79 Spider won't start with electronic distributor - Alfa Romeo Bulletin Board & Forums
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post #1 of 16 (permalink) Old 06-22-2019, 02:20 PM Thread Starter
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79 Spider won't start with electronic distributor

Hi guys,
Here's what's happening: Car has a Marelli distributor, 2 sets of points, centrifugal weights, etc.
I was able to set the timing statically and with a timing light. The car ran really well, the best since I've owned
it. However, when I road tested it, every once in a while when accelerating, it would bog down like rev limiters were actuating. Of course this car doesn't have limiters so I'm not really sure what would cause this.
Advance not working properly? I don't know. So I installed an electronic distributor I got from Vick parts
house. Connected it as prescribed, red wire to + coil and black to - coil. Before taking the Marelli out I set the
timing marks at P. I checked the 12 volts going to the mag pickup. The only difference when positioning this
vs. the Marelli is the Marelli rotor would point toward number one plug at about 1 o'clock when you're standing over it looking down. The electronic one points to about 4 o'clock. So I changed the plug wires so that the rotor was pointing at #1 plug wire and then as it rotates to 3, 4, 2.
The car will not start with the ecletronic dist. I checked for spark at plug #1 and it is strong spark.
I think it's a timing issue but I don't know the solution.
Please let me know your thoughts and thanks for taking the time.
Carl
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post #2 of 16 (permalink) Old 06-22-2019, 04:31 PM
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Sounds like you're doing everything right. Two thoughts:

1)
Quote:
The only difference when positioning this vs. the Marelli is the Marelli rotor would point toward number one plug at about 1 o'clock when you're standing over it looking down. The electronic one points to about 4 o'clock. So I changed the plug wires so that the rotor was pointing at #1 plug wire and then as it rotates to 3, 4, 2.
Yes, that seems correct. It isn't uncommon for two distributors to be 180 degrees different. But are you sure the engine was at #1 compression TDC whem the second distributor was at 4:00?

2) Assuming #1 is all correct, is the car really timed correctly? It only has to be a bit off for it not to start. Are you using a light? Twisting the distributor body CCW with the pointer at ~10 degrees advanced from TDC, until the light fires?

Jay Mackro
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post #3 of 16 (permalink) Old 06-22-2019, 05:07 PM
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I had similar problem. Vicks stated I needed the blue Bosch coil. I believe it states such in the item description.
Cheers, jon

Present:
1967 Spider
1974 GTV (1969 Tribute)
1993 Spider ( project)
2018 Stelvio
Past:
1964 Giulia Sprint. 1966 Giulietta 101 Sprint
1967 Super 1968 GTV 1974 Berlina
1979 Alfetta Mille Miglia 1987 Milano
Non Alfa:
1953 MGTD 1958 TR3 1962 AH 3000 MKII
1969 AMX
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post #4 of 16 (permalink) Old 06-22-2019, 05:29 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ccutler
I checked for spark at plug #1 and it is strong spark.
Quote:
Originally Posted by not2old4toys View Post
I had similar problem. Vicks stated I needed the blue Bosch coil. I believe it states such in the item description.
I'm not questioning Vicks' recommendation to use a Bosch blue coil. But ccutler says he's getting a strong spark. Perhaps the prolonged use of an incorrect coil will fry the electronics in the distributor. But I'd expect that strong spark to get the engine running - at least for awhile.

