Diagnosing a Cylinder Miss

On our way to the Spring Banquet this year, my wife and I were riding with Les Meacham in his Fordor Sedan, following Don Harvey in his modified Tudor Sedan.  Suddenly, two puffs of smoke came out of Don’s exhaust pipe.  He immediately pulled off of the road into a vacant parking lot and we were right behind him wondering what happened.  Without opening the hood, Don said, “The head gasket blew.”  I don’t know how he knew this so fast, past experience I suppose.

He opened the hood and took out a long screwdriver from his bottomless toolbox and showed Les and I how to check which cylinder or cylinders are affected.  He held the screwdriver blade to the head, with the engine running, and had the shank of the screwdriver to the spark plug wire.  If a miss is noticed, that cylinder is okay.  In checking the others, if no miss is noted, that’s where the gasket is blown.

Flying into action, Don pulled out the appropriate tools to remove the head as cylinders three and four were affected.  Now taking the head off of Don’s engine is no easy matter, as there are water hoses for his hot water heater, wires and assorted plumbing for horns and whistles.  He removed the head, replaced a new gasket and had the car running in just forty minutes.  Being a novice in the mysteries of Model A’s, I was impressed with his instant diagnosis of the engine and fast repair.

The whole point of this story is knowledge and having spare parts and tools, including a torque wrench for the head bolts.

This tech tip was provided by Tom Easley and printed in the June 2004 “A” Quail Call.

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