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Classic/Antique Car Repair/1931 Model A, starter issue



Good afternoon. My grandfather gave me a '31 Model A when I turned 16, and with his passing these years later it has ended up at my house. It's in quite good condition, and was being driven regularly until I had to go on Navy orders to Italy for three weeks. With no one being able to crank it or drive it, the battery ran low.

When I got home and charged the battery (6V), I attempted to start it. Since in the past it would crank between 90-120 seconds after trying it, if it had a low battery charge (and 15 seconds with a good charge), I kept my foot on the starter pedal for about two minutes. When it still hadn't started the car (yes, lots of turning over, very slow turning over, but no starting) I took my foot off the starter. The car continued turning over. I turned the key off and eventually removed the key entirely, but the car continued turning over just as it had been when I had my foot on the starter.

I got out to look at the starter, and I recall that one of the screws that the wires led from was cherry red (I remembered it later, since I thought it odd for a piece of plastic to be on the car; imagine my shock when I went back and saw it was actually metal!). When I couldn't find a simple, safe way to disconnect the starter, I pulled one of the battery cables off the battery, and that stopped the car.

Two weeks later, hoping that it had been able to "restart" or at least the battery die, I put the cable back on the battery, and the car promptly began turning over (slow turn overs) again. I've disconnected the cable from the battery again, and have been researching what to do, with no luck.

For further background, there has been twice in the last 6 months when the car wouldn't start, and the solution was to put the car in gear and rock it, listening for a click in the starter. It successfully started both times I had to do that. I don't know if that's a contributing factor, but I mention it for full information.

I hope that helps in diagnosis of the problem. Any and all assistance it appreciated. Blessings!

-Rev. A. Erwin

It is your starter switch on top of the starter. Remove it and fix it or put a new one on. I'm working on an A right now. I'll get back to you later today. Jack

That switch is very simple inside.  It may be fried and a new one is only $23 from Snyders.  You should be able to fix it, but there is an insulator in there made of paper.  You need to make sure nothing shorts out.  If you get a new one, make sure it has no short or something misplaced inside.
That car should start easily.  Something must be wrong.  Search for my videos that should help.  Get the starter switch fixed and we can start on getting it running good, like it should.  Just pulled an oil pan off of a friend's car.  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.

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

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