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Thread: '49 WL Starting issues as in not - Have spark and gas

  1. #1

    '49 WL Starting issues as in not - Have spark and gas

    I just recently finished the assembly of my í49 WL, what a great day that was, but I canít get it started. I have spark, I have fuel, it should start. Once in a while if I prime it enough Iíll get a pop out of it and maybe a flame which Iím not too hip on. A couple of times I got a puh-puh-puh, but thatís it, but not like an exhaust sound. Itís the original 6 volt system with a fully charged battery. Iíve gone through the service manual as far as troubleshooting and have checked and re-checked the plug gap, point gap, timing, took the M51 apart twice, it seems to function ok, when I prime it a couple of times I get gas out of the carb, so it seems gas is getting down there. I replaced the points and condenser as well.
    On the timing, the H-D manual says to set the timing mark in the center of the hole but the Palmer book says to put the line just forward of the hole, which is correct? I tried it both ways with same results, a non-running awesome looking 45.
    To start it I prime it 2 to 3 kicks with the choke closed and throttle wide open, key off. Then key on, ĺ choke, half throttle, and kick and kick. Iíve tried it with the spark advanced, retarded, half way, quarter way, quarter throttle, full throttle.
    A little background on the engine Ė The guy I bought it from took the bike apart in í98 to restore it, he rode it as a bobber since í58. He told me he had the top end done, you can see that something was done because there are Phillips head screws in the lifter blocks. Whoever did it painted the aluminum heads silver so I took them off (not all of the head bolts were there and some werenít tight so I wanted to check the gasket anyway) to blast the paint off and did see that the pistons were .20 over and they were real clean as well as the valves, so it looks as though something done, plus included in the parts boxes were old valves and springs. Iím pretty sure he was running a magneto but when I bought the basket case the stock circuit breaker was installed, so I donít know if it was just stuck in to plug the hole where the mag was or not. I havenít messed with the position short of timing it, well also lubing the underside and installing a new wire.
    The only thing I hadnít check up until today was the compression, so I bought a gauge at Harbor Freight and wish the gauge was broke but Iím afraid its not. The rear cylinder is just under 40lbs, and it holds it, even going through another stroke slowly it doesnít change and will hold that pressure. The front cylinder I could only get about 25lbs and by the time Iíd look at the gauge the pressure was already gone. What does that tell you?
    Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Mar 2008
    Beautiful Northern NM

    Re: '49 WL Starting issues as in not - Have spark and gas

    Sounds like it is 180 out on the timing. Start from the beginning and make sure it is right. Did you check the compression with throttle wide open? Oil in bores increase it? How long did it sit, rings could be stuck. And make sure the valves are not too tight.
    Friends help friends move,
    Real friends help friends move bodies!

  3. #3

    Re: '49 WL Starting issues as in not - Have spark and gas

    As Robbie has said it sounds like the timing is wrong. Make sure the timing mark is in the hole on the compressions stroke of the front cylinder and with the timer fully advanced the point should just crack.

    I've had issues with valves being too tight as Robbie mentioned and I've also had funny coils too.
    1938 WLDR
    1940 WL (Race Bike)
    1944 WL

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Aug 2010
    Twin Cities, MN

    Re: '49 WL Starting issues as in not - Have spark and gas

    Every good mechanic and at least one bad mechanic has a differential pressure tester in their toolbox. Ie leak down tester just sayin
    1947 EL
    1948 FL Project
    1947WL Project

    But there's booze in the blender
    And soon it will render
    That frozen concoction that helps me hang on

    You never get just get less awful. "Joe Walsh"

  5. #5

    Re: '49 WL Starting issues as in not - Have spark and gas

    I've done lots of bikes like this & 99% are timed to wrong cylinder as Robbie said.Many have gotten this far & sold them because "the best mechanic in whatever state" set it up.I have tuned bikes set up by some of the best known restorers who obviously had no clue how to make them run.Coils are also a possibility.The chances that it is intake leak are small.Compression checks on kick start bikes is tricky.

  6. #6

    Re: '49 WL Starting issues as in not - Have spark and gas

    If you are still struggling, double check and verify timing like so:
    Pull both spark plugs. Place thumb over front plug hole. Crank motor slowly until compression felt. Look for timing mark, typically by rotating crank just a few degrees more. With timing mark in the window, now look at the timer. It has one small points cam lobe and one big lobe. The small lobe is for the front cylinder. It should be just opening points with the timing control in full advanced position. Hope this brief explanation helps. The object is to ensure front cylinder timing is set to compression stroke not exhaust stroke and to small points lobe not the big one.. Good luck.

  7. #7

    Re: '49 WL Starting issues as in not - Have spark and gas

    Thanks much for the replies. I have both front valves down and the line centered in the hole. The point gap is at .022" and set so my test light just comes on when the fiber lever hits the line on the breaker cam. Isn't that correct? The flywheel lines up after the front intake valves drops.
    There valves were tight but I adjusted them a while back and have re-checked them several times since.
    The photo of the circuit breaker in the service manual looks different than mine as far as position of points and condenser, see below. Does that look right?
    I am so close to getting this baby on the road so your help is really appreciated.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Mar 2008
    Beautiful Northern NM

    Re: '49 WL Starting issues as in not - Have spark and gas

    The ponts gap is set on the high point of the lobes, the rear lobe makes it easier due to its width. The line on the points cam is a reference point, not a timing mark, so it rarely lines up when timing is correct.
    Friends help friends move,
    Real friends help friends move bodies!

  9. #9

    Re: '49 WL Starting issues as in not - Have spark and gas

    Robbie, I was just saying that my point gap is set correctly at .022. Also, with the key on I put a test light to the points and they break when the fiber lever lines up with the mark on the breaker cam, with the flywheel line centered in the window, and with the two front valves down. Isn't that the correct way to time it?
    When you say it is 180 degrees out, meaning its firing on the wrong cylinder, how do it fix that? Sorry but its my first timing job and I'm a little unsure.

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Oct 2007
    Oklahoma City OK

    Re: '49 WL Starting issues as in not - Have spark and gas

    Robbie is saying ignore the line on the cam. The points should just break contact when you twist the left handlebar control all the way towards you. You can use an Ohm meter, but decades ago I soldered wires to a light bulb. Disconnect the timer wire & condensor from the points, hook one lead of your meter to the battery, and the other to the terminal on the points. twist the control. either your meter should show the circuit open (volts drop to zero), or the light bulb goes out just as the timer rotates as far as the cable can pull it. Loosen the nut & slide the stud in the slot to adjust the points base plate to that spot. twist the handlebar control multiple times to verify it stayed where you set it. wire it all back up, check your battery voltage, verify your clutch is not slipping (the timer cam should rotate all the way around on a firm kick, retard about 1/3 of your travel and give it another try. Also, if you have modern plugs and they have been gas soaked they may be ruined. Good Luck!!

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