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Discussion Starter #1
I am still battling with my 2L SPICA engine tuning...
Think I am in need of solid board help:
Here is the problem:
1. Car has a hard time starting cold. Need to turn it over many times until finally after a bit (not too much) of pedal pumping if finally (barely somethimes) starts.
I have had to have people push the car and try to jump start it as the battery was not turning over the engine as "vigorously" (I think my alternator - bosch 45A- is not charging battery very well... another story though).
2. Car wont hold idle when cold (stalls), so i have to keep foot on gas or run it till its hot.
3. Car idles fine (above 900rpm) when hot.
4. two spark plugs are sooty (2&3) while 1&4 are light brown.
5. When hot car is very hot it can start on first try. When just hot it can be a pain to start.

I have read a million threads but cant figure out what the pb is as I am all over the place in identifying the pb: alternator ? distribution ? Spica

Also I am a novice so I am literally learning as I go.

My engine is a 2L SPICA with megacycle cams (?)
SPICA was done years ago (1994?) by Wes
All work was done in 95 by last PO and engine was redone last year in Poland but I question the work (no SPICA knowledge).

I have spent 3 years restoring this car and am a little lost as I lack the skills and tooling to tune the engine properly...

SPICA: i tested the Cold Start Soleinoid and it seems to energize and make a clunk noise. Same with FCS.

Yesterday I dismantled the Ingnition and cam cover to understand things better.. here is what I saw.....
I will measure the 0.019" gap latter today...
 

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Discussion Starter #2
Tuning

When i line up the cam marks on TDC the marker on the crankshaft pulley is not quite on the "P" mark.. Is that normal ?
 

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Discussion Starter #3
Tuning

At TDC, the distributor rotor is not quite straight aligned with the cap #1 post. Is that normal ?

I notice that the cap's posts are all burnt on the edge (firing not aligned straight on the post).. Is that normal ?

By the way its a Marelliplex ignition. I made a novive mistake by forgetting to take a picture before dismantling it. Now I am not sure where the little capacitor lead goes to (+ or - or coil ?)....
 

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Discussion Starter #4 (Edited)
Tune

This afternoon I will:
- Check the 0.019" gap at hot (not sure how to measure hot except with the car's temp guage)
- I will energise the FCS and Cold Start Sol. again to check that they work....
- I have checked the Thermostatic actuator out of the car in my kitchen a month ago. It extends very far at 180. I forgot to write down how far but I recall it was on the long end of the spectrum (29-31mm ?). I will pull out the bottom again to measure it.
- timing: I dont know how to check that the timing is right on the distribution (never done it, dont have light strobe thingy).

How it runs:
- when hot:
- At idle, a little lumpy (engine shakes in car in an uneven fashion - I'll try to film it).
- On highway it runs ok but has no power gowing up hills. I need to downshift and push the engine to not lose speed.....
- when cold: wont hold idle (low rpm). Hard to start.

My first big question is why is the engine when cold not starting easily and why does it not have a high idle RPM (ie: automatic choke with the SPICA thermostatic actuator) ?


For curiosity sake here is a picture of engine bay and of the car's proud first trip (to Brittany).. If any SPICA afficionado is travelling through France this summer ... Let me know... I will gladly take you out for a fine meal and pop some red wine open as we have a look under the hood :)
 

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A couple of things:

Verify or solve your ignition issues first. There is no point in adjusting the Spica until the ignition is completely sorted out.

Do you have Wes Ingram's book? It's a must-read. Spica tuning is a process-intensive undertaking, with each step dependant on the proper completion of the previous one. Leave something out and you are just wasting time.
 

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Discussion Starter #6
Tuning

Thanks...yes you are right... I was going to put the Marelliplex back in place as it seemed to work before. i took it out because I wanted to understand its functioning and clean it... but I do not know how to tell if my distributor is well set. I assume it is because the shop that did my engine put it back on and the car "runs". Is that good enough or do I need to do something additional ?

Roland
 

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Well, you should check the timing of the ignition, to ensure that it's basically near the F mark at idle and M mark at high rpm. As mentioned, sort that first before messing with the Spica. One thing to check is the connections to and from the ignition switch. Corrosion or poor terminal connections can lead to very hard starts.

Your cam timing is off the mark a bit, but the pointer itself may be a bit off, so it's hard to say without first finding actual TDC with a dial indicator. But it's close enough that it should run OK. I wonder if those Megacycle cams (which are known for their cams) are the right ones for a Spica car? Spica is more picky than carburetors about what cams it will work with.

