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Trouble starting '71; have fuel, spark, engine cranks


johnnyb

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Hi guys, 

 

     I've been having trouble getting my car to start.  When I can get it started and warmed up, it runs fine. But I just never know when I will be able to start it. There are tons of threads about this (this one has most helpful to me), and I've tried to check all the fundamentals first, but I'm stuck and would appreciate outside help! 

 

Problem statement

Engine will turn over, but not start when cold (engine, not ambient; the problem persists when ambient is 60+ degrees).  Once started and warmed up, it usually restarts no problem.  I have fuel (at the carb), I have spark (at least for sure at cylinder 1), and the engine turns over. 

 

 

Background

I bought the car from a good friend about a year ago, and it started up and ran fine when I bought it.  I took it apart to rebuild the steering for several months, so it sat, but we got it running and bombed around town a few times and a few partial tanks of gas.  But we still had trouble getting it to start regularly.

 

A couple weeks ago, I realized the points gap was at zero (points never opened at the high point of the distributor lobes).  The spark plugs were dark and had a 0.033" gap.  So I adjusted the points gap to 0.016" with the follower on the peak of one of the distributor lobes, replaced the plugs with Champion N9YC gapped to 0.024".  After that, it started great for several drives- I thought I had fixed the problem!  Wanting to continue the tune up, I connected my Innova 5568 timing light (per @'76mintgrün'02's recommendations!) and measured dwell at 37-39 degrees while the engine idled at 800 RPM.  I tried adjusting the points gap larger (I think I should have decreased it to increase the dwell to the spec of around 60 degrees), but it wouldn't restart after that, so I set the gap back to 0.016".  It hasn't started since then.

 

Adjusting the points gap was difficult with the points in the back (towards the firewall), so I removed and rotated the distributor so the points were facing the front of the car (much easier to adjust!).  I did this with the #1 piston at TDC as evidenced by the line on the camshaft sprocket and could see the line and OT markings in the bellhousing hole.  I made sure the rotor pointed to the alignment mark on the distributor housing, and that the wire for this location went to the #1 spark plug.  I have verified my firing order follows the Zundfolge (1-3-4-2) and the wires are in this order clockwise from the top of the distributor housing.  

 

I have fuel- removal of air cleaner and triggering of throttle, I can see fuel visible fuel flow to smaller (32mm) bore of carburetor.  After multiple attempts at starting, I see a pool of gas when looking through the carburetor's throttle bodies.  

 

I have spark- I pulled the #1 spark plug (guess I should check the other 3) and held the threads against a ground.  When cranking the engine over, I get a spark across the gap.

 

I think the points are doing their job- I have 12v from the negative lead on the coil to ground, but it drops out (my test light can't keep up, it just drops out the 12v reading) while cranking, so I think this means the points gap is open when the reading drops out.  

 

Battery voltage is 13.0v when the engine is off, and 14.1v when it is running.  The starter doesn't spin super fast, but it sounds like this is a common complaint.  A tow truck driver gave me a jump start once, and the starter spun faster, but it still wouldn't start (this was when the points gap was still zero), so I think I've got enough voltage and amperage to the starter motor.  

 

 

Configuration

  • 1971 base model 2002
  • Carburetor: Weber 32/26, manual choke (I've been trying to start it with the choke lever pulled out; choke butterflies closed on the carb); no idea about the jetting- haven't learned how to adjust it yet
  • Distributor: Bosch vacuum advance model 0 231 168 021 
  • Bosch cap: 1 235 522 056, very new looking
  • Bosch rotor: 1 234 332 074 (measures 5k-ohms), very new looking
  • Points: not sure of p/n, but they're very clean, seem new.  Contacts are not eroded. 
  • coil: Beck Arnley 178-800 (measures 12k-ohms center to either + or -; 3 ohms across the primary's + and -)
  • starting resistor present and wired in (measured at 1.3 ohms with wires disconnected)
  • New gas tank, fresh gas (87-octane California gas with 10% ethanol), clear fuel filter on inlet side of factory mechanical pump.  filter housing is always at least 50% full of air 

 

Thanks in advance, 

   John

 

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IMG_0398.JPG

Edited by johnnyb
corrected firing order and direction

1971 Riviera 2002 ("Kate")

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7 minutes ago, johnnyb said:

I have verified my firing order follows the Zundfolge (1-4-3-2) and the wires are in this order counter-clockwise from the top of the distributor housing.  

