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Why Won't The Car Start?: Newsletter Challenge (04/24/07)

Posted April 22, 2007 5:01 PM
Pathfinder Tags: challenge questions

The question as it appears in the 04/24 edition of Specs & Techs from GlobalSpec:

You've just moved to a large city in California, with a view of the Pacific Ocean from your apartment. You park your car (an old AMC Gremlin) nightly in a street-level, open air garage. You're perplexed because on some mornings the car won't start, yet other times it will. After some analysis, you discover the car starts only if facing a particular direction. Which direction is it, and what process is taking place? (Bonus points for identifying how to fix the problem, besides parking elsewhere.)

Thanks to jmueller who submitted the original question (which we revised a bit)

(Update: April 30, 10:30 PM) And the Answer is...

The prevailing air flow is off the ocean, and brings in salt-laden air. The garage area is open. When facing East, which is away from the ocean, the body of the car shields the engine compartment. When facing any other direction, the overnight condensation, with its salt content gets under the hood and shorts out the ignition.

The fix was an add-on rubber boot over the coil, and careful cleaning and sealing of the distributor and spark plug wires.

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Anonymous Poster
#1

Re: Why Won't The Car Start?: Newsletter Challenge (04/24/07)

04/22/2007 7:54 PM

The high voltage parts of the ignition system are dirty, with possible leak points, the moist air causes the normally dry dirt to conduct well enough to short hi voltage(15-35KV) to ground. repeated episodes as described will render shorted parts un cleanable.

Since its a gremlin, not long for the world, you may not want to invest any more $ than neccesary, if so.. thouroghly clean all the parts of ign sys. be fastidious with the sparkplugs, dist cap and coil tower, cables. These parts should be clean enough to look as new.. beware of using spray products to easy fix.. wont work if any dirt present, won't fix micro holes in parts, due to short path. Once a hi v. 'spark' penetrates insulation etc, carbon path burned in,

avoid any contact of cables with any metal, esp. coil to cap wire. if there is a sleeve on coil cable remove it or repl whole deal.

moist air can cause shorting across carbon on tips of plugs. replace cap if any sign of carbon tracks, as also the rotor. The ign wires to plugs and particuklarly the boots.. may already have been penetrated, but a very good cleaning with wd 40 can avoid Repl., for short time

however dirt/dust will soon reappear.. bringing back problems. i use bosch platinum tips in old smokers, they last 10x longer due mostly to pinpoint electrode in center. they respond well to cleaning, check gap on plugs, a little less than spec is better for older weak spark ign. if it has points replace those.. few persons can redo those [i can] but theyre cheap, just do all points tune up..then will last much longer.

There are simple 1,2,3, tests to isolate source..but if your driving one of those.. don't bother, all the ign parts probly in trouble/incipient anyway.

it needs, actually, a new _car_

when i was a kid, i never bought any tune up parts for my own car, just clean as neccesary.. car did just fine.. one can do a valve job with only head gasket, w/seals, sand paper, sealant, dab of grinding compound, new valve or 2...lotsa work, lotsa cleaning.. but possible.

JBo

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Anonymous Poster
#2
In reply to #1

Re: Why Won't The Car Start?: Newsletter Challenge (04/24/07)

04/22/2007 7:56 PM

oh yeah, lol you point nose towards ocean, it get damp..won't start.. jbo

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Anonymous Poster
#148
In reply to #2

Re: Why Won't The Car Start?: Newsletter Challenge (04/24/07)

05/01/2007 11:16 AM

Hey, whatcha guys talkin' about ? This happens all the time to cars in Bombay, India !

We're an island with the sea and the creek all around us ! and we can't keep parking in different positions !


Just push start. It works !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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#7
In reply to #1

Re: Why Won't The Car Start?: Newsletter Challenge (04/24/07)

04/23/2007 11:03 PM

As an addendom to #1s repair scenerio Don't forget the condencer in/on the distributer. My sister had a Rambler that several mechanics had looked at. After messing with it for several hours I tried replaceing the condencer and that made the difference. After retuning everything back to where it should be you could actually squack the tires. It was still a Rambler ,but as good a runner as any to be found.

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#3

Re: Why Won't The Car Start?: Newsletter Challenge (04/24/07)

04/23/2007 8:28 AM

My guess is your old Gremlin does not have the original doors and you only have an ignition key..... therefore, you must leave the doors un-locked to let yourself in.

Unfortunately, you are also allowing others to get into the car (the car probably doesn't have an alarm either) and it may be that the parking lot attendants are using your car's headlights for midnight basketball pick-up games.

One solution would be to face the car way from where the midnight basketball is played and they will stop using your headlights to light their court.

The other solution is to change parking lots ...

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#12
In reply to #3

Re: Why Won't The Car Start?: Newsletter Challenge (04/24/07)

04/24/2007 1:53 AM

This is a very good answer!!!! i vote for it.

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Anonymous Poster
#94
In reply to #3

Re: Why Won't The Car Start?: Newsletter Challenge (04/24/07)

04/25/2007 2:48 PM

I like it Unc!

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Anonymous Poster
#95
In reply to #3

Re: Why Won't The Car Start?: Newsletter Challenge (04/24/07)

04/25/2007 3:24 PM

But we were also asked for a solution that fixes the problem without changing parking location. One would be to arrange for the local players to be offered positions with the (Uncle) Red Sox. Perhaps another would be to remove the headlamp bulbs, as you obviously only drive this antique during the day.

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#124
In reply to #95

Re: Why Won't The Car Start?: Newsletter Challenge (04/24/07)

04/26/2007 4:39 PM

But we were also asked for a solution that fixes the problem without changing parking location.

I thought I did solve the problem without changing the parking location.... simply turn the car around and the midnight basketball players won't use your car's headlights for their lighting source...

I appologize for the second idea of moving the car to another lot...I see now that my eyeglass perscription needs adjustment and that I did not read the question correctly.... sorry about that.....

A third solution could be to lock the drivers door and leave the passenger door unlocked .... hopefully this will confuse and bewilder the future NBA stars and they will leave your headlights alone. Then in the morning, you can reach across the inside of the car to open the driver's door and let yourself in.

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Anonymous Poster
#125
In reply to #124

Re: Why Won't The Car Start?: Newsletter Challenge (04/24/07)

04/26/2007 4:49 PM

I'll go with that. It's clearly much more elegant than the expected official solution.

