltage at the pos and neg terminals. Its stuck way out up high on our land so not easy to get to for a mechanic etc.
Any leads/suggestions welcomed. Thanks!
Thanks for the reply Eric
The grounds are solid, whoever rewired it to 12 volt ran the battery ground to the chassis which seems to have worked fine for years- the block ground to chassis is tight to. I got a new coil with an internal resistor as I can't see an external one that I'll put in tomm. A friend is coming up to help take a look at it with me. I put a fresh charge on the battery so we can crank on it and diagnose. I hate ignition gremlins as I don't know what the points etc are supposed to look like 'normally' or while operating. Like I said previously, everything in the dist. seems tight and not damaged.
Hey Jay, welcome to the forum, I went back in pages and did a no post on Pete spark problems thread to bring it up to present read it
Thanks Bob,
I went back up to the jeep today with a kind neighbor and found that the timing chain must have jumped/slipped when I hit the bump. Needless to say, it'll be a bit more of a 'robust' field repair now. No way to feasible tow it out of there this time of year, ground too soft and the hills too steep but it's in a gorgeous setting!
What engine do you have? The 4cyl engines have timing gears--not a chain and unless one of the gears got real worn or lost some teeth the timing won't jump.

Also (if I remember right) if the distributor is turning and all is well with the ignition switch, wiring, coil, points, etc. you should still have spark to the plugs. It's just if the cam/valve timing is off the plugs are firing on open valves and the engine won't run.

Old Willy
Hi jay,
If you are getting power to the coil and nothing out of the coil wire you need to continue to check the rest of the ignition circuit. The wire from the coil to the distributor then through the points. Check the condenser connections and condenser wire it may have broken with the bump. Are the points making a good connection?
Jay, here's my two cents. I understand you say the grounds are all good, but let me throw this out there. Years ago, a friends vehicle had an issue where if he took left hand turns all ignition was lost. Turns out after a few weeks of playing with it, that the battery would shift and ground out on the body and stop everything.

I'm not saying that's your problem, but I do think it's just an ignition issue. Check under the dash to make sure nothing is contacting (grounding out) and do some cranking tests. Primary and secondary ignition.

A slipped timing chain or a broken timing gear does NOT equal NO SPARK. Something else is going on.
We pulled a spark plug yesterday and saw it spark once. It wouldn't spark again. We got the #1 piston to TDC and the rotor was out of position - meaning it was at the 5 oclock position when it should have been at 12 oclock. That's why we think something internally must have jumped or slipped when I hit the bump. There is voltage/continuity through the dist and points.
How do you test a the condenser? Also, anyone have a link for an engine illustration?
Thanks for the replies,
Also we found that we're missing the camshaft nut that holds the pulley on.
Anyone know the size and thread pitch for it?
The part numbers are:
FM GWP 6319
WO 387633
Thanks again!
Solved and rescued with the help of 2 very skilled and kind neighbors. Replaced condenser, cap, rotor and plugs. Points removed and cleaned, re gapped. Fired right up. Took 2 attempts to climb the hill where it was stranded due to the road being feral for 20+ years but, in typical 'built for war' fashion, it rallied.
It really needs to be gone through for a mechanical overhaul. Any good jeep guys in the Sacramento area?
Thanks all for your replies/suggestions,
Any good jeep guys in the Sacramento area?
Jay, glad to hear you got it going.

Willys rule #1. ALWAYS step back and take the time to troubleshoot before jumping to any conclusions. I was afraid your friend was gonna have you knee deep in the front end of that engine needlesly. With these things, it's usually something simple that will just elude you for a while. At any rate, a good deal you made it to the top. :)

Jeep guys - When I bought my first Willys pick-up, back in 1982, I lived in Rancho Cordova, CA. There was (and hopefully still is) a place on Fulton Ave. called Central 4WD. At least I think that's what it was called. A guy named GARY owned it and could tell you just about anything about any jeep back then. It might be worth checking out. Let me know if you do.