: Help with my hard-starting '64 Impala



gdwriter
03-02-06, 04:10 PM
I've posted my problem on the Chevy Talk (http://www.chevytalk.com) Forum which has been helpful in the past, but I know there are some knowledgeable motorheads here who might also have some ideas.

I'm having trouble starting Betty, my '64 Impala. She's a 327/Powerglide with the original Rochester 4GC 4-barrel carburetor (the engine and carb were rebuilt in 2000; I've driven the car about 50,000 miles since then).

Right after Christmas, I had to have her towed home because she wouldn't start. I put in a new coil three weeks ago, and she started right away, so I began driving her again. But now she's become very hard to start. She seems to flood easily and run down the battery. Last week, it took the tow truck driver from AAA several attempts before she finally started.

I've checked for spark both at the coil and the #1 spark plug. It's there, although the sparks are pretty small. She comes very close to starting, will cough, and if I have the air cleaner off, I can see a puff of smoke from the carburetor. I've sprayed starter fluid into the carb, and it sometimes helps, but not always.

Once I get Betty started, she will sometimes cough and sputter a bit when accelerating, but runs fine when cruising, even at highway speed. She idles fine whether in Park or Drive. I sprayed some carburetor cleaner in on Sunday, but again had trouble starting her and eventually had to jump start the battery.

Once I finally got her started, I drove for about 20 minutes to recharge the battery, and she ran fine, no stumbling or coughing. But when I tried to start her last night, no luck.

The spark plugs are Bosch platinums that are not quite 2 years old and probably have less than 10,000 miles on them. I haven't pulled any yet to see if they're fouled.

I'm stumped. I'd like to drive her once in a while, but right now, I don't trust her to start. Help!

illumina
03-02-06, 04:19 PM
Might want to replace the coil anyways. I just had that problem with an Accel Supercoil; when it was really cold out, the coil would fail causing that same exact problem that you're having.

I have a stock coil in my car right now and the thing fires right up, even when frigid outside.

gdwriter
03-02-06, 04:25 PM
Might want to replace the coil anyways.

I put in a new coil three weeks ago. Is it possible that I got a bad one? Or is there something in my ignition system that might have fried it?

Elvis
03-02-06, 04:27 PM
I put in a new coil three weeks ago, and she started right away, so I began driving her again. But now she's become very hard to start.

I'm no expert on these things, but the clue I'm going on is that replacing the coil fixed her last time. Maybe something got bumped around in the process.

I'd rebuild the distributor, or maybe just a thorough cleaning would help? Maybe the failure is temperature sensitive?

dbdartman
03-02-06, 04:37 PM
Points or electronic ignition?

Sounds like the condenser is breaking down, if it's points.

Definately ignition related.

How are the bushings in the dist? Can you get ANY lateral movement out of the rotor/shaft?

When was the last time it got points & condenser?

Was the dwell set? Was the timing set AFTER the dwell adjusted?

gdwriter
03-02-06, 04:47 PM
Thanks for the replies, guys.

I put in a Pertronix electronic ignition 2 1/2 years ago. I'm not sure what the dwell is set at (or if that's even relevant with electronic ignition).

I'll have to check the distributor for lateral movement.

Not sure if it's temperature sensitive. On a cold morning last week (probably in the 30s outside, maybe 40s in my garage), she started on the first try, the automatic choke worked perfectly, and I had a fast idle with no stalling with the engine cold.

When I tried starting it on Sunday and last night, it was probably in the low 50s.

dbdartman
03-02-06, 04:56 PM
No dwell with Petronix.

Pull the cap & look for carbon-tracking, worn electrodes & broken or worn rotor button. Inspect rotor for tip burning.

Does the choke have a "vacuum pull-off" that opens the choke blade slightly when the engine starts? It's a small (about 1" diameter) piece typically mounted behind the air horn on top of carb. If so, remove the vacuum line, push the plunger in & put your finger over the vacuum port. Plunger should not move until finger is removed.

Make sure the choke plate opens completely when engine is warm!

gdwriter
03-02-06, 05:45 PM
Pull the cap & look for carbon-tracking, worn electrodes & broken or worn rotor button. Inspect rotor for tip burning.

Does the choke have a "vacuum pull-off" that opens the choke blade slightly when the engine starts? It's a small (about 1" diameter) piece typically mounted behind the air horn on top of carb. If so, remove the vacuum line, push the plunger in & put your finger over the vacuum port. Plunger should not move until finger is removed.

