'75 chevelle malibu won't start - Chevelle Tech
Troubleshooting Diagnosing problems done here.

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post #1 of 13 (permalink) Old Nov 17th, 18, 8:58 AM Thread Starter
 
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'75 chevelle malibu won't start

Hey guys, I'm new here but I'm kind of at a loss with this car. I bought this a bit less than a year ago running (although not that well). Since then it's been mostly a project to tinker on when I run out of other projects. It's originally a 350 2bbl car that's been upgraded to an action plus intake and holley street dominator 4bbl. It ran with this setup, but we originally had the distributor a tooth off (which we knew, we just ran out of time and didn't come back to it for a bit). I went to move it and it fired up and ran a bit choppy like normal (still a tooth off at the time), then stalled and won't restart. Engine has 148-152psi compression on every cylinder, plugs and wires are new and I've cleaned them while trouble shooting just to make sure, we've retiming it to base timing, tried pouring gas in the carb, tried starter fluid, had 3 distributors in it, and 3 different coils, run a hot wire direct to the distributor to eliminate any wiring issues, had every vaccuum port plugged off on the carb, and the exhaust is just a short piece of pipe with a muffler that exits under the front seat at the moment so no cat etc to be plugged (actually blew holes in the gravel last time it ran so I'm pretty sure restriction isn't the issue). It acts like it's firing 1 cylinder every rotation, when changing coils it started once for about a minute and idled super low, then stalled and wouldn't restart again. More gas seems to help a little, but it's negligible, basically the 1 cylinder sparks a bit harder. We've also stuck a spare plug in a wire and got a good blue spark. I'm a bit at a loss on this, I've never had an engine that has timing, compression, fuel, and spark that won't run... Any ideas? Obviously I'm missing something, but I can't for the life of me figure out what.
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post #2 of 13 (permalink) Old Nov 17th, 18, 9:10 AM
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Re: '75 chevelle malibu won't start

Plug wires routed to correct plug, distributor off more than a tooth? Timing chain skipped a tooth or few?
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post #3 of 13 (permalink) Old Nov 17th, 18, 2:09 PM Thread Starter
 
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Re: '75 chevelle malibu won't start

The wires are definitely right, that we checked and it ran in this configuration. The timing I'm confident is right. I suppose it's not impossible that the timing chain slipped, but it didn't really give any indication. Just stalled out and wouldn't restart, and it did restart with a different coil but only ran for maybe a minute and idled super low. I'm almost wondering if something is burning out coils but I don't know what would be, my friend was supposed to try the last one in one of his cars that runs fine but I haven't heard a report yet so I don't know if he has.
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post #4 of 13 (permalink) Old Nov 17th, 18, 2:30 PM
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Re: '75 chevelle malibu won't start

I'd go back to first base and make sure everthing is set perfectly. Pull a valve cover, turn the engine until the intake valve starts to close then line up the timing mark. Restab the distributor in the correct No 1 firing positon. Check the plug wires for proper location per firing order. I might even throw a new cap and rotor at it. I would also be temped to verify the tdc to the timing mark by using the process with a piston stop tool to check the timing mark location. A mismatched timing tab or spun harmonic balancer will throw off your timing. Since it's only firing on one cylinder, your distributor may be 180 degrees off.

Next make sure you are getting fuel.
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post #5 of 13 (permalink) Old Nov 17th, 18, 2:45 PM
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Re: '75 chevelle malibu won't start

There's also the possibility that the balancer slipped on the rubber ring putting all your timing checks off. To verify that's not the case:

Pull #1 sparkplug wire and sparkplug, turn engine over, (you'll need a helper ideally), in small bumps of starter, with your thumb covering the spark #1 plug hole. (Don't stick your finger in the hole...ouch!!)

As the #1 piston comes up towards TDC, you'll hear a swoosh of air being compressed out the hole and around your thumb. Stop bumping starter at this point.

