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1988 Spider Quadrifoglio
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Discussion Starter #1
Hello all,

I've been lurking here absorbing the vast amount of information for the past few months. I thought I should stop being rude and introduce myself.

I bought this car in the summer. It's a US market car that was shipped to Japan on purchase, where it stayed till 2008. It was then bought at auction and imported into Canada. It's been in British Columbia since. 40,000 miles on the odometer. The car is almost entirely rust free. There are just a couple spots above the belt line where water sat and caused trouble in the upper body. The gearbox shifts nicely, 2nd gear synchro seems healthy.

This summer I put on a new cheapo Ebay vinyl top myself. Boy was it tricky, and I didn't do such a great job, as you can see in the photos. At least it doesn't leak in the rain. It's only there for when it's parked, as I don't fit in the car properly with the top up anyways (tall torso). The intent is to keep this top on for a couple of years until I have a space where I can take the car apart and do a semi-restoration. At that point I'll have a nicer top put on.

I just cleaned and resealed the tank with the POR-15 kit (hopefully it holds up, that was tedious job) and replaced the fuel pumps, pump screen and filter. The old crumbling vacuum lines and fuel lines were all replaced, and there are new Standard-Auto brand fuel injectors. Various electrical things were dead or weak (power windows, power mirrors, some lights), but cleaning and lubricating things got everything working right. Speedometer was dead, odometer was not, so reading here that the calibration pot was usually the culprit. I replaced it, et voila! I now know how slow I'm going. Replaced the tachometer pot and bunch of bulbs while I was at it.

I replaced the U-joints and the gearbox mount and that fixed the driveshaft knocking-around issues at roll-off. Unfortunately ran out of time on the front half of the drive shaft. I still have to do the drive shaft carrier and the flex disc. The flex disc was replaced by the previous owner and looks OK, but I just don't trust it with the leaky gearbox right next to it spraying gear oil everywhere. Hopefully replacing the driveshaft carrier cures the drive-line vibration I have at ~ 40mph/65 km/h.

Also on the list are resealing the gearbox and engine (it marks its territory with much gusto), replacing some 33 year old goopy suspension bushings, new Koni red shocks, and some exhaust work.

AC components are all there, there seems to be pressure in the system based on the old "give the filler valve a quick poke" test, the compressor is not seized, but the drive belt is missing. Will have to put a new belt on to test it ... maybe the AC works? That'll be neat.

The previous owner had the head gasket replaced, the radiator re-cored and the brakes re-done, along with bunch of other little things.

The car idles and accelerates smoothly, but it does seem like it's slower than it should be. I'm not sure if there's a problem with the fuel injection/ignition system, or if that's just the way the car is. This is my first Alfa so I don't have much to compare it with.

I do have a small issue at cold and warm starts - the car fires up immediately without touching the accelerator, but idles very roughly for 5 seconds or so, then build up slowly to 800-900 rpm. The alternator light remains on. On a blip of the accelerator, everything settles, alternator light goes out. It will not do this when the car has just been shut down. On a hot start, the car settles at a smooth idle immediately and the alternator light goes out by itself. I think the alternator light issue is related to insufficient engine speed not allowing for excitation of the alternator. Or maybe the voltage regulator is degrading? The brushes on the unit look OK.

I know the Auxiliary air valve is not opening sufficiently. I'll be replacing it with a manual one as described on this BB. I did do a test where I started the car AAV bypassed. The car still had the initial stumbling idle, before the engine speed picked up. I've driven L-Jet cars in the past. They should start immediately and idle perfectly regardless of the temperature, if everything is in good order.

The above is AFTER I've discovered the following problems and fixed them:

  • Corroded chassis and engine grounds. All cleaned and reconnected with dielectric grease to protect them.
  • Very minor vacuum leaks from fine cracks in vacuum hoses. Replaced hoses.
  • Cold start injector was dead. Replaced with a very similar new injector from a BMW. The Alfa specific one was way too expensive (>$300), and the BMW one (<$100) was nearly identical. Works like a charm.
  • The VVT driver circuit was fried (a bad power transistor, corroded PCB traces). The VVT solenoid itself was fine. I took apart the plug and replaced the solenoid driver circuit board inside with a copy that I made. Works now. We'll see how long my amateur PCB making job lasts.
  • Throttle position switch was not working. Took it apart and cleaned it, put it back and adjusted it. Now working great.

I've also replaced the fuel pressure regulator. No change that I can detect. I checked the fuel pressure, and I don't think there's any problem there. There shouldn't be, the fuel delivery system is all new. I'm not sure I went through the process properly, I'll test it again.

