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Hi guys, my 1988 S3 Spider does not want to start today 😭... I went for a test ride some weeks ago, when it was really cold, and it took some tries to start but finally did, although very rough, at the time I discovered that it was misfiring due to a bad distributor cap. Following advice from this forum, I installed a new one, and also new cables and spark plugs, just in case. I gave it a try today, since the weather was pretty nice and warm , 15C, but no luck, today it does not want to start. I have tried to switch back to the old cables, another set of plugs... nothing. Not sure if you can hear in the short video, but it bangs a few times when cranking, but it does not fire... I’m doubting myself on everything I’ve done, but I can’t find the root cause, ignition cables in wrong firing order? I have them connected as from pics below, do you have any ideas what can I check to identify the problem?

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First, check for spark. Lay coil wire from coil onto cam cover with less than 1/2 “ gap. Should have spark when cranking. If you have spark, consider fuel delivery
 

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Really hard to tell from what I saw and heard. Does this car have carbs? Don't see any injection
Firing order is 1,3, 4, 2.
Pull a plug wire and either use a screwdriver or maybe a spare plug and connect it to the wire you removed and crank over and watch for spark. If none, do the same for the main wire coming from the coil to the distributor. If none there, check voltage at the coil terminals.
If you do have spark at the main wire coming from the coil to the distributor but not from the distributor to the plug wires, could be a cap or rotor issue in the distributor.
If you do have spark at both places, then we look at fuel delivery
 
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Does this car have carbs?
yes he does:)
I can see the carb rubbers and choke cable quite clearly in his photo.........plus the battery under the hood means no injection.

you have the leads correctly numbered 1-3-4-2

however perhaps the engine has been opened before and the oil pump/distributor drive has been incorectly set up....? so your dizzy is 180° out?

...so check TDC first (OT in German):
timing mark on pulley aligned, #1 piston at TDC (this needs to be on the compression stroke, so feel with your finger if the piston is pushing your finger away from the spark plug hole as it rises..........or remove valve cover and check the front camshaft lobes are pointing out away from one another).........now look where the rotor is?

Is it pointing forward, about 3 oClock or is it pointing back, say at about 9 oClock?
wherever it is pointing that is spark lead no #1 (then follow thru with 3-4-2 to set leads)

but obviously no matter if dizzy is correct or 180° out, you still need spark at the spark plugs..........you have the tach "spark" signal as the rev counter is jumping as you crank the starter over.....but you still need the spark at the plugs.
you swopped the cap and leads, what about the rotor ("Verteilerfinger") ? Did you buy Bosch or some cheapo aftermarket cap?
 

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Discussion Starter #7
Really hard to tell from what I saw and heard. Does this car have carbs? Don't see any injection
Firing order is 1,3, 4, 2.
Pull a plug wire and either use a screwdriver or maybe a spare plug and connect it to the wire you removed and crank over and watch for spark. If none, do the same for the main wire coming from the coil to the distributor. If none there, check voltage at the coil terminals.
If you do have spark at the main wire coming from the coil to the distributor but not from the distributor to the plug wires, could be a cap or rotor issue in the distributor.
If you do have spark at both places, then we look at fuel delivery
Thanks @spiderserie4 good advice, I will check as you say to try to track the problem down!
 

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Discussion Starter #8
yes he does:)
I can see the carb rubbers and choke cable quite clearly in his photo.........plus the battery under the hood means no injection.

you have the leads correctly numbered 1-3-4-2

however perhaps the engine has been opened before and the oil pump/distributor drive has been incorectly set up....? so your dizzy is 180° out?

...so check TDC first (OT in German):
timing mark on pulley aligned, #1 piston at TDC (this needs to be on the compression stroke, so feel with your finger if the piston is pushing your finger away from the spark plug hole as it rises..........or remove valve cover and check the front camshaft lobes are pointing out away from one another).........now look where the rotor is?

Is it pointing forward, about 3 oClock or is it pointing back, say at about 9 oClock?
wherever it is pointing that is spark lead no #1 (then follow thru with 3-4-2 to set leads)

but obviously no matter if dizzy is correct or 180° out, you still need spark at the spark plugs..........you have the tach "spark" signal as the rev counter is jumping as you crank the starter over.....but you still need the spark at the plugs.
you swopped the cap and leads, what about the rotor ("Verteilerfinger") ? Did you buy Bosch or some cheapo aftermarket cap?
I forgot to mention, I did get a proper Bosch cap, but I did not change the rotor. Thanks again @spiderserie4 I will follow your advice, I hope I can diagnose and resolve this... before spring finally kicks in!
 

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Always replace distributor cap AND rotor together. Do that, and then see if she will start.
 

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Discussion Starter #10
Update!: thanks everyone for your comments and support, it was really helpful to have so many views and possibilities. Sorry if the video is a bit long, but I tried to recap the story. So, she finally started, well and alive. Still cold as heck, but she was running for some time. I believe that the fuel lines, fuel filter, etc needs to be cleaned/replaced, and carburetors adjusted properly, perhaps increase the idle a bit... but I would love to hear your opinion of the sound of the engine, does she sound alright to you?
 

