How to / DIY > Engines

help with Lister D

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rich p:
Hi Guys new here so ill start with a sorry as im a complete novice.

I've had this Lister d for a few years, started it a few times ran well, i tried starting it again at the weekend..nothing, even with a new plug, i say new out of the box never been used. I don't have a meter only my fingers to see if there's a kick when i grab the lead, there is but it's more like a small squeeze than a kick, not sure on how much it should give off, like i say novice. The mag photos ive enclosed as reading one of the posts its helpful for pictures (i can do that) & i've tried lots of "start ya bastard" lol thats made me chuckle ever since i read it thx for brighten up my day/days, cobbadog. i'm not sure of the make of the mag tho i cant help the ML might mean something.

Sounds as if your magneto is the problem. you will have to do a few things to establish what the problem is and start with the simple stuff first then progress along to when you can't go any further.
When testing any magneto NEVER spin it with out the HT lead being able to jump the spark to the body of the maggy or hold the terminal on the body. Not doing this will cause a bad coil.

1 - Clean and then re-clean your points and gap them. Try between 0.012" - 0.015".
2 - If you have a multimeter check continuity of the HT lead.
3 - Again with the meter check your condensor and coil.
4 - If you wanted to spend money that you may not have had to you then start buying a condensor first then a coil.
5 - There is an alternative to using a condensor in magnetos and they are called a film capacitor. Cheap to buy and more reliable than the old style condensors. Electronic stores sell them or ebay and you will need one with the values of;
2.2Uf  640V. You need to insulate one of the wires and connect it as per a condensor one wire to ground and the other to the points

If you dont have a meter you are stuck between a rock and a hard place and you will need to find a magneto repairer near you. I used Google to find a repairer and the only one that could help with a very special coil was in S.A. and I'm in NSW but he did a great job.
What country are you in?
Are you a member of a restoration club, they may have someone in the club that can help.

rich p:
Thanks for the reply.

yes i had the plug in the engine & turnt it over, i hope i haven't done any damage. what's the best thing to clean the points?

I from England, i will have a look on google for both club & repairs, I might have a mate that has a meter what should the reading be?

Hi Rich P, welcome to the forum. Do not ever be afraid of being a Newbie and not knowing something, that is the sole purpose of forums like this, tired old guys like me are too old to do the work so we love telling you younger fellas how to do it!  :laugh:

I am no expert on the Lister D but I am old enough to have worked on a lot of vintage engines with magnetos, a D is only a single so we don`t have to consider the distributor cap, therefore there are only seven basic problems that can eliminate your spark:

1. burned out magneto coil. The worst thing to happen and the most expensive to fix. Fortunately you report getting a Buzz from the High tension lead, so we can probably rule that out.

2. Failed High Tension lead from the magneto to the spark plug. This is very common as the old rubber insulation deteriorates with time. Try cranking your engine in the dark and watch for sparks running up the outside of the HT lead. If this is the case replace the HT cable. (cheap and easy)

3. Worn points or incorrect points gap, this is unlikely as your engine was running well previously. It is common for the points to corrode in a wet/damp climate. Clean them with a piece of fine emery cloth. I do not know what the points gap should be for your magneto but I would guess at 10 to 12 thousands of an inch. If you do not have feeler gauges then A4 paper is generally between 2 and 3 thousandths thick, so three strips is too little and four is too much, four strips of paper with a little pressure should get you in the ball park.

4. Condenser failure, these are an electrolytic capacitor and have a finite life. When they begin to fail you end up with a diminished spark and eventually no spark. My best guess is that this fits well with the problem you have. A replacement should be available from Stationary engine parts in the UK or any number of online web sites.

5. Timing, I very much doubt that the spark/ignition timing would have altered since you last ran your engine unless you have been tinkering with it. If you have please let me know and I will try to walk you through resetting it.

6. Corrosion, it is very common to get corrosion between dissimilar metals IE aluminium and steel, for a spark to work it must be able to return to its source via the chassis of the engine and back to the magneto. If you have  rust/aluminium oxide between the two then your spark will deteriorate.

7.Magnetos are so called because they contain a magnet, it is possible but unlikely that the iron core has lost some of it`s magnetism. It is possible to re-magnetize them but this requires specialist equipment.

Hope this is helps,


rich p:
Hey thank you Bob, Iíll go through the list, Iíve not touched the timings, I left the engine to the front of the garage covered so maybe the damp has got in somewhere, somehow Iíll keep you informed


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