Rebuilding My Semi-Faithful Alfa

One year a go, I blew my Alfa's head on the track. With the Alfa Owners' track day looming again it is time to get to wrenching!

11w ago
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Every year for as long as I have been a member, the Alfa Romeo Owners Club of Oklahoma hosts an annual private track day a Hallett Motor Racing Circuit in Oklahoma. I've been the last couple of years and the event is always a blast. A bunch of beautiful Alfa Romeos of every vintage belting around the track is a symphony of noise, color, and smoke that is a joy to observe, much less participate in.

However, for our socially distanced 2020 track day things did not go so great for my the 1987 Alfa Spider I bought in 2015 for our first cheap car challenge and couldn't bear to part with. Truth be told, my Alfa had been having cooling issues for a couple of years. I'd tried a ton of different things to solve it: replacing the water pump, radiator, cooling lines, etc, but nothing helped. If it sat for any length of time the cooling system had to be bled as air was getting into the system from somewhere. Well... as I was passing the pit lanes on a hot day in 2020, we found out where the air was coming from as I noticed a fine mist of water appearing on my windshield on what was otherwise a clear day...

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Yup. I had a blown head gasket.

That constant stream of water was, most likely, exhaust gasses getting the coolant and filling the system, displacing the fluid until it had nowhere to go but out the coolant expansion tank. The the very least the expansion tank was doing an excellent impression of a fountain. Likely the head gasket had been bad or marginal for a long time, but the tough old Italian soldiered on regardless. In fact, the Alfa continued to run and drive mostly fine as I managed to drive it the 45 minutes back to my house, retrieve my Volvo C30 Polestar and get a couple afternoon sessions in on that. I managed to boil the clutch on the C30, which I didn't know was even a possibility, but other than that it was a lot of fun!

So, needless to say, for the 2021 track day... I had some work to do.

Breaking out of car jail

I am ashamed to admit I let me poor, faithful Alfa sit in storage from May 2020 until March of 2021, at which point I finally went to check on it. Unsurprisingly, the old Italian didn't hold a grudge and started right up. The drive to the house was downright uneventful, and finally it was in the garage ready to for its major surgery.

Tearing it up

After cleaning up my work area, a feat that took an embarrassing amount of time, I was ready to tear into the Alfa. While this was not my first head gasket job, my 2001 Land Rover Discovery having taking that title, this was the first time I'd had to do any major work on the Alfa.

The first task was simply to remove as much of the top of the engine as possible. Though the Alfa's naturally aspirated, dual overhead cam, 2.0L, 4-cylinder engine is about as simple and accessible as engines go, being that is is an older L-Jet system there are just a whole bunch of vacuum lines crisscrossing the engine. As a result, my first chunk of time was spent labeling everything so I had at least a small chance of putting all the assorted bits back in the right place.

After removing most of the easy to access hoses, removing the idle control valve, draining the coolant, and stripping out any cooling lines that were in the way, it was time to remove the intake manifold itself.

Immediately I ran into problems.

I remembered removing the intake last year when I needed to replace the passenger side motor mount and what a massive pain in the butt it was. I'm not sure what Alfa Romeo was thinking, or even if they were thinking, but there is a large throttle linkage pivot on mounted to the underside of the intake. After freeing that, you also must free the intake from a large support bracket that ties the intake, fuel rail, and crankcase together, presumably to help support the intake manifold which would otherwise be held on by four flexible couplings. Either way, access to the bolts that hold the intake on is challenging a best, but made easier as I apparently didn't put one of the bolts in last year.

With that out, I suddenly had decent access to the entire passenger side of the engine. This seemed to be as good of a time as any to remove the valve cover, which mercifully is held in by six... fittings that defy categorization, two bolts, and the variable valve timing (VVT) solenoid connector. Unfortunately this was my second kick in the gentlemen's region for this project. I had milkshake. And not the kind good kind.

