Entries tagged with “devin”.

Recently I was trying to find a problem on my 1930 Model A Ford, and before I could completely figure out why my car wasn’t running well, the starter seemed to go out.  I couldn’t believe that my starter could fail at just the exact moment that I thought I had fixed my other problem!  I was incredibly frustrated, so I called my buddy Devin to commiserate.

What had happened was that when I pushed the starter button, nothing at all happened.  Just a very soft click.  It was as if the starter wasn’t even attached to the car.  As soon as I said that, Devin knew what the problem was.  Sometimes the starter can get stuck.  The gear (called the Bendix) that it uses to turn over the engine doesn’t retract the way it is supposed to, so when you try to start the engine it can’t do a thing.  The solution is to put the car in second gear, make sure the emergency brake is off, and then start rocking the car back and forth.  When the bendix in the starter disengages, you will hear it.  I had to rock my car with a pretty good amount of force, but it worked! If you do have to remove your starter it should come off easily, unless the bendix is stuck, so try this trick first.

By the way, my mystery, intermittent problem was that I had two loose wires in my dash, the ones that connect to the ammeter.  If you are having an intermittent problem with starting or smooth running of your Model A, be sure to check all the connections under the dash panel.

Summary: when resurfacing the manifold, leave the exhaust and intake manifolds bolted together.

  1. So they will be the same thickness when you’re done
  2. Because the bolts that hold them together are often rusted and will disintegrate and not go back together again later. You may have to drill and re-tap the hole, and use bigger bolts.


Every maintenance saga starts off the same way: someone says something like, “Oh yeah, that should be an easy fix.” This time at least it wasn’t me who said it.

When I first got the engine running on my 1930 Model A Ford Sport Coupe I noticed that there was an imperfect seal between the engine block and the exhaust manifold. I could see little puffs of smoke coming out. If you’re not a car person, the exhaust manifold is a cast-iron branching tube that funnels the exhaust out of the engine and into the exhaust pipe. I mentioned the leak to my friend Devin, and he was the one who said the famous last words this time, “It’s easy to replace that gasket. You don’t even have to take the manifold all the way off to do it.”

So I bought a new gasket, loosened the nuts on the manifold, slid out the old gasket, and slid in the new one. Easy. Except that it didn’t fix the problem.

I mentioned it to the guys at one of the meetings of the 3 Rivers Region Model A Ford Restorer’s Club and was told that I might have to have my manifold resurfaced. Apparently this is a common problem with Model A Ford manifolds. After a while the flat surfaces that are supposed to be perfectly flush with the side of the engine block get warped and no longer make a good seal. Fortunately Keith Waltower is in our club, and he is a very experienced mechanic of old cars. He told me of a NAPA shop down in Belle Vernon PA that had a giant belt sander that could do the resurfacing more quickly, easily, and cheaper than taking it to a machine shop. Apparently a lot of the cost of getting a part machined is in the set-up, and with a giant belt sander there would be no set-up.

I was trying to get the car ready to drive for a 4th of July parade in Cannonsburg with the Model A club in a couple of days, so I was in a bit of a hurry to get the job done. The place that Keith mentioned was about a 45 minute drive from my house, so I made a few calls to see if I could get the resurfacing done somewhere a little closer to home. Most places couldn’t do it soon enough, and they wanted about $80. So off I went to Belle Vernon with my exhaust manifold. In hind-sight I now know that this is where I made a critical mistake. You may even know what it is if you’re a Model A person, and we’ll get back to it later. (more…)

This week I replaced the head gasket on my 1930 Model A Ford Sport Coupe using the instructions from page 1-123 of The Model A Ford Mechanics Handbook Volume 1, by Les Andrews. I thought this would be an easy job, and while it wasn’t easy, it is definitely manageable. Just be sure to allow plenty of time. Including the other parts of my life, and other interruptions, this job took me about 3 days.

