Friday, May 13, 2016

Stupid Thing Won't Start!! - Aargh!!

After last weeks preparations, I'm out again today ready to start the engine for the first time since the rebuild, well the second rebuild to be precise as I've been here once before with this engine!! Anyway, the weather is decent enough at the moment, so let's hope for the best this time...

So having checked everything one last time, I turned the key in excited expectation and listened to the engine turn over and over, patiently waiting for the noises that told me it was going to start, but there was nothing!! I stopped and tried a second time, again there were no encouraging sounds coming from the engine, not a thing!!

I continued to try with the same disappointing result until eventually the battery gave up!! Not the best start to the day! Thankfully I have already broken the cam in the last time I rebuilt this engine, so I'm not too worried about that, but I am worried why there are no signs of life.

It seems I'm going to have to get my thinking cap on and work out what's gone wrong!!!
Now when it comes to engines not starting, there are a few basic things to check before you start to panic too much and these are...
  • Is there fuel getting through?
  • Is there a spark?
  • Timing or Wrong Air/Fuel Mixture

Is there fuel getting through?
This one was pretty easy to knock off the list because as soon as I removed the spark plugs, there was no mistaking the smell of fuel coming from the cylinders. I gave each cylinder the sniff test and could confirm that they were all reeking of fuel. Not only that, I could see that the spark plugs were wet, so there was absolutely no doubt that fuel was getting through.

Is there a spark?
Testing for a spark isn't something I've ever done before, but I have heard other people talk about holding the HT lead with the spark plug attached and earthing it on the car to see if it sparks. Now considering there is something like 20,000 volts passing through, I can't say I'm desperate to give it a go. So instead I rigged up a simple test system using a single jump lead to both hold the spark plug where I could see it from the drivers seat and also to earth it.

One side of the jump lead was clamped onto the earth strap.

While the other was attached to the spark plug and wedged into the heater valve.

This way I could turn the key and still see the spark plug at the same time. After charging the battery back up, I turned the key and at first it was difficult to see, but using a board to block out the ambient light, I could see a spark. Believe me, it's not the easiest thing to photograph!!

Although there is a spark, it looks a bit pathetic and weak. It should be a nice blue colour, but instead, looks to be more of a yellow. I guessed that this would be due to the battery struggling to supply a decent voltage. So time to crack out my voltmeter and start to check the voltage at the coil, as it was fresh off charge it looked very health at 13.78 volts!

However while I was cranking, I did notice a considerable drop in voltage to a rather paltry 9.93 volts which I suspect would account for the pathetic spark. Maybe I need to charge the battery more.

While the battery was on charge, I inspected the inside of the distributor cap and noted that there was a little crusting on some of the terminals. As they are pretty cheap, I decided to nip out and pick up a new one along with a new set of plugs and a rotor arm, just to be on the safe side.

Once fitted, I'd like to say they made a difference, but they didn't. The stupid thing still refused to start.

While I was screwing in the last of the spark plugs, I did notice a rather disturbing issue. One of these 'Aargh!!' moments you have when you realise something's very wrong! There was petrol leaking out of the head gasket near cylinder number 4. Yeah, that's never a good sign!! I pretended I couldn't see it and maybe that it had leaked out of the spark plug hole and ran down, or something else, anything was better than the inevitable. But there was no escaping it though, as soon as I wiped it away, it was quickly replaced. I have to confess that some bad words were said!!

I re-checked the torque setting on all the headbolts in the vain hope that I'd made a mistake, but they were all absolutely spot on and a quick compression test confirmed the worst as cylinder 4 was down compared to the other three. Once the bad words had subsided, a feeling of depression took over as it all sank in.

This has not turned out to be the great day I was hoping for. I thought my new engine would spring into life and all would be good with the world and I could press on with getting the rest of the car together, but hey-ho, not today. Thankfully I do have a spare head at my disposal from the old engine, so swapping it over will be the next job I suppose...

I didn't even get to - Timing or Wrong Air/Fuel Mixture.

Normally I'm a very logical and rational person, but given the troubles I've had with this engine, I'm beginning to suspect that it may actually be cursed!!!!

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