Milkshake and/or mayonnaise are the colloquial terms for the emulsion made when coolant and engine oil mix. This is not unexpected with a head gasket failure, on the contrary it is the quintessential symptom, I'd thus far avoided it on both the Alfa and the Land Rover. I'm guessing after sitting for [redacted] months enough coolant drained into the sump that I when I drove it home from storage it made milkshake. I did check the oil level before taking off and it was both black and at the correct level. Hopefully the six mile drive with questionable oil didn't cause too much damage to the abused engine, otherwise my chances of making track day just went from "moderate" to "zero".

The next task on the list was to remove the timing chain which, not coincidentally, is the first part of the process I haven't done before, on this or any car. I read through the factory service manual (FSM) and realized releasing the timing chain was as simple as finding the master link and pulling it. While simple in theory, it proved challenging in practice. Namely the engine is tight enough there is no good place to grab the crank bolt to turn the engine without removing the radiator, which I really did not want to do.

Ok, looks like I'm jacking the car up!

After blowing out the spark plug wells and removing the plugs, I raised the rear driver's side wheel into the air, surprised and impressed at the articulation, and tried to use the wheel to turn the drivetrain and ultimately the timing chain, but it wasn't giving me any love. I checked the parking brake but it was disengaged.

OF COURSE! I need to have both wheels off the ground! (wait for it)

I jacked up the passenger side and the wheels turned much easier. Success!

Oh wait... No...

That's... that's not how this works. That's not how any of this works! Having both wheels off the ground just means one wheels spins the other and nothing makes it to the front of the car. Realizing my mistake I put the passenger side back down and returned to the drivers' side.

I put the transmission in 5th, figuring that would give me the most mechanical advantage, and tried again. Success! The wheel moved and so did the cam. Exceeeeept while I'm turning the wheel, there is no good way to determine if the link is up or not.

Crap.

I call inside for my lovely assistant to come help me.

While I waited, I went ahead and removed the air box for better access to the exhaust manifold. I'd been delaying the bugger because I assumed it would be a pain in the butt... and it was! All of the outboard bolts were easy, though they were close enough to the manifold I could only use an open wrench to get after them. The inners were accessibly only by ratcheting box wrench, and even then only with barely enough clearance to get one or two ratchets per turn. Still, one or two is better than none! That all sounds not so bad, and it was once I figured out what worked and what didn't, but the last bolt, inboard nearest the firewall, was a bugger. The master cylinder, booster, and firewall provided enough obstruction I couldn't get my faithful ratcheting combo wrench in there to get it out. After looking at the issue, I realized the "best" way to get at it would be to feed a pneumatic socket wrench in the front of the manifold all the way to this back nut and then actuate it through the pipes.

Surprisingly, that worked, but I wasn't able to get a picture.

At this point my assistant arrived and was able to turn the rear wheels while I watched for the master link. It came up quickly enough, thankfully, and I was able to release the tension, free the link, and disengage the chain easy enough. Against all odds I even had the forethought to put a rag in the timing cover to catch anything that fell, which came in handy seconds later.

With the timing chain free, I was now free to loosen the head nuts. Though the FSM did not specifically request it, I went in reverse tightening order. With all of the nuts on the top of the engine, they were quickly dealt with and, barring some mucking with fuel and cooling, the head was ready to come off!

But... how?

The FSM instructs to use a tool that screws into #2 sparkplug and then braces against the head studs to break the seal, but lacking that I went with the "whack it with a soft hammer" approach... which got me nowhere.

Poop.

I called the head of the local Alfa club David (the expert, as it were) and, as it turns out, there is a special tool for that and he happens to have it. A couple hours later I had Alfa Romeo tool number A.2.0451, "Puller, cylinder head" as well as A.2.0117, "Retainer, liner" and a custom made head hoist.

The Alfa Owners club might be my very favorite club.

I quickly bolted on the head popper thingy (technical term) which threads into a spark plug hole and braces against the head studs, forcing the head upwards. Sounds crazy, and it is a bit, but it works. After doing the #1 and #4 plugs, I felt like I'd managed to get the head to lift enough to attempt to remove it.

