when it rains it pours! - Page 2 - Alfa Romeo Bulletin Board & Forums

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post #16 of 37 (permalink) Old 03-03-2017, 04:21 AM Thread Starter
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There should not be condensation in those wells. Oil perhaps if the seals under the cam cover are hard, but never condensation. Can't for the life of me imagine anything condensing there. It gets hot there from engine .

I do not use additives as a general rule.

Glad you found and fixed it!!
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post #17 of 37 (permalink) Old 03-03-2017, 10:39 AM
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I think there could be another cause for the moisture. The day we finished the timing belt change I gave the car a very thorough hose down including under the hood. We live by the sea and it had been outside for 3 months. We had a fairly mild summer but there was still a bit of wind (I'd never intended the car to be outside for so long - next time I'll cover it) and some sand had blown up under the hood and around the trunk lid. I spent some time washing all of this off. Possibly water got up under the plenum. The coil packs were well bolted down, but I'm pretty sure there is a small vent channel in the seals. Maybe that's the cause of the moisture?

I read your Dusty Rhodes thread. Very interesting - I'd wondered about replacing the entire wiring loom to the injectors and coil packs prophylactically. If I wasn't working full time I'd be keen to make a new one!


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post #18 of 37 (permalink) Old 03-06-2017, 11:18 PM
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Looks like I spoke too soon... The car ran great for two days and today started missing on one cylinder again. I suspect there is moisture in the spark plug wells again. We'll pressurise the cooling system on Friday and put a camera down the spark plug wells to see if there is any seepage. I just hope I don't have a cracked head! This is occurring in 1, 2 and 3 cylinder wells. I definitely have good compression, the oil on the dipstick is super clean and there is no oil in the coolant. My neighbour thinks this is probably caused by porosity in the metal of a 24 year old engine. Do any of you have any bright ideas?


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post #19 of 37 (permalink) Old 03-07-2017, 05:42 AM Thread Starter
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No, not porosity. One trick to see which cylinder might have problems is to use IR thermometer on the exhaust header to see if you can find the "cool" one. I can't imagine this had to do with a cracked head etc. is the coolant level dropping / any puddles under the car? I think you probably have a bad coil pack or a harness intermittent. Simple stuff; if you know 100% that the fronts (coils and plugs) are good then swap em front to back.

I doubt you will find anything in the sparknplug wells but we will know soon enough.
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post #20 of 37 (permalink) Old 03-07-2017, 03:59 PM
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Thanks Bob. Definitely a moisture problem, see the attached pics. The spark plug was pristine 2 days earlier. This is happening on cylinders 1, 2 and 3 although 1 is worst. Coolant level is steady (as far as I can tell with 3 days of intermittent driving). The pictures are from last weekend. We cleaned everything up and reassembled. Car ran the best it ever has (we've replaced both front lower arms, rebuilt the struts and replaced all the engine mounts) for 48 hours then started missing again. The front 3 coils were fine and we swapped them to the back last weekend. I'll report back when we've had another look on Friday...
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post #21 of 37 (permalink) Old 03-07-2017, 04:25 PM
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I always thought those brown stains on the insulator indicated the plug body was leaking compression. Try new plugs is my advice.

Also, soak the water drops into a white paper towel and look for coolant dye (usually green or bluish depending on the colour in the expansion tank). If the paper towel doesn't stain then you've got condensation happening. Just btw, how is the PCV system and oil vapour separator doing in your engine? Plain water is likely condensing out of combustion blowby. You might be surprised at how much water burning gasoline can produce.

Here's a thought: if the plugs are leaking compression are you seeing clear water drops condensing from the combustion gases leaking through the plug?

Don't laugh, compression leaks used to kill plugs routinely in the olden days. A little pinging and poof, the packing between the metal plug body and the ceramic insulator starts breaking down.

