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1st Generation Specific (1979-1985) 1979-1985 Discussion including performance modifications and technical support sections

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Old 02-27-03, 05:14 PM
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This is a retype of my original no start checklist/procedure, originally posted long ago, before the forum was hacked in Feb. 2001. It's applicable to almost any gasoline engine in any car, boinger or rotary. It's the same thing that goes through my mind every time I have a car that won't start and covers all the problems I've seen at the shop, even the highly unlikely ones. Necessary tools are a battery charger, jumper cables, test light ($5-15), test leads, and one of those cheap socket sets from Wal*Mart or something. A voltmeter is also handy. (Stock gauges are close enough.) So, without further ado, Ladies and gentlemen, start your engines.

For now, we'll assume that the engine cranks at its normal speed, meaning a good starter and battery. I'll go into no cranks later.

An engine needs three things, in the proper order to run: Fuel/Air mixture, compression, and spark. Spark and Fuel/Air mixture are the most frequent problems, as lack of compression indicates severe mechanical problems. Such problems include blown seals or bad valves (boingers only). (IE: Head gasket, Water seal, piston rings, apex seals, etc.)

Spark:
NOTE: All spark tests should be conducted AWAY from the spark plug holes, the carburetor (If Equipped), or any fuel lines. A fire extinguisher should be kept handy. I am not responsible for any damage, injury, or death caused by anything in this. Please use good judgment.

Remove a spark plug from the engine and plug it into its respective spark plug wire. Wedge the metal part of the spark plug body into a metallic part of the body of the car. Hood hinges or brackets work well. Alternatively, you can plug a screwdriver into the spark plug wire and lay it close to a metal surface on the car's engine or body like the nuts on the strut tower. Test leads can also help. Remember to leave a small (About 1mm) spark gap. On cranking, a spark should be observed in the gap you left or at the tip of the spark plug. Repeat this procedure for each spark plug. An assistant may be useful. If no spark is observed, trace the ignition system backwards from that plug. Examine wires for cracks or other damage and wear. Check the distributor (If Equipped) cap and rotor for burned or worn electrodes. Check the ignition coil. (Procedures for this vary from car to car and are beyond the scope of this.) And finally, check the electrical connections for the primary (Low voltage) side of the ignition system, as well as ignition modules. (Igniters and magnetic pickup or points. Again, these vary from car to car.)

While the spark plugs are out, check the condition. Severe blackness means that the carbon fowling may bridge the spark gap and kill the spark. Clean them somewhat.

Fuel/Air Mixture:
Fuel is delivered from the tank to the engine via a pipe and hose. Fuel pumps can be located either back by the fuel tank, electrically powered, or up by the engine, mechanically powered. Electrical pumps usually make a whirring noise, so that's the best place to start. While the key is on, or while the engine is being cranked, an assistant can listen for it, under the car, at the fuel tank, or from the fuel filler area. If no whirring noise is heard, it doesn't mean that the pump is bad though. The best test is to remove the fuel hose from the carburetor or fuel rail and put it in a cup, and then crank the engine for a second to see if the cup collects fuel. Also note the quality of the fuel. Odd colors such as brown are no good. If no fuel is found, check all fuel lines for obstructions or kinks. Also check any electrical connections to the electrical fuel pump (If Equipped.) Too much fuel can be just as bad as too little fuel or no fuel at all. With the spark plugs removed (See above) observe if clouds of fuel are emitted from the engine. Too much fuel indicates flooding. After the excess fuel is removed, add some oil (about an ounce or two) to the combustion chamber via the spark plug hole to restore compression. (The excess fuel removes oil from seals and reduces compression.) If coolant or oil comes out, there are seal or gasket problems that require further diagnosis. They may be terminal; they may not.

Compression:
Without a compression gauge, it's hard to get a very accurate reading of compression, however there are simple YES/NO tests that can be conducted. Remove one spark plug from one combustion chamber. (On Rotaries, use the leading (lower) one.) Crank the engine. The engine should make a whooshing air (PTSSSSS!!!!) sound. Boingers have one cycle per chamber; Rotaries have three.

