Alfa cranks but just backfires...loudly. - Page 2 - Alfa Romeo Bulletin Board & Forums

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Old 02-23-2004, 12:04 PM
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Yeah, alfajim brought the jumped distributor thing up too. It's most certainly happened before and is a distinct possibility. Another thought is a faulty capacitor but that usually results in a no start without backfiring.
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Old 02-23-2004, 12:19 PM
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Having gone thru something similar 2 months ago,
you may want to check to see if you are getting consistantly STRONG spark.

Pull a plug and ground it while starting and see if the spark is bright and strong...you should be able to hear it.

If not check your coil, ground lead to dist. and the condition of your spark plug wires.

My problem sounded like yours until I replaced the coil.

JMTC
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Old 02-23-2004, 06:03 PM
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Thanks guys, again.

Sadly, it started to rain this afternoon and I think we'll have rain for next day or so, so it may be a couple of days before I can work on it some more.

Yes, this is something that happened all of a sudden. Let me run down what I've done since I've aquired my Alfa:

Got her last June. Wasn't running due to the fuel line being disconnected from the gas tank itself. Easy fix and off we went.
A couple of weeks later, I put in new plugs and wires. Took another coulpe of weeks to get a rotor cap & button. Then I put a new set of tires on her. I drove her almost every day, about 60 miles, mostly highway.

That's all. I few weeks ago I moved the car to a different parking area because somone parked in front of my house. We had an ice storm that lasted a couple of days. Then I went to move the Alfa back into my drive. It was about 18 degrees that morning and she wouldn't crank. Thought it may just be the weather, so I waited a few days until it was warmer. Still nothing. Thought maybe the battery was a little low (sorry, forgot, put brand new battery in car...and new terminals). Tried to jump from another vehicle, but still no start. I knew that the hoses form the tank to the rear fuel fileter and to the pump were old and that the filter needed changing, so I did that just the other day, hoping the car would again come to life. But not be. Here I am today.

That's what has me stumped. The car was driven for 5-6 months with no problems at all, and then it just didn't want to crank.

I'll check the distributor, but when I remove the cap, nothing feels wobbly or loose.

I'll definitely check the cold-start solenoid.

BTW, yes the fuel pressure light does come on for just a moment after turning the ignition swich. It would stay on constantly BEFORE I changed the hoses and fuel filter. I don't pump or floor the accellorator while trying to start. But it always seemed helpful to open the thottle a little bit.

I'll keep working on it until it lives again!

Vince
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Old 02-23-2004, 06:18 PM
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I'm kind of running out of ideas. Still sounds like a timing problem, though. Coil? I guess I don't see how that would cause the symptoms indicated. Use some starter fluid on a couple of start attemps and see if that helps. If you get a good start and initial 2-3 second run, then we'll have to look at the injection system.

Use a test light and check the static timing of the engine. That's real easy and doesn't require a lot of disassembly. If the #1 is timed correctly and the firing order is correct and still no joy, then you might consider taking the valve cover off and seeing if the timing chains look good and are timed correctly. Hard to believe there'd be anything wrong with them, but, hey, I guess stranger things have happened before. A compression check is also easy to do and will confirm a good cylinder integrity.
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Old 02-23-2004, 06:31 PM
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I just talked to my Guru, Skip Patnode. He has seen a couple of Alfas where the distributor looks fine, but the clamp which secures the distributor has come loose just enough to where the distributor isn't sitting in its base enough to spin properly. This definitely causes the symptoms you described, as it sort of turns just enough to cause some spark, but with very bad timing.

The cure is pretty easy. Just undo the screw that holds the clamp, reset the distributor by pushing it in all the way home and then re-tighten the screw.

We both scratched our heads about this for a while, but we are both Weber types. Anyway, that's our best guess.

Cheers,
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  #21 (permalink)  
Old 02-24-2004, 08:44 AM
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I had a similar problem where the points in the distributor were bad.
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Old 02-24-2004, 02:55 PM
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The plot thickens.

Well, we had enough break in the weather today that I pulled the air canister off. The bottom hose that runs to the purge canister(?) had quite a bit of liquid in it. Upon inspection, it smelled like gasoline and was not viscous like oil, just "sooty". Each of the four air intake ports for the thottle body also had this gas/carobn liquid in them. No dripping wet, but wet enough that I knew it couldn't be right. I tried to crank the car like this and got a nice POP of flame from the air intake, but still no startup. I wiped everything down and made sure it was clean and dry, tried agin...same result.

I cannot find any type of clip on my distributor anyware. I do have the Magnetarelli ignition on this one.

The rain started to come back, so I didn't get to check for good spark...but I'm beginning to lean twords a bad spark coil. I still have my old distributor cap (which I JUST found), and I'm toying with the idea of putting back on.