For a start...firing order is 1-3-4-2.... 

 

mike

'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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8 minutes ago, johnnyb said:

After multiple attempts at starting, I see a pool of gas when looking through the carburetor's throttle bodies.  

It's flooded when you see gas down in the bottom of the intake manifold...

 

Sound's like you've followed the "spark trail", beginning at the spark plugs (spark there when you crank the engine) and working your way back to the distributor if there's no spark at the plugs.  You do have a spark there, so the plugs are presumably getting spark, which means points, plugs, condenser, cap, rotor and coil are all OK.  You're getting fuel at the carb, as evidenced from the squirt from the accelerator pump nozzle when you work the throttle linkage.  And it's a manual choke, so it's not a malfunctioning automatic choke.  

 

Have you tried to start it with starting fluid (ether) in a spray can?  Will it start then?

 

mike

 

Have you done a compression test to check for very low compression?  That could indicate wear on the rings, burned valves, or even mis-adjusted valves.

'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 corrected my comments about the firing order and direction of distributor rotation (I was typing from memory).  The firing order is correct at 1-3-4-2 (clockwise from top)- I've just re-traced and labelled the wires to confirm.  

 

Thanks Mike, I have not done a compression check yet, I had planned to try that sometime soon.  

1971 Riviera 2002 ("Kate")

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One more thing for you to clarify:  since you relocated the distributor so that the points face the front of the car (for improved access) have you been able to start the car?  If not, then you did something wrong when you moved the dizzy; if it does eventually start, but there's no improvement over how well it starts from when you had the dizzy at its original position, I think your timing is still off.  

 

Have you checked to make sure the vacuum advance capsule is functioning and properly connected at both ends?  To check its function, disconnect at the carb end, and with the dizzy cap off, suck on the vacuum hose.  You should see the point plate move a little.  If it doesn't, then it isn't working, thus throwing the timing off and creating a vacuum leak.

 

And...have you tried (once the plugs are nice and dry, and the engine's no longer flooded) having someone crank the engine while you slowly move the loosened distributor back and forth (not too far, just a little) to see if it catches?

 

mike

'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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Mike, 

 

    The car wasn't starting before I rotated the distributor, so I don't think rotating it made the problem worse.  The rotor was aligned to the timing mark on the distributor housing when I reinstalled the distributor (I set it 3" CCW from the alignment mark before installing it, then it rotated to point at the mark when the helical gear engaged with the camshaft.  This was per my Cylmer's manual), while the #1 piston was at TDC.  So I *think* I did that right.  

 

    My daughter helped me start the car while I tried twisting the distributor in both directions, but that didn't help.  

 

    I have the vacuum advance hose connected to the port on the intake manifold.  Should it go to the carburetor (manifold vs. ported vac)?  I've read about this, but am not clear which is preferred.

 

    Sucking on the vacuum port does NOT cause the pod to move at all!  Alright, we're learning!  Would you typically have vacuum during startup, or would that mostly affect how it runs once it's started (and at higher revs)? 

 

    Thank you, 

    John

1971 Riviera 2002 ("Kate")

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John,

I would disconnect the vacuum advance hose (and plug). Then check the static advance setting. This can be done with a test light connected between the coil (-) and ground. With the TDC line visible (for #1), rotate the distributor to the point where the test light lights. You need to have the ignition "ON" for this test, but the engine not running.

Will it start?  If no, then check and clean the idle jet (and cut-off solenoid if fitted). 

Sounds like you're getting gas to the float bowl as evidenced by the squirt from the accelerator pump. If there is too much gas at the bottom of the intake manifold, it could be a heavy plastic float that is sinking as a result of deterioration from our wonderful CA fuel. If suspect, change to a brass float and set the level to 40mm.

