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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
My recently bought 72 Berlina has always been hard to start when cold (cold was 70 F on trip in May). Idle was acceptable and it didn't stall. Overall, it ran pretty good across the country back in May, but I knew it needed some help. I have done the following:

  • Installed rebuilt TA (actually one I had that checked good) as old one was dead. - I thought that was easy, ha!
  • Checked CSS, FCS & microswitch - all working - note, car always backfired on decel.
  • Ran thru the procedure in Wes' book (also have other Spica docs)
  • Found throttles were a bit open, set per Wes' instruction.
  • I also slightly adjusted the short link so that throttles were closed, but not jammed into throttle bores.
  • Set pump gap to 0.019" at 180 F, then long link to 0.019".
  • TA had to be shimmed as hot it was ~29 mm, a washer did the trick, and I set the pump gap to 0.019".
  • Read lots of threads on Spica issues, etc.

Results - improved running/throttle response, backfiring gone! Cold start just as bad & idle barely acceptable!

Idle has deteriorated to the point now where it won't idle, and cold starting is still terrible (6 hits of the starter to maybe get it going). Releasing throttle fast or slow, leads to a very slow hunting idle before it dies in ~5 seconds.

Plugs look lean and always have since I've owned it, haven't gotten to mixture setting yet.

Reviewed the Spica roadside diagnosis write up - everything seems fine. Pump itself seems good (did match test on oil from logic section, no flame jumping). Oil volume in sump is not increasing!

Really thinking I just don't have it right yet, so guessing best approach is to start over at the beginning.....again.

A couple questions:

  • It seems that idle is acceptable, when everything is correctly set, as the idle adjustment does very little, right?
  • How critical is the short link for idle/cold start? What is best way to set the short link?
  • Could the FCS be sticky and not release fully to let it idle? Doesn't seem likely to me as it idled before.
  • Plugs seem lean (insulator is very white, electrode not burned up though), but I don't want to just richen up the CSS & FCS. What might be a reasonable amount that won't make things super rich, a 1/2 turn, a full turn? I can always put it back to where it was.

Thanks in advance for any thoughts on this.
 

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Lots of questions… that’s good.

Can you advance your ignition timing any? What distributor are you using?
What do you mean by idle adjustment? There isn’t really one, just squishing the oring to choke off idle air flow.
For setting the short rod I like the method where when everything is warmed up, in running condition, I put a gloved hand over and individual throttle inlet and see if the glove gets sucked against the opening. Repeat for each opening. There should be none, or extremely ever so slightly just a tiny bit.
Adjusting the css will do zero for running mixture.
Did you set the fcs with the 2500 rpm method?

Personally my biggest changes with idle performance on my spica car has been with ignition changes.

Does your car start better if you hold the throttle open a 1/4 of the way while cranking?
 

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72 Berlina
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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
Vintagemilano,

Thanks for reading was worried it was a TLDR post but seemed like it needed some background.

Back in Alfa after a long time, thought I can handle Spica, ha.

Ignition timing was at ~5 degrees before TDC, running a 123 ignition with bluetooth. I haven't touched the ignition as it was on the car when I got it. All seems well, cap/rotor in like new condition, but will double check timing once I get it near an idle again.

Yep, I meant squeezing the o-ring on the idle manifold, the o-ring isn't rock hard, but probably not like new. Just put 4 new hoses on for each line to each throttle so good there.

I can check the leakage at each throttle with hand, paper or a uni-syn left over from days gone by once I get it to idle again.

Absolutely got to give it throttle to get it started, depress while cranking to a 1/4 or 1/2 in. No way it starts without throttle.

I got a taste of how it should run, so need to stick with it and figure it out.
 

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With the 123 just set to the M mark and let idle fall where it may. I’m not familiar with the Bluetooth version, I have a switched version, run the D curve which I thick is 21* of advance so idle then is something like at 10* advanced. Those are some foggy memories.

Lots of Bluetooth curves/data points scattered through the bb
 

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I'm also curious about the FCS adjustment.
And yes, get that ignition timing verified.
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
vintagemilano, slowcreek, thx for input, hoping to get some time this PM on it, if not then Friday.

Planning to double check my settings, once I get it running will try and verify timing gets to M on the pulley. And, yes I need to learn more about the 123 set up.

Conedriver, the link doesn't work. Is this approach different from the acitivate the CSS and see how much rpm drops?

Weather is good here into early next week, so hoping to get it resolved before the cold is back.