Rotaries---
PTSSSS!!! pt.. pt.. (One strong, two weak) indicates a blown or stuck apex seal. PTSSSS!!! PTSSSS!!! pt.. (Two strong, one weak) indicates a bad side seal. On rotaries, the ATF/MMO treatment may be used to restore stuck seals. (Search for the procedure. This is long enough as it is.)

Boingers---
It may be possible that the timing belt/chain has skipped a tooth or broken entirely. See if there are any access holes in the timing cover. Alternatively, you can try and look into the oil filler cap and see if the camshaft or rocker arms move while cranking. If the timing belt has broken, there may be a chance that it can simply be replaced. Sadly on newer engines, particularly smaller four cylinder ones, if the cam and valves stop moving they won't clear the pistons and the engine destroys itself.

If seals are gone, there is no other solution except an engine overhaul.

Up until now, we've assumed that the engine at least cranked. Now I'll go into starting systems, as well as testing your starter at home.

A well charged battery and good starter are key. Battery cables and terminals however are a commonly overlooked item. Nothing works well with inadequate power. Examine the terminals for severe corrosion. Scrape them clean. Check where the wire enters the terminal.

It's best to charge the battery overnight. Batteries typically take a few amps to charge when you first hook the charger up. Look at the Ammeter on the front of your charger. (Most include one.) They taper off as they charge up, by the time they're done they may take around half an amp or so. If the battery takes no current what so ever, then it is defective. Defective batteries should be disposed of, as I will not be going into the process of adding water to maintainable batteries. Battery voltage should be no less than 12 volts after charging (No electrical items on.) and around 9 or 10 while attempting to crank. If it doesn't go down while cranking, there is a problem in the starting system. If it goes below 8 or 9, replace the battery. If you can't use a voltmeter, try to crank the car with the headlights on. You may need an assistant to watch. If the headlights do NOT dim while attempting to crank, suspect the starting system. Batteries typically last around 4-6 years. Discharging them (Leaving your lights on overnight, electrical accessories on without the engine on, running with a bad or inadequate alternator, etc.) shortens their life, as car batteries are designed for short, large bursts of power, not deep cycle use. Look into Optima brand batteries for long use, especially if you're an audiophile or have a truck with a winch.

The starter solenoid is sometimes located on the starter, or sometimes on the firewall, close to the battery. Just follow the positive cable to it. It uses the largest branch of the cable. You can try to hotwire the car to test the starter. Most starter solenoids have three terminals on them. One big one in from the battery, one big one out to the starter, and one small one from the ignition switch. To hotwire the car, first put the shift lever in neutral (For a manual, Or Park for a slush box... Very important as this bypasses any neutral safety switches and clutch interlocks, if so equipped. I am not responsible for any damage, injury, or death caused by anything in this text.) Use a test lead to connect the small wire from the ignition switch to the positive terminal of the battery, or that large positive connector on the solenoid. The solenoid should click once loudly. If not, replace it. Check for battery voltage at both large terminals. If one does not have power, replace the solenoid.

If everything up till now works, remove the starter. You may elect to test it at home or bring it to an auto parts store for testing. To test it at home first inspect the pinion gear and the ring gear on the engine where the starter was attached. Look for severely damaged teeth. If there is damage, replace the starter or flywheel. Use your battery charger or jumper cables and a car battery. Hold the starter on the floor with your foot. Connect the negative cable to the body of the starter. The flange where it bolts to the engine of transmission works well, now touch positive to where the wire enters the motor body. (NOTE: Be careful to NOT touch the starter body. Doing so may cause a fire. As usual, I am not responsible for anything.) The starter pinion gear should sprig forward and spin. (If you have a cheap, low current charger, it may overload. Starters consume LOTS of power.) If the starter works, several consecutive times, it is good. Sometimes, however the problem is intermittent.

