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Projects 1960 Chevrolet 283ci not firing

Discussion in 'Traditional Hot Rods' started by xlobsterboyx, Jan 2, 2020.

  1. Possibly he installed the correct corvette valve covers on his vette engine . and it got over its hurt feelings and stated up? One time I had a old 6 cyl chevy one front tire was flat. I attempted to start it and flooded the engine. I told my Friend Jim it didn't start because the engine isn't level. So we jacked it up and took off the tire and patched it. That took long enough for the flooded engine to clear and it cranked right up. I had Jim believing that the unlevel condition was responsible for the no start when all it was my leaving the manual choke fully closed.
    alanp561 and 61Cruiser like this.
  2. X-cpe
    Joined: Mar 9, 2018
    Posts: 819


    Could you have possibly used the wrong size intake gasket set and have an internal vacuum leak at the ports?
  3. xlobsterboyx
    Joined: Mar 9, 2011
    Posts: 15

    from Owings, MD

    Hey, like I said before, I needed to step away for a couple days. Rechecked everything, wiring, fuel, dizzy, etc. That being said I still have the same issue. Thought it may be bad fuel, so I used starting fluid... similar backfires. Turned dizzy counterclockwise while cranking... backfires. Cleaned paint off dizzy mount to ensure better ground... backfires. I see spark both while grounding the plugs on block and using a inline light/tester. I am sure it has to be timing but just cant seem to get it to go.
  4. Yes its timing. I would check to be certain the key on the crank gear isn't sheared. Are you certain the tailpipes aren't clogged?
  5. turd shiner
    Joined: Jun 12, 2010
    Posts: 482

    turd shiner

    Don't know if this will help but I had the same problem, only started when it wanted, backfired like a shotgun, ran rough when it did and then wouldn't start at all . I've got a 291 hemi with mopar electronic distributor and there pin modular voltage regulator. This all worked for 20 years fine. After going through everything you're going through I finally crawled under the dash & changed that modual and it fired like car. Looking back I think it was slowly breaking down because it was running lousy until it warmed up.
  6. Go get a stock HEI or points ignition that you know is good. Install that. If it still don't run you have at least ruled out the ignition.
    tractorguy likes this.
  7. Lobsterboy,

    I hate to say this but I would go back to zero.
    It worked before you removed the intake,,,I would pull it back off.
    Completely inspect the ports and look for any thing out of place,,,literally.
    Sometimes you never know what could happen,,,,,rags and such involved.
    After that,,,look for any issue with the carbs,,,,,,,I have seen them get fuel for the accelerator pump,,,but not fuel for the bowls,,,,,?,,,,float level .

    Then,,back to the distributor,,,get it timed correctly,,,at least close within about 10 degrees.

    Many ,,many years ago,,,,,when I was about 16,,,,,,I was a dumb kid and wasn’t all that good at setting float levels.
    How was I to know,,,,,I had never done it before.
    Anyway,,,a brand new Holley,,,,,,I had fuel squirt from the acc pump,,,,but it would not run.
    I started turning the distributor,,,,,obviously it was out of time,,,,?
    Backfire out the exhaust,,,,,backfire out the carb,,,I was lost.
    Oh boy,,,I fought this for weeks.

    Well my old man decided he would help.
    He knew this old dirt track racer,,and he would come look at it.
    He showed up with a brand new set of spark plugs,,,,and a couple of tools.
    He put in the new plugs.
    Put engine on TDC.
    Set rotor to correct location.
    Removed sight plugs from float bowls,,,immediately saw it was way low.
    He did all of this in about 15 minutes or so.

    He told me to turn it over,,,,,fired up immediately and sounded so sweet.
    I had it all good at different times,,,but I kept changing everything because I had no fuel.

    It always amazed me,,he made it all look so easy.
    Old Billy was a good guy,,,he knew it all about a SBC.

    61Cruiser likes this.
  8. And I’m not imply that you don’t know anything,,,,,no way.
    I was relating my experience from long ago.
    I was just recommending to start back at square one,,,it has got to be something simple.

