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Discussion Starter #1 (Edited)
I bow to the collective..

Here it goes...
1986 Spider V, 74k miles.
Owned the car the past two years. Prior to finding this treasure, the car sat in dry storage for roughly 19 years. Its complete and generally unmolested.

Will say thus far its been an adventure. This is my first Alfa.

Ok, what brings me to the collective.. The car has been my daily driver for the past year. It has not been without issue but to this point I've been able to work through any drama. Last week however it finely bit me.

In general the car ran good. Only real "known" hard broken item was a dead VVT circuit board. I manually pushed in the valve plunger in with a rubber block. Outside this, the car ran fine and I was happy. It did however have a few random interment issues like fuel pump relay crapping out and an odd random burbling or hesitation at engine speed above idle when warm.

My year long solution for the fuel pump relay (the long hard-to-find one) was when it acted up, reach over my right shoulder, flip the deck open, grab the relay and smack it on something. It worked, the pumps came back to life and I was on my way. One interesting common with the relay issue seemed to be the weather. High humidity for a few days and the relay was sure to act up. Last week after the relay crapped out twice and thus beating it silly, I decided to do some exploratory surgery on the beast.

Well, as suspected, it had a nasty little spot of corrosion on the PC board which went to an outbound thermal that linked it to the small relay that feeds power to the big pump. Got it cleaned up and didn't make it any worse,, Yay!

Ok, the test,, with the relay cover off I could push the relay arm with my finger and all pumps ran great. Excellent I thought so I put the cover back on the relay and put everything back together. Well ****, after putting all back together it didn't work. Long story but in the end I found the ground for all this mess, the one screwed into the sheetmetal next to the FI computer, to have a bad crimp and corrosion from old age. Fixed this..

One more time,,, This time I hit the starter and she started right up, I was happy! I cleaned everything up as it warmed up. At this point I discovered the burbling or hesitation I mentioned earlier had now become a interment constant, in other words, once the car warms up it runs seriously crappy that comes and goes. It acts like as soon as the thing kicks from start mode to warm run mode something is wigging out in a strange manner. Sometimes it will rev fine, sometimes it wont. if you hold the throttle at a steady state it will burble and hesitate randomly then clear up for a sec. Again this is the same type burble I mentioned earlier, this time however its a constant hard failure.

I don't and cant afford to just swap parts. The L Jet seems simple enough, what has puzzled me is the randomness of the failure. Its like an sizzle or sparking then clears up for a sec. Engine doesn't shut down and it idles fine.

Lastly, my vacuum lines are good. I've check all the grounds I can find. Fuel pressure was ok last time I checked. The pumps seem to be fine.

Forgot, can the O2 sensor cause this type of problem? If so can you test by shunting the circuit with a resistor, what value?

Thanks
 

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If the O2 sensor is faulty the computer will ignore its inputs and default to a pre-programmed fuel map. Fuel economy might suffer slightly but it should run OK. If the O2 sensor is sending spurious signals that cause the computer to send incorrect fuel injector instructions that might explain what you describe. Try disconnecting the O2 sensor (its plug is near the clutch master cylinder). If the erratic behavior continues that ain't likely to the issue.

I'm confused by this - "I manually pushed in the valve plunger in with a rubber block. Outside this, the car ran fine..."

Did you leave it with the VVT plunger pushed in? It should idle very poorly in that situation. If it is (was) running (especially idling) fine with the VVT activated then I'd suspect that cam timing is way off.

Fuel pressure may have been OK when you checked it but is it fine now? The erratic operation of the drive relay would explain the poor running. For testing you can bypass the drive relay and allow the fuel pumps to run constantly (as they would if the drive relay were operating properly). The danger of leaving it that way is in the event of an accident - the fuel pumps could continue pumping and literally pour gas onto a fire.
 

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Discussion Starter #3
"I manually pushed in the valve plunger in with a rubber block. Outside this, the car ran fine..." This I know really has nothing to do with my problem. VVT electric solenoid is dead, ie it wont push the pin in for the valve timing. I probably shouldn't have added this to the post. Its fine and yes it idles rough. I just stuck a bit of rubber between the cyl head pin and the VVT module to engage the pin.

I'll pull the O2 lead as soon as get some clothes on. If that doesn't work it I'll try the pumps. I'll figure it out but have to ask. Is there a quick and easy way to bypass the drive relay?

Thanks...
 

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Discussion Starter #4
O2 isn't the problem. Currently about 3 miles from my tools. Headed to get my fuel pressure gauge now.. The adventure continues
Thanks again..
 

