View Full Version : Motor probs.

07-29-2001, 11:24 AM
Lost an engine last week and am stuck figureing it out.
I have no spark.
points are ok,rotor ok,all wire leads ok.
I suspect coil but dont want to lock on to a diagnosis without covering all possibilities.
I do want to check the coil,but other than holding the high tension wire(dist.cap end) close to a ground ,I am not sure how to do that.
I have a good volt/ohm meter.
Can someone give me the step by step for testing coils,and other suggestions for troubleshooting?

Bob Cleek
07-29-2001, 11:49 AM
I'm no engine expert, but you might start out by checking to see if the coil is burned out. Isolate the primary and secondary terminals and do a continuity check on both. Then do a cross-check between primary and secondary to check for a short between the two, which can occur if there's been a meltdown. As there are no moving parts, if the primary and secondary coils are intact, the coil should be good... right? I think...

07-29-2001, 01:25 PM
Thanks Bob.
All wires off the - and + terminals.
check continuity(should read zero)between the coil output(high tension) and the - and + terminals??
I think i'm missing something,could you elaborate?
By the way,I tried to send you an e mail but it came back undeliverable.

Ed Harrow
07-29-2001, 06:32 PM
This sounds like liberal, left-wing sabotage. http://media5.hypernet.com/~dick/ubb/wink.gif. What have we been doing.

It's been so long... I remeber having a similar problem with a car with an electronic tach. Something, somewhere went POOF and the result was no spark. Now if recollection serves, when the primary field collapses, the secondary fires off, giving the spark. (This should be spelled out in Chapman's or in most any of your basic auto shop manuals).

So, if I am right, the neg side of the coil goes through the distributor's breaker points, and thence to ground. Check to see if the circuit from the neg side to ground opens and closes while cranking the engine.

Natch there should be a circuit between the two primary terminals of the coil...

[This message has been edited by Ed Harrow (edited 07-29-2001).]

John B
07-29-2001, 07:35 PM
Swap the coils and try it.

I mean,... try them. Good Idea to chuck anew condenser on at the same time when it turns out to be the coil.

[This message has been edited by John B (edited 07-29-2001).]

07-29-2001, 07:51 PM
Thanks guys,That is a great help.Tomorrow,off to see if I can make gatsby run.

ken mcclure
07-29-2001, 10:35 PM
Don't forget to check to make sure that the oil follicles on the gronicles haven't run dry.

07-29-2001, 10:35 PM
Why are you so suspicious of the coil? You've said nothing about checking the distributor cap (far more likely to go wrong than the rotor) or the condenser (far more likely to go wrong than practically everything else in the entire engine!!!!!). You really need to check these things before you start supporting the spare parts industry by replacing everything piece by piece. Also, be aware that you are dealing with something on the order of 20,000 to 30,000 volts traveling through these wires and distributor cap. What looks fine to you might be full of leaks and cracks to a surge of high voltage. Still, if you are getting no spark whatsoever the most likely culprit is the condenser. Fortunately, the condenser (aka a capacitor) is also one of the cheapest parts in the electrical system. Try replacing the condenser, then spray all of the high-tension wires and the dustributor cap (on the outside) with silicon spray. Also, check the ground connection for that condenser....

Hazy Chris
07-30-2001, 01:51 AM
OK- I'm no mechanic, but I had similar problems with my truck not too long ago. Definitely check out the easy thigs first. I think your first impulse is right. Hold the high tension wire close to the block and see if you get a spark. I put an old plug on the end of the wire and lay that on the block to keep my hands out of trouble. If you don't get a spark, see if there is voltage even getting to the coil. The positive (or batt) terminal on the coil should have voltage with the ignition switch in the "on position". If you don't have that, it is the wiring, the ignition switch, or the ballast resistor if you have one.

