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Old 08-27-2007, 03:20 PM
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Engine mysteriously died, need suggestions please

The engine in my car has been rock solid reliable up to this point, with the exception of minor tuning issues, and only has 20,000 kms on it (about 12,000 miles). Yesterday morning I was driving into town on the highway and after about ten minutes of cruising I instantly lost power to the engine, almost as though it was shut off. There was no prior power loss, irregular operation, or any kind of warning that it was about to croak. Once I coasted to the side of the road, I tried to get it started again but it was completely dead. After getting it towed home, I tried a bunch of things to figure out what was wrong with it but I'm completely stumped. Here's what I tried so far:

- I made sure there was fuel being delivered to the engine, and I've determined that there is nothing wrong with the fuel system. I can pump fuel out of the carb with the throttle, I can smell raw fuel out of the exhaust as I turn it over, and I even checked to see if the pump was working and it shoots fuel out after disconnecting the line to the carb (this made a mess, lol).

- I checked to see if I was getting a spark, and I had no problems with any of the plugs. I took each one out and cranked the engine and I could see a spark as it turned over.

- I took apart the distributor and cleaned all the contact points, made sure there was a good connection to the coil ( I hate the way HEI units are set up), and I checked to see if the rotor turned properly with the engine cranking.

- I checked the timing using a redneck method I came up with because my timing light didn't seem to work. I put my finger over the spark plug hole with the plug out, rested the plug on the header to ground it, and then got my dad to crank the engine. I could feel the shot of air from the compression stroke right about when the spark would fire, so it didn't appear that the timing chain jumped or something went wrong with the cam.

- I'm still getting full power to the car, and I checked all fuses to see if something blew, but they were all fine.

So given what I have tried, here's what I just don't get... Since I am getting fuel and spark, why hasn't there even been some partial ignitions, some sputtering, or anything besides just plain cranking? Even if the timing was out or the spark was weak for some reason, wouldn't I at least get a few pops or a backfire or something? Also, what could possibly just make it die for no reason on the highway during a steady cruise? The biggest thing that confuses me is that I have air, fuel, and a properly timed spark and nothing is happening.

A couple of things that seem odd that might signal something: About a couple of weeks before this happened I noticed my tach gauge bouncing around a bit whereas before it operated smoothly. I assumed it was a loose connection and didn't really pay attention to it. Also, my timing light worked on my brother's truck, but didn't work on my car after it died. I never had a problem with that light working on my car before this happened, is it possible the spark is too weak for it to pick up? Is there some way to check this? Oh and here's a wierd one... When I opened the hood on the side of the highway to have a look at things just after it died, I noticed the #8 spark plug wire was disconnected from the plug. I would have definitely noticed it missing if I was driving with it like that, and it ran totally fine until it died. Could it have been blown off by something? This is just really wierd.

I'm totally at my wit's end as to what's wrong with it. I'm hoping I can get a few suggestions from this forum, because I'll probably start buying new parts if I can't get it working. Any pointers would be greatly appreciated, thank you.

Oh and here is my engine specs:

355 SBC, 10.5:1 CR
Holley 650 DP
Comp Cams XE268 cam (224/230, .477/.480)
Aluminum heads comparable to AFR 180
Edelbrock RPM air gap manifold
700R4 tranny with stock stall
Mallory HEI ignition with Accel 8mm plug wires
Bosch platinum spark plugs gapped at .045"
Stock mechanical fuel pump

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Old 08-27-2007, 03:35 PM
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Remember -1.Suck,2-Squeeze,3-Pop 4-,Blow.In other words ya got compression so the suck and squeeze part is working. We know number 4 is working if any thing is coming out the tailpipe.So now we need to make the pop,I would get an hei tester or make one by opening the gap WAY up, it is pretty easy for the spark to jump the normal gap in open air.Another clue is the light problem I would almost bet on an ignition module or coil.It does take a certain amount of energy to trigger the light.I once had an msd that would spark great at normal gaps when checked but would not start the car, when tested with a dedicated spark tester it would not jump the gap.
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Old 08-27-2007, 04:09 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by barnym17
Remember -1.Suck,2-Squeeze,3-Pop 4-,Blow.In other words ya got compression so the suck and squeeze part is working. We know number 4 is working if any thing is coming out the tailpipe.So now we need to make the pop,I would get an hei tester or make one by opening the gap WAY up, it is pretty easy for the spark to jump the normal gap in open air.Another clue is the light problem I would almost bet on an ignition module or coil.It does take a certain amount of energy to trigger the light.I once had an msd that would spark great at normal gaps when checked but would not start the car, when tested with a dedicated spark tester it would not jump the gap.
I agree completely. It's "possible" that the one wire that worked it's way off the plug, even though it still fired, was drawing so much current that it fried the coil or other ign component. The part of the jumping tach and timing light also lead me to lean towards a primary side ign problem or coil problem.

