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Discussion Starter #1
Hi, Everyone,

I have a 1982 spider.

I was driving home the other night, and steam started coming through the dash, then up through the hood. I pulled over and took the first exit. As I got to the end of the exit ramp, the car died. I had the car towed home.

A closer look shows that the fan basically exploded. One blade is broken off at the base, another is completely missing with a chunk of the fan rim as well. There is a big gouge in the shroud, but I don't see any other damage.

I assume that pieces of fan punctured holes somewhere in the cooling system -- radiator, hoses, etc., hence the steam. I'm not sure the best way to check this. Should I remove the hoses and inspect them first? Then remove the radiator and take it in for pressure testing? Is there a right order to trouble shoot this? Can I just put more coolant in and try to see where the leak is? Or will it only leak when the car is running?

That brings me to my real worry -- the car still won't start. The engine turns over, but never catches. I was afraid I had seized it up, but thankfully that is not the case. Any ideas of what might have happened? My dad thought maybe the timing got messed up somehow. Does that make sense?

The final thing I noticed is that the exhaust manifold is now bright orange. I don't think it was bright orange before. Is that from overheating? Rust from the steam? Any ideas?

Thanks very much for any help or insight.

Tom
 

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Maybe some fan shrapnel hit in the area of the distributor or coil? Check for loose/cut wires. That's my best guess right now.
 

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Tom,
This is a common failure. The nylon fans blow up from age, or with sagging engine mounts, when it hits the shroud. You may have, cut upper or lower hose or both as well as a hole in the radiator. If it didn't dent the hood from the inside out, you were lucky. Any idea how far you drove it after the fan let go? Was any coolant left? With a lot of steam, you may have simply drowned your ignition or injection. On the other hand, if it got really hot, the head may be warped and you have low compression due to failed gaskets. You need an Alfa mechanic unless you are good at this stuff yourself. First a leak down test. If thats ok, an ignition and injection electrical check. Then probably new engine mounts, a fan and water pump, new hoses and radiator repair. If the head is warped, well... don't think about that yet. Gordon Raymond
 

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Discussion Starter #4
Gordon,

Thanks for the advice. To answer your questions:

I was on the highway, and it took a little while for me to figure out what was happening and pull over -- so probably about 5 miles after the fan blew.

No dents in the hood, so that's good. I had the motor mounts replaced about eight months ago, so they're probably ok.

There is still some coolant in the reservoir.

I'll call my mechanic in the morning.
 

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I think I'd start by removing distributer cap and wiping out any moisture you find, as Gordon says. Also make sure you don't have pools of coolant around spark plugs. Now make sure nothing around your fan is going to crash again. Try to start it. If it fires, don't run it for long. If it doesn't, start looking for shrapnel damage to wiring, like Dean says.
Let us know what you find!
 

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Tom,
Be positive! You may have lucked out! (I never do!) The leak down test is #1. With new mounts, the fan let go due to age. Figure 5 years or 50,000 miles is time for a new fan.
Keep us informed.
Gordon Raymond
 

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I think you'll be ok... You probably had some amount of engine cooling if you're running down the highway. Moisture in the dizzy sounds about right. Pull one of the plug wires and see if you are getting spark. My bet is not much.

I had a "similar" experience when I powerwashed the engine bay and shorted out the electronic ignition module. I actually was getting spark but it turned out to be insufficient to fire. I replaced the dizzy with a spare and was back.
 

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Discussion Starter #9
No real progress, but I'm working on it. I took off the distributor cap and didn't really see any moisture. There was some greenish corrosion on the four things -- I don't know what they're called -- that the rotor arm touches. I tried cleaning them off with a pencil eraser. They looked better, and I hoped that would solve my problem. No such luck. Maybe I need to clean them better with something else. Steel wool? Sandpaper?

I did notice a small pool around the front spark plug -- mostly coolant and probably some oil that spilled when I was adding earlier in the day that this all happened. I cleaned out the puddle with some q-tips, soaking up the water and wiping down the area around the spark plug. I also noticed that it was wet inside that spark plug wire. I dried it out as well. Still won't start.

gprocket, you suggest pulling the spark plug wire and seeing whether I get a spark -- is that a two person job? I assume you mean pull the wire, turn the ignition and look for a spark? I'm not sure that I can see anything if I'm in the driver's seat. Or did I misunderstand?

Looking at the fan, it's actually still on there pretty good despite the two missing blades. I ordered a new one nonetheless, and I'll swap that out and continue to work on the non-starting issue. Gordon, you mention an ignition and electrical check. Can you point me to a good step-by-step resource for that? Is there a thread that covers those checks?

