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Spitfire Dead Starter?

FlyingCat

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Well... it's a new week, and I have a new problem. I'm still trying to get my 1980 Spitfire (federal) started. It was turning over, but it's decided to stop doing that, bless its heart. One moment it was working, the next moment, nothing. I can hear the solenoid click, but nothing else that is supposed to be happening is happening. I tried the test where I touched a screw driver to the positive posts on the solenoid while the car was on, and the starter didn't turn over, which I understand means my solenoid is good. I thought it might be the battery getting drained, since it's not charging with the alternator. So I charged it, and that doesn't seem to be the problem. I removed the starter and had it tested, and it worked well on the tester. It's a new battery and new cables and my multimeter says that my ground is grounding. But... nothin'. The really weird part is that the positive and negative leads from the battery -- the thick ones that go to the engine block, solenoid, and starter -- all jump just a bit when I try to turn it over, and they feel warm. So... huh?
 

dklawson

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I know you cannot work on the ignition problem until the starter is fixed but did you get my PM?

Cables jumping mean a lot of current is flowing. It suggests that this is not a ground or cable connection problem. It suggests the engine is stuck and/or that the starter motor is jammed.

I suggest doing your own test on the starter outside of the car. With the starter removed, place it on the ground and use jumper cables to power it. Connect the red cable between battery (+) and the starter's big threaded post. Connect the black cable to battery (-). Step on the starter to hold it down then press the other end of the black cable against the starter
s mounting flange. There should be sparks, that's normal. The starter should spin up very quickly and may even jump out from under your foot. If it doesn't, you have a weak battery or starter problem.

Can you turn the engine over by hand? Is there any chance the clutch is frozen to the flywheel and the car is in gear?

Even though I said this doesn't sound like a wiring or cable problem lets at least touch on what you should find. If you don't have a manual with wiring diagrams, take a look at the one in the link below.
https://www.triumphspitfire.com/images/wiring/78diagram.jpg
The car will be negative ground so there should be a black cable from battery (-) to the car body and possibly additional cables from the body to the engine, typically to one of the bell housing bolts. It's not unusual to find previous owners have added or modified the ground connections. There should be a second cable going from battery (+) to the threaded solenoid post furthest from the solenoid's mounting foot. There should be a bunch of brown wires on that terminal also. The other threaded solenoid terminal should have a cable that goes to the threaded post on the starter motor.

You said that "...nothing else that is supposed to be happening is happening". What else is not working?
 

sp53

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Yeah sounds like the starter is stuck. When you have the starter out, what do the ring gear teeth look like? The engine basically shuts off at the same 2 spots every time it is shut down because of the compression strokes. I would say push the car in fourth gear, but if your starter is jammed that could damage the starter. If you remove the starter and push the car in fourth gear or turn the car over by hand to expose some clean teeth on the ring gear then reinstall the starter, it might turn over.
steve
 
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FlyingCat

FlyingCat

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The test I had done on my starter was at my local FLAP. They put power to it, and it spun. Would taking it out and doing it myself show me anything different? (It's a bear to get out.) Yes, I can (and did) turn the engine over by hand. I know my clutch is frozen, but it's frozen out of gear. I can move the stick shift without pressing in on the clutch. I've already replaced the clutch mater cylinder, the slave cylinder, and the pipe between them, and I've bled the clutch. Once I get the motor running I'm going after the cluthch. As well, the starter worked two days ago, so I don't think it would be the clutch freezing it up now. As far as wiring diagrams go, I have several. I have a ground cables that goes to the engine (attached to the bell housing bolt), and my multimeter shows power. I've also grounded the frame, but I haven't specifically grounded the body yet. I do know that the coil, distributor, and starter are all grounded. As far as the positive leads go, the positive cable from the battery does go to the upper bolt on the soleniod, along with those brown wires. The positive lead to the starter is from the bottom bolt on the solenoid. My comment about those things that were happening that weren't supposed to be happening was about the jumping power cables. That said, I have electrical problems throughout the car that I haven't even begun to play with. Very little on the dash works, and none of the lights work. I suspect that may be switch problems, but that's for another day. I want to get the engine running first.

I tried to access your PM, but when I clicked on the link it took me nowhere. I'm not sure where to find personal messages on this site. I did call a number that I was given on this forum (I think it might've been to you), and I'm now working somewhat with the local Triumph club here in Portland. But I'm stumped. I really can't work out the other problems with getting my car running if the silly starter won't work.
 
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FlyingCat

FlyingCat

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The gear teeth looked fine -- nothing was broken. And when my FLAP tested it, it spun -- both times they tried it. Thing is, I can't put my car in any gear now. The clutch is frozen open. I can shift it all day long without pushing in on the clutch. I've replaced both the master and slave cylinders, along with the pipe in-between. I was waiting to tackle the clutch once I got the car running. Do you think I need to have the clutch fixed first? I can turn it over by hand, and I will try that. Heck, at this point I'll try anything. Thanks.
 

dklawson

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You should be able to select any gear you want when the engine is NOT running regardless of whether the clutch is stuck or not. That's normal. Since the car is not running the only convenient way to determine if the clutch is stuck is to release the parking brake, put the car in gear, depress the clutch, and ask a friend to push the car while you hold the pedal down. If the engine turns and/or the car refuses to move, the clutch is stuck.