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Discussion Starter #6 (Edited)
Done for today, here is what I found..

Fuel pump runs steady with no issues once the engine starts.

Again the engine starts and runs fine at Idle.

Sampling fuel pressure off the cold start injector line, the fuel pressure is hovering around 30psi +- 5. I know this is low but I don't think its the root cause of my problem.

Pulling the vacuum line off the pressure regulator, fuel pressure jumps to 40psi. Reinstalling the vacuum line, fuel pressure drops back to the original 30ish psi.

During all this the original problem never changed. Holding a steady state RPM the engine ran great, then at random intervals it would start to load up and miss much like a 2stroke engine with fouled plugs. Unlike a 2 stroke however, it would run like crap for a moment then clear up and run fine. Spooling the engine RPM up or down had no effect. When it starts missing it acts the same regardless of rpm or load. My gut feeling at this point was the problem is somehow electrical and tied to ignition or timing?

OK now things get strange.

Having bought a new fuel filter and running out of options. I decided to change the filter and install an old but working fuel pump. When I pulled the fuel lines from the filter I noticed the fuel coming from the filter looked really bad, black and dirty. When I got the filter off it rattled. The filter had failed internally. I may be lucky but I have never seen a filter fail like this before.

At this point I thought maybe I found the root cause even though my gut still said it was electrical. Anyway I changed the filter and left the pump as is. Long story short it did run better after changing the filter however the original problem didn't change. Fuel pressure remained as before and the engine acted up just as before.

The last thing I did tonight was to pull and inspect the sparkplugs. Figured (rationalized) if the fuel rail got contaminated, one or more sparkplugs would show some sign of a lean mixture. There wasn't any difference. All sparkplugs looked exactly the same. The mixture however looked rich but not overly concerning. I know this isn't the proper way to read sparkplugs but (big rationalization) at least some variation in burn patterns would be noted if the injectors were being crapped up with trash?? Again they all looked exactly the same, even the heat signature on the electrodes, same depth and pattern.

I put new plugs in and hit the starter. It started instantly, idles perfectly but just like before, raising the RPM to any steady state reference above idle, it would run great then burble, miss or load up, clear up etc etc.. Again my gut says its some sort of electrical noise screwing with the ignition or timing?? I haven't however given up on the fuel system but rationalizations keep kicking me down the electrical path... If I need a course correction, please please someone light me up.. My head hurts, I'm going to bed.

Thanks again..

ps Rich, an SSR,,, your the man!!!
 

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Check the operation of the Throttle Position Switch (TPS). The TPS tells the computer if the throttle is at idle, not idle or wide open. At the idle position the computer ignores the O2 sensor's inputs and should hold a steady idle. If the TPS is malfunctioning/misadjusted the computer won't know the throttle is at idleor not at idle and try to adjust the mixture based on the O2 sensor inputs. But it can't really do that very well at idle speed so the idle character can act as you describe.

Info about the TPS is in the L-jet Spider Diagnosis page (link below).
 

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Can you verify that the in-tank pump is working? I had a similar problem recently, and it turned out that the in-tank pump was bad. (In my case, it was especially problematic because the pump was turning, and therefore I thought it was working, but it was not providing any pressure at all). I replaced it with a new $14 pump from eBay (made in China), and everything is working now.

With your comment about the crud in the filter, it is possible that something got into the in-tank pump and caused it to stop working.
 

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Discussion Starter #9 (Edited)
I was going ******* philosophical with this but decided just to say,, thanks..

For the record I'll toss out one more rationalization. It appeared I had four issues. Root cause? I don't care. What does matter is the little spider is once again strong and happy!

What was found

Internally corroded Drive Relay - Took it apart, cleaned and repaired one bad circuit track
Bad terminal crimp on the ground lead next to the FI ECU - Replaced terminal
Main undercar fuel filter had self-destructed internally - Replaced (so far no injector issues)
Slightly bent female pin on the ECU side of the TPS connector - straightened (a year ago I was the last one to touch it, maybe yes maybe no. Its fixed now..) Thanks Eric

Now to SSR the VVT.... Thanks Rich

Ed
 

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Cautiously optimistic!

Hello Ed!

Congratulations on the determined efforts to restore your ride!

While I'm not one to quibble with a positive outcome, I've got to wonder where all the fuel filter detritus eventually accumulated.:frown2:.

"Having bought a new fuel filter and running out of options. I decided to change the filter and install an old but working fuel pump. When I pulled the fuel lines from the filter I noticed the fuel coming from the filter looked really bad, black and dirty. When I got the filter off it rattled. The filter had failed internally. I may be lucky but I have never seen a filter fail like this before."

