Getting the big Fairlane back on the road.... Going the whole 9 inches

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RC10th
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Getting the big Fairlane back on the road.... Going the whole 9 inches

Post by RC10th »

For the last 5 years my 77 Fairlane has been rock solid reliable, never really missed a beat and has been a true war horse. Hop in, turn the key, and go wherever you want. As of late it has been more trouble then it's worth.

She's an old girl still on points, for the longest time she ran fine with straight 12v to the coil without a resistor. This isn't ideal and technically shouldn't have worked but did.

One day the coil starts collapsing and stalling the engine. Annoying but fixable, so I install a resistor and all is good. Soon after she wont start, not enough spark to start so I install a 12v relay and all good again.

Not long after that she starts to stumble a little bit at extended idle in drive so I take it to an LPG (propane) shop. It's on dual fuel and still ran fine on gasoline. Regardless it goes back to the same shop twice and they couldn't sort it.

I take it to another shop where they find the LPG converter is leaking. I get them to put a new LPG system on it and it hasn't really run right since. Now it's pretty much undrivable and I'm over it. I replaced the points and tried different dwell settings, both in spec and on the high/low limits to no avail on lpg or gasoline. Remember it always ran fine on gas.

It's a shame because it has been a really fun car, but I'm close to burning it. Yeah the engine is tired, yes the timing chain is stretched, yes the distributor is worn, yes it probably needs an engine. I don't want to deal with it
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Re: 1:1 car trouble vent....

Post by mk-Zero »

Don't do anything rash... Moth ball it for a while and after you've had enough "cool down" time, revisit what's going on and come up with a plan.
I get sick of my beetle when it's down too, I have so little time to work on it. Sometimes I just need a break from it too.

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Re: 1:1 car trouble vent....

Post by RC10th »

The problem is it's my daily driver. I don't have lots of time to work on it either as I work 9 -5:30 and it gets dark around 6 now. It's not super loud but loud enough to annoy the neighbors if I work on it too long. I also don't have enough cash to just hand it over and say "just fix it" with an open ended bill.
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Re: 1:1 car trouble vent....

Post by mk-Zero »

Ah, well that changes things... In that case I guess you got to do what you got to do. If there's any way you could swing a cheap daily driver, an old Civic or soemthing, then you could take your time on the Fairline.

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Re: 1:1 car trouble vent....

Post by RC10th »

Split days off work also don't help.

If I can be bothered tomorrow after work I'll pull the plugs (only 2 months old) and go from there.
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Re: 1:1 car trouble vent....

Post by integra22t »

i would work from the gas part .. it only needs 3 thing to run .. gas, compresion,spark

pull the plugs and see if they are wet or damp ( if so then its sparked related) also a wet spark plug will never fire right and is a cheap fix

are you using an after market coil ?

when you did the points did you remove the wires ? check to make sure the fire order is right

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Re: 1:1 car trouble vent....

Post by jwscab »

if you can figure out a way to get some electronic ignition in that car, that will go a LONG way to reliability. If the motor is worn to the point that your timing is too far gone, not much you can do but some rebuild. whether you tackle it yourself, or buy a replacement engine, you have to weigh if adding money is worth it, or if it's just time to move on to something else. of course, moving on to something else doesn't mean getting rid of her, just putting her up until the time is right.

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Re: 1:1 car trouble vent....

Post by DMAT »

I think integra's got the right idea on this. drop down to 1 fuel type until your ready to deal with the other again.

Just my own experience but after bringing it to a shop, go through the car and make sure all caps, lids, plugs etc. are properly installed on the car. With the age of that car, I'm guessing there are very few electrical systems on it so I couldnt say check your fuses like newer ones. my TCM gave me hell for a while until I just decided to replace all the fuses.

My mom brought he car into a shop for a trade in estimate and damn if they took her transmission cap from the car and by the time I got to look at it, She had spewed almost all her fluid out and burnt the transmission.

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Re: 1:1 car trouble vent....

Post by Sixtysixdeuce »

get some electronic ignition in that car, that will go a LONG way to reliability.
This. While a great many things have been cheapened and not made to last on newer vehicles, the powertrain electronics are scores better than what was available 30+ years ago. That technology has trickled into the aftermarket world, and for a rather small investment, you can be running with a tidy, self contained digital distributor/ECU that is far more reliable and efficient than the old breaker points. MSD, Mallory, Accel and a number of other manufacturers offer them for all common small & big block V8s.
I don't have lots of time to work on it either as I work 9 -5:30


Don't mean to be rude or anything, but those are total banker's hours. A lot of us on this side of the pond put in 60-80 hours/week, sometimes more. I get sporadic, unpredictable down time during the workday, but I don't even know what it would be like to have a genuine 40 hour week; I've been no less than 49 since I started working at age 15, still manage to find time for projects even with 3 rugrats and a home to maintain.
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Re: 1:1 car trouble vent....

Post by Coelacanth »

I don't think this is anywhere near as simple as one could hope. A great many factors can cause a rough idle, stumbling, hesitation, etc...and with an old car, there's a great many possible culprits. Sure, it's just gas, spark & compression, but that's way oversimplified. Throwing in the propane situation further complicates things and introduces even more variables.