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#127
In reply to #124

Re: Why Won't The Car Start?: Newsletter Challenge (04/24/07)

04/27/2007 12:53 AM

Put superglue on the hoop to catch the slam-dunking culprits , or deploy the monkey-shooter. In the interest of humanity I recommend the former , it will also look a lot funnier to see how many can be suspended at once.

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#143
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Re: Why Won't The Car Start?: Newsletter Challenge (04/24/07)

05/01/2007 4:39 AM

I like you avatar. Are you ET's dad?

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#144
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Re: Why Won't The Car Start?: Newsletter Challenge (04/24/07)

05/01/2007 4:53 AM

Family perhaps ? It's a well know 'sport' in the UK.

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#4

Re: Why Won't The Car Start?: Newsletter Challenge (04/24/07)

04/23/2007 9:31 AM

If the car has a carburettor, rather than fuel injection, then the early morning sun from the east can evaporate the fuel in the carb, causing flooding of the engine.

Fitting insulation panels inside the bonnet, above the carb only, can reduce/ eliminate the problem.

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#22
In reply to #4

Re: Why Won't The Car Start?: Newsletter Challenge (04/24/07)

04/24/2007 10:58 AM

I think the question would have listed the atlantic ocean in lieu of the pacific if it was a sunrise issue.

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#30
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Re: Why Won't The Car Start?: Newsletter Challenge (04/24/07)

04/24/2007 12:32 PM

Apartment near the Golden Gate bridge looking across the bay to Alcatraz ?

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#32
In reply to #22

Re: Why Won't The Car Start?: Newsletter Challenge (04/24/07)

04/24/2007 12:38 PM

No, the Sun does still rise in California.

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#33
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Re: Why Won't The Car Start?: Newsletter Challenge (04/24/07)

04/24/2007 12:41 PM

You're nearer than me, but can't you look east across Pacific water from the bridge ?

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#37
In reply to #33

Re: Why Won't The Car Start?: Newsletter Challenge (04/24/07)

04/24/2007 2:24 PM

No. The bridge marks the entrance to San Francisco Bay.

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#48
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Re: Why Won't The Car Start?: Newsletter Challenge (04/24/07)

04/24/2007 5:56 PM

And tidal water in the bay comes from the ... ?

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#49
In reply to #48

Re: Why Won't The Car Start?: Newsletter Challenge (04/24/07)

04/24/2007 6:10 PM

An argument can be made for the Sacramento river among others. Technically the net flow is to the Pacific. Sorry to be a stickler for detail here. The apartment has "a view of the Pacific Ocean".

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#50
In reply to #49

Re: Why Won't The Car Start?: Newsletter Challenge (04/24/07)

04/24/2007 6:13 PM

Ooops - My bad! Net tide is from multiple sources including the Pacific.

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Anonymous Poster
#55
In reply to #4

Re: Why Won't The Car Start?: Newsletter Challenge (04/24/07)

04/24/2007 8:50 PM

WRONG ANSWER!!!!!!!!

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Anonymous Poster
#128
In reply to #4

Re: Why Won't The Car Start?: Newsletter Challenge (04/24/07)

04/27/2007 2:03 AM

I think since this is a Gremlin it is probably missing its gas cap. The saline rich breeze is blowing through the gas tank pointed towards the ocean, the evaporatize canister which vents the carburator bowl, sending the fuel back to the tank. No fuel on startup.

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Anonymous Poster
#156
In reply to #4

Re: Why Won't The Car Start?: Newsletter Challenge (04/24/07)

05/03/2007 7:47 AM

As stated the car is an AMC Gremlin, of course it has a carburetor and it would take more than a little morning sunshine to evaporate all the gas in the carburetor.

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#157
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Re: Why Won't The Car Start?: Newsletter Challenge (04/24/07)

05/03/2007 8:07 AM

I am located in the UK, so had not seen a Gremlin, but added the assumption as most pre-80's cars were carburetted, but fuel injection had been around since 1955 (Mercedes-Benz 300SL).

I only stated that sufficient fuel to flood the engine would need to evaporate, which is very much less than the 100ml or more held in the carb.

My own experience was with a Hillman Avenger (sold in the US as the "Plymouth Cricket") with a Weber 30 carb.

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Anonymous Poster
#5

Re: Why Won't The Car Start?: Newsletter Challenge (04/24/07)

04/23/2007 1:09 PM

Gosh, this sounds like salt air from the ocean. Here on the east coast of Florida we get salt spray carried by the wind and it leaves a film everywhere. Salt is very destructive to cars. Salt is also conductive, so it might be bleeding off the high voltage from the coil. Being a front mount engine, facing west into the ocean spray may aggravate the problem. I am not that informed with those cars.

If it is a high voltage leakage problem, then you can get the high voltage spark plug wires coated with sealant that will keep the moisture (and salt) out of the circuit. The coating can be applied to the wires and the coil. However, start with a fresh set of wires.

What we don't know is what the actually symptom is and the meaning of "won't start". As Click and Clack the Tappit Brothers would say, "can you make the sound that you hear when you try to start the car?"

My guess is that if it cranks, then I would suspect lack of spark. If it doesn't crank, then it is ether the electrical wiring (fuse box, etc.) or battery, but I am betting it is the spark or lack thereof.

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#6

Re: Why Won't The Car Start?: Newsletter Challenge (04/24/07)

04/23/2007 2:48 PM

I guess that facing east might help. The early morning sun on the hood (bonnet) would warm the engine compartment slightly, and dry it out, just as the early morning sun fairly quickly dries out dew on grass. Of course, you'd need to park at the edge of the garage.

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#8

Re: Why Won't The Car Start?: Newsletter Challenge (04/24/07)

04/23/2007 11:39 PM

What are the symptoms?

Will the starter crank the engine?

If it wont start, how did you get it to set is a different spot the next night?

When it does start, how does it run? Black smoke out the tail pipe, CARBON FOOTPRINT? or Blue smoke?

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Anonymous Poster
#9

Re: Why Won't The Car Start?: Newsletter Challenge (04/24/07)

04/24/2007 12:54 AM

It's obvious. There are lots of hills. It is downhill to the ocean on the "Street-Level". Therefore, due to the fuel tank configuration(guess), the car must face west to insure it is pointing downhill so fuel can be pumped. So, if topping off the tank everynight doesn't solve the problem, tap the tank from anohter point, and if that doesn't work then it has been converted to an electric car that charges overnight with a forward facing wind generator. Wind comes from the ocean's direction. Put the wind generator on a swivel with a fin.

