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MG TD TF 1500 - Engine woes, perhaps

While trying to get to TDC, to re-install the distributor and start the tune up process I uncovered a few problems.
I can not use the hand crank since the holes don't line up.
Engine in neutral, plugs out, but could not turn the engine with the fan.
Jacked left rear tire off the ground.
Engine in neutral the wheel turns free.
Engine in high (or any)gear the wheel won't turn.
Depress the clutch pedal and the wheel turns free.
Therefore it does not appear to be a transmission problem.
Then with the engine in neutral I put a 1-1/8" socket on the crank nut and tried to turn the engine. Got a slight movement but too much resistance to turn.
The engine turns over with the starter motor.
The car was running before I took the distributor out for identification.

It seems to me that there is something binding in the engine, enough to keep me from manually turning it but not enough to keep the starter from tuning it over.
I have no history on the engine.
Can I keep running the car without serious damage?
Do I need to pull the engine and have it overhauled?

Since I have virtually no experience with this I would appreciate any input.

Mort TD 1851

Mort, have you recently removed the sump? I had a problem that sounds very much like what you described and finally discovered the problem. I had used a bolt that was too long when attaching the sump to the bell housing, which caused the engine to lock up.
Best of luck to you.
Safety? Fast?
Scott Ashworth - '54 TF
S. R. Ashworth

Mort, I remember reading a thread once that had to do with crank not fitting due to alignment problems. The solution was to loosen the bumper and brackets, install the crank and then tighten everything back up again. I know you said part of the problem was due to past collision but a good wack on the front horns/bumper mounts should suffice.

Richard Taylor TD3983

Make sure the starter motor pinion is not jammed in mesh with flywheel's ring gear. Also try rotating engine with distributor installed and not installed to see if there is any difference. Distibutor gear might be jaming with camshaft gear. Cheers Phil
Phil Atrill

Don't try to force anything....I agree with Phil...Your dizzy must be in wrong...
It's impossible not to be able to turn the crank, from the wheels, with plugs out...Something is jammed.
E.B. Wesson

Scott, I have not removed the sump. The engine was running when I put it in the garage. It will turn over with the starter motor.

Rich, It is not just the bumper. The radiator bracket is right in the middle of the alignment. Frame needs a little work.

Phil, The starter motor will turn the engine over with no problem. Good idea about the distributor. I will pull it out and try again.

Ed, Impossible is my cars middle name.

News at eleven.

Thanks all,
Mort TD 1851

Mort, is the dizzy in or out when you tried to rotate the engine? I am wondering is the dizzy gear has the camshaft in a bind.

Bill Brown

Just had an "epiphany"....
Are you in reverse, instead of 4th gear?
E.B. Wesson

Ed, I tried fourth and fifth not reverse. (5 speed)

Partial resolution,
The problem, in part is my 9 inch biceps. I used a 1-1/8 socket over the crank nut with 3/8 drive and a 9-1/2" arm. Could not rotate the engine.
I went to my friendly local gas station (great guys) and they lent me a 1/2" drive with an 18" bar. I was able to rotate the engine to the pulley mark. So it was just the lack of leverage for puny me.

I still don't understand why I am unable to turn the engine by turning the tire but more on that later.

Even better they lent me a hand held thumb operated remote switch that I used to jump across the starter switch. It is very sensitive with this engine and I can jog the pulley by fractions of an inch. I was able to jog to the mark on the pulley. I worked the distributor into place so that when seated the rotor pointed to the #1 plug contact. It will not start. I have spark at the plug and the fuel pump is working normally. The starter cranks the engine with ease and the fan indicates that the engine is turning.
My next thought was that I may not have jogged to the compression stroke.
I pulled #1 spark plug and jogged the engine with the remote switch until I felt the compression pop my finger off the plug hole. The pulley mark/groove was no where near the TDC indicator. There appears to be a file mark right about at that position so I tried to set the dizzy using that mark. Still won't start.