Initially I was going to try and lift the head manually, likely shredding my back in the process, but that quickly proved to be a non-starter as the head studs just did not want to let go. Luckily, as mentioned, I had a hoist bracket specially made by another club member for this very purpose. I mounted up the hoist bracket to 1 and 4 spark plug holes and made ready to lift.... except I don't have a cherry picker or any type of hoist....

But I do have exposed rafters and some ratchet straps!

What could possibly go wrong!?

Well I'm sorry to tell you I didn't manage to compromise the structural integrity of the workshop and did, eventually, get the head free. It was not easy nor straightforward despite many, many love taps with the dead blow hammer, but eventually it was free. I then once again called upon my lovely assistant to help me manhandle the head over to the bench.

With the head on the bench I could finally get a look at my head gasket, block, and pistons and I've got to say.... I have no idea how this engine was running! The gasket was pushed in in places and literally falling apart in others. The fact that my only real running problem was exhaust in the coolant is... surprising at best.

With that horrifying realization behind us, I installed the cylinder liner retainers and set about stripping the head so it could go off to the machine shop. After talking with said shop, they informed me on this head I'll need to remove the exhaust header studs.

Cool. How the heck do I do that?!

Luckily a friend of mine had a stud puller, which successfully mangled and then removed the studs. I guess I'll get some more on order... After that, I zipped off the camshafts, cam buckets, and shims. Though I am changing the valves and springs, apparently using the old shims helps give you a place to start when you go to adjust clearances.

That done, I began undoing the injectors and intake manifold. All but one of the bolts was compliant and that managed to get taken care of without much fuss. Pretty sure the seals I purchased are incorrect though, so that is going to take some looking in to.

Next up I had to deal with all of the pooled milkshake that hadn't yet oozed out of one orifice or another. Smart money would have been on flipping it over a bucket, but I didn't think of that until just now, so instead I made forbidden jello shots.

Tasty!

Second to last job for the day was to pull the roll pins out of the head. Turns out despite how crusty and terrible that gasket looked, the job has been done before! Sticking roll pins in the oil passages is a common "upgrade" on these engines. The pins help locate and support the o-rings and prevent premature failure. Allegedly. Anyway, since mine had those and square cut o-rings (another upgrade) that 100% means someone had done this before.

This also gave me a chance to look at the horror that was my head. Rusty, crusty, and gross, I was looking forward to see what the machine shop could do with it.

With all the off, I sent the head off to the Alfa club's pet machine shop and got to play the waiting game.

Two Months Later

Remember that "plenty of time" I had before track day.... so much for that! Truth be told the machine shop ran into some issues. For one, they forgot about me for a little bit. But also when they got to skimming the head they found a crack in the exhaust that had to be addressed. Apparently this is common with these heads, so another week delay and another couple hundred dollars got me fixed right up. All told I was in it for about $500, which seemed steep but I wasn't really in a position to argue at this point. To the shop's credit, the head looked great and they did do a lot of work setting up the new valves, springs, and seats.

After retrieving it, I headed over to the David's place, again, to set up valve clearances. This basically entails measuring the clearance on all eight valves, removing the cams, swapping out shims, rinse and repeat. We managed to knock it out in five hours, which I am told is pretty brisk, with the added bonus of needing to do it again sometime in the future after all the new components wear in.

The things I do for this car...

With the cams allegedly good to go, the next steps were a little more nebulous. I needed to clean out the coolant and oil, align the crank to receive the cams, and get the head in place. However, my first actual order of business was to hunt down some roll pins for the head. As mentioned above, this is a common "hack" used to keep the o-rings that are part of the head assembly in place for longer, lest they get pinched, distorted, or otherwise displaced and we have to do this all over again. Long story short, hunting down the right pins in the right length was an absolute chore, but eventually I managed to source enough to get everything put back together.

I cleaned out the water jacket the best I could, but with the exhaust headers still in place I couldn't access the block drain, so I had to make do with flushing it from the top. In hindsight I should have tried harder, but here we are. I also tried to flush out the oil pump and pan using diesel, which seemed to work pretty well. With both running clear, I felt somewhat confidant that I could get he oil system back in order with a single flush, but I still budgeted time and oil for two.