Thanks for all your help guys. I'm excited about this; it's a puzzle at the moment, but I'm confident that I can get it up and running again.
 

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No real progress, but I'm working on it. I took off the distributor cap and didn't really see any moisture. There was some greenish corrosion on the four things -- I don't know what they're called -- that the rotor arm touches. I tried cleaning them off with a pencil eraser. They looked better, and I hoped that would solve my problem. No such luck. Maybe I need to clean them better with something else. Steel wool? Sandpaper?

I did notice a small pool around the front spark plug -- mostly coolant and probably some oil that spilled when I was adding earlier in the day that this all happened. I cleaned out the puddle with some q-tips, soaking up the water and wiping down the area around the spark plug. I also noticed that it was wet inside that spark plug wire. I dried it out as well. Still won't start.

gprocket, you suggest pulling the spark plug wire and seeing whether I get a spark -- is that a two person job? I assume you mean pull the wire, turn the ignition and look for a spark? I'm not sure that I can see anything if I'm in the driver's seat. Or did I misunderstand?

Looking at the fan, it's actually still on there pretty good despite the two missing blades. I ordered a new one nonetheless, and I'll swap that out and continue to work on the non-starting issue. Gordon, you mention an ignition and electrical check. Can you point me to a good step-by-step resource for that? Is there a thread that covers those checks?

Thanks for all your help guys. I'm excited about this; it's a puzzle at the moment, but I'm confident that I can get it up and running again.
Yes, checking for spark is a 2 person job, one to try to start the car while another looks at the end of the plug wire within an inch to ground-looking for "spark". You have a bad hose, no doubt about that, you may have blown a gasket on your thermostat to cause that steam, but more than likely your upper or lower radiator hose took a hit from the fan separating. If you have spark, try giving a 3 second shot of starting fluid into the throttle body, this will eliminate a short or blown circuit in the fuel part of your engine, high humidity CAN cause a short and blow a fuse, be sure to check there as well (your fuse box).
 

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Discussion Starter #11
Ok, lots of sleuthing, but no solution yet.

I had a friend come over and help.

We have spark. We checked at least two spark plugs, and both were working. We have fuel pressure at the fuel rail -- 50PSI at first, then 100 PSI after a bit. We have air. Curt put his hand over the air intake and could feel it being sucked in. We sprayed starter fluid into the air intake and still couldn't get combustion. We checked fuses. We looked high and low (three sets of eyes) for anything that might be loose or damaged or broken -- electrical or otherwise. We checked the distributor, and it is turning.

I've ordered a replacement fan. The odd thing though, is that despite the missing blades, the rest of the fan seems to be intact, so it doesn't look like it really exploded the way that I thought it had.

Looks like I'm going to have to tow it into the shop.
 

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How are you checking spark exactly? Have you removed the plugs? I've never heard of, till, now, starting fluid and spark not making fire...I'm very curious to what you find out!
 

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Have you removed the spark plugs, cleaned and regapped? Once that is done an old trick is to put the spark plug wire boots loosely on the spark plugs, sometimes it helps with an initial firing. BTW have you checked to make sure the waterpump isn't bad? A loose waterpump can cause the fan to hit the radiator in the manner you described.
 

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Discussion Starter #15
How are you checking spark exactly? Have you removed the plugs? I've never heard of, till, now, starting fluid and spark not making fire...I'm very curious to what you find out!
My friend has a tester -- it looks like a spark plug, with a wire to ground and at bell shaped shield where you can see the spark.

We did not remove the plugs. Maybe that should be the next step. As for the starting fluid, we sprayed it into the the air intake hose which we had disconnected at the accordion folds after the air flow meter. Is that not the right place?
 

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Discussion Starter #16
Have you removed the spark plugs, cleaned and regapped? Once that is done an old trick is to put the spark plug wire boots loosely on the spark plugs, sometimes it helps with an initial firing. BTW have you checked to make sure the waterpump isn't bad? A loose waterpump can cause the fan to hit the radiator in the manner you described.
We did not remove and clean the spark plugs - -I'll try that tomorrow. And I'll try the loose plug boots as well.

We checked the waterpump, and it seems ok. There's no forward/backward play in the fan, so I think the pump bearings are ok.

Thanks for your suggestions.
 

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My friend has a tester -- it looks like a spark plug, with a wire to ground and at bell shaped shield where you can see the spark.

We did not remove the plugs. Maybe that should be the next step. As for the starting fluid, we sprayed it into the the air intake hose which we had disconnected at the accordion folds after the air flow meter. Is that not the right place?
I believe what you may find in checking your plugs is lack of center electrodes. Car overheat? I believe you'll find spark is not getting to the plugs itself, wether corrosion or some other catastrophic occurence.
 
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