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Points keep burning up
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jml01
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PostPosted: Mon Apr 01, 2019 2:49 pm    Post subject: Points keep burning up Reply with quote

On my way home the other day, I kept getting some bad sputtering in my '67 bug. After a bit of investigating, I found the gap in my condenser points was very narrow, and the contacts looked pretty rough. The surfaces looked fairly damaged, but I didn't have a spare set, so I filed them on the concrete and smoothed them over with a pocket knife, put them back in the car and it fired right up and I went on my way.

That got me around for a couple of days, and when my new set came in I replaced the old ones and used a static light to time it to 7.5btdc with a 0.016" gap between the faces.

2-3 days later, I start to get the same problem. I spent about 30min in my work parking lot trying to figure out what was going on, and I took my points back out and they already looked pretty bad. I'm attaching some pictures below:


Image may have been reduced in size. Click image to view fullscreen.


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So my question is, is this normal? I'm under the impression that the contact surfaces should be very smoothe, so I'm fairly certain that this is causing my running problems. And what could cause them to burn up so quickly? I probably only had them in the car for 50 miles of driving before realizing that they were already going bad.

Could it be related to the way I timed the engine? I don't have a strobe light or any reliable vw-specific shops in the area. I had my engine rebuilt at a shop a few hours away at the beginning of the winter and they replaced my distributor with an EMPI one with a black cap. I'm not really familiar with the different types of distributors, but it was definitely different from the one I had in, which had an orange cap and a vacuum advance.

The new one had points that look like this:

Image may have been reduced in size. Click image to view fullscreen.


I'll post pictures of my engine when I get back to the car after work, but I'm not sure if I have it timed to the right specs.

Any help would be great. I've ordered a new set of points, a new condenser, spark plug wires, and a couple of other things and I'd like to have this all sorted out by the time they get in.
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Glenn Premium Member
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PostPosted: Mon Apr 01, 2019 2:52 pm    Post subject: Re: Points keep burning up Reply with quote

Pitting is a sign of a bad condenser.
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mukluk
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PostPosted: Mon Apr 01, 2019 3:38 pm    Post subject: Re: Points keep burning up Reply with quote

Bad condenser or the coil has insufficient resistance in the primary windings. You should have between three and five ohms when measured across the 15 and 1 (+ and -) posts. Another possibility is the point contacts may be getting oil or grease on them.

It's normal for the points to burn and pit over their service life, but what you have shown should take thousands of miles of use to happen.
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jml01
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PostPosted: Wed Apr 03, 2019 10:26 am    Post subject: Re: Points keep burning up Reply with quote

Thank for your responses, sorry I forgot to come back to this.

I ordered a new condenser with my new points, which should come in today. Generally speaking, is it advisable to replace the condenser each time you replace the points (and vise versa)?

Also, for when I need to replace them again, should I just go back to the older distributor with the vacuum advance? What are the benefits of having the one in my car now? I'm attaching pictures below:

Image may have been reduced in size. Click image to view fullscreen.


Image may have been reduced in size. Click image to view fullscreen.


I'm fairly certain these were used in later bugs than my '67. I'm not totally familiar with the differences in distributors over the years, but for the most part I was happy with my old one. Not sure why those guys replaced it...

Thanks,
Josh
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PostPosted: Wed Apr 03, 2019 12:55 pm    Post subject: Re: Points keep burning up Reply with quote

I would go back to your original vacuum distributor, put hose clamps on those fuel lines, and plug that hole opening in the rear engine tin
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PostPosted: Wed Apr 03, 2019 1:26 pm    Post subject: Re: Points keep burning up Reply with quote

jml01 wrote:
Generally speaking, is it advisable to replace the condenser each time you replace the points (and vise versa)?


See the German 009 distributor used in my engine below? I bought that in 1976 and it's powered my 1835cc engine ever since. I have changed points a bunch over the years, but it's still on its original condenser.

My second German 009 which is from late 1970s has had its condenser replaced because the wire to it was bad (or I just soldered on a new wire, can't remember, and that VW is currently 100 miles away).
Image may have been reduced in size. Click image to view fullscreen.

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Last edited by Cusser on Thu Apr 04, 2019 8:03 am; edited 1 time in total
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don1357
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PostPosted: Wed Apr 03, 2019 1:28 pm    Post subject: Re: Points keep burning up Reply with quote

Yes, condenser and points get replaced in pairs. When the points open there is still electricity in the system, and it will try to go somewhere following the path of least resistance. If there isn't a condenser (or the condenser is bad) it will try to arc accross the points, pitting and burnning them prematurelly. The condenser instead functions as a pillow, absorbing the electric charge. If the points are worn to the point they need replacement, so is the condenser.
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viiking
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PostPosted: Wed Apr 03, 2019 1:37 pm    Post subject: Re: Points keep burning up Reply with quote

don1357 wrote:
Yes, condenser and points get replaced in pairs.


Condensers should last years. By all means replace the condenser if faulty, but not EVERY time you change the points. Buy Bosch replacements if you can find them not cheap generic condensers.

A couple of other tips:

1. Plug that hole in the side of the distributor. Oil vapors can get in there and possibly burn your points.

2. When installing new points it's a good idea to clean the point surfaces with alcohol/solvent/acetone to remove any oil film

3. Use a correct "points file" when dressing the points. Don't use sandpaper or your partner's nail emery board.
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glutamodo Premium Member
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PostPosted: Wed Apr 03, 2019 1:48 pm    Post subject: Re: Points keep burning up Reply with quote

A lot of people quote John Muir's opinion that condensers need to be changed every time the points are. But I've never seen that myself. Yes, this is a gravy train for repair shops, and when I worked at one we always changed everything at tune up time. But as far as my own Beetles... In the distributor I have in my Baja Bug, while I've occasionally run other distributors in there for test purposes, but my main 205K unit, I don't think I've changed that condenser in a decade. It's been a very long time since I changed the one on the "fat boy" distributor on my 40HP engine.

Now, having the breaker plate properly grounded is important.

I've seldom had much luck with points files, the buildup seems to be too "hard" for them to cut through it.
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Wayne S. Johnson
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PostPosted: Wed Apr 03, 2019 6:06 pm    Post subject: Re: Points keep burning up Reply with quote

Metalized polypropylene film capacitor.
From the data sheet: Life 30,000 Hr.
At 35 MPH, life in miles is over 1,000,000 miles.
I change mine every 100 years or 1,000,000 miles.
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PostPosted: Wed Apr 03, 2019 6:14 pm    Post subject: Re: Points keep burning up Reply with quote

Wayne S. Johnson wrote:
I change mine every 100 years or 1,000,000 miles.

I'm half way there Wink

I'll post it since you're being modest: https://www.thesamba.com/vw/classifieds/detail.php?id=2241678
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PostPosted: Thu Apr 04, 2019 6:15 am    Post subject: Re: Points keep burning up Reply with quote

Pitting of the points is a sign that the condenser is mismatched to the coil. Remove the 'points' wire from the coil, take a VOM and measure the resistance between the wire and ground. If the points are open the reading should be ∞ or real close to it. Close the points, the meter should read '0' if not, the ground of the distributor needs to be better as this will cause the points to pit also.
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PostPosted: Thu Apr 04, 2019 6:57 am    Post subject: Re: Points keep burning up Reply with quote

Thanks very much for the condenser replacement guidance. Happy not to do that often.
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All_talk
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PostPosted: Thu Apr 04, 2019 11:28 am    Post subject: Re: Points keep burning up Reply with quote

runamoc wrote:
Pitting of the points is a sign that the condenser is mismatched to the coil.


This is what I have always understood, and if you have one that is working well don't change it just because its tune up time.

Gary
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PostPosted: Thu Apr 04, 2019 1:36 pm    Post subject: Re: Points keep burning up Reply with quote

You are missing the rear lower cylinder tins, get them ASAP.

There is supposed to be a oval shaped plug over that hole in the side of the distributor to keep grit from getting into the distributor workings. At very worst wrap electrical tape around the distributor body a couple of times to seal that for now.

Do not be surprised that the pivot pin in the lower half of the fuel pump gets loose and falls out down the road leaving you stranded. Be a good ides to look up the fix for that or install or get onboard a spare pump that has the C-clips on that pin....

Condenser should normally be replaced when it fails, have gotten easily over 30,000 miles on many German made Bosch units before going bad suddenly. On the other hand have had one NOS Bosch condenser fail in just a few a few days. Sure if you have to daily drive a busy route that has little to no shoulder to pull over, like a super long bridge or highway, then replace the condenser every 20,000 or 25,000 miles to CYA yourself.

Are you adding a tiny dab of grease on the distributor lobes when installing points? Without lubrication there, the rubbing block of the point will wear down prematurely, in turn closing the points till you have little to no coil spark. Have seen a fellow VW owner who did not grease the lobes and on top of it the lobes were rusty, which acted as sandpaper on the rubbing block!

Points will always pit up. That is why one needs to use a Dwell Meter (see any of the original VW dealer only issued to their mechanics Workshop Manuals, or the later sold to the public VW Service Manuals) to check used points to make sure they are still in the proper used points dwell range. Then check the timing to make sure it has not wandered off a bit.

.016" gap set with feeler gauge is just a quick "Get it done." measurement. You need to then check the dwell reading of the points so to make sure they are getting adjusted to the proper new or sanded used points dwell range. Have found points that need as little as .008" gap to be in the proper new points dwell range. When the points pit up which they will shortly, then only use the Dwell Meter to check the used points dwell range. If then off enough, sand (do not sand in the distributor, grit is not good for the inner workings) the high parts of the points flat and start again with them, or replace the points with new, at least for the time being till you can refurb the old points with sandpaper, and tuck them in the spares box till next time.

Once you use a Dwell Meter and lube the distributor lobes now and then, so the rubbing block does not wear down, you will find more often than not that you do not need to touch the points at each 3,000 mile tune up. Matter of fact have passed the 30,000 mile mark a while ago with the points untouched in our 1960 walk thru panel camper.
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PostPosted: Thu Apr 04, 2019 3:15 pm    Post subject: Re: Points keep burning up Reply with quote

Quote:
use a Dwell Meter


When you use a dwell meter you no longer have to use feeler gauges for point gap. Electrically, points are either closed or open. A dwell meter measures this closed-opened cycle. It might take some 'trial & error' adjusting them but they will be set.
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PostPosted: Thu Apr 04, 2019 6:41 pm    Post subject: Re: Points keep burning up Reply with quote

You can also check/adjust static dwell/timing by making the pulley for 45 after the factory timing mark. What a bright idea, just use a small lamp across the points. Idea
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PostPosted: Fri Apr 05, 2019 8:23 am    Post subject: Re: Points keep burning up Reply with quote

Get a Pertronix Ignitor kit. Some people will say they have failed. I've used them in all my VWs, never had one fail. Pretty much set it and forget it. Just got tired of dicking around with points and condensors.
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