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Discussion Starter #1
1974 Spider w/SPICA. 56,000 miles.

So this has gone on for over 2 years and 2,000$ of repairs.

My car backfires when I let off the gas. Worse in a low gear downhill.

My ****pit stinks of exhaust.

My plugs are always black and filthy - had SPICA rebuilt & tuned 1000 miles ago, also had valves ground and reset, distributor replaced, valve shims adjusted, plugs replaced, timing adjusted. A thousand miles later and plugs are black as sin and car running rough.

Greyish blue smoke clouds blow out my tailpipe when I hit accelerator - does it real nice going uphill flooring it in 2nd or 3rd - also if I have it floored in 2nd or 3rd and I let off gas pedal - esp heading downhill - BANG! goes backfire, and cloud comes out.

My tailpipe is right next to my white garage door. That door is now covered in a black smear of nasty, oily gunk. This stain is a greyish black, but it also has distinct spots of dark black, about the size of a pencil lead. So its like a dark stain with splatters of black goo. Garage door is about 2 feet from tailpipe.

Cold start runs very rough. And sort of goes up and down, like gas pedal is being gently tweaked over and over. Wont settle on a steady RPM. Goes from 1500 to about 800. Once it is warmed up this stops, but when started it takes either 2 miles or so or 5 minutes to stop and level out.

Help?
Gileas:mad:
 

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The back fire and black smear is due to too rich mixture or wrongly ajusted ignition. Mine did the same when ignition points gab were to tight. You might have at to strong coil which burns the points quickly.
Grey/blue smoke is oil burning. Smoke going uphill with fully open acceleratior will be worn pistons/cylinder walls, smoke going downhill with closed accelerator is worn or bad seals valve stems/guides - if smoke is grey/blue. If black it's the mixture.
Erik
 

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It sounds like your lower piston rings need to be replaced. Hopefully your pistons and cylinders are okay, and it is just the rings. When the rings wear out you can get oil leaking into the combustion chamber and then it gets expelled into the exhaust on the fourth stroke of the engine. This is likely what is causing the black/blue smoke coming from your tailpipe.

Worn piston rings can also cause incomplete combustion, at which point the unburned air/fuel mixture exits the combustion chamber and ignites when it hits the hot manifold. Boom! Backfire. This could also be your engine running too rich.

One way to diagnose your piston rings is to check the compression in each cylinder. You can get a compression gauge at your local auto shop and do this yourself. You can find the nominal pressure value from your manual, or you can calculate it if you know the compression ratio of the cylinders.

PV=Constant...assuming constant temperature
Therefore, if your compression ratio = Cr
Nominal pressure=atmospheric pressure*Cr

So when you go to read the pressure in each cylinder you will hopefully get the nominal pressure value. If it is significantly less than this, then you know you have a problem with your engine and not your carb.
 

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Sounds like your engine is in poor condition and that your Spica system is out-of-tune. Do a compression check to determine where the failures might be in the cylinders.
 

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Discussion Starter #5
passed compression check on all cylinders

I had a compression check done last week. All cylinders were in the 'okay' range, I think that he said they were around 130-150? He said they could be better, optimal was something like 175 but that there was nothing so alarming as to cause any need for fixing whatever it is a compression check is supposed to tell you to fix.
Jim
 

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I wouldn't blame rings or valves just yet.
Your symptoms describe a Spica system that is out of adjustment. Probably WAY out of adjustment or something's stuck/broken causing a very rich mixture. With an excessively rich mixture, gas will enter the crankcase and can dilute the oil to the point that it's so thin that the oil rings/valve guide seals can't stop the oil from entering the combustion chamber and burning.
Can you smell gas on the dipstick?
 

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After that, go sniff your atmospheric compensator! Ha!!!
 

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I've heard that a lot can be learned by tasting the engine oil, which of course would be "licking the dipstick".
 