Make sure the choke plate opens completely when engine is warm!

I'll check the cap and report back (probably not until the weekend, though). I'm not sure if there's a vacuum pull-off or not; I don't think so, but I'll check. The choke plate is open when I've tried to start it. Since the engine is usually cold when I'm trying to start it, I'll close the choke plate if the automatic choke doesn't close it.

Kev
03-02-06, 05:51 PM
Points and condenser. If you have the all-in-one points and condenser set replace them immediately with separate points and condenser! I would use Standard Blue Streak if they are available to you. Those combo sets were notorious for leaving drivers mysteriously stranded. Stay away from them like the plague!


Oops..... did you post up there that you put in electronic ignition?
OK, never mind.......

Ranger
03-02-06, 06:07 PM
Wait a minute. Stop the presses. If you are trying to start a cold carburated engine with the choke plate opened, that is your problem. When the engine is cold, adjust the choke so that the plate is just closed, not a lot of pressure on it or it will never open. Carburators are finicky and need to be tweeked just right or they will give you fits.

gdwriter
03-02-06, 06:28 PM
Wait a minute. Stop the presses. If you are trying to start a cold carburated engine with the choke plate opened, that is your problem. When the engine is cold, adjust the choke so that the plate is just closed, not a lot of pressure on it or it will never open. Carburators are finicky and need to be tweeked just right or they will give you fits.

I thought it was supposed to be closed. I usually have to adjust the automatic choke in the spring and fall. I'll try futzing with that first.

BTW, replies to my problem on Cadillac Forums=6, Chevy Talk=1. No wonder I like hanging out here.

Ranger
03-02-06, 08:48 PM
Yes, it is supposed to be closed. In post #8 you said "The choke plate is open when I've tried to start it".

gdwriter
03-02-06, 08:54 PM
Yes, it is supposed to be closed. In post #8 you said "The choke plate is open when I've tried to start it".

That's why I'm thinking I need to adjust the automatic choke again. I've closed it manually and tried to start it, but if I put my foot on the gas, the choke usually opens.

Ranger
03-02-06, 09:01 PM
It is misadjusted then. When the engine is cold, open the throttle. The choke should close. If it doesn't, then adjust it so that it just closes. Too much spring tention and it will not open and you'll have different problems. Adjust the fast idle cam when the choke is closed. If it starts but dies immediately, then it is likely a choke pull off adjustment as dbdartman mentioned. Brings back memories.

Elvis
03-03-06, 11:47 AM
Brings back memories.

None of them good. I used to have a 289 with the Holley 2bbl. Same automatic choke thingy.

First cold morning of every year it would jump up and bite me. I did learn that just keeping it clean and somewhat lubricated helped. There was some kind of spring in there that would get caught up on something. I don't even like to think about it.

I don't understand why replacing the coil on the Impala had any effect on the problem before?

dbdartman
03-03-06, 02:00 PM
First, lubricate ALL the choke linkage. Then prop the throttle open, loosen the 3 screws holding the choke thermostat (the round black thing), & adjust the choke plate until it JUST closes if you have a vacuum pull-off. If you don't have a vacuum pull-off, adjust the choke plate so it leaves about a 1/8"-3/16" gap to the carb bore. When this is done, start the engine, let it idle, & observe the choke plate; after 2-3 minutes it SHOULD begin to open. If it doesn't start to open after about 4-5 minutes, you either need a new choke thermostat, or it's not getting power (if it's electric), or the heat tube to it is blocked/broken. After 7-10 minutes, the choke plate should be FULLY open.

If this corrects the problem, you may want to further fine-tune the choke operation along with the high idle speeds.

If you adjust the choke plate too far closed, you'll see noticably black exhaust. If so, adjust the choke further open.

If none of this resolves the problem, then I suggest a rebuilt distributor after making sure the wires into the dist are not shorting out either on the dist body or somewhere else under the hood & the petronix modual is where it should be, adjusted as per instructions, & secured in place.

Another thought that just occured is MAYBE the ignition switch is getting funny. My bro's 69 Dodge had a bad ign switch: It would crank as long as you held the key, but would not fire until you released the key back to the run position. Swapped in a new ign switch & it then started normally. I know the GM ign switch is wired differently, but this is something else to keep in mind. Checking voltage at the coil with a volt meter is fast & easy, might be worth it to check.

Another thought... Changed the fuel filter lately? Does that carb have a sintered brass filter in the fuel inlet?