Jay Mackro
San Juan Capistrano, CA

'63 Guilia spider
'65 Guilia Sprint GT
'67 Duetto
'91 164L
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post #5 of 16 (permalink) Old 06-22-2019, 06:17 PM
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It is possible to insert the distributor without the coupling properly engaged. The distributor will turn but not be phased correctly. Remove the distributor, remove the O ring from the distributor, fit the O ring in the timing cover, make sure that the coupling is properly aligned and seat the distributor fully. Turn the engine to TDC, valves closed on #1 cylinder and put #1 plug wire in the connector that aligns with the rotor. Insert the other plug wires 1, 3, 4, 2 clockwise looking from the top. Set the static timing a little before TDC and it should start.
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Ed Prytherch
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post #6 of 16 (permalink) Old 06-24-2019, 01:41 PM Thread Starter
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Hi guys,
I did install a Bosch Blue coil when I installed the electronic dist.
Because the engine rotates twice for every rotation of the dist., TDC happens twice, 180 degrees apart.
I set up the plug wires for both TDC's and got no start.
When I looked into the spark plug #1 hole I could see the valves but couldn't really tell if they were closed.
Anyway, I will try what Ed suggested by pulling the dist. and reseating with o ring first and then insert the dist.
Thanks for the info.
I'll let you know.
Carl
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post #7 of 16 (permalink) Old 06-24-2019, 02:54 PM
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The piston is up twice, but one is the compression stroke (TDC, valves closed) and one is the exhaust stroke ( BDC, exhaust valve open). They are not the same. Make sure you are at TDC, not BDC when locating distributor and spark wires.
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post #8 of 16 (permalink) Old 06-24-2019, 02:58 PM
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I forgot to tell you, one way to ensure you are at TDC with valves closed is have your finger over the #1 spark plug hole when turning over the motor. Because valves are closed you will feel the air pressure pushing you finger off the hole due to the compression stroke.
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post #9 of 16 (permalink) Old 06-24-2019, 05:58 PM Thread Starter
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ok I pulled the distributor and put the O ring in its seat first. Then set timing marks to P, TDC with valves closed.
Set the dist so rotor was pointing at plug wire # 1. Still won't start. Tried rotating the dist slightly CCW and then CW.
Still no go.
The fact that I checked for spark 2 days ago indicates the magnetic pickup is working, doesn't it?
If I put the Marelli dist back in the car and set it up, the car will start fine.
Am I missing something?
Carl
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post #10 of 16 (permalink) Old 06-25-2019, 04:46 AM
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if the marelli works and the new Vicks doesn't
that's where I'd be looking......at the Vick's unit

Phone Vick's (don't mail them) and ask them about it.

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 #11 of 16 (permalink) Old 06-25-2019, 06:39 AM
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Ok, so the car ran before you fitted the new pickup. I assume you checked that there is fuel? So it should only be a timing issue. Set #1 piston at 'P', compression stroke. Install distributor and connect the coil HT wire to a plug or give it a gap to ground. With ignition switched on, counter-rotate the distributor a few degrees past the pickup until the spark fires. Stop rotation as close to the point of sparking as possible (you might have to swing the dizzie in both directions a few times to get a visual as to where this takes place). That should be close enough for you to determine a first position for the timing. Fit rotor arm and see where it's pointing - that will be #1 terminal. Fit remaining leads in sequence and it should start. Set timing with strobe. If this doesn't work, then there is probably something wrong with the installation or something's wrong with the distributor stator....

Last edited by manny kay; 06-25-2019 at 06:41 AM. Reason: literal correction
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post #12 of 16 (permalink) Old 06-25-2019, 11:32 AM Thread Starter
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Thanks I will try this.
Carl
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post #13 of 16 (permalink) Old 06-25-2019, 01:16 PM
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I don't like bringing things up twice but if you refer to post #6, he states "TDC happens twice, once and then again at another 180 degrees". I posted the two different strokes, the compression and the exhaust stroke and the pulley will read the same. I was hoping he would ENSURE that he was on the compression stroke. He did not respond to my post so I am not sure he truly understands the difference. Maybe he does but this mistake has been made by many. I surely have done it once back in my teens when I first started tinkering. He certainly may have other issues but I just have a feeling he needs to establish that he is truly at TDC, not BDC.
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post #14 of 16 (permalink) Old 06-25-2019, 10:59 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by SkiBum View Post
I don't like bringing things up twice but if you refer to post #6, he states "TDC happens twice, once and then again at another 180 degrees". I posted the two different strokes, the compression and the exhaust stroke and the pulley will read the same. I was hoping he would ENSURE that he was on the compression stroke. He did not respond to my post so I am not sure he truly understands the difference. Maybe he does but this mistake has been made by many. I surely have done it once back in my teens when I first started tinkering. He certainly may have other issues but I just have a feeling he needs to establish that he is truly at TDC, not BDC.
Absolutely! It is imperative that the timing is set is on the compression stroke. A previous post suggested placing a finger in the #1 plug hole and rotating the crank (in the right direction!!!) until pressure could be felt, thereby confirming the compression stroke on cylinder 1, then bringing the pulley to rest on 'P'. Also made this 'uninformed' mistake as a kid, LOL
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post #15 of 16 (permalink) Old 07-08-2019, 03:47 PM Thread Starter
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Hello to all who responded,
Just wanted to let you know that the electronic distributor would not work.
Went back to the Marelli, set the timing and the car is running.
Still have a few kinks to work out.

Thanks to all,
Carl
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