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Standed on the road! Stumbling and backfiring, sometimes...


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Hi All,


My wife and I are on a road trip right now, but the car has gone kaput.


Here's what's started happening:

Was running terrific. Then out of no where while cruising down the highway at 3,600RPM's it started stumbling and backfiring out the exhaust. It then straightened itself out and drove another few hundred miles. Then the problem returned once again.


In the middle of no where in Arkansas we pulled over and I check out the distributor. There is a little play in the shaft, and I can rotate it sightly by hand before I feel any resistance. Is this normal? I cleaned all contacts going to the dist, cleaned the dist itself. Next I put the cap back on and tried to start it, only to have the cap shatter into 4 pieces. I may have re-installed it poorly. Done this plenty of times before but that can be the only explanation... (make sure you get it ice and flush)


So I am going to order a new cap tomorrow morning to the hotel. But does the distributor assembly itself sound normal, or should I order some replacement parts for it? No time to dilly dally around here as we're racking up hotel fees...


Also another odd symptom as of late is when turning the motor off it wants to keep running. Spark plugs look good. 


Any help you guys can lend would be great. Thank you! 

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Being able to rotate the distributor shaft a bit is normal, as there's a spring in there to deal with mechanical advance.


The shattered cap seems worrisome, but could have been the cause of the stumbling and run on symptoms. Replace the cap, (and preferably the rotor as well), and at least check the rotor for a tight fit to the distributor shaft and clean contact points. Check the spark plug wires for wear, and the connections from the wires to the plugs.


If necessary, I probably have a distributor or three with new rotors and caps that I could overnight to you.


All the best,



'76 2002 "Verona" / '12 Fiat 500 Sport "Latte" / '21 Toyota 4Runner TRD Off Road Prem “The Truck”


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Also, check your motor mounts. If one or both of your motor mounts die, the motor will tend to rotate, banging the distributor cap against the firewall, and that can shatter the cap.


'76 2002 "Verona" / '12 Fiat 500 Sport "Latte" / '21 Toyota 4Runner TRD Off Road Prem “The Truck”


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It's normal for the dizzy shaft to have a little play in it.  You can move it back and forth a few degrees due to lash in the gears that drive it, and that the shaft itself is made of two pieces.  Don't think that's your problem.


Did you check your point gap.  While points aren't supposed to close themselves up in a relatively short time (unless the point set screw worked loose), I saw it happen on the way to MidAmerica.  


And while you're waiting for that dizzy cap to arrive, make sure your fuel system is functioning properly.  First make sure there's fuel in the carb by working the accelerator linkage and look down the carb throat to see if there's a squirt from the accelerator pump nozzle.  Then check the fuel pump for proper operation: disconnect the output hose, have spouse crank the engine over while you catch the fuel (hopefully) emerging from the output nipple.  If no fuel is coming out, then have your spouse stand back by the gas tank filler with the cap off while you blow mightily through the inlet side of the fuel line at the filter.  If she can hear bubbles, then the fuel line (and filter screen in the tank) is clear.  


The run-on you're experiencing is called "dieseling"--that's where a hot spot in a cylinder is igniting fuel in the cylinder even after the ignition is turned off.  If it's a high mileage engine, it's probably carbon buildup in the cylinders.  On a lower mileage engine, you may have the idle set too high.  


Lesson learned:  when you take a trip in a 40+ year old car, have some basic spares with you:  points, cap, rotor, condenser, a plug or two, spark plug terminal (unique to '02s) etc etc.  Saves a lot of grief if you breakdown in East Armpit, Arkansas.





PS--let us know whatcha find--and if you're still stranded!

'69 Nevada sunroof-Wolfgang-bought new
'73 Sahara sunroof-Ludwig-since '78
'91 Brillantrot 318is sunroof-Georg Friederich 
Fiat Topolini (Benito & Luigi), Renault 4CVs (Anatole, Lucky Pierre, Brigette) & Kermit, the Bugeye Sprite

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I would do the cap, rotor, and condenser/points if you are running them, or make sure the points are not moving around. Many years ago I can car with intermittent mis fires and starting problems, took forever to diagnose ended up being the condenser. The long shot but another possibility is a coil that is on the fritz or a connection/loose wire around the reisister...

Sent from my SM-G930V using Tapatalk

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Make sure you have spark while you are at it.  Hold the HT lead from the coil next to one of the bolts for the strut top bearing while your assistant tries to start the car.  Its easier to see at night but even during the day you should see some sparks.  If you don't see anything happening stick a screwdriver into the end of the HT lead and rest it close (1/4") to the bolt (don't hold the metal part) and try to start the car again.  If you don't have spark at that point you'll probably need a DVM or a test light and some wiring diagrams to track down what's failed.  I've only had one coil failure in 21 years of owning 2002s but since you are stuck you should check all the easy stuff that you can before ordering anything. 



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Check the ignition wire terminal on the distributor.

The engine movement and heat cause this to degrade. This happened to me as I stopped at a toll booth after a high speed run across a bridge. Lot's of spitting and backfires...toll collector thought I was robbing the place!

When the car is running, just wiggle this connection and you will know immediately if this is the problem...easy fix if you have a crimp on connector.

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fuel, spark, are suspects, so confirm each. Fuel filters clog, there are multiple areas to check , the easiest it the fuel filter visible near the carb, but there is also a screen, filter (usually) just inside the fuel inlet at the carb, and there is a screen at the bottom of the fuel sender, and some manual fuel pumps have a removable screen inside them too, that can be removed, cleaned.


ignition, yeah all the usual, points, gap, cap, rotor, and condenser.  A failing condenser really can mess up the running of the car.

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All good, above-

also check the spark plug wires, especially where they connect to the plugs.

I've had the ends work loose and do what you describe.  Dit- dit- dit, usually under moderate

to hard throttle, fuss with things, it's fine for a while, starts to do it again.


If you have Botch, they screw on- you can snip a half inch off the end, and screw it back on.


I always carry a spare.

An inductive timing light can find the bad one quickly.






"I learn best through painful, expensive experience, so I feel like I've gotten my money's worth." MattL

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Update: We're now back on the road thanks to the awesome '02 community!


Big thanks to Grice for being ready to ship parts, even though we didn't go that route. And ZINZ for mentioning Skips. And Skip, Greg, and Dan (I believe?) at Skips in Conway, Arkansas. What a lucky place to break down, just a mile or so away form a bunch of 2002 fanatics. It turned out the distributor assembly itself had given up the ghost and they lended me a pertronix unit for the trip back home which has it running amazing now. Fingers crossed for the next leg of the trip.


Edited by Chippy
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Skip and crew are Aces in many folks' books. 


So so glad they were able to help and get you back on the road. 


Ed Z

'69 Granada... long, long ago  

'71 Manila..such a great car

'67 Granada 2000CS...way cool

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Thanks for the referral, Ed and all the kind words everybody! Happy to help any '02er in our neck of the woods! I'm also really impressed with Seth & Iveta, who will have traveled nearly 5,000 miles in their unrestored 1972 '02 by the time they get back to Colorado! I was disappointed to have to miss the Vintage (again!) this year, which I registered for. Had I gone, however, I wouldn't have been here yesterday to help these great folks out. Seems things do usually happen for a reason!


Budweiser...It's not just for breakfast anymore.

Avatar photo courtesy K. Kreeger, my2002tii.com ©

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