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Discussion Starter #11
yes he does:)
I can see the carb rubbers and choke cable quite clearly in his photo.........plus the battery under the hood means no injection.

you have the leads correctly numbered 1-3-4-2

however perhaps the engine has been opened before and the oil pump/distributor drive has been incorectly set up....? so your dizzy is 180° out?

...so check TDC first (OT in German):
timing mark on pulley aligned, #1 piston at TDC (this needs to be on the compression stroke, so feel with your finger if the piston is pushing your finger away from the spark plug hole as it rises..........or remove valve cover and check the front camshaft lobes are pointing out away from one another).........now look where the rotor is?

Is it pointing forward, about 3 oClock or is it pointing back, say at about 9 oClock?
wherever it is pointing that is spark lead no #1 (then follow thru with 3-4-2 to set leads)

but obviously no matter if dizzy is correct or 180° out, you still need spark at the spark plugs..........you have the tach "spark" signal as the rev counter is jumping as you crank the starter over.....but you still need the spark at the plugs.
you swopped the cap and leads, what about the rotor ("Verteilerfinger") ? Did you buy Bosch or some cheapo aftermarket cap?
Once again, thanks a lot, I followed your advice, and after checking there was good sparks, I decided to give it a try and before opening the distributor cap again, I turned the cables 180 deg to see if they had installed it opposite in the past, and it worked, it started almost immediately, but really cold. I have uploaded a full video with my tests today, perhaps you want to take a look and let me know what you think? (Vielen Dank für Ihre Hilfe, Sie sind die Besten! (Ich benutze immer Englisch in diesem Forum, um mehr Leute zu haben, die helfen können ...)
 

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Wunderbar!!! :D :D But you know you were running on 3 cylinders there for a while. Maybe a dead or fouled plug, which might account for the spitback and low idle. I'm taking into account the starting technique with Webers, also. Are the new plug wires seated well into the cap? I would still get a new rotor, running or not.
Did the shop reset the ignition timing maybe?
 

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The injected cars are designed to idle close to 1000 RPM. Would not hurt to raise the idle speed a little.
 

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Discussion Starter #16
New update. I just checked if all cylinders were firing as I suspected a misfire, I checked first with a thermometer, then disconnecting the plug cables and clearly cylinders 1 & 2 are not firing!. I checked the cables, with another plug, and both leads 1&2 had good spark, so it is not an electrical problem. Since it’s those 2 first cylinders, I guess I can assume that it could be a fuel (carburetor) related issue, right? What other reasons could there be?
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It has to be a problem with the front carb. I do not know much about solexes but similar to Webers. Unless both main jets and idles are blocked which is very unlikely the only real cause must be no fuel getting to that carb. The most likely reason would be a sticking float valve so the float bowl not filling up. Try an Italian fix by giving the carb several good thwacks with the handle of a heavy screwdriver. Alternatively take the cover off the top and remove the main jets (they unscrew) and you should see the wet mark of where the fuel in the bowl reaches. If dry bingo.
It has to be VERY simple even a collapsed fuel pipe but this is unlikely as back carb OK and it feeds via the front one. Problems that occur without warning tend to be simple
 

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Another thing you can do is get it started on the rear 2 cylinders and then spray some solvent into the 1 and 2 intakes. (WD40 works well). If the engine picks up and runs OK for a couple of seconds you have your answer.
 

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Take a small mirror, look down into the chokes of the front carb, work the throttle and see if the accelerator pump is spraying fuel. If not, take off the float bowl cover and see if you have fuel in the bowl. The float could be hung up, or needle valve sticking in the seat. Most carbs have a small filter screen at the float bowl inlet, I'm not sure about those Solexes. Never worked with them myself.
I thought plugs 3 and 4 looked sooty, too, but then the motor probably hasn't been running well or clean I suppose. That would account for the soot on the electrodes.
 

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Discussion Starter #20
It has to be a problem with the front carb. I do not know much about solexes but similar to Webers. Unless both main jets and idles are blocked which is very unlikely the only real cause must be no fuel getting to that carb. The most likely reason would be a sticking float valve so the float bowl not filling up. Try an Italian fix by giving the carb several good thwacks with the handle of a heavy screwdriver. Alternatively take the cover off the top and remove the main jets (they unscrew) and you should see the wet mark of where the fuel in the bowl reaches. If dry bingo.
It has to be VERY simple even a collapsed fuel pipe but this is unlikely as back carb OK and it feeds via the front one. Problems that occur without warning tend to be simple
Thanks @Lear ! Yes, I’m hoping that the problem is with the front cart. I have read somewhere else about the “Italian fix” before, it’s worth trying before opening the carbs. I was planning to rebalance and adjust them in any case, and for sure to Change the fuel lines, as they seem super old, and not even clamped, if you see the pictures. However, I also thought the fuel line should not be THE problem in this case, as like you say the back carb feeds from the front one.
I will work on the carbs tomorrow and will report back. Wish me luck!
 
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