I now have a lack of confidence in the marks on the pulley. With the valve cover now off (new gaskets arrived should I need them) how can I visually or otherwise tell when I am at TDC. Mind you I am not a guru on engine part names so break it down to the "Engines for Dummies" level.

Thank you all for your patience and help.
Mort TD 1851

Take a sparkplug, cut off the insulator and drill out the center. Tap in some 1/4 inch threads and turn in a bolt, about an inch or so should be sticking out the end of the plug. With the engine coming up on compression, insert the plug with the bolt and rotate the engine until the piston touches the bolt. Mark the pully against the pointer on the flywheel cover. Then with the 18" bar rotate the engine the opposite way until you touch the bolt with the piston. Mark the pulley again. Halfway between the two marks is TDC. Mark that and you have your new timing mark.

I'm more concerned about why your engine seems to have its timing marks off. I would remove the pulley and see if the keyway is sheared, or it has some other malady, and fix it properly.

Dave Braun

mort, this is just me, but i would slow down just a bit, take a couple sniffs of air then proceed. i would not advise removing components at this time. your car was running fine prior to distributor removal. if the starter is turning your engine over easily i do not see a binding problem with the cam. i think we may have more of a new owner/inexperienced mechanic issue. we were all in that place once.
your thumb being popped off the FRONT most spark plug hole only means you are on the compression stroke on the #1 cylinder. you need to find TDC on the compression stroke. if your car has not been modified, you align the pointer on the timing chain cover with the notch in the crankshaft pulley. (for future reference a lot of people find TDC on number one and leave the engine in that position prior to pulling the distributor.)
if you have no documentation the engine has been modified i would proceed as if it is not until you can determine that it was.
dave, as usual, gives a good description of how to construct a device to determine TDC. if you decide to use this device be very careful as you rotate your engine by hand. softly touch the piston to the modified spark plug device.
mort in your first post you stated at TDC you should have the points just closing..the points should just be OPENING.
regards, tom
tom peterson


Because the TD is a full frame car, it is actually not difficult to have a body shop with a frame machine get it back to factory specks. This normally can be done without taking any body parts off. Not sure in your area, but my shop charged me $90 to put mine on the frame machine and remove a bit of bend that the car had from a PO.

I would also wonder if the PO put the radiator support in backwards. That will make it near impossible to get the crank in.

If the car was running prior to taking the distributor out, and it turn over with the starter, unlikely it is binding.

Bruce Cunha

"we were all in that place once"...uh some of us are still there more than 10 years later!
David Sheward

I haven't seen any mention of your point gap.

Before you set your timing, you need to operate the points (either by rolling the engine over or rotating the distributor back and forth) and set the points gap. My memory tells me .014" is about right.

First off, if your points aren't opening up, or closing,there willbe no spark.

Secondly, if you set you timig, then readjust points, your timing will move.

While at the GOF, I checked out a distributor that had almost no gap at all. It was amazing it made it 150 miles to the Gathering. I also discovered the condenser had been installed crooked and the cap did not sit down right. The rotor had ground deep into two of the terminals. I would've expected to find cracks from such abuse, but fortunately, it was still solid. After correcting these problems, then the timing was tweaked.

No telling what i going on under that cap without digging into it.

to be continued...
Jim Northrup

As for pulley marks and Top Dead Center, I pull the plug (or diesel injector) and slip a wire down onto the piston and ease the crank back & forth (I understand you had problems doing this) to creep up on TDC to doublecheck the pulley marks.

Not long ago, someone posted pictures of two engine pulley and it was very obvious the angles betwen the marks and the keyways were grossly different.

I recently rebuilt a diesel injection pump and of course there's no service manual available. I evaluated the timing marks on the gears; they did not point out TDC but the injection timing advance.
Jim Northrup

This thread was discussed between 30/08/2011 and 01/09/2011

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