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Introduction / No Spark Issue

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holymolyitsclay Clay B.
Louisville, KY, USA   USA
Hello everyone!

This is my first post on this forum - I just acquired my grandfather's 1975 Spitfire and am very excited about it. He bought it in 2002 when I was 10 years old, and had always promised that I would inherit it someday. That day has finally come and I am thrilled to be in possession of a car that meant so much to my grandfather for so many years.

He restored the car over about 3 years, then parked it, driving it every so often and starting it up about once every couple of weeks. His health started deteriorating about 7 years ago, and the car hasn't been touched since that time.

I trailered the car back to my garage last Saturday, and have been working on it every night since. I have quite a bit of experience with working on cars and older Honda motorcycles from the '70's, but this is my first time touching a car from this era. There is a pretty steep learning curve, but I am really enjoying the process and how much there is to learn from working on these cars. I cannot wait until I get this thing in running order again so I can drive it by his nursing home and show him the car. I know he'll be absolutely thrilled!


Onto my issue:

When I got the car, first thing I did before trying to start it was change the oil/filter, new spark plugs, new battery, change out old gas for new gas, tried to start it up. Cranks over great but not starting. First thing I checked was that fuel was getting to the carburetors. Looking directly into the carb with the choke open, I see gas on one side of the carb but the other side is empty. Seeing this, I sprayed starter fluid into the carbs and tried to start it - no dice.

Next step was checking spark. I hooked up my spark plug tool to the spark plug wires, new spark plug on the other end, turned over the engine. No spark on any of the cylinders. I tested my coil, old one tested a little low, I had an extra which I know is working (from testing with multi-meter/test light), no spark. Test the distributor by putting spark plug on the end of the HT wire coming from the center of the dizzy, grounded spark plug, touching to metal and the spark plug fired.

Next I connected my test light to the negative side of the coil and cranked the engine. The light didn't flash on and off, so I remove the wire from the negative side of the coil and, with the ignition key on, checked for power at the positive and negative sides of the coil. I had power to both the positive and negative, which I'm assuming means the problem is in the points, or the condenser.

I took apart the dizzy and inspected everything. The points appear to be connected fine, I took it all apart and put it back together, set the points with a feeler gauge, filed points, and inspected it - still no spark. The only thing I saw which might be an issue is the ground wire in the breaker plate. It is a piece of what looks to be string with wire inside, and appears to be soldered to the breaker plate at one point a long time ago. this was frayed and looked worn, and essentially came off entirely when I touched it lightly. I tried regrounding it, but still no spark.

I am really not sure where to go from here. Do I replace the entire dizzy? Get a new breaker plate with a known good ground wire? Replace the points, condenser?

Any advice on testing the points themself? I am not getting any spark from them when I separate them manually.

Any help or input is greatly appreciated. Thank you guys / gals!

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Lizzard d id
san jose, CA, USA   USA
Get your self a set of replacement points / condenser , cap / rotor , wires , coil . We don't know how old your old ones are . The whole set will cost not much .

sampattr250 Avatar
sampattr250 Sam P
Harwinton, CT, USA   USA
I concur.

It's an inexpensive way to make sure everything is working. Parts are probably available at your local NAPA and easy to change.

I can't remember if the 75 is equipped with a ballast resistor, like my 72. Make sure you get the correct coil.



Sam

1968 TR250
1972 MK IV Spitfire

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holymolyitsclay Clay B.
Louisville, KY, USA   USA
Thank you for your responses, guys. I am tempted to just buy a new distributor, wires, and coil from a reputable spitfire parts dealer for about $150 shipped. Do you guys recommend trying to just replace the points/condenser, wires, and cap first or going all out on the replacement parts? The breaker plate currently on my car concerns me a bit so I'd like to have that replaced as well.

I also noticed 2 wires hanging near the distributor that didn't seem to have a home. Both coming out of wires coming from ignition, one was white/blue and one was white/pink (color blind here so work with me). I plugged the longer wire into the distributor cap (other wire wouldn't reach) but didn't seem to do anything. Plugged shorter wire into a terminal right by the loose wire, not sure what that was either! I'll post pictures when I get home. Could be completely unrelated.



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 2019-02-06 09:41 AM by holymolyitsclay.

tapkaJohnD Avatar
tapkaJohnD John Davies
Lancaster, Lancashire, UK   GBR
What an Excellent accocunt of your attempts to get Grandpa's car started! I presume he's not around to say so, or to compliment your clinical, progressive, diagnostic process, then I will!
I also presume he can't advise you, so we must try to help him!

You have, I think correctly focussed on the distributor. Have you put a multimeter on the wire from that to the coil, the low volt one? As you turn the engine, you should see 12V appear and then disappear on it, as the points open then close . A bulb in that part of the circuit would do as well, coming on then going out in the same way. NB. the volts appear when the points are open, and the bulb goes ON when they are closed. I'll bet that you don't see that! I suspect that if you were to remove the capacitor, then normal service will be resumed.

The capacitor/condensor is a device to suppress arcing at the points , which wears them out much faster. But it is unnecessary for function, and the failure mode for the capacitor is that it shorts to earth, so the points don't switch the coil current, so no spark. You can run the car without a condensor/ capacitor, your points will wear out faster that's all.

