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Hot Rods 4 year mystery

Discussion in 'The Hokey Ass Message Board' started by Michael Ottavi, Jul 2, 2020.

  1. Michael Ottavi
    Joined: Dec 3, 2008
    Posts: 74

    Michael Ottavi

    Four years ago I bought a beautifully built 29' highboy from a fellow HAMBer. The car was professionally built in every way by another HAMBEer. It has a 350ci crate engine with a Accel 71100E distributor, Accel Super shot coil and a MSD Street Fire spark box. Every spring (after sitting out the winter in a very dry but occasionally heated garage) when I try to start it it will not fire. It is getting fuel in the carbs fine. For 4 years it has been the same drill, turn it over, no start. Start to do a electrical component check (got as far as the coil and spark box which tested fine) and when I reach the point of quitting, it eventually fires right up. This is after several attempts at spinning it over for awhile. The wiring in this car is excellent. I have two friends who are automotive electrical experts and they are stumped. Once it fires, it runs fine all summer, has never stumbled starting once it fires for the first time in the spring and runs fine till I put it away and try to start it after it has sat all winter. I have put about 1000 miles on it every summer without a single issue. It is driving me crazy, any suggestions why this happens every spring? Thanking you in advance for any imput.
    chryslerfan55 likes this.
  2. squirrel
    Joined: Sep 23, 2004
    Posts: 46,702


    The first thing I would check is that it's getting power to the ignition system, when you turn on the key. Grasping at straws here, but it's possible the ignition terminal contact is getting oxidized over the winter, and it takes a while to work off the thin layer of oxidation. The MSD box does not get it's main power from the ignition switch, it only has a "sensor" wire that draws very little current.

    but it's working now, so there are no tests you can do right now to try to see what the problem is. Gotta wait till spring, to troubleshoot it.
    Last edited: Jul 2, 2020
  3. KoolKat-57
    Joined: Feb 22, 2010
    Posts: 2,966

    from Dublin, OH

    Not trying to be a wise guy, but have you thought of starting it every once in a while over the winter.
    I think Jim has hit the nail on the head with a slight bit of oxidation on one or more of the terminals working off as the electrical draw from trying to start it repeatedly.
  4. 32v
    Joined: May 20, 2007
    Posts: 949

    from v.i.

    I would replace ign switch
    Atwater Mike likes this.

  5. gnichols
    Joined: Mar 6, 2008
    Posts: 10,770

    from Tampa, FL

    Carb or FI? Water in the gas? Do you use stabil? Regardless, only use ethanol free high octane gas. Until I fingered it out, it happened to my lawn mower ever year.
    chryslerfan55 likes this.
  6. Similar to the self-repairing electrical idea, maybe it's not starting until a bit of water at the bottom of the tank is worked through.
  7. Jokester
    Joined: Jan 29, 2005
    Posts: 430


    Is spark the issue? Or is there no fuel in the carb? Mine does the same thing each spring but it's because the carb and fuel line has gone dry and it takes a while for the fuel system to prime. After that all is good.

    pitman, chryslerfan55, bymanr and 2 others like this.
  8. But, he said the carbs are getting fuel.
    chryslerfan55 and lothiandon1940 like this.
  9. Its like the hibernating bear,, you poke it and it takes a bit to get it awake!!
  10. brigrat
    Joined: Nov 9, 2007
    Posts: 5,212

    from Wa.St.

    The carb may be getting fuel but is it any good?
    Next time shoot some starting fluid down the carb first thing and have someone hit the key. That should tell you if it's spark or gas or rarely both.
    I find this little tool is very handy checking spark...………….
  11. 1946caddy
    Joined: Dec 18, 2013
    Posts: 1,689

    from washington

    I would use some Dielectric grease on the electrical connections.
  12. I vaguely recall that part of the pre-trip inspection of small airplanes is to take a sample of fuel and visually inspect it.
    Last edited: Jul 2, 2020
  13. ME? Just not worry about it any longer. Drive the bugger!

