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Discussion Starter #1
Hey Guys!
I'm a long time lurker on the forum but this is my first time posting, I'm having a tough time pinning down an issue with the 1986 Spider that I bought earlier this year. Car is great, really enjoying it, but having some consistent issues with starting/rough idle recently that I would love help with. First off, let me start by saying that my mechanical skill is limited, and thanks to COVID I'm living with my in-laws so have limited access to my tools, jacks, jack-stands, etc.

About a month ago, I began to have problems with getting the car to start intermittently. The vehicle would crank, but wouldn't "catch" and start running. Because it was intermittent, it was hard to identify when/why it was happening. I did take it to a family friend who is a mechanic (though not an Alfa specialist) and he tightened up the vacuum hoses which seemed to help a bit.

Now the vehicle starts, but seems to require a bit of extra cranking before starting, and if I don't touch the gas it tends to roughly idle than cut off. If I start it again after that it tends to start up more easily.

I wanted to knock out electrical issues as a source of the problem, so I removed and cleaned the grounds, cut back the wire and replaced the positive battery cable terminal, and replaced the negative battery cable (as the one in the vehicle looked beat up and corroded). The battery itself is 3.5 years old but I had it tested multiple times and it appears to be good.

Looking through the L-Jet guide I'm thinking the next thing to cover off on would be air/vacuum leak. If I remove the oil cap the idle just barely deteriorates... so I'm thinking if there wasn't a leak I would see a more obvious change. Also, I noticed something odd this morning. The vehicle was idling and I accidentally dropped the hood closing it so it shut quickly, and whatever pressure change that caused immediately made the idle deteriorate for a 10-15 seconds before going back to normal. Weird! The car doesn't have it's original air filter, the PO replaced it with one of those cone-style intakes.

What do you guys think? Another air leak from one of the hoses? I'm thinking I'll start taking them off and checking them next. Would love some help as the no-start issue left me stranded twice recently and my wife is getting a little... grumpy.

Thanks guys!
Bob

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Welcome to the asylum! Glad you decided to join us. You've got a very nice looking Spider.

My first thought on reading your post is to suggest cleaning out the Oil Vapor Separator (OVS). It is a black can shaped item located on the right inner fender. Remove it (keep track of how the hoses connect), spray some solvent into it (carb cleaner or brake cleaner), shake, rinse & repeat until what comes out is fairly clean. A clogged OVS messes with the sump scavenging and mimics a vacuum leak.

Is that aftermarket air cleaner securely supported? Splits in the accordion shaped section of the air duct next to the air cleaner are common. If that air cleaner is not well supported it could be allowing a split to open/close which messes with the air through the Air Flow Meter (AFM). Any air that enters beyond the AFM is called false air as it is unmetered. This messes with the signal from the AFM to the computer so the right amount of fuel doesn't get injected.

Is the trouble starting only when cold, only when warm or all the time?
 

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I agree with Eric about that aftermarket air filter and the OVS. There is a guy on this forum that is making them if yours is irreparable.
One way to check for leaks that we used to do at the dealer was spray some B-12 cleaner around the vacuum hoses and connections and see if the idle changes. If it does, there is your leak.
Is your cold start injector working properly? Is the aux air valve working properly? All covered in the troubleshooting guide for L-Jetronic I believe.
 
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Discussion Starter #5
Hey Guys,
Wow! Thanks for the quick responses from everyone.

To respond to a few of the individual asks:
  • Problem exists whether starting warm or cold (or seems too).
  • Aftermarket air cleaner is not supported but there's a strut supporting the Mass Air Sensor (see pic below) that I suppose keeps some of the weight off of the hose.
  • Have not checked cold start injector or AAV yet, will definitely check those out. How would you recommend checking the AAV to make sure it's working? If I was to replace it, any good places to find a part?
  • I have not messed with or replaced the TTS.
Quick Q - If I want to remove and clean the OVS is it necessary to remove the wheel? Or will it come out with the wheel in place?

Thank you guys so much for chiming in and offering your thoughts!
Best,
Bob

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Not sure what you mean about the OVS and removing the wheel. THe OVS is located on the passenger side inner fender and has several hoses going to it.
The support for the MAF looks okay by me just looking at the picture
 

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You can test the AAV by removing it (two Allen bolts, Bosch electrical connector, and hose on either end) - straightforward enough. You can put it in the freezer to see if the flap inside opens, and then put it in the oven at around 150F to see if the flap closes. @ghnl has some good comments here: how to check out a Auxiliary Air Valve (AAV)

The TTS is easy to test with a multimeter, and the L-Jet diagnostic guide outlines that process extremely well: L-jetronic Spider diagnosis (1982-1989). You can also find content there on the AAV.

If your AAV is busted, Larry at Alfa Parts Exchange has sent me two (I busted one by over tightening the nut) and they were reasonably priced, but used. NOS AAV's are prohibitively expensive.
 

