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Thread: Engine Won't Start

  1. #1
    Senior Member
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    Engine Won't Start

    Hello Nova fans. I hope you're all doing well.

    You've probably guessed that not much has been going on in my garage over the winter, as usual. However, this morning, despite the snow, I decided to buy some fuel to increase what was already in the Nova's tank, fire it up and run the engine to temperature. It's been about 4 months since I did it last time. I tried about 2 months ago but it wouldn't start. I put that down to the fact that the battery probably needed a charge.

    So, with the battery fully charged (using my new trickle charger gizmo that has been on for the last 3 days), fuel in, ignition on...

    Unfortunately this morning's attempt to start it failed and I'm pretty fed up. The fact that I spent nearly 3k on what effectively is a brand new engine speaks for itself.

    I thought I'd share what happened in case anyone here has any thoughts.

    OK so lets re-cap:

    - New engine
    - Loads of fuel (fuel filter full and I can see fuel wooshing through it)
    - Battery - fully charged (may as well call it new as it's only been used to start the thing on the odd occassion and has never gone flat)

    Here is what happened which is the same as last time I tried:


    On the press of the button the engine turns over seemingly fine but I notice that every time I press the throttle the turning over speed slows down. During turning over (presumably once the fuel reaches the carbs) there's the occassional sound that it has fired but it doesn't 'catch' (actually start). From experience when it fires I need to stamp my foot on the throttle to make it 'catch' but that has the adverse effect of slowing down the turning over. Another press of the button and again the turning over slows down when I press the throttle, this time almost grinding the turning over to complete halt unless I release the throttle and then it turns over OK again. All I can describe it like is like a 'compression lock'. I try again - this time it's becoming noticable that the turning over speed is slowing down with no throttle depressed, so I'm thinking uh oh, the battery is running down. Eventually I give up as the turning over speed is almost non existent.

    The carbs haven't been set up perfectly ss it is always going to take a little bit of turning over and random pressing of the throttle to get it started anyway; that's what happened all the times I've started it after I had the engine done. But what's changed since then? The car hasn't been anywhere!

    It's very cold today and was pretty cold last time I tried although I would hope that's no excuse. The Audi doesn't care about the cold, or if I haven't started it for 4 weeks.

    What's worrying me is the slowing down of the turn over speed when I press the throttle, like the engine is getting a compression lock. I may have used an incorrect term here but that's the best way to describe what happens. It's like the whole engine struggles to turn over for a second and then suddenly the compression 'un-locks' and it turns over OK again. This slowing down of the turning over is what's stopping it starting. When I got the Nova back with the new engine this compression lock wasn't happening at all - it turned over fine every time and after frantic stabbing of the throttle every time it fired, it eventually started.

    I fiddled around in the engine bay until I got fed up and locked the garage up. I did notice that one of the plug lead ends where it goes into the distributor seemed to be missing it's little (copper?) metal end bit. There was just what looked like a broken plastic lug within the rubber weather protector. Not the main center lead but one of the 4 others. I'm sure that isn't helping matters with the firing but of course has nothing to do with the turning over 'compression lock' issue. There was no sign of this broken metal end loose within the distrubutor plug hole.

    I'm now wondering if Rusper Alfa used second hand plug leads. If this is the case, had I known, I would have told them to buy new ones. Same for the coil and anything else like that. Brand new engine - why spoil it with second hand electrical items? I'm sure the coil is on it's last legs - it's about 13 years old! Oh dear, not happy...

    Giles

  2. #2

    Re: Engine Won't Start

    If you are watching fuel "whooooooshing" through and when you open the throttle fully the engine slows down when cranking I would hazzard a guess at hydraulic lock by way of fuel in the bores.

    Best thing to do is remove all spark plugs and see what happens when you crank the engine over, if fuel pumps out of the plug holes you have a carb issue that needs addressing straight away.

    I have no idea about alfa engines so is this an air cooled thing or water, if water then again check as above, plugs out to see if water is pumped out, if so then cracked block or knackard head gasket.

    Generally when cranking an engine if you put your foot flat to the floor on the accelerator it should make no difference to the cranking speed. If to start it you have to hold your foot to the floor for it to catch then I would say it is throwing fuel in by the bucket load.

    Do the above test before anything else as if you continue on this vain attempt at starting and it is hydraulic locking you will stuff your engine big time (bent rods as a minimum).

    As to the plug lead, it won't help the running that is true but also it wouldn't make the engine slow down.

  3. #3
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    Re: Engine Won't Start

    Thanks for the quick response. You inspired me to go out to the garage again and check things over.

    All four spark plugs were sooty black on the tips that wouldn't come off with a rag and cleaning fluid. I used a wire brush to clean them up.

    I cranked over the engine with the spark plugs out. To my relief there was no water or fuel coming out of the holes where the plugs sit. I poked my finger in - all pretty normal. Essentially it span over with none of the compression lock I'm describing.

    Put the plugs back in, turned the engine over. This time it wanted to fire a lot more than previously. My guess is because the previous failed attempt (2 months ago) sooted the plugs up. Maybe also the fact that I have run it on the odd occassion has contributed to sooting the plugs up. Also it could be running a bit rich as the carbs were only tuned in as much to get them working.

    The 'compression lock' sound is still there though. When it happens it is always on every 3rd stroke. Hard to explain. I'll let the video's do the talking. It's not as noticable when turning over from a fresh battery but as it wears down it becomes more noticable, especially Attempt 4...

