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MG TD TF 1500 - new owner - TD won't start

My 1951 TD just arrived and I'm new to MGs.

So, yesterday, I turn the key and the red light goes on and I hear the ticking from the fuel pump.

But, it only ticked about 10 times and then stopped.

So, today, I bought a new battery and put it in.

Now, the red light goes on and it ticks just for a few times then stops.

I pull the starter, nothing...

Any idea what this is indicative of?

Thanks for your help in advance, Joe.

J Holman

Joe the ticking is the fuel pump filling the float bowls and will stop once they are full. If your pulling the starter and nothing is happening then I suggest that you try the following.
Make sure the car is out of gear and the e brake is set. Turn the key on and then take a large gauge wire ( 12 or better) and jump the two terminals on the starter switch on the fire wall. The starter should engage imediatly. If it doesn't then we need to figure out whats going on from there. Before you jump the switch Make sure you are pulling the starter switch fully (it takes some effort).



How much of the cable should be pulling?

Right behind the starter it is pulling only about 3/16ths of an inch when I pull quite hard.

Is that enough? If not, how much should it be moving?
J Holman

Well, I pulled harder and it moved a bit further.

And this time, the red light dimmed as I pulled hard.

J Holman

try to turn the starter motor. Sometimes the pinnion gear and ring wheel are blocked. I found the regular on my baby.
At the rear end of the starter motor you should see a square portion. turn this simple with a spanner. If it blocked, turn a bit stronger and the pinnion will com free and you should now be able to start your car normaly.
Good luck


There could be several problems here. You need to clean your ground connections, especially the one between the frame and the engine/transmission.

Then tighten the battery connection to starter.

Take a meter and put it across the starter switch terminals. You should be reading 12 volts. While watching the meter have someone pull the starter cable. The voltage should drop to 0 (or close to it). While still holding the switch closed move one of the leads of the meter to the chassis, leaving the other on one of the switch should be reading 12 volts.

If this is correct then you have a starter motor problem...brushes probably. If the meter readings aren't correct then you have a switch problem.

Gene Gillam

If your igniton light dimmed when you pulled the starter then the switch is closing, you have either a bad armature or a blocked pinion. If you have a crank handle try starting the engine with that.

J Scragg

All of the above are very good suggestions, ,(as usual on this forum), and would be a cause for the light going "dim" and not starting, but could you give us an idea what condition the TD is in? ie Fresh restoration? old restoration? Was it running reciently? Barn find?? This might help in determining what the problem might be. Having to exert a lot of "pull" on the starter knob could also indicate a problem with the cable itself. It could need some lubrication. Fixing this might make the rest of the troubleshooting process a bit easier. You could also bypass this cable problem by using a remote push button starter switch available from your local car parts store.

Steve Wincze

I'm with Steve here...let's backup a bit and answer some of his questions. Main one being: "Was it running recently?"
Depending on that answer....
IMHO : I think I would first try the hand crank to see if the engine turns freely.
If you have heard the car run recently no need for this ...but if you haven't ...pull the plugs and put a little Marvell Mystery Oil down the holes. Then turn slowly over the next couple of days. If the car has not been run for a while that cheap insurance to make sure you don't snap the rings.
Fresh gas & oil not a bad idea either, (run the old oil through a strainer and see what you have in there! large chunks are not good)
If the car has been running shortly before you got it (and you know that for a fact) is really easy to push the starter switch by hand and simply test with a meter,(disconnect the bat first and watch out what you touch with a wrench...that little switch can work as a nice little "welder" if you touch the wrong spot.
The good news: You found this site!
Give us a little more info on your new babies history and there are folks here that will get you up and running "safety fast"!!
Don't get in a hurry ...that will end up taking a toll on the checkbook in the long run. (Trust me!)
Cheers & Welcome to our little family,
David 55 TF1500 #7427
David Sheward

Steve W. -- Those pushbutton starter switches are made to accuate a relay that turns the starter on! There is no way they can handle the 300 Amps the starter draws.

The wire between the starter switch terminals will light up like a light bulb for a second before it melts. A good sturdy screwdriver will work however if you don't mind the burnt spots on it. Your messing with a lot of current here, more than most welders have to supply.

To me the reported dimming of the light says that the starter switch was making contact. But the system has a flaw somewhere so that it cannot supply the current necessary to turn the engine over. That assumes that the engine is free to turn over.