Mike
 

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1971 Spider (USA) 1750 Spica, 1974 Spider, 1976 Spider, 1981 Spider
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Lots of questions… that’s good.
For setting the short rod I like the method where when everything is warmed up, in running condition, I put a gloved hand over and individual throttle inlet and see if the glove gets sucked against the opening. Repeat for each opening. There should be none, or extremely ever so slightly just a tiny bit.
I’ve tried the glove trick, but never been able to get to the point of ZERO suction — it ALWAYS gets sucked in. Using a piece of card stock, I can reach the point of no suction and figured that was good enough. Am I kidding myself…?
 

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It seems that idle is acceptable, when everything is correctly set, as the idle adjustment does very little, right?
No, idle adjustment through the tower can be made with the engine hot and throttle plates fully closed. Ensure that the four black rubber tubes are tight at there ends and crack free, and the rubber O- ring is soft. There should be no air being drawn through the thottle plates with the engine hot.
How critical is the short link for idle/cold start? What is best way to set the short link?
Every setting is critical to get the Spica system right. Do you have access to the relay crank idle stop/full throttle tool? This is the best starting point to set the short link and get the throttle plate settings just right. Every setting relies on the previous one, so its best to start from the top. On a cold start the throttle plates should be open a crack once the TA and long rod are adjusted hot at 0.019. This is communicated back to the relay crank and the short rod for cold starts.
Could the FCS be sticky and not release fully to let it idle? Doesn't seem likely to me as it idled before.
Yes, the FCS can be sticky. You can do the 12V test to its lead. If you suspect its sticky and slow to return remove the rear access plate on the pump and try working it with a small blade screw driver to see if it frees up.
Plugs seem lean (insulator is very white, electrode not burned up though), but I don't want to just richen up the CSS & FCS. What might be a reasonable amount that won't make things super rich, a 1/2 turn, a full turn? I can always put it back to where it was.
Getting the CSS adjusted right may take a few mornings of cold starts. Adjusting the FCS has no direct impact on cold starts.

Having said all the above these settings are moot without getting the ignition timing right, dialed in, so you can rule it out.
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
No, idle adjustment through the tower can be made with the engine hot and throttle plates fully closed. Ensure that the four black rubber tubes are tight at there ends and crack free, and the rubber O- ring is soft. There should be no air being drawn through the thottle plates with the engine hot.
Understood. the 4 hoses are new as in just installed, o-ring is still pliable, not new though. I had no air being drawn through throttle plates before this. A quick thumb over the idle port led to quick stumbling. Will recheck.

Every setting is critical to get the Spica system right. Do you have access to the relay crank idle stop/full throttle tool? This is the best starting point to set the short link and get the throttle plate settings just right. Every setting relies on the previous one, so its best to start from the top. On a cold start the throttle plates should be open a crack once the TA and long rod are adjusted hot at 0.019. This is communicated back to the relay crank and the short rod for cold starts.
I do not have the throttle stop tool.

I've been following Wes' book and using the Oregon club write up for additional reference. Planning to start over by following the order in Wes' book, unless there is a better way. The book kind of glosses over setting the short link. I understand that throttles are a bit open for a cold start. Cold TA makes pump setting richer and also opens throttles via long/short link for more air. I needed to shim the TA to obtain the 0.019" pump gap, but I think this is pretty standard today.

Yes, the FCS can be sticky. You can do the 12V test to its lead. If you suspect its sticky and slow to return remove the rear access plate on the pump and try working it with a small blade screw driver to see if it frees up.
OK, good to know. I've done the test using 12V from the battery, the FCS clicks every time (as does the CSS). If I measure the current position (height), maybe remove the FCS and try to de-varnish/gum it with carb cleaner or other?

Getting the CSS adjusted right may take a few mornings of cold starts. Adjusting the FCS has no direct impact on cold starts.

Having said all the above these settings are moot without getting the ignition timing right, dialed in, so you can rule it out.
Good point on CSS. My car just does not fire quickly which to me suggests lack of fuel. Plugs are not wet or black after a cold start. Seems FCS would come into play once it catches, but what do I know. Will check timing at advance, which is M line on pulley.

The good (sadly) is it ran acceptably, but not perfect, with a dead TA and before I became intimately involved. Yeah, it backfired on decel quite a bit, but it ran and idled. I'm guessing the system may have been "adjusted" to compensate for some issues? Will run thru it again when fully alert and see what I learn, I plan to try and verify timing first.

Will report back and thanks for the help.

