: 1987 Fleetwood - poor cold starting and bad running problem

12-31-10, 02:53 PM
Hi guys

I have a 1987 Fleetwood with the 307 and which is the last year for a carburettor and distributor.

When the car has sat overnight it starts bad. It turns over on the starter (seems slow to crank to me) and does not fire for a while. Then it stumbles and had no power. It seems that it is making a lot of smoke/steam/condensation while it is doing this. On one occasion I had to "flood start it" - IE crank it with the pedal to the floorboards holding the throttle open and with the air filter lid off and this is the only way it would start.

It runs bad then for as long as it is run - 2 miles or 15 miles. If you stop, let it sit while you go do some shopping or whatever, 10 minutes maybe? when you get back to it then it fires right up and drives just as it should.

I have only had the car about a week. All I know of it is the guy who owned it before me babied it. It had a new carb and distributor about a year or 18 months ago.

Temperature here is quite mild today was 35 low, 43 high (degrees F)

The days I asked it to fire up and it was still below freezing it seemed to start better!

Any suggestions, any known weaknesses with this model/year/motor?

Thanks in advance.

12-31-10, 03:35 PM
Not that it matters, but 1990 was the last year for the Olds 307 (with the carb and dist) in the RWD Cadillac.

When starting, are you pressing the gas to the floor once BEFORE turning the key? This will prime the engine, and close the carb. You have to start the old cars different than new fuel injected cars ;)

12-31-10, 04:06 PM
OK, I thought they had some kind of injection from '88, my bad, my point was merely that its a carb car so no computer stuff to mess with (I hope!)

Yes, I hardly ever have injected cars so I am used to the dab before turning the key, sufficiently so I think I do it in modern turbo diesel vehicles as well...

It started fine the first few days now its behaving oddly.

It drives, it just drives with little or no power and a bit of a "shudder" and a slight lope on idle.

12-31-10, 11:27 PM
Could try carb cleaner. Down the hatch while running, but do not let the engine stall. You may also need a distributor or wires or plugs. Or there could be a vacuum leak...have fun with that. :P At any rate, let us know if you figure anything out.

01-01-11, 04:06 AM
OK, I thought they had some kind of injection from '88, my bad, my point was merely that its a carb car so no computer stuff to mess with (I hope!)

That engine has a computer controlled carburettor and an on board diagnostics system. First thing I would do is pull DTC's out of the computer. It's pretty simple; you need a paper clip and working check engine light.

To retrieve diagnostic trouble codes, you insert a paper clip into the last two pins on the top row of the ALDL (located under the dash; center with the trans hump). With the paper clip inserted, turn the ignition to RUN, but do not start the engine. The check engine light will begin to flash two digit codes. The first code will be 12, which will be presented as [1 Flash]{ Pause}[2 Flashes]. Follow this link for more information and to get what each code means (http://www.extreme-check-engine-light-codes.com/GM%20OBD1%20Decoder.htm).

But as stated above, your carburettor probably needs cleaned. I recommend Sea Foam as an induction cleaner.

01-01-11, 04:35 AM
thanks for the replies. I'll check for codes and clean the carb. I'll pull the plugs and check if they have anything to tell me.
The car did run out of fuel (the seller had enough in the tank to wet the bottom of the tank, but not enough for me to get to the nearest service station to fill up...) so it could have pulled some dirt forward when it did that.

01-01-11, 11:46 AM
yeah, I would check the carb and make sure it's all functioning properly. the computer controlled carbs can be fussy and if the guy put a new one on recently make sure it's the right model...rochester e4mc i think?

01-02-11, 03:35 PM
It's not unusual for carberated cars to need adjustments from time to time and sooner or later carberators need to be rebuilt. If it's not one it's probably the other or it could just be a bad sensor somewhere which checking codes should pick up.

01-03-11, 12:21 AM
1990 was the last year for the 307.
Make sure all the vacuum lines are good. And seafoam it. My crappy 1984 307 and fresh rebuilt carb had problems when it got down to 20f and below. Two pump and it would start fine and would poop out after 10secs of good high idle running. About 5 more pumps and a start it would would run fine. My only code was "vss" because my speed-o gear in the trans went out.

