S4: An uncommon starting issue - Alfa Romeo Bulletin Board & Forums
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post #1 of 43 (permalink) Old 06-08-2016, 04:56 AM Thread Starter
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Question S4: An uncommon starting issue

Hi guys,

My Spider does not start properly 9 times out of 10. It takes about 4-5 seconds for the engine to start. The starter motor is turning over and over and over, until finally, it comes to life.

The battery is new, but I can't be sure that it is charged correctly. There is no difference as to whether the car is warm or cold, although the 1 out of 10 times it does start right away, it is usually cold.

Right after it has started, the idle seems to struggle to stay alive for about 1 second. I usually press the accelerator at this time, it then reaches a steady idle.

Recently, while performing this starting routine, there was an almost frighteningly strong stench of fuel after it started.

Is the engine perhaps not getting enough fuel? Any tips on how to tackle this issue? Electrical, fuel, etc?

Thanks a lot for your help, none of the searches I did showed this very issues.
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post #2 of 43 (permalink) Old 06-08-2016, 06:16 AM
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The battery is new, but I can't be sure that it is charged correctly.
A simple test is to connect a voltmeter directly to the battery (don't reply on a dash gauge if your car has one - they usually do not read properly during cranking). With everything off, a fully charged battery should read 12.6V. Next see what it reads during cranking. The starter is a big draw but the system voltage should remain above 10.5V for the computer to power up. Our '84 Spider reads 11.6-11.8V during cranking.

If any of the readings are low the first thing is to clean & tighten all connections in the battery to starter circuit. A corroded or loose connection (or multiple slightly corroded/loose connections) can cause a significant loss of voltage. Next you can have the battery load tested to see if it is capable of delivering the amperage needed. Even 'new' batteries can be defective.

- - Eric
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~ 1984 Spider Veloce ~
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post #3 of 43 (permalink) Old 06-08-2016, 07:12 AM
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When the car does start, does it then drive smoothly, or do you feel any hesitation/holding back/lack of performance at all?

I'd personally want to see a healthy 11.5V 'whilst cranking' on the S4 Motronic spiders.

Make sure the main ECU ground connection (bolted to engine, towards the back, passenger side) is good.....remove, clean, replace....it's the only way to be sure.

you say when it does start, it idles poorly till you stab the throttle. When finally idling smooth, does it then idle correct, at about 900 rpm?
Maybe remove and clean out the bosch Idle air valve (IAV) on the plenum (use brake cleaner, allow to dry out for a few seconds, then a quick squirt of WD40 for lubrication purposes)..check the rubber grommet/seal for the IAV in the plenum is sealing, use some silicone grease to seal it.
Does the Throttle position switch (TPS) 'click' as soon as you try to move the throttle with your finger?(engine off, so you can hear it)
Is the throttle linkage perhaps binding? (ie. pulling the throttle ever so slightly open) test with your finger that you have the tiniest bit of play in the linkage ball at the plenum end (you are testing that the throttle is not being pulled off the throttle stop by the linkage)

false air (dt. Falschluft) can plague these cars, make sure all hoses in that department are airtight.........with the car idling, spray starter spray around all air hoses and listen...

next time you have the fuel stench, pull out the sparkplugs and check them for wetness, or lack thereof.

Dom - Alfa Spider 1990 S4 - formerly: Alfa 101 Sprint, 2600 Sprint, Montreal - family classics: Jensen Interceptor II, '58 Hooper RR Silver Cloud I, Shadow II, '60 Corvette.
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post #4 of 43 (permalink) Old 06-09-2016, 01:38 PM Thread Starter
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When the car does start, does it then drive smoothly, or do you feel any hesitation/holding back/lack of performance at all?
It drives as usual, nothing out of the ordinary apart from me pressing the gas during starting. Not sure if it would stay alive without that. I am sure that pressing the gas pedal helps the car to start (did not press it this time, though).

Idling is somewhere at 900, but it seems suspiciously steady at 900. So steady, that I wold not trust it (you can hear the idle moving a little, but the hand shows no movement).

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Make sure the main ECU ground connection (bolted to engine, towards the back, passenger side) is good.....remove, clean, replace....it's the only way to be sure.
I could not find it but will try and look for it tomorrow again.

Thanks so much for your other tips as well, they are a little over my head for now, but I will try and work through them.