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I had the same problem and it was all in the SPICA. Who "re-built and tuned" it?. I got a re-built unit from Wes Ingram (the gold standard IMHO), along with a re-built TA, purchased his book and followed the procedure. Now my main problem is waiting for the **** weather to warm up so I can drive it again.
 

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Discussion Starter #11
Funny, I have been talking about exactly that - ordering a Wes rebuilt / like new SPICA and TA, he tunes it all and I just install it. John at Alfa Center did the SPICA work, and generally they have a good rep. He did it on the side, however, using a SPICA he had at his house, so I cannot exactly go into his dads shop and demand satisfaction. So I think Im going to have to balance these things out - I wish I could determine before committing myself if it is SPICA or the rings and valve seats etc.
Jim
 

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.. I wish I could determine before committing myself if it is SPICA or the rings and valve seats etc.
Jim
Regardless of the condition of your engine, your SPICA is out-of-tune. It's not that it is one or the other. Your SPICA definitely needs to be looked at, but you may also have other more serious issues with the engine components... Have you read the SPICA Guide for diagnosing problems? (The one on Wes Ingram's web site that "Roadtrip" wrote?)

Best regards,
 

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Discussion Starter #13
Wes sent me his SPICA manual - the binder one with diagnostic flow charts, repair directions, etc. It just blows my mind how bad my luck has been in the sense of the SPICA problems. I have had a rebuilt TA installed. I have had it adjusted by Alropacar in Oakland, Monza Motors in SF, Alfa Center in SF. I have replaced the "pump" half of the SPICA itself (the logic half was okay according to Alfa Center). After all that - and we are talking about a period of about 4 years and perhaps 2,000 miles maximum - and multiple visits to these shops, it seems after about 3 months or 250 miles the 'adjustments' break down and Im back with a rough idle, black fouled plugs, intermitent periods of experiencing what feels like gas cutting in and out on its way to the combustion chamber, as it would feel if you kept slamming the accelerator to the floor and then taking your foot off every 5 seconds or so. What blows my mind is that Alfa Center and Monza Motors are both reccomended by Alfa owners, and both worked on the SPICA, even replacing the TA and the pump part of the SPICA system and I *still* have what people are saying is SPICA issues. I wonder - seriously - if I get a totally rebuilt and perfectly adjusted SPICA from Wes Ingram installed if it will follow this trend. This is also why I wonder if it couldn't possibly be something else? With about $1500 spent on the SPICA alone so far I think it should be stable. As I said, I think I am going to just bite the bullet and order one from Wes.
Jim
PS: Thank you so much, friends for this help. PLEASE keep trying to think of things, or reccomending shops in the Bay Area (Rogers in Oakland is my next target) I really want to have an Alfa which I can feel confident taking to Sonoma or Napa - about a 100 mile round trip, something I would never do now.
 

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I have had intermittent surging when I had accidentally pulled a plug wire out of the distributor part way. It fouled #3 only as that was the wire slightly dislocated. Seemed to kick in now and then. Are all your plugs fouled? If so, ignition? Best luck, Bruce
 

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spica trouble

Try Lyn Barber at Karden automotive in Walnut Creek.
Good Luck! You could always do a Weber!
Arthur
 

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Hi gileas,

Sorry to hear of your SPICA problems. While a good SPICA system can be trouble free, problems like yours can be really frustrating and perpetuate the myth of SPICA unreliability.

Your description is of an overly rich condition. It appears that you have most or all of the service done commercially, but you might want to try some things on your own before giving up and buying a new pump.

It's always best to complete every step in correct sequence for a SPICA tune up, but in this case it may be worthwhile to go directly to the Cold Start Solenoid. If this is stuck, you can have a continued rich condition if the solenoid does not retract after the starter is disengaged. Wes covers this topic in his manual, and it's fairly easy to check. You might consider looking at this before throwing any more money at the car. If you determine the solenoid is OK, then it's time to work through all of the set-up from the beginning. Sometimes areas of SPICA systems are mal-adjusted in an attempt to compensate for something else, and the entire adjustment sequence must be completed to get everything back in spec.

