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Difficult cars

Community Veteran
Posts: 13,919
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Registered: 01-08-2007

Difficult cars

I'm sure many of you here have had one of these over the years... a difficult car that either won't work as it should or gives you hell when trying to do anything to it.
I've got one on the drive right now. When we got it we were assured the cambelt was done. It wasn't. Took it to tons of garages, with no luck. So.. i got a ton of tools, and hauled out the engine to DIY it. Now the snag is that i don't know a lot about cars but i'm not afraid to try anything so .. yeah.. out it came. I'd already rebuilt it after a crash and broken up another identical car so i knew how to get it all apart etc. Thats where the trouble started. Snapped bolts, engine sent away for extraction, then more bolts decided to strip the threads, helicoils fitted, then this, that, x,y,z... then after all that the damn thing wouldn't start  Crazy
It also had a dead cd changer when we got the car so naturally while i've got everything else apart i ended up pulling out the stereo and fiddling with the wiring... shoving it in, pulling it out, in, out, in, out... I did get it working but it was intermittent and it only started this after pulling the phone kit out of the car. Eventually with the intermittent cd changer still being intermittent and not being able to find a fault with the wiring, i grabbed my spare head unit and changer. Same fault! So i grabbed the spare cable that goes from the head to the cd changer.. and STILL the damned thing wouldn't work  Roll eyes So it must be the wiring right? So out came the seats, the console that the handbrake is fitted to, the forward console that the nav and stereo is fitted to... half the cabin looks like a warzone... got to the wiring.,.. still can't find anything wrong. The odd thing being when the aerial was unplugged the cd changer would work but when i plugged the aerial back in the thing would beep and die. At this point i'm getting really ****ed off with it. Completely stumped i rang a specialist who is just as stumped as me, we spent a good half hour going through it all and then he suddenly remembers a rare case he had years ago of there being a preamp for the stereo aerial that was at fault. Now me having the worst case luck of all time decided i better go and investigate and sure enough.. yes.. you got it, there is a pre amp up in the roof under the aerial and the back above the rear seats. So.. i tinker with that and find that the +V supply wire has been chaffing against a metal ridge in the roof and grounding itself  Roll eyes  Sad  Angry So.. i wrapped this with electrical tape, tested the stereo repeatedly every day week after week and concluded that it was fixed.
So with the chairs out, half the cabin destroyed and a leaking drivers footwell i decided i better deal with that too. What a **** of a job that was. A dodgy pipe fitting that carries a wiring loom through to the footwell through a rubber seal that had perished and decided to leak water through. To make matters worse it was screwed in behind the fusebox which was a further pain to remove. Oh and then there was the rubber seal in the bulkhead that wouldn't go back, the leak under the scuttle - with a wiper blade that refused to come off... the list has been endless. Oh yes.. and now the boot has a leak coming through where the wiper arm is!
Why do I bother? - I know you're wondering and truthg be told i have to wonder myself but despite it being a 16 year old car, it's the gadgets. I love the gadgets it has. Yes it has become a pain in the grass but the gadgets still inspire me and fill me with joy lol. Small things like a RF remote control keyfob for locking and unlocking it.. available on most cars these days i know but at the time it was like magic when we got it.
Anyhow.. i'm sure some of you must have some horror tales from previous cars so please share and cheer me up - it's been a rotten day today  Sad
I need a new signature... i'm bored of the old one!
36 REPLIES
Community Veteran
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Re: Difficult cars

Nothing to do with cars, but I own a Briggs & Stratton Intek engine taken off a Hayter Harrier 56, it absolutely refuses to start, I've done everything to it that it needs, from carb cleaning to a full stripdown and rebuild, replaced ignition parts, fed it the freshest straight from the pump petrol, but nothing, it just will not start, given up on it for the winter (mostly cos the oil is only good for the warmer months and I'm not changing it any time soon), makes my chinese-made Sumec-Linhai SV150 engine on my non-self prop. mower look like a top-quality piece of equipment.... Roll eyes
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Re: Difficult cars