You said that FLAPS was able to bench test the starter and it spun. Did it spin fast and look like it wanted to jump off their test fixture? Did the Bendix unit scoot along the starter shaft moving closer to the starter flange? The FLAPS guys may be used to slower direct drive and gear reduction starters. The Bendix has to jump quickly towards the flange as the starter spins.

Do you still have the shrouds on the sides of the engine? If they are installed you will have difficulty accessing a lot of things (like the starter). If they are currently installed, remove them for now with the intention of putting them back when you are ready to start driving the car. With the shrouds removed the only thing complicating starter removal is the steering column. With the starter cables removed you should be able to find an orientation allowing starter removal.

You are correct, you won't learn much by testing the starter out of the car that you didn't already learn at FLAPS... apart from observing the speed at which the starter turns. However, you can learn a couple of things by testing the starter while it is installed. Make sure the car is in neutral. Instead of pulling the starter as I suggested earlier, connect your jumper cables (red cable to battery +, other red cable end to the threaded stud on the starter... black cable connected to battery -. TAP the other end of the black cable to a good earthing point on the engine). In this test you are providing power directly to the installed starer motor, bypassing the solenoid and all the car's cables. If the starter motor does NOT spin up when tested this way it is jammed/stuck, the engine is bound up, OR you may have something like broken starter motor brush springs. The motor may have worked for FLAPS even with these conditions if there was no load on the motor.

There are many ways to access this message board. If you go to the forum homepage, you will see tabs across the top of the page (Articles, blogs, etc). Below those tabs you will find "Forum Home", "New Posts", and "Private Messages". You can always get to the PM system by using that "Private Messages" link.
 

sp53

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Something does not sound correct. The car should shift when not running without a clutch, like Doug suggested. Is the car a project you picked up and are fixing? How long since the motor has run? Maybe the motor is frozen from sitting. It sounds like the motor wants to spin when you say the wires are getting hot and things are jumping around. When you turn the motor over by hand, are you turning the bolt on the pulley?
 
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FlyingCat

FlyingCat

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You can probably tell that I'm new at a lot of this stuff. I've gotten to know the folks at O'Reilly's here in town quite well. They let me watch while they tested my starter. I couldn't see whether the Bendix unit got any closer to the starter flange, but it spun fast, and right from the start. I think the guy doing the test was glad it was bolted down and inside a protective cover. I really think the starter is good, but I will still do the installed test you suggest above. And, no, I don't have the shrouds. Is that something I may want to get eventually? And, yeah, I have had the starter out. It's just not something I'm looking forward to doing again.

OK -- never mind what I think is wrong with the clutch. Obviously I've been misinformed, though if I'm remember correctly I could shift the gears with the motor off on my old truck, but it was really hard to move from one gear to the other. Next time my son-in-law is over I'll try to get him to help me push it while I hold the clutch in, but hopefully I can get this thing running before then and test it myself.

And thanks for the information. I was able to access the message board. Thanks for everything.
 
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FlyingCat

FlyingCat

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This car is definitely a project. It was in pieces when I got it. I'm still trying to figure out things I might be missing. It's been 25 years, easily, since the motor's run... well, if you don't count those brief moments when it started with starting fluid. Before I tried to start it I made sure the engine would turn using a strap wrench that I put around the belt pulley. What's a puzzlement is that it did start, if ever so briefly, using starting fluid. If that were still the problem -- why it won't keep running -- I'd be looking at the electrical (though I'm a bit foggy just what electrical I'd be looking at) or the carb jets, or both. But that's on hold since my starter went on the blink. I truly think it's somehow frozen, and that could quite possibly be linked to the flywheel, and quite possibly the clutch. Then again, it could be Car Gnomes. When I get some freetime I'm going to do Doug's test on the starter, and I'm going to figure out if the clutch is frozen, too. Thanks!
 

NutmegCT

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Sometimes, progress is S L O W! Have patience and take things one step at a time. Trying to troubleshoot several things at once can drive you nuts.

Did you talk to the Portland Triumph club guys I suggested earlier?

Tom M.
 

dklawson

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What's a puzzlement is that it did start, if ever so briefly, using starting fluid. If that were still the problem -- why it won't keep running -- I'd be looking at the electrical (though I'm a bit foggy just what electrical I'd be looking at) or the carb jets, or both.

As I understand your question you are asking... "If the problem were the ignition system why would the engine run on starter fluid but not keep running once the key is released?".

This ties back to your other thread about testing the ignition systems. Sorry, techno-babble about ballast ignition basics to follow.

Your car was designed/wired for a ballast ignition system. That means the coil has lower resistance (1 to 2 Ohms) and is designed to operate at reduced voltage during normal running and higher voltage while starting the engine. To achieve this power is supplied to the coil using a white wire coming from the ignition switch. The white wire is either connected to a ballast resistor or a pinkish resistor wire. Current leaving the ballast resistor (or resistor wire) continues onward to the coil (+) terminal. When the engine is running, the ballast resistor/wire lowers the voltage the coil sees to nominally 6V to 9V.