Any ideas? I find this issue very annoying. Makes the car feel like a beater.

After that long winded post, here are some obligatory photos:

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While I cannot say for certain what the starting issue is based on the information you have provided regarding the work you have done, the alternator light is not unusual if the idle hasn't gotten up to speed. I would not worry about that.
AAV might make a difference. That is the only thing I see that you have not changed. Did you check the thermo-switch TTS that activated the cold start injector? Totally separate from the L-Jetronic. That could be causing you CSI not to fire properly.
If i was there, I am sure we could sort it out but i am a long way away.
I believe there are some knowledgeable Alfisti near you that are on this forum.
Keep us posted and as someone else here will mention(no names), we like the pictures. :)
 

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While I cannot say for certain what the starting issue is based on the information you have provided regarding the work you have done, the alternator light is not unusual if the idle hasn't gotten up to speed. I would not worry about that.
AAV might make a difference. That is the only thing I see that you have not changed. Did you check the thermo-switch TTS that activated the cold start injector? Totally separate from the L-Jetronic. That could be causing you CSI not to fire properly.
If i was there, I am sure we could sort it out but i am a long way away.
I believe there are some knowledgeable Alfisti near you that are on this forum.
Keep us posted and as someone else here will mention(no names), we like the pictures. :)
Forget to ask. Do you have the wiring diagram and the L-Jetronic trouble shooting guide?
 

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Welcome to the AlfaBB. Thanks for the photos! Your Spider looks great.

The car idles and accelerates smoothly, but it does seem like it's slower than it should be. I'm not sure if there's a problem with the fuel injection/ignition system, or if that's just the way the car is. This is my first Alfa so I don't have much to compare it with.
Hard to describe. I have an '84 Spider and an '81 GTV6. Both need to have the revs above ~ 3,000 rpm to have good acceleration but the Spider is more of a momentum car while the GTV6 is point & squirt. That's the difference between 120 HP & 160 HP.

I do have a small issue at cold and warm starts - the car fires up immediately without touching the accelerator, but idles very roughly for 5 seconds or so, then build up slowly to 800-900 rpm. The alternator light remains on. On a blip of the accelerator, everything settles, alternator light goes out.
The AAV is supposed to open up when cold to increase the air intake and thus the idle speed. They tend to fail partially open so neither help increase the cold idle or allow it to return to normal when warm. The AAV in our Spider is still functioning. Cold idle is 1300-1400 rpm and then returns to 900 rpm after a few minutes. The AAV in our GTV6 failed. (I have a bin of failed AAV's...) I replaced it with a manual valve. It is self-closing (you have to close it yourself).

The alternator light not immediately going out sounds normal. If a volt meter connected to the battery shows that the alternator is properly charging once the light goes out I'd not worry about it.
 

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1988 Spider Quadrifoglio
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Discussion Starter #5
I have the factory wiring diagram (shop manual). I've gone through the L-jet troubleshooting guide. I think I will repeat a check of all the sensors, but this time at the control unit connector, just to make sure there's no marginal wiring.

Do you know how I can get a copy of the Papajam wiring diagrams I keep reading about?
 

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1988 Spider Quadrifoglio
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Discussion Starter #7
Another question: Has anyone mounted a manual AAV on their late S3? If so, where did you mount the "choke" knob so it's not an eyesore?
 

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1988 Spider Quadrifoglio
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Discussion Starter #9
Nice looking Quad! Have you checked the spark plugs and wires?

Dave
Thanks! It looks better at a slight distance.

Yes, there are new NGK plugs in the head, and the plug wires seem fine to me. The car runs fine after initial start-up.
 

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just curious: what is that little red button near the 3 centre vents?

back to topic:
perhaps check the Temperature sensors?....they give the information to the computor(s)
the L-jet guide list the parameters (ohms), although it only lists 1 CTS but your MY might have 2, like here:

temp sensors 2.jpg
temp sensors.jpg

one BB member tested them out the car:
"I just tested my CTS's and they both seem to be in spec. 10k ohms right out of the freezer, 3k at room temp and 500 ohms in very hot water"

you say it feels underpowered:
what is the spec of those aftermarket injectors you put in?
(original Bosch 0-280-150-128 for jetronic spiders are low Impedance; flow is 15.9 lbs/hr and 167 cc/min)

have you done a compression test, just to make sure all cyls are ok?
(hot engine, all plugs out, throttle held to the floor)

Cat ok?
 

