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How do you try to start it, first thing in the morning?

Unlike modern fuel injection, these little cars with their carburetors need a bit more coaxing to spring to life.  To make things even worse, unlike “normal” older cars, most of us have no chokes which would make starting things easier, but we’re all die-hard “car guys”, I guess.

What I do is to turn on the key - You should hear the fuel pump start up - then give the accelerator pedal 2 to 4 good pumps and then turn the key to start.  If it doesn’t start up, then another couple of pumps is in order and re-start.

Once it starts it will be grumpy and not want to idle so I just hold the idle up around 1,200 - 1,500 rpm for a few seconds (15 - 20 secs) with the accelerator pedal, until it settles down and idles on its’ own - Just a few seconds.

Yes on the startup ballet. I turn the key to run, wait 4-5 seconds then a slight push on the gas pedal, and it fires but doesn’t stay running. I then turn off the ignition, turn it to run again, pump a few more times and it starts and runs. It’s grumpy for a short time.

It’s funny about these cars, they’re like a new baby, you have to learn what the different sounds and cry’s mean. So much fun trying to figure it out. I’m retired so I have lots of time to figure it out.

Back in the 80s I worked as a mechanic, tow-truck driver, and occasional gas jockey: they still had full-serve! I washed windows and checked oil, yes I did. Not a lot of money in tips, those people DIDN'T.

Anyway, we had a full-size K-5 Blazer we used as a plow truck. The choke was broken, and nobody cared to fix it. You just learned to give it what it needed. That's how I learned to drive a carbureted car with no choke.

News flash: Your carbureted car with no chokes is not gonna idle nicely at first turn like all the modern EFI cars do. You may have to pump the gas once, twice, even 4 or 5 times depending on what it NEEDS to run for the first 30 seconds or minute. You may have to give repeated VERY slight stabs of the pedal to keep it running until it starts to warm. It doesn't take long for the heads and pistons to start warming.

After 10 seconds, you may be able to hold it at 1200-1500 rpm with a steady foot. Sit there for 30 seconds or a minute, until it will hold an idle, albeit a slow one. Then drive off, nice and easy for the first few minutes at least. Whatever you do, don't rev it up, it's REALLY not good for the engine and you could blow an oil line, seal, or a cooler.

The slight push on the gas you say above @Popee is usually better for an already warm engine, if it doesn't just fire right up with the turn of the key.


Once you've gotten used to living with the engine and learned its cold starting quirks and warm starting quirks (the two are usually very different), you may want to raise the normal (all warmed up) idle a bit so that it will idle better when cold.

Or not. Every car is a little bit different. You will find, though, that how it idles when warm will affect how it idles when cold.

The one thing you don't want to do is try to tune the carbs  (including setting idle) before the engine is fully warmed up (and that means actually driving it for at least 15 minutes, or longer in cold weather).


Last edited by Sacto Mitch

@DannyP - did that snow plow always start on a pump or 3, or did it sometimes take a shot of ether? I had so very many $50 cars along the way that the only constant was a good battery I moved from one to the next, and a can of ether I kept in the vehicle at all times. There was generally a milk-jug or 2 of waste oil I caught from the guys who changed every 1500 mi. (or whatever) to run through them, since they all burned or leaked a fair bit of oil.

That's how I knew it was REALLY cold - below 0 deg, I didn't even bother trying without a shot or two from the can. No point in running the battery down just to prove that, no, they still won't start on their own when it's that cold.

There are actually a lot of things we all forget. The first work van I was ever in was a '78 E250 with a 351. If there was mist hanging in the air (and in the midwest, that's pretty much every morning in the winter) there was no way that thing was going to start without "the regimen".  Walk to truck, pop the hood, remove the air-cleaner top, pop the distributor cap clamps. Walk to the back of the truck, obtain one can of ether, one can of WD40, walk back to the front. Wipe out inside of distributor cap with a pink rag, spray WD40 liberally on the entire inside of the cap, and less liberally on the pickup. Open the front door, clear a good path from the front of the truck to the open front door. Hold open the choke with your left thumb, spray ether down the barrels for about 3 seconds. Allow choke to snap shut and RUN to the drivers seat of the truck. Hold the throttle wide open while cranking.