If all else fails, the car could be carbon locked or hydro locked. Cranking with the spark plugs removed solves hydro lock, however hydro lock indicates other severe problems such as water seal or head gasket failure. Either that or you should stop driving through rivers. Carbon lock occurs mainly in rotary engines. A chunk of carbon that has built up on an internal component breaks off and jambs the rotor against one of the intake or exhaust ports. Try using a socket wrench to crank the engine in the opposite direction. (It may help to remove the spark plugs. Cranking an engine with compression is hard work.) Alternatively, the ATF/MMO treatment helps soften these carbon deposits. Spirited driving, and occasional high RPMs help prevent carbon buildup. (But don't go above redline.)

By now, you should at least have a direction to start looking in, if your car won't start. It narrows down the possibilities and simplifies stuff. Good luck.

Damnit... Now my hands hurt.

Last edited by Pele; 09-13-10 at 10:10 AM. Reason: Typos, spelling, punctuation
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Old 02-27-03, 05:35 PM
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Very nice. This should definitely go in the archive.

Thanks
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Old 02-28-03, 12:50 AM
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Thanks to this writeup, my girl started on the first turn for the first time ever. Awwwww, thanks.
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Old 04-29-03, 09:40 PM
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Thanx very very nice
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Old 04-29-03, 09:48 PM
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i agree, very well done
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Old 04-29-03, 09:56 PM
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5, and I remember reading this the first time it was posted. Good to see it back, oh and
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Old 05-13-03, 01:55 PM
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Red face

This is the End all for no start threads... But apparantly it hasn't, so I'm moving it to the top so that more people will see it and I won't have to search for it, copy the link, then reply to them with the link.
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Old 12-17-03, 01:20 AM
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This was great now to get the car started.............that is another story......
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Old 12-22-03, 12:12 PM
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VERY GOOD JOB
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Old 12-31-03, 12:57 AM
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Thanx

Thanx for taking the time to think out the starting process.

Mine still takes some time in the mornings to start. I haven't got the process down yet.. but boy does it ever take a bit for it it to start up..

I have been told to pump the gas then turn the key so that it just turns on all the lights on the dash-then pull the choke then turn the key all the way. That has helped.. but I swear it is not getting enough fuel..(gonna have Rudy - Tekam to check it when he changes the fuel tank sender next monday)
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Old 03-13-04, 06:17 PM
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Still no fire

HELP I took 2 coils off of a running 85 rx still no spark.i also changed both high tension wires and spark plug wires. I am stumped. Does the juice flow from the coils to the distributor? Whatever supplies the juice to the coils seems to be the problem. What do you think.
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Old 03-13-04, 09:06 PM
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There is a wire from the ignition switch that powers the coils. Check under you dash to see if you blew the fuse.
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Old 03-14-04, 02:22 PM
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I put a test light on the negative and positive of both coils. The light worked on both poles.
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Old 03-14-04, 03:16 PM
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when you turn your key to the on position do you hear your fuel pump running?
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Old 05-24-04, 12:24 AM
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ive got fuel Ive got spark Ive got air and its all in time... help what do i do it still wont start.. if there is ne1 in San Antonio area.. Ill pay fer yer help to get it started
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Old 05-24-04, 12:30 AM
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Re: Still no fire

Originally posted by monad
HELP I took 2 coils off of a running 85 rx still no spark.i also changed both high tension wires and spark plug wires. I am stumped. Does the juice flow from the coils to the distributor? Whatever supplies the juice to the coils seems to be the problem. What do you think.
Ignitors... (There's two. They're black, about an inch square, attached to the front and side of the distributor. One is near the alternator, stamped with "J109".)

Test/Replace those.
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Old 05-24-04, 12:33 AM
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Originally posted by 2ndgenwanting
ive got fuel Ive got spark Ive got air and its all in time... help what do i do it still wont start.. if there is ne1 in San Antonio area.. Ill pay fer yer help to get it started
Got compression? Do the ATF/MMO treatment to deflood it.