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1988 Spider Quadrifoglio
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Discussion Starter #11
The injectors are Standard Intermotor, part number FJ707. I have no idea about their flow rate, but they're supposed to be drop-ins for the Bosch units. They don't publish the specs and I don't have a means of testing their flow rate accurately.

They are definitely low impedance. I don't think the L-jetronic controller would work with high impedance injectors? The Standard FJ707 are supposed to be a drop in for the Bosch injectors, and are used in a range of L-Jet cars including 4 and 6 cylinder Nissan/Datsun cars, Renaults, Porsches, Jaguars V12s, Rovers etc. They seem to be good quality units. They have aluminum bodies instead of the Bosch plastic. Not sure if that's an indicator of anything.

I still have the Bosch injectors, the plan is to have them cleaned and flow tested at some point. There was little change going from the old Bosch injectors to the new Standard ones.

I'll be doing a compression test soon. The car doesn't smoke and the head was recently rebuilt with a fresh valve grind (PO, done professionally) so low compression isn't super likely. I'll see I guess.

The temperature sensors (mine does have two) seem to be OK based on cold and hot measurements of their resistances.
 

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1988 Spider Quadrifoglio
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Discussion Starter #12 (Edited)
just curious: what is that little red button near the 3 centre vents?
That's the catalytic converter over-temp light. It's disconnected. It was previously wired through a mystery signal processing box, to a temperature probe under the car that I imagine used to be attached to the original cat somehow (long replaced with an aftermarket one). I left the probe, it's just tucked away under the heat shield. I don't know if it was an Alfa unit, or aftermarket.

The car was in Japan for many years. I understand that they have a they have a regulation that requires a catalytic converter overheat warning light.

EDIT: Now that i go back and look at the photos, it looks like aftermarket. I don't know any Japanese but according to Google Translate it says "Model COHS-19 Suanley Electric Co.", or something to that effect.
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ah ok, yes the cat temp warning light, probe and relay module was regulation in Japan from about 1980.

FJ707 injectors seem to be for the alfa jetronic spider according to their catalogue, so I guess they are fine.
If the head was recently done by a professional, your compression is probably ok too, as who spends money on the head if the compression is no good!
I was also thinking a partially blocked cat, but if that has been replaced in the last few years, then that can't be it either.

you kept the O² sensor, obviously, when the new cat was fitted, I take it.

so the mystery continues
 

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Not to highjack, but I would also love Papajam's wiring diagrams. Care to send? :)
 

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Yes thank you Dom! Appreciate it.
 

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1988 Spider Quadrifoglio
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Discussion Starter #17
Just checked the temperature sensor resistances. They meet the specified ranges.
The fuel pressure (measured at cold start injector hose) with the fuel pressure regulator vacuum line disconnected is 32-34 psi. Drops to 28-29 psi at idle with the vacuum line to the FPR reconnected. The pressure rises above 30 when the car is revved, with vacuum line still connected. The gauge is pinned when the return line is restricted.

I think I figured out the alternator light issue. Obviously, there isn't sufficient excitation voltage at the voltage regulator, at startup. On many cars including these Alfas, the field coil excitation current flows through the alternator indicator lamp. As a result, the field coils will never kick in if the warning lamp is burnt out. No field coil current = no rotating magnetic field = no current through the stator coils = no current output from the alternator. You'd be running off the battery alone, with no warning, unless you were paying attention and noticed the alternator lamp did not light when you switched the ignition on. Anyways...

I put a 1.2 Watt light bulb across the green (D+) and red (B+) wires from the alternator (effectively in parallel to with the indicator lamp) and the indicator lamp went out. According to the internet, the warning lamp needs to be at rated to at least 2 Watts. I think the warning lamp may have been replaced at some point by a previous owner, with one that has too high a resistance. It's also possible that there is increased resistance through the ignition switch (the warning lamp is wired between switched +12 V to the cluster, and the green alternator wire), or the gauge cluster traces are deteriorating. I'll have to investigate.

I guess the moral of the story is that if you ever replace your alternator warning lamp, make sure you use the right bulb. The #2721 (1.2W) lamps people use as instrument and warning lamps in these cars will prevent immediate alternator excitation at startup, leaving you with an annoying glowing warning lamp until you rev the motor. Based on a bit of research a #70 or #2723 lamp would work better.
 

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1988 Spider Quadrifoglio
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Discussion Starter #19
O ring is new. Idle is a steady 950 rpm at operating temperature.
 
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