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Classic/Antique Car Repair/Model A Starts Then Dies


QUESTION: Jack, purchased my 1930 Model A six weeks ago. It ran great until I had to go without driving it for three weeks. When I next tried to drive it, it started immediately, then sputtered and died. It seems to only be getting gas from the choke, then dies. When I try again, same thing happened only with a couple frightening backfires. Is this a clogged fuel line? Please explain in novice terms. My mechanical expertise doesn't extend much beyond adding gas.  Doug

ANSWER: Sounds like it is running lean. Take the gas line off the carb and blow in it. Then hook it up and try it. If this fixes it for a while, then you have rust in your tank. Take a magnet probe and put it in the tank and see what you get. My guess is a bunch of rust. You will have to drain the tank from the gas line. Then take out the gas valve and flush out your tank several times using mineral spirits.  When you think it is clean, get a stand up filter from Snyders and install it in the gas valve. It just sticks in the hole.  This should fix you up. If not, let me know. Nothing I told you to do is hard. I'm sure you can do it. Just be careful with the gas. Go to youtube dotcom and search for jackbahm. I have a video showing how we did this. Other good stuff is there also on the A. Be sure to get the mechanics handbook for model A's from Snyders. The red one. Great book we all have. Good luck. Jack
Doug, I also have a book at Snyders. It's called Get a Horse. You can preview all of it at blurb.  Com.  I wrote it for non mechanics. Jack

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Thanks for tip, but my Model A is still benched. I disconnected the gas line and blew it out. No sign of debris. I also used the magnet to check the tank. No sign of rust. It still starts easily, runs for 3-5 seconds, then dies. Any other theories?

Thanks for the tips on the books. I received both of them this week.


ANSWER: Ok, it must be getting fuel. The bowl must be full to start, and there is enough fuel in the bowl to keep it running for about a minute. Since it dies so quickly, it must be something else. What can happen in 5 seconds?  OK, start it, and right after it dies, stick your finger in the intake of the carb and make sure it gets wet with fuel. Also, quickly turn the key on and with the points closed, open them and see if you get a spark. You should. If there is fuel on the floor of the carb, then it did not die from lack of fuel. If you don't get a spark at the points, then something is wrong with the ignition. Just thought of something. Maybe it dies when you pull the spark lever down. I hope. If so, then it is the little black wire between the lower and upper distributor plates.  Start the car and don't move the spark lever and see if it keeps running. It is easy to fix the dist wire. Let me know. Jack

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QUESTION: It's not related to the spark... it dies whether I lower it or not. I did notice a few drops of gas had dripped from the  bottom of the carb (I felt and it did have gas there). The sediment bowl appears full of fuel. I still sense it's a fuel issue... it seems to burn fuel from the choke, then die. I pat the accelerator to try and keep it running (like is common with a cold engine) but it doesn't have any effect at all. Doesn't matter whether I use the hand for foot throttle. Sorry, I'll need more explanation regarding the "points closed" instructions. Not sure what you're asking me to do.   Doug

Doug, ok, let's forget about the spark for now. I assume  you do not have another carb to try. If you were in a club, you could borrow one. I assume it is a zenith carb. If so, remove the gas line from the carb. Shut off the gas valve first. Check how much fuel line extends into the carb from the ferrule at the end of the line. It should not be more than one eighth of an inch. If the end of the tube sticks in too far, it can hit the filter screen and all of the fuel must flow only through the pinch between the fuel tube and screen. If it ran good before, and you did not put on a new fuel line, it is probably not this.
Remove the horizontal filter screen that runs from the front to rear on the carb. It is about two inches long. Make sure it is not dirty.
Beyond this, remove the carb and take it apart.
Wait, before you do anything else, give the carb bowl a sharp tap with a light tool, or very small hammer. Maybe you float is stuck and not letting much fuel into the bowl. This is a common prob.
If this does not fix it, pull the carb and get into it. It is simple. Something must be plugged. Good luck. Jack

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jack bahm


Only repair type questions on the 1928-1931 Ford Model A.


Owned one when I was 15 yrs old, and now have owned 5. Still own and play with 2 of them.

Oakleaf region of MARC. Model A Restorers Club. I have put several Model A videos on the Oakleaf site that may be of help. Things like how to start the A, how to Time it, how to troubleshoot it.. Go to and you will find them. Also, go to and search for "jackbahm" and you will find over a hundred videos. Many about the Model A and our outings. jack

"More than you need to know about cars." Just a small book for Car Nuts. "Model A Ford Tips and Hints" "Get A Horse" (What to do when Henry's Lady quits on you.) or Snyder's Antique Parts. "Engineering Stuff" (For the Kid who likes to take things apart and get them back together). Kids book for ages 10-16. 2012 Many Model A movies that can be found on

BSME LSU, 1958, Masters of automotive engineering from the Chrysler Institute of engineering, 1960, MBA Mich State, 1976. Worked as an engineer at Chrysler from 1958 to the end of 1991.

Awards and Honors
Two patents while working in auto industry. Go to this site for my Model A videos.

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