1985 Chev Cavalier Won't Start - Ignition System


Question: I have replaced the Module twice. I put on a new cap and rotor, as well as a new ignition coil. When I turn the car over, it tries to start, but I cannot find out why it doesn't. Any help you guys can give me would be much appreciated. Andrew

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Technican: Hello, What engine do you have and what was your original problem with the car that called for these new parts? Any doubt concerning the correct spark plug wire configuration? How many mlies on the engine since timing belt replacement? Please advise.
Owner: 4 cylinder, one morning I went to the store, got a pack of smokes, came homeshut the car off, came inside, chan, ged into my work clothes, went outside, and the car wouldn't start. My father is a mechanic, but he isn't sure what the problem is. Engine has 156000, and I am not sure about the spark plug config, one of the wires looks different than the others.
Technican: Cosmetics of the plug wires is not a problem but configuation (correctly positioned on the dist cap) from cap to plug, is. If your timing belt is failing you won't start the car because timing is so far out that valves are open/closed contrary to mechanical position needed to allow compression. The reliable life of a timing belt is 60, 000 miles. Is your father in a different location? Can you or a friend try a compression test? If your engine is not a "safe motor" and the timing belt fails, the valves in the cylinder head can be struck and bent by a piston that rises to the top of it's stroke. Such a failure calls for a timing belt and a valve job. If you have a "safe motor" and the timing belt fails, you need only the belt replaced and correctly indexed with the cam and crankshaft gear timing marks. The belt is cheap, labor is not.
Owner: I bought the car from my grandfather, and he told me that he replaced the timing belt a couple of years ago. What would I need to do a compression test? And if the belt is good, what would be the problem?
Technican: You'll need a compression tester. You can rent them from a national auto parts chain store if you can't borrow one. What does "a couple years ago" translate to in miles driven? If the belt is a good one: Did you move (rotate) the distributor when replacing the cap? This would change the timing... Is your starter spinning the engine fast enough? Have you removed and cleaned and set the spark plug gap? Tried a short burst of starting fluid in the air intake? Do you resist pressing the accelerator while the engine cranks? How cold is your weather?
Owner: I went out and tested the compression, it reads good. I was wondering if the I pumped the gas pedal, shouldn't gas pass through the carberator? And how would I check to see if the rotor changed the timing?
Technican: Yes, if you have a carburetor and fuel is present in the float bowl, the accelerator pump should spray fuel down the venturi in plain sight each time the gas pedal is pressed. (of course to see this the air cleaner would be removed...choke plate is open) If it does not spray/squirt, please advise. I was thinking you had fuel injection in that model. When starting a cold carbureted engine it is best to press the gas pedal to the floor one time to set the choke. Then crank the engine to start while resisting the temptation to "pump and crank". Your spark plugs need to be inspected to see if they are correctly gapped, servicible, clean and dry. The rotor won't change the timing. If while working on the distributor you were to cause the distributor assembly to rotate (clock or counter-clockwise) the timing changes. To set timing will require a timing light and following manufacture's instructions. Will you go back through the questions I asked and catch me up on those answers, please? Do you have insulated pliers to hold the coil wire above the coil tower terminal 1/8th inch to force the spark to jump the gap you have created? (someone else will have to crank the engine while you do this) The extra gap causes the coil to deliver a spark that will jump the spark plug gap with improvement. Be careful not to get shocked by the spark. It HURTS.
Owner: I am sorry, I thought I had a carb, but it seems it is electronic. I jave run into a new problem however, my hood release has broken. I cannot get the hood open. Any suggestions on how to open it? Thanks again, Andrew
Technican: Where is the hood cable broken...at the release handle, or somewhere out of sight? Are you stating that you have fuel injection?
Owner: Yes it is broken at the release handle inside the car. I am certain that I have the fuel injection. Sorry for any confusion this may have caused. Thank You, Andrew
Technican: Is there enough hood release cable exposed that you can get pliers or vice grips to grip the bare cable and pull to release the hood? If not, you can cut back the sleeve of the cable for access.
Owner: : I have went through the entire engine again. The problem seems to be there is no spark getting to the ignition coil. I cannot find any loose connections or worn wire. I started at the plugs and went back. The coil is brand new, could it be faulty? Andrew
Technican: I doubt your new coil is bad. Can you get a scanner or code reader to check for codes? One thing the computer looks for is the position of the crankshaft to get a reference point for spark and fuel orientation. There is a crankshaft position sensor behind the crankshaft pulley (connector is visible) that provides this critical input. If the sensor has failed the computer doesn't "know/sense" that the crankshaft is rotating. The computer therefore will not pulse/signal the distributor module to fire the ignition coil. Check out your crankshaft sensor.
Owner: Would that read on the DL? I checjed that and got only a 12. Andrew
Technican: Yes, if there were a code you would see it flash. The 12 should flash 3 times before a code will flash. If 12 flashes 4 times in a row there are no codes. Keep in mind that a crankshaft sensor can be bad and NOT set a code. If you have access to a scanner like a GM Tech I or a Snap ON scanner you can monitor the sensor value and see if it works. Another way is to disconnect the sensor and use an AC milivolt meter to monitor the sensor itself (not the connector wires) for AC volts generated while the engine cranks. No AC volts...bad sensor. Got volts? Inspect the connector and terminals for corrosion, loose terminals, broken wires, etc.
Owner: I cannot locate the crank sensor, my haynes manual has no diagram showing me where it is or what it looks like. I believe that this may be the problem. Do you perhaps know where to find it?? Thanks Andrew
Technican: What size 4cyl do you have and i will look for more info. Admitedly I don't have a diagram to look at, so I'll go get one. Hang in there,
Owner: 2.2l 4cyl ohv I believe. Hangin' in there, Andrew
Technican: More tomorrow when I can access the data base I need.
Technican: Must be a 2.0L engine, can't find data on a 2.2L. Do you have a FAX number? There are distributors with the coil external, internal and integrated. Three diagrams for module connections. Your car does not use a crankshaft sensor but does have a pick-up coil and/or a Hall Effect Switch in the distributor instead.
Owner: my fax number is 541-826-4693 I thank you for the info Andrew
Technican: I'm putting together 11 pages of info I hope will give you the edge to win here. I will FAX it shortly. Please advise quality issues that arise.
Technican: Hi, did the 11 page FAX come through alright?
Owner: I will not know until tommorow, I had the day off today and I will get it when I go to work. I will write when I recieve them. Thanks Andrew
Technican: Okay, be advised I did not use a cover sheet for the FAX. Hope that is not a problem, but if I need to resend it, let me know.
Owner: I got the fax, and I will run a check on the pick up coil manyana, I will send a message when I am done Thanks again, Andrew
Technican: I await the news.
Owner: It seems thaqt the pick up coil is faulty, will replace and get back to you on whether it starts or not. Thanks Andrew
Technican: A failed pick up coil could be the entire fault so with a new one installed get ready to see the engine start. It may be grumpy when it starts from all the cranking without spark. Just hold the throttle steady at slightly above idle and let it "clear up". Be sure you have plenty of ventalation. Is your battery charged up?

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