55 minutes ago, johnnyb said:

I have the vacuum advance hose connected to the port on the intake manifold. 

This is correct....

Static timing while cranking (no vac or mech advance) and +12 degrees advance while idling with high vacuum.

Connected to the ported tap on the Weber will be the same, except you won't have advance when idling (makes engine run hot 'cuz it's too retarded).

 

 

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To clarify, with engine at TDC for #1 in firing position (TDC with both #1 valves closed), the rotor needs to be under the #1 wire contact on cap. That line/notch on the dizzy can be anywhere. As above, it's prob royally flooded by now.

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8 hours ago, johnnyb said:
  • Points: not sure of p/n, but they're very clean, seem new.  Contacts are not eroded. 
  • coil: Beck Arnley 178-800 (measures 12k-ohms center to either + or -; 3 ohms across the primary's + and -)
  • starting resistor present and wired in (measured at 1.3 ohms with wires disconnected)

 

You need to bypass the resistor with that coil, since it has 3 ohms of built-in resistance, like the Bosch blue coil.  (It looks like the writing at the base of the coil says "without external resistor.")  The spark will be weaker with the resistor inline.

 

IMG_0398.JPG

 

8 hours ago, johnnyb said:

Distributor: Bosch vacuum advance model 0 231 168 021 

 

That is a replacement distributor, which is a good thing; because it may still be in good shape, due to low mileage.  It's the same model that I am using, (but I've shortened the curve and use mine with ported vacuum).   

 

8 hours ago, johnnyb said:

I connected my Innova 5568 timing light (per @'76mintgrün'02's recommendations!) and measured dwell at 37-39 degrees while the engine idled at 800 RPM.  I tried adjusting the points gap larger (I think I should have decreased it to increase the dwell to the spec of around 60 degrees), but it wouldn't restart after that, so I set the gap back to 0.016".  It hasn't started since then.

 

You're correct when you say, you need to decrease the points gap to increase the dwell.  Changing the dwell also changes the timing, so that will need to be reset.  

 

The condenser that  you are using is the early-style with a round fitting, but your distributor takes the late-style with a square fitting.  It's nice that it was made in Germany and should work fine, as long as the plug end is secure.

IMG_0406.JPG.dc27b3b50ec1da76079e1b3733e5e03d.JPG   Ignition Condenser

 

https://www.blunttech.com/shop/replacement-parts/engine-electrical/W0133-1636529-BOS

 

8 hours ago, johnnyb said:

Sucking on the vacuum port does NOT cause the pod to move at all!

 

Try removing it and sucking again.  It could be that the points plates are binding.  Or, it might have a ruptured diaphragm.  Hopefully not.

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Seems like your engine has been a little flaky starting ever since you got the car? And you've been unable to start it since adjusting the points?

 

Since the problem went away (briefly) with a fresh set of plugs, it does seem to point towards something ignition related -- maybe a weak spark. You could try swapping in parts from a known good ignition system (aka one off a well-running car) and see when it starts.

 

It’d also be worthwhile to confirm you don’t have any vacuum leaks that would be affecting your air-fuel ratio — check all around the carb, vacuum lines, brake booster hose, etc. My car has been harder to start and easier to flood when it's had a vacuum leak.

Edited by eviction_party
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17 hours ago, Hans said:

To clarify, with engine at TDC for #1 in firing position (TDC with both #1 valves closed), the rotor needs to be under the #1 wire contact on cap. That line/notch on the dizzy can be anywhere. As above, it's prob royally flooded by now.

thanks for pointing that out @Hans.  I did make sure that my #1 spark plug wire was the one over the rotor when it was pointing at the distributor body mark.  

 

13 hours ago, Hans said:

And dwell should be in the 60s. Perhaps the points are pitted/bumpy. Something to be said for Pertronix. 