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#29
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Re: Why Won't The Car Start?: Newsletter Challenge (04/24/07)

04/24/2007 12:29 PM

Hills indeed. Tall (& quite steep) if you can see the ocean. Parking is usually perpendicular to the fall line to prevent run-aways. My guess is a flat tank under the car with the fuel pick up on one side. Parked in the wrong orientation (backed or headed in) and, the tank not full, the fuel pump is just sucking air.

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#31
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Re: Why Won't The Car Start?: Newsletter Challenge (04/24/07)

04/24/2007 12:35 PM

Ah! But it would still start, as was pointed out in response to my answer of vapor lock. It would start then die after the fuel in the carburetor was consumed. Another little piece of information we haven't been given.

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#43
In reply to #31

Re: Why Won't The Car Start?: Newsletter Challenge (04/24/07)

04/24/2007 4:32 PM

You would start sucking air during the parking process. Fuel in the bowl leaks down overnite.

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#100
In reply to #31

Re: Why Won't The Car Start?: Newsletter Challenge (04/24/07)

04/25/2007 11:24 PM

I thought of that when posting, but depending on the carburator and the fuel line, wouldn't it be possible for both to drain overnight? If it's not the tank itself, this could actually be the problem and the problem could be solved by bending the fuel line. (To stop this drainage due to the slope.)


Maybe the carb has a leak at the top of one side?


I think a working knowledge of the Gremlin is needed to answer the question. Then again, it could be a trick. Is this where the term gremlin, as in unexplainable malfunctions, came from?

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#151
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Re: Why Won't The Car Start?: Newsletter Challenge (04/24/07)

05/01/2007 6:10 PM

Okay, as a lurker and a former Journeyman during that era and owner of a six-banger Javelin (the same car, only a lot better-looking) I have to argue with The Answer.

The fuel systems on those cars are pretty good, and will withstand a lot of neglect. Often the carbs and fuel pumps will outlast a lot of the other body parts. However, the distributor is down on the side of the engine, and is therefore much more exposed to the elements - the key is having owned one, and having to pop the distributor cap off and spray it down with CRC 5-56 after driving through deep puddles.

What has in truth happened is that the car hasn't had a tuneup in a ferociously long time. (And they will cold-start with one turn of the starter after a good tuneup.) The rotor and cap use copper contacts, not the more modern nickel-silver ones, so corrosion is a great factor. Those earlier caps were prone to carbon-tracking, where that same vaporized corrosion combined with the material of the cap to create a ground path of lesser resistance for the energy that would otherwise be sent to the plugs. The ground path (and somebody guessed it) is enhanced by the salt air. I also like the comment about the condenser. Nice.

But I have to give a lot of credit to the guy who suggested Mop N' Glo. I'd seen that stuff used on batteries, to some pretty good effect...

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#10

Re: Why Won't The Car Start?: Newsletter Challenge (04/24/07)

04/24/2007 12:56 AM

The way I've seen some people drive the problem may be that the car was parked resting on its roof.

Sometimes 4x4ers have a problem when extreme pitch and roll angles affect fuel flow through the carburettor, but that doesn't seem to fit this question.

I go for the salt spray explanation.

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#11

Re: Why Won't The Car Start?: Newsletter Challenge (04/24/07)

04/24/2007 1:25 AM

Not much to add really is there , apart from silly suggestions.

Take out the Engine and go solar powered.

Take out the floor and go Flintstone.

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#13

Re: Why Won't The Car Start?: Newsletter Challenge (04/24/07)

04/24/2007 3:00 AM

The spray from the ocean waves breaking on the beach or the rocks will be carried upto your vehicle by the breeze blowing from the sea.

There are 2 solutions to this problems. First of all point your car facing away from the sea.

Go to a automobile store, pick up a can of Krylon Ignition Sealer & spray it around the ignition system especially where the cables join the molded plastic ignition parts. DO NOT spray around the spark plugs.

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#14

Re: Why Won't The Car Start?: Newsletter Challenge (04/24/07)

04/24/2007 4:37 AM

Not quite enough information on this as to whether the car is parked on a level surface.Parking on an incline could influence fuel flow and priming of the carb, older cars also do not tend to retain fuel pressure for long after stopping.Try flooring the accelerater prior to attempting to start the engine.I would always try and park in the orientation which suits its starting best,it may well be that the early morning sun is having a 'warming' effect on the electrics under the hood.Having said that again it does not state the car starts better on a sunny morning, which I guess in California is quite common.

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#15
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Re: Why Won't The Car Start?: Newsletter Challenge (04/24/07)

04/24/2007 4:43 AM

Don't you need to gently depress the accelerator peddle a few times to clear a flooded carb , rather than ' floor' it ?

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#16
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Re: Why Won't The Car Start?: Newsletter Challenge (04/24/07)

04/24/2007 5:39 AM

Most carbs have a pumping mechanism which will give a burst of fuel when the accelerator is pressed, so this method would be counter-productive here. It was best used for priming the carb after maintenance.

This car was made from 1970, so will not have much in the way of electrics - even the distributer was mechanical.

Fuel supply at this time was just that - a single pipe from tank to pump to carb. Later additions (from late 70s) had "eco" engines (in Europe, at least) where there was also a return pipe from the carb to the tank. Pump pressure was increased, with excess sent back, as with fuel injected motors, but without the pressure rail.

This allowed any excess pressure from the carb to be returned to the fuel tank where earlier systems would inject it past the needle valve, flooding the engine.

This change also allowed for more fuel to be added, increasing performance/top speed without the problem of flooding at idle.

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#45
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Re: Why Won't The Car Start?: Newsletter Challenge (04/24/07)

04/24/2007 4:53 PM

The pump you are refering to is the accelerator pump. It prevents fuel starvation and stalling as the throttle is opened. It basically just dumps fuel in the intake. The sizes vary according to the carb. The pump is also directly linked to the throttle. It is not used to prime it after mantainance, holding the starter for about 10 seconds with no throttle is the method to prime the carb. the accelerator pump can only pump if fuel is in the fuel bowl. The fuel pump is most likely driven off of the engine. It draws fuel from the tank and puts it under a slight pressure (usually under 10 PSI in carbureted cars). If the needle valve is clean and the float is adjusted properly, there should be no problem of flooding at idle. (The needle valve and float only regulate the amount of fuel in the bowl. The fuel is then sucked into the air-stream by a venturi-type metering setup. The jetting of the venturi controls the overall mixture.)