  14. I suppose it matters when he checks for fuel in the carbs. If the fuel hasn't drained back to the tank, then that disqualifies the water in the tank idea. It's possible that fuel in the bowls has water that's settled to the bottom.
    chryslerfan55 likes this.
  15. Could the plugs have condensation and/or corrosion on them initially? Inspect the spark plugs before trying to start it.
  16. If you have any suspicions of any of the electrical connections, you might want to start by getting yourself a can of DeOxit D5.

    Disconnect or unplug any electrical terminals or connections and give them a shot or two of DeOxit per directions. Reassemble and prepare yourself for the high probability of a near-miraculous cure of your electrical problems.
  17. 41 coupe
    Joined: Nov 29, 2009
    Posts: 284

    41 coupe
    from bristol pa

    Give it a shot of starting fluid, I bet it will start right up.
  18. X-cpe
    Joined: Mar 9, 2018
    Posts: 981


    What he didn't say was if fuel was coming out of the carbs. Could be a varnish build up from the evaporated gas that the new bowl full of fuel takes a little while to dissolve.
  19. Interesting. I would think he checked for fuel by operating the acceleration pumps.
    chryslerfan55 likes this.
  20. I have had similar problems with an OT 90's GM vehicle. I had problems with starting it after long period of sitting. Once I got it running, no more problems.

    Turned out the distributor cap would get moisture inside and would foul the spark. I learned to remove the cap and spray down the cap and distributor with WD-40, blow down with air, replace cap, would start right up with no issues. The aftermarket caps had a larger ventilation hole in them, I changed back to the brass probed GM caps direct from dealership, that also seemed to fix the problem.
  21. atch
    Joined: Sep 3, 2002
    Posts: 4,484


    As Squirrel said no one can trouble shoot it 'til next spring, . However, this winter when you put it away you might put it where you want it to spend the winter; siphon as much gas out of the tank as possible; start it and let it idle until it runs out of gas. If it it water in the gas or varnish this might cure it for next year.
    chryslerfan55 likes this.
  22. jimmy six
    Joined: Mar 21, 2006
    Posts: 6,894

    jimmy six

    Personally I dump all the ignition stuff and get a Pertronix ll system in a stock style distributor. But others here will disagree. If it’s in a warm environment you should not have a problem. I agree with others on Stabil, I use marine, and a full tank. Good luck.
    chryslerfan55 likes this.
  23. Bandit Billy
    Joined: Sep 16, 2014
    Posts: 6,741

    Bandit Billy

    ^^^Insert image here of @squirrel closing his eyes and shaking his head slowly after reading your pertronics comment. :cool:
  24. Michael Ottavi
    Joined: Dec 3, 2008
    Posts: 74

    Michael Ottavi

    Thanks guys, really appreciate all the information! It started right up today, guess I am good to go till next spring?
  25. squirrel
    Joined: Sep 23, 2004
    Posts: 46,702


    There is probably no way to know what the cause is, until it acts up again, and you can do some testing.

    The more you drive it, the less it acts up, eh? :)
    F-ONE and chryslerfan55 like this.
  26. @jimmy six knows his shit. More than a lot of folks that think they do. You don't get a red hat for not knowing how to wrench
    belair likes this.
  27. Keep one in the glove box at all times.
    chryslerfan55 likes this.
  28. Moriarity
    Joined: Apr 11, 2001
    Posts: 18,899

    Staff Member

    It still floors me that people are so terrified of ignition points, especially when they are the most trouble free ignition system there is. The only requirement is periodic maintenance
  29. Atwater Mike
    Joined: May 31, 2002
    Posts: 10,236

    Atwater Mike

    I still run points & condenser, but keep a Pertronix kit in the glove box just in case...:D
  30. squirrel
    Joined: Sep 23, 2004
    Posts: 46,702


    Any type of ignition system can give you trouble. Some are easier to diagnose and fix, than others. Some are easier to get parts for than others. Run what you want...but think ahead to how you're gonna fix it when it fails.

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