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Old 07-18-2021, 09:35 PM   #1
SteveR.
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Default 3rd engine failure...getting frustrated

I've had my '30 Tudor about 4 years. The first engine a valve seat came loose and destroyed a piston. The 2nd engine I bought used, locally for $1,000, and believe it was a junk engine, it was losing a lot of oil from day 1....took just a few months of driving before something came apart inside...I wrote it off as being a junk engine and didn't investigate, after hearing from someone local that the seller had become known for selling junk.

The 3rd engine I had built by a reputable builder I won't name until I've had a chance to talk to him. Cost was about $3,500. I drove it maybe 1,000 miles. Today something serious came apart inside while driving about 20 mph. A serious, loud knocking, I assume a rod or main, this is a severe knock, not tapping.

If my driving is causing the problem I'd really like to know, but I can't imagine that is the case. I drive on weekends, maybe 15 to 30 miles a week. I don't drive it at full throttle except when needed to accelerate in traffic. Typically I drive 40 to 45mph when traffic is that speed. I've never considered a "B" head or anything similar as I have no interest in more power or driving faster, I just want it to be reliable. I've had it at 50 to 55mph only a handful of times on this engine, I don't drive it at full throttle to take it easy on the engine. I start it with the spark fully retarded, then advance to maybe 70% to 80% of full spark. I don't drive it will the spark fully advanced, even at speed.

What in the world is going on? I'm baffled...I will get feedback from the builder, but if the engines are this fragile I'm thinking about getting rid of the car, but I really don't want to as we thoroughly enjoy it. I see people driving these across the country and there is zero chance I've given my engine more abuse than that in maybe 1,200 miles. I have limited time to keep swapping engines, not to mention the cost, I've spent near $5k and still don't have a good engine.

Last edited by SteveR.; 07-18-2021 at 10:11 PM.
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Old 07-18-2021, 10:55 PM   #2
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Default Re: 3rd engine failure...getting frustrated

hmm what speeds are you shifting at? you may be overrevving the engine between gear changes.
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Old 07-18-2021, 10:59 PM   #3
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Default Re: 3rd engine failure...getting frustrated

I can say the motors are known for being almost Bulletproof. I'm sure there's plenty folks on here that can give you better guidance than me, but I will say don't give up just yet. I would definitely talk to the builder and see what he says. Keep us posted.

I was in Aledo last week, went to the car museum in Weatherford and spent some time with an old friend.
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Old 07-18-2021, 11:43 PM   #4
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Default Re: 3rd engine failure...getting frustrated

Sounds to me like you have had 2 old engines give out, and 1 rebuilt engine develop a problem. Things happen. Talk to the rebuilder and see what his take on it is. Most would warranty for 1000 miles I'd think. Unlikely you've "wrecked it" by your driving habits.
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Old 07-18-2021, 11:50 PM   #5
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Default Re: 3rd engine failure...getting frustrated

Rebuilt engines need to be broken in, not exceeding 50 mph for the first 500 miles. In fact, I have an original key tag for a brand new 1929 Model A that reads: "DO NOT EXCEED 50 mph, 1st 500 Mi, 70 mph, 2nd 500 Mi.” Personally, with rebuilt engines in my cars (I’ve owned about 20 A’s since 1961) I drop those mph numbers to 35 and 50, and have never had an engine failure. And those early miles should be driven carefully by varying the speeds from 0 to 35 during driving, not immediately cranking it up to max and taking off.

What did your builder recommend for break in?
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Old 07-19-2021, 12:11 AM   #6
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Default Re: 3rd engine failure...getting frustrated

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My first engine was done by a reputable builder i broke it in easy, rarely drove over 50 by 3000 miles the rear main came apart --i bought some KRW stuff did my own been trying to break it for the last 35 years, thousands of miles over 60( found it would do 67 on the third day after putting it together), full advance as soon as started, lugging inn third ,riding the clutch for long periods, I have come to the conclusion that there isn't much you can do to "save" a bad job and there isn't much you can do to hurt a good job
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Old 07-19-2021, 03:41 AM   #7
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Default Re: 3rd engine failure...getting frustrated

Sadly in your case this is just plain bad luck . I have had model As on the road for over 40 years and only had one roadside breakdown .A valve seat insert came loose and broke up in the combustion chamber . Loud knocking as part of the seat was stuck in the piston top . Luckily no harm done just cost me a new valve seat and head gasket . So do not loose faith there is a good long life engine waiting for you out there !!!

John in sunny morning Suffolk County England .
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Old 07-19-2021, 05:29 AM   #8
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Default Re: 3rd engine failure...getting frustrated

Steve,

Sounds like bad luck. Have the engine rebuilder have a look at it, as others have advised. Don't run the engine until they look at it. I would just bring the car to him, on a trailer.

If you buy another old engine, take it apart and inspect it before putting it in your car.

