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Old 01-04-2010, 03:56 AM
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Engine dies in gear, runs in neutral

It seems the Pontiac Poltergeist has fallen upon my 1969 Lemans.

Here's the jist:

A month ago I had some radial T/A's installed, and went to some barren roads to test 0-60 times, pushing the car quite a bit.
Engine is a bare bones GM 350cui with a 4bbl carb, intake, Hedman headers, good exhaust, etc. etc. Just little bolt ons putting her at maybe 300hp. Tranny is a TH-350 auto "rebuilt" by AAMCO a few years back for a previous owner.
After pushing the car fairly hard, it began to run rough. Timing is spot on, etc, etc. But the car has run progressively worse, with the occasional good day, or good hour sometimes. But now the car is incapacitated. I can feel little tremors while it is in park or neutral, little missed ignitions is what it feels like, however it runs very well otherwise in those positions. But if I drop it into any gear besides neutral or park, the engine will either die immediately or shake and tremor for a bit and then give out.

If I can get the RPMs up, I can get it into drive, but I'm stuck with my foot on the gas and brake just to keep the rpms up. In this case, it shifts fine, and on time, however acceleration is bogged down by what feels like missed ignitions. And if I get it into about 20-30 going up a hill it appears to run flawlessly, until I run out of hill or slow down.

But I digress. The trans fluid is there, although it does leak, however I manage keep it within a half-quart of the suggested amount. It's not dirty either. We've tried adjusting mixture, securing all wires and etc, I even replaced the rubber hose connecting the vacuum hardline to the vacuum modulator. No leaks along the vacuum modulator line at all.

So what is this? Is it the torque converter as some have guessed?
Any and all help is greatly appreciated. She's my baby and it pains me to see her gather dust in the driveway.

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Old 01-04-2010, 05:14 AM
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cracked distributor cap, bad coil, or ignition module is where i would start. the engine idling rough and wanting to stall when put in gear is the indicator to me.
with a simple th350 trans, i doubt the converter is causing this.
if its not ignition related, id check the carb, restricted air bleeds, or jets could cause a similar issue. gl

Last edited by tnsmith10; 01-04-2010 at 11:55 AM.
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Old 01-04-2010, 05:49 AM
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Since it's a 69 I would think it has points dist. May just need a new set of points and maybe a tune up.
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Old 01-11-2010, 02:38 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by tnsmith10
cracked distributor cap, bad coil, or ignition module is where i would start. the engine idling rough and wanting to stall when put in gear is the indicator to me.
with a simple th350 trans, i doubt the converter is causing this.
if its not ignition related, id check the carb, restricted air bleeds, or jets could cause a similar issue. gl
Some others have suggested ignition. My coil was loose, so we tightened that up and it helped it idle. But if ignition is bad, why would it run 90% well at idle, but drop suddenly in gear? Not to mention that if I power brake it almost like I'm trying to burn out, and I get the RPMs high before I put it into gear, I can keep the engine running (albeit incredibly rough).

Either way I aim to use my Voltmeter for all it's worth tomorrow.

As far as the Torque Converter goes, I removed the Trans pan today and replaced the filter and pan. There was a miniscule amount of metal shavings at the bottom, but a lot of tough gray build up. Sand gunk, essentially that was clingin to the bottom of the pan. But I'm fairly certain this is just normal build-up.
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Old 01-11-2010, 06:37 AM
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Ayuh,... Change the Fuel Filters,...
It sounds to me like you picked up a load of Crap,....
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Old 01-11-2010, 06:46 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Matt44
.... But if ignition is bad, why would it run 90% well at idle, but drop suddenly in gear? ....
That's easy...no load. The best thing to do would be to switch over to electronic ignition, or at least check the cap & rotor, and put in fresh points and condensor.
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Old 01-11-2010, 09:07 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Matt44
Some others have suggested ignition. My coil was loose, so we tightened that up and it helped it idle. But if ignition is bad, why would it run 90% well at idle, but drop suddenly in gear? Not to mention that if I power brake it almost like I'm trying to burn out, and I get the RPMs high before I put it into gear, I can keep the engine running (albeit incredibly rough).

Either way I aim to use my Voltmeter for all it's worth tomorrow.

As far as the Torque Converter goes, I removed the Trans pan today and replaced the filter and pan. There was a miniscule amount of metal shavings at the bottom, but a lot of tough gray build up. Sand gunk, essentially that was clingin to the bottom of the pan. But I'm fairly certain this is just normal build-up.
Coil being "loose" will have no effect on how the car runs. It sounds like you have a couple cylinders not firing. You need to figure out which cylinders are bad first, then find out why. You can test by pulling the plug wires while it is running to see which cylinders dont make any difference in RPM. These will bee the offending cylinders. Then look at the plugs, wires etc to diagnose and identify the bad parts.

Ignition issues will sho up when there is a load on the engine. they will also be there at idle but are not as easy to see.
Before you do anything, if this is actually a points style ignition, I would check the point gap, should be about .017, and replace or adjust as needed. Improperly gaped points will cause all sorts of issues. A bad condensor will also cause weird problems.
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Old 01-11-2010, 07:36 PM
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Maybe you shook up a bunch of crap in the fuel tank, and now it's in the fuel filter, or water passed thru it and is now sitting in the carb.
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Old 01-12-2010, 08:15 PM
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I had this same problem with my last motor it ended up being the carb,dont know if youve checkrd that yet?Anyways just a thought.
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Old 01-12-2010, 09:39 PM
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what year is the 350 ?? does it have a EGR vavle on it , if so it maybe stuck open and causing it to idle rough and stall when putting it into gear , and once your up to speed it runs good.
if it is ok check your igition system , cap wires ect .. if ok , take your breather off and start your car and look down the throat of the carb too see if it dumping fuel in it could be flooding out, if ok , pull the vavle covers off and check for broken vavle springs
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Old 01-13-2010, 01:45 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Matt44
Some others have suggested ignition. My coil was loose, so we tightened that up and it helped it idle. But if ignition is bad, why would it run 90% well at idle, but drop suddenly in gear? Not to mention that if I power brake it almost like I'm trying to burn out, and I get the RPMs high before I put it into gear, I can keep the engine running (albeit incredibly rough).

Either way I aim to use my Voltmeter for all it's worth tomorrow.

As far as the Torque Converter goes, I removed the Trans pan today and replaced the filter and pan. There was a miniscule amount of metal shavings at the bottom, but a lot of tough gray build up. Sand gunk, essentially that was clingin to the bottom of the pan. But I'm fairly certain this is just normal build-up.
if it has points check them i had the same problem was hard to start when it did run it would die when u put it in gear my points were about gone their easy to adjust to
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Old 01-24-2010, 05:30 PM
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Hm, I replied a while back thanking everybody but I guess it didn't go through.

Anyway,
Thanks for the GREAT advice, guys. It helped a lot, but I didn't lead to any conclusions, so I had to take it to a mechanic.

For you die hards, no it was not some run-of-the-mill car care guy. His name is Paul at LPC Customs in Ventura, California (GREAT guy for those of you who live in So-Cal). If you read HRM, he built the roll-cage for that blue chevelle on a recent issue.

Anyway, he thought I might have "rolled a sprag" in the TC (what is a sprag? ). But it turned out to be a combination of erratic timing due to insufficient vacuum to the Distributor, carb tuning being off, points in poor condition and the dwell being almost nothing (Spark to the cylinder was reallly weak).

So it was there for 3 days, he charged me 160 for two hours of his time. And now I got ma baby back
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