No spark issue

My 54 Super Wasp doesn't want to start and I've been trying to find the reason why since the begining of summer without any result at all.

The engine cranks well, have all the fuel I need, but no sparks at all. The spark plug wires, starter solenoid, ignition coil and most of the internal parts of my distributor ( condenser, lead and ground wires ) are brand new and yet still no sparks at all.
The distributor is an Autolite IAT 4009B and is still working on breaker points.

Is there something I've missed ? 


  • lostmind
    lostmind Expert Adviser
    Is the distributor turning?
    Power to the coil while cranking
    If so , you have shorted wire or defective part
  • Start with the simplest thing first (what you messed with).  In this case, I would start with the distributor. Clean your points and check the gap (should be 0.020").  Is the lead wire to the points shorted?  Is the stack of insulators assembled correctly going through the distributor body so the hot wire isn't shorting? There is also a ground strap that runs from the distributor body to the points plate (make sure it is intact).

    I have had a failure to fire with an almost unperceptible (to my eyes) amount of debris on the points.  Make sure the electrical system is de-energized and flush with contact cleaner.

  • Did you also re-wire the car?  Possible that a wire got mixed up?  I made the boneheaded mistake of mixing two wires, attaching the starter wire to the light switch circuit breaker instead of the STA post on the ignition switch. 
  • I've returned to the distributor for further inspection and I remember that one of the new wires I changed ( the lead wire ) seems a bit odd.

    As seen on the picture, the bottom wire was the original wire and the top one is is the replacement wire that I bought from Studebaker ( part # 527351). they look similar expept the end that goes to the points is inversed on the new one.

     Long story short, can this little change on the wire end be a symptom of no sparks on the points ? Might be a dumb question but might as well ask it.
  • If it is grounding out, yes.  See upper, left-hand "C" in the picture.
  • Got some news: the distributor was indeed grounding out and has been fixed. From there I also discovered that the spark plug wires were not fully connected to the plug themselves, thus having no sparks. I've tightened the connectors that goes on the spark plugs and it seems to work, but the sparks are a bit weak.

    I did ordrer new spark plug wire from Wildrick just in case, but I wonder if there is something I can do to improve the spark strength ( bad ground or still no proper connections on the wires maybe ).

  • cchancel
    cchancel Member
    edited October 2023
    Make sure battery cables are in good condition and heavy gage (0, 00).  Too many people try using the thin gage cables intended for 12v systems and it doesn't work well.  Ground cable to the block is crucial.  I've run across bad new coils as well.  I stick with NAPA's Echlin IC7.
  • 50C8DAN
    50C8DAN Senior Contributor
    When buying relatively generic parts such as ignition and brake stuff you might try Rock Auto.  I am finding you can get a lot of stuff for Hudsons and Studebakers through them, at very low prices.  Got all my brake items from them and came in 3 days!  Here is ignition stuff for a Wasp:,1952,wasp,4.3l+262cid+l6,1435604,ignition
  • Max162
    Max162 Member
    edited October 2023

    I've some updates regarding my ignition system.

    I managed to finally have sparks on my plugs, yet it still doesn't want to start. Upon investigation I found that the distributor shaft seems to have a play while the rest is well screwed in place. I suppose that this play can be a rerason why the car doesn't want to start as the play is messing the ignition timing ? Also is there a way to fix it or do I have to look for another distributor ? Ideally it would be best for me to fix it instead to trying to find a replacement. Your thoughts is greatly appreciated.


  • onerare39
    onerare39 Expert Adviser, Member


    I had Lance Walker rebuild the distributor in my 1950 Pacemaker. His contact information is in the current roster.

    John Forkner

  • Most of the used Hudson IAT 4009 distributors I have come across have had issues (bent shafts, worn out bushings, missing parts). It would we easier on you to have it professionally rebuilt. If Lance Walker is willing, that would be a good choice. It is also possible that he has one for sale that he has already gone through.

