Adjusting coils by ear

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jiminbartow
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Adjusting coils by ear

Post by jiminbartow » Sun Aug 30, 2020 11:13 am

When I finished my Model T after a complete, 2 year restoration, in 1972 and was ready to start it and get it running, I was aware that there were machines that were made in the day to adjust the coils, but, I had no access to them and no idea how to find anyone who had one,so, when it came time to adjust my coils, I adjusted them by ear. That is, I adjusted them until the spark sound sounded the most robust and consistent. When the car started, for the first time in 1972, it ran beautifully and continued to run great. Although I am now aware that this is not the best way to adjust a coil and have access to members who adjust coils, I cannot dismiss how well my newly restored Model T ran, back when I adjusted mine by ear. For Old time Model T owners, in the day, on a farm out in the middle of nowhere that had neither the money nor access to a shop with a coil machine and had to do all maintenance themselves, what did they do to adjust their coils. Is there a sound that one listens for to determine the optimum adjustment? Perhaps someone with a coil machine can compare the sound a coil makes at the optimum setting as reflected in the meter reading and give us an idea of the sound we should listen for when adjusting our coils by ear. Just like in the old days and during these hard times, some T owners just cannot afford the cost of professional coil adjustment, but thinking back on my experience back in 1972, I know good results are possible. Jim Patrick

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Susanne
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Re: Adjusting coils by ear

Post by Susanne » Sun Aug 30, 2020 11:35 am

Lots of us did the same thing... I didn't know the intricities of cushion springs or amp draw so we did the best we could. Sometimes we got lucky, sometimes, well, not so. I remember (as a kid) totally screwing up a set trying to get them to all buzz the same, and all of the sudden the mag wouldn't run right... My dad was, as they say, "less than amused"... and ended up having someone who knew what they were doing (with a HCCT) reset them.

Getting them to pop on a 6 or 12V battery is pretty easy, getting them to pop on a 2.5 volt mag pulse while hand cranking isn't as easy.

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Mark Gregush
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Re: Adjusting coils by ear

Post by Mark Gregush » Sun Aug 30, 2020 12:09 pm

Adjusting by ear was how it was done before the 1914 style coils came out and seems the practice was carried on later. Unless the 2 nuts were replace by a knurled nut, not an easy task to do. ;) A friend of mine who is in his 80's keeps wanting to do that, adjust by ear, I keep telling him not too. After he messes with them, he brings them to me to reset on the HCCT (which is his anyway).
I know the voices aren't real but damn they have some good ideas! :shock:

1925 Cut down pickup
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George Mills
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Re: Adjusting coils by ear

Post by George Mills » Sun Aug 30, 2020 12:21 pm

Jim,

I fully accept that T coils might just work out when tuned by ear...but my ears must have a baffle in them. :)

Similar story, late 70's, I had a T that started easy on BATT ran great on MAG driven coils yet the coils went bizz-bizz-bizz-buzz! I was fine with it but all of the other guys in the local club would roll their eyes that something was 'wrong' with my car. I stuck with it as it was, then moved cross country in the early 80's and shipped the car east. Decided to go through it and freshen things up BEFORE joining a new local group and when all else was done I decided to adjust out the bizz-bizz-bizz-buzz by ear and decided with 3 'bizz' that must be the right note! Got it to bizz-bizz-bizz-bizz and then the car wouldn't start and run under any circumstances! Having several T's by then, that one got left on the side until years went by (To this day I don't know why I just didn't send for 4 ready-to-run out of the box coils or swap out some). After a near decade the car then was a father-son disassembly to put back together project and then he found muscle cars and girls...in that order! :D


Dan McEachern
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Re: Adjusting coils by ear

Post by Dan McEachern » Sun Aug 30, 2020 12:24 pm

I know what I did 40 years ago- went to the pile and got a few different coils to try and hope it ran better with those that the ones I replaced them with. Out of desperation, I would try changing the sound of them by "adjusting" the points.


JohnM
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Re: Adjusting coils by ear

Post by JohnM » Sun Aug 30, 2020 12:47 pm

I believe it can be done, and done well. My Uncle, Ben Pierceall, was born in 1918. His first cars were put together from parts he would find. Later he would use those skills to patch together B-25 Mitchells to keep them in the air over the south pacific in 1945. But that is another story. In the early 80's, he adjusted the coils on my first T by sound and feel. He used a wrench for the gap and a screwdriver to pry up or tap down to adjust the spring tension. When he was done, the car ran very well on battery or mag. I sold that car two years ago having never touched the coils in 37 years and it still ran very good. I miss him, and that is one of the many questions I would ask, if he were still here.


John kuehn
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Re: Adjusting coils by ear

Post by John kuehn » Sun Aug 30, 2020 5:12 pm

In the Model T era most ‘regular’ folks who bought a Model T because it was affordable did just that. Adjusting the coils by ear, getting a good buzz after installing new points or filing them a bit when burned. Most people didn’t have access to a coil testing unit and couldnt afford one.
Basic common tools is what they used to do repairs if they felt capable. That’s what was good about a T. You could fix and keep it going if you had the capability which is what lots of farm folks had. My Grandfather had a box of coils he would swap out when he thought he needed one. I found that box of coils when I inherited his Coupe.

I now have some rebuilt coils by Brett Mize in my cars but when they need any kind of repair I’ll attempt to get the right buzz if need be!


Allan
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Re: Adjusting coils by ear

Post by Allan » Sun Aug 30, 2020 7:50 pm

When posted to Townsville in north Queensland for my national service i became a foundation member of the Townsville veteran car club. One of the other members was a deaf fellow who owned a T and it ran like crap. I was asked if I could help him get it to perform as it should. I cleaned up the coil points first and adjusted the gaps. Then the best I could do was tune by ear and check the spark with the plug lying on the head. One coil was not up to scatch and was replaced. I took it and the owner for a drive and I will never forget the smile on his face. At the start of any run we made, I was always asked to check things out for him.
His deafness was a boon for his employer. He worked in a wrecking yard, and his boss could send him off on a task and he never was distracted by others seeking parts or tools because he didn't hear them.

Allan from down under.


rgould1910
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Re: Adjusting coils by ear

Post by rgould1910 » Sun Aug 30, 2020 8:22 pm

I adjust coils on a Strobo Spark or whatever its called. When I have them properly adjusted, they typically make different buzzing sounds.


John kuehn
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Re: Adjusting coils by ear

Post by John kuehn » Sun Aug 30, 2020 8:45 pm

Not T related but kind of related. There is a chain saw mounted file sharpener that’s used to sharpen the saw chain to get the correct angle. BUT you can take the file itself and do it by hand WITHOUT mounting the sharpener on the saw bar.
A friend asked me years ago why was I using one when I could use the file and file the angle on the chain by hand. Been doing it that way ever since and saved a lot of time doing it that way. My saws cut just fine if I may say so.
You can get the job done using alternative ways if you try.

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