That's all for now. Won't be back for a couple weeks, off to NM, Tx, Ok & Ar.

Good luck!!!

gdwriter
03-05-06, 10:20 PM
Thanks for the all the good advice. So far, the problem is half solved.

Friday night, I borrowed my neighbor's car battery charger and charged it up. Then yesterday, I pushed Betty out of the garage, adjusted the automatic choke so it closed, and she started right up. Let it fast idle (about 1,500 RPM) for a couple of minutes and I could see the choke opening. Kicked it down to a normal idle (about 800 RPM) and the choke opened more. Only had time to do a quick spin around the block, but she ran fine.

So today, I drive Betty when I take Hoover to the off-leash dog park. She started fine with the engine cold, no stumbling, stalling or lurching. Runs great. It's about a 15 minute drive on a two-lane county road anywhere from 35-55 MPH. We spend about 30-40 minutes at the park, and when it's time to go, Betty won't start. The choke is fully open, as I would expect since the engine's warmed up. Spraying starter fluid into the carb doesn't help. Runs down the battery (about 2 1/2 years old) very quickly. After about 15 minutes, I get a jump start, and she starts on the second try. Runs fine all the way back home.

I do think my starter switch is going south like dbdartman suggested. It sometimes will start to catch as I release the key. But I think there's some other issue at work as well. It's confusing since the car doesn't want to start, but once started it runs fine.

Ranger
03-05-06, 11:02 PM
I'm a bit confused. If you ran the battery down, then obviosly the engine was cranking, right? If that is the case, then the starter switch is doing what it is supposed to. If starting fluid did not help, then I would suspect an ignition problem.

gdwriter
03-06-06, 12:40 AM
Another thought that just occured is MAYBE the ignition switch is getting funny. My bro's 69 Dodge had a bad ign switch: It would crank as long as you held the key, but would not fire until you released the key back to the run position. Swapped in a new ign switch & it then started normally. I know the GM ign switch is wired differently, but this is something else to keep in mind.

Yeah, I'm confused, too, Ranger. The ignition switch problem that dbdartman described is similar to what I'm seeing. The engine comes close to starting, and when I release the key, it starts (sometimes).

When I tried starting it today, it would crank, but wouldn't catch. And it started on the second try with the jump.

What confuses me is that if there were an ignition problem, shouldn't the engine run rough, or stall or stumble? It idles fine and accelerates smoothly with no hesitation. It just doesn't like to start!

fleetwood76
03-06-06, 10:58 AM
Hello. i'm not familiare with the ign. system of that car.
Is there a resistor to the ign.coil? I don't know the english word for that resistor but it is used to reduce the voltage on the ignition coil when running, to spare the coil.
This resistor is bypassed when you are cranking the engine so the car can start easyer with full voltage to the coil.
If the cirquit (sp) that allows the coil to have full voltage while cranking fails you can have that phenomenia that the engine starts just when you let the key go back to run, and the current goes by the resistor.
But again i don't know if you even have this system on your -64 impala with modified ignition.

Good luck.

/ jolle

gdwriter
03-06-06, 03:23 PM
OK, I think we're getting closer. I'm thinking I may need to replace the coil resistor. When I put the Pertronix Ignitor ignition system in the car, I put in a Pertronix FlameThrower coil. When I replaced that coil a few weeks ago, there was a notice to "use with external resistor" stamped on the new coil. Did the FlameThrower coil have a built-in resistor?

Guy,mn.usa
03-06-06, 04:09 PM
Vapor lock? I'm thinking it's the fuel pump. Check your fuel line and replace the gas filter. I always pull the filter out of the Qjet and only use an inline steel Napa gas filter. Check to see if the coil is leaking oil. It is not the pextronix...they last forever. The choke when set right should have an 1/8" clearance between the air horn and the choke blade when choke is applied....not fully closed.

fleetwood76
03-06-06, 06:35 PM
Hello. if you use a ign. coil that recuire a resistor without a resistor is there a big risk that the coil go bad and one of the sign of a bad coil is that they stop working when they are hot.
I would recommend that you buy or lend one more ign. coil so when the car won't start again, you can try to switch ign. coil and see if the engine starts then.
if it does you have a hurt coil.
When a ign.coil does not demand a resistor is it often beacause it is a better coil, a heavy duty coil, that can take the constant higher voltage. That is what i think the Pertronix FlameThrower coil is.
If it shows that the coil seems to be the problem you have the options to use a resistor with that type of coil or to use a heavy duty coil again.