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when the car does finally start, does it run and drive well?
iow, is this purely a starting problem and once you are out on the road all runs well?
 

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Discussion Starter #9
Thanks for the extra responses! I'll check out the AAV, and yup once the car is running and driving, no further issues. Just starting.

@pantera928 Sorry, maybe I was confused. In looking at the L-Jet guide if looked like the OVS was in the wheel well, and not knowing how big it was I wasn't sure I could pull it out without taking off my wheel. Sounds like that's not necessary.
 

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Most AAV's will become sluggish as best and inoperable eventually. A good used one is a crap shoot (I have a box of inoperable ones). It can be easily replaced with a manually operated valve - basically a 1/2" ID heater control valve and a generic choke cable. The AAV in our Spider is still working but in our GTV6 (same design) I installed a manual valve. The one I have is self-closing (you have to close it yourself...). There is info about installing a manual AAV in the Spider FAQ thread.

The Vapor Recovery Cannister is located in the wheel well - behind a splash plate. The Oil Vapor Separator in on the inner fender - under the hood. Labeled here as oil recovery separator.

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Discussion Starter #11
Whoops - completely mixed those up. Thank you Eric! Looks like I've got a couple of things to try out. I will let you guys know how things go.
Bob
 

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Discussion Starter #12
Hey Guys!
Figured I would give a post-Thanksgiving update on my Spider. I took off the air duct and checked it for holes, it looked like it was in good shape and didn't spot any issues. I then removed the OVS and filled it with carb cleaner and shook it out, and it had a ton of crud in it. I hooked the OVS back up and I felt that immediately the car was starting with a lot less cranking... so I'd say that was a partial success!

That being said, I'm still having a few issues with the hard/slow starting... and it mostly seems to be when starting the vehicle initially. Once it's been running it seems to "re-start" with less cranking. The idling then dying thing is happening less often, but still happening occasionally.

I did replace the battery this week (the old one was nearly 4 years old so I figured why not), and I think I'm noticing a parasitic drain on the battery as well. The new battery was only in there for a couple of days, and I had it on a battery tender which I took off for a day and a half and I tried to start it and only got a "click" sound. Checked the voltage on the new battery and it was down to 12.48v... tried to start again and got it to start but turned on the headlamps and voila, car cut off.

So I think I've got a couple of things to suss out... 1 is checking for a parasitic drain on the battery, and the other might be potential other spots where air is leaking in. 2 areas I'm curious about are pictured below, one is the sleeve connecting to the hard plastic part of the air intake, which looks loose and old, and the other is the hose connecting the top of the OVS to the top of the engine block... which looks cracked at the end nearest to the engine and appears to be seeping some oil...

As always, thoughts are welcome and thanks!
Bob

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Glad to hear you've had at least some success.

I wonder if that worm drive clamp is providing a truly air tight seal. Over-tightening won't help - it may just distort things even more. The original clamp was like the one to the left in your photo (Romablok). It tends to provide a more even tension.

That cracked hose might be leaking. If not now probably soon.

A quick & easy way to check for the presence of any intake air or vacuum leaks is to remove the oil fill cap while the engine is idling. This introduces an air leak (since the sump is supposed to be sealed). The idle should deteriorate (slower, erratic). If it does not it is because there is already a leak.
 

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You need to check the thermo time switch and the cold start injector. The below steps must be done when the engine is completely cold.

Get a noid light. Like this one. You might find it cheaper somewhere just make sure the pins look like the ones in the pictures. https://www.amazon.com/OTC-6266-Noi...&qid=1606713674&sprefix=noid+,aps,153&sr=8-18

Pull the coil wire out of the coil. When car is cold pull the brown connector off the thermo time switch. Put the noid light into the brown connector. If it lights up while cranking then the switch is getting power. Next reinstall the brown connector. Then remove the blue connector from the cold start injector. Install the noid light and see if it lights up when cranking. If it does the cold start injector is getting power. If it doesn't the thermo time switch is bad.

If the noid lights lights up when testing the cold start injector. You need to remove the 2 allen bolts and pull the injector out of the intake. (cold start injector body is also blue colored) Connect the blue connector back up to it and crank the car. If fuel sprays out its good and your problem lies else where. I no fuel sprays out then the injector is bad.

If the problem is none of the above. Then check cap, spark plugs, wires and rotor. I've seen a lot of incorrect rotors put on these cars and a lot of the aftermarket rotors are junk.
 

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With the car running, spray a little B-12 or other carb cleaner near the suspected leaky areas. Is the idle changes, you have a leak. This is how we used to do it at the British Leyland dealer. That hose to the OVs looks very suspect. As Eric said, if it isn't leaking, it probably will soon
For the rest, Jim G is spot on with his testing procedure as always.
 

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Thanks guys! I will give all of this a try. Much appreciated as always.
Please keep us posted as to what you discover.
 
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