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Good write up on condensers/capacitors....Why point systems have a condenser (called a capacitor in any other electrical system). The condenser slows down the reaction time of the coil to allow the points time to open and break the circuit. Without a condenser you will likely never break the primary current and get no spark from the secondary.

Having a condenser that is too large will completely prevent arcing across the points but will also slow the coil so much that it is unable to strike an arc on the secondary.

The trick is to find a condenser that gives a happy medium between the arc at the points and the arc at the spark plug.

A smaller condenser means more power from the coil but shorter point life due to pitting. A larger condenser will give you longer point life but sacrifice coil output.

One trick to make a high performance points system is to wire two condensers together in series. This effectively gives you one condenser with half the value.
 

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I've oft wondered why Alfa didn't put a mark on the pump pulley corresponding to the crank at TDC rather than the "I" mark. It seems unnecessarily complicated...
I'm sure it made perfect sense to some Alfa engineer.
Speaking as an engineer I would prefer to blame the purchasing department...
 

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...Without a condenser you will likely never break the primary current and get no spark from the secondary...
I can say with first hand experience that, at least with an Alfa Spider, it will run just fine with no condenser right up to the point where it stops running. Exactly how long that is I can't say but my best guess is probably around an hour or so. I know this because I had two brand new condensers fail in the exact same way over a period of two years. The failure was that the connecting wire came completely detached from the canister. On the second instance I was wise to the fact and was able to clean the point faces on the roadside by simply running a small piece of 1000 grit sandpaper between them. This was enough to get the car started and drive it home with no apparent detriments to performance.

It was because of those two back to back failures of identical new off the shelf components that I lost faith in the aftermarket parts supply and decided to install a Pertronix electronic trigger - which has been working fine for about four years now.
 

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Discussion Starter #89
As of now:

I got the timing adjusted as per John's instructions. The pictures below show where everything sits.


I also adjusted the bellcrank stop screws with the tool he lent me, thanks again (it will be mailed out tomorrow at lunch).

I cleaned up the points and replaced the condensers, one set of points was pretty burnt up. I think I am going to order the PerTronix. Gapped them and got all that back in.

I then set my dummy TA to a warm temp of 29mm and started the SPICA tuneup. 0.19 gap is good. Long rod and short rod good. Butterflies are synchronized and you can just pull a .002 gauge through at closed position with minor drag. That is where I ran out of time so I quickly pulled out my dummy TA and set it to 24mm to make it a cold start. Cranked the car and it tried so hard to start. Moved the distributor trying to find the sweet spot. Tried like hell to catch but she just couldn't! Even with the CSS and FCS not adjusted, shouldn't she be catching at least a little? I sprayed starter into it and that made no difference.

Bad news.... last year I tested compression and it was ok for a cold motor that had sat. For the hell of it I tested it again today. Throttle down, cylinders from 1 to 4 are as follows... 75, 65,75,90 psi. Now that is pretty low. The motor is obviously cold and hasnt run in almost 2 decades so I expect it to be Valve job? Piston rings?
 

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Ah, hmmmmm. Those compression numbers are impressively low.

When you were trying to start the car, was the engine kicking back? If so, it was too far advanced. So retard the timing.

If not, continue to advance.
 

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Those are low numbers and frankly it does make sense given everything else that you've done. But, how did you perform the test? It should be done with the throttle wide open and all plugs out (pull the fuse to fuel pump too). Repeat the test at second time after squirting some engine oil into each cylinder. If the numbers go up significantly you likely have bad rings. Otherwise I would guess a head gasket.

Good luck.
 

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Discussion Starter #92
Those are low numbers and frankly it does make sense given everything else that you've done. But, how did you perform the test? It should be done with the throttle wide open and all plugs out (pull the fuse to fuel pump too). Repeat the test at second time after squirting some engine oil into each cylinder. If the numbers go up significantly you likely have bad rings. Otherwise I would guess a head gasket.

Good luck.
Don't think it could be valves? I did the test with my gramp cranking and his foot on full throttle and i held a compression tester in each cylinder one at a time, all spark plugs were out, but the fuel pump fuse was not pulled.
 

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Double check your firing order. 1-3-4-2 going clockwise around the distributor.

A few years ago, I spent several hours on the phone with a guy having the same sort of trouble. He swore to me several times that the firing order was correct. He finally came out after dinner and looked at the engine and realized the firing order was indeed . . . incorrect. I got a "I'm a dumbass" call from him shortly afterwards.

If you're not getting a start with starting fluid, it's ignition. The compression numbers are low, but good enough to start I would think.

How far out-of-spec were your relay crank stop screws?
 

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Discussion Starter #94
Ah, hmmmmm. Those compression numbers are impressively low.

When you were trying to start the car, was the engine kicking back? If so, it was too far advanced. So retard the timing.

If not, continue to advance.
Not to sound too stupid, but what do you mean by kicking back? If by that you mean when it'd catch the belts would stop and try to reverse a bit, no.
 

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Discussion Starter #96
When I say it tried starting, it did catch a couple times for just a second. A little exhaust smoke and the engine spun but it would die right off. Almost as if it ran out of fuel. I still haven't tracked down a new fuel pressure switch but I do have a pressure gauge in line between the main filter and spica inlet and the pressure is actually high, at around 20.
 

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Discussion Starter #97 (Edited)
If you're not getting a start with starting fluid, it's ignition. The compression numbers are low, but good enough to start I would think. However, given that, you should remove the valve cover and verify that the cam timing is correct.

How far out-of-spec were your relay crank stop screws?
I can post pics to show you my cams. When the crank was on "P" the cams were both lined up very well. Is that proper position?

My idle stop screw was wayyyy off. I fixed that thanks to you. The throttle stop was actually perfectly in place. My guess is never touched and the PO or a mechanic at some point was fiddling with it to tune it.
 

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Discussion Starter #99
At this point I am about to buy a new coil, better spark plugs, the electronic ignition and a set of lead wires. Because I can't think of what else it'd be. Battery is charged to 100%. Fuel pump is new and pumping great.
 

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Hows the sparking at plugs with plugs against head?..... have you tried reducing plug gap a fraction to ensure you get spark as system is weak it seems.... and maybe flooding a bit too ..... try experimenting with this plugs.

Is coil wired the right way?? Have you put radiator back in? Check water in oil or oil in water. Does exhaust smell of unburnt fuel...?

Compression could be low if carbon has deposited between valve and valve seats too. How do valve/cam gaps look?? If they are bigger than last check.. that's an indication.. Don't adjust them on a whim though...as this will clear when you get her up and running and to decent revs to burning it off...

Have you sprayed starter fluid into intake with throttle wide open to get it all in there ????

Pushing back during cranking is from sparking too far before piston has had a chance to get to top on compression stroke. But if you're not getting a spark you won't know your putting timing out.. stick to the static timing marks to be sure.....

..
 
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