Also, do a search in the BB for SPICA problems and you may read something that pertains to your issues.


Wes sent me his SPICA manual - the binder one with diagnostic flow charts, repair directions, etc. It just blows my mind how bad my luck has been in the sense of the SPICA problems. I have had a rebuilt TA installed. I have had it adjusted by Alropacar in Oakland, Monza Motors in SF, Alfa Center in SF. I have replaced the "pump" half of the SPICA itself (the logic half was okay according to Alfa Center). After all that - and we are talking about a period of about 4 years and perhaps 2,000 miles maximum - and multiple visits to these shops, it seems after about 3 months or 250 miles the 'adjustments' break down and Im back with a rough idle, black fouled plugs, intermitent periods of experiencing what feels like gas cutting in and out on its way to the combustion chamber, as it would feel if you kept slamming the accelerator to the floor and then taking your foot off every 5 seconds or so. What blows my mind is that Alfa Center and Monza Motors are both reccomended by Alfa owners, and both worked on the SPICA, even replacing the TA and the pump part of the SPICA system and I *still* have what people are saying is SPICA issues. I wonder - seriously - if I get a totally rebuilt and perfectly adjusted SPICA from Wes Ingram installed if it will follow this trend. This is also why I wonder if it couldn't possibly be something else? With about $1500 spent on the SPICA alone so far I think it should be stable. As I said, I think I am going to just bite the bullet and order one from Wes.
Jim
PS: Thank you so much, friends for this help. PLEASE keep trying to think of things, or reccomending shops in the Bay Area (Rogers in Oakland is my next target) I really want to have an Alfa which I can feel confident taking to Sonoma or Napa - about a 100 mile round trip, something I would never do now.
 

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Discussion Starter #17
Anfanuts, yes all the plugs get black and nasty. I do not understand your next statement "if so, ignition?"

What about the ignition? I am not very car savvy, but I know it is the stock ignition. Plugs, points, rotor - right? They were all replaced at Alfa Center and a new distributor. I also had a coil installed before that.

George, yes, I had the cold start solonoid replaced as well. It seemed natural enough (rough idle at startup) for me to ask about, and it was replaced and I was told at that time that it "should take care of the rough idle problem". It didnt.

I am not a do-it-yourself car guy. I can add gas and oil, change a tire. I have no idea how to time a car, or anything beyond gas etc. and taking it to a mechanic. This is why I keep trying to find a mechanic who will fix the problem. And its not like I take it in one time (except Monza Motors) and if it doesnt take care of things I go elsewhere. I have been to Alropacar about 10 times, Alfa Center 5 times. I wish they could figure out what the heck.
Do not get me wrong, the car runs like a demon, but the blue / grey smoke is a bummer - I feel like a jerk with a cloud of toxins pouring out of my car, people actually pull up next to me and tell me occasionally, "you might want to get that looked at" I hear a few times a year. The weird jerking thing only happens rarely - summer days when it is hot. So its a rough idle, clouds of toxins and rare herky - jerky. I suppose I could go on driving it until something blows, it may cost less than taking it to the shop and getting charged about $300 - $400 each time, each time it is something else (the TA, the cold start solonoid, the SPICA pump, the timing, the distributor, the fuel filters, fuel pump, valves (valve job was done). But it still has the same problem. I paid $5,000. for the car and have spent about $4,000 in repairs that didnt repair what I want repaired! Sorry if it sounds like I am whining, I am trying to address the suggested causes that everyone is helping with. I really do appreciate the help.
Jim
 

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gileas,

Here are my thought (others may suggest something different):

1. You have to determine if the pump is functioning properly, and the way to that is by executing the tuning sequence in Wes's manual. You can challenge the repair shop to do this, but might be rebuffed. As an alternative, are you an AROC member? There might be a member nearby that has some SPICA experience and might lead or assist you through the process.