If the stars were lined up correctly, the truck would catch and run until the ether worked its way through, then die. It was then a matter of repeating the ether part of the process until the truck would run on its own. If the stars were not lined up, however, the engine would make no attempt at firing and the real game would begin - how to get the distributor to make spark before the battery went dead from futilely cranking. If the jumpers had to come out and I had to attempt to get Jeanie's '66 Dodge Dart running with no backup battery, it could get pretty sketchy.

There was more than once the effort ended in a shutout, and I had to flag down a passerby for a jump.

I don't miss that part of the '80s.

Last edited by Stan Galat

In HS I had an Olds Rocket 88 that had a bad accelerator pump, had to squirt gas from a Ketchup bottle into the 1/4" hole i had drilled into the top of the air cleaner.

First trucker job after the Army they had an International ancient cab over, to start that jewel on cold days there was piece of garden hose that would lay on the cab floor. Pick it up spray a 3 second shot of stater fluid into it than blow into the hose as hard as you can, drop the hose on the floor and crank the engine until it would fire.....Hose on the floor because it could and would flash back up the hose :~)

Years later driving for Georgia Pacific on very cold mornings to start, we would shoot a short burst of starter fluid into the Mack truck's external air cleaner assembly. On rare occurrences and if it caught just right the engine would run backwards with black exhaust coming out..... the air cleaner . So technically you would have 13 speeds in reverse and one in forward :~)

Last edited by Alan Merklin

When I was in high school in the late 70s I worked at an Exxon station at a busy intersection that was prone to flooding during heavy rain. As the carbureted cars drove through the intersection many would suck water into their engines and stall. Some would make it into our station and some would stall on the road. We would run around with starter spray and offer to get cars restarted for $5. Spray some starter fluid into the carb crank the engine and they’d be on their way. Easy money.

@Stan Galat Nope, never needed starter fluid. I moved it EVERY day I worked there for an entire year.

@Alan Merklin Rocket 88! My best friend in HS got a '64 Dynamic 88 as his first car in 1981 when we were all 17. The car was born the same year as us, and was a real POS.

The back seat passengers had to push against the front seatback when we were fully loaded. The floors and seat mounts were rotten enough that the hump would rub the driveshaft. But only when 4 or 5 people sat in front, and 6 were in the back making the azz drag... There were road signs cut to fit the floorboards so our feet didn't go through... I think we had 13 people at a drive-in once with that one.

"...cold starting quirks and warm starting quirks (the two are usually very different)"

And you only learn what is what and how it all goes the hard way.

I spent five years in the late 60s in Pittsburgh where dead winter can be brutally cold. I never had a car until the last year, but many friends did and cans of starter fluid were absolutely required.  That last year was with my 1600 Normal coupe: twin Solexes. 32s I think. Anyway, that little bugger started, with techniques as described, pretty much every time, despite the truly awful 6 v system.  That said, I'll admit to parking always facing down hill, which in Pittsburgh is relatively easy.

@Alan Merklin never ceases to amaze: the hole drilled in the air filter canister is pure brilliance. One of those: DOH!! why didn't i think of that??  Woulda saved a whole lot of time and frozen fingers.

And as to the original question: electric fuel pumps do run all the time, so far as I know.  They will sound a little different when first started up after sitting a while until the pressure is achieved, then they quiet down -- or at least that's how mine works.

@El Frazoo posted:

@Alan Merklin never ceases to amaze: the hole drilled in the air filter canister is pure brilliance. One of those: DOH!! why didn't i think of that??  Woulda saved a whole lot of time and frozen fingers.

And as to the original question: electric fuel pumps do run all the time, so far as I know.  They will sound a little different when first started up after sitting a while until the pressure is achieved, then they quiet down -- or at least that's how mine works.

The fuel pump should only run when the engine is running. This is why I posted the fuel pump controller above.  If you should have an accident, you don’t want to be pumping fuel on a fire.

If you wire the fuel pump relay to the ignition coil or oil pressure warning light, the fuel pump will turn off if the engine stops running.  The text below describes connecting to the oil pressure light and the attachment shows a connection to the ignition coil.