Understood, when it was reading 37-39 degrees, I knew I was way off.  The points are in great shape- I think my friend replaced them just before I bought it.  As for Pertronix, everyone at work is telling me to go that route!  I'm not opposed to making changes, but I want to do it deliberately (because I choose to and understand the pros/cons), not just to band-aid a problem I can't solve!  Half of the fun of owning this car is for me (and my kids) to learn how to fix it up and make it reliable.  Reading many of Tom ('76Mintgrun)'s posts about distributor tinkering have encouraged me to make it work with points & condenser, at least for awhile while I fix other issues the car needs addressed.  That's what I love about the FAQ! 

 

12 hours ago, '76mintgrün'02 said:

 

You need to bypass the resistor with that coil, since it has 3 ohms of built-in resistance, like the Bosch blue coil.  (It looks like the writing at the base of the coil says "without external resistor.")  The spark will be weaker with the resistor inline.

 

IMG_0398.JPG

 

 

 

Thanks for pointing this out Tom!  I was aware that some coils didn't need bypass resistors, and didn't put together that mine was one of them, despite the writing on it!  I took it to mean that it didn't have an internal resistor, therefore still needed an external resistor.  I'll try bypassing the bypass resistor today! 

 

12 hours ago, '76mintgrün'02 said:

The condenser that  you are using is the early-style with a round fitting, but your distributor takes the late-style with a square fitting.  It's nice that it was made in Germany and should work fine, as long as the plug end is secure.

IMG_0406.JPG.dc27b3b50ec1da76079e1b3733e5e03d.JPG   Ignition Condenser

 

 

I hadn't noticed this detail, but it seems like the round plastic part fits okay in the distributor housing (it's wedged in a bit, so a friction fit).  The spade connections are all secure, so I think I'm good here.

 

12 hours ago, '76mintgrün'02 said:

Try removing it and sucking again.  It could be that the points plates are binding.  Or, it might have a ruptured diaphragm.  Hopefully not.

Got it, I'll try this as well. 

 

9 hours ago, eviction_party said:

Seems like your engine has been a little flaky starting ever since you got the car? And you've been unable to start it since adjusting the points?

 

Since the problem went away (briefly) with a fresh set of plugs, it does seem to point towards something ignition related -- maybe a weak spark. You could try swapping in parts from a known good ignition system (aka one off a well-running car) and see when it starts.

 

It’d also be worthwhile to confirm you don’t have any vacuum leaks that would be affecting your air-fuel ratio — check all around the carb, vacuum lines, brake booster hose, etc. My car has been harder to start and easier to flood when it's had a vacuum leak.

@eviction_party- changing the plugs was done at the same time that I opened the points gap (from zero!), so I assumed it was the points adjustment that had a larger effect.  Since the old plugs were gapped larger, it may have been a combined effect.  I don't know anyone around here with known good parts I could swap in, but I'd hate to take their car down to troubleshoot mine- I think I've got enough ideas now to try on my car alone.  

 

Also, I'll check for vacuum leaks, thanks for the suggestion.  I'll take a closer look.  

 

On a related note, are you Ian?  I think I recognize your car from your avatar.  My (now 8 year old) son and I may have met you at the Los Gatos Neue Klasse & Kaffe back in June.  I had just taken my steering box and tie rods off my car the night before, and so I didn't bring mine to that meet.  I finally brought it to the January meet with my older son, but didn't see you at that one.  Glad to see another San Jose '02!

1971 Riviera 2002 ("Kate")

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41 minutes ago, johnnyb said:

I did make sure that my #1 spark plug wire was the one over the rotor when it was pointing at the distributor body mark.

 

Johnny, I think Hans was trying to tell you to ignore the mark on the dizzy body altogether. Once your motor’s at ‘real’ TDC (and not 180 degrees off), and you stake the dizzy, where the rotor then points is exactly where #1 wire on the cap needs to be — nothing to do with your now reoriented dizzy body mark..


The point being you don’t additionally rotate the rotor or dizzy to try to line up the rotor with the dizzy body marking after it’s pointed to its #1 TDC position.

 

You may have this timing aspect okay, but you keep mentioning the dizzy body mark and it might actually be throwing you off.

 

Tom-too

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Where we goin’? … I’ll drive…
There are some who call me... Tom too         v i s i o n a u t i k s.com   

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