All of the following could be contributing to your problem; even this is simplified to a gas-only, carbureted system, and I probably still missed other possibilities:

-fouled, dead or incorrectly gapped spark plugs
-dead spark plug wire(s) would cause a very rough but consistent idle and greatly reduced power
-plug wires in incorrect firing order or adjacent wires crossfiring
-distributor cap/rotor & coil/ballast resistor needs replacement
-points bad; incorrect gap
-fuel filter and/or fuel pump could need replacement
-Adjust carburetor (I assume your '77 is carbureted?) air/fuel mixture, then adjust idle speed
-Adjust timing to the level of wear & tear on the car in question

With Chryslers (not sure if it works the same way for Fords), there's an idiot-proof way to adjust timing that doesn't require a timing light, specs, or estimation based on timing chain wear, and adjusts it for whatever fuel you're using. I've been doing this method for decades and it always works quite well.

-Set the carb air/fuel mixtures optimally, then adjust idle speed first. The carb should ideally be adjusted properly before adjusting timing.
-With the distributor a bit loose, and with a friend's help, and just to be safe, pull your park brake, one guy floors the accelerator pedal while the other adjusts the distributor until you just begin to hear pinging, then back off until the ping goes away. Tighten the distributor; you're done.

I agree that adding an electronic ignition system will greatly improve driveability, performance and reduce maintenance.
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Re: 1:1 car trouble vent....

Post by Brocklee »

One more thing, check your valve lash to make sure it's within its operating limits. If it's too loose or too tight it will run very rough and be hard to start when cold. That's assuming the carb is tuned correctly, you're getting spark, and the timing is correct. It's something that's easy to overlooked but makes a night and day difference.
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Re: 1:1 car trouble vent....

Post by Sixtysixdeuce »

One more thing, check your valve lash to make sure it's within its operating limits. If it's too loose or too tight it will run very rough and be hard to start when cold. That's assuming the carb is tuned correctly, you're getting spark, and the timing is correct. It's something that's easy to overlooked but makes a night and day difference.
Not saying it can't happen, but in 17 years of professional wrenching, I have never seen valve lash become so extremely tight or loose that it caused hard starting or misfiring. When you have valves failing to open or close, it's another issue. Stuck or collapsed tapped, bent pushrod, flat cam lobe, damaged rocker or rocker shaft/stud/pivot, busted valve spring, etc.

Almost all engines use a hydraulic tappet system for a reason; they self adjust well, are able to compensate quite a bit for normal wear and temperature variations. Unless some idiot gets under the cover with a wrench and botches the job, it's extremely unlikely that a valve is hanging open or not opening enough on account of simple lash adjustment.

OP also tells us it runs fine on gasoline, which means his problem with LPG is almost certainly fuel delivery.
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Re: 1:1 car trouble vent....

Post by RC10th »

It used to run fine on gasoline untill recently, but now it runs poorly on both gasoline and LPG which points to ignition as being the most likely culprit. I'm a bit miffed as the engine still feels strong but under load sometimes runs like a hit-n-miss engine, like the spark is dropping out. A mechanic says the engine is toast but I have a hard time believing that.

It's possible that it's a conglomeration of things. The distributor rubbing block looks pretty worn, worn timing chain can be alter timing, timing chain could have jumped a tooth, cam could have gone flat, burnt exhaust valves etc... Or the coil could quite simply be bad.

Instead of wasting time chasing down what it could be it is cheaper and easier to just replace the engine with a known good one.
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Re: 1:1 car trouble vent....

Post by Sixtysixdeuce »

I'm a bit miffed as the engine still feels strong but under load sometimes runs like a hit-n-miss engine, like the spark is dropping out. A mechanic says the engine is toast but I have a hard time believing that.
A tired engine will run worse at low RPM under light/no load, when piston velocity/cylinder pressure are lower. Seen plenty of engines with a low hole that were fine at RPM, but stumbled like crazy idling in gear. You are on the right track; misfiring that is worse under load is almost always ignition.
It's possible that it's a conglomeration of things. The distributor rubbing block looks pretty worn, worn timing chain can be alter timing, timing chain could have jumped a tooth, cam could have gone flat, burnt exhaust valves etc... Or the coil could quite simply be bad.
If you intend to keep the vehicle, one of the smartest things you could do would be to ditch the OEM ignition system and get a quality modern distributor with a hall effect or magnetic pick-up and an integral ICM.

Having said that, I'm pretty sure Ford, like Chrysler, used those damned nylon and aluminum cam sprockets back in the '70s, which had a horrible tendency to skip time and wing valves. Unfortunately, there's no easy way to check cam timing; just gonna have to yank the cover like any other pushrod V8.
Instead of wasting time chasing down what it could be it is cheaper and easier to just replace the engine with a known good one.
Excellent opportunity to go through it and make it run like a raped ape!
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Re: 1:1 car trouble vent....

Post by RC10th »

At the moment the plan is to check out and pull the engine from donor car. If it checks out I'll probably replace the cam with a mild cam and put it back into my car. I'm not worried about it being a screamer but a slight bump in power would be nice. The spare engine supposedly was rebuilt not long ago and has electronic ignition. LPG is a dry fuel so it's hard on valves, so hopefully it was rebuilt with hardened valves and seats.

After the dud engine is out of my car and has been replaced I'll then pull the heads and see what the valves look like, inspect the bores, measure cam lift and inspect the timing chain.


Valve lash is important on solid lift cams, however being a stock engine they would be hydraulic. Most hydraulic lifters get adjusted with a bit of preload but pretty much "self adjust". Adjusting solid lifters in the same manner would hold the valves open and cause the engine to run terrible.
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