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Can't Set Flathead Ignition Timing

Discussion in 'The Hokey Ass Message Board' started by tpc4130, Oct 28, 2011.

  1. tpc4130
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    tpc4130 Member

    Just finished rebuilding the engine in my '34 Ford Pickup---59A block, 3 5/16 bore x 4 in. stroke 1949 Merc crank, Harmon-Collins 3/4 cam, stock Ford crab type distributor, rebuilt Holley 885-FF carb on Merc manifold, all new wiring, new radiator, new fuel pump, new fuel tank and new fuel lines. Installed new rings and main bearings, but didn't remove cam or crank from block. TDC for #1 cyl. verified using interference method. New points and distributor timing set to specs defined by instructions published on Vanpelt web site. Engine was running before rebuild, but won't even fire now. It's getting fuel, has good compression in all cylinders and strong spark at all plugs. Indications are it's out of time, but I can't figure out why or how to fix it. With #1 cyl at 4 deg. BTDC on compression stroke the rotor points between #1 and #5 terminals on distributor cap---almost to #5. Help and/or suggestions please.
    Last edited: Oct 28, 2011
  2. DD COOPMAN
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    DD COOPMAN Member

    Since the distributors only go on already indexed properly by the cam slot, it almost sounds like the cam gear is off by two or three teeth in relation with the crank gear. DD
  3. woodypecker
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    woodypecker Member

    If DD COOPMAN is correct you could find out by indexing wires back one cyclinder and if that works then pull front cover and fix correctly.
  4. tpc4130
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    tpc4130 Member

    Thanks for your response. What you say makes sense, but since I didn't take the cam or the valves out could it have jumped time somehow?
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  5. George/Maine
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    George/Maine Member

    Is your cap marked looking from front to back pass side,
    2 on top,1,5,4. divers top 7 3 6 8
    #1 is pass side ,tdc maybe found by getting pistons 2 and 3 even from top.Rotor should be at 11 oclock /or 1 on cap.
  6. Rickybop
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    Rickybop Member

    Welcome to the Hamb.

    If you in-fact do have good spark at the plugs, and fuel in the cylinders, it should do something...even just a pop or a bang or a poof. Are you're absolutely sure that fuel is getting to the cylinders?...wet plugs?...smell like gas? If not positive...maybe pull one plug and squirt a little fuel in there, put the plug back in and try. If it then fires at all...it's a fuel problem.

    The cam wasn't out, and the timing gears weren't disturbed? Seems you're not new to this stuff, and would've been aware of any damage to the teeth. I doubt it jumped time. And I still say it should do something...even if cam and ignition timing is off.

    Good luck. Let us know.
  7. tpc4130
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    tpc4130 Member

    Yes, it's just as you describe, except rotor points more toward 8:30.
  8. Rickybop
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    Rickybop Member

    I think the cam would have to completely stop turning to keep it from firing at all. But you said you've got good compression. That means it's turning. Did the engine run before you rebuilt it? If not, did you check to see that it's in correct position in relation to the crank? I'm thinkin' that if someone else installed the cam, and it was never run since...
  9. Rickybop
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    Rickybop Member

    Just read George's post and your response. Could be ign. timing after all.

    I just hit all the possibilities...then I'm right...lol.
  10. tpc4130
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    tpc4130 Member

    Thanks for the suggestions. The engine was running before the rebuild. Therefore, it didn't occur to me to check the valve timing before putting everything back together---but, I have the pass. side head off now and just eyeballing it the valve timing looks o.k. I can check the valve timing better tomorrow if I must, and if I can find a degree wheel, but boy, I hate to take the radiator back off.

    As far as the suggestions about damp plugs, pouring a little gas in the cylinders, etc., I did try that (several times) and there's no indication of an explosion in the cylinders. No pop, poof, spit back through the carb., no exhaust smell---but the plugs get damp, there's fuel in the manifold and the accelerator pump squirts.

    If the cam has jumped time can I re-index it without taking the radiator off? I've never put in a camshaft before when the engine was in the car.
  11. George/Maine
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    George/Maine Member

    I think the rad will have to come off.Looks like 90degs out.
    there are 4 bolts on end of cam,maybe of 90dges.Or remove crankshaft gear and line up the dots.before it goes back check valve timing and rotor should be at 11 oclock.
  12. Hoop-in-JAX
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    Hoop-in-JAX Member

    "I can check the valve timing better tomorrow if I must, and if I can find a degree wheel, but boy, I hate to take the radiator back off."

    Just watch the piston TDC relative to the valves between the exhaust stoke and the intake stroke. Ex. valve should close and Int. valve open as piston crosses TDC.

    Guys tend to pay more attention to what the piston does TDC on the compression stroke ... lot to be learned from what the valves do at the top of the exhaust stroke.