After disconnecting the battery, use a deep socket and breaker bar, on the balancer bolt to fine tune the piston travel all the was up to TDC. Balancer should have its groove aligned with "0" mark on timing tab at TDC. Using a flashlight, you should be able to see top of piston through the sparkplug hole. If the balancer isn't even close to Zero/TDC, then the rubber inertia ring may have slipped and the balancer could be junk, which makes it very difficult to check and set timing.

If balancer checks at this point, it would be a good time to now double check firing order based on CW rotation of distributor.

Firing Order 18436572
Distributor rotation: Clockwise

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post #6 of 13 (permalink) Old Nov 17th, 18, 6:42 PM Thread Starter
 
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Re: '75 chevelle malibu won't start

I'm confident the distributor is in the correct position, especially since it was running for a while, and we've poured fuel directly in with no result so I don't think it's that. The timing chain jumping hadn't crossed my mind though, I'll look at that tomorrow for sure!
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post #7 of 13 (permalink) Old Nov 17th, 18, 7:17 PM
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Re: '75 chevelle malibu won't start

Guess we'll need to know what kind of ignition system you are running. With a points system, you only run 12 volts upon startup. Then a resistance wire takes over and your coil is run on 9 volts. If you supply a constant 12+ volts on a non internally resisted coil the coil will eventually start to break up. You also need to make sure your polarity is correct or you will get less spark out of the coil.

Hei system will run 12volt supply voltage 100% of the time.

If the timing chain jumped, I doubt it but possible, you'll have to tear everything off the front of the engine to check and remedy. So before you go there, I suggest you perform the test the guys above have laid out. These issues are commonly seen around here and the posters above have seen it many times. Start with the easy checks before you tear everything down just to find out the problem could have been identified without a teardown.

Fuel and spark are all you need to get that thing popping or blowing off mufflers. The correct amount of fuel and spark at the right time are what you need to get it running.
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post #8 of 13 (permalink) Old Nov 17th, 18, 7:23 PM Thread Starter
 
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Re: '75 chevelle malibu won't start

Quote:
Originally Posted by DUTCH MAX HEADWORK View Post
Guess we'll need to know what kind of ignition system you are running. With a points system, you only run 12 volts upon startup. Then a resistance wire takes over and your coil is run on 9 volts. If you supply a constant 12+ volts on a non internally resisted coil the coil will eventually start to break up. You also need to make sure your polarity is correct or you will get less spark out of the coil.

Hei system will run 12volt supply voltage 100% of the time.
'75 was the first year of the HEI so it has the factory HEI system in it, probably should have mentioned that good catch.
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post #9 of 13 (permalink) Old Nov 17th, 18, 7:44 PM
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Re: '75 chevelle malibu won't start

The HEI adds a new dimension to the can of worms. I'll leave this here for you, https://www.chevelles.com/techref/ftecref5.html. Now you have a coil, a module, and a pickup coil to check. You can use the tests in the above article or from a service manual of your choice. The article has some tricks and shortcuts not found in the manuals. Or in 2 days you can have a new cap, coil, distributor for a small price that may save your sanity.



You only get an occasional pop, so my guess is your ignition system is toast or the dist is 180 off. If you think it's in the right spot, loosen the hold down bolt and start spinning her over. Move the distributor around from side to side and see what you get. Keep your face away from the carb, and a damp rag to throw over the carb if it starts blowing flames.
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post #10 of 13 (permalink) Old Nov 18th, 18, 8:33 AM Thread Starter
 
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Re: '75 chevelle malibu won't start