Mark
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Old 08-27-2007, 04:28 PM
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How far should I gap the plug to see if the coil is putting out enough energy? Is there some way I can take the coil out of the HEI to see if it is fried? I'm going to see if I can find another distributor somewhere to try out to see if that's where the problem is.
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Old 08-27-2007, 06:14 PM
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Doc here,


What COLOR is the spark at ALL the plugs?


Run a jump start cable clamped to the battery to the intake manifold, and try to start again..If it does install a NEW Ground buss system.

RUN a jump wire from THE battery to the HEI + and try and fire..If it runs you have an open in the ignition system..troubleshoot and repair..IF not..

Pull the module, and have it tested, replace as needed.

Do an ohms check on the Coil primary for "in Spec" readings.


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Old 08-27-2007, 06:26 PM
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dead engine

look toward module definatley had same prob with another lady easy fix
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Old 08-27-2007, 06:46 PM
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if it is the module, it will only fail when its hot, heat hot, not electrically hot. ive seen too many people take their modules to their local parts store to have them test it and they swear its good. a seasoned parts store employee will know to test the module until it gets some heat in it. if its not the module, im thinking pickup coil.
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Old 08-27-2007, 07:43 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by DHMag
if it is the module, it will only fail when its hot, heat hot, not electrically hot. ive seen too many people take their modules to their local parts store to have them test it and they swear its good. a seasoned parts store employee will know to test the module until it gets some heat in it. if its not the module, im thinking pickup coil.
I have had modules go COMPLETELY out, so its conceivable that the module is to blame, however would he be getting any fire at the plugs at all if the module is bad?

This would be what I would point a finger at first because of the shear fact that the car showed no sign of fault till it died.
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Old 08-27-2007, 10:25 PM
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Originally Posted by Holder350
I have had modules go COMPLETELY out, so its conceivable that the module is to blame, however would he be getting any fire at the plugs at all if the module is bad?

This would be what I would point a finger at first because of the shear fact that the car showed no sign of fault till it died.

like i said, a module may be OK when cold, but put a little heat in them, and they fail. its very common with the HEI ignition module.
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Old 08-27-2007, 10:44 PM
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I had a look at the spark again now that it's dark out and it's a pale blue color with a hint of orange in it. Don't know what that means, but I thought I would post it because it was asked for.

Just to clarify the tests with the jumper cables... I put a cable on the intake and connect it to the negative battery terminal to test the ground, and if that does not fix it, put a cable on the HEI positive input and connect it to the positive battery terminal? If neither of these work, am I to assume it's the coil then? I really don't want to have to take it in to get tested because all the speed shops are so busy they are backed up for days, even weeks. If all I need to do is pinpoint a faulty module I'll just go buy another one.
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Old 08-28-2007, 10:17 AM
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I would say you could probably find another HEI dist. at the u pull it, but i suppose you wouldn't know if it worked or not either. But you could swap parts out to see, coil would most likely be good, could swap modules, doesn't sound like the pickup is bad since you are getting some spark.

Since it just happened all at once, it seems odd that it could be a wiring problem, but I guess you can't rule that out either.

I'd let you borrow one of my HEI's if you were close to Evansville IN!

I did have a coil that gave out on me all at once, but the spark plugs didn't show any spark either.

Hmmm. Maybe try the module first like you said. Can't be too much money you wouldn't think. Could even get the MSD version if you wanted to spend more and improve on the HEI.

good luck!
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Old 08-28-2007, 10:53 AM
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I would either rebuild your current HEI or get another, if you have ANY orange in the spark that means that there isnt enought voltage getting to them.

I would put new cap, rotor, condensor, coil, module, plugs and wires. you'll have a "new" hei and should take ANY doubt away from the dizzy.
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Old 08-28-2007, 09:13 PM
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D'OH!!

Looks like all fingers are starting to point to a faulty HEI, including a mechanic friend of mine that came and had a look at it. I'll try replacing the whole unit and see if things get better. I guess since I'll be shelling out the cash anyway, what would be a good replacement ignition system to buy?
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