Also, vapor lock is a problem of fuel evaporating in the fuel line. This prevents fuel from reaching the carb in time to prevent it from stalling. This is often prevented by a chill box, a box with coiled fuel line in it and it is filled with ice. Fuel evaporating from the carb would not flood the engine. It goes into the atmosphere, no the engine. It can be fixed by priming the engine as described above.

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#53
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Re: Why Won't The Car Start?: Newsletter Challenge (04/24/07)

04/24/2007 7:30 PM

Every time you depress the accelerator it squirts a shot of fuel into the carb. You hold the accelerator to the floor to get enough air flowing through so as to evaporate the excess gas.

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#65
In reply to #15

Re: Why Won't The Car Start?: Newsletter Challenge (04/24/07)

04/25/2007 4:46 AM

The old screwdriver in the carb trick always worked for my 1980 Citation

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#162
In reply to #15

Re: Why Won't The Car Start?: Newsletter Challenge (04/24/07)

05/15/2007 8:51 PM

Most carburators have what is called an "unloader". It's a little lever that pops the automatic choke open to allow greater air flow to cure a flooded condition. It works at throttle to the floor only. You press the pedal to the floor and hold it there while cranking. It will get an extra shot of fuel initially, but you don't want to release or pump the throttle because you'd be adding a shot of fuel each time.

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#17

Re: Why Won't The Car Start?: Newsletter Challenge (04/24/07)

04/24/2007 6:30 AM

Vapor lock. The fuel delivery system uses a fuel pump in the engine compartment to draw (vacuum) the fuel from the tank. We haven't been told that the car direction affects the level or whether the sun strikes the front or rear of the car or even if the sun is up when the starts are attempted. The question suggests that direction can be deduced and described so the parking spot will be assumed to be level. Also assuming the sun has risen when the car starts I will suggest that the rear of the car is facing east. When the sun's radiant energy heats the fuel expansion occurs inducing a pressure in the fuel line which, as noted before, is normally drawn from. Vapor in the fuel line can cause the fuel pump to loose it's prime and therefore the delivery of the fuel to the carburetor.

The same effect can be had if the car is parked front down, if the slope is significant enough, to pressurize the fuel line. The fuel pump in that age system was above the fuel tank tap and relied on a sealed system with no air leak. Newer systems put the fuel pump in the fuel tank and pressurize the fuel line eliminating the failure to start problem by overcoming the loss of prime problem.

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#19
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Re: Why Won't The Car Start?: Newsletter Challenge (04/24/07)

04/24/2007 8:01 AM

In my experience the symptom of a vapour lock is that the car starts, and then stops once the fuel from pump to carb has been used up (~10s)

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#34
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Re: Why Won't The Car Start?: Newsletter Challenge (04/24/07)

04/24/2007 12:48 PM

Excellent point that I did not consider. Of course, maybe that is what happens. We aren't told specifics about what "not start" means. Nor are we told what has to happen or how long does he wait before it will start.

Reminds me of the story/joke/urban legend about the computer help desk call-in. The computer isn't working so after going through all the obvious checks the help desk is finally told the screen is dark. He tells the person to see if the unit is plugged in but the plug is behind the desk and difficult to see. After a few more questions he is told it is hard to see because the lights are out. They are out because the power is off. As a result of the help desk guy's response to that bit of information he soon out looking for a new job.

You really need all the available information to be able to diagnose a problem and provide a solution.

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#20
In reply to #17

Re: Why Won't The Car Start?: Newsletter Challenge (04/24/07)

04/24/2007 9:08 AM

Not vapor lock. Car would need to be heat soaked to create enough thermal rise to generate enough fuel vapors to create this condition. Vapor lock occurs when there is significant heat near the fuel delivery system. Since it is in the morning, the condition is likely associated with moisture, as the is not enough time or heat needed to create a vapor lock condition.

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#28
In reply to #20

Re: Why Won't The Car Start?: Newsletter Challenge (04/24/07)

04/24/2007 12:29 PM

Not necessarily. The one thing I thought about later is the statement that description said he had just moved. If the car had been in a winter climate before the move and still had the "winter mix" gas in the tank then vapor lock could occur much easier due to environmental changes only. Now that I've written I'm beginning to think that while it is a potential problem, my reasoning may be reversed. The vapor phase would occur when the sun heated the front end of the car when everything is at equal temperature. But you are probably correct in that the temperature rise due to early morning sun is not going to be very dramatic.

Of course, there are many things that we haven't been told that affect all of the suggest causes.

1) What has to happen or how long does it take before the car will start on the days it is parked in the "wrong" direction? In other words, does the sun have to hit the car for thirty minutes before it starts or before it refuses to start?

2) What time of the morning is this occuring? I leave for my work at 5 AM. Does he do the same or leave at 7 AM or 11 AM?

3) Northern California or Southern? There is a pretty large difference between San Diego and San Francisco when it comes to temperature.

4) If the car is that sensitive to moisture then does it have problem when it rains?

5) Where did he live before, Phoenix, Las Vegas, Denver, New Orleans, Miami, Seattle? The premise of moisture being the culprit then it must be a drier climate or he would have had trouble ever leaving town to move. Or did he just move to the shoreline area?

I appreciate your input and will be interested to see what the problem is.

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#56
In reply to #17

Re: Why Won't The Car Start?: Newsletter Challenge (04/24/07)

04/24/2007 8:55 PM

No, silly. You cannot get a vapor lock problem with a cold engine.

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#57
In reply to #56

Re: Why Won't The Car Start?: Newsletter Challenge (04/24/07)

04/24/2007 9:13 PM

Is this to be taken like your wisdom of #55 ?

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#18

Re: Why Won't The Car Start?: Newsletter Challenge (04/24/07)

04/24/2007 6:58 AM

Parked on a slope. Sticky carb float, but only gets stuck either inclined backwards or fowards depending on carb orientation.