07-30-2001, 03:05 AM
Fer Gawds sake don't use silicone spray anywhere near the thing. The silicone gets on all the metal from overspray and you will NEVER get it all clean again. Get a new distributor cap and rotor button and try that first. Make sure the thing is dry and clean inside. Replace the capacitor at the points and insure that the adjusting screw on the points are tight. Make sure the gap is proper at the points and haven't burned shut. Check all the wiring to make sure that you do not have a bad wire arcing thru somewhere.
When all else fails...get a diesel. http://media5.hypernet.com/~dick/ubb/biggrin.gif

Bob Adams
07-30-2001, 10:30 AM
Simple test for coil First MAKE SURE NO GAS FUMES ARE PRESENT !!! Then remove the - wire, check for 12 volts on the + terminal attach a jumper wire to the - terminal and, after supplying a spark gap to the secondary, tap the jumper on the engine block. If the coil is good,you will get a spark each time you pull the jumper from the block. Good luck

Ed Harrow
07-30-2001, 11:07 AM
On the other hand, if gas fumes are present, end of problem...

This place is just like work. Ask ten different people the same question and you get twelve different opinions...

Indeed the art of troubleshooting is doing the simple, probabable stuff first, and doing the less likely, harder stuff later.

07-30-2001, 11:24 AM
Thanks fellas,sometimes I think the gas fume idea is the best.
KW,I dont know why I didn't think of that.I have had gronicles go bad before and the symptoms were the same.
Puget,I was about to say read my first post,and accuse you of having a premature senior moment,then I realized I was having the senior moment as I had not mentioned the cap or condenser.You are quite right,those things will be checked first.
How do you check a condenser other that changing it out for a known good one??

[This message has been edited by dasboat (edited 07-30-2001).]

Hugh Paterson
07-30-2001, 02:55 PM
Wots the Engine Make/model. If you still have trouble once you have replaced the obvious condenser, points HT coil? etc etc, let me know if you are still having trouble and will talk u through the system. (I have built them from scratch) The only thing I dont like are electronic ignition modules, they are a nightmare arghhhhhhh.


John B
07-30-2001, 03:38 PM
you said lost an engine . By that I assumed you had two in the boat and the point I meant to make was , swap the coils ( and condensers) and try both motors. One way or another that will eliminate the problem, or the coil from the equation. Do the condenser anyway I would think.
Could be a problem on the ignition switch circuit too, but one thing at a time.Rotor might look ok but might need to be sprung a bit.

Ed Harrow
07-30-2001, 03:41 PM

With this even you (that's inclusive) can fix anything.

07-30-2001, 03:55 PM
Dasboat, I just recently had a similiar problem.. and I agree with Chris.. first check to see if you have power going to the coil. I only had approx 10 volts... not enough to start the engine.. replaced the positive 16 gauge wire, ( switched from the ignition ) and VROOOM !!!Switch Key on you should have power at the coil ...If you have enough power to the coil, then continue "upstream " toward the distributor.. this quick test won't cost ya a nickle..my 2 cents.. good luck , John

07-30-2001, 04:49 PM
Thanks again guys.
Oh the motors are 440 chryslers

Nora Lee
07-30-2001, 08:53 PM
If you smell horse poop, don't go looking for zebras! http://media5.hypernet.com/~dick/ubb/biggrin.gif


07-30-2001, 10:37 PM
Thank you Nora http://media5.hypernet.com/~dick/ubb/biggrin.gif

08-17-2001, 03:34 PM
Well guys, I AM A MECHANIC, and it sounds like you need one, I dont want to sound rude or anything but it could be damn near anything so just pick up the phone book and get a local tradesman to come fix the thing. and on top of that even if you replaced every part in the whole system it'll only set ya back about a hundred bucks. if you dont want to just hire someone to fix it, go buy a tune up kit, install it and see what happens. sounds like you need the maintenance anyway

08-17-2001, 04:53 PM
If'n yoou wanna test a capacitater to see if it's any good, isolate the thing so that you could test it like a battery, sorta which it is.......set your volt-ohm meter to ohms or resistance scale and about one step up from the shorts testing position.....with one lead on the case or ground, attach the other lead on the remaining wire while watching the meter...if the cap is good the meter will jump up scale like a short..(which it would be) and then the needle will slowly fall off. Then..carefully switch the leads...first disconnect the leads altogether, then connect the red lead or positive lead and connect it to the ground or case of the capacitater...and watching the meter again connect the two remaining leads........the meter should again jump DOWNSCALE and after a second or two start to fall off(upward). NOW....what you have just done..is use the internal batteries in the meter to charge the cap. A capacitor has a time constant,, that is every second or time period it charges to 66 percent capacity, the next second 66 percent of that remaining and so on. If the capacitor is shorted it won't take the charge. When you reverse the leads you apply a different polarity to the capacitor opposite to that which you used to charge it so it instantly dischrages (see that needle slam over) and tries to charge in the other direction...it can't, but it can discharge in a hurry. This will give a good indication on whether it is bad or not....but the only way to be sure is apply several thousand volts and ascertain the breakdown voltage and try it again...or maybe a different capacitor..