Replace spark plugs. Creating a spark under compression requires much better plugs than just an open air spark.
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Old 10-28-04, 10:09 PM
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im posting here instead of making a new thread.

Just bought a 1982 FB, was running last week when i test drove it.
prev owner found it was only running on the leading plugs cause the trailing coil was out. he took the trailing coil out and was driving it, and burnt out the leading coil. I just replaced both coils and it still doesnt run (it cranks).

I am a total Rotary noob, but ive been playing with boingers for quite some years.

I read all through this thread and the Haynes manual.

I have Fuel ( pump, PSI, and into intake)
I have a cranking engine with a full battery
I have Compression (3 very loud PShhh) only tested trailing plug holes though.
I don't have spark.
No spark from plug grounded out of hole.
No spark from coil. (I just replaced both coils last night.)
No spark period.

I am thinking it is the ignitors, but the Haynes manual doesnt show any pictoral representations of them, and it says they are on the fire wall..where as you say thay are on the dist. (i found them on the Dist with the label J109). Haynes says to disconect them form a box, but i dont see a box....they just go into a loom and down by the sub frame.

How do i properly test the Ignitors on my 82 FB?
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Old 10-29-04, 07:01 AM
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Nice, little bump for ya
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Old 10-29-04, 08:58 AM
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The ignitors are little black things attached to the side of the distributor. There are 2 screws that hold each one on. There are 2 of them. They are what those weird little plugs go to on the distributor (not the plug wires, the OTHER plugs). Hope that helps some. Good luck.

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Old 10-29-04, 10:10 PM
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Cool.

So what do they do?
any good places to buy them for cheap??

Thanks guys!!
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Old 10-30-04, 03:14 AM
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Originally Posted by altf4
Cool.

So what do they do?
any good places to buy them for cheap??

Thanks guys!!
They are kind of like small amplifiers.

Old distributors had something called points... These were simple on/off switches in the distributor, fully mechanical. Power from the battery would go through them to the coils... But these points would wear out quickly and needed adjustment to where they'd turn on and off at the right times, and stay in that position for however long... (Dwell angle and ****.)

Newer distributors have (had... The distributor is old news now.) Magnetic pickups that never wear out and almost never go bad... Maintenance free... They are similar to a miniture microphone, or a metal detector. However these only put out small amounts of power. So you need the ignitor to pick up the weak signal from the magnetic pickup (Also called Hall effect sensor) and send a strong signal to the coils.

There's only one place to get em cheaply... A parts car. They cost several hundred bucks at the dealer.

Alternatively, one can use GM HEI Ignitors. I believe the example car was a 1979 (or 1970?) Chevrolet Nova... These ignitors are trapezoidial shaped and will require a little extra wiring to get in, as well as external mounting, but they are less than US$20 a pop at any auto parts store.
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Old 10-31-04, 12:58 AM
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Sweet! Thank you so very much pele!!

And to think i was going to ask if anybody has ever tried making their own ignitors out of parts from radio shack. seems plausable since in this application they don't reference back to any ECU of sorts, and i am guessing the coil will not care if the voltage is over what the stock ignitors put out, just as long it isnt too much.



Oh yeah... I hated Adjusting the point in my old AC VW!!!!
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Old 10-31-04, 12:01 PM
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thanks for the input
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Old 10-31-04, 12:16 PM
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Originally Posted by altf4
Sweet! Thank you so very much pele!!

And to think i was going to ask if anybody has ever tried making their own ignitors out of parts from radio shack. seems plausable since in this application they don't reference back to any ECU of sorts, and i am guessing the coil will not care if the voltage is over what the stock ignitors put out, just as long it isnt too much.



Oh yeah... I hated Adjusting the point in my old AC VW!!!!
It seems as though a large power transistor should work. Probably gonna have to be in a TO-3, TO-126, TO-202, or TO-220 case... Hardly seems worth the effort since the GM HEI ignitors are so cheap and connect right up. They put out the full 12 volts and have to be capable of handling a few amps, so they're defenately gonna need heat sinking.
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