    1st Attempt
    http://youtu.be/YwESN54jvgU

    2nd Attempt
    http://youtu.be/WFvqoIrjgXU

    3rd Attempt
    http://youtu.be/9DfDA2x4OMg

    4th Attempt (on this vid you can hear the compression thing happening on every 3rd stroke.
    http://youtu.be/xKcg1dPSMnE

    Probably the most boring videos I've ever made!

    G

  4. #4
    Euro-Nova Founder bobbybrown's Avatar
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    Re: Engine Won't Start

    It's certainly trying to fire, are you certain there isn't a fuel blockage?
    If your concerned about compression whip the plugs out and do a compression test, this at least will tell you what's going on from that angle.

    If your compression is as expected, I would be looking towards the electrical side, plugs, leads, coil etc. if compression is present and the numbers are good, add air fuel and a spark and you should be running.

    Hope you get it sorted, ill be watching this thread with interest.
    Euro-Nova Big Cheese!
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  5. #5

    Re: Engine Won't Start

    Ok, no water or masses of fuel in the bores, sounds like it could be slightly too far advanced on the timing.

    Would suggest you check the timing on the distributor against number one plug and see how much advance you have.

    Before trying to fire it up again I would check the distributor cap and it's contacts to make sure it is clean and useable (you don't have to replace it if it's ok, certainly not for this exercise anyway). Replace any plug leads that are no use.

    Remove the distributor cap and put a spark plug on the end of a lead and make sure that the threads of the plug are properly touching part of the engine to earth it out, now with the ignition on take the rotor arm and place it in the distributor cap so it is making contact with the central electrode, now turn it towards the electrode that the plug is attached to and you should get a healthy spark. If you do that's fine if not you may have a coil issue BUT as it does fire I doubt that.

    Take off your air filter and open the throttle butterflies and see if the accelerator pumps are working, as you open the throttle you should see fuel squirt into the carbs, if so go to next bit.

    Next clean your spark plugs well and put them in the kitchen oven for a few minutes to get them warm. Now put them back in the engine, put the leads on, cap back on (making sure the rotor arm has been put back!!!!). now try to start it again.

    If it was me and you had fuel squirt into the carbs as described above I would pump the throttle pedal about twice and no more then release and try to start it without any more throttle, if that fails then I would hold my foot down hard on the throttle and turn the engine over and see what happens then, of course if it fires you need to release the throttle quickly as you don't want full revs on a cold engine.

    In summary I would now suggest that the timing needs sorting and the carbs are not either jetted right or clean enough. good luck.

  6. #6
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    Re: Engine Won't Start

    Thanks for your help. Traditional diagnostics! I can't remember when I last ran through that process of elimination. 20 years ago I think. I'll give it a go and see what's up.

    I'm not sure the spark plugs will remain warm by the time I take them out the oven and fit them though. It's freezing outside!

    G

  7. #7

    Re: Engine Won't Start

    Your videos and sound of the engine turning over and the symptoms that sound like "hydraulic lock" are all very familiar to me with my Alfa engine. When mine had sat for several months and sometimes a year this is exactly what use to happen to me. It took a whole for the fuel to flow into the filter then carbs then engine.

    I use to turn it over for several attempts to the point it sounded like hydraulic lock, then I would leave it for 5 minutes and try again. I don't know why but it generally started after I waited for those five minutes. Another thing ti check is the chock, is in or, out or stuck?

    One cause which I eventually sorted was a bad earth on the battery lead, yes it turned over but not with much gusto! Changing the earth lead seemed to make a big difference in getting it to spin that bit faster and catch sooner and fire into life!

    I hope you get it sorted

  8. #8

    Re: Engine Won't Start

    Hydraulic lock at that speed would just go thud and stop if it would turn at all that is. your doesn't sound like it at all.
    Stale fuel? petrol doesn't last forever.
    If it smells a bit sweet and stinky, clean carbs, pump and fuel lines, drain fuel and fill with fresh, anything over three months old is suspect, six or more, definetly. It is amazing how many folks think they can park the car up with 10 galls in the tank and fire it up a year later on the same crud in the tank.
    Sounds the same as my 1641VW did on the old petrol. Battery/starter also sounds a bit lazy, check battery, (anything over two years old???) earth and starter lead connections.
    You need. Compression, sound like there is plenty.
    Spark at the right time, as this doesn't hop about it should be OK.
    Clean plugs for a good spark
    Fuel at about 16:1 air fuel mix. as it fired and ran a few strokes, I think that is O.K.
    So back to fuel. Are the plugs getting wet? after turning over a few times they should be moist with unburnt fuel, if dry. then you have a carb' jet problem, probably stale fuel gungy goo.



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  9. #9
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    Re: Engine Won't Start

    I use to turn it over for several attempts to the point it sounded like hydraulic lock, then I would leave it for 5 minutes and try again. I don't know why but it generally started after I waited for those five minutes. Another thing ti check is the chock, is in or, out or stuck?
    Dave, funny you should say this. Yesterday on my second attempt I left it for 5 minutes and the compression lock sound was really apparent, I tried again and it span over much better. Not perfect but better.

    I haven't had a chance to check today but this week I'll check that fuel is being delivered to the carbs by taking off the filters and pressing the throttle on the engine. An easy first test.

    Maybe Peter is right and the unleaded has gone bad. I had no idea this was possible? As I was only going to run it roughly every 3 months, having to drain the tank each time straight after running it would be a pain, but it seems I have no choice. At least I can then pour it into the Audi.

    Certainly I'm going to replace that dud HT lead.

    See if that makes any difference and then take it from there by trying Big Birds methods.

    G

  10. #10
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    Re: Engine Won't Start

    Peter, thanks for your reply. When I say "Compression/Hydraulic lock" I'm only thinking of the best sounding words to describe what is happening.

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