My buddy Devin gave me a great tip on getting the head off the block. After draining the water out of the radiator, and disconnecting the water outlet pipe (but before removing the distributor or spark plugs), loosen up all the bolts an 1/8 inch or so, and leave them on the studs. Now start the engine. The pressure from the first cylinder igniting should pop the head loose, and as soon as it’s loose, the engine will die. Now you can remove the spark plugs and the distributor, along with the rest of the nuts. I still had to use some persuasion in the form of a dead-blow mallet to get the head all the way loosened up so I could lift it off.

Also, I don’t have a engine lifting bracket or a winch, so I just put some cloths down (so I wouldn’t scratch the paint), and stood on the frame, straddling the engine. It seemed to work fine, but you have to make sure you have a place to put the head once you get it off. I put down a thick towel in front of the windshield and set the head on it until I could get over to the side of the car and move the head over to my work table for cleaning. It’s pretty heavy, so be careful and don’t hurt your back.

I cleaned off the carbon from the underside of the head and from the tops of the pistons, then used a shop-vac to make sure I had gotten all the funk out of there. One thing you don’t want hanging around in your engine is funk. Make sure that the surface of the head, and the top of the block are perfectly clean and smooth before you put your new gasket on. It is imperative that you do everything you can to get a good seal with the gasket. I used the new premium head gasket from Snyder’s that doesn’t require the spray-on sealant. It looks cool, and I’ve heard good things about it.

Also, be extra careful when tightening the nuts on the water outlet pipe. I’ve been told that they break easily, so I only tightened mine to 45 ft/lbs instead of the recommended 55.

After all my work, I was ready to go out for a drive. I put the key in the ignition… and the car wouldn’t start. You can relieve yourself of the disappointment I felt by setting your timing before you try to start the car. Once I did that, things seemed to work fine. Also, don’t forget to re-torque the head nuts after 500 miles of driving.

Last week I took the radiator off my Model A Ford because the fan broke and cut a hole in the back of it. Yeah, I was pretty happy about that. I had known for a while that I needed a new ratchet nut for the crankshaft pulley on the front of the engine, so I ordered a new one a while back. I was just waiting until the next time I had the radiator off to install it. Now I had my chance.

There is a special tool that you can buy to remove the ratchet nut, but I figured that I could get it without the tool once the radiator was off. It turns out that I was wrong. The ratchet nut is nestled into the concave center of the pulley, and you can’t reach it with a normal crescent wrench. Besides that, the old nut on my car is actually a different size, so the special tool wouldn’t have worked anyway. My two options as I saw them were to go out and buy an expensive tool that I would probably never use again, or go over to the garage across the street and see if one of their guys might come over and pop the nut off for me.

I went over, talked to Ernie, and told him I was having trouble trying to get a part off of my old car. Initially he wasn’t all that friendly, he told me that they don’t do any mobile service, and it seemed that I might be out of luck. The ratchet nut is a really odd-looking little item, it’s kind of like a regular bolt, but it has four shark-fin shaped teeth in a circle sticking out of the top. I had brought it along on purpose just in case I needed it to help me out in my task. I pulled it out of my pocket and showed Ernie when he asked me what I was trying to take off the car. He looked at it, very puzzled, and said, “What the hell are you working on?”

“A 1930 Model A Ford.”

There was a long pause. “Well… let’s see what I’ve got in here.”


From right to left: My family’s Model A, Devin’s A, a hot rod A, a badly done hot rod firetruck.

Today Devin came up from Bedford and we had our own little 2-car Model A parade over to the rockabilly car show on the west side of town. It was awesome. There were an incredible number of amazing cars. It was almost all hot rods and custom cars, but I did manage to achieve my goal of talking Model A’s with some old car guys. It was really great, and I even learned a little about my unusual water pump… which is now leaking. But that’s ok, sort of, since one of the old car guys told me what kind it was, so I may be able to order parts for it now.

This was the farthest I have ever driven the Model A and that felt really good.

The reflection of my car in the hub caps of the car next to mine.


Have you ever thought to donate a used car ? Do you love giving to charity? If you want to give back to the community, consider our car donation services! We donate your boat , car, or RV to the charity of your choice! If you have a used car that you want to get rid of, consider donating it to charity! If you want to feel good about yourself, donate a car to a good cause! Sign online today to find out all the information on car donations!