After that, I set about rebuilding the injectors. And by "rebuilding the injectors" I mean "making a mess of one and cutting my losses". Bosch L-Jet injectors are pretty simple and widely regarded as non-serviceable. That does not, however, stop people from selling repair kits for them, and so I bought one.

My real aim was to replace the short piece of rubber hose that connects the fuel rail to the injector as those hoses get old, crack, and eventually start leaking. My efforts were thwarted, however, by a small metal cup against the injector (there is also supposed to be one at the fuel rail, but we're glossing over that) that has to be cut off... only the thing is stubborn and hateful. After much swearing I managed to get it off WITHOUT damaging the injector, and decided discretion is the better part of valor, and I wouldn't be "fixing" the other three injectors. For good measure I checked the screen on this injector and it also looked pretty much perfect too.

Taking my defeat in stride, I cleaned and prepped the block to ready it for the new head gasket and then did the unthinkable: applied gasket dressing! BUT WAIT! Put away your pitchforks! On the Alfa there are a couple of areas the FSM actually recommends applying gasket dressing! Unlike a normal head, which I agree should usually be dry fit, the Alfa's head gasket is... complicated, and does a lot more than a "normal" head gasket. Either way, with both sides prepped and time running short, I had no choice but to give assembly a go...

After much yelling, hitting, pleading, and more hitting the head finally consented to stop binding on the studs and actually sink down into place.

Terrific!

At this point I had exactly seven days until this thing needed to be on the track. Could I make it? Of course I could!

Keeping Time

The next step was to find TDC and attach the cams. Ordinarily that'd be a breeze as everything would still be aligned from when I took the head off. Except it wasn't. I tried rolling the engine over in an attempt to free the head (before I grabbed the correct puller) so the engine was in an unknown state.

No problem! All engines have marks on the crank that indicates TDC. Right? RIGHT?! No?

I started by pulling the dizzy so I could get close to #1 TDC using the #1 reference mark on the distributor (and verify I was at the real TDC, not the fake one) and then fine tune based on the crank markings. Unfortunately when I got it dialed in... there was no mark on the crank. There was a little 0 marked, but nothing I could align the pointer to.

The engine assembly manual specifies using a special dial gauge to verify TDC. While I do not have said magical thing, I figured it was in the Alfa club tool chest. Sure enough, 1.5 hours later I had it in my had and was ready to give it a go. After much confusion I determined... something was wrong. I finally found TDC, but it was about 45 degrees out from the reference mark. Further investigation (later in the process) revealed I'd put the distributor rotor on incorrectly, which explained the misalignment.

Proceeding anyway, I loosened the sprocket on the exhaust cam, installed and clocked both cams, and attempted to attach the timing chain. Emphasis on attempted.

Despite the tensioner being bottomed out, I just could not get the chain close enough to install the master link. After re-re-re-reading the instructions, I realized I was supposed to have loosened the intake cam sprocket as well (it didn't actually say to, but it did say to tighten it later on so...). After doing that, I managed to get the chain installed, the tension set, and get both sprockets attached.

Ok, it sounds simple but there was a lot of faffing around. The exhaust sprocket has these weird offset holes that you have to install a bolt into. Basically this means tightening sprocket nut and then rotating the cams until you find the two holes that line up. They're designed so that there is always one set that lines up, but apparently it is always at the bottom, not by design but because that is the worst place for them to be, requiring rotating the cams and then checking to make sure you didn't accidentally get them out of time. For bonus points, I managed to install the safety tab into the only hole set that matched up, so I had to do the (w)hole thing twice.

All that done, I figured I'd do the exhaust headers. Easy... right? No, of course not.

Turns out I forgot to install the new exhaust studs before installing the head. The old ones had to be removed for the machine shop to do their thing, so I'd ordered new ones as the old ones looked... wrong. I vaguely remember the guy who did my headers saying something about replacing a few, but didn't think anything of it...

So yeah, with the headers still hanging, there wasn't enough room in the engine bay or flex in the headers to get the studs in. Unwilling to remove the head again, I slid under the car, accidentally dipping in hair in the oil drain pan full of forbidden milkshake, and detached the headers at the next flange. This gave me the room to install the new exhaust studs. Then it was a "simple" matter of reattaching the flange and convincing the headers to play nice again.