"Fuel filter had self-destructed internally-Replaced (so far no injector issues)"

"It appeared I had four issues. Root cause? I don't care. What does matter is the little spider is once again strong and happy!"

All the best!
 

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Good luck, Ed. If you go the SSR option, you can use the VVT harness with the white plastic connector. I just ripped the circuit board out of it, and soldered two of the wires in the harness to the electrical connections in the white connector. I then connected the opposite ends of those two wires to the appropriate terminals on the SSR, per the wiring diagram in my referenced thread.

Let us know how it works out.
 

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Discussion Starter #12
"I've got to wonder where all the fuel filter detritus eventually accumulated"

Lets see, I hope back where it all came from.

Not much I can do about it now. Fuel is pumping clean from the fuel-rail pressure regulator port. I did check it. The injectors are working well enough so I'm not touching them. I will pull them at some point when I have fresh rubber to replace the 30 year old stuff. I originally wanted to pull them and check the flow balance before all this crap. At this point however, and I hate this saying, "It is what it is". If they fail it sucks to be me. Twice I've changed fuel pumps along the side of I-10 in the FL panhandle. I'll do it again. I use to compete in enduros and ISDE events on motoscooters, improvisation and trailside repairs were just part of the game. To some degree its what I like about this car. It demands its pound of flesh, its an unforgiving jealous mistress. If however your sweet....

Will do Rich.. Thanks again
 

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Hope springs eternal!

Hello Ed:

This pic may be informative. I believe this shows our injectors:
It is what it is, and that filter basket appears to have considerable capacity! :smile2:

All the best.
 

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tomayo, are you absolutely sure its the vvt circuit board that is fried and its not another issue in the system? Did you apply power directly to the solenoid which takes all other influences out of the equation like power supply, signal from TPS, etc.? When I bought my car the vvt was non-functioning and I narrowed it down to a missing fuse holder.

Mike
 

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Discussion Starter #15
Bad day...

It could have been far worse..
The officer said we live in a bubble. So true..
Great drive last night, little car ran wonderful. Best since taking over her care and feeding.
This morning, crisp and cool, nice. Walked to car to get my phone. Something was wrong, something wasn't right. Had an old garmin in a marine mount stuck to the windshield. It was gone. Looked inside, the fusebox lid was open. What a mess! The hard wired power lead from the gps was ripped out. Looking back it was good I didn't catch him during this first hour. I do feel fortunate. He took the GPS and phone but didn't damage the car. The wires can be fixed, and I did. I had left the doors unlocked, my bad.. however I loosely subscribe to the notion, I'd rather have a cheap radio stolen than a slashed top or worse. I love the bronze glass, It would have killed me had they been damaged.. Again I feel fortunate, considering.. Two cars broken into. The alfa, tho violated, wasn't damaged. The thief secured the doors, closed the glove box and closed the boot. No attempt to hide the theft however respect was shown by the thief. My bubble burst.

OK back to reality.. Steve, thanks for the diagram. I have to ask, is the filter basket removable? I have an ultrasonic tank and one last can of long banned, socially unmentionable solvent.

Mike, yes the circuit board is dead. I can fix it but I need a few components and some soldier track. I really miss access to the old Pace 1000. Easy enough to do however, and I will at some point. Just not right now. An SSR is a quick and easy fix, easily removable and reliable.
 

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Ed,

So sorry to hear about it. My Spider gets to live in the garage, but I debate when I'm out (and have to top up) whether it's better to lock or not lock the doors. I tend to lock them because I figure that a thief would cut the top before breaking a window, and I kinda need a new top anyway.
 

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Condolences on your losses...

I go unlocked as well, and try to only leave items in the car I would never miss anyway...

"I have to ask, is the filter basket removable? I have an ultrasonic tank and one last can of long banned, socially unmentionable solvent."

There's a little tag on most contemporary electronics:

"No user serviceable parts inside"

I believe that applies to injectors and professional disassembly/cleaning is required. Others will recall the name of our go-to guy.

All the best.
 

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Sorry to hear about the theft, but I gotta say, anybody paying that much respect to the car during the theft, has to be an Alfa owner also, so that narrows the search.

If you love the way the car drives now, wait until you get the vvt operational. Having driven my cousins Spider years ago, I was convinced that my car was lacking some power. Finally after about 3 years I came to learn the mechanicals of my vvt were not functioning. I finally got that sorted out and it transformed the car.
 

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Discussion Starter #19 (Edited)
Stolen items recovered, weather is nice and car is ready. Thanks guys, I'm out of here..
 
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