After you sort the ignition, if it still has hard starting, I'd first check that the cold start solenoid is functioning, and set properly. Second, I'd check the actuator setting to make sure it's rich at idle.

Andrew
 

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Discussion Starter #8
Tune

-> check the timing of the ignition, to ensure that it's basically near the F mark at idle and M mark at high rpm
How do I do that ? Do i turn the pulley to the F mark and look if the rotor is aligned ? Do I need to plug a bulb to something and check it lights up ? (sorry I sound so ridiculously helpless... never done it before).
 

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You need a timing light, which is stroboscopic, attached to the #1 spark plug lead and the battery. It's pretty simple; if you don't know how, either read up or take it to a shop. In the US, Sears or any tool store will have a timing light, which probably comes with instructions. In France, I don't know what to say.

Andrew
 

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Roland -
I think the Spica will be fairly easy to sort out. One thing I do note right away from the pictures, however, is that the temperature lever on top of the injection pump is set in the "F" (Freezing) position. Reset it so that the tang of the lever points towards the "N" (Normal) position (towards the right front of the car). In the "F" position, the mixture is enriched slightly. I leave my pump in "N" year round, even in the freezing temperatures we have in South Dakota winters. Paris is much is a much more temperate climate, so "N" should be fine year-round.

However, those cams concern me. Do you know the specifications on those cams? I'd recommend that you drop Megacycle Cams an email and see exactly what you have (i.e. street cams or race cams) and the exact specs.

When you get the cams and ignition correct, you can contact me via SKYPE if you you have that on your computer and we can talk about the Spica setup face to face.

Do you have all the Spica guides I've written? If not, PM me an email address and I'll send you the guides along with a set-up guide.

BTW, what is the "T" number on the data placard on the side of the injection pump. I'll need to know that for the correct setup numbers.
 

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Discussion Starter #11
Tune

I'll call Megacycle when they open in a few minutes...
I never understood what difference race vs. street meant. Can someone explain in simple english for the beginner ?

The last PO (great guy) in Hawaii sent me this info about the cams 3 years ago.
------------------------------------------------------------------------
PO-> I called Alfa Parts and talked to John Norman (510)5259435. He said the
valve clearance for those camshafts should be .008 inlet, .010 exhaust.
------------------------------------------------------------------------
The name seems familiar........ The engine was tuned (a lot of work was done by PO) at a place called Hasselgreen Engines or something like that, in California....

I have a dyno chart showing something like 157hp if I recall correctly.... so when my engine has a hard time going up hill I assumed that something was wrong !!!!

As far as the T number on the SPICA.. it is T255/1

As far as a strobe light do I need it with advance feature or a simple one ?
 

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A simple strobe timing light should be fine. As you open the throttle, if the distributor's advance mechanism is working, you will see the timing marks appear to move from the F towards the M.

You might pull out the distributor and make sure the advance is working; the advance shaft inside the main shaft can bind, and then you're stuck, typically, with the idle setting. It will be very very sluggish. If the timing marks don't advance on the strobe, this could be your problem.

Jon Norman Alfa Parts, Norman Racing Group, and Hasselgren are in the same building in Berkeley, and work together. Hasselgren and Norman commonly use MegaCycle cams, but it has to be the right grind. Hasselgren works on far more complex and stressed engines that a Spica Alfa (Bugatti, Ferrari, Formula Atlantic), and knows their stuff, so I would presume if they put these cams in they got the right ones.

Yes, with the grind number, MegaCycle should be able to tell you what the cams are.

Andrew
 

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A race cam will be tuned to increase the power of the engine greatly, but generally at much higher rpm's than an engine meant for the street. The trade-off will be that the engine will probably idle badly and have less torque and power at lower rpm's. A race engine would be a pain to drive everyday in traffic because of this. My guess is that your engine is tuned to be a something in-between . . . increased performance yet not so much as to badly affect driveability. Chances are however, that the idle will not be as smooth as a stock engine. Look below the "E" mark on the injection pump and see if you see a "HP150 or HP160" stamping by Wes. That would indicate that the injection pump has a modified fuel delivery curve to match the increase output potential of the engine.

It's possible you have a very valuable engine there.
 

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Discussion Starter #14
Tune

No HP150 on my pump. I had called Wes a year ago and since the pump was done <10 yrs ago - no recollection of it.