2. If the pump (and car) don't respond to a correctly administered SPICA tune, an option is to buy a rebuilt pump from Wes (assuming the need isn't something simple like a thermostatic actuator [which you already replaced]). Once you get a rebuilt pump, the challenge is the same as above; getting someone who will correctly tune per the manual and sequence. You mentioned the mechanic who replaced part of the pump in his off time. Maybe cultivate a relationship with him, and see if you trust his doing the tuning sequence. And... get to watch the process to learn something.

Troubleshooting is difficult with a commercial establishment; you want the thing fixed but, unless you are really confident with the shop, it's dangerous to give a "carte blanche" repair order that might seriously dent your pocketbook. This is pretty anal, but maybe you could set up a sequencial repair order for each tuning step, and have a billing or consultation after each step.


Anfanuts, yes all the plugs get black and nasty. I do not understand your next statement "if so, ignition?"

What about the ignition? I am not very car savvy, but I know it is the stock ignition. Plugs, points, rotor - right? They were all replaced at Alfa Center and a new distributor. I also had a coil installed before that.

George, yes, I had the cold start solonoid replaced as well. It seemed natural enough (rough idle at startup) for me to ask about, and it was replaced and I was told at that time that it "should take care of the rough idle problem". It didnt.

I am not a do-it-yourself car guy. I can add gas and oil, change a tire. I have no idea how to time a car, or anything beyond gas etc. and taking it to a mechanic. This is why I keep trying to find a mechanic who will fix the problem. And its not like I take it in one time (except Monza Motors) and if it doesnt take care of things I go elsewhere. I have been to Alropacar about 10 times, Alfa Center 5 times. I wish they could figure out what the heck.
Do not get me wrong, the car runs like a demon, but the blue / grey smoke is a bummer - I feel like a jerk with a cloud of toxins pouring out of my car, people actually pull up next to me and tell me occasionally, "you might want to get that looked at" I hear a few times a year. The weird jerking thing only happens rarely - summer days when it is hot. So its a rough idle, clouds of toxins and rare herky - jerky. I suppose I could go on driving it until something blows, it may cost less than taking it to the shop and getting charged about $300 - $400 each time, each time it is something else (the TA, the cold start solonoid, the SPICA pump, the timing, the distributor, the fuel filters, fuel pump, valves (valve job was done). But it still has the same problem. I paid $5,000. for the car and have spent about $4,000 in repairs that didnt repair what I want repaired! Sorry if it sounds like I am whining, I am trying to address the suggested causes that everyone is helping with. I really do appreciate the help.
Jim
 

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I agree conedriver's advice 100%.

In addition to using the SPICA manual that you got from Wes, I would also urge you to download (it's free) and read the "Fuel Supply Diagnostics Guide". You will be surprised at how much you will learn from this short Guide and it will help you enormously in evaluating who you decide to commission work to, and if their answers make any sense or not. Unfortunately, the SPICA injection was a mystery for many years, and although this no longer has to be the case, there are many who have never updated their knowledge. Furthermore, many owners who were not particularly mechanically inclined have, with that Guide and the help from this Board, successfully tackled their SPICA problems. Compared to what you've already gone through, and especially when looking at the expense, you may find that is may actually become a satisfying and most cost effective path.

The other two Guides are also good to download and read: "Roadside Diagnostics Guide" and "Replacing and Adjusting the Thermostatic Actuator".

Best regards,
 

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Discussion Starter #20
my garage door - 24" from my tailpipe

This is what my white garage door looks like from warming up my Alfa 24" from the door. I think that this is also from a too rich tune of my SPICA - and this would agree with the general consensus of the people who have helped. I will have more information after this weekend, I am going to have the SPICA looked at by someone who knows what they are doing. If I cannot get this right I am thinking of trading Wes Ingram this car - assuming he wants it - because I cannot find anyone local to fix it and I know he can. More on this to come.
Jim
 

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