That done, I went to install the nuts and get that job checked off.

Only... some of them didn't really want to go on, which was weird. I figured I'd maybe marred the threads when I hung the headers, so I brought out Mr. Air Impact to play. (Yes, I can hear you groaning from here...) A quick hit with the impact revealed something was very wrong.

On closer inspection, turns out the exhaust guy DID replace about half my studs. With the wrong ones. The exhaust studs on this car are M8x1.25 on the head side and M8x1.0 on the header/manifold side. The ones he'd put in were M8x1.25 on both. I cut my losses and headed to Ace to pick up eight new nuts and washers, installed them, and called it good.

At this point it was the Monday evening before track day and my goal is to get the intake and injectors on before 11PM. That might sound like ample time, but trust me on this car it is not. Remember my rant about taking off the intake? Putting it back on is somehow worse! The intake is attached to the intake manifold via 4 flex tubes, which is fine, and cradles the injectors, which is also fine. What is not fine is as the large, metal intake is connected only with flexible rubber, Alfa decided it should be supported! There is a bracket that connects the fuel rail, intake manifold, intake, and crankcase together in an unholy triangle of skinned knuckles and swearing. Access is near zero and Alfa decided studs were too... easy... so everything uses bolts. Also two of the mounts are flexible, so you're pretty much guaranteed something isn't going to be aligned properly. On and also there is a throttle linkage pivot mounted on the bottom, just to ensure access is impossible.

But first: Injectors. I'd mentioned in my earlier I'd decided not to replace the hoses as they were in good shape and I didn't want to risk damaging the injectors, which are, at the time of writing, unobtanium. I did strip the rubber seals off the injectors, cleaned up a little surface rust, and then install new seals. I did not take pictures. After that, installing the injectors into the intake manifold was pretty straightforward.

Job done! I'm sure the intake will be easy.

It wasn't. I'll spare you the hours of cursing, loosening, tightening, tweaking, and generally hating my life. The two big takeaways are someone suggested using silicone paste to ease install, and I'm a fan. One of the issues is the rubber connectors bind on the intake, making an already difficult install even worse. The silicone solved that. The other is my phone makes for a decent inspection mirror. With all of my calm used up and thrown away, I finally got everything buttoned up. Just needed to attach the throttle linkage and...

Why isn't the throttle linkage lining up?

Oh. Oh no.

It was supposed to thread through the Bracket of Hate (tm). I forgot to thread it through before I buttoned everything up. Lighter and can of gasoline in hand, I decided to see if maybe I could detach the other end of the linkage, rather than burn the house down instead of starting over on that hateful bracket. The other end of that part of the linkage was at the back of the engine, right against the firewall, and near the bottom.

Better than messing with that linkage...

With much contortion and no small amount of skin lost, I got the linage popped, threaded, popped back in, and connected.

I looked a the clock and it was exactly 11:00PM. Nice.

Home stretch (That's not gone well)

The next day I set about reconnecting all of the intake and vacuum ducting, lines, etc. Not a hard task, but certainly requires a lot of attention to detail. It was made a lot easier by my new best friend: silicone paste. Don't know where that has been all my life, but it made reconnecting everything (and, spoiler alert, the subsequent disassembly) much easier. The only thing I really half assed was I didn't reattach the bottom of the air box as you need to remove that to get to the oil filter and I wasn't sure how long it'd be until I needed to do that.

The other oddity I encountered on reassembly was when putting on the distributor cap, I noticed the #4 wire was where I'd expect to see #1. In fact, the whole cap was rotated 180 degrees, essentially reading 4231 vs 1342. Correct firing order, but shifted 2. As I hadn't removed the leads, just the cap, this was how the vehicle was running before. Curious, but not wanting to correct something that wasn't actually a problem, I put the cap on.

After filling up with coolant and oil, I was ready to start... sort of. At some point I was told it's best practice to allow oil pressure to return, essentially waiting for the dumb light to turn off, before allowing a car to start. So I disconnected the king lead and shorted it to ground, then cranked.