Model A's are very durable cars and I doubt that you are doing anything wrong in the way you are driving it, from your description. I have owned 6 and none have had serious issues.
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Old 07-19-2021, 06:54 AM   #9
Jerry Kzoo
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Default Re: 3rd engine failure...getting frustrated

Your latest failure could be something as simple as a timing gear that lost a couple of teeth. I had one fail last fall and it made a terrible noise. Hope you are back on the road soon.
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Old 07-19-2021, 08:26 AM   #10
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Default Re: 3rd engine failure...getting frustrated

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Originally Posted by SeaSlugs View Post
hmm what speeds are you shifting at? you may be overrevving the engine between gear changes.
I generally shift 2nd to 3rd at probably half the RPM I'm at when driving 45mph. Similar 1st to 2nd.
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Old 07-19-2021, 09:00 AM   #11
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Default 3rd engine failure...getting frustrated

You might consider the ALL NEW “BERTZ 5 main block if you’re going to rebuild. The cost for the kit is reasonable!
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Old 07-19-2021, 09:04 AM   #12
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Default Re: 3rd engine failure...getting frustrated

Sorry fat finger!
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Old 07-19-2021, 09:34 AM   #13
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Default Re: 3rd engine failure...getting frustrated

Let folks know what happened after the internal investigation. I think all of us have had a turn of events that hit the pocket book before. Hopefully your event there has a silver lining somewhere.

As was already mentioned, model As aren't inherently unreliable but they are getting very old. Time and fatigue takes it's toll. Rework of the bottom end of these engines has to be done correctly and I see a lot of different opinions about what is correct in this day and age.
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Old 07-19-2021, 05:44 PM   #14
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Default Re: 3rd engine failure...getting frustrated

I am also on engine number 3 Hopefully this is it... I have over $5,000 in this last one.
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Old 07-19-2021, 06:01 PM   #15
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Default Re: 3rd engine failure...getting frustrated

I feel your pain. Don't give up. As you said the first two motors were unknowns so with them anything can happen at any time as you knew nothing about their history. Hopefully you can resolve your issue with the freshly rebuilt motor. As other have mentioned a well sorted motor will last quite a while and will be dependable. You will get there. Do let us know what you find out about the new motor's problem. Hope nothing serious or expensive.
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Old 07-19-2021, 11:14 PM   #16
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Default Re: 3rd engine failure...getting frustrated

I would venture to say that there a lot of new Model A owners who share your frustrations. Anything to do with engines can turn into a real minefield for the unsuspecting. I think a few rules need to be established before going down that road:

1. Don't rush into changing the engine without consulting with a reputable Model A engine mechanic or someone experienced and knowledgeable--not always easy to find, keep trying until you find someone. Maybe the problem is not as serious as it appears to be.
2. Before buying or rebuilding an engine get several references on the builder. It is easy to get taken in by fancy ads and websites. That happened to some of my friends by one of the supposedly bragged on well known rebuilders--wouldn't stand by their work. Get their warranty in writing. Rebuilds are subject to failure but that needs to be addressed beforehand.
3. Accept the fact that the old car that sold for $500 new 90 years ago can now be expensive to get running and become dependable. Quality workmanship is still the best bargain.
4. Don't give up, slow down and take a break. Hit it again later. Like so many other endeavors, in the end you will take pride in what you have learned and are able to enjoy because you "stuck to it."

I know for you this is 20/20 hindsight but I hope others in your situation or those ready to rush into something they will come to regret can benefit from this.
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Old 07-20-2021, 06:57 AM   #17
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Default Re: 3rd engine failure...getting frustrated

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Originally Posted by SteveR. View Post
The 3rd engine I had built by a reputable builder I won't name until I've had a chance to talk to him. Cost was about $3,500.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Gene F View Post
I have over $5,000 in this last one.

While this is not directed at Steve in his situation, however many people read these posts from the sidelines. Just so we are all 'singing from the same page of the Hymnal', $3,500 really does not buy a quality engine in this day & time. As an engine rebuilder, what I have come to realize is it takes quality machines, -and a conscientious machinist not willing to cut a corner if the expectation is to produce a quality engine. And I have also learned that quality machinery takes a fist-full of dollars to purchase or restore. Kurt makes a great point above that if you are casting bearings, there are specialty tools that either must be purchased/fabricated, -and then used if there is an expectation of longevity. When you look at old catalogs such as KR Wilson's book, there are many tools they offered that were considered necessary to do the job to original specifications. These tools are rare today and generally fetch big money.