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#21

Re: Why Won't The Car Start?: Newsletter Challenge (04/24/07)

04/24/2007 10:39 AM

I am going to agree with the first solution. the salt water being highly conductive and seeping into an unsealed ignition system seem to be the culprit. I do however have a very lowcost solution to the problem. I saw this in an offroad magazine so the idea is not mine but does work.

Go to the grocery store and get some mop-&-Glo and a cheap spray bottle.

Go to the car wash and do a thorough cleaning of the engine, degreaser and all.

After the engine dries warm it up to operating temperature.(The drive home should do.)

Then generously spray the mop-&-Glo all over the electrical plugs and components making sure to coat them top and bottom.

Safety tip: Do this with the engine turned off.

When all is dry it creates a water-proof seal that last for a very long time.

If you unplug or remove any parts the process has to be repeated.

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#24
In reply to #21

Re: Why Won't The Car Start?: Newsletter Challenge (04/24/07)

04/24/2007 11:10 AM

Mop and Glo! Interesting.

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#119
In reply to #21

Re: Why Won't The Car Start?: Newsletter Challenge (04/24/07)

04/26/2007 11:29 AM

Perhaps the poster would go to the grocery store and the car wash - if the piggin' thing would start!

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#23

Re: Why Won't The Car Start?: Newsletter Challenge (04/24/07)

04/24/2007 11:02 AM

I don't think anybody has mentioned this yet but it sounds like carburetor icing to me.

Carburetors can ice up at temperatures well above freezing. When the engine is cold the temperature drop caused by the evaporation of the petrol and drop in pressure as the air flows through the carburetor can easily cause the temperature to drop below 0° C and cause ice to form on and around the carburetor. Carburetor ice can be especially problematical if you are using the choke as it takes very little ice to block the flow of air and either restricting the flow of air or fuel jets.

Pumping the accelerator is also not a good idea as the increased injection of fuel will only lower the temperature and exacerbate the problem.

The reason the problem doesn't occur when the car is parked facing a certain direction is likely due to the sun falling on the engine cover and warming the carburetor sufficiently to stop the formation of ice during the startup procedure.

Some older cars actually have system that allows for warm air to be drawn from around the exhaust manifold. While this prevents the formation of carburetor ice during normal operation in extremely cold climates it will not work in this situation as the exhaust manifold will not yet be hot.

Parking the car so that that the sun can fall on the engine cover in the morning is a good idea but if that is not possible then the following start up sequence is the best way to avoid carburetor ice.

  1. If there is a manual choke set it so that it is around half on. Setting it any further than this will allow ice to form more readily. If the car has an automatic choke and the problem persists it may be worth either disconnecting it or adjusting it so that it can't fully close.
  2. Gently depress the throttle till it is fully depressed and while holding the throttle fully open start the engine. Do not pump the throttle as this will cause even more ice to form and will more than likely flood the carburetor. Depressing it slowly minimizes the rate the fuel is forced into the carburetor by the accelerator pump and minimizes the risk of ice forming.
  3. As soon as the engine starts release the throttle so that the engine dose no over rev while cold and cause damage. A good rule of thumb it to try and keep the engine below 1,000 RPM till the oil pressure has built sufficiently to lubricate the engine properly.
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#27
In reply to #23

Re: Why Won't The Car Start?: Newsletter Challenge (04/24/07)

04/24/2007 12:26 PM

I think this is great , especially given the location . My money back's your anwer on this masu.

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#35
In reply to #23

Re: Why Won't The Car Start?: Newsletter Challenge (04/24/07)

04/24/2007 2:00 PM

...the car is not starting Masu, carburetor icing only occurs when the engine is running or if you live in Alaska and it's winter.....

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#61
In reply to #23

Re: Why Won't The Car Start?: Newsletter Challenge (04/24/07)

04/25/2007 1:51 AM

Don't the salt contribute to the freezing?

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#92
In reply to #23

Re: Why Won't The Car Start?: Newsletter Challenge (04/24/07)

04/25/2007 11:44 AM

Me thinks that Iceing up in a southern hemisphere problem,you blot down under are always looking for ways to cool off and this one should be captured and expanded on ,you may have found a way to avoid heat exhaustion,good luck and keep the car pointed down hill so you can roll away from the dampness of the surf and dry out the electrical and start the blumin car after all it's a Gremlin maybe a toe would be the best bet .

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#134
In reply to #92

Re: Why Won't The Car Start?: Newsletter Challenge (04/24/07)

04/27/2007 2:52 PM

For those that are interested hire is the Wikipedia article on carburetor icing and a chart that is used to predict the chance of carburetor icing.

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#135
In reply to #134

Re: Why Won't The Car Start?: Newsletter Challenge (04/24/07)

04/28/2007 1:45 AM

Excellent links Masu . Your posts are always the ones with the best factual explanation .Respect !

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#136
In reply to #135

Re: Why Won't The Car Start?: Newsletter Challenge (04/24/07)

04/28/2007 12:28 PM

Thanks Kris.

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#138
In reply to #134

Re: Why Won't The Car Start?: Newsletter Challenge (04/24/07)

04/28/2007 5:10 PM

I'm no expert, but my instinct (no proper knowledge or model) suggests that the surfaces would need time to cool before sufficient ice can accumulate to interfere with the flow. If that is correct, the car would at least start, even if it stalled pretty soon thereafter.

Fyz

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#145
In reply to #138

Re: Why Won't The Car Start?: Newsletter Challenge (04/24/07)

05/01/2007 5:51 AM

.Hi Fyz,

I have seen a demonstration of carburetor ice forming and it happens very quickly. You get a film of frost forming on the inside of the carburetor almost as soon as the air starts flowing through the carburetor. I have also had problems starting a 1980s model Subaru that was attributed to carburetor ice. The technique that I described was how I managed to get round the problem and certainly fits with the problem being carburetor ice.

I have been told that flat engines like those in the VW beetle, Porsche, Subaru and many light aircraft, are more prone to carburetor ice than other engine configurations. I have no idea why, or the thinking behind this and I don't even know if it is true, but, the only car that I have ever had a problem that was attributed to carburetor ice had a water cooled flat four alloy engine.

As for the official answer I quote,

"When facing any other direction, the overnight condensation, with its salt content gets under the hood and shorts out the ignition."

While I agree that salt laden water could cause a problem, isn't water that condenses from the air pretty much pure water?

When you have salt water laden air isn't the salt part of tiny airborne droplets of water that have become airborne due to wave and wind action?