OR, that little wire. That's the final step in the earthing pathway for the coil current. If it's broken there's no way the coil current can flow at all.

John

Lizzard d id
san jose, CA, USA   USA
You don't need a new or different distributor , imho . What you need are the standard replacement parts . And please get all the wires connected correctly , there are few extra wires that don't matter on some cars I guess , but I don't know of any on a spitfire , they all have a job to do .



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 2019-02-06 09:57 AM by Lizzard.

holymolyitsclay Clay B.
Louisville, KY, USA   USA
John, I really appreciate your comment. I was browsing this forum quite a bit trying to diagnose this issue and your comments were always very thorough and extremely helpful - thank you for that.

I did hook up a test light and try that out - I have no flashing of the light whatsoever, just solid. I did not realize you could disconnect the capacitor and have it resume as normal, and that a faulty capacitor would cause the entire system to go into failure mode. Would you recommend that I take the condenser out completely, put everything else back together as normal and try for spark?

Thank you again for your time!

sampattr250 Avatar
sampattr250 Sam P
Harwinton, CT, USA   USA
Definitely post pictures.

As they say one picture speaks a thousand words.

There are people on this site that will go great lengths to help an new member in the triumph community save another car.



Sam

1968 TR250
1972 MK IV Spitfire

Lizzard d id
san jose, CA, USA   USA
In reply to # 1594638 by holymolyitsclay I did not realize you could disconnect the capacitor and have it resume as normal, and that a faulty capacitor would cause the entire system to go into failure mode. Would you recommend that I take the condenser out completely, put everything else back together as normal and try for spark?

If you are running a points and condenser system a faulty condenser can cause a no spark or a burnt points failure . Put on a new condenser . They are cheap . You can run a points and condenser system without any condenser but the points will suffer for the lack of a condenser . The life of the clean well adjusted points will go way down , the condenser keeps the points "happy" .

holymolyitsclay Clay B.
Louisville, KY, USA   USA
Sam, thank you - I will be sure to post some pictures of the 2 mystery wires, the ground wire (and my "fix"winking smiley, as well as the dizzy internals when I get home to see what you guys think.

Notti Avatar
Notti Eric N
San Dimas, CA, USA   USA
In reply to # 1594631 by holymolyitsclay Thank you for your responses, guys. I am tempted to just buy a new distributor, wires, and coil from a reputable spitfire parts dealer for about $150 shipped. Do you guys recommend trying to just replace the points/condenser, wires, and cap first or going all out on the replacement parts? The breaker plate currently on my car concerns me a bit so I'd like to have that replaced as well.

I also noticed 2 wires hanging near the distributor that didn't seem to have a home. Both coming out of wires coming from ignition, one was white/blue and one was white/pink (color blind here so work with me). I plugged the longer wire into the distributor cap (other wire wouldn't reach) but didn't seem to do anything. Plugged shorter wire into a terminal right by the loose wire, not sure what that was either! I'll post pictures when I get home. Could be completely unrelated.
Check the forum for a wiring diagram, there are factory and custom diagrams that should help with sorting this out. On a quick glance the white and pink is a balast wire to the coil but you need to verify on your own.

Tonyfixit Avatar
Tonyfixit Tony M
Duncan, BC, Canada   CAN
Welcome to the site Clay!

I think you are well on the right track. I suspect your problem is a condenser 'gone bad'

However I would like to warn you that often parts commonly available for our cars are NOT original factory parts, but cheap reproductions. I suspect this is the case with the $150 distributor you may have seen.
Sometimes these aftermarket parts work well, but often they can cause more problems than they solve.
In the case of the distributor the timing curve is likely generic and 'normal' replacment components like rotor arms of caps may not fit in the future.

This is also true of points and condenser sets. Other members will advise you what is good and what is not.

holymolyitsclay Clay B.
Louisville, KY, USA   USA
I will check out that wiring diagram to make sure those two wires find their appropriate home, and will post a photo to give you guys a better idea.

I went ahead and ordered a new condenser and points from NAPA, I will let you all know if I get any spark after installing them tonight.



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 2019-02-06 02:44 PM by holymolyitsclay.

Doug in Vegas Avatar
Doug in Vegas Douglas D
Las Vegas, NV, USA   USA
Do you have an ohmeter?

Key off.

Rotate engine so there's a gap on the points.

The side on the wired (sprung) side pegs the needle to 0 ohms to ground..

If it doesn't the points are shorted.

Rotate engine to points closed.

The wired side should see nothing from the needle (as both sides are now grounded)

If it doesn't the points are not making contact with each other.

holymolyitsclay Clay B.
Louisville, KY, USA   USA
Guys, I have some great news. I replaced the condenser, re-ground the breaker plate wire really well, and added a new rubber gasket where the points attach so they don’t ground out. The car is firing on every cylinder!!!!! But... still not starting. I am getting an occasional misfire when I try to crank it over, maybe once every 3-4 seconds. I have sprayed starter fluid in the carbs for 2 seconds before trying to start it. Any idea why this would be occurring when trying to start the car?

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