And cranked.

And cranked.

And cranked.

And oh my I didn't expect it to take this long! Should have disconnected the fuel pump.

After much cranking and the garage filling with gas fumes, I was finally rewarded with oil pressure.

Spiffy.

I reconnected the king lead and tried to start.

Cranking, but no start.

Not even a stutter.

Ok.... maybe I flooded it? I'll take a break and do a smoke test for leaks.

After that I tried again and... still nothing.

Ok.... time to swap those wires around.

I did, returning the wires to a 1-3-4-2 based on the reference mark on the dizzy, and tried again.

A stutter! A cough! But no start.

After playing with the throttle a bit, I managed to get it to start... sort of. It was running poorly and only at part throttle. A quick check of the plugs says they were black due to rich running, but otherwise not fouled. Touching the exhaust header it sure felt like 3 and 4 were firing, 2 was intermittent, and 1 was not firing at all. I have no idea what that means, but OK.

Ok so... this... isn't good and there is clearly a lot to worry about.

Alright... back to basics. I pulled out the dial gauge and re-re-re-re-re-confirmed #1's TDC. With the valve cover on I can't check the cams, but the dizzy looked good.

Ok. Well I know you people are going to tell me to check compression, even thought the crank sounded normal, so I pulled the plugs and compression was lovely. I wasn't going for accuracy, but it appeared to be around 135, 135, 150, 150.

At this point it was nearing 2AM and I needed to call it, and so I did. My biggest worry at this point was the whole... 180 degree dizzy thing. Looking back at my photos from disassembly, looking at the cams #4 was at TDC when I removed the timing chain, with its lobes pointed out. No data on what the pistons were doing, of course. When I put it back together #1 was at TDC (lobes out, marks aligned) but the crank (likely) hadn't moved much as the chain remained attached. So what does that mean? PURE speculation is when someone did this job last, they had a 50/50 shot on getting the cams right and didn't get it right. But if that was the case why did it run at all? Did they do something to the injector firing order? My guess if the injectors are firing 180 out the engine would just run poorly, but consistently on all cylinders? I have no idea. Also possible any number of things could have given up while sitting. Unlikely, but possible. Though the spark looked... fine... I'd be inclined to check out the coil, just in case. We did not that while checking spark the cadence seemed slower than expected? Unclear what that would mean. Also that I can't get it to run on starting fluid seems telling of an ignition issue... but what?

Obviously of the many, many elephants in the room the biggest is: Did I cock up the timing? And the answer is a hard maybe. While I'm inherently suspicious of the problems I had, I'm fairly confidant I was reading the dial gauge correctly and correctly found the peak of the piston's travel. I do have a worry that everyone describes a "flat spot" where the piston is neither moving up nor down and mine... didn't really have that. Maybe a TINY bit, but it sure was a small flat spot.

Looks like I won't be making track day...

But wait! An email! Track day is postponed until July!? Thunderstorms!? Nice!

Extended troubleshooting

Ordinarily I'd check the timing at this point, but allegedly the timing on L-Jet is static and the FSM contains a dire warning about attempting to adjust it. Figuring I probably wouldn't break anything, I did try a little, but didn't seem to change anything.

Ok. Back to basics. Lets confirm everything I assume is correct is correct. Plugs out, #1 at TDC via gauge, check dizzy and check crank. Crank is in-between the P and F marks (which apparently it has 🎉) but very close to the P. I use a remote camera (science, fuck yeah) to align the pointer perfectly with the P, then set the distributor such that the reference mark aligns with the center of the rotor.

Ok. Button up and... still no start. Smells really rich though.

Ok... what else can I try? Won't start. Running rich. Won't run without the airflow sensor. I know in the before times it would idle without the intake ducting connected so... lets try that?

It started.

It idles.

It revs.

All without a airflow sensor connected? WTF!?

Ok so clearly something is wrong but what?! L-jetronic in all of its complication really only has three things that directly control air-fuel ratio: The airflow sensor, the fuel pressure regulator, and the engine temperature sensor. So... lets check those?

