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Variation on "Start you blighter!" - solved


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Variation on the theme...

Dad gave me his 59 Herald recently, as he now can't get in and out of such a small car. It's had a few issues which I was working through. Rear wheel bearing, a bad habit of blowing head gaskets, seals on the convertible hood not staying put... I've been driving it to and from work over winter (on sunny-ish days) but eventually it became very hard to start then eventually it refused to start. Plenty of fuel - no spark. Poor spark out of the HT coil lead. Ok, either the coil or condenser has died. Replaced the condenser with a NOS one. Hot spark from the HT lead - great! Nothing at the plugs - not so great.
Hmmm - only thing left is the distributor cap. Put a multimeter across the coil lead connector and the carbon brush - open circuit. There should be some resistance....

Carefully removed the brush and its spring as I didn’t want to stretch or damage it. The spring looked burnt, and the hole it sat in was black. After a squirt of WD40 in the hole and cleaning it out with a cotton bud I could see the metal the spring sat against. Cleaned the spring and brush and pushed it back. I used a flat punch to carefully push the brush until it actually clicked in place against the metal. I checked for continuity with the multimeter and I had a reading! I turned it over with all plug leads off and one aimed at No. 4 plug. Damn thing tried to start!

Put it all back together and away she roared – well, as much as a 948cc engine can roar. It actually feels like I’ve gained a couple of HP. 

Moral of the story - when you have eliminated the obvious, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the problem. I guess the spark from the HT lead had to jump the gap to the brush spring and eventually created an insulator. I’ve had a brush spring break and a carbon brush crumble, but this was something new. Dad’s 82 and been mucking around with cars for most of that time and never had that problem. Live and learn... 



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Welcome, Rick!  You and your Dad have good taste!

AND, good practice - your diagnostic procedure is exemplary, and successful, of course!  Well done!

I'll look forward to hearing more of your Herald.  As a semi-daily user, you're in the elite group already!


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