I'm suspecting electrical too as every time I swap in a new coil it helps, just only for a VERY limited time (a minute or less, but the car will either start, or almost start before going back to square one). The problem is I've had 3 coils in it (the one it had to start with that was working but may have died, one that was thought good, and a high output that was known good), there's also been 3 distributors in it each with a different ignition module. The cap I haven't tried to change since this happened, but it was a new cap and doesn't show any signs of rust or burning... I'm going to try the jumped timing chain idea as that would make sense, but I feel like it's burning up coils for some reason I can't fathom. I'm waiting on my friend to try the last one we took out in his car this morning to see if it works, that one came out of a running pickup so we know for certain it was good BEFORE it went into this car.
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post #11 of 13 (permalink) Old Nov 18th, 18, 1:29 PM
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Re: '75 chevelle malibu won't start

Quote:
Originally Posted by Coldblackwind View Post
I'm suspecting electrical too as every time I swap in a new coil it helps, just only for a VERY limited time (a minute or less, but the car will either start, or almost start before going back to square one). The problem is I've had 3 coils in it (the one it had to start with that was working but may have died, one that was thought good, and a high output that was known good), there's also been 3 distributors in it each with a different ignition module. The cap I haven't tried to change since this happened, but it was a new cap and doesn't show any signs of rust or burning... I'm going to try the jumped timing chain idea as that would make sense, but I feel like it's burning up coils for some reason I can't fathom. I'm waiting on my friend to try the last one we took out in his car this morning to see if it works, that one came out of a running pickup so we know for certain it was good BEFORE it went into this car.
They're your dice go ahead and roll them. You can pick up a Chicom distributor for $50.00 brand new, but I don't recommend them for longevity. There's one constant in your tests, the cap and rotor. I have not had a bad cap keep a car from starting as of yet, but they sure have ran pretty badly even though the capand rotor looked fine.

You've already tried to pour a small amount of fuel in the carb, about 3 thimbles and still no go. That would help rule out fuel issues.

Please keep us posted on progress, Good luck.

Your compression readings seemed ok. So valve timing is low on my list.https://www.freeasestudyguides.com/c...ft-timing.html

A quick little visual test is to pull the driver's valve cover and watch #1 valves as you approach TDC. Unless you have odd cam timing or a major split in duration and lift, the 2 valves should be pretty close in the amount they are open at TDC. If the exhaust valve closes before TDC the cam is way advanced, if the intake valve doesn't start to open until after TDC the cam is way retarded. While doing this test you can easily verify the correct position of your timing mark
Valve timing that is off will affect compression test numbers. Excessive cam advance will show as unrealistically high compression test numbers by closing the intake valve sooner after the piston has passed BDC. If it's retarded, your compression would be lower than expected.

Last edited by DUTCH MAX HEADWORK; Nov 18th, 18 at 1:52 PM.
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post #12 of 13 (permalink) Old Nov 18th, 18, 4:31 PM
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Re: '75 chevelle malibu won't start

I think its definately timing related as you say it started but didn't stay running.Bring cylinder # 1 up to TDC and then remove the dist cap to physically see where the rotor is pointing.It should be pointing near cyl#1's electrode inside the dist cap.If it isn't rotate the dist to somewhere near #1's electrode inside the dist cap.
Then put it back together and try to start it then see what it does.

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post #13 of 13 (permalink) Old Nov 18th, 18, 7:35 PM Thread Starter
 
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Re: '75 chevelle malibu won't start

Ok guys, painting my buddies '74 cadillac el camino clone...thing kinda took up most of the daylight hours. I unfortunately didn't get to pull a valve cover as we were working by flashlight by the time we got to the chevelle. I have confirmed that 1. we have spark (plug in wire outside motor, at least 3 cylinders have a good hot spark, didn't test beyond that), along those lines the high output coil that was on it last started my buddies 472 in his monte carlo just fine, so not burning up coils, no idea why changing it helps sometimes. 2. the carb is visibly spraying fuel in, and adding more fuel/starter fluid has no effect. 3. As far as bringing the piston to TDC and lining up the timing mark the distributor is dead on #1 electrode, however without pulling the valve cover I can't confirm that the valves are opening and closing at the proper time so jumped timing chain is still a possibility. May be a few days before I can get back to this but I'll keep you posted if I figure it out.
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