It only took a few minutes to swap out the old positive battery cable, despite the limited access on the solenoid side of things. After I removed it, I was able to pull the old cable right out of the fitting by hand, so it had clearly gone south.
The good news is that the car started fine. I drove it across town on a few errands. In the beginning, the only oddity was the Amp gauge swung way over on the charge side—where it stayed the entire time.
Sad to say, though, the engine stumble (which I thought might be related to the battery connection) was just as bad, if not worse, than before. I had trouble holding speed on the freeway (especially when the engine was hot), and on a cruise through the countryside, any acceleration or load on the motor was met with a cough and sputter.
Back home, I could see that there was a lot of air in the fuel line, so I suspect a failing fuel pump—probably the 4th or 5th I’ve gone through. I’ll get a replacement on order.
With the pump issue sidelining the T-Bird, I put it up on jackstands so I can replace the bushings in the rear springs. By a stroke of luck, while looking for my jackstands(misplaced when I moved), I found the studs I need to get the phenolic spacer back under the carburetor.
So—I’ve got a bit of work ahead of me: springs, pump and carburertor. With summer fast approaching (It was almost 80º here today!) I’ll need to move quickly.
We’ve had a break in the rain, and I’ve been driving the T-Bird with some regularity. It’s performed well, starting normally—hot or cold—and running nicely. People still point, stare and wave, which is always nice. I can’t say for sure if the starting issue I had was the carburetor or the bad rotor/cap, but I lean towards the ignition system as the cause of those woes.
The only issue I’ve experienced was an occasional surge or stutter under hard acceleration. I chalked it up to an out-of-tune motor until yesterday: I had parked briefly to do some shopping, but when I got back in the car and turned the key there was nothing—no starter, no click and no power to anything.
I popped the hood, gave the battery a hard stare, wiggled the cables and got back in the driver’s seat. The stereo was back on, in demo mode, and a turn of the key started the motor right up.
The drive home was an adventure. The occasional surge and stutter was now constant and I could barely get the ol’ Bird over 45 on the freeway. I left it on the street in front of my house for a while, the garage being otherwise occupied. When I went to move it that evening, I again had no power until I wiggled the positive battery cable. (The hard stare being optional, apparently.) It’s tightly affixed to the battery, but the actual wire appears to have come loose from the connector.
I new cable should fix the starting issue, but I’m not sure if an erratic connection like this is the cause of the engine stumble.
I spent the day running errands in the T-Bird today, and it was like getting back together with an old friend.
An old friend that always seems to need money, that is.
I took the car to the self-serve car wash (still cleans up nice), a longish drive on nearby country roads, then a series of errands around town. I never had trouble starting it, no matter how long—or little—it sat, so I’m ready to declare the starting issue resolved (until proven otherwise).
It’s been some months since I drove the Thunderbird regularly, and I was a little shocked how poorly I remembered driving it.
How could I forget what a blast it is to drive? If I didn’t have one, I’d have to get one. Second: holy crap, this car needs some suspension work.
Earlier this week I anticipated some “Thunderbird time” coming up and put a trickle charger on the battery. In theory, the motor was ready to go—I just needed some fresh amps in case a lot of cranking was necessary.
As it turned out, the motor fired up on the second try. My son, under the hood with the starter fluid when it caught, had me shut it right down though—there was a fast gas leak at the inline fuel filter. While twisting the line to pull it off the carb, it came partly unscrewed. (On a side note, it’s probably time to ditch this stupid thing. I don’t need it as a filter and it’s a potential fire hazard.) It took just a minute or two to tighten it up.
I started the motor again, fiddled with the idle screws a bit, pulled the bird from the garage and parked it at the curb. The power steering fluid had pretty much all leaked out and the windshield was opaque with dust. As I poured in some Type F, it started to rain. That took care of the windshield, so we were off.
Running in the rain, I got to test everything: brakes, steering, wipers, defroster, radio (to drown out the wipers)—the works. I thought I detected a minor hesitation once, but it didn’t recur. So far, though some minor tuning is probably in order, I was happy behind the wheel.
Back in the garage, I shut it off, waited some 15 minutes for a full heat soak, then tried to start it again. No troubles at all. I’ve seen this before, of course; the next few drives (at least one to the car wash!) will be the real test.