  9. Bullit68
    Joined: Sep 16, 2009
    Posts: 73

    from Verona, PA

    I did almost the same thing this past fall. Found an older style intake for a sbc I wanted to run. Pulled it apart with the rotor pointing straight ahead. Swapped intake and reassembled everything. Engine was doing same thing, popping through exhaust. Got a couple good bangs twisting the distributor. Pulled it, turned it 180* and stabbed it back in. Fired right up! Not sure how the hell it happened. Pull it and spin the rotor 180*, I’m betting a dollar it fires up!
    swade41 and Desoto291Hemi like this.
  10. chiro
    Joined: Jun 23, 2008
    Posts: 791


    Here's a trick I used in the past for timing an engine when firing off a fresh rebuild for the first time or when changing out a distributor. Not sure if it will work for electronic ignition but works really well for points. You might want to try it.

    Set your engine to number one cylinder TDC on the compression stroke. Take off the distributor cap and note which terminal the rotor is pointing towards. That's your number one cylinder. Set your ignition wires on the distributor to firing order accordingly. Now, set your timing mark to the dampener by rotating the crankshaft by hand just the few degrees you need to bring the engine to the proper degrees BTDC (I don't have a timing mark :rolleyes:, but you should affix SOMETHING to the front of the engine to give you some degrees for reference, maybe an old timing flange from a junk 283. You can hold it in place temporarily with a magnet). Next, make sure the cap is in place on the dizzy. Turn the key to the "ON" position but don't crank the engine. With the number one spark plug REMOVED from the head and the ignition wire still attached to it, hold the business end of the plug next to a ground on the engine (head bolt, manifold bolt...whatever) and slowly turn the distributor back and forth until you see the plug give a spark. Voila...engine is timed.. Turn key to "OFF", tighten down distributor, replace plug and Go, man, Go.
    6-bangertim, alanp561, BJR and 5 others like this.
  11. 5brown1
    Joined: Apr 13, 2008
    Posts: 193


    I had a newly over hauled 283 that would not start because the lifters were not tight enough.
  12. chiro
    Joined: Jun 23, 2008
    Posts: 791


    Hey...wait a minute. I just reread the original post. You said you had the intake powder coated. This may sound like a dumb question but did the powder coater coat the mating surfaces of the intake? If there's powder coat on the intake where the mating surface of the intake mounts to the head you will have major vacuum leaks. Just sayin'...
  13. jaw22w
    Joined: Mar 2, 2013
    Posts: 935

    from Indiana

    It backfires, so it has spark. It backfires, so it has fuel. It backfires, so it is out of time. When you pulled the distributor, the helically cut gears turned the distributor back a tooth. You are 1 tooth off.
    connielu, X-cpe and Truck64 like this.
  14. TimCT
    Joined: Jun 6, 2017
    Posts: 166


    Second (or third?) vote for this. True that the distributor doesn't care where it's sitting, but you might only think you have the rotor pointed at #1, when in reality its not. I had my SBC running, pulled the distributor to clean and lube it and dropped it right back where it came from, and it wouldn't start. Matter of fact, it would hardly turn over. Put the charger on the battery and still the same, which made me think the timing was way too advanced. Retarded the distributor as far as I physically could and it finally fired up, but ran like crap. Checked timing and it was still way advanced. I pulled the cap and looked at it from a different angle, and realized that the rotor wasn't actually pointing at #1, I was in fact one tooth off. I took a junk distributor with no gear and put it in, moved the oil pump back a touch, then dropped the real distributor back in. Started right up with no dragging, retimed it, and all is well. Maybe mark on the cap where #1 is, then mark the body of the distributor, so you can be sure it lines up with the cap off?

    Depending on how much you can rotate the distributor, you can probably prove this out without pulling it again - if its not dragging when you hit the key (and its backfiring out the exhaust, not through the carb) it sounds like timing is retarded. Try advancing it while someone cranks it (I think someone already mentioned that) and see if it'll fire.
    Last edited: Jan 8, 2020
    connielu likes this.
  15. Shain
    Joined: Jun 2, 2016
    Posts: 28

    from Omaha

    Like TimCT says about compression stroke....