[This message has been edited by paladinsfo (edited 08-17-2001).]

[This message has been edited by paladinsfo (edited 08-17-2001).]

08-17-2001, 05:37 PM
Well MGD,Maintenance is a priority with me.
I accept your input as meaning to be helpful. http://www.mpz.co.uk/cwm/ups/acehole/aao_-_preacherver2.gif
How does twin 1971 440 chryslers with over 4000 hrs.,still holding between 115 and 125 lbs.compression,very low oil consumption,and not a single oil or other fluid leak sound ?If it does need a tune up,what brand parts do you recommend?
Havent been to Gatsby yet to check out the fire.Carburation and air are fine.
I'll try again when our contractors stop biting off more than they can chew and complete their work on our kitchen.
I very much appreciate the guidance from everyone.I believe I can take from here.

[This message has been edited by dasboat (edited 08-17-2001).]

Hazy Chris
08-17-2001, 07:02 PM
I'm gonna have to disagree with MGD, even though he is more qualified than I am. This shouldn't warrant a mechanic until you are frustrated. The only way to learn is to figure this out yourself. This problem doesn't sound that hard. He is right, you probably would not have to spend that much, but think of the confidence you build when you figure it out yourself. Unless you are just way too busy, I'd at least give it the old college try. (Sounds like you intend to anyway) I ended up tearing apart the (electronic) distributor on my Step van, which needed a new pick up coil soldered in. I managed to figure it out and fix it with a voltmeter, simple tools, the manual from Chevrolet and a couple of hours work. I'm thinking that your problem is probably not even that complicated. Best of luck-let us know what it turns out to be.

Ken Liden
08-17-2001, 09:25 PM
I agree with MGD 1961. It's gonna take a tradesmen to figure it out. Your not gonna get fast answers here. It can take hours for us in the trade to track down this kind of stuff. I am surprised that you don't have electronic ignition.

[This message has been edited by Ken Liden (edited 08-17-2001).]

Dale Harvey
08-18-2001, 01:17 AM
If your Chryslers have that many hours, you better check them real close, and will likely find they are ledgendary 413's not weak gut 440's. They look about the same to untrained eye, and many parts will interchange, but 413 is superior Canadian iron with Sellite valves and seats, built to indusrial/marine specs. Several critical spec differences in these engines. Worked on one in a motorhome that got 175,000 mi. and still ran fine, until a "mechanic" that didn't know the difference got ahold of it.

08-18-2001, 02:00 AM
Hay look i didnt meen to offend you I only ment to say that if a system fails, it needs to be maintained, this should have no reflection on the fact that your statisticaly imposable engines keep running, and to the guy that sugested electronic ignition, good idea, just change it out and go boating, wouldnt you rather be boating! as for brand, Ive always been very happy with sierra, nice selection, fare price. good luck

08-18-2001, 11:31 AM
No offence taken mgd.Just thought I'd respond in the tone I percieved in your post.
If we were sitting around a pot bellied stove in a real shop instead of this virtual one,you would have been able to see that I was trying to mimmic you not challange.
In any case I do appreciate your input.I make it a practice not to debate advise that I have requested.
As for the statistical impossiblity stuff,do the math.20 outings a year X 7hrs.average per voyage X 30 yrs.=4200 hrs.
I have owned gatsby over 20 yrs and nearly 3000 of those hrs.are mine.
She gets two quarts of marvel mystery oil with every 200 gal.of fuel,and oil changes every every fall.Those motors have always had lots of attn.paid to them,especially the upper end lube.Along with that I rarely push her hard,except for exercising those 440's routinely.
I'll guess that I'm going to find a ballast resistor,coil,or condensor problem. http://www.mpz.co.uk/cwm/contrib/lilly/hmm3grin2orange.gif

[This message has been edited by dasboat (edited 08-18-2001).]

