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  #1   IP: 174.233.164.191
Old 06-09-2019, 07:38 PM
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*Updated* To go or not to go with electronic ignition on my A4.

The back story: my 1961 A4 ran great last season. In the fall I pulled it for the winter and made NO CHANGES to the engine. I winterized it only. Anyway, this spring I started up the engine while on the hard to make sure I no issues before dropping it in the water. She fired right up and ran fine so called for a hoist and dropped her in. Ready pull out of the launch well, I through it in reverse. Reverse granted me with a sputtering engine and... dead. Forward is the same.
Restarts every time but will not stay running while in gear. At some point I noticed my coil gets really hot. Canít say I noticed anything else out of the ordinary beyond sputtering motor and hot coil. Let me add, I changed plugs, wires, cap and rotor at the start of last season.
I called Moyer, talked to a gentleman and he suggested cleaning the points. I noticed the mechanical parts on the distributor were badly corroded and the plate that hold the points was also corroded, so I cleaned it all up with electronic cleaner and hit it all with dry graphite lube. This allowed the mechanical parts to move freely. I cleaned the points and no difference. I dug around and found some new points and changed them. The new points looked really bad at the contact points. New points installed aaaand no spark. I notice the coil still getting hot. I changed out the coil with a spare I that came with the boat. After doing this, cranking the engine for a second or two to see if I had spark. I then noticed smoke coming out of the distributor. Now, Iím no mechanic or ignition expert but I donít think this is good.
My guess, I fried the condenser. Maybe someone can correct me in that if needed.

Hereís my question: I want to go to electronic ignition at some point. Iím starting to think maybe I should do that now instead of investing in a condenser, and mounting plate for the points. The old mounting plate is pretty rough and gave me difficulties when trying to set my points. Should I just convert it now? My plan is to get what ever I need to update the ignition. By the way, what should I get in addition to the electronic ignition itself? Further advice is welcome.

Last edited by pearsontriton28; 06-15-2019 at 09:31 PM.
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  #2   IP: 70.185.132.167
Old 06-09-2019, 08:10 PM
JOHN COOKSON JOHN COOKSON is online now
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Sound to me that that coil - is grounded even when the points are open. A common reason is the insulation is worn on the wire where the wire from coil - goes into the distributor. Take the wire off coil - and open the points then use an ohm meter to see if the end of this wire is still grounded to the distributor breaker plate. May not give the answer but it will be a start at least.
I file all points before I install them to be sure they will pass electricity.
IMO putting a EI into distributor that is smoking is bad practice.

TRUE GRIT
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  #3   IP: 174.233.164.191
Old 06-09-2019, 08:20 PM
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Thanks for the direction.
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Old 06-10-2019, 08:33 AM
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So your engine runs, but not in gear, and a spare coil of unknown provenance makes the distributor smoke. The rest of your ignition gear is a year old.

I donít know how much importance to put on the smoke-with-old-coil condition. Were it not for that your symptoms of no power in gear sound to me like crossed plug wires or a collapsed/blocked exhaust. But I think that regardless of the cause here, EI is a huge, easy, and relatively inexpensive upgrade.

So, I would make triple-sure your plugs are properly wired to the distributor in 1-2-4-3 order, check that each one is firing correctly by pulling off the plug wires one at a time and listening for engine roughness created by each removal, run new 12V wires to the coil, carefully wipe down and check the condition of the cap interior and rotor, lubricate the advance springs under the distributor plate, install the electronic ignition (wirebrushing off any rust off the plate in the process), and replace the coil with a new one in the process, making sure the engine continues to start after each step. Then test the timing those few degrees by loosening the bolt under the distributor and rotating to see if anythingís still borked up.

If the symptoms persist, congratulations, the engine still runs and you have EI in place but you need to look elsewhere...perhaps the exhaust.
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  #5   IP: 97.93.70.7
Old 06-10-2019, 10:43 AM
Dave Neptune Dave Neptune is offline
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Wink Go 4 it

28, I would not hesitate on the EI upgrade. It is the most "bang for the buck" you can get for an old A-4. By now the distributor cams are shot so setting the points by gap is NO GOOD as the correct dwell is what is actually being set not the "gap". The "dwell" will not be the same "factory spec" as the top of the cam wears down. The dwell can still be set with a worn dist. cam but for proper dwell a meter is a must.
Just eliminate the setting and futzing around the points require by installing an EI and be done with it. All that is needed then is annual attention to the c'advance (lubricating). Well worth it.
Dwell is what gives a good spark!!!

Dave Neptune
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Old 06-10-2019, 12:05 PM
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I'm not real proficient with this forum layout or tools, so Ill try to respond to the last couple of posts in this response. Thankyou, BTW, for your input. You have given me a lot to think about.

Some addition points to clarify: Last year I changed the cap, rotor, wires and plugs. I did not change the points, coil or condenser. The engine ran fine at this point. This year the points looked really bad, even after cleaning them. I also had a lot of corrosion in distributor and mold on the ceiling. It was easy to come to the conclusion that this may be the origin of my problems or at least part of it. Apparently, I've had an unusual amount of moisture in the cabin over the off season. I cleaned the surface rust out the springs and weights with electronic cleaner and applied dried graphite lube. Everything moves freely now. I also cleaned the point plate as it was also corroded. I had issues with the point mount threading- this gave me trouble with spacing and I doubt my spacing will hold consistent. I went to a different coil thinking the old coil may be goin bad, that's when I got smoke. my guess is that it was the graphite lube getting hot or my condenser. Not much else to get hot or smoke under the cap. either way, I don't get any spark now.

