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Technical Inconsistent Ignition Starts

Discussion in 'Traditional Customs' started by 64impala, Jul 7, 2016.

  1. 64impala
    Joined: Sep 14, 2012
    Posts: 79


    I've had no issues in starting my engine the last 4-5 years, then out of the blue, I'm experiencing inconsistent starts.

    Make: Chevrolet
    Model: Impala SS
    Year: 1964
    Engine: 327
    Transmission: 3-speed Auto 350

    - I'll start the engine cold, runs and idles, no issues.
    - Turn off the ignition, and attempt a restart, no crank, but all electrical
    digital readouts appear normal.

    Battery is reading 12.74 with engine off.

    Attached is my current wiring diagram, below is my equipment:

    Mallory Unilte Electronic System Distributor with ECM.
    Mallory Masterpro Coil

    I have performed the following tasks to help troubleshoot the ignition start problem:

    1. Battery Voltage checked with engine off: 12.75v
    2. Checked all wires for damage & connectivity to battery, starter, solenoid, ignition switch, coil.
    3. With the ignition in "On" position (engine off), I placed a test light on the positive side of the coil, and I got
    no reading (light).
    4. Removed cap and rotor, turned ign "on" and ran a voltage check to Negative side of coil:
    Black voltage meter lead to ground, Red lead to coil Negative. Results: 12+ Volts
    5. Ran a "block" photo optics module test, the voltage did not drop to 3 or less volts, so "photo optics" test failed.

    Additional Info and Questions:

    - I do have a mallory power spike protector part #29351, my understanding is that this unit is supposed to prevent power spikes, but to what degree, I'm not sure.
    - Question(s)
    1. Should I eliminate (for now) the testing of the starter and solenoid at this time?
    2. Can these power spike protector also get damaged, can they be repaired (fuse inside?), and can they be tested.
    3. Other suggestions based on these test results?
  2. To start with your unilite will fry itself@ 12V. if you got 12v on the negative side of the coil you got a problem. I am not understanding how you get no power @ the positive of the coil and 12V at the negative side of the coil.

    I have never use a spike protector, period. I called Mallory and talked to a tech years ago and the tech told me that the unilite uses I amp per thousand RPM. So if for instance you have a 7K motor the unit draws 7 amps. A 7 amp fast burn fuse will be all the protection the distributer ever needs. I have been running them since before anyone ever knew what one was. I have never busted a fuse on one if mine.

    I have had customer cars blow a fuse. I repaired the charging system. You should really never have a spike if your charging system is up to par but as cheap as fuses are there is no reason to not protect it.

    You may check the resistance on your coil and resistor. The system needs 3 ohms resistance. You use a 1.5 resistor and 1.5 coil.

    Is the car not starting or not cranking? I am not sure that I am understanding what you are saying. if it is not cranking in my terminology that is a starter issue not a distributor issue, if it cranks and does not start it could be ignition or it could be fuel delivery. Have you checked to see if you are getting spark at the plugs? The reason I mention it is that with todays fuel often hot start problems are fuel relayed. it may just be that they changed the summer additives where you live. They don't send out a memo.

    OK TMI sorry.
  3. 64impala
    Joined: Sep 14, 2012
    Posts: 79


    The engine was starting intermittently, here is an example:
    1. turn engine over, starter cranks, engine starts and runs and idles fine, all electrical (lights, digital dash, etc.) appear normal.
    2. turn engine off, let it sit for a few minutes, attempt to restart, turn the key to start and I get a mild
    sounding click.
    3. Check Battery, read full charge 12.75.
  4. It sounds like your battery is loosing a cell or two. What happen them is that they show voltage but the cranking amps are gone. I have done about have a dozen of them in the last 4 or 5 years that way. If you take it to an automotive superstore and have it tested more often than not they will tell you the battery is OK. The counter guy is not normally sharp enough to operate the testing equipment properly.

    Try jumping it or using a known good battery for a test. Cheap way to see if that is the problem.

    my granddaughter had a cheap jelly bean car when she was in high school. Her battery was on its way out and we didn't have cash in hand. She used an old motorcycle battery that I had for a spare for a jumper battery until we had cash for a new battery.