08-19-2001, 03:29 AM
Dasboat, where are you getting all those really neat icons?

08-19-2001, 11:50 AM
Well gotta tell ya, DASBOAT, I hadnt looked at your profile before now and all I can say is I was jumping the gun, but you are still lucky those engines have lasted as long as they have. I now see that you are in CA.

In my parts there is no such thing as a 30 year old engine regardless of hours. ten years tops around here and any more than that is hard to accomplish. and that 10 years would be at the price of 2 sets of manifolds and risers.

By the way my opening my big mouth and the god of all things mechanical hearing me, left me in the bay with no spark yesterday morning. Bad coil. imagine that. Had to change it while bobbing on the hook. but I do keep a spare EVERYTHING in the boat at all times. The rest of the day was great. sunny 80 and one to two ft swells. that doesnt happen often around here.good luck.

Hugh Paterson
08-19-2001, 12:34 PM
Wots the situation with your engine, got it going yet or still struggling


08-19-2001, 03:59 PM
MGD1961 has a point and I like starting with a "level playing field" when doing engine work also. That is a tune-up. New condenser and points to start with as all else can be done without disturbing them after R&R.

Start by finding if you have a good ignition switch circuit by using a test light to find 12 VDC at the + side of the coil when the ignition switch is turned on. Once the switch wiring is confirmed check for coil output by swapping the coils or using the "hot wire" method described earlier in this thread. Once the coil is found good and the cap, wires and plugs are known to be good (there's that level playing field thing again) the only other choices are the points and condenser. Points can be looked at closely and baring mechanical failure (bad spring, binding, contacts burned away, etc.) most can be made to provide service with a file, but considering their cost not worth the effort.

The condenser has been the demon of many a no start afternoon. They give little or no warning of failure and cost half a buck. Almost as cheap are a set of points. R&R both put your cap back on and I'll bet she fires up.

Those engines did use ballast resistors (mechanical) the replacement part should be electronic. The old style can be checked by removing it and looking at the coil on the back with a magnifying glass. If the ballast resistor is bad the coil will have a crack or break in it (not always visible). The new style can be checked for resistance with a multi-meter. I don't think it's this part as it's designed to bleed off excess voltage from the coil to the charging system. Since you haven't charging system problems, I'd not look there.

08-19-2001, 04:32 PM
Folks,I haven't gotten to the boat yet.We have some upgrading going on in our kitchen and bathrooms,as well as new driveway,gutters,house paint etc.
Coordinating all of these contractors is a bi**h.Most are very reliable,but one is always late.I fired one and am lighting a small fire under the other.
Point is this project is KEEPING ME FROM MY HONEY WHEN SHE NEEDS ME!!! http://www.contrabandent.com/pez/contrib/edoom/cussing.gif
I feel better now!
Looks like next weekend before I figure things out.I'll report in.
As an aside,Gatsby gets new plugs, points,condensor,rotor and cap, every other season.
My friends call me aberchrombie and fitch(sp)after the famous texas outfitters,because I keep several spares of darn near everything.When a boat and machinery are this old ya never know does ya?
I can anticipate some of you saying"well WHY DON'T YOU CHANGE OUT THE PARTS"?You mechanics listen up....I would rather learn how to track down the prob.,than just swap parts.I will learn something useful that way.I know....I could be floating around someplace nice,but what the hey.
I have fire to the coil,but have not yet measured from there.

[This message has been edited by dasboat (edited 08-19-2001).]

08-19-2001, 04:53 PM
Puget,I downloaded from a smiley site.

[This message has been edited by dasboat (edited 08-19-2001).]

08-19-2001, 05:15 PM
With all this talk of Coils I thought I should pass along this little tidbit of information. I don't know if any of your boats can use the Bosch Red Coil or not (It works on both a ballested, and non-ballested ignition system in Saabs, Jaguars, and I'm sure lots others)

Anyway they are hotter than most coils (more juice) and at 15.95 you can't beat the price.


Follow this link for a bosch Red coil on sale from True Choice for 15.95