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Condenser failure - I've seen it all now !!

Discussion in 'The Hokey Ass Message Board' started by JohnEvans, Nov 5, 2010.

  1. JohnEvans
    Joined: Apr 13, 2008
    Posts: 4,883

    from Phoenix AZ

    Well yesterday my Roadster statred running like crap. Got to where I was going and did my biz. Pulled air filters and looked like one carb was dripping abit, left for home and was running pretty much OK. Replaced the needle/seat and re-snyconized the carbs and called it fixed !! Took of this morning and damm near didn't make it around the block back home. Would idle and that was it and not real good at that. The old line about 90% of fuel is electrical proved right this time. Changed the condenser out and now runs right. Seems this condenser worked OK when it got warm but not cold ,ass backwards from normal !!!:confused: In 50 years of driving that is only the second condenser I've ever had fail ,the other was a real old style, not sealed, that I got water in. Just when you think nothing a car would do would surprise you something like this pops up.
    need louvers ? likes this.
  2. espo35
    Joined: Jul 16, 2010
    Posts: 310

    from california

    That is an odd one. I've changed hundreds of condensers, back in the day....always as preventative maintenance on customers' cars, never because one went bad.

  3. You're a very lucky man. When I'm running points I never leave home without a spare condensor.

    Glad ya got it sorted out.
    slack likes this.

  4. Same here........It was a standard part of a tune up back in the day but I never really saw one fail. I guess yours is proof that they do.

  5. ClayPigeonKiller
    Joined: Mar 3, 2010
    Posts: 203


    I've actually seen a few. They do really weird things when the condenser quits. Last time was a couple of months ago in a '72? Owatonna Mustang Skidloader.

    It doesn't happen too often but they can drive you nuts. You did good finding it as fast as you did. Take an atta-boy out of petty cash. :)

    falcongeorge likes this.
  6. shainerman
    Joined: Apr 18, 2009
    Posts: 820


    Im with porknbeaner. Ive lost tons of condensers over the years. Its the shitty quality of the newer ones. The Echlin condensers aren't bad, but they aren't good either!
    falcongeorge likes this.
  7. missysdad1
    Joined: Dec 9, 2008
    Posts: 2,979


    I bought a really, really nice Caddy CDV years ago because the owner couldn't get it to run even though everything seemed to be okay. He was so frustrated he practically gave it away.

    An hour later with the help of a friend we had it running great! The problem: bad condenser.

    His loss...

  8. When I was about 19 I was having trouble with my pontiac we changed points, leads, plugs couple of times it was still running like shit so i brought another holley still run like shit then finally someone came up with the idea to reeplace the condenser. Problem Solved. Conseqently it one of the first things i do if my car is playin up these days
  9. 1957Custom
    Joined: Jul 26, 2009
    Posts: 231

    from Tulsa Ok

    When I took shop class in the seventies the teacher told us "How can a piece of tin foil surrounded by waxed paper go bad!" I found out just how fast they can go bad a year later.
  10. jmh
    Joined: Jun 30, 2008
    Posts: 439


    I have had 2 brand new condensers that were bad.. One on a motorcycle and the other on a 50 Chevy.. John
  11. In over forty yrs of working on cars, I too have only had 2 bad condensors. One made a 55 Ford (Y-Block) run a little rough. The other, and this is a pretty good story, was a 65 Mustang 6 cyl.
    I go to my shop one Sunday to work on my own car. I pull the Mustang out to make room, and leave it idling in the lot to warm it up a bit while I take a leak. From the bathroom I hear the Mustang shut off. I figure it's a friend that stopped by to visit, shutting the car off, thinking he's doing me a favor. I come out and nobody's around. The car won't start, and I'm getting pissed, because I came to play with something else, not this POS. After checking the obvious I'm getting more pissed because there seems to be NOTHING wrong, and by that I mean I have a nice blue spark. So, with the cap off the dizzy, I don't know why, but I had the urge to disconnect the condensor from the point set and ground it. Re-connect, and it starts for a few seconds. I replace the condensor and it was fixed. So, WHY the nice spark, and it not wanting to start?
    Joined: Jun 3, 2005
    Posts: 8,123


    Had a Boss 302 with a 289 hipo distributor. Ran smooth as silk but when I went to run it hard it wouldn't pull past 6200. Smooth but no power over that and I was used to shifting that one a 7500. Dual points and condensors, one condensor went bad. Swapped it out and bang...back to pulling hard as hell all the way up. Chased the issue for near 2 weeks.
  13. i work on a lot of model A's, it's pretty common to have one fail. other than them maybe once.
  14. Brad54
    Joined: Apr 15, 2004
    Posts: 6,014

    from Atl Ga

    I have a friend who diagnosed a burned valve on his engine... figured that was just the excuse to rebuild it! After doing a complete machine-shop build on the thing, drops it back in the car and it's skipping like it has a burned valve.
    Replaced the condenser and it ran flawlessly.

  15. Bruce Lancaster
    Joined: Oct 9, 2001
    Posts: 21,682

    Bruce Lancaster
    Member Emeritus

    It's one of those progress things...primitive to highly developed and on to...decadent.
    Early condensers had their problems from primitive insulation and primitive sealing materials. The '60's and '70's were a sort of golden age, with materials progress giving us bulletproof insulation and sealing. Then came the K-Mart cheapest source on the planet mentality...and a return to primitive insulation and leaky sealing.
    Model A's got into condenser failures early, because the Model A repro parts places found really, really bad cheap sources long before mainstream parts stores did.
    lothiandon1940 likes this.
  16. kenb
    Joined: Sep 19, 2008
    Posts: 89

    Member Emeritus

    Although rare, I can vouch that condensers can do weird things at times. I had starting problems with an OT late 60's VW a few years back, when it stranded me in a friends driveway one night. When I went to leave, the engine would start briefly, but just sputter and wheeze a bit before quitting again repeatedly. I finally gave up, and to my surprise, the damn thing started right up in the morning as though nothing had happened.

