Ugh, after a couple weak attempts at getting my truck started for the season, I finally got it running. tl/dr: It was the POINTS of all things. More below if you want ... to know more.
So a few weeks back, upon getting it out of its winter garage, it started initially but then died. For a few reasons, I was leaning toward a fuel problem - largely since it started at first! But I eliminated that for the most part, ordered up some ignition-related parts just for troubleshooting purposes, and finally got back at it this weekend.
One of the first things I tested now that I was armed with my PowerProbe (one of my favorite 12V electrical troubleshooting tools), was “do I have 12V+ at the coil with the ignition on?” Yes and no. If I disconnected the wire going to the + side of the coil, it had 12v+ with the key on, like it should. Touch it to the coil, bam, nothing. Like it was grounded / shorted. So I put in the new coil I had bought “just in case” - thinking the coil was dead shorted internally - and... nothing changed.
I was reluctant to mess with the points at all, because they’re hard to reach and finicky. But they are also fairly simple if you’re not trying to get them exactly perfect... so I replaced the points and condenser. I guessed at the gap but made sure they were opening and closing. Still no difference. No spark.
I gave up. I opened my celebratory beer I was saving for after I got it running; it’s now a condolence beer.
I called a friend whose knowledge on such things is head and shoulders above mine, and he came right over. We talked over what I’d done, and he took my electrical tester and found that the points were grounded all the time, whether open or closed. He took them out, tested and found they work fine, and put them back in. In that process, he noticed something about the electrical connectors on the ends of the wires for the points: because they’re square, he thinks it’s possible that they were rotated a little such that a corner was grounded to the inside of the distributor. A simple mistake on installation. The truck fired right up.
Now why didn’t it run before? Impossible to tell. But for sure, there was no spark. Our best theory is that the points were a bit corroded from winter storage. It was able to start, but as the corrosion came apart, it wasn’t able to fire anymore. Maybe I also flooded the engine trying to get it going, and maybe the other ignition components I replaced were weak enough that they didn’t help the cause. But now with new plugs, cap, rotor, coil, points and condenser, it runs great.
So we immediately put it to work on the land. It’s a bit muddy on the path over there across a logging landing. But it sure beats making my own road through the woods! There are some pretty deep spots, but this thing just chugs right through the mud, unsurprisingly. It’s great to get this truck off the pavement a bit!
The loggers dumped many yards of ~4" rocks on the landing so we’ve been commandeering some of them, and using the best areas as our primary “road” - they were backing in full-length log trucks on that same path in October, it’s quite firm. Until it ends.
This is the deepest hole, thankfully none of these are very long. I expect they’ll dry out some, too, it’s only April after all. Every trip out we bring some of those rocks and the kids love throwing rocks into mud. They also generally love riding in the truck and driving through mud. I can’t complain either.
I’m just happy it’s back on (and off!) the road! It’s a true sign of spring.