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Re: Help... Getting over my head rapidly

To: Michael Graziano <>
Subject: Re: Help... Getting over my head rapidly
From: Jurgen Hartwig <>
Date: Mon, 10 May 1999 19:56:34 -0400

Michael Graziano wrote:

> Now she won't start.  I'm getting spark, and gas, but not ignition.  When I
> try and turn it over,  it turns a little then it's as if something catches
> the engine and stops the cranking dead.  (Maybe 80% of the time, spins
> normally without ignition other times)  Battery is in decent shape.  And
> every once in a while Poof... a big cloud (as in ALOT) of smoke out the
> intake and what seems like other places as well, even out the valve cover.
> Not sure of color (looks white),  but smells of gas.  ALso frequent
> backfiring (constant little pings, and an occational louder one accompanied
> by lots of black (not blue) smoke.

Check the timing.  Make sure nothing is backwards, although you didn't
specify if it was running fine before your suspension work.  Check the
points.  IF they are pitted, replace them.  Also, replace the
condenser.  Verify that you are getting regular spark.  The backfiring
is a hint that you might not have the timing correct (wires reversed),
but one thing you mention is that you have to have the choke out.  This
would indicate that you are running lean.  Lean running produces
backfires.  MAKE DARN SURE you do not have vacuum leaks.  This is bad on
carbed cars, and is very frequently a horrible and frequent problem on
FI cars.  

> I thought maybe the timing chain, but the valves are moving when I crank it.
> That's timing chain driven, correct?  Carb seems to be in OK shape.  No rips
> in the piston gasket.  Never found an intake leak.

Keep checking for intake leaks. If you cannot find any leaks, then
proceed to a check and adjustment of the valves, timing, and then
carbs.  To find intake leaks, you can use most any flammable lubricant. 
WD-40 is fine.  Some endorse propane.  Others promote other fluids. 
Spray at all areas of the intake.  

> I REALLY have no idea what to do next.  I'm afraid the whole intake
> backfiring thing has been leading up to this.  Maybe my valves are all
> screwed up?  I now keep the carb relatively rich,  and the choke partly out
> to keep the engine smooth.  I was also not driving it too much until I had
> time to solve the backfiring problem.

Unless your intake valve is open during the firing stroke (due to very
bad valve adjustment), I don't see how you could be getting backfiring
through intake, due to valve adjustment alone.  This is screaming LEAN
mixture.  I don't think you mention what carbs you are running.  If SUs,
make sure your pistons are falling all the way down.  Make sure you are
getting plenty of fuel in there.

> If I need to pull the head off this damm thing,  what should I purchase
> ahead of time (tools, parts) to do it?  And what should I read other than
> the Bentleys and Haynes as prep work?  I would think I need a new gasket,
> some sort of machinist's straightedge to check for warping,  and if all
> seems lost when I get it off,  an elephant gun with a dozen or so rounds.

I wouldn't jump to that side of the fence yet, until you can rule out
ignition and fuel. Until then you are shooting from the hip, and what
you hit is random.

If, however, you are very bored and have nothing else to do, for pulling
the heads, you need a breaker bar, extension, and I believe either a
9/16" or 5/8" inch 6 point socket to remove the head bolts.  You need to
remove the exhaust from the head and free from the studs.  Take the head
to a machinist and let him do the checking.  Ask around first.  Some
machinists couldn't find a straightedge, even if it hit them in the
head.  A good machinist is like a pot of gold.  Again, don't rip the
heads, unless you have good reason.

> I getting QUITE frustrated at the rapidly deeper hole my car seems to be
> climbing into.  And I just don't have the know-how to pull it out.

Michael, when my dad gave me the '78 B about 5 years ago, I didn't know
anything about cars.  My expertise was limited to oil changes.  Now,
I've owned and maintained two MGBs, a Porsche 912E, and a Porsche 911 is
in the works.  These MGs have taught me so much and given me so much
confidence.  I tackle engine rebuilds, paint and body work, interior
work, suspension work, and brake work with ease.  It's not hard.  It's
fun.  And if you do the work yourself, you'd be surprised at how cheap
it really is, especially when you consider how much a new car costs
these days.  I've put about $5k in my '70 B, and it's carried me over
30k miles in the past two years.  How's that for value.  I'm selling it
now, and if I get the $3k asking price, I'll have spent $2000 for all
that fun and learning.  Not a bad deal in my book.  Especially given I
would have been driving a Civic for that price.

> Sorry to vent like this,  but I seem to be at wits end here.  WHat other
> info should I be revealing and any suggestions on what I need to do next?

I've vented here at least 10 times, and someone always comes to my
aide.  I've replaced the top myself ( with help, of course), replaced
the U-joints on my car (very tough job with no tools, BTW), and learned
about ignition, all because of kind listers who stepped up and gave me
advice.  I salute all of you enthusiasts.

Take care and keep yer chin up


When you were born you cried
And the world rejoiced.
Live your life so in death you rejoice
And the world cries.

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