    Although it was a little sluggish occasionally, the Bug ran OK otherwise for a few days, including surviving a 400 mile road trip I took in between with no problems at all. Shortly after though, I returned to my buddys place and the same thing happened again when I tried to leave, in exactly the same driveway as the first time! :confused:

    This time, my buddy suggested that we swap out the condenser from some spare parts he had around and give it another try. He mentioned that he had experienced condenser problems with motorcycles in the past, and the intermittent nature of my problem was what caught his eye and prodded him to have a look at the condenser.

    Problem solved, the car started right up and ran better than it had in months. I'm just glad it didn't happen when I was on my road trip!

  17. Cymro
    Joined: Jul 1, 2008
    Posts: 709


    falcongeorge and kiwijeff like this.
  18. pdq67
    Joined: Feb 12, 2007
    Posts: 787


    Mine was a bad coil on the old '63 Merc Meteor I bought that the guy sold that he'd bought for his daughters to drive to HS.

    He had a straight face when I told him about it until I told him that I just walked like three blocks to a parts place and bought a new one for it and now, it runs FINE!!! Then next, the funniest look on his face...

    $300 or $350 car back then.

  19. <FANG>
    Joined: Feb 7, 2008
    Posts: 531

    from W.L.A.

    I allways carrie a spare or two in the glove box just in case
  20. Cshabang
    Joined: Mar 30, 2004
    Posts: 2,458


    what are these points and condensers you guys are speaking of?????? hahahahahahaha

    for the record, Im just screwing around, i just changed a set for my buddy a few months ago in his mustang..Its funny how the parts guy didnt even know what they were...haha and he was a "car guy" Ive had one go bad in another friends deuce..Only one I had ever heard of failing
  21. CutawayAl
    Joined: Aug 3, 2009
    Posts: 2,144

    from MI

    When I was a mechanic i encountered a failed condenser occasionally.

    Each coil is different and so is every condenser. On the rare occasion where I found the points were wearing evenly I wouldn't change the condenser if the customer was a regular. But, you can't count on them lasting forever, so even the rare "good" one needs to be changed eventually.
  22. moparmonkey
    Joined: Aug 14, 2009
    Posts: 565

    from NorCal

    Don't know how so many of you guys haven't ever changed a bad condenser! Maybe the parts guys have it out for me?

    Quality control on condensers these days is really lacking. I practically went through a case of them trying to keep the dual point Mallory in my '56 Austin Healey running. Car would get warmed up, start stumbling, and just shut off. Wait 15-20 minutes, fire it up, drive home. Finally found a "good one", everything works fine. Hopefully it'll last a good long time so I can work my average back down...
  23. llonning
    Joined: Nov 17, 2007
    Posts: 679


    A buddy of mine has had the same condenser in his mother's 69 Chevelle since 69. Claims he can tell a good one from a weak one by the way the points wear.

    On the other hand about 30 years ago when I was in the parts business, had a good customer come in for a tune up. Sold him everything. Plugs, points, condenser, cap, etc. He then proceeded home to install it all. Calls up a couple of hours later and says it runs worse than before. As typical we all chased a fuel problem, as that is what it acted like. He couldn't move his truck more than a few feet at a time. Turned out to be the brand new condenser. None of us could believe it at the time.
  24. Truckedup
    Joined: Jul 25, 2006
    Posts: 3,924


    I always drove well used shitboxes and still do sort of.I can't ever remember a condensor failing on the road.I think one time a new one was bad in the box.
    If the condenser shorts to ground, you're pushing.
  25. Deuce Daddy Don
    Joined: Apr 27, 2008
    Posts: 5,056

    Deuce Daddy Don

    Back in the "old" days we used to call it "Shooting ducks" when you would wind out in 2nd gear & the motor would begin to miss & crap out repeatedly, BAD CONDENSER!!

    Friend of mine that had an auto/electric shop explained the condenser this way-----------A condenser acts like your shock absorbers, it will only take just so much of the raw direct current & then start to break down under a load (acceleration top end).

    As previously stated, ALWAYS replace condenser when replacing points!!----Don
    kiwijeff likes this.
  26. GassersGarage
    Joined: Jul 1, 2007
    Posts: 4,728


    Back around '80, I ran into a rash of bad condensers from the local auto parts store. They lasted a week, then went bad. After that, I either bought Accel from a speed shop or Delco Remy from the dealership.
    lothiandon1940 likes this.
  27. Condenser?????????? I thought this thread was about air conditioning. Didn't seem too traditional............Ohh, now I remember!
  28. espo35
    Joined: Jul 16, 2010
    Posts: 310

    from california

    Back when dinosaurs roamed the Earth, I was taught that metal transfer from the movable point onto the fixed point was a sign of a failing condensor.
    falcongeorge and wicarnut like this.
  29. need louvers ?
    Joined: Nov 20, 2008
    Posts: 12,906

    need louvers ?

    See John! That's what you get for running all that old junk! 'Course we won't talk about my "spare" MSD box and coil in the trunk...
  30. CutawayAl
    Joined: Aug 3, 2009
    Posts: 2,144

    from MI

    Even point wear isn't a matter of weak or strong. Even point wear happens when the capacitance of the condenser exactly compliments a particular coil. Condensers do deteriorate. I would be afraid to depend on one 40+ years old, but if it works that's the bottom line.

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