The airflow sensor passed its diagnostics with flying colors, as did all of the engine temperature sensors. I even tried swapped in a known good airflow sensor to no avail. So... that sort of leaves the fuel pressure regulator? Those are cheap and mine is old so lets give that a try! (Also to complicate things, the engine has started making a metallic noise at higher RPM. Crap.)

After waiting a couple of days for a new pressure regulator to arrive, I installed it. As this post is already incredibly long I'll spare you the details, but know that is was a massive pain and ultimately didn't help. Also the metallic noise was getting worse.

The cam cover was going to have to come back off

There was really no avoiding it at this point. I needed to verify the valve timing was still correct and the metallic noise was absolutely coming from under the cam cover so... everything was going to have to come apart again. Luckily David had offered to come and ride shotgun on this endeavor, so at least I'd have another set of eyes on it.

Once he was over and the valve cover was off, we did find a few things of note! For starters, the timing chain had somehow come loose, which explains the horrible noises. Cool. Additionally, the valve timing was still correct. Wicked! That said, we went ahead and re-re-re-re-verified TDC and re-tensioned the timing chain. He left and I put everything back together, hoping that something will have changed but mildly resigned to knowing it hadn't.

Finally, resolution...

As expected, after getting everything back together it ran... the same.

Crap.

I checked a whole bunch of other things (O2 sensor, timing, fuel pressure, air leaks, ECU ground, injector ground, TPS, IAC, etc) and finally just got to the point where I was reading random L-Jet articles on the internet. On one, a guy with some BMW or another had a similar problem after he mixed up his thermo-time switch and coolant temperature sensor connectors. This is certainly plausible, but I'm pretty sure they're different connectors on this vehicle, and even if they weren't I am almost positive I got them right. Still worth checking.

And so I did. And they were right. But just to make sure they couldn't be mixed up I looked at them side-by-side... and noticed a problem.

HEY YOU REMEMBER WHAT FELT LIKE TWO MONTHS AGO WHEN I SAID THERE WERE VERY FEW THINGS THAT COULD CAUSE THIS AND ONE OF THEM WAS THE ENGINE TEMPERATURE SENSOR BUT MINE WAS FINE? I was correct on both counts. A bad engine temperature sensor would cause this exact problem and my sensor was good. My CONNECTOR, however, not so much.

After pushing the pin back into its holder and reconnecting the airflow sensor, the engine started and ran like normal. Because why would it not!?

Race to the finish

At this point I had a little over two weeks to wrap up a suddenly running Alfa, and so I did. I changed the oil, flushed the coolant, installed a radio, replaced the wiper motor, did some electrical troubleshooting, flushed the brake fluid, changed the clutch slave cylinder, repaired the scuttle drains, fixed some problems with the floor pan, and gave everything a good clean.

All in all, it was a productive two weeks and going into track day I was confidant all would be well.

It wasn't, but that is a different story.

Epilogue

This was originally a series of updates posted to Opposite-Lock.com ("The Hyphen"). Work on the Alfa started on March 6th, 2021 and "concluded" on track day, July 1st, 2021. Overall I'm happy with the progress made, but there was obviously a lot to be frustrated about.

I really appreciate the hard work and dedication of all of the AROCOK members, plus random Oppos, that helped get this little old Alfa back on the road again.

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Comments (6)

  • This all seems so simple when put like this.

    "After much confusion I determined... something was wrong. I finally found TDC, but it was about 45 degrees out from the reference mark. Further investigation (later in the process) revealed I'd put the distributor rotor on incorrectly, which explained the misalignment."

    Just this one sentence spans like 4 ranting / help posts on Oppo. I'm glad you finally got it running though.

      2 months ago
  • Really enjoyed reading this, suspect you enjoyed writing it.

      2 months ago
  • Wonderful, i have a 1992 Alfa 75

    I’m restoring it as well

      2 months ago
  • I've been reading this story like one would read a novel. I truly enjoyed this time capsule that sent me back in the eighties when my daily drive was a 2 litres GTV F/L.

      2 months ago
  • People really don’t read all of it I think sorry

      2 months ago
6