Now granted, there are always those who will say that 'so & so' will build me a short-block for about that money, ...and while I do agree there are some that will, a short-block assembly is really not an engine. It is a portion of an engine. Add in the costs of restoring the peripheral components and the price escalates. Most professional machine shops doing quality work cannot survive on less than $100.00 an hour, -and when all of the steps are tallied in doing a quality rebuild (thermal cleaning, sonic testing, magnafluxing, peening bearings, burnishing bearings, squaring caps, diamond honing with a torque plate, vacuum checking valve seats, checking lifter bores, straightening & peening crankshafts, straightening rods, balancing reciprocating components, etc.) it honestly cannot be done for $3,500, ...so logic says that to meet that price point something(s) must be omitted. How many omitted steps can be done before the engine is no longer considered a quality engine??


My advice to Steve is remove the engine and take it back to the rebuilder, -even if it is outside of the warranty period. Let the rebuilder determine the cause of failure, and possibly the reason for the failure. At that point Steve can determine what is the best option for him regarding his engine.
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Old 07-20-2021, 07:43 AM   #18
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Default Re: 3rd engine failure...getting frustrated

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Originally Posted by BRENT in 10-uh-C View Post
While this is not directed at Steve in his situation, however many people read these posts from the sidelines. Just so we are all 'singing from the same page of the Hymnal', $3,500 really does not buy a quality engine in this day & time. As an engine rebuilder, what I have come to realize is it takes quality machines, -and a conscientious machinist not willing to cut a corner if the expectation is to produce a quality engine. And I have also learned that quality machinery takes a fist-full of dollars to purchase or restore. Kurt makes a great point above that if you are casting bearings, there are specialty tools that either must be purchased/fabricated, -and then used if there is an expectation of longevity. When you look at old catalogs such as KR Wilson's book, there are many tools they offered that were considered necessary to do the job to original specifications. These tools are rare today and generally fetch big money.

Now granted, there are always those who will say that 'so & so' will build me a short-block for about that money, ...and while I do agree there are some that will, a short-block assembly is really not an engine. It is a portion of an engine. Add in the costs of restoring the peripheral components and the price escalates. Most professional machine shops doing quality work cannot survive on less than $100.00 an hour, -and when all of the steps are tallied in doing a quality rebuild (thermal cleaning, sonic testing, magnafluxing, peening bearings, burnishing bearings, squaring caps, diamond honing with a torque plate, vacuum checking valve seats, checking lifter bores, straightening & peening crankshafts, straightening rods, balancing reciprocating components, etc.) it honestly cannot be done for $3,500, ...so logic says that to meet that price point something(s) must be omitted. How many omitted steps can be done before the engine is no longer considered a quality engine??


My advice to Steve is remove the engine and take it back to the rebuilder, -even if it is outside of the warranty period. Let the rebuilder determine the cause of failure, and possibly the reason for the failure. At that point Steve can determine what is the best option for him regarding his engine.
What Brent is saying here is the main reason I am constantly telling people with high mileage good running engines to leave them alone.

There is no short cut to quality work. You get what you pay for!

Good luck with you engine.
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Old 07-20-2021, 07:50 AM   #19
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Default Re: 3rd engine failure...getting frustrated

I would like to second what Artimus said in post #11. But, by the time you add the pistons and other parts it will cost $5,000. Many parts can be taken off the old engine. In the end you will end up with a bullet proof engine. I am saving up my money for one.
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A is for apple, green as the sky.
Step on the gas, for tomorrow I die.
Forget the brakes, they really don't work.
The clutch always sticks, and starts with a jerk.
My car grows red hair, and flies through the air.
Driving's a blast, a blast from the past.
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Old 07-20-2021, 08:50 AM   #20
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Default Re: 3rd engine failure...getting frustrated

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I would like to second what Artimus said in post #11. But, by the time you add the pistons and other parts it will cost $5,000. Many parts can be taken off the old engine. In the end you will end up with a bullet proof engine. I am saving up my money for one.
Neil, may I ask how you came to that figure??



From my experiences, you are not comparing Apples-to-Apples as one comes assembled and one comes in pieces with assembly required. One includes all the components and one requires additional components.

Also, IMHO it is HIGHLY unlikely that used parts taken from an old engine are going to be in a high enough quality to make an engine bullet-proof!

Now I will be the first to agree that cover castings and an oil pan are likely suitable candidates after a thorough cleaning, but what else are you suggesting re-using that will make your total cost around $5k? Exactly which components listed below are you thinking you can re-use?

  • The flywheel?
  • The flywheel housing?
  • The oil pump drive?
  • The oil pump?
  • The camshaft?
  • The valves, springs, retainers, & keepers?
  • The valve guides?
  • The tappets?
  • Head studs and fasteners?
  • The cylinder head?
  • The water pump?

My list above could likely go on however my point is that most hobbyists honestly do not have the tooling nor the skillset to restore/refurbish the above components. This, they will still need the services of a machine shop. Neil, this is NOT intended to take away from Terry's product as it is a well executed piece however IMO you are not portraying an accurate comparison at that price-point.
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