Bookmark and Share
Have a Tech Tip
to Share?
Do you have a quick tip to make life a little easier under the hood? Share it with your fellow Cougar enthusiasts through our feedback form.
DCC Tech Tips
DCC Tech Tips
· · ·
How to Test an Ignition Coil
Ford ignition coilChecking the health of your car's ignition coil is as easy as two simple resistance tests. Using a standard multimeter (digital is easiest) check resistance across the primary windings of the coil by putting the test leads on the threaded "DIST" (negative) terminal and "BAT" (positive) terminal. Check the resistance measured against the specifications in the ignition section of your shop manual. On a '68 Cougar, for example, the resistance should be 1.4 to 1.54 ohms at 75 degrees. Then, test the secondary winding by putting one test lead on the BAT terminal and the other in the center terminal (the large one that's connected to the center terminal on the distributor cap). Again, on a '68, that reading should be 7,600 to 8,800 ohms. Your specifications might differ depending on year, so consult your manual. Any readings much outside these ranges might indicate need for a new coil. (August 2008)
Convert Your Cat to Modern 3-Point Belts
DCC President Jim Karamanis reports on an easy way to convert your Cat to modern, 3-point seatbelts: "I purchased two of these, around $110 delivered," he said of this Summit Racing product. "I bolted them into the factory holes in my '70 and they fit and worked perfectly. This is a good and affordable way for folks to convert to modern two piece, 3-point seat belts. These should be a plug-and-play, bolt-in replacement for '68/'69 hardtops with stock 4-piece systems and '70 to '73 hardtops with stock 3-piece systems. They could even be made to work with '67 Cougars, if you're willing to weld a nut in place. (July 2008)
Diagnose a Bad Fan Clutch
A DCC member, who speculated that a bad cooling fan clutch was the source of his Cat's overheating problem, received this quick tip for diagnosing a faulty clutch from DCC Technical Adviser Bruce Habel: "If the fan clutch spins freely, it is done. It should have some friction at all times. Warm the engine up and then turn it off. If you can spin the fan more than halfway around with a moderate push, the fan clutch is shot. Check for a wobble—when they start to go, you can often feel a wobble when you move the blades forward and backward." (October 2007)
Polishing Small Trim Items
DCC member Chris Van Heuveln offers this tip to bring small metal items, such as fasteners, back to like-new condition: Rock tumblers, Chris says, "work great" for taking rust off small parts. "I recently bought a bunch of hard-to-find trim clips for the chrome lip that goes on the hood of my '69," he wrote. "They were fairly rusty (and expensive), but after an overnight ride in the tumbler with some brass polishing media they came out rust-free and looking great." (January 2005)
1968 Side Marker Bulbs?
The correct replacement bulb for the front side marker lights on a '68 Cougar is an 1178A, an amber bulb. The shop manual listing for a "97NA" bulb is a typo. The 97NA is no longer available and, being a single-contact bulb, likely would short the double-contact wiring in the side marker receptacle. (October 2004)
Distributor Check with a Dwell Meter
If you have a dwell meter, you can perform a simple "dwell hold" test to check the health of your distributor. First, verify that dwell is properly set at idle. Then, with the meter attached, briefly increase engine speed to about 1,500 rpm and note the dwell reading. An increase of more than 3 degrees indicates excessive wear to the distributor cam or bushings. Also check dwell at idle. Anything more than a slight flutter could indicate a worn distributor. Excessive distributor mechanical wear can cause inaccurate timing and abnormal spark advance. (April 2004)
Hood Alignment
Aligning a stubborn hood DCC President Jim Karamanis ran across a gem of a technical tip recently while cruising the Vintage Mustang Forum, a discussion list at
A forum member complained that he couldn't get the rear corners of his car's hood to seat completely when closing the hood and that he had to push down on the corners after closing for proper alignment. Well, the problem's not confined to Mustangs, and more than one Cougar owner has struggled with the same alignment glitch. Another forum member posted this helpful response:
"This is a common problem which is easily fixed in most cases. Just slightly loosen the bolts attaching the hinges to the inner fender panels on which ever side you want to lower and lift the open hood even higher toward the full open position and then tighten the bolts. Because the hinge has an over center spring arrangement lifting (tilting) the hood will actually cause the hood to sit lower when it is closed." (May 2003)
Is it a Cleveland or Windsor 351?
Lately, I have received several emails asking how to identify which 351 engine—Windsor or Cleveland—is installed in a 1970 and later classic Cougar. The problem is that from 1970 on, Cougars with an "H" as the fifth character in the vehicle identification number (VIN) received 351, 2-barrel motors, but the H did not indicate if the engine was a 351C (Cleveland) or 351W (Windsor). Here are some visual characteristics to help you determine which engine you are looking at:
  • 351C—thermostat housing on block; eight-bolt valve covers; fuel pump bolts run vertically; small (14 mm) spark plugs.
  • 351W—thermostat housing on intake manifold; six-bolt valve covers; fuel pump bolts run horizontally; large (18 mm) spark plugs.
—Jim Karamanis (Februrary 2002)
Parasitic Battery Drain
Is your car eating batteries? I had this problem with my '68 last year and had to resort to disconnecting the battery anytime the car sat idle. I finally found the problem. With a little detective work and simple tools, you can, too.
First, make sure no accessories, including courtesy lights, remain on with the doors closed and the car off. A faulty switch can keep a glove box light illuminated, for example, and drain your battery in short order. No problem there? Then disconnect the negative cable and connect a 12-volt test light between it and the negative battery post. If it glows bright, you've got a parasitic drain somewhere. Start pulling fuses, one at a time, checking the light with each. If you pull a fuse and the light goes out, you've found the circuit with the short. Now, grab a wiring diagram and look for broken or pinched wires grounding out to the body or other metal.
If the test light stays on with all fuses pulled, disconnect the output ("BAT") terminal on the alternator. If the light goes out, you've found the culprit: a faulty diode in the alternator, which must be replaced or rebuilt. That's what gave my Cat a craving for batteries.—Carl Graziano (November 2001)