  • I have a good distributor from my 55, 308. I have a built GM HEI for my engine. The distribution I have has extremely low mileage on it.

  • Max162
    Max162 Member
    edited October 2023

    I've inspected my distributor while it was out and realised that it has little to no play, so after thinking for a minute I decided to also check the oil pump gear to which the distributor is pegged to; took a flathead screwdriver long enough to reach it and there it was: the same play I felt when I moved the distributor shaft.

    From here my questions are as follow: 1) could a worn oil pump gear can affect the ignition timing to the point of being unable to start and 2) how tidious can the job be to replace it?

    I'll be doing some reasearch on my part regarding the oil pump gear.

  • The oil pump gear is a wear part. It is made out of brass so that the camshaft isn't sacrificed. As it wears down it will affect timing. I've had a worn gear and the car still would start.

    It was a 2-person job to get the alignment of the gear with the distributor rotor position (in order to maintain timing with the engine). It is fairly straight-forward to mark a reference point on the engine side (tape) exactly where the rotor is pointing. The trick is to account for the rotation of the oil pump gear as it meshes with the camshaft. I've done it twice and it can be done in under an hour for the install. Swapping the gear isn't too bad and the only challenge is preening the pin that secures the gear. You should be able to get a gear from Wildricks:

    These engines are fairly amazing in how bad things can be and they'll still start. Back to the beginning: it was running in the Spring and suddenly refused to start in the Summer. There is no mention of it quitting during operation. Whatever it was is probably minor. It now has spark. You are certain it is getting fuel. There is a fair amount of timing adjustment with simply loosening the distributor hold-down bolt. Try retarding the timing to ease starting. I suspect your choke, but that is a different conversation.

    Good luck.

  • Geoff
    Geoff Senior Contributor

    Sorry to have to disagree, but if the gear is worn, the timing will already be retarded, setting back even more will only exacerbate the problem.

  • Related question:

    Does moving the distributor gear 1 tooth make a difference on the timing of a 232/262/308? The reason I ask is I have my distributor turned up against the mid-plate slots and can't advance it more. The spark is occurring 3-4 degrees after TDC (according to the new timing tape I carefully placed on the harmonic balancer after finding true TDC using the piston stop method).

    Some math. There are 11 teeth on the distributor gear. Therefore each tooth rotates the lobe of the distributor 360/11 = 32. 72 degrees. There are 6 spark pins on a distributor cap. Therefore the distance, in degrees, between each pin is 360/6= 60 degrees. Therefore 2 gear teeth = 65.45 degrees which is 5.45 degrees more than one pin to pin rotation.

    If I pull the oil pump, rotate it one tooth, then rotate the distributor clockwise the equivalent 1 tooth distance, stab the two back together, will this allow me to advance the spark 3-4 degrees without bottoming out the mid-plate slots?

  • BigSky
    BigSky Senior Contributor

    Make sure this bolt isn’t grounded to the plate underneath it.

  • 50C8DAN
    50C8DAN Senior Contributor

    Yep what Big Sky said! Can be hard to find if you aren't looking.

  • Jon B
    Jon B Administrator

    You've probably checked this already, but: is the ground strap (from the positive terminal of the battery) correctly connected to the car?

    For the last few years my starter revolved very slowly and in fact the starter drive often got locked into the flywheel gears. In actuality, the ground strap was connected to the engine mount through a thoroughly rusted washer. The connection was hidden from view, behind the generator, so I never noticed it. Once I had sanded and applied conductive grease to the points of contact, and replaced the rusted washer, the starter revolved very quickly.

    I'm not sure that a bad ground connection would explain your particular situation, but you might want to take a look at at.

  • StepUp
    StepUp Member
    edited October 2023

    If the starter is turning slowly ——using a heavy duty battery jumper cable clamp one end of it directly onto the round nose of the starter and clamp the other end directly onto the battery’s positive ground terminal. If the starter reacts and spins the engine faster, then the problem is in the power or ground cables and/or connections.