Heres what I think - my condenser is going bad, causing the coil to get hot. The points were definitely bad, the springs and weights may not have been moving too well due to corrosion. I may have made matters worse by with my point spacing issues as the threads in the point plate were sort of stripped.

Heres what I know- Ill need a new point plate if I go back to points to get my spacing right.


A follow up question: If I go to electronic ignition, what should I purchase in addition to the ignitor ignition? new coil? replace everything, with exception to the distributer?
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Old 06-10-2019, 02:22 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by pearsontriton28 View Post
... this spring I started up the engine while on the hard to make sure I no issues before dropping it in the water. She fired right up and ran fine so called for a hoist and dropped her in. Ready pull out of the launch well, I through it in reverse. Reverse granted me with a sputtering engine and... dead. Forward is the same.
OK, please forgive me if this question is obvious and the first thing you checked ... are you absolutely positive your prop shaft is turning? The above sounds exactly like a fouled prop, runs fine then dies when you try to put it in gear. An errant line or something else wrapped around the prop?

Of course, this doesn't explain the smoking distributor or your other ignition problems.

Good luck figuring this out!
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Old 06-10-2019, 05:32 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by pearsontriton28 View Post
also had a lot of corrosion in distributor and mold on the ceiling?
If you had this much moisture in and around the distributor cap did you clean the distributor towers where the big wires plug into? The little boots that are on the wires that fit over the towers look good but moisture can at times still get past them and cause corrosion.
You can clean the towers with apiece of sandpaper wrapped around a pencil or of course buy a new distributor cap. You may have spark at all four plugs but not the hottest spark possible if there is corrosion in the towers.

TRUE GRIT
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Old 06-10-2019, 06:26 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by wristwister View Post
OK, please forgive me if this question is obvious and the first thing you checked ... are you absolutely positive your prop shaft is turning? The above sounds exactly like a fouled prop, runs fine then dies when you try to put it in gear. An errant line or something else wrapped around the prop?

Of course, this doesn't explain the smoking distributor or your other ignition problems.

Good luck figuring this out!
Iím pretty sure itís not tied up. Prop moved quite freely just before we launched it.
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Old 06-10-2019, 06:36 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by JOHN COOKSON View Post
If you had this much moisture in and around the distributor cap did you clean the distributor towers where the big wires plug into? The little boots that are on the wires that fit over the towers look good but moisture can at times still get past them and cause corrosion.
You can clean the towers with apiece of sandpaper wrapped around a pencil or of course buy a new distributor cap. You may have spark at all four plugs but not the hottest spark possible if there is corrosion in the towers.

TRUE GRIT
All contacts in the cap itself look good. Wire ends look good. I suppose it couldnít hurt to clean them a bit.
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Old 06-10-2019, 08:13 PM
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I’m surprised that John Cookson’s comment in post #2 has gone pretty much unnoticed. A coil - wire shorted to the distributor body will certainly cause the reported symptoms as well as destroy a coil and condenser, possibly damage a rotor and cap, maybe even melt the wire.

I agree that this is an opportune time to install electronic ignition but please be sure you’re up to speed on any of several electronic ignition threads with posts later than 2011.
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  #12   IP: 174.233.164.191
Old 06-10-2019, 08:47 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ndutton View Post
Iím surprised that John Cooksonís comment in post #2 has gone pretty much unnoticed. A coil - wire shorted to the distributor body will certainly cause the reported symptoms as well as destroy a coil and condenser, possibly damage a rotor and cap, maybe even melt the wire.

I agree that this is an opportune time to install electronic ignition but please be sure youíre up to speed on any of several electronic ignition threads with posts later than 2011.
I did see his comment but forgot to respond. I think he definitely makes a legit point. I could always double check to make sure I donít have a wire grounding out.
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Old 06-10-2019, 10:16 PM
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Isnít graphite conductive? I donít use that lubricant anywhere except on locks. Plus, itís super messy. That might explain some of the shorting going on.
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Old 06-11-2019, 12:06 AM
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Isnít graphite conductive? I donít use that lubricant anywhere except on locks. Plus, itís super messy. That might explain some of the shorting going on.
I think your right. It is conductive. 🤔
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Old 06-11-2019, 08:12 AM
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I read up on graphite a little - get as much of that stuff out of your distributor as possible and take the can off the boat. It is conductive and promotes galvanic corrosion. Ainít nobody got time for more of THAT.

If you want an exotic lubricant, replace it with a Corrosion Block. CB has all the highly appreciable characteristics we seek in a fancy lubricant: itís blue, itís expensive, it originated from the airplane industry, it works, it has a spray straw that is very easy to misplace, and it smells weird. But really, a few drops of plain old 3-in-1 sewing machine oil or even clean 10W-30 engine oil will work fine for years at a time as an advance weight lubrication and rust inhibitor.
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Old 06-12-2019, 06:15 PM
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Graphite is way to conductive to be around and electrical at all and especially HIGH Voltage like the ignition and a wet environment to boot. Use a nonmetallic light grease when done cleaning.

Just replace the cap and rotor, any graphite under a contact will fly around when things are a spinning!!!

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Old 06-15-2019, 09:41 PM
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*update* as suggested by a few, I cleaned out the dry graphite lube. I also installed an electronic ignition, new plugs, new coil, rotor and cap. I checked for spark and there it was. I was impressed by how quickly the old engine fired up with the new ignition system. She idles nicer than ever also. Back to my original of it dying while in gear, that is also taken care of. Iím looking forward to quick starts, smooth idles and no more point changes. Thank you everyone for the advice.
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