To make the engine easier to start the system includes a white/yellow wire. The white/yellow wire goes from a spade terminal on the starter solenoid directly to coil (+). When you turn the key to the start position full battery voltage is delivered to the coil (+) terminal via the white/yellow wire. This allows the coil to provide a hotter spark for starting. When you release the key to the run position, the white/yellow wire is no longer powered and current to the coil is provided through the white wire and ballast.

Succinctly: Full 12V to the coil during starting via the white/yellow wire when the key is in the start position, 6-9V to the coil via a white wire with ballast when the key is in the run position.

So why would this keep your car from running? In your previous thread you only mentioned the white/yellow wire. I don't remember you saying there was a second wire on coil (+). If the other wire from the ballast is not connected to coil (+), then the moment you release the key there is no current supplied to the coil. If the white wire and ballast are not present, when you release the key there is no way for the coil to continue to make high voltage for the spark plugs and the engine will stop.

Again, this ties back to your other thread and is not associated with this thread and why the starter is acting up.
 

sp53

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I had a1978 spitfire back in the 1980, I learned a lot from that car. Anyways, think of the clutch as always on-- or “ stuck “ and we disengage the drive train at the clutch when we push the pedal down. Stick shift cars are basically positive drive. If the car is in neutral at the transmission, the car should be in neutral-- out of gear-- and let the engine spin over regardless of the clutch. What I would think would happen if the engine is not frozen is the car would lunge forward if you try and start it outside of neutral.

When the car started briefly, did it have the starter that is in it now-- in it then--, perhaps the starter is wrong? If the starter is very weak from worn out brushes or something, it still might turn the motor over with the plugs out and no compression. Might be worth a try.

steve
 
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FlyingCat

FlyingCat

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Yes, I did talk with him. Hopefully that will pan out. My problem with troubleshooting multiple things is that they all could be inter-related. But I do have patience.
 
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FlyingCat

FlyingCat

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I get what you're saying. Here's a picture of my coil. The red/white wire goes to the distributor. The yellow/white wire goes (assumedly) to the starter switch. I'm not sure there is a ballast wire involved here, but I do have a ballast resistor that came with the car (but wasn't installed anywhere). This all seemes easy enough to check... if my silly starter would work. So that's what I'm working on next -- the starter. I suspect that something in the engine, perhaps the flywheel, is locked up. I can still turn the engine over with a strap wrench. Would my starter not working have anything to do with the clutch being frozen -- another thing I need to explore. So... what order should I be doing all this in?

IMG_3206.jpg
 
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FlyingCat

FlyingCat

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I've driven many vehicles with a clutch, and I know how they will lunge if you try to start them while they are in gear (and you're not pressing down on the clutch). I've made sure the car is in neutral when I've attempted to (and briefly did) start it before. Yes, it had the same starter, and it is the right starter for this car. Once I get some free time (at this rate, summer), I'm going to figure this out!
 

dklawson

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Save this name/address for later: Britishwiring.com
Your car's previous owner has used the wrong color wires which is going to make troubleshooting more difficult. For example, red/white wires are for running/gauge lamps/bulbs. Red/White wires are not supposed to have anything to do with the ignition system. The folks at Britishwiring.com sell the correct british color coded wire. Once you get the engine running I suggest you eventually put the right wire colors back in place. It will make electrical troubleshooting MUCH easier.

As hard as this is, please don't start talking about the ignition or fuel systems. Tackle just the starter in this thread.

If you can turn the engine over with a strap and the car does not move then the engine is not stuck.

I feel like each time I post to your threads I am giving you too much information. Therefore, I'm going to start this reply with a link to the later car's wiring diagram and only provide a few simple tests.
78-80 Spit Wiring Diagram: https://www.triumphspitfire.com/images/wiring/78diagram.jpg

1) Set your multimeter to measure DC volts. Disconnect the white/red wire from the solenoid and connect your meter to the wire's terminal. Connect the other meter lead to chassis ground and turn the key to the START position. Let us know what voltage you measure. Put the white/red wire back on the solenoid.

2) With your meter still set to DC volts, connect one of its leads to the solenoid terminal with all the brown wires on it. Connect the other lead to ground. Tell us what voltage you measure.

3) Make sure the gearbox is in neutral. Take an old pair of pliers or old screwdriver and use it to bridge the two threaded posts on the solenoid. There will be sparks. Does the starter motor spin with the two solenoid terminals bridged?
 

sp53

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About the only reason I can think of for not turning over if it is not electrical or the engine is not froze, is the car is not in neutral and e-brake is on, or the wheels are blocked, so the car will not lunge.
 
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FlyingCat

FlyingCat

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Hopefully I can get that checked today, but I'm on it. I like the idea of one thing at a time. Back when I was in high school, I used to be on the Diving team -- flips and such off a diving board. The golden rule was to never try more than one new thing at a time. Otherwise, it was too much to concentrate on, and I usually went splat on the water. A good life lesson.
 
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