  5. Blues4U
    Joined: Oct 1, 2015
    Posts: 7,115

    from So Cal

    Do you have a multi-meter? Check the voltage at the battery when trying to start the engine but all your getting is a clicking sound. If voltage drops below ~ 9 volts there is insufficient charge in the battery. If the voltage doesn't drop, and no movement or sound from the starter, then you could have a failed key switch, a failed solenoid, or loose connection in the wiring between the switch and the solenoid.

    No meter? (why not? get one and learn how to use it) Turn on the interior light and try starting the engine. If the light goes out and the starter does not turn over, you've likely got insufficent charge in the battery. If the light stays on and the starter doesn't turn, then it's the issue with the switch/solenoid or wiring.
  6. Or the starter has a dead short. Sometimes that loose a bushing and the armature lays against the fields. You can give it a good sharp rap with a hammer and it will start right off.

    Damn so many things to check.:D
  7. GM had a hot soak problem in the late 70's/early 80's. It was traced to the solenoid. Excessive heat causing the solenoid not to pull in.

    Several fixes, heat shielding around the solenoid, changing over to a Ford solenoid was another. The GM/Chevrolet fix was to replace the solenoid spring, at that time the part number was 1978281. Still remember it after all these years.

    The fire department I volunteered had two G30 Ambulances that the Chief swore could not be fixed. The crews got stranded in Albuquerque more than once until they cooled way down. I made him a bet that the springs would fix it.
    I won the bet......

    Since that spring has been discontinued you might try to take an old spring and shorten it by a coil or two and see if that helps. I won't drone on about all the other checks, you know the routine by now.
  8. Forgot to add the reason for the spring change is that it was a lower tension thereby reducing the force necessary to pull the plunger in.
  9. Atwater Mike
    Joined: May 31, 2002
    Posts: 11,199

    Atwater Mike

    Good post, shovelheadrider...Last place I'd have looked. (but then I'd have found it!)
  10. GM dealership parts counter/manager(various times) since 1970. Once in a while I'm good for something......;)
    Blues4U likes this.
  11. Blues4U
    Joined: Oct 1, 2015
    Posts: 7,115

    from So Cal

    Common problem on cars with headers too, if the header is routed too close to the starter. I had one that would do that to me, made me hang out for awhile where ever I was at the time until the starter cooled down a little and then it would start right up. I never knew about the spring. Folks got creative bending up heat shrouds to try to deflect the heat away from the starter. It could be what the OP is dealing with. Hard to say from what's been posted so far.
  12. straykatkustoms
    Joined: Oct 30, 2001
    Posts: 19,056


    Kool post I'm having similar issues with my 60 Impala.
  13. 59Apachegail
    Joined: Apr 30, 2011
    Posts: 1,477

    from New York

    I am having a similar issue on mine. I am not a huge fan of their stuff but this is a cheapie I picked up and keep in my tool box. It saves a trip to the auto parts store. I used it to figure out my battery was only making 10v and 200cca.
  14. 64impala
    Joined: Sep 14, 2012
    Posts: 79


    As suggested by several members, I performed a jump on the battery from a new Camry and the
    engine fired right up.
    Not sure why my optic module test would fail if my battery is holding 12.75 volts with a possibility of a few dead cells, but I will have the battery load tested and go from there.
    The battery is about 4 years old, but it's a cheap O'Reilly's battery, I would venture to guess that
    I should upgrade to a Optima yellow-top to help support a digital dash, electric fan and stereo system!

    I will report my final outcome.....
  15. 64impala
    Joined: Sep 14, 2012
    Posts: 79


    Final Update: As it turns out, the problem was a simple to fix, but not before a wild goose chase!
    As I was preparing to remove the battery for a load test, I noticed the battery hot cable clamp was a tad loose, so I gave it a good tightening and the engine started right up!

    I think the thing that through me off was that the battery never showed any signs of failure and held
    a good 12.75 charge at all times!
    Lesson learned, check and double check all connections, even if the configuration appears normal!

    Thanks for everyones help!

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