/ jolle

gdwriter
04-07-06, 12:35 AM
OK, here's an update:

From the ChevyTalk forum, I got the following suggestion:


“Since your car runs fine after it cranks, I still suspect that you are not getting the 12V from the starter properly to the + side of the coil during the cranking sequence. If you want to check this, when your car will not crank, run a jumper wire from the + terminal of your battery to the + side of your coil and then try to crank the engine. If it cranks with the jumper, the wire from the starter to the coil or the starter itself is bad.”

“Check the wire from the coil to the starter solenoid. Or just run an extra wire for testing from the battery to the coil and try to start. Important do not leave this wire hooked up after testing it will burn up your Pertronix. If it cranks replace the original wire. Some replaced wires have a resistor built in line make sure yours does not. If it does replace with a new wire.”
So tonight, I ran the jumper wire from the positive terminal on the battery to the positive wire on the coil. Not only did the engine crank, it fired right up. I let it idle for a few minutes, but had to shut it down to add power steering fluid (I have a persistent leak that I can't pinpoint) before taking it for a drive. It wouldn't start back up (I cranked it twice), so I put the jumper back on, and again, it fired right up.

Drove it for about 20 minutes, and it ran fine. Stopped to get gas, and this time, it started without having to use the jumper wire. Still, it was a little slow to crank.

So I"m thinking the wire from the starter to the coil needs replacing. Am I right?

dbdartman
04-07-06, 01:54 PM
OK, here's an update:

From the ChevyTalk forum, I got the following suggestion:


“Since your car runs fine after it cranks, I still suspect that you are not getting the 12V from the starter properly to the + side of the coil during the cranking sequence. If you want to check this, when your car will not crank, run a jumper wire from the + terminal of your battery to the + side of your coil and then try to crank the engine. If it cranks with the jumper, the wire from the starter to the coil or the starter itself is bad.”

“Check the wire from the coil to the starter solenoid. Or just run an extra wire for testing from the battery to the coil and try to start. Important do not leave this wire hooked up after testing it will burn up your Pertronix. If it cranks replace the original wire. Some replaced wires have a resistor built in line make sure yours does not. If it does replace with a new wire.”
So tonight, I ran the jumper wire from the positive terminal on the battery to the positive wire on the coil. Not only did the engine crank, it fired right up. I let it idle for a few minutes, but had to shut it down to add power steering fluid (I have a persistent leak that I can't pinpoint) before taking it for a drive. It wouldn't start back up (I cranked it twice), so I put the jumper back on, and again, it fired right up.

Drove it for about 20 minutes, and it ran fine. Stopped to get gas, and this time, it started without having to use the jumper wire. Still, it was a little slow to crank.

So I"m thinking the wire from the starter to the coil needs replacing. Am I right?


That's what I'd do next.

gdwriter
05-04-06, 11:02 PM
Another update: the problem is solved.

A couple of weeks ago, my more knowlegeable and capable car friend came down from Portland to change out Cruella's front brake pads and rotors. While he was here, we installed new battery cables on Betty and ran a new wire from the coil to the starter. We did find the old wire, which could be original for all I know was frayed.

When I took her out the next day, she sometimes would start normally, and a couple of other times, I had to do the jumper from the battery to the coil again.

So as an experiment, I took out the coil I had installed in February and put back in the Pertronix Flame Thrower coil I had put in three years ago when I converted the car from points to electronic ignition.

Bingo! She starts right up every time. Before, she would crank for several seconds, and I would often have to crank her more than once to get her started. But now, she fires right up after at most 2-3 seconds.

It's nice to be able to just hop in and drive her whenever I want to again. There is a car show on Saturday on the Oregon Coast that I'm taking her to, and I've been driving Betty when I take Hoover to the off-leash dog park in Salem several times a week. It's a fun, meandering road that runs along the Willamette River, with some sweeping curves and a few hairpins, all of which Betty handles beautifully. And with all the windows rolled down, I can hear the sweet music from that 327 small-block.

Thanks again for all the help and suggestions.
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terrible one
05-04-06, 11:11 PM
Congrats man!

dbdartman
05-05-06, 12:57 PM
Cool beans! :thumbsup:

gdwriter
05-05-06, 03:32 PM
Thanks guys. Out of necessity, I'm learning how to work on my cars. Still not great at it, but it's nice to have actually fixed a couple of things.

I'll post a couple of pictures after tomorrow's car show.

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