I received this from Megacycle.. not sure what it means.. Does this indicate to me in any way how my ignition should be set ? (I dont think so but just in case)
 

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Discussion Starter #15
Tune

if I understand correctly for ignition timing:
1. Get a timing light !
2. Hookit up to spark lead #1
3. Run engine to 5000rpm
4. Check that marker is on "M" marker on crankshaft pulley.
5. Accelerate and see marker go from "F" to "M" mark (or the other way around) to check that advance mechanism works (hum... is that right ?)

That is what my Alfa owner's manual says (well except point 5. - see pic).

Now that I have hotter cams does this affect my timing ? Should I displace it due to the cam specifications and not stay on the "M" mark ?
 

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The cam timing does not affect the ignition timing. You set them separately.

Check that the ignition timing is near F at low speed, then accel to high speed and see if it comes near M. You don't want it going beyond M, so alter the lower speed timing to get the higher speed (3500-5000) correct. Otherwise you getting pinging and detonation.

I don't have my Alfa cam specs on me, so I can't say how extreme these cams are compared to stock Spica cams. Anyone?

Andrew

Andrew
 

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Discussion Starter #17
Tuning

Andrew thanks..
I have 2 questions:

1. You mention "alter the lower speed timing to get the higher speed (3500-5000) correct"... Why do you mention to change the lower sped timing if I want to affect the higher speed timing ? arent they corrolated and thus all I do is rotate the ignition module a bit to alter both ? Why do you mention the lower speed timing ? I assumed I would just do the higher speed check... is there something I do not understand ?

2. My second question is just plain curiosity... I dont understand how a cam can be more extreme and what is the purpose ? (open valves higher and faster I assume) ... is it a really big deal ? does it change things radically ? Does it put more stress on the engine ? I assumed it was just to make it breath better (open valves longer or higher maybe) ?
 

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Roland
Bonjour.
You are chasing too many shadows. Your engine was starting and running OK – perhaps not perfectly but at least OK. Therefore your SPICA, the mechanical settings of your camshafts and your distributor positions were OK.
Understand; I do not have a Marelliplex ignition on any of my ALFA’s and do not claim to be an expert with this ignition system. That said, Marelliplex ignitions are different than other systems. Yours appears to have been modified (dare I say butchered?).
You do not have an electronic tachometer and therefore do not need the condenser – the little metal can with the black wire in your pics. Study this wiring diagram, provided by Ossodiseppia, in this thread:http://www.alfabb.com/bb/forums/showthread.php?t=6226&highlight=Marelliplex&page=2
Three things I will suggest: 1) put everything back together as per the diagram; 2) buy a new rotor and distributor cap - special for Marelliplex; 3)your problem is most likely in the electronic module (flat, black component with two flat connectors at each end) which fail quickly with high heat and slowly with time. It’s likely you need a new one.
 

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Respectfully, I suggest your basic understanding does not seem complete enough for you to be diagnosing this level of problem. Minor cam or ignition timing issues are not extreme enough in themselves to cause the car not to make it up a hill. Lack of any ignition advance might, but I think you've probably got a single pretty fundamental issue somewhere.

I think you need to read up some, then attack things systematically. Eliminate one potential problem (compression, then spark and advance), then go to the next (Spica settings). It takes knowledge, tools, experience, and diagnostic ability.

Andrew
 

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Discussion Starter #20
Tuning

Thank you both of you... I totally agree this is a lot for me to tackle and I shall do it one step at a time......
Unfortunately the car wil not start as my solenoid keep sticking and additonally the starter has a hard time turning the engine over (I fully charged the battery). I am pissed as they were supposedly refurbished (for $ of course) and after opening the starter (filthy) I am convinced I paid for 2 pieces of cr-p !! Arrgggg.....
Anyway I will do my best to clean up and try to find another solenoid....
I measured my Thermostatic Actuator and cold it extends 24.5mm (as per Wes's book). So that's good. I just cant test it hot as I cant start the engine !!!
Out of curiosity I tested (resistance) the Plug HT leads and found that the HT lead from the Coil to the distributor was intermitently bad (have to twist it to get a reading). I went out and bought a new one. Cap and Rotor are new.
As for the Marelliplex I put it back together. Why do you think its butchered ?
It was bought new from Alfa Ricambi (have a bill) back in 1989.
How could I test it to make sure it is good or bad ?

Roland
 
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