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With everything off, a fully charged battery should read 12.6V. Next see what it reads during cranking. The starter is a big draw but the system voltage should remain above 10.5V for the computer to power up.
Everything off, the voltmeter read 12.76.
During cranking, the lowest number I saw was 11.43, but while performing the test, the car would start quicker than usual. I tried to repeat it, but then it would start right away.
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post #5 of 43 (permalink) Old 06-09-2016, 02:03 PM
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During cranking, the lowest number I saw was 11.43, but while performing the test, the car would start quicker than usual. I tried to repeat it, but then it would start right away.
Ideally you want to stop it from actually starting when testing voltage during cranking, so you can give the starter motor a good turning over.....pull the main HT lead off the coil and test again. Try 2 or 3 times to make sure it does not vary.
if indeed 11.43V, that is good voltage and close to the 11.5 I'd have expected on the S4
(L-Jet is 10,5V as Eric rightly says)

900rpm steady idle is good, the S4 motronic should idle very steady, so that is a plus, not a worry!

I'd also remove the earth cable from the battery that is screwed to the floor of the boot, sand it, add a little copper grease and bolt it back. Also clean both battery posts (Batterie Pole)....just to eliminate that from any equation.

The main ECU ground you are looking for is this here (remove both bolts, sand or wire brush clean and add some copper grease, bolt back on):
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Dom - Alfa Spider 1990 S4 - formerly: Alfa 101 Sprint, 2600 Sprint, Montreal - family classics: Jensen Interceptor II, '58 Hooper RR Silver Cloud I, Shadow II, '60 Corvette.

Last edited by spiderserie4; 10-19-2016 at 03:49 AM. Reason: added photo
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post #6 of 43 (permalink) Old 06-09-2016, 02:14 PM Thread Starter
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pull the main HT lead off the coil and test again.
Can you explain how to do that? What is an HT lead?
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post #7 of 43 (permalink) Old 06-09-2016, 02:36 PM
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Can you explain how to do that? What is an HT lead?
HT lead=High Tension lead
basically remove the big black rubber lead (looks like a short sparkplug lead) that goes into the centre of the coil (Zündspule)
then the car won't start.
then crank the engine and test the cranking voltage

Dom - Alfa Spider 1990 S4 - formerly: Alfa 101 Sprint, 2600 Sprint, Montreal - family classics: Jensen Interceptor II, '58 Hooper RR Silver Cloud I, Shadow II, '60 Corvette.
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post #8 of 43 (permalink) Old 06-11-2016, 09:46 AM Thread Starter
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Ideally you want to stop it from actually starting when testing voltage during cranking, so you can give the starter motor a good turning over.....pull the main HT lead off the coil and test again. Try 2 or 3 times to make sure it does not vary.
if indeed 11.43V, that is good voltage and close to the 11.5 I'd have expected on the S4
(L-Jet is 10,5V as Eric rightly says)
Ok, so I tried a couple of times, each time with slightly worse results than the time before. It drops to 10.5 for a second, then is at around 11.6, dropping to 11.5 and eventually 11.4 (that process takes around 8 seconds, I stopped at that point as readings seemed healthy)

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I'd also remove the earth cable from the battery that is screwed to the floor of the boot, sand it, add a little copper grease and bolt it back. Also clean both battery posts (Batterie Pole)....just to eliminate that from any equation.

The main ECU ground you are looking for is this here (remove both bolts, sand or wire brush clean and add some copper grease, bolt back on):
Cleaned main ECU ground, battery posts and battery earth cable. No effect on starting the car.

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Does the Throttle position switch (TPS) 'click' as soon as you try to move the throttle with your finger?
Yes, it does.

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next time you have the fuel stench, pull out the sparkplugs and check them for wetness, or lack thereof.
I did not experience fuel smell today, but I pulled the plugs nonetheless. Here are some pictures. I also attached a couple of other pictures, perhaps something stands out.







Looks like that wire has a worn bend. Is that to be fixed?


What is this thing doing and should I be replacing it due to the rust on it?


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Maybe remove and clean out the bosch Idle air valve (IAV) on the plenum (use brake cleaner, allow to dry out for a few seconds, then a quick squirt of WD40 for lubrication purposes)..check the rubber grommet/seal for the IAV in the plenum is sealing, use some silicone grease to seal it.