Mike
 

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I’ve tried the glove trick, but never been able to get to the point of ZERO suction — it ALWAYS gets sucked in. Using a piece of card stock, I can reach the point of no suction and figured that was good enough. Am I kidding myself…?
At full operating temperature, if you plug the idle air port on the tower with your thumb and the engine stubles, then stalls - you know its set right and drawing close to zero air at the butterflies.
 
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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
Only got a little time today but the timing does not hit the M mark at 3000+ rpm. Best I can tell, I'm ~5 degrees short. Did not observe any additional advance once I got past 3000 to 3200 on the tach, seems to make sense from some data I have on one of the 123 advance modes. I think the last cars that I set timing on were our 85 Golf and my 78 Sport Sedan.

I can advance the timing a bit.

Unfortunately, I won't get back to this until Friday or later.

Pump gap was a tick big, so I made a small adjustment. Seems like I don't always measure the gap at exactly the same temperature and of course the actuator changes a thou or 2. Overall, I think the pump gap seems to be where it should be.

So, plan is to advance ignition timing bit, then carefully roll thru Wes' procedure.

I believe when the Spica injection is properly set up the engine will idle smoothly with no hunting and will pull well thru the rpm range. Hoping to be there soon.
 

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Need to check pump timing. I find that off most of the time on cars that come into my shop the first time.
To check. Bring engine to TDC on #4. Then turn engine backwards to the I mark.

Also remove altitude compensator and make sure rack spring is not broken.
 
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The technique is from a SPICA article by the Oregon Alfa club chapter, and describes the RPM drop you already know about. I wonder if playing around within the CSS adjustment, while it's still doing the basic RPM drop, might help your problem. I need to try this since my '76 Spider does the opposite; starts well when cold, but struggles a little to start when warm.

Conedriver, the link doesn't work. Is this approach different from the activate the CSS and see how much rpm drops?

Mike
 

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Discussion Starter · #15 ·
Need to check pump timing. I find that off most of the time on cars that come into my shop the first time.
To check. Bring engine to TDC on #4. Then turn engine backwards to the I mark.

Also remove altitude compensator and make sure rack spring is not broken.
Jim, pump timing is correct. I had radiator out to shop to repair leak a month or so back. I checked pump timing and replaced the belt at the same time. Compensation spring (vertical spring) is intact and not corroded. Pump was overhauled before my ownership, guessing by the guy in San Diego.

George, thx for input, I have the Oregon chapter writeup along with the old AROC Spica book (maybe TMI).

This might be keeping me awake at night, laughing. I think I had the set up pretty close, I mean it ran with a bad TA. I find myself thinking FCS is somehow acting up, but of course this is just a hunch.

Enjoy Thanksgiving everyone and thanks for the input.
 

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I find myself thinking FCS is somehow acting up, but of course this is just a hunch.
Remove, clean, test and re-install. (Replace if necessary).
 

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I’m willing to bet you have an ignition issue. Try reinstalling your 123 distributor with cylinder 1 at TDC and the valves closed. Then rotate the distributor until the green light comes on. What you are doing here is syncing the engine and the electronic ignition. Once you have that set bolt the distributor down. Don’t worry about where the pointer is pointing on the pulley. All of your curve adjustments are made using the 123 app. If you need assistance just give us a shout. There is a lot of 123 experience here.

- Drew
 

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Discussion Starter · #19 ·
Drew, I have not touched the 123 setup and honestly am not really familar with it. No doubt will need to learn more.

Car ran reasonably well with the installed 123 unit on the trip across country and has been OK around town.
 

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Try reinstalling your 123 distributor with cylinder 1 at TDC and the valves closed. Then rotate the distributor until the green light comes on. What you are doing here is syncing the engine and the electronic ignition. Once you have that set bolt the distributor down. Don’t worry about where the pointer is pointing on the pulley. All of your curve adjustments are made using the 123 app.
The part you left out is that the value in the 123 app and where the pointer is pointing to on the pulley needs to be identical (synced). IOW, if you (for example) have 30 degrees advance at 3500 rpm on the app, you need to verify with a timing light that you are at 30 degrees advance on the pointer/pulley on the car at 3500 rpm. Then you can bolt (set) and forget and make all your timing adjustments on the app changing degrees of advance at various rpms. Only one rpm and advance value needs to be verified (not the entire range) and I'd lean towards a higher rpm verification. There isn't a guarantee that TDC and the green light just coming on is a perfect sync, although in theory it should be.
 
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