Any 12-volt relay should work fine. You want it to have nc (normally closed) switched circuit, most relays have both a no (normally open) and a nc circuit, and a 12v coil to trigger the switched circuit. Hook the pos(+) wire to the pump to one terminal on the nc circuit and the pos(+) wire to the power source (a switch or to the switched side of the ignition). Hook one terminal of the relay coil to ground(-) and the other relay coil terminal to the oil pressure idiot light at the speedo. When the engine is shut off or dies it looses oil pressure and the idiot light turns on, this triggers the coil of the relay you just installed and interrupts the power to the electric fuel pump. It's really quite easy to install.


I use a VW Fox relay that has its own fuse.  I added a momentary push button to use if I want to run the pump before starting the engine.  It isn't needed if the car has been run recently.


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@El Frazoo, having a switch only works if you have the awareness to hit it.  In an accident, you may be knocked out, or just confused.
@Lane Anderson, I know you are talking about replicas, but every modern car for the last 35 years has some sort of safety, usually in the form of an inertia switch, in case of a collision.

@Michael McKelvey, nice job! That bypass is definitely necessary on cars that get stored over the winter, or else you would have to manually prime the carburetor each spring.

I'm aware of the reason to have it, @LI-Rick - I just don't want it. You're certainly experienced enough to know what you want/need, but the vast majority of electric fuel pumps are not going to be wired this way.

My car's float bowls evaporate dry in about 5 days of sitting. As I often go a couple of weeks between drives, I need 10 or 15 seconds for the bowls to fill before I even try to start it. I'm aware of how to wire a time delay relay (a bypass timer would work fine) or a momentary-contact switch to bypass a safety relay, it's just more complexity I'm not looking for.

I know it isn't 100% safe, but neither is speeding (see related thread topic), or just driving one of these cars to start with. I suppose I could (and probably should) wear a helmet and build a roll-cage, but I'm not doing that either.

My starting procedure is as follows:

  1. Turn on ignition, listen to fuel pump
  2. When the pump changes pitch, it indicates the bowls are full
  3. Flip the Accusump switch on, watch the oil pressure come up and the OP light drop out
  4. Pump 3 times without cranking, start cranking while pumping slowly
  5. When engine catches, keep it running by feathering the throttle.
  6. Keep revis at 1500 RPM for 10 seconds or so, allow the throttles to snap close
  7. See if it will idle - if not, feather the throttle to "catch" the engine before it dies
  8. Repeat until engine will idle
  9. Begin drive

That's my procedure. Yours may vary. By all means, you do you.


I just love these KISS discussions.

But, I have no switches of any kind for my fuel pump and no relays either and this engine's been running without missing a beat for nine years now. And somehow, the fuel pump stops whenever the engine does — even with the ignition on — without any extra gizmos at all.

How is that possible?




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Last edited by Sacto Mitch
@Stan Galat posted:

My car's float bowls evaporate dry in about 5 days of sitting. As I often go a couple of weeks between drives, I need 10 or 15 seconds for the bowls to fill before I even try to start it.

Stan I think you just answered a question I've been pondering.  The longer my car sits, the more difficult it is to start.  I do allow the fuel pump to run longer before attempting to start if it has sat for a week or longer, but I probably have never exceeded 6 seconds or so.  It did occur to me that perhaps the bowls weren't filling with a 5 to 6 second head start because they needed more time to replace what has evaporated after a long sit, but in the handful of posts I've read concerning cold starts, I don't recall anyone saying what you so clearly state above.  I'm anxious to give it a try once the streets dry out in my neighborhood.  Thanks!

I think I win the KISS prize for the easiest way to disable the fuel pump when the engine stops. You just convert the engine to EFI, install a few hundred sensors, rewire, and click a box in the settings menu. Easy peasy.

Yup, just change over to EFI, all you retro-grouch hardheads!

My pump stops a few seconds after the engine does. Every, Time. Pump runs for 6 seconds to build fuel pressure before I fire it up.

My car had a fuel pump switch which I turned on when I started the car and shut off just before I entered the garage to remove head pressure to the carbs.

This worked fine for me until the first trip to Maggie Valley and my steering let go in the parking lot after two days of hard driving in the mountains. I have since added a fuel pump relay which primes for a few seconds to allow starting and shuts off when engine stalls out.

I felt after my experience if I had gone off the mountain I would rather bleed to death than burn to death.

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