Community Shop Talk

High-priced Magnetos . . .


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Has anyone checked out magneto prices? Am I crazy? I guess with more people entering the old-engine business, the demand for magnetos has increased. The prices on some of these magnetos are un-real. Anyone else have any opinions on this subject? - Pat

I paid $225 for my EK, but it was guaranteed by a noted magneto guy. It seems like it was a decent investment, but by this time next year they will probably be bringing $300. - Eric

Well, time is money, and if you're looking for a deal you probably aren't going to get it on eBay. But, if you want a magneto, you can definitely find one there.

Even if it's painful, I would rather find and pay for one rather than waste my time looking all over Hell's half acre. Anybody who thinks this isn't an expensive hobby had better give their head a shake.

There are some serious dudes involved in this hobby with some serious green in their pockets. I guess that's what makes it interesting for those of us who are financially challenged. You've got to keep your wits about you and try to get a lucky break now and again, and then you can do okay against the big boys.

More than that, it's about meeting a lot of good people and having some fun along the way. I'd like to say this is my 2 cents worth, but I don't want to waste the 2 cents. I might need it for that next magneto! - Alex

Before I got my first engine, I went to an engine swap meet just to learn what I could. There were maybe 15 guys selling and no vendors. There was a man selling Wico EKs for $90 a piece. Although new to this, I knew this was a heck of a deal. Of course, I had no engine and no need for a magneto, but it brought to my attention there are still real good deals out there. If there's a man out there from Washington who was at the Volo County Fairgrounds this past summer with three engines for sale and a few Wicos cheap, thanks for offering a fair deal. It's not too common. - Mac

If these magnetos were lying everywhere you looked, they'd be less expensive. (Not cheap, there's rarely a cheap magneto that'll stay cheap very long!)

If people were not willing to pay the price, they'd sell for less. By the way, have you ever tried to repair these things? I hope your time isn't very valuable. A proper job on most magnetos is at least a half-day's work with the right tools. If you want it to look pretty, that'll be extra. - Craig

If you're buying a magneto on eBay, you'd better get two because you may need to combine them to get one that works. And don't break off a screw when you're taking it apart - things can go downhill fast! If things go okay, maybe you'll have a good one after a week or two of your spare time. Some eBay magnetos are packed by kids who don't pack very well. If it gets broken in shipping, good luck! - Kid

I can tell you these are normal prices. You're lucky to live in the States where there are plenty of magnetos around. When I need a magneto, it'll cost me an average $35 for shipping. When the magneto needs a 100-percent repair, I have to go to one of the few magneto-repair places here in Holland. Parts and labor cost around $200-$240. How much will my magneto cost? - John

Just remember, there's no shame in running a buzz coil or a battery/igniter system on your engine. That's what the farmer did when the magneto went belly up. True, it may not be original, but it's a heck of a lot cheaper.

Save the magneto money and buy another engine, (maybe two, depending on the cost). If nothing else, it'll buy you time to look for a cheaper magneto. - Vernon

I'm not irritated by the prices, because I choose not to pay them. What I'm irritated by are those individuals who have many more Wico EKs than engines. I've heard comments like, 'I've got eight or 10 on the shelf, maybe I should sell 'em,' and they don't part with them except at ungodly eBay prices.

I know we've all seen good-running engines sold without the Wico EK because the buyer could get more for the engine and EK sold separately than together. This is what bothers me. The high price of magnetos is causing engines and magnetos to be separated, and its all about the money. - Bob

What does everyone feel is a fair price for an EK right now? I say about $175 for a working magneto that hasn't been rebuilt. - Jon

I talked to Mark from Mark's Magnetos while at the Coolspring show, and he's manufacturing completely new EKs. I asked him about it, and he said he could build a new one cheaper than he could repair some of the junk that's sent to him for repair. As I recall, he was asking about $300. - Keith

I sell magnetos on occasion, but I don't do it much because the prices for 'barn-fresh' magnetos of all types make it impossible for me to purchase one and then put the time and parts into making the magneto a piece that I'll warranty.

Just for the sake of argument, though, let's say I pay $150 for an eBay/swap meet EK. It's advertised as 'hot' and - sure enough -it'll shake the devil out of me, but on further testing I find the left coil is open and both need replacing. For your information, this is very common because a bad lead-side coil will not stop an EK from sparking, it'll just keep it from starting and running an engine.

So, I'm out $150 for the magneto, now I'm out $60 for a set of coils and another $20 for the rest of the rebuild kit. The tag looks like junk, and the front and rear are zinc, so there goes another $30. Plus, the armature pin and bushing is worn, so there's another $15. Let's not forget the three hours of shop time (the U.S. small-business administration lists electrical repair as a $25 an hour business), so that's $75 labor. Add $10 for postage, and the $150 plus $105 for parts and $75 for labor. Let's see, that's $340. How much of a loss do I need to stand to make this a fair deal? - Ted

My original post was in amazement at the prices some magnetos are bringing, as barn fresh. As Ted stated, you can sink good money into making a magneto a piece you can sell with confidence - been there, done that.

My amazement was at the price that's paid for something that may need much more work to make it dependable. - Pat

Well said, Pat. I have actually had people look at rebuilt (to like-new) EKs that I had priced at $225 with a warranty, walk down the isle and pay $175 for a barn-fresh one and then pay me $150 make it work. This is what I just can't figure out. - Ted

I also work on early (pre-1969) Harleys. If you price a Joe Hunt magneto for a Harley, it's $1,100. Yes, you read that right: one thousand, one hundred dollars. And this is a very simple magneto that uses the Fairbanks-Morse head (common part). Check the price on a magneto for a V8 Ford from Vortex, which is roughly $2,000. Magnetos are expensive! $350 for a magneto that's out of production is cheap! - Patrick

SmokStak ( smokstak.cgi) is an engine conversation bulletin board with over 50,000 messages on file, and is part of the Old Engine series of Web sites that started in 1995 as 'Harry's Old Engine.' Harry Matthews is a retired electronic engineer and gas engine collector from Oswego, N.Y., now residing in Sarasota, Fla.