Well, I think I FINALLY managed to figure out what the problem was with my Estate Keeper...
These are classic symptoms of compression issues or ignition failure.
The point adjustment will affect ignition timing, so if the timing is correct, the adjustment is OK. .....However, a failing condenser, or oil on the points, or burnt points can still cause problems. .....A failing coil, a bad connection, or a faulty ignition switch can all cause intermittent spark.
If you can put an inline visual spark tester between the plug wire and the plug terminal, you can verify the spark is constant while the engine is running, cranking, or dying out.
Rule out ignition first then go from there. Once you rule out spark I'd be happy to look at the carb for you if you pay shipping both ways.
Yes, after I was tired of with rebuilding and cleaning the carburetor multiple times and getting nowhere, I decided to look into other possible problems with it. As I kept cranking the engine over and listening to it putter and pop every once and a while but refuse to run for any amount of time, I kept thinking back to what Bruce Dorsi, Bolens 1000, and a few other people on here said about ignition and spark. I said to myself, "It's GOTTA be not getting consistent spark here. That just HAS to be the problem. When it gets good spark, the engine fires a few times and then it dies out. It HAS to be spark and not a fuel problem." However, I was being convinced by other mechanics and old timers that it was the carburetor because everyone says that these old Zenith downdraft carburetors were junk and very finicky to get working right. They used to be on the really old Harley Davidsons and they were notorious for leaking and not running right and getting plugged up.
If you have a timing light you can connect it to the plug wire, start the engine and observe the flashing light while it is running - if the light flashes intermittently, irregular or stops flashing when the engine cuts out it usually indicates lack of constant spark - if the light is still flashing consistently when it cuts out it is probably something else.
But anyways, Sunday I decided to check the spark on the engine with the spark checker I bought earlier at Harbor Freight. At first, I was puzzled as the bulb wasn't lighting up at all. I thought like most Harbor Freight junk that it was no good. Even when I could hear the engine pop so I knew the spark plug fired, I couldn't see the bulb light up on the spark checker. I thought this was very odd, so I removed the inline spark checker and kept cranking it. Same thing. So, I pulled the spark plug out of the engine, grounded it to the head, and cranked it over. I could see it sparking, but it didn't seem like it was sparking on every compression stroke like it should be and the spark did look kind of weak. It seemed to me like it was sparking every 2nd or 3rd compression stroke instead of every one. Hmmmmm...
So, I decided at that point to take Eric's advice and try to check out the points on the engine finally...
Just a note on points and condenser, they are not impossible to get to on an estate keeper. After removing your carb and moving cables accessing the points cover is possible. With some creative tool choices and patience you can be successful without removing your motor. To get my EK back into operation I had to do points condenser timing and carb rebuild (complete rebuild). Now all is good. I have learned not to over analyze and sometimes I may have to do things twice as I am not infalable.
To my surprise, the cover came right off without having to remove the engine from the tractor! It was a bit tight to maneuver it out of there, but I managed it quite easily actually without even needing to remove the carburetor to get access to it. My next surprise was after I removed the cover, the points that were in there almost looked brand new! I spun the engine over and saw the points were opening and closing fine and I couldn't see anything really all that wrong with them. (Of course, it is hard to get a good look at them in the points box.) So, I decided while I was at it to just remove the points so I could get a better look at them. Once I had them out of the engine, I could get a better look at the problem:
Yes, something doesn't quite look right about that compared to a new set of points. When I opened the points with my hand, you could really see the problem with these:
It almost looks like the engine either got so hot at one point that the black plastic points arm there melted or else these points were so far out of adjustment that the resulting electrical arc melted the plastic on them and ruined them! I have never seen a set of points do this before. Thankfully, I had a spare set of points for this engine brand new in the box that I installed, courtesy of the three boxes of NOS parts that came with this tractor when I bought it!
I adjusted the points with a feeler gauge so that when they were opened there was a .018" gap between the points and then tightened them down and replaced the cover. However, even with a new set of points and condenser, the engine STILL did not want to start. I'm thinking to myself, "What else could it be then?" The only thing that is left is the coil itself. So, I took that off as well and scrounged through my parts boxes looking for a new one. I did manage to find the box for a brand new coil, but unfortunately, it was empty... So, I grabbed an old used coil that actually looked worse than the coil that was in my tractor and swapped it in just for the heck of it.
Now, I know that these old coils are oil filled to help cool them and with both coils I could hear liquid sloshing around inside when I shook them. However, the coil that I removed from my tractor sounded like it was maybe half full of oil at best? I could hear it slosh around much more inside and it was louder and took longer to slosh from one end of the coil to the other. The other coil I found in my parts boxes sounded like it was a lot more full of oil than the other one and like it was maybe 80-90% full of oil.
Well, it looks like the spare coil did the trick since no sooner than I installed the coil on the engine and went to crank the engine over, it fired right up and came roaring to life! The carburetor needed some adjustments to get it to idle smooth and to get the right fuel mixture going to the engine, but other than that, it was running great now!
I wonder if someone didn't leave the key in the on position when they parked this tractor once and it overheated and burned out the coil? But if so, then why was it working for me for one summer before it finally died on me? Could I have just overheated it by running the engine for too long on a hot summer day, especially if it was already low on oil? Well, whatever the reason, I seem to have found multiple problems with it that was causing the no-start condition that I was experiencing. I'm just SO HAPPY NOW to have figured it out and to finally have it running again!!
to all who helped with this with your tips, advice, and encouragement! I couldn't have done it without you!!
(Also, more pics and hopefully video of it running soon! - For now, I am working on getting the mower deck ready for summer next, including sharpening the blades, lubricating everything all up, and greasing all the fittings.)
Edited by MailmAn, May 25, 2016 - 07:54 AM.