Mk2 3.8 won't start

I recently replaced the battery, plugs, coil and had the distributor tuned up and the timing set (1960 3.8 engine). Even though all this was done two weeks ago, It took a long time of cranking to start the engine, which was also true prior to and resulting in the ignition work. On my second short trip (20 mi.) after this work, we stopped for breakfast. The car would not start, although, many attempts were made. We had to have the car towed home ($200). Can anyone give me some direction? Fuel Pump? Carbs? Fuel line? Fuel filter? I will have to have the car towed to the garage who completed the last work. I purchased this car about 1 year ago. It had extensive mechanical work done on it previously. Note: When this car is running it runs perfectly.

YO’ve got a lot going on and in several directions. Not sure what country you are in? Try to get towing insurance, it has saved me hundreds!!

Start with one thing at a time. Are you getting fuel; spark, firing order of plugs correct? Is static (base) timing correct). Fuel pick up in tank could be plugging up. See if you are getting fuel to float glass.

Take your time and report back on each step.

Loveland, Colorado, USA

an Ignition issue should not cause delayed starting,
nevertheless, I always test for spark at the plug leads if I have a no start situation

  1. how sure are you the electric choke (ASC) is working exactly as it should

  2. the other possibilities would include sunk or improper adjustment of carb float levels,
    needle and seat in carbs stuck open or shut

(causing either flooding or fuel starvation)

blockage in fuel system, or faulty fuel pump

  • possibly some intermittent wiring fault, especially as that area was worked on

I also go with the other replys, start with the spark and work through all other bits.
Is there a spark at all the plugs, at the dizzy, is the petrol pump working, petrol at the fuel bowl, in the carbs and on and on. Have fun.

You can buy all that stuff but try going through one item at a time.

You need fuel, spark and compression.

Verify you have those first, before replacing anything.

I was always taught to consider the last thing that changed. From what you wrote it appears that it was you having breakfast. :laughing:

But seriously assuming it ran okay but still started hard after the work that was done, then odds are the work was correct but failed to address the foot cause. Were the plugs ever checked to confirm the mixture? Not sure if the 3.8 Mark2 has manual or auto choke but check that also. Is the fuel pump ticking and the filter bowl full? If you suspect a clogged filter, you can remove it and dump out the bowl to get rid of sediment and try running without the filter element. If it’s fine then shut it down and buy a new filter. Otherwise what’s in there is probably fine.

Follow-up – I blew out all of the gas lines, replaced the pre-filter (WIX), replaced the fuel pump and put a filter into the original glass unit that had no filter. The glass unit has about a 1/4 inch of fine r debris in the bottom of the bowl. The replaced pump had a significant amount of debris that resembled fine charcoal in it.

Follow-up: I replaced the WIX pre-filter, blew out the gas lines including the one into the gas tank. The original glass filter has about 1/4 inch of sediment in it, but no filter. I installed a filter. I decided to replace the gas pump with an electronic unit. The old pump had a significant amount of sediment in it that resembled ultra-fine charcoal. The car started immediately. Does anyone have any ideas about the charcoal-like sediment? I am keeping the old pump for back-up.

Hi Mark,

I had a similar experience to you recently. I too replace the fuel pump with the SU electronic version, also the inline fuel filter that was hiding on the chassis :weary:. I cleaned out the glass filter bowl in the engine bay and fitted a paper filter element (change these every 5’000 miles or once a year). I cleaned out the two brass filters in the inlets of the carburettor bowls (easy to miss). After all that the car started and ran for about 20 minutes, then ran roughly and cut out, refusing to start until about an hour later. It was the coil! Many modern coils can simply fail or open circuit when hot as they are not well made. I have since fitted an Accuspark coil and haven’t had another problem. Modern condensers are also terrible and likely to fail without notice. Anything with an orange lead comes from the same factory in China. Try and buy a new old stock Lucas condenser for peace of mind.
The black charcoal like substance could be from the rubber diaphragm in the old fuel pump breaking down or just a bad load of fuel, who knows?
Best of luck,

does the MK2 have capacity to drain the tanks via a bungs, as do all the larger Saloons ?

