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Frustrating Intermittent Problem


Jedi Trainee
My 74 Midget 1275 runs great, most of the time. I 'll be mototring along and all of the sudden the motor just quits! The red ignition light comes on and it is as if someone turn the key off. I pull over, wait 1 minute, start her up and everything is fine. This happens with no frequency or regularity. I also notice the ignition light glowing, not on, sometimes during idle. Has anyone seen this? It may be a common problem for you guys but I am a novice.


Senior Member
I had a similar problem several years ago with a vw. Same symptoms. Turned out to be a bad coil. Easy enough to test by substituting the coil, and see if the problem persists, if you have a spare. Or, this may be one of those things Checker or Autozone can test in the car. I know they do batteries and alternators, not sure about coils.

As I recall, the failed coil would get Very Hot. May also be an indicator if that's the problem.


Jedi Trainee
Thanks. I will have the coil tested. Another friend of mine suggested that there may be a loose wire. My son and I have been doing quite a bit of work under the hood lately and maybe something came loose or was not re-attached properly.


Great Pumpkin
Country flag
Bad coil, bad condenser or loose wire.
I had a similar problem, and it turned out to be the hot wire feeding the coil. It looked good, but was broken up in the insulation. It made connection when the insulation was cold and stiff, but when it became warm and pliable it lost connection. But as mentioned... it could be a lot of different things.


Check the low tension lead inside the distributor, too. I've seen these fail causing the same symptoms.
I've been driving my '72 with a low grade ignition light for five or six years. Not a charging problem, just a crappy lamp circuit.


Jedi Knight
When I first started driving my BE about 25 yrs ago I had a problem that would only strike on the hottest days, once every several yrs. Yrs later I found the ground to the electric fuel pump was almost not connected. These problems can be hard to resolve.


Obi Wan
Country flag
This kind of problem just about has to be something electrical. Start the car, tug on wires, twist the harness, tap on the coil with the handle of a hammer, wiggle the ignition secondary conductors, jiggle the ignition key. You can even use a hairdryer to heat up things like the coil, which might be going open at some elevated temperature.

In my Bugeye, the guy who did the restoration used the wrong screw-in cap on the coil. This left the secondary wire loose, and occasionally I'd get spells of really bad running because of it. I suppose it could have killed the engine, too, if the situation were a little worse.

It's also easy to bump the ignition key, as I've discovered, on a shift into third, and the car shuts down really fast when I do that. First time it happened, I had no idea why it stalled.

By the way, don't automatically assume it's something mysterious. A lot of these problems are simple, and if you decide at the outset it's gonna be a difficult fix, it will be. You'll probably kick yourself when you find it. I know from experience, and my well dented tush bears witness.

In short, there are an unlimited number of things that can do this. But almost all are electrical.


Jedi Trainee
Resolved! The small plastic or ceramic disk on the ignition switch had worked its way loose. I held it in and my son, using a screwdriver and a small hammer, was able to re-crimp the disk in place. Saved $100! Runs like a champ. Thanks to everyone for your help and support.
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