@7up,
It's not all bad news think about what you have learned from finally discovering what the problem was.
I Could spend all day writing about problems I had with cars but one example will be enough for most  people to hear about,
It was a old  Vauxall  which kept cutting out for no reason, so plugs, points, leads etc all changed but still the problem persisted.
Carburettor was stripped and cleaned and I thought the problem was solved as it was ok for a while but the problem returned and the only advice from the dealers was it was better to let it break down completely as intermittent faults were difficult to trace.
I never really sorted the problem out but discovered the likely cause years later whilst reading a Car Mecanics magazine, seems a common problem on these cars was the fuel pipe that goes from the filler cap to the tank was subject to rusting after 7 or 8 years and minor deposits were getting in the fuel tank and then going through to the carb and blocking the tiny jets, as the fuel evaporated in the carb the blockage would clear so the car would start again, if this was the cause it made me wonder if a fuel filter was ever in place although I never recall seeing one.
So I can't be certain but this sounds the most likely cause of the problem.
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Re: Difficult cars

Quote from: twocvbloke
Nothing to do with cars, but I own a Briggs & Stratton Intek engine ...

I have a Q45 on my mower, also would not start, sounds like I went through a similar process. There is a magnet which spins on the shaft which has to pass a coil to generate the electricity for the spark plug, it is likely the coil has moved a fraction away from the magnet, slacken the screws and move it a fraction towards the outer rim of the magnet, tighten screws, now start engine.
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Community Veteran
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Re: Difficult cars

Been through all that with the magneto coil, even went as far as to remove the flywheel to check the flywheel key was intact (before stripping the entire engine down), but nope, not that either, it's had a new coil, new wiring, new NGK plug, etc., but no go... Roll eyes
It's going to sit in the shed 'til I can be bothered to try again next year... Smiley
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Re: Difficult cars

Dumb question but are you sure the plug is ok and the thing has compression?
I need a new signature... i'm bored of the old one!
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Re: Difficult cars

I had a problem mark2 Cavalier. It was fine for a couple of years then the carb started getting a bit sticky and erratic. Bit of an intermitant fault as the mixture and running was generally fine.
After some high speed acceleration the throttle even stuck for a few minutes. After controlling the speed with the ignition key for a few miles I thought that maybe I should have a closer look at the problem.
A relation had left their Cavalier outside my house for an afternoon and as it had the same engine I thought why not. So I whipped the carb off and swapped it with mine and it ran perfectly.
So I ended up getting a scrapyard carb, I did put the other one back, and the car ran fine for another year.
But then the problem came back. The general consensus was probably corroded dirty tank/pipes.
Car was looking a bit ropey by then so I flogged it for a reasonably good price. The new owner was happy enough as he said he would soon sort out any carb problems so I said good luck and wished him well.
My next car was bought from my Aunty. A Morris 1000 Traveller. Never had any problems with that.

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Re: Difficult cars

Quote from: 7up
Dumb question but are you sure the plug is ok and the thing has compression?

Yep, I have two plugs, the Champion one it came with and the NGK, has plenty of spark but no go at all, and as for compression, there's plenty of that too, more than the Briggs 575EX on my Gardenline mower (but then, the 575EX is a much smaller engine), to be honest I think I bought a lemon, that or I'm being really dense and missing something blatantly obvious... Undecided
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Re: Difficult cars

Replaced the coil? - They're known to suddenly pack up and die..
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Re: Difficult cars

Yep, mentioned that up in Reply #4, and there wasn't anything wrong with the old one after probing it with my multimeter, measured to within Brigg's specs... Undecided
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Re: Difficult cars

Careful there with that idea though, coils can often measure ok with a meter but still be defective if the iron core develops a very fine crack. I once had a coil that was outputting a spark but the engine wouldn't fire. Replaced the coil and achieved ignition instantly.
Engines need three things to fire - air, fuel and a spark. If you're sure the first two are getting in then there is something not right with the third.
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Re: Difficult cars

