Cutting Out

Dear Mr. Motorhead:
Last summer before I put my boat away, a strange thing was happening. Let me explain. I would be motoring along enjoying the scenery, when all of a sudden the engine would quit. Nothing could bring it to life. I knew I had plenty of gas as I had just filled her up. My family and I waited and drifted as I pondered what the problem might be.

Being a man of patience and mechanical ignorance, I relied on my patience as we sat and waited for someone to give us a tow. Some time passed with no one in sight to offer assistance. When I said to my wife, “I just don’t get it.” At this moment, in frustration, I turned the key and she fired off and purred like a kitten, as if nothing had happened. Whoa, I said to myself; perhaps patience does pay off. Who needs to know how to fix this old stuff if all you have to do is sit around and wait for awhile? I was on top of the world, feeling smart and back enjoying the day in old Woody. Then all of a sudden, just like before, she died again.

My bliss was only to last about 20 minutes. Re-pondering the situation, I remembered how well I fixed it the last time by just sitting around. So, what the heck, pop open a tall cool one, sit awhile, and see how well I will do this time. One beer down, its time to show my wife how good a mechanic I have become Watch this, as I grinned and turned the key slowly. Bang, and once again we were off a-boatin’. With plenty of gas and one less beer, we were back at it again enjoying the sounds and sites of a wonderful day. Well Mr. Motorhead, this continued all day long, and I was soon wishing I had more mechanical skills. Even for me, I was by now running out of patience.

Dear Jobe,
Sounds like a pretty nice day out on the lake. I hope you had plenty beer to sit and fix the boat with and get you back to the dock. Patience is a virtue, but it has yet to fix an engine – at least not to my knowledge. I will explain your problem to you in layman’s terms so you may understand what the heck was going on. Remember, you need three things to make an engine run: gas, air or oxygen and a spark to get all this good stuff to burn. You had two out of the three, which isn’t bad, but you still need all three. You were, or I should say your motor was, missing the spark.

There are a number of components that give your engine the spark to ignite the gas and air mixture in your cylinders. Your battery or generator, the power source; the spark plugs, who would guess; the points and condenser; and last but not least the coil. One might ask, what about the distributor? This only sends the juice from one cylinder to the next at the right time, and does not make the spark. So, why it would work sometimes and then, not work at all, then again like magic, work again? Your coil, oh patient one. You see, the coil is one of those electrical phenomenon’s that converts the 6 or 12 volt electricity into literally tens of thousands of volts. Nobody really seems to know why, but it does. If you were to cut a coil open (but please don’t,) you will find that it is full of coiled wire, hence the name, and some oily looking stuff called the dielectric.

Sometimes when a coil gets old the dielectric fails, things get hot, and bingo, one dead engine. Wait around for awhile, have a brewsky or two, turn the key, and bang, you look like a genius. All that has happened is, you have given the coil enough time to cool down and work for you again. This cycle will continue until she finally gives up the ghost. So Mr. Patience, you need to replace your coil. Remember, when you wire up the new one, the one little wire that connects to the distributor goes to the (-) terminal on the coil. The little wire that leads to your ignition connects to the (+) terminal on the coil. And the great big one connects to the top of the distributor and to the top of the coil. It’s just that easy. Remember, when you are buying a new coil, specify either 6 or 12 volt. I won’t talk to you about internal or external ballast. Just let the guy or gal at the counter know what you are fixing up, and they will give you the right one. Or better yet, bring the old one in with you, and they’ll match it up.
Mr. Motorhead