Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Tuesday Night Tune-Up Club

I picked up the new distributor cap on the way back from dropping my folks off at D/FW on Monday afternoon. Also got a very important accessory for Blue: a blue "new car smell" air freshener for the rear-view mirror. This car just doesn't feel right without a magic tree hanging from the mirror.

Dave and I got together on the phone and agreed that we'd get together on Tuesday to finish with the plug wires and try to start 'er up. The first thing on the agenda was to remove the old distributor and rotor and replace them with the new ones. Here's Dave working on getting the old distributor cap off the engine. What's taking so long, Dave?

Removing the distributor cap was easier said than done, as the engine had at some point gotten so hot that the cap was melted and partially fused to the engine block. Off the top of our heads, we can't figure out how that would have happened; would the fumes from hot oil falling on the exhaust manifold be so hot as to melt the distributor cap? There's no evidence that this car was in a fire, as none of the other components under the hood are melted. So this is strange. But that is certainly one melted distributor cap. I put it next to the new one for the photo to make the melted parts stand out more, as I couldn't get a really good shot of the melted parts while they were still on the car:

It wasn't just the cap that was melted, the rotor was melted in place too. Not good:

But Dave got it pulled off and cleaned up the mating surfaces, put on the new rotor and cap, and then we got all the plug wires put in place and connected the ignition coil. The only things left to do were to fill up the gas tank, top off the oil and coolant, attach the battery, and see if she would fire.

All of which we did, in almost that same order. Unfortunately, she would not fire. Fortunately, she did turn over, and Dave said that he saw puffs of black smoke emerge from the exhaust a couple of times, but they were just puffs. He could see, however, the accessory belt turning and, when we pulled back the timing belt cover, he could see the timing belt moving when I cranked the engine. The fuel pump sounded like it was working, and we confirmed that the overall electrics still work, as the car turned over and all the lights (including the headlights) worked.

Our suspicion at this point is that either the fuel filter is clogged (depriving the engine of fuel) or that the engine isn't getting spark. Our plan is to pull the fuel filter and replace that and pull the ignition coil and have that tested to see if it's working right. I think I'll double-check the spark plug leads to make sure that we've got them all plugged into the right places. We're off to the internet to check a couple of other things; despite not starting like we'd hoped, we took it as a positive sign that the engine turned over on the first try and didn't make ugly noises

1 comment:

matt.mulry said...

Well that's all mildly good news, congrats.
You could test spark by pulling the plug, putting the plug wire on, grounding the threads to the engine block, and turning the engine (by key, or maybe by hand?) and see if the plug sparks. Er at least, that's how you can test spark on a lawnmower.

On the melted cap & rotor, that's just strange. Burnt-oil fumes wouldn't be any hotter than the ambient heat coming off the manifold itself. I guess if there were hot oil *splashes* that might be an explanation, but you didn't mention that the thing was covered with oil, so that's probably not it. MAYBE the PCV tube came off or something and "piped" hot exhaust directly onto the cap...but I still find it hard to believe it would've done that kind of damage. Some hot/exhaust part came off and leaned against the distributor? Still, you'd think that a melted rotor would have been the very last thing that went wrong with that car, acutely causing it to stop running. Or--the last time the car was run and turned off, the engine bay was so effing hot that the thing started melting once there wasn't any more air movement in the engine compartment. In that case, the engine was abnormally hot.

You might also see if you can check the compression. Just a guess. And, if you do have spark, try some starter fluid; you might have old, not-very-volatile gas in the system.