If there is little to no wind you will get condensation regardless of the direction the car is facing and this would be close to pure water. If however there was a slight on shore breeze then it would have the affect of small airborne droplets of salt water settling on the westward facing surfaces. It is the same end result but technically the salt water is not condensing but rather collecting on the surface due to the airborne droplets impacting and becoming attached to the surface.

Yes, I know it is being pedantic, but this is a challenge question and nit picking is part of the game.

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#146
In reply to #145

Re: Why Won't The Car Start?: Newsletter Challenge (04/24/07)

05/01/2007 9:00 AM

Hi, Masu--

You wrote: Yes, I know it is being pedantic, but this is a challenge question and nit picking is part of the game.

I'm a nit-picker myself; you are right.

In 1970, a female friend, who later became my wife finished school, bought a new car, and moved to San Francisco. A few months later, she and a classmate moved to an apartment in a building directly across the Great Highway from the beach. The garage area was at the street level, which was practically level, and the apartment was two stories above, where one could see and hear the surf.

When you go to the beach there, the wind from the ocean is almost constant, and moist. I think that much of the salt content is from spray of the waves, creating droplets small enough to remain air borne for a few miles (salt-based corrosion was a frequent problem on any susceptible surface with a direct exposure to the west as far as 2-3 miles away).

I have always enjoyed the humorous, though fictional, association between the location, the era, the direction for the car to start, and the car's model name. Apparently, some others who have replied to the challenge question have seen the same humor.

Did you know, that for about 1-2 weeks near this time of the year, you can pick wild strawberries at the top of Twin Peaks, where they are a native plant? You have to look carefully, because the berries are often under the leaves and are quite small (1.5 cm is very large), but the ripe ones are incredibly flavorful and sweet. The shale gravel and rock of the hillsides, with small amounts of soil between the larger pieces makes for a tough climate, but the wild strawberries seem to survive well enough, particularly on the western slopes.

I appreciate your contributions to the blogs, but don't have enough time to be as involved or literate as I would like.

John M.

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#149
In reply to #146

Re: Why Won't The Car Start?: Newsletter Challenge (04/24/07)

05/01/2007 11:23 AM

Cooking is a hobby of mine and I have a great recipe for a dissert that uses strawberries if you are interested.

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#147
In reply to #145

Re: Why Won't The Car Start?: Newsletter Challenge (04/24/07)

05/01/2007 10:00 AM

Hi Masu

Thanks.

Regarding the answers and relevance to the West Coast of the USA: I lived(?) in the Los Angeles region for a time in the early 1970s, and the problem described in the question was quite common. But vehicles in the area seemed to last much longer than elsewhere in the country, in spite of the NOx and SOx compounds that infested the smog at the time. So, at least as regards this area, it seems unlikely to me that salt was a significant contributor. Nevertheless, the solution was similar to that proposed by jmueller (not identical - local fashions?); one of the older cars we ran while there had already been modified when we aquired it, the other we had to correct shortly after aquisition.

Fyz

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#150
In reply to #145

Re: Why Won't The Car Start?: Newsletter Challenge (04/24/07)

05/01/2007 3:28 PM

I have been told that flat engines like those in the VW beetle, Porsche, Subaru and many light aircraft, are more prone to carburetor ice than other engine configurations.

Hi Masu:

Re VW's: The reason this is postulated is that the carb is so far from the engine cylinder heads that there is a less heat transfer to the carb from the heads (than in inline or V engines). In practice, I don't think old VW's were more prone to icing than other cars. (The standard engines had preheater hoses leading to the air cleaner inlet pipe, which served the same function as deice ducts on aircraft engines.) On aircraft, I always applied carb heat on descent, and never experienced icing, nor did I want to experiment with not applying it just to see what would happen.

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#25

Re: Why Won't The Car Start?: Newsletter Challenge (04/24/07)

04/24/2007 11:27 AM

Check that loose nut behind the wheel.

T.

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#26

Re: Why Won't The Car Start?: Newsletter Challenge (04/24/07)

04/24/2007 11:45 AM

Put simply, during those times when the engine will not start, there is insufficient voltage for a spark to jump the spark plugs' gap. On those mornings when the engine does start, it probably has just enough spark to jump the gap. The difference in voltage between the two regimes is due to the moisture from the ocean breezes condensing on the plug wires when the car is facing the ocean breezes.

The primary culprit are the plug wires. The reason I say primary, is due to the plug wires being the difference-maker. As elucidated elswhere, there are numerous causes for a weak or intermittent spark condition. These include: internal breakdown of ignition coil (bad coil), worn spark plug (rounded electrodes), improperly gapped spark plugs, shorted spark plugs due to carbon build-up, carbon tracking on distributor cap and/or rotor, bad condenser, improper ignition resistor, and of course, bad plug wires. These contributors may act singly, or in combination.

For example, the entire ignition system may be up to par except for a set of bad plugs and wires. Since the car is an AMC Gremlin, the plugs are probably partially fouled due to excessive blow-by from blown oil-control piston rings. Carboned plugs require a higher voltage in order to spark than a comparable set of clean plugs. The carbon build-up on a spark plug insulator bleeds off some current to ground thereby limiting the voltage potential at the spark plugs' gap. In other words, bad or worn plugs require an ignition system that is really up to snuff.

However, if an engine also has bad spark plug (ignition) wires, some of the current will be drained to ground, decreasing the voltage being dropped at the spark plug gaps. Dry plug wires, in which the dielectric (insulator) is breaking down, can often deliver sufficient voltage to the spark plugs. Though, if the plug wires are wet, as from condensation, more current will be drained to ground (electrical) than if the plug wires are dry....resulting in the decreased voltage at the spark plugs.

The reason why plug wires are so sensitive to collected moisture is due to their extensive surface area. As plug wires age, corona erosion breaks down the dielectric and allows a small amount of current to conduct through it. This can be witnessed by observing an engine while it's running in the dark. Bad plug wires will produce a miniature lightning show as faint sparks dance over the surface of the wires.

When the car is facing the ocean, the moist air enters the engine compartment through the grill and condenses on the engine surfaces, including the plug wires. If the car is facing away from the ocean breezes, the engine does not experience the condensation nearly as much, and the engine starts.

The owner should break down (ha ha) and get a new set of plug wires. At the same time, replace, and remember to properly gap, a new set of spark plugs.