Today Vader and I decided to go for a real drive in the Model A. The initial plan was that I was going to go pick up our friends Steve and Penny, we would all go for a drive together, and that way if the car died, they could help me push it back. It turned out that Steve and Penny double booked, so Vader and I were going to go by ourselves.

For the second time today the Model A started easily, so I thought my troubles were behind me. I backed the car out of the garage, and was trying unsuccessfully to get Vader in the car (he currently hates the Model A) when there was a sudden pang pang pang Pang Pang PANG PANG from the engine compartment. I opened the hood to find the fan turning at a jaunty angle and cutting a huge gash into the radiator, which was now shooting a nice little stream of water all over the engine. For those of you following the story, that’s the same radiator that I just got fixed. Arg. So tonight I took the radiator off the car again. It went a whole lot faster this time since I have experience. Also, I got to meet a very nice lady who helped me push the car back into the garage as I was blocking her way in the alley.

New plan for tomorrow: Wake up early. Feed self. Feed dog. Walk dog. Load up car for gig. Put radiator in car and take it to Mike the radiator guy. Put generator in car to take to Devin’s generator guy down in Bedford. Drive to gig in Columbus IN. After gig drive to Devin’s house, talk cars, go see his generator guy, talk cars, maybe even go for a drive in Devin’s car, talk cars some more, go home. Drop dog off at home. Hang out with East coast yo-yo guys in town for one night. Go to bed very late.

If all goes well, the radiator and the generator will be finished by the time I am able to work on them again next week. Aside from the fact that I need to get good at driving the Model A before we move to Pittsburgh, there is also a rockabilly car show next Saturday (the 23rd) and Devin and I really want to drive both our cars there. Plus, if I’m ever going to find super-cool lookin’ workin’-on-the-car clothes, the rockabilly guys will know where to find them.

Yesterday my pal Devin came over and we spent almost the whole day working on my family’s Model A. The basic plan was that he was going to come up from Bedford to show me how to work on the brakes, and help me check them out to see if they were in good shape. As it turned out, we didn’t even get to the brakes until something like 9 pm.

The first thing we did was to try to get the engine started. I had had it running, but I was having trouble with the battery. I’m fairly sure that the generator (the thing that charges the battery while you drive) is bad and needs a complete overhaul, AND it seems as though the battery charger I bought has died. So Devin brought his Dad’s charger up and we got my battery charging right away. Devin double-checked how I had the timing set and made a little adjustment, and we got the engine running. A lot of time was spent fiddling, making small adjustments, and trying to see where to set all the knobs and levers in the passenger compartment, and on the carburetor. We stopped the engine every so often to do this or that, and it wouldn’t always start back up again. Twice the car wouldn’t start because it had run out of gas, but sometimes we just couldn’t figure it out.

Fortunately Devin has more experience than I do with cars in general, but especially with Model A’s. He showed me a wiring diagram in the The Model A Ford Mechanics Handbook Volume 1, by Les Andrews, got out his test light and we followed it until we found a bad connection on the ammeter inside the dash. It was a quick fix.

Then we noticed that the coil (essentially a big capacitor that ramps up the 6V from the battery into 20,000V for the sparkplugs) was getting really hot. It normally gets warm, but this was hot enough that it was hard to touch.

Devin said, “You know, we can just go down to AutoZone and get a new one. They’re only like fifteen bucks. We just have to convince them that they actually have it so they will sell it to us.”

Devin, Vader, and I piled in the Prius (the pinnacle of modern automotive technology) to go off to buy a part for the second model car that Ford ever made (the pinnacle of automotive technology in 1930). It was a nice contrast.

We walked into AutoZone, and there was an older guy and a young guy working. I always go to the older guy if I have the choice, but he was busy.

“Hi. We’re looking for a 6V coil.” I said.
“What the hell are you talking about?” The young guy said.
I started laughing. This was typical AutoZone, and exactly what we both expected. “It’s for a 1930 Model A Ford.”
“Oh. You need to talk to that guy,” he said pointing to the older guy, “he knows about old cars and stuff.”