    If you are getting good, even compression readings, that's generally not an indication of a valve timing issue. Readings would be erratic.

    (George .... have we been here before???)
  13. R Pope
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    R Pope Member

    If the wires are on the cap right, it's in time. Is it possible the cam gears slipped when you rolled in the main bearings? Doesn't sound like it, really, but........
  14. 48FordFanatic
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    48FordFanatic Member

    Hey, since we're on the subject. I was helping a friend get his flathead started earlier this week. It has the crab-type distributor and when I was putting it back together after installing new points I noticed that there was a small plate with graduation marks on the screw that locks the points mounting plate to the body of the distributor. This would seem to be timing ( or dwell ) adjustment. Can someone enlighten me on this . Thanks, John
  15. christmas tree
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    christmas tree Member

    Flathead valve timing cannot jump without some teeth being broken. Pull the front cover, all good teeth, look some where else. Check your dist. cap to plug wires for correct order. Good luck Xmas Tree
  16. christmas tree
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    christmas tree Member

    Be sure you are dot to dot on on your cam And crank gear. One guy mentioned dropping the crank down to put ft. main brg. in. Too much drop and you are out of time. Pull the cover, nothing broken, dot to dot, look some place else.Xmas Tree
  17. chopper cliff
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    chopper cliff Member

    sounds like a couple teeth off, plate on side of dist is to set advance/retard, you can do this while it is running, but if you dropped the crank, you could have missed the t/marks, also it is possible to get the dist in 180 out, it don't fit well but it can be done, I hate to admit it but I did it once
  18. R Pope
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    R Pope Member

    The drive flanges would have to be worn badly to get the dist in 180 out, but I suppose it could happen.
  19. DICK SPADARO
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    DICK SPADARO Member

    Wait, is this the same topic from the ford barn that could get the timing and the engine to fire????

    Before you rip your engine all apart chasing some bizzare issue, just check the spark plug wiring arrangement. If you have spark and you have fuel, it has to run. Now you say that you have fuel and you have a good spark so that is a good begininng.

    The next issue is to make sure that you have the cap and spark plugs wired correctly. The biggest mistake is to assume that a Flathead cylinder layout is numbered like a Small block Chev. News Flash its not!

    Flathead engines number the cylinders 1234 on the passenger side and 5678 on the driver side, if you have wired your cap or your plugs like the layout of a Chevy 2468 passenger side and 1357 driver side your engine will crank all day long but will not start.

    Crab style caps should have number 1 plug wire at the number 1 terminal which when viewed from the front is the 2nd contact to the left of the coil wire terminal or approx 9 o'clock position. The rotor spins counter clockwise so the sequence should be 15486372.
    Last edited: Oct 29, 2011
  20. flatjack
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    flatjack
    ALLIANCE MEMBER

    My bet is with plug wires. On most V-8 engines #1 cylinder is the furthest forward. Not on a flathead,
  21. George/Maine
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    George/Maine Member

    There was a problem like this on Ford barn.
    Now seeing you have the head off ,you can see if 2 and 3 cylinders are even in height and #1 is at top TDC that should be the firing of number 1,and the rotor should be a 11 oclock.
    It is important that this is done right.# 1 is on pass side.
    If you dropped crankshaft to put bearing in they didn,t mess corrrect.If you did the work only you know,all other is bull shit.
  22. tpc4130
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    tpc4130 Member

    Thanks everyone for your suggestions. I'm 99+% sure the wiring is correct. I wish that was the problem, since it would be simple to fix, but I'm afraid it's not the trouble. It's been checked by three different persons. I have diagrams of the engine numbering scheme and the firing order prominently posted in my garage. Actually, I've never worked on a small block Chev. I've always preferred Ford and Mopar equipment:).

    Looks like taking off the cover and inspecting camshaft to crankshaft indexing is the next step, but I probably won't try that until tomorrow.
  23. George/Maine
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    George/Maine Member

    I would hate to take it apart for no reason.If the rotor is a 11 oclock or even 180 out could be the slot is in wrong.
    Now for the valves if at TDC turn one full turn and 6degs past TDC the exhaust valve should close.
    Intake opens at TDC,Exhaust closes ATDC, A is after 6 Degs.
    Double check to make sure.
  24. tig master
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    tig master Member

    x2

    Tig
  25. designs that work
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    central calif.

    designs that work Member

    A engine needs three things to run, FUEL, FIRE OR SPARK AND AIR. Has anybody taken a very small amount of fuel and thrown a lit match to see if the fuel will burn?
  26. tpc4130
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    tpc4130 Member

    Good question! Haven't tried exactly what you suggest, but did put some of the same fuel in another engine and that engine appears to work o.k.
  27. greaseguns
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    greaseguns Member

    It is to make small adjustments to timing ether advance or retard for poor fuel quality

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