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Brand New to the Alfa World - and need help.

918 Views 7 Replies 6 Participants Last post by  Alfacliff
Hi Everyone,
I am brand new the the Alfa world.I picked up a 1979 Alfa Romeo Spider 2000 last week for really cheap. It has 67k miles and is in pretty good shape. I am hoping you guys can help me with some engine issues I am having. ANY help would be greatly appreciated. I will just go ahead and list the issues and you guys can comment, or suggest what I can do. THANKS!!!

1.) THe engine backfires when you let off the gas. It sounds like there is a hole somewhere in the exhaust, and I am getting a nasty smell from the tailpipe. I am guessing that the hole in the exhaust + possibly a bad Cat Converter is the culprit. IS the engine not getting enough back pressure???

2.) THe engine does not seem to be making full power. I hit the gas and there seems to be a lag, and then only about 60% power is getting out. Again, could this be an issue with the exhaust not making back pressure??? IT has newer plugs and wires (i havent checked the plugs yet).

3.) What is the canister-looking thing on the passenger side, front corner of the engine compartment? it has 2 large and 2 small hoses going to it. I took the hoses off and shook about a hand full of rust and crap out of it. I assume that is not normal. What is that thing? What does it do? Should I get a new one, if so, where do I get one?

4.) THe car smells like it is running rich. How can I correct this? Can you lean out a fuel injected car?

I really appreciate all your help. I really think this will be a fun car to drive, i just need to get it running better.

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Welcome to the BB!

The first thing you need to do is to get familiar with the SPICA mechanical fuel injection system. (All the symptoms you are describing point to this.) Go to the Ingram Enterprises web site ( and click on "SPICA Pump Rebuilds". At the bottom of the page you will see a couple of guides written by John Stewart, who is also a member of this BB (I'm sure he will chime in on this thread and give you some great advice), which you can download. You should read through these, and you should also order the manual that Wes sells. Please do not, I repeat, do not try to skip any steps. There is no shortcut here - read through the manuals and then you'll be ready to start working on your car without damaging anything.

Furthermore, don't hesitate to use the search function, since there are many threads covering the SPICA.

Best regards,
Welcome Mike,

John also has a couple of stickeys on SPICA injection in the "carburettor & fuel injection" section of this web site. Might be the same as what's on Wes's sight, I don't know. The bad exhaust smell could be stale gas. How long had the car been sitting? Might also explain part of the power problem if it is stale. I always figure on replacing the fuel filters on any new-to-me Spica car with an unknown service history. Gas tank residue can clog up the rear filter prematurely, as well. Make sure you understand the operation of the fuel pressure light (read John's stickey). Don't bother replacing anything else until you have verified that it works.



Welcome to the forum. I to have a 79 Spider and have been working to bring it back to like. I have been rewarded by seemingly enless help from the knowledgeable alfisti on this site. From what I have learned.

1. Buy Wes Ingrams book on the spica system (if you have Spica) and read it cover to cover. It is not long and is an interesting read. When you are done, read it again.

2. Follow all of the steps in order completly. You will have many headaches if you choose to jump around.

2. As the car is new to you I would recommend you go over the fuel delivery system completely before making any adjustments.

Take your time, one mistake will cause you to pull your hair out for hours.
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the canaster is the oil vapor seperator. if it is plugged up, lots of strange things happen. if your getting an oil leak across the bottom of the engine near the bottom, check the small tube that runs from the seperator to the dipstick tube. it was cracked on my 74 and caused most of my oil leaks.
Hi Mike,

welcome to the world of Alfas ! with the car all working right, you will be in driving heaven. they are true classic driving machines that entail complete driver involvement, unlike those modern overweight, numb feeling things they pass off as "sports cars" these days.

the Spica FI settings are likely to be causing the backfiring. follow everyone's advice, and find how to adjust it properly.

if the car smells like it is running rich, i hope the cat is not burned out as well. it could be a possibility if its been running rich for too long.

with the FI out of tune, you should also check the ignition system. make sure the plugs are OK, check the condition of the points and the gap, and check the timing. it wouldn't be a bad idea to eventually replace the points with a modern electronic system for reliability and less maintainance.

get the car up on a lift or jack stands, and check for exhaust leaks. besides being noisy, the fumes are unhealthy and can make you sleepy while driving.

the notion of an engine needing a "certain level of back pressure" is widely misunderstood. an engine doesn't like any restriction in its exhaust flow. what it does like, is the various pipe lengths and diameters tuned to control gas velocity and pressure pulse timing to work in harmony with the way the rest of the engine is tuned. if someone put a custom exhaust that is too large on your otherwise stock engine, then the exhaust gas velocity could be too slow and the pulse tuning likely altered to work at a higher RPM than the rest of your engine wants to operate best at.

after you have the engine sorted, the age of your car indicates to me that you should also check over the rubber suspension bushings, especially in the rear. this will have a direct bearing on the safety, stability, and fun of the car.

above all, don't think of working on the car as a chore, but rather a hobby. take your time and have fun - fixing it, then driving it :D
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Thanks Guys. I am going to get under it tonight and see what needs to be done with the exhaust. I am also going to check the plugs, wires, vacuum hoses, and the distributor - just so I get familiarized with the engine a little.

AlfaCliff - you mentioned the oil vapor seperator. Are there internal parts to that canister, or is it just a hollow cavity inside? I shook all the crap out of it and reattached the hoses. Do I need to do anything else with that?

Also, If I do need to replace the exhaust (which I am 99% sure I will), can anyone recommend anyone in the Cleveland area that can tackle this for me?
there is stuff inside that slows down vapors and condenses them so they can return to the oil sump. a good spraying of carb cleaner or soak overnite in solvent is usually enough.
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