We went over to chat with the older guy, and he helped us work it out.

“A coil? Could it be called an ignition coil?” he asked.
“Sure. That would make sense.” Devin and I said together.

He punched in “6V ignition coil” under the category for 1930 Model A Ford (which I was surprised was even in their computer), and out popped the shelf number. He went to get it, and when he came back he made a funny production out of blowing the dust off the box. $14 later we were back in the car on the way home.


I have the pleasure of getting my family’s 1930 Model A Ford Sport Coupe back in working order after it has been in storage for about 15 years. Unfortunately, I don’t remember the instruction on how to start the car that I got from my Grandpa 20 years ago, before he died, and no one else in my family knows how to do it. If it weren’t for my friend Devin I don’t know how long it would have taken me to find someone who could help me since there is no Model A Ford Club in Indianapolis. I wrote these directions figuring that there are other people like me out there who are handy, but lack some basic information. My The Model A Ford Mechanics Handbook Volume 1, by Les Andrews doesn’t tell you how to start the car after you have spent all this time fixing it.

Here’s how I start my car:

  1. Make sure that everything is in running order. Easier said than done I know. Be sure the timing is properly set, or even if you get the car started, it won’t run well, if at all.
  2. Turn on the gas valve that is under the dash on the passenger side. In my car the valve is open when the handle is 90 degrees from the gas line.
  3. Push the timing lever on the steering column (the one on the left) up all the way (fully retarded).
  4. Pull the throttle lever on the steering column (the one on the right) down most of the way. How far down will probably vary from car to car. My friend Devin likes to have it all the way down on his car.
  5. On the right side of the car, in front of where the passenger would sit is a silver knob. This is both the choke and the fuel mixture. Turn the knob clockwise until it stops, and then open it back up about 1/4 to 1/2 of a turn. Pull it almost all the way out and hold it there. The turning is the mixture, and the pulling is the choke, or air supply. (You only have to pull out on the choke when starting the car cold, after it is warm you can just hit the starter button.)
  6. Push the clutch pedal in all the way, or take the car out of gear.
  7. Push the starter button on the floor with your right foot. It’s the little one that is closest to the engine.
  8. As the starter is turning you may have to slide the choke in or out a bit to find the sweet spot. Once the engine fires, let go of the choke almost immediately. You may have to adjust the mixture knob, but I usually have mine 1/4 to 1/2 of a turn open. Also, you will want to ease up on the throttle lever (push it up a bit). You do not need to hit the gas pedal with your foot in the starting process. In fact, that is why you have the throttle lever in the first place, it takes the place of the pedal since your foot is busy on the starter button.
  9. You will have to fiddle around with all the settings a bit to get them just where you need them for your car.
  10. Once the engine is running, pull the timing lever all the way down (and leave it there) for driving.
  11. Have fun!


I’ve been slowly getting going on working on the Model A Ford again this season. I had big plans to put in a plastic liner and heat the garage this last winter so I could work out there despite the temperature, but the prospect of putting that much work into a garage that we will leave in a few months to a year was too much for me. I’ve only had a couple of 2-3 hours stints so far, but I’ve gotten a little bit done this week.

Last fall one of the guys at the neighborhood auto-mechanic shop told me about a salvage yard just out of town that has Model A Ford parts, so tomorrow my buddy Devin and I are going to go out there and see what they have. For all you Indianans who are in need of Model A Ford parts (I know there are a lot of you out there, and that you spend a lot of time online) here’s the info: Carter’s Salvage, 700 E Jackson St, Veedersburg IN 47987

It has been unseasonably warm here in Indianapolis the last few days, so I have been spending my time in the garage working on the Model A. It’s been great, and I’ve gotten a lot done.

Ok, so this is going to be an in-depth description of how I repaired the Horn Rod on my 1930 Model A Ford Sport Coupe. If you are not a Model A Ford person with a Horn Rod in need of repair this will probably be BORING. But if you are like me and have a non-functioning horn button, but a working horn on a Model A Ford, this description is going to be GOLD! GOLD I TELL YOU! (more…)