The above advice to check for free rotation of the engine is a good place to start before going back to the electrical problem(s).

Been there done that!!

R. K. Jeffers

This car was running in Alabama just before a 7 day ride up to Washington state last week.

So, I turned the starter motor and heard a click, on the 2nd attempt, the engine started!

Great sounding engine!

After letting the engine go off, I tried to turn it on again and same symptom.

Is the starter motor needing to be replaced since the issue comes back? Or, is there a way to fix it?


J Holman


What do you mean by "I turned the starter motor"? Did you do what Guenter described or something else?

It sounds like you may need new brushes in the starter motor but your problem can still be the switch or poor connections.

Gene Gillam

On a tour last year, the starter switch broke on one of the TD's that was traveling with us. It was replaced by a remote starter switch from a local NAPA. This is the type of stater switch that is made to start the car from outside the drivers seat or to "bump" the starter for timing etc. It has alligator clips to attach to the terminals. It worked just fine for many starts after untill the car got home a few days later and could be fixed properly. A similar one is shown on this web site

Steve Wincze

Those starter switches are used in conjunction with an electric starter relay only. They are not strong enough to be used in a direct mechanical connection. Look at the actual size of the wires in relation to the battery cables.
I suspect that you have an actual starter problem. Remove it and take it to a starter repair shop. They are a simple thing to repair.

Sandy, Bob,
I stand corrected,,,,, a relay WAS installed ALSO!!!

Joe, DON'T use a atarter switch with out also using a relay!!!!!! Sorry 'bout the confusion,,

Steve Wincze

If you have a short piece of battery cable around try "jumping" the terminals of the starter switch....(jumper cable should work for this) ...just touch it for a second ..don't leave it hooked run the risk of burning up the starter if it is seized!
That should tell you if the switch is bad or cable pull is out of adjustment.
You can depress the starter switch by hand easily also.
Make sure you have good ground to engine block. If car has been refurbished recently a common mistake made is NOT scraping some of the paint off to get a good ground. You may have to wire brush a little paint off and reconnect.
Certainly is no harm in having the starter rebuilt or tested....but just for the heck of it give it a little "love tap" with a hammer. I know that sounds really stupid ...but mine stopped working 8 years ago and I chased down everything electrical for days to no avail. Tapped it with the factory supplied ball-bean hammer and have not had a problem since!
Post a pic of your new baby for us to see.
If there is one lesson I have learned about my M.G. over the years it is that KISS (keep it simple stupid) definitely applies big tyme to these cars!
David 55 TF1500 #7427
David Sheward

A TD owner new to our club brought his new car to one of our shows. When it was time to leave his car would not start. Pulled the starter cable and nothing. Starter was jammed. On the front of the starter motor is a square nut like Guenter said, sometimes the original dust cap covers this up. If that is on your car remove the cap and turn the nut with a wrench. Also check the bolts holding the starter to the engine and transmission to see if they are loose. On his car the two long thru bolts holding the starter together were loose. We freed the up bind and tightened up the thru bolts (the ones with the screw driver slots. Car started and he drove home. I think he was embarrassed that he did not know more about this car, but he had just purchased it, we never saw him again. Keep asking your questions. The guys who post here did not start out as experts. They like to share their knowledge. Hope this helps, John
John Hambleton

Yes, that is what I did. I turned the square looking item at the end of the starter, heard a click, and then tried starting the engine again. On the 2nd attempt of this procedure the engine started.

Thanks for all the advice.

J Holman

Joe, if it happens again and turning the end of the starter gets it going, it will likely be what John says or: if there is a bad segment on the armature, or if the pinion phsically jams against the flywheel gear likely the starter drive (or more likely) or flywheel ring gear is worn. If the latter causes it to lock, you can also put the car in 4th gear (key off) and rock the car to free it up. George
George Butz

Bendix will jam in the flywheel when my battery charge is too low. Since you have a new battery I don't think that that is the problem, but bad connections will give you the same indications. Cleaning and tightening all of them is easier than removing the starter. If it still happens then pull the starter.
Gene Gillam

Now that it seems that your starter problem is figured out. How about posting a picture of your car ?
Better yet, send a pic of both you and your car to Gordon at to be posted on his photo site site.

Welcome to the group,
Steve Wincze

This thread was discussed between 26/08/2009 and 28/08/2009

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