Vince
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Old 02-24-2004, 03:40 PM
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I'd expect that black liquid to be there as a result of the engine backfiring thru the intakes while trying to start. Once cleaned and the no start problem solved, which I still think is a firing order/distributor problem, the liquid will be very slow to return.
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Old 02-24-2004, 04:31 PM
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Jim, John,

I've been re-reading my bible and you may both be on to something. According to the text...finally found the couple of paragraphs about this...the cold start solenoid may very well be the problem. Now I'm anxious to remove that switch wire and try to star the car with closed throttle.
Also, the firing sequece has been confirmed the right order, but indeed may still be 180 degrees off. I don't think this is the case, because of the flooding situation, but I won't dismiss it at all.
I still can't rule out a faulty spark coil. I am getting spark, but it may be too weak. The coil is original.
Based on what I've seen today (what little time I had) and what I read and have limited experience with, this seems still like an easy fix.
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Old 02-25-2004, 02:00 PM
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I think I have the problem narrowed down.

I removed the wire to the solinoid switch and taped it up and tried the starting procedure as desribed. This time, nothing at all happened when I cranked. No fuel flooding or anything, even with wide-open throttle. So the solinoid is working correctly. When wired back up, I get the backfire issue.
Now, I WAS getting some spark the other day, for certian...but not as strong as I might expect.
Today, I pulled a plug wire and tried cranking and nothing came from the wire at all! No spark. Just like that.

Again, I want to be absolutly certian about this. I have NOT touched the wiring to the coil, but the GREEN/BLACK is wired to the + side of the coil and the GREEN to the - side.
I am assuming that Alfa is using plain green as ground. Is this correct?

Vince
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Old 02-25-2004, 02:28 PM
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I'm going to chime in here.

Vince,

I too think you have a timing problem. If you are getting a backfire, that means to me you have spark, but the timing is off. With the SPICA FI, cranking the engine (and injection pump) you can very easily flood the engine. I have tried to start my car sometimes and flooded it to the point of fuel running out of the intake manifold. Have you checked the "static" timing with a timing light? I bet you will find the timing is off 180 degrees. I would do this before chasing any other theories.
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Old 02-27-2004, 05:20 AM
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Exclamation 20 inches.

Sorry guys, can't work on my poor Alfa today!
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Old 02-27-2004, 06:18 AM
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  #29 (permalink)  
Old 03-06-2004, 07:27 PM
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Still scatching my head.

Hello all.

Well, I've been pretty busy with work since that snowstorm (storm of the century, 'round here). But got to work on the alfa some more today, briefly.

I replaced the spark coil and the modulator...not really expensive. However, I'm still not getting ANY spark from the coil at all. None. Zilch. I will check the voltage to the coil terminals tomorrow to determine what, if any, voltage I am getting. I know that if I place the spark coil wire near the engine block, I get nothing while cranking.

I checked the wiring back to the firewall and everything is in order. I have not had a chance to look at the wiring in depth under the dash. All of my fuses seem OK. The ignition switch engages the starter motor just fine, but don't know if it is NOT switching voltage to the coil.

I don't have a timing light...yet. I've never used one, but it can't be too hard. I still don't feel it's a timing issue because there just seems to be no spark at all coming directly from the coil.

I never had a car that would NOT get spark like this, so I'm still scratching my head.
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  #30 (permalink)  
Old 03-08-2004, 01:47 AM
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Hi Vince,

Sorry to hear about the trouble with the car which must be proving to be frustrating. Dont give up yet because Alfas are great cars to own and drive. As for the unfortunate problem that you are facing, I would take it from the many experienced Alfa owners here, many of them are as experienced and as good as any professional mechanics that you can find and some are infact professional mechanics. So I would take what they suggest to be the likely reason/s for the problem.

If having gone through the troubleshooting process and you cannot arrive at what is causing the backfire, you would want to go back to basics and start from there. That way, the chances of you succeeding in licking the problem is higher and we would have another alfa on the road

Leaving aside the issue of not getting spark, I would imagine that even when you sort out the spark issue you would probably experience the same backfire popping thing all over again and as such, it is a good thing to check timing since that is one of the basics in engine management and maintenance. I think someone has already gone through this step in great detail so I will not attempt to offer since I cannot improve on the instructions given already.

By the way, your car isn't running some kind of electronic iginition thing right?

One more thing, you dont need a timing light to set static timing. Just locate the timing marking on the pulley and set the distributor according. This is not difficult at all as I think you probably would have done something similar before. Even if not, it takes no more than 10-15 mins to set it right from scratch. You can do the dynamic timing when you get your timing light.

If you do not have an Alfa workshop manual you might want to consider getting one. It is very useful. I have only had my car for 1+ year though I have had cars for the last 15 years. Until I got my Alfa, I didnt know a thing about cars let alone work on them. Thanks to this site and the tons of accurate and helpful advise and the assistance of the workshop manual, I have since done amongst other things head gasket job, distributor timing, cam timing, radiator and alternator rebuilts, rewired my whole car and more. So I would trust and go with the advise from this board

All the best and hope you get your car back on the road soon.

fgc
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