Herb

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#36

Re: Why Won't The Car Start?: Newsletter Challenge (04/24/07)

04/24/2007 2:01 PM

Wow! A lot of opinions.... but not many symptoms to go on. Fun in a newsletter, but not so fun in the real world.

"Does not start"

I've done diagnostics all my life - the most important step is interviewing the operator. – I think You all will agree.

does the engine crank?

all this salt spray / ignition discourse - has anyone considered the Lead Acid Lump under the hood? (I'm sure its as beat up as the rest of the car) maybe the battery connections are subject to the same moisture issues as ignition.

jeez - get a bunch of engineers in a room! I really love CR4 - you folks amaze me with the depth of thought...

True story:

I drove 40 miles to jump start a friend's car - 1978 dodge aspen - dead of winter, upstate new York. BRRRR

it "would not start"

When I got there, I put the car in "Park"

The car started. - turns out, he was running late when he got out of the car, forgot the "P" part of parking.

Perhaps our gremlin suffers from the same "gremlin" (it had to be written!)

Parked on a Hill:

· fuel,(for reasons stated so eloquently elsewhere)

· electrical (twisting of powertrain breaks connection somewhere)

Parked flat or east-west:

  • Most likely moisture issues discussed above, or LAL

Usually carbs do not ice until some time passes – just as your pulling out into on-rushing traffic! (been there, done that!)

I can't wait to see the final solution.

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#38

Re: Why Won't The Car Start?: Newsletter Challenge (04/24/07)

04/24/2007 2:30 PM

The car will only start when the engine compartment is not facing the ocean. The reason way the car will not start when facing the ocean is because the distributor cap has a crack in it. The crack allows the moisture in from the warm humid air coming from the ocean. At night when the air temp drops the water vapor condenses and causes the spark to short to ground causing the car not to start.

KR

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#46
In reply to #38

Re: Why Won't The Car Start?: Newsletter Challenge (04/24/07)

04/24/2007 4:58 PM

Many disributors have a vent in them.

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#129
In reply to #46

Re: Why Won't The Car Start?: Newsletter Challenge (04/24/07)

04/27/2007 6:31 AM

There is a big difference between a vent and a crack. Vents are connected to the air intake system and designed to remove any moisture that might enter the cap and to remove any ozone build up generated by any arcing or sparking of the high voltage. A cracked distributor just lets moisture and the like in.

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#39

Re: Why Won't The Car Start?: Newsletter Challenge (04/24/07)

04/24/2007 2:32 PM

The car won't start because of moisture grounding out the ignition wires and other ignition parts. The moisture comes from the Pacific Ocean and settles on the car as dew. Park the car facing east so the nose warms at sunrise and drys out the moisture. Then drive to an autoparts store and get a new distributor cap, rotor, and ignition wires.

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#40

Re: Why Won't The Car Start?: Newsletter Challenge (04/24/07)

04/24/2007 4:01 PM

not only wet/moisture, salt as well. Facing the water and constant flow into engine area is suspect. Covering the front with tarp, car cover etc, will allow air flow but trap moisture and salt on outside. of course, back in to help all together.

also maybe install a "brake" wall that would only sit as high or alittle higher than front end. that way the view is still there and car front protected.

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#41

Re: Why Won't The Car Start?: Newsletter Challenge (04/24/07)

04/24/2007 4:14 PM

If the Californian city is San Francisco, the hills are steep and could cause a fuel flow problem, depending if the car is facing uphill or downhill. Everything else is kind of misty and nebulous.

Dave Meador

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#42

Re: Why Won't The Car Start?: Newsletter Challenge (04/24/07)

04/24/2007 4:31 PM

San Fransisco prevailing wind is from the West off the ocean to East. When car is parked facing West, the wind creates a high pressure area below the Gremlin and gremlins crawl up to the carburetor carring lower pressure with them, and allow fuel to evaporate from the bowl. When parked facing East the high pressure below the car is allowed time to equalize the pressure differential from the time the wind blows past the rear to the engine compartment at front, and the fuel vapor is not releadsed from the carb.

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#44

Re: Why Won't The Car Start?: Newsletter Challenge (04/24/07)

04/24/2007 4:37 PM

How the ... did you manage to move the car before sorting the problem - so you could find out that it would start if parked in a different orientation? Wait until the afternoon so it would move? That pretty much rules out carburation problems or lack of cranking. I go for moisture preventing a spark, probably caused by mist drifting form the ocean - less of a problem if the car is facing East (plus the sun will help dry things out). I'm not familiar with the Gremlin, but in general I'd look to clean the electrical components in the old rustheap, and replace the head on the distributor and/or the ignition coil as appropriate. You might want to place a piece of plastic behind the radiator before leaving it overnight. If the problem persists, maybe electronic ignition would help?

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#47

Re: Why Won't The Car Start?: Newsletter Challenge (04/24/07)

04/24/2007 5:21 PM

The first problem here is the Gremlin issue.This problem can be handled swiftly by pushing the car into the surf at low tide.Calling Gieco and having a grade B former actor explain what happened.

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#51

Re: Why Won't The Car Start?: Newsletter Challenge (04/24/07)

04/24/2007 6:18 PM

Nobody seems to have questioned the fuel ;

"The Gremlin was a popular test-bed for experiments with alternative fuels. Many universities converted them to run on natural gas, hydrogen and electric power. Engineers at Coleman Products Corporation in Coleman, Wisconsin created a non-drivable plexiglas Gremlin as a demonstrator of the placement and function of electrical wiring harnesses."

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#52

Re: Why Won't The Car Start?: Newsletter Challenge (04/24/07)

04/24/2007 6:55 PM

The moisture in the air is the obvious answer. BONUS QUESTION!!! Same car, assume 1974 AMC Gremlin. You arrive in the morning and discover to your horror that the starter is CRANKING THE ENGINE and you have yet to open the door!!! What is going on? The starter on my 1974 Gremlin engaged while I was driving down the street, but it could happen while parked (don't blame me--I married into it!!!)

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#54

Re: Why Won't The Car Start?: Newsletter Challenge (04/24/07)

04/24/2007 7:39 PM

Didn't the Gremlin have an aluminum block. The older aluminum blocks used to attract condensation (did not have to be salt). And for some reason the moister would condense inside the distributor cap. The first aluminum block Dodges were the worse.