    AND.....If it back fires through the carb. then the distributor is probably 180 off. Check with screw driver put in no 1 hole, that that the piston is in fact, fully up in the compression stroke. .....and them confirm the location of the distributor and wires. (this is all assuming all other components are good)

    Had this issue in the old days, with many early small blocks, and it was almost always a 180 degree off issue.
  16. One tooth off you can twist the dist to make up the difference. or advance or retard the positions of the wires on the cap. the engine doesn't care where the rotor is pointing. As long a wherever the rotor is pointing that terminal on the cap is wired to number one spark plug when it at TDC on the compression stroke. a lean fuel cond can cause backfire. If it ran before he worked on it gotta be something he has done. I wonder if he had the fuel pump off. Ive seen incorrectly installed fuel pumps bend the pushrod and also shear the crank key on the timing chain. not too long ago I bought a 55 chevy for parts. The guy who sold it to me stated the engine was junk. Smoked and burned oil. I pulled the spark plugs. No evidence of oil fouling. So I cleaned the carb. hung a temporary gas tank to gravety fee the carb. and filed the points to get spark. It backfired . So I ran the plug wires they where correct if the rotor had been turning backwards. still wouldn't start. then I pulled the valve cover to check for sticking valves. they where all Ok. So I used the valves to get it on no 1 TDC compression stroke. Loooked and the rotor was not where number one plugwire was attached . so I simply mover the wires around on the cap. And It started and ran great. No Smoke No knock. except the rockers weren't getting oil. Pulled the engine out removed the oil pan and side cover and cleaned it up the little steel line under the side cover that feeds the rocker arms was clogged. That engine is now in my 56 more door car dist still (off )a couple of teeth.
    belair and swade41 like this.
  17. X-cpe
    Joined: Mar 9, 2018
    Posts: 819


    Weren't there some later SBC's that had a timing mark that you checked down through a little tube almost up behind the water pump? The first thing you need to do is establish exactly where the timing mark on the balancer is at TDC. As someone above said, make a piston stop. An old spark plug with a nut welded (epoxied) on and a bolt with a jamb nut. Put it in #1 spark plug hole and hand rotate the engine until the piston hits the stop. Mark the block at the timing mark. Then repeat in the opposite direction. Halfway in between is TDC. Set the timing mark about 1/2" counter clockwise from that point and you should have enough initial advance to get it to start and run. Then follow chiro's advice. You can use a test light on the primary coil terminal for the same result. (light on/off point)
    At some point you are going to need a tab. With this procedure you will know which one to buy and where to place "0".
    ffr1222k, Truck64 and belair like this.
  18. SquintBoy
    Joined: Mar 19, 2011
    Posts: 99


    I wouldn't epoxy a nut on the end of a sparkplug because it would be just my luck to have the piston knock it off. You know the rest...


    Sent from the red phone
  19. Truck64
    Joined: Oct 18, 2015
    Posts: 3,880

    from Ioway

    Can buy a store bought piston stop cheap. Spark plugs are surprisingly difficult to completely disassemble. Or heck just use an 18 mm bolt.
  20. X-cpe
    Joined: Mar 9, 2018
    Posts: 819


    Not with a hammer. Must be a Ford man, Chevys are 14mm.
  21. stylelinesteve
    Joined: Nov 25, 2019
    Posts: 7


    I had this as well after I installed a Pertronix coil and module, I just couldn’t retard the ignition enough as the vacuum canister stopped it turning any further, lifted the distributor turned it back one tooth and it was fine afterwards

    Sent from my iPad using The H.A.M.B. mobile app
  22. Accurate diagnosis is what seperates skilled mechanics from Those who willy nilly try different fixes and change parts.
  23. Shop boy
    Joined: Jun 17, 2013
    Posts: 23