Tanks on most older vehicles can have a lot of scum, and benefit by draining

On vehicles without drain bungs, I have removed and cleaned the tank

Thanks for your reply. I will replace my newer coil with the old one (that still worked) tomorrow and see what happens.


The car started fine today. After fueling it would not start. A patron and I pushed it onto the street. I futzed with the new fuel pump that seemed to be weakly pumping. Maybe this is typical of electronic units. It finally started but since I did not reattach it to the body one or the electric leads pulled off. Fortunately it restarted and we got home. I reinstalled the old fuel pump and it was clicking and pumping after the engine started. I thought success. After turning off it would not restart. No clicking and pumping from the pump.

Check the ground wire from pump to chassis. Might be corroded.

Pat H

the old pumps are very unrelaible, once they start playing up.

in addition, once contamination of fuel has taken place, from my experience, it is prudent to clean insofar as possible, the entire system.

a very important place to start is with the carb bowls

they may be full of scum

there may also be small conical wire mesh filters just prior to the carbs

as I mentioned before, if the tank has scum in the bottom, it will be ongoing until that is dealt with

Hello Mark,
What type of electronic fuel pump did you buy? The earlier cars had the big square bodied high pressure type but you can replace them with a newer high pressure round bodied version. For my 1961 positive earth car it is a genuine SU pump AZX1318EP, and it is great. If you have a low pressure pump it will not be any good for your car. However, after reading the responses I’m with those who say fuel. The feed pipe from the tank to the pump sits inside the copper gauze filter in the bottom of the tank which might well be blocked with debris. Some might be drawn in then released when the pump pressure drops? Best to sacrifice the fuel in the tank by unscrewing the copper drain in the bottom of the tank and letting the contents rush out which might carry out most of the debris. If the copper gauze in the filter is clogged then you have an answer. Unless you can clean it really well just buy a new one which are readily available. A good thing to do will be to blow compressed air back through the fuel line from the pump to the tank with the copper drain out.
I’m glad that you replaced the newer coil. Do the condenser too if it’s the new one with the orange lead.
Best of luck,

The next time you try to start the car ‘warm’, and have a delayed start…take a half cup of raw gasoline, and pour some into each carb throat and try cranking it over. If it starts right up, then you likely have a lean mixture problem. It seems like lean mixture seems to cause hard starting more often than rich mixture, especially if you haven’t noticed any dark cloud out the exhaust when you have finally gotten the car to start lately.

I had similar problems with my Austin a few years ago.
The mixture was too lean and once the engine was hot nothing except a tow would get it going. This came about after a carburettor refurbish.
Tried all sorts of things and only found out by comparing the position of the mixture screw with an old carburettor I had lying around.
It could be electrical (something failing when hot) but I thought that as well and wasted a lot of time on the electrics.

Three cheers for Timothy Fox. He suggested that the coil was at fault. So, I replaced the coil with an older coil I kept as a back-up and the problem is resolved. Can you recommend a vendor for Accuspark?


Hello Mark,

Always glad to share my experiences if they help others. I didn’t tell you that the experience was gained by the car breaking down on a very busy road. Have you ever tried to push a MK2 on your own? I have a better option now from Martin Jay at the Distributor Doctor in the UK. He recommends a Lucas coil made in India and being used in thousands of Indian taxis, so a very good reliability trial.

/Users/timothyfox/Pictures/Photos Library.photoslibrary/resources/proxies/derivatives/54/00/5482/UNADJUSTEDNONRAW_thumb_5482.jpg
I’ve just bought one as a spare - just in case!
Glad that the old coil is fine. Often there is an odd thought that we ought to replace the old with the new. I have a 1952 coil on my MKV and it is a beauty!
Best wishes,

As the coil was mounted in several different spots in Saloons,
I have seen at least one car (on here) with 2 coils fitted in the engine bay

I keep a spare one in the boot, along with a spare distributor