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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Jul 2005
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    Oberon, NSW
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    Default Old petrol Hilux: no spark on cool days?

    Long(ish) waffle, but please bear with me as I set out my problem.

    I recently picked up an ol' '89 Hilux dual-cab ute for use as a knockabout. 4cyl petrol model. A 22r type motor for anyone who cares.

    It ran like a charm over Chrissy (down in Vic) and made the trip back up to home turf in NSW without missing a beat, starting on first touch of the key every time. These old girls really are damned near unstoppable! (Ever see the Top Gear episode where they tried to stop one? )

    But once I brought her back to my mountain top... of a cool morning (<18oC) it just will not start. No backfires or signs of ignition at all. I may as well be winding over a starter connected to a short block. Once the day wams up over to 20oC it'll start as normal.

    Investigation showed no spark. I've already changed out the spark plugs and leads; not that I thought they were faulty, but I wanted to eliminate them as possibilities to help pin-point the culprit. I suspected the coil. I still do.

    Eventually - once things warmed up and it would start - I took it in to my mechanic for a Blue Slip and, due to lack of time, to get this problem sorted.

    A pair of shockers & a blue slip later, I picked her up and she ran better than ever. The mechanic took me aside and informed me that the carby was tired and need a rebuild fairly soon but went on to say that this wouldn't stop her starting. He went on to say that it started fine every time they tried - at random times during the day - and all tests of the dissy and coil showed they were perfectly fine, giving a long blue spark.

    ie. he couldn't find anything to fix! Mind you, they keep all the vehicles they're working on indoors over nights for security reasons. I'm guessing it didn't quite get cold enough to 'trigger' whatever the fault is. But it IS only a guess on my behalf.

    This morning? No start.

    I'm baffled.

    So... does anyone else have any suggestions as to the possible cause before I cross my fingers, spend more $$$ to replace the coil assembly and hope that's it? Has anyone ever come across similar problems with coil/igniters before? Or am I barking up the wrong tree?
    I may be weird, but I'm saving up to become eccentric.

    - Andy Mc (AKA "Ghost who posts." )

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  3. #2
    Join Date
    Apr 2014
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    Little River
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    Default

    I had a similar but slightly different experience with a new 1976 Range Rover. Every time there was a frost, which was not often, it wouldn't start but luckily it had a crank handle. One nudge on the crank and it would fire. Nobody could find the cause and it went to the dealer many times.

    Finally when way out of warranty I replaced the battery and the problem disappeared. My guess is that there was a fault in the battery or connections and when it got cold it would not supply enough voltage to generate sufficient spark while cranking.

  4. #3
    Join Date
    Sep 2013
    Location
    Jarrahdale WA
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    Default

    I reckon Bohdan's onto it... dodgy batteries cause some really interesting and baffling symptoms...

    It's a cheap test as well, pinch another battery from another car and see...

    Not related but interesting nonetheless..

    I have a 1989 Rodeo bought 6 years ago as a firewood bunky. Done about 100,000ks since I bought. The cancer has a hold now, so it's days are numbered which is a shame as it runs really, really well.

    Ever since I bought it it's had a problem returning to idle (when driving) reliably and starting when hot. A stab on the accelerator and release usually brought it back to the idle, and the hot start...well....it always started eventually.

    Several weeks ago the engine began stopping when I went over a bump. Not every time, just most. Turn off the key while rolling, turn on and all good. Dropping the clutch did not do it...
    This had me completely baffled. While parked and running I wiggled every wire under the bonnet to no avail. In frustration I was tapping the under bonnet fuse box with a screwdriver handle and it stopped!
    Pulled out the fuse box and turned it over and wiggled every wire with no result, BUT when I shook it it stopped! Turned out to be the ECM relay buggered. As a 6 pole it was not an easy find.
    Who ever heard of a relay wearing out? Anyway the end result it now idles fine, starts when hot and keeps running over bumps...

  5. #4
    Join Date
    Jan 2014
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    Sydney Upper North Shore
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    Default

    Does it have an electronic ignition or points in the distributor? Late 80’s could have had either.

  6. #5
    Join Date
    Dec 2013
    Location
    San Antonio, Texas, USA
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    Default

    Sounds like a HT breakdown at the coil or cap. Can happen on cooler days with condensation that can be invisible. Open the hood in the dark and have somebody crank it over and look for faint sparks. Sometimes you can see the burn tracks on the plastic.
    Innovations are those useful things that, by dint of chance, manage to survive the stupidity and destructive tendencies inherent in human nature.

  7. #6
    Join Date
    Feb 2016
    Location
    Perth WA Australia
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    Default

    +1 to testing the battery/replacing it if its over a couple of years old.

    You'll definitely know when the coil is failing, you'll potentially get engine check lights, misfires, it'll run like its got dead spark plugs etc

    it won't run like a dream when its warm then bad when cold.