    Shop boy

    I have an older Unilite in a sbc that sounds identical to yours. At least the test procedures are the same. Mine requires the use of a ballast resistor though. Not sure if yours does or not?
    I don't remember the exact model of the Unilite I have but I could look it up tomorrow.
    My experience is that my Unilite is very sensitive to loose or poor grounds. It may start and run with a loose or poor ground but it will eventually die. Even running down the interstate @ 70+ mph.
    Before Mallory sold, a very knowledgeable tech guy they had told me this: It may start and run 10 or 12 times with a damaged module but it will eventually fail. Run your test procedures 3 consecutive times and if you get ONE bad reading, you need a new module.
    I did as he suggested. Got one bad reading. It started and ran two more times and then failed completely.
    Installed a new module, added a case ground wire to the distributor body and have never had another issue. But I am very, very careful when using a battery charger, changing batteries, or doing anything that could create a voltage spike that my distributor could see.
    I even unplug the distributor leads and remove the ignition key when performing any electrical work, just to be safe.
    Maybe your powder coated parts initially created a poor ground condition that damaged your module but did not kill it completely?
    I have had Pertronix and GM hei's. My experience with them are the modules are either good or not.
    My Mallory Unilite certainly did not follow that same logic.
    SquintBoy likes this.
  24. Truck64
    Joined: Oct 18, 2015
    Posts: 3,880

    from Ioway

    LOL, yeah I was going to allow for different sizes, but I figured people could figure it out.
  25. David Coleman
    Joined: Oct 15, 2019
    Posts: 29

    David Coleman

    I used to have a speed shop, and I suffered through having to warranty MANY returned Mallory Unilights, none of which got me any dollars back from Mallory.

    Early on, I grew to love the "mag pick" up style distributors, and later, just gave up on Unilites, and recommended/sold HEI style distributors.

    For your problem car, I would pull the passenger's side vale cover, and slowly, and by hand, turn the engine until both #6 cylinder rockers are partially open (the valve spring retainers are about 1/8" open or so, and both valve spring retainers are about the same length down to the bottom of the valve spring. Then bend up (or buy a bolt on timing tab that screws on using the front cover screws) a piece of welding rod or scrap sheet metal, and point it at the TDC mark on the harmonic balancer. There are two different areas that small block harmonic balancers (mostly 8") used for TDC marks, because power steering and air conditioner pumps got in the way of seeing the old original placement of TDC marks. But with both valve open the same amount, on number six cylinder, you will be real close to number one cylinder being on TDC, and on the firing cycle. Check to see if the rotor is pointing towards that #1 wire in the cap. I WOULD BUY A NEW ROTOR AND STICK IT ON YOUR UNILITE. I would run the #1 cylinder's spark plug wire down to the harmonic balancer (where your homemade timing mark is). Stick a clean spark plug into the plug wire, and rig the metal portion of the plug to some bare engine metal (using racer tape or clothes pins, whatever you have). Then spin the engine over with the key on. As the plug snaps, you can see if it is firing somewhere near to your guestimated TDC mark. You should see a wicked spark across the plug. As a further test you can also pull the coil wire out of the cap, and rig the metal end of the wire, near to a chunk of bare, engine metal. Again, you should see lots of strong sparks as the engine is turned over with the key on.
    I am betting your Unilite module is dead, and a junk yard HEI distributor would bring the engine back to life.
    alanp561 likes this.
  26. TwoLaneBlacktop
    Joined: Feb 23, 2009
    Posts: 213

    from Burien

    I hate to ask a dumb question but..... You do have the wires on correctly ? #1 drivers fwd plug.... Odd on the left even on the right..... I've seen everything else on here......
  27. Memphis T.
    Joined: Feb 16, 2015
    Posts: 41

    Memphis T.

    And are you sure that the distributor is aligned to fire cylinder 1 on the COMPRESSION stroke? Did you remove the valve cover to watch the rocker arms to verify?

    Sent from my iPhone using H.A.M.B.
    belair likes this.
  28. Tickety Boo
    Joined: Feb 2, 2015
    Posts: 1,083

    Tickety Boo
    from Wisconsin

    My buddy had similar trouble Tuesday with his sbc gasser start up , put a ground strap from the engine to the frame and found numbers 2 and 6 plug wires crossed, we hurriedly checked firing order at least 3 times before slowing down and tracing the path of each wire running under the headers :oops: Then fired right up :) IMG_3445.JPG
    Desoto291Hemi likes this.
  29. Here is a homemade stop I made.
    I just purchased a non fouler and run a tap through the inside and inserted a 3/8 bolt.
    Rounded the tip of the threads on the bolt,,,works great,,,took no time to make.


    Attached Files:

    X-cpe and Old wolf like this.
  30. jaw22w
    Joined: Mar 2, 2013
    Posts: 935

    from Indiana

    You can buy a piston stop at Summit for $10-12.

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