Yeah, but I have replaced the coil, so it should be working, heck, before I bought it, it was sold as working but with problems such as lacking power and whatnot (carb was crusty, cleaned it out thoroughly and cleared the jet, fed it a new carb kit with a new float needle, seals and gaskets, etc.), but still no go, but like I say, it's sitting in the shed over winter, can't be bothered with it for now, especially as I have three mowers to play with, all with different engines... Grin
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Re: Difficult cars

The flywheel is still magnetic? It is in two or more pieces right to induce an AC signal in the coil as it spins around.
The cable between the coil and the spark plug is still good?
Pull the cable off the spark plug. If you get somebody to pull the starting cord,slowly bring the cable back towards the top of the spark plug as if you were about to push it back on, can you *see* the spark, you usually can. We have to know there truly is a spark being generated.
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Re: Difficult cars

just make sure the lead isn't damp and wear a good pair f rubber gloves or you might get tracking through your body to ground ........ I did that once never again ....

@7up, I'm surprised you didn't have a stud extractor kit along with everything else you have there relatively cheap and are perfect at getting sheared bolts out for free,
in relation to your first question, many years ago I had a Nissan cherry Europe (the one with the alfa flat 4 engine) the car suffered from low power and a loud exhaust system so I figured I'd drop It off the car, the whole thing was rusted into one solid lump so I had to undo the bolts on the engine all the way back then drop the entire thing out in one go, obviously all the bolts sheared off on the manifold and had to be extracted (that was a fun job since I had to use a flexi arm to reach the mounting bolts on the engine) I tried half a dozen spares placed and nobody stocked the exhaust system (mine was held together with rust) so I set about it with a stiff wire brush and cure rust pot, then I gave the existing ultra thin metal pipe a good covering with cold steal, let it dry then sanded it off to a nice smooth finish and painted it with hammarite high temp engine black, wrapped it in exhaust tape (for good measure) and finally refitted it to the car, started up like a dream, had loads of power and was quiet for the first time in years, following day after a mild frost the battery was dead, the disi cap cracked and I spent another week fixing various electrical faults before finally getting it to the garage for the MOT (which it passed no probs) driving home from the garage one of the rear tyres blew out (ran over a nail) and a chunck of rubber whacked the exhaust hard enough to crack it ......

I spent another 2 weeks fixing  that car only to sell the engine & gearbox to some collectors club and scrapped the chasis because it didn't drive right kept feeling like the rear wheel was out of alignment ......all that for a car that cost me £200 to buy other than experience getting knuckle rash I have no idea why I spent all that effort on it ....
just because your paranoid doesn't mean they aren't out to get you
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Re: Difficult cars

Quote from: godsell4
The flywheel is still magnetic? It is in two or more pieces right to induce an AC signal in the coil as it spins around.
The cable between the coil and the spark plug is still good?
Pull the cable off the spark plug. If you get somebody to pull the starting cord,slowly bring the cable back towards the top of the spark plug as if you were about to push it back on, can you *see* the spark, you usually can. We have to know there truly is a spark being generated.

Done all that already, low-speed hand-cranking produces spark, high-speed drill-cranking produces half an inch of spark, still no go, the first coil did have a dodgy connection between coil and HT lead, but that still sparked (just produced a high resistance (aka open-circuit) reading on my multimeter)...
Flywheel is indeed magnetic, the times I've had screws, bolts and tools fly over to the magnet and stay very stuck to it when not held onto properly is a pretty good indication of it's strength...
To put it in simple terms, the engine has everything it needs to work (fuel, air, ignition, lubrication, etc.), it just doesn't want to work, the timing is all correct, the valves are sealing (except the exhaust valve on cranking, as small engines have a decompression device on the cam to aid in hand starting), choke works, throttle works, safety cut-off switch works (and yes I've disconnected that to test whether it was that, still no-go), everything about it works, except the one simple issue of it just not firing, hence why it's sitting out in the shed for the winter 'til I can be bothered to have another crack at it, or scrap it, one or the other... Roll eyes