But i let it run for about 5mins and be easy on it thru the neighborhood. Another 5mins or so. Once I i hit the boulevard i just took my time till it got hot. I remember a few times when i tried to push it from a red light and it was cold, and it would miss-fire. Just had to baby the gas till all 8 woke back up.

I never did the "flood start it". Just hit the gas a little to hear the choke close and two pumps. Also you might want to clean the negative battery end that goes to the frame.

01-03-11, 06:46 AM
thanks for all the replies so far, not had time to look at it over Christmas with family stuff to do but am off out now to have a look.

01-03-11, 07:29 AM
OK, my "time to look at the car" seems to have evaporated...

I managed to pull a plug, I'm not sure what the stock gap is supposed to be but this looks about 1/4" LOL which is probably not right!


The plug colour looks OK to me but the condition makes it look like a real old plug. I suspect other 7 look much the same.

This is fast idle:


There is a real hydrocarbon smell. I think she is running real rich. This exhaust clears up once the car is running nice.

Where the car has been idling on choke there is this evidence


its a sooty damp deposit on my gravel.

Oddly enough the last Oldsmobile I had ran just the same when I got it! That was a '65 98 with the 425. That was an easy job of adjusting the mixture screws, if this carb is computer controlled how do I lean it out?

I will be replacing all the regular service items (plugs, rotor arm, filters, oil, etc.) and maybe even a coolant flush if I get time.

Does the timing need to be set on a light on these or does the computer in some way deal with that?

Thanks again for your support so far.

01-03-11, 10:31 AM
It's normal for them to kick out a crap load of smoke when cold. But the plugs do look old. Factory a/c delcos all the way.

01-03-11, 10:47 AM
yeah, as said above try running some seafoam down the carb while the car is running. start out slow, you may need to hold the accellerator up a little bit so it doesn't stall out right away...slowly increase the pour speed until the engine finally does choke. let it sit for a few minutes, then start it up again.

01-03-11, 03:54 PM
That soot is normal for mine too. Everywhere I park, over night, there are big globs of black crap staining the ground. So that might not go away, no matter how clean you get the carb.

As for setting the timing; the computer replaces the vacuum advance, and will counter act any adjustment you make. So to set base timing, you need take the computer's signal away from the distributor. To do that you ground the ALDL (using the exact same method you use to pull DTC's), and then set the timing like any other vehicle with a distributor. When you are done setting the timing, you unground the ALDL connector, and the computer will advance the timing based on the corrected base time, just like if you had an older vacuum advance distributor.

01-03-11, 04:41 PM
The black stuff is carbon from running rich. Once you have the problems fixed that should go away eventually, altho if the engine is old and tired it might not but it's nothing to worry about.

01-03-11, 07:06 PM
So it runs good after it warms up a little and you go in a store for a few minutes? That's classic moisture in the distributor cap. Once the engine warms up and you shut it off the moisture will vaporize and the engine will run fine until it cools down again and the moisture liquifies again. You could wipe it out and maybe blow out the dist with a hair dryer if you want to be thorough. It would be better to replace the cap with a nice new one.

01-03-11, 08:27 PM
hmmm...good thinking. cap costs like $15 for these cars :)

01-03-11, 08:46 PM
For a quick fix, pop the cap off, turn upside down, and spray with WD-40. Everybody knows what the "WD" stands for, right?

01-03-11, 10:47 PM
^Warp-Drive? 'Cause it makes everything faster...

01-03-11, 11:07 PM
isn't it like water displacement or something? water defense? something like that hehe

01-04-11, 01:07 AM
yeah, as said above try running some seafoam down the carb while the car is running. start out slow, you may need to hold the accellerator up a little bit so it doesn't stall out right away...slowly increase the pour speed until the engine finally does choke. let it sit for a few minutes, then start it up again.

Not only down the carb, also thru some of the vacuum lines, the rest in the gas tank

01-08-11, 05:53 AM
thanks for that diagnosis. I am doing a full service on her shortly so I will make sure to replace the cap.

01-16-11, 03:14 PM
rotor arm was pretty burnt up




Distributor cap bushing / centre contact bad too...

Also I discover the distributor is not clamped firmly in place and can turn maybe 45 degrees. I presume this isn't normal. It got dark and raining heavy so I didn't get chance to deal with that.