Pull the distributor cap off and squirt the rotor, points, and inside of the cap with WD40 (it was made to displace moister), It'll start right up.

To prevent it, just put a hundred watt bulb under the engine at night (turned on), and no more problems.

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#58

Re: Why Won't The Car Start?: Newsletter Challenge (04/24/07)

04/24/2007 9:23 PM

54 POSTS AND WE HAVE TO WAIT UNTIL MAY 1ST!!!! OH COME ON!!!! For anyone familiar with Jerry Clower...."Just shoot up here amongs't us! One of us has got to get some relief!"

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#63
In reply to #58

Re: Why Won't The Car Start?: Newsletter Challenge (04/24/07)

04/25/2007 3:43 AM

Check out some earlier challenge questions - over 200 posts on those. We had over 150 on last weeks before we got the answer (although some were a little off topic, eh Kris?!)

Just for the record I'm on the condensation + salt side on stopping the starting, with a bit of help to aleviate the problem from the early morning sun if parked facing east - or indeed south.

Solution: ditch the Gremlin (only in the US!) and get a diesel powered vehicle. Then there's none of these pesky distributors to worry about, fuel consumption's better, lifetime production of PM10s is lower, lifecycle costs lower (diesel engines generally do twice the mileage of a petrol engine), thermal efficiency is higher...

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#80
In reply to #63

Re: Why Won't The Car Start?: Newsletter Challenge (04/24/07)

04/25/2007 9:08 AM

(although some were a little off topic, eh Kris?!)

Moi ? Now , since you mention Topic bars.....

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#59

Re: Why Won't The Car Start?: Newsletter Challenge (04/24/07)

04/24/2007 11:26 PM

The car starts if parked in one particular direction, because the engine gets cooled quickly because of right air direction

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#60

Re: Why Won't The Car Start?: Newsletter Challenge (04/24/07)

04/25/2007 12:11 AM

The car is facing west, beacuase it is an older car it would probably have a carburator and not electronic fuel injection, and if they have a view of the pacific oocean it means they live on a hill, and the gasoline wont get to the engine with enough pressure.

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#62

Re: Why Won't The Car Start?: Newsletter Challenge (04/24/07)

04/25/2007 3:23 AM

I'm not familiar with an AMC Gremlin but I'm guessing that the distributor is situated near to the radiator grill. When the car is parked facing the sea, sea fret / haar / fog blows over the distributor causing excessive damp on the contactor points etc so the car won't start; if the car is parked facing inland this problem does not occur.

A generous spray of WD40 around the distributor should alleviate this problem

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#64

Re: Why Won't The Car Start?: Newsletter Challenge (04/24/07)

04/25/2007 3:51 AM

I would guess that it was all to do with the direction of the wind. If the car was facing the wind in dry weather the car would start OK. If the car was facing the opposite direction condensation might occurr keeping the electrics too damp to start.

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#66

Re: Why Won't The Car Start?: Newsletter Challenge (04/24/07)

04/25/2007 6:02 AM

She woke as the fingers of the dawn light reached through the curtains...curtains that she slowly realised were not her own. Her eyes opened wide in shock, and she froze as she heard the sound of gentle snoring beside her.

Slowly the memories of the previous evening came back to her...the meeting at the distribution company to investigate the mysterious patterns found in the sides of the large plastic boat hulls...the attempted theft of the top secret moulding technology that allowed her company to make the lighter than expected balloon baskets and which gave the factory team their advantage...the irony that even though the burglar had been blown off the roof by an abandoned 30,000 cfm fan left over from an abortive propulsion experiement, the BB from her date's gun had still hit the felon, and now Blaine was in custody, facing charges for murder; she doubted that the jury would be able to understand the intricate mathematical proof that the man was as good as dead before the BB hit him.

Slowly she slipped from the bed, without waking the sleeper, who still bore the faint burn mark on his cheek. She slipped into her blue silk dress, a dress that was now very creased; she would drop it into the drycleaners that afternoon, she decided. With her high-heeled sandles in her hand, she padded silently from the room.

When she reached her car, old AMC Gremlin, she sat for a while gazing out across the bay; the effect of the sun rising behind her and the delicate fern-like patterns of the dried salt on her windscreen added an otherworldly feel to the morning. Sighing, she slipped the key into the ignition and turned it; nothing happened. Startled, she tried again. Nothing. Sighing she looked through the salt-pattern windscreen, then got out to open the bonnet.

Donning the overalls, gloves and boots she kept in the boot, she wrestled the distributor cap off and emptied most of the contents of a can of WD40 over it and the rest of the car's electrics. While she waited for the penetrant to sink it, she paced up and down, the silk moving sensuously against her body beneath the workman-like overalls, with the result that her...<snip>

She walked back to the car, slightly breathless from the various effects of her pacings, and reached into the engine bay to replace the cap. In the morning light she couldn't see the spark, but she heard the crack of electricity as the silk induced static build-up earthed. The car started; thank heavens she always left it in park!

(c) ER Literary Production 2007

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#67
In reply to #66

Re: Why Won't The Car Start?: Newsletter Challenge (04/24/07)

04/25/2007 6:15 AM

Brilliant! But shouldn't that be a hellebore?

Fyz

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#69
In reply to #67

Re: Why Won't The Car Start?: Newsletter Challenge (04/24/07)

04/25/2007 6:25 AM

Kris was getting confused by someone else using my logo - I don't do pink, so I'm wandering through other colours....watch the flower!

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#71
In reply to #69

Re: Why Won't The Car Start?: Newsletter Challenge (04/24/07)

04/25/2007 6:33 AM

This could take a while - especially if you plan to develop bi-colour...

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#72
In reply to #71

Re: Why Won't The Car Start?: Newsletter Challenge (04/24/07)

04/25/2007 6:37 AM

........or incorporate the red/white/blue?

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#73
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Re: Why Won't The Car Start?: Newsletter Challenge (04/24/07)

04/25/2007 6:43 AM

Sussed - almost (the clue is in the name!) I've just be having lessons in manipulation

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#74
In reply to #72

Re: Why Won't The Car Start?: Newsletter Challenge (04/24/07)

04/25/2007 6:52 AM

Quite - but definitely not to be mixed

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#105
In reply to #69

Re: Why Won't The Car Start?: Newsletter Challenge (04/24/07)

04/26/2007 1:42 AM

I'm still confused . Even more so now , since Fyz referenced Indian poke.

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