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post #22 of 37 (permalink) Old 03-07-2017, 07:11 PM Thread Starter
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got me stumped. Are you driving the car enough to get it good and hot? I cant for the life of me think there is any condensation there, water condenses out when it changes state from gas to liquid, either a low pressure delta makes that happen or a significant temp delta, neither of which I can fathom in that area. The rear exhaust gets hotter than blazes and the whole area cooks up.

and the oil is good and clean, yes? Did you blow out the coils with compressed air (up into the plug tubes) and spray some brake cleaner up in there and make sure there was no liquid ?

I'm staying tuned on this one. I just cant imagine what is causing this. And fronts are great?

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post #23 of 37 (permalink) Old 03-07-2017, 08:45 PM
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Thanks again for the assistance...

Definitely got the car hot. In fact the misfire started again once the temp got over 70C, but then persisted when it cooled down. It's definitely not overheating though. The plugs are less than 10k old, but I will swap the fronts to the back when we have the plenum off on Friday. I swapped the coils front to back last weekend (but not the plugs). There is no oil leak around the plugs so I'd be surprised if water was getting through that way. We just did a cooling system flush and the car doesn't have antifreeze in it yet (end of summer here), only straight water so I can't confirm completely that the water is coming from the cooling system. Was planning to drain some water and add coolant this weekend. Michael - I think the PCV system is okay. We check for air leaks whenever the plenum comes off and there were none last time. We cleaned out the oil trap behind the plenum about a year ago. What else should I do to check it?

I will post more pics and an update Friday evening my time once we have inspected the coils and plugs again and pressurized the cooling system while I look with a fibreoptic camera down the wells.

It's such a shame when the car is going so well otherwise!

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post #24 of 37 (permalink) Old 03-07-2017, 08:48 PM
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And to reply to Goats - the oil looks spotless, didn't blow out the coils with compressed air, but did blow out the spark plug wells. I did squirt plenty of circuit cleaner (I think its CCl4 based) up the plug tubes though. All the coils were swapped front to back, I guess if on Friday we find the same problem but now on 4,5 and 6 that would suggest some water was left behind! Fingers crossed that is what I find! I'll check the front coils before we take the plenum off.

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post #25 of 37 (permalink) Old 03-07-2017, 09:46 PM Thread Starter
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When u pressurize the cooling system stay very low-- like 2 to 3 psi. Reason is the plastic tank on radiator and heater core. Have seen em get blown out by overzealousness. I really don't think this is a coolant thing. I can't picture how that could happen realistically
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post #26 of 37 (permalink) Old 03-07-2017, 10:20 PM
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The only time I've seen something akin to a coolant leak was with our 75 Alfetta sedan, where there was a casting bubble in the head which broke open between a cooling passage in the head and one of the exhaust passages. We kept getting an excess of steam out the exhaust, and a slow loss of coolant. Kept thinging it was a bad head gasket, so changed it, but the problem didn't go away.

Decided to pressure test the coolant system with the exhaust manifold and intake off to check for a leak somewhere. Noticed coolant coming out of one exhaust port. Using a light and mirror, looked in the passage and saw what looked like a shiny wire crossing the passage. Turned out it was coolant squirting out of the broken open casting bubble. Had to have the flaw welded up. All fine after that.

So, yes, it could happen, but very very rare. I'm really not sure this is a coolant leak. Under pressure, the plug tunnel would likely fill pretty fast if there was any leak worth talking about. Enough to short the plug.

Is it the same cylinder which shorts the plug, or does moving the plug move the problem with it. If it does, it's the plug. If it doesn't, it's not. Same for moving the ignition coil. Does the plug problem move with the coil, or not? If it does, it's the coil. If it doesn't, it's the plug.

If the problem stays with the one cylinder regardless of what you do, then maybe, just maybe, there is a problem with the head.

Will tell a funny story: l had a friend with a 62 Ferrari GTE 2+2 which had a miss in the V-12 engine. Could not figure out what the heck the problem was. Changed plugs all around and same problem, and always the same cylinder. Come to find out, when the engine was revved above a certain rpm, it was noticed that one piston traveled up just a bare fraction a little higher in the cylinder, and just barely tapped the plug prong closed, shorting out the plug, the normal clearance between the plug prongs and the tops of the pistons being sooo close, that it was just enough in one cylinder to cause this problem. He solved it by using two plug washers on the one plug. Ran fine after that, lol.