Is the throttle linkage perhaps binding? (ie. pulling the throttle ever so slightly open) test with your finger that you have the tiniest bit of play in the linkage ball at the plenum end (you are testing that the throttle is not being pulled off the throttle stop by the linkage)

false air (dt. Falschluft) can plague these cars, make sure all hoses in that department are airtight.........with the car idling, spray starter spray around all air hoses and listen...
Those would be the next steps I presume, but the car was too hot and I need to do some serious reading first Thanks a lot for the help up until now, even though I did not fix the problem yet, I sure like to learn more about the car in general. Tomorrow, the Spider is going to a pro for adjusting the valve clearance, but I would like to do the rest myself, with your help

Last edited by goulet115; 06-11-2016 at 09:51 AM.
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post #9 of 43 (permalink) Old 06-11-2016, 10:06 AM
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What is this thing doing and should I be replacing it due to the rust on it?
that is the OVS (Oil vapour seperator): it is not the rust on top you need to worry about, it is the filth that will be inside
take it off, clean it thoroughly with brake cleaner spray (you will not like the grunge that comes out!)
then give it a clean/sanding outside and a coat of black paint (if you like things looking nice)
The long thin hose on the OVS goes down to the engine block, clean the hose (make sure it is free) and put 20cl of clean engine oil in this hose before fitting it back.

The OVS will/might give poor idle if not cleaned out (I do it once a year, once every 2 maybe when I am lazy!)

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Tomorrow, the Spider is going to a pro for adjusting the valve clearance, but I would like to do the rest myself, with your help
ask the 'pro' to keep a note for you what the valve clearances were before he adjusts them......I'd like to know. (And obviously ask him to note down the gaps when he has finished)
who are you using for this job? (you are also based in Germany, right?)
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Dom - Alfa Spider 1990 S4 - formerly: Alfa 101 Sprint, 2600 Sprint, Montreal - family classics: Jensen Interceptor II, '58 Hooper RR Silver Cloud I, Shadow II, '60 Corvette.

Last edited by spiderserie4; 06-11-2016 at 01:59 PM. Reason: sp.
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post #10 of 43 (permalink) Old 06-13-2016, 12:42 AM Thread Starter
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Adjusting valve clearance was postponed, the shop said that it would not be necessary at this point. Coming back to the original problem, I don't think it has to do with electricity...

The last couple of times I started the car, I consciously avoided pressing the throttle. That made it take a whole lot longer and the car stalled twice, right after ignition. Should that be shifting my focus to something else perhaps?
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post #11 of 43 (permalink) Old 06-13-2016, 01:15 AM
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btw. when I said earlier 'pull the plugs', I meant take them out and inspect the electrodes (not just pull the leads off)....important to see whether one or two may be oil fouled, or fuel fouled (running too rich) or whatever.

let's see a photograph of all 4 plugs.

BTW: in your post #8 above (3rd photo) one of the sparkplug wells has oil in it.....likely a leaking cam cover gasket.

Dom - Alfa Spider 1990 S4 - formerly: Alfa 101 Sprint, 2600 Sprint, Montreal - family classics: Jensen Interceptor II, '58 Hooper RR Silver Cloud I, Shadow II, '60 Corvette.
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post #12 of 43 (permalink) Old 06-15-2016, 01:53 PM Thread Starter
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I tried my hands at cleaning the OVS... and broke a hose. Where can I get a new one? Is it part number 03 186 3 0?

Also, I emptied an entire can of brake cleaner in the OVS, I was quite surprised how little rusty residue came out if it to be honest. Might have been a little unnecessary I guess we'll see once it is back in.


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post #13 of 43 (permalink) Old 06-15-2016, 02:08 PM
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I tried my hands at cleaning the OVS... and broke a hose. Where can I get a new one, does anyone have the diameter for both ends? I am assuming that this would not need to be Spider specific.. Does this hose have a name?
Also, I emptied an entire can of brake cleaner in the OVS, I was quite surprised how little rusty residue came out if it to be honest. Might have been a little unnecessary I guess we'll see once it is back in.
the hoses are quite specific, as they are shaped...bertelsbeck has them.
Alfa Romeo Spider (105/115) Einspritzanlage Einspritzung

those clicR clamps can be difficult to remove if you don't have the right tool (Clic-Schlauchschellen-Zange)

Dom - Alfa Spider 1990 S4 - formerly: Alfa 101 Sprint, 2600 Sprint, Montreal - family classics: Jensen Interceptor II, '58 Hooper RR Silver Cloud I, Shadow II, '60 Corvette.
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Let's hope they ship overnight, I need him to run on the weekend. Clumsy me...
Hardware stores or auto shops surely sell generic clamps, don't they?
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post #15 of 43 (permalink) Old 06-15-2016, 02:19 PM
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Hardware stores or auto shops surely sell generic clamps, don't they?
yes, certainly

Dom - Alfa Spider 1990 S4 - formerly: Alfa 101 Sprint, 2600 Sprint, Montreal - family classics: Jensen Interceptor II, '58 Hooper RR Silver Cloud I, Shadow II, '60 Corvette.
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