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MG MGA - First Start Try -- NO SPARK!!

My frame off restoration is near completion and this past Saturday I attempted to the engine for the first time.

I could not detect any spark from the ignition coil to the distributor. I did not investigate any further because I wanted to get input from the experts -- you guys!!

Where should my troubleshooting effort begin?
gerard hutchinson

Gerard. You may want to check out the article on ignition system trouble shooting on my website, on the MG side. It should allow you to find the problem in a systematic manner.

Les Bengtson

One simple thing that got me was no contact through the points (if you have not gone electronic). My engine sat for several years and when I went to start it there was no spark. It ended up that there was oxidation on the points that was invisible, preventing them from making the circuit, but was cleaned off with some 600 grit sandpaper. Good luck.


I guess you rebuilt the distributor, or had it rebuilt, with new points? My guess is that there is a short somewhere within the LT circuit. If you have an electric meter try turning the distributor and checking the contact when the points open/close.
This is the most likely issue as it is easiest to get something wrong when rebuilding the contact set.

Hope that helps

Neil Purves

Likely, if you are running with points, you have not insulated the points correctly on installation. This is a very common issue and the cause is most always the same--mis-installed points. Check the diagram again.
Paul Hanley

First thing I would do is run a hot from your somewhere you no is hot (Starter switch) right to your coil and eliminate your electrical system from the equation. Second recomendation "Electronic ignition" The heck with the purist :) If you want a better running car and some reliability, get yourself the petronx coil and points
WMR Bill

I'm with you. I'm not trying to be a 'purist' just frugal. Ha Ha!! However, if getting the car to start becomes a problem I will definitely try electronic ignition. Also, I did confirmt that I am getting power to the coil.

I'm not sure where to find the diagram of the points. Is it in the manual or located in the web somewhere?
gerard hutchinson


Yes, its in the book but everything is on the internet too! See this Barney Gaylord site and scroll down to just underneith the picture of the points and read, "The next thing to check...and you'll kick yourself...."

Although all of the advice on timing issues is good, I going to bet "dollars to doughnuts" that this is your issue. 99.9 % of the time on first time fire-up it is.

Now look carefully and follow directions carefully. It is very very easy to get it wrong...slightly wrong...and if you do, then no-fire.

Untill you understand how the points can be "grounded", nothing else matters as they are likely installed incorrectly.

Paul Hanley

I have never 'gapped' points before. Will gapping points be part of the process as well?
gerard hutchinson


A frame-off restoration deserves new points and I assumed that somewhere along the process, that points & condensor would have been replaced. If someone did this for you then they may have well installed the points incorrectly. It happends to the best of us!

If this is the case, you will not need to alter the gap setting--simply check what's under the retaining nut that holds the points, insulators and condensor lead. If they are correct, then you can move on to further diagnosis.

This is somewhat tedious and if you'd care to, email me direct.

Paul Hanley

I know this is a little late, but I just have to join in. I very strongly second Paul's reference to Barney's site. He, Barney, is a wonder at getting help to any and all that ask. I have pages and pages of information from him that probably saved me thousands of dollars in repair bills. He is wonderful about sharing his expertise. And, if after visiting his site you still have questions, write to him. But be prepared for a VERY detailed email giving you logrithms as to what to do......if no spark do this.....if spark but engine quits then do this...... Diana (1957 Orient red MGA) just came home from a month with John Twist at University Motors; new clutch, rebuilt master cylinder and slave cylinder,new timing chain, ring gear, rebuilt starter, carbs clean and no longer gunked up from 50 yr old gas and its leavings being returned to a new gas tank- don't ask, it wasn't my idea!), new gas filters, new motor mounts, speedo cable,fan belt,heater repaired, turn signals now work properly and new seals all around. I also received pictures of the work being done a couple of times a week indicating what they found and what they did to correct the problems. She is currently in my garage smiling and purring like a good MG when she goes out for a ride.
Jacqueline Peabody

This thread was discussed between 27/07/2008 and 03/08/2008

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