  8. #7
    Join Date
    Jan 2007
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    Katoomba NSW
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    If it is cranking but not starting then I think the battery will be ok. Rob's suggestion is worth a look, and you can test it by spraying some WD in the cap when it won't start, but I would also also be checking the connections between the battery and the ignition coil. A connection is making contact while it is warm but shrinking ever so slightly once the temperature drops to increase the resistance of the joint enough to spit the proverbial.
    Those were the droids I was looking for.
    "just because I donít need the lathe doesnít mean the beer isnít cold" - Grand Master Flett

  9. #8
    Join Date
    Jul 2005
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    Oberon, NSW
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    Default

    Thanks for the input fellas!

    The battery is good. Brand new as a matter of fact. I should've mentioned that.

    On the next cool night I'll try the eyeball test just to eliminate carbon tracks as a possibility and I'll probably route a temporary power wire directly to the coil to eliminate harness problems.

    When it comes to mechanics I'm old school. I like to keep my motors 100% analogue and my computers on my bench.

    To me a coil with a start resistor is 'new fangled' so I'm not sure exactly what the igniter component on the coil does. This is a sealed PCB or similar directly attached to the coil with a surprising no. of pinouts to the harness. I doubt it's just a resistor pack as there's no heatsink and it's sandwiched between the inner guard and coil.

    I have the old service manuals and I've googled but, apart from mentioning that it's part of the ignition circuit built into the coil, I've found no details of what function it actually serves.

    I agree that the symptoms aren't typical of a HT coil failing... but they are one of the many and varied symptoms of a PCB on it's way out.

    It would help soooo much if I knew what the $%^& igniter did. Should I replace the coil I guess I'll dissect the old one and find out for sure!
    I may be weird, but I'm saving up to become eccentric.

    - Andy Mc (AKA "Ghost who posts." )

  10. #9
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    Jul 2005
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    Quote Originally Posted by Lappa View Post
    Does it have an electronic ignition or points in the distributor? Late 80ís could have had either.
    >wince<

    Somehow I missed your post when I made my reply but I think you have nailed it. The dissy is pointless, so I imagine the igniter is the PCB equivalent of points and that'd fit the symptoms.

    I should've realised that, dammit!
    I may be weird, but I'm saving up to become eccentric.

    - Andy Mc (AKA "Ghost who posts." )

  11. #10
    Join Date
    Jun 2017
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    Moorooka
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    I had an old MGB with the similar symptoms for around 10 years. Eventually I found that whilst I still had spark the voltage drop from the battery being a little colder was the issue. I fitted a 12 volt to 12 (13.8) volt converter to feed the coil and the issue disappeared. With a newer electronic system as you have the voltage drop could kill the spark altogether. I would attack a modern car it a different way. Run a new or clean the existing earth wire from the battery to the engine.


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  12. #11
    Join Date
    Jan 2014
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    Sydney Upper North Shore
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    If it is the igniter (can’t be sure without testing) they can be expensive so shop around. If the price is still too exy then you can fit other, cheaper ignition modules with a little bit of modification. There are a few YouTube examples but I have a diagram if you need it - all i’d need is a photo of the wires coming out of the igniter (pcb) to be sure.

    just a thought - if this only happens on cold days, then next time it plays up, heat the igniter a little with a heat gun and see if that makes a difference.

  13. #12
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    Jun 2005
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    Helensburgh
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    Try this, after dark get it into a dark shed or somewhere there is no light, start the motor and you will instantly see if there are high tension sparks going places they should not like a cracked dissy cap, leaking coil etc.
    CHRIS

  14. #13
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    Jan 2009
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    Perth, Western Australia.
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    I dunno about the Hilux - but I owned a near-new WB Holden ute in the days when they were new onto the market (early 1980's).
    This (6 cyl - 202) engine was the Blue motor, with the new-fangled electronic spark control module that bolted into the base of the dizzy.
    I lived in a small W.A. S.E. wheatbelt town back then, and did lots and lots of driving around on local gravel roads, with all the attendant dust when dry, and slush when wet.

    After a few months of ownership, the ute would fail to fire up on moist mornings. Some disassembly revealed an electronic control module coated with gravel dust where the bayonet connectors plugged into it (4, from memory).
    I cleaned all the gravel dust off the module, reinstalled it, and the engine fired right up every morning. I soon figured out that the gravel dust coating became wet on moist mornings, with dew rising from the ground.
    The local gravel dust has a very high ironstone content, along with salt. Add water to this coating, and you have a fine conductor of electrickery, to places where you don't want it to go.

    I had to clean that WB Holden dizzy module on a regular basis, it was a right PIA of an idea. The GMH electronic dizzies produce a good hot spark when they're going, but they're prone to as much spark diversion as any earlier, points-based dizzy.
    Toyotas generally ensure their electrics are very well insulated - but I'd be looking for electrickery diversion from the spark control module, via moist gravel dust, moist oily dust, or moist salty dust.

    The clue lies in not starting in the morning, when the dew has either condensed on it overnight from above, or the moisture has risen from the ground and condensed under the bonnet.
    The effect is worse if you leave the vehicle outside overnight, and leave it parked on grassy, or even just bare ground.

  15. #14
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    Helensburgh
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    About a 100 years ago when I sold parts for Minