" have gotten to the point of throwing parts at it hoping something works."
You're making it worse. Only replace a part you know to be bad.
" How does one test the coil & condensor? "
Coil problems are difficult to diagnose. For starters, round coils are pretty robust & square coils arenít (because of the difference in insulation used), but neither one will hold up to a poorly done 12v conversion that allows too much current to the coil or leaving the key on (see tip # 38). Too much current creates heat which melts the insulation. Insufficient resistance in a 12v conversion will do the same thing. Rarely do coils just ďgo bad.Ē
There are a few ways to see if a coil is bad, but itís not possible to determine if a coil is good w/o some expensive testing equipment. If you detect a dead short or high resistance in the coil w/ an ohm meter, itís bad. If itís cracked, itís bad. If a sidemount coil w/ battery voltage to the primary will not jump a ľĒ gap from the secondary wire to the block, itís bad. But, here is the hard part: even if you do not detect a short, even if it will produce a spark, even if itís not cracked, that doesnít mean the coil will work when itís hot & under a load. So, itís a process of elimination. If the tractor starts & runs fine for 30 minutes or an hour then cuts off & refuses to re-start, and you checked for spark at the plugs & it had no spark at all, AND you have the correct voltage at the coil thatís a good sign that you have a bad coil. Let it cool off, restart it & if you have a good spark, odds are itís a bad coil. But, even then, you might end up w/ a spare coil on the shelf!
Bottom line.......coils do go bad, but I'll venture a guess that 75% of new N coils sold today are sold to folks who do not understand how to diagnose a poor spark problem or how a coil works. So, for those who donít know any better, in a no spark situation the first suspect is usually the coilÖÖand, more often than not, it isnít the problem. And I doubt you have a bad coil.
Re the condenser.......you look for pits on the points or it stops running (and no spark) after a minute or two. That's not your problem.
" Could my new (from TSC) points be bad?"
Probably not for the first few hours of use, but as a general rule, they are just junk.
Quality parts are critical to longevity. Having learned the hard way, I most always use Blue Streak brand points. They are made by Standard parts & available at many auto parts stores. (frontmount points also fit a 48 Ford as I recall) Beware of sticker shock: $16-18 a set. My next choices are Wells or Echlin. Look for a brown rubbing block. Unfortunately, many folks have experienced problems w/ points made by Tisco, Sparex, A&I Products and any TSC ignition parts..
Correct points installation & gap is also important. Make sure the blade is at a perfect right angle to the points & you want to feel just the slightest bit of drag when you pull the blade through the points. Make sure the blade is clean & that you dress the new points by running some card stock or a piece of brown paper bag through them. Gap is .015 on the frontmount, .025 on the sidemount on all four lobes of the cam. Make sure the points align correctly. Proper alignment is also critical to longevity. Look at the points when they are closed; both sides should mate evenly.
Even as tight as I am, I always change the condenser when I change the pointsÖÖ.and then I toss the condenser in the ďusedĒ parts box. A bad condenser is rare; you can tell if the points are pitted/burned w/ metal transfer.
Good hold-down screws are important. (tip # 37) If the heads are wallowed out, what do you think the threads look like? You can use machine screws as temporary replacements, but you should use the OEM Fillister head screws. The larger head is there for a reason. If you do use standard machine screws, make sure they arenít too long & interfere w/ the advance weights. Always use star washers under the screws.
The next trick to points lasting a long, long time is annual maintenance. (tip # 40) No matter how well it's running, pull the distributor (or cap for a sidemount), check the gap & put a dab of points lube on the cam. Not bearing grease or Vaseline; use the correct lube.
You can change points everyday & it will not fix bad bushings. If you are having trouble w/ points failure, check the shaft. If you detect movement, chances are it needs new bushings.
Get Bluestreak or Echlin points from NAPA.
Install them & do the continuity check EXACTLY as I posted it. Make sure the tab on the coil contacts the cap.
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