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91 164S (my daily driver since 1994)
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72 Morgan 27 (water time since 1976)

previously owned since 1964:

62 Morris MiniMinor 850, 67 Austin 1275 Cooper S (Downton 3/4 race), 64 Giulia Sprint GT (1st red one made), 72 Fiat 128 Sedan, 75 Alfetta Sedan, 78 Alfetta Sedan, 78 GTV, 81 GTV6, 86 GTV6

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post #27 of 37 (permalink) Old 03-09-2017, 05:33 PM
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We seem to have some progress, and it looks like Goats may be correct.

When I removed the coil packs today the condensation had moved from cylinder 1 to cylinder 4, ie it had followed the coil pack (we reversed them last week). The coil packs on cylinders 1,2 and 3 were bone dry (they all had condensation last week). I pulled the rubber off the coil pack on cylinder 4 and the spring broke in half - it had corroded over the week. We dried things out thoroughly and fitted a new spring (from my neighbor's extensive collection of random parts). We still pressurized the cooling system (no exploding expansion tanks) and inspected all the spark plug wells - no "seepage" or leaks evident. We've just reassembled everything and completed an air leak test for good measure - all looks good and car running well. Antifreeze added just in case the problem reoccurs and we want to be 100% certain there is no internal leak. I'll likely replace the repaired coil pack just to be safe.

Essentially I think originally I got water in the spark plug wells from over enthusiastic hosing of the engine bay. This water vaporized to steam and made its way inside the coil pack where is must have cycled back and forwards between water and steam over the week, eating away at the coil pack spring. I noticed the ridges on the rubber of the coil pack are perforated to let gasses out, except for the most external ridge. Presumably this was stopping the water from evaporating.

I'll drive the car a lot over the weekend and hopefully all will be well!

Thanks again for everyone's expertise.

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post #28 of 37 (permalink) Old 03-09-2017, 05:52 PM
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Glad to hear it is evidently cleared up. One thing I learned long ago was to never ever wash an engine off with water. Comes from always having to remove all the water which somehow got into anything electric in nature, even with plastic bags and rags over the critical areas. And with rubber timing belts, I sure try to keep all of that dry at all times, period. Maybe some might be good at washing with water, but I never seemed to get it right, lol.

I always just wipe things down with ArmorAll and rags. Degreaser is used only on parts away from the car. I generally never bother too much with the stuff down below the heads. If I see oil, I start looking for leaks, and then wipe if I can that area to see if the leak has been stopped.

Del

Seattle

89 Milano (wife's daily driver since 1989, Shankle Sport)
91 164S (my daily driver since 1994)
94 164LS (~Q) (trip Alfa since 2000)
72 Morgan 27 (water time since 1976)

previously owned since 1964:

62 Morris MiniMinor 850, 67 Austin 1275 Cooper S (Downton 3/4 race), 64 Giulia Sprint GT (1st red one made), 72 Fiat 128 Sedan, 75 Alfetta Sedan, 78 Alfetta Sedan, 78 GTV, 81 GTV6, 86 GTV6

Last edited by Del; 03-09-2017 at 05:55 PM.
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post #29 of 37 (permalink) Old 03-09-2017, 05:58 PM
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I have three Alfas and two of the broke down and the only one that worked was my restored 101 Sprint Veloce. That is why I own more than one Alfa since 1970.
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post #30 of 37 (permalink) Old 03-09-2017, 06:24 PM Thread Starter
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Even a blind squirrel finds a nut every now and then. Broken spring up in the plug boot fits the symptoms. Heck had you had this three weeks ago I would have sent u a boot and spring from my bad coil. Alas it's in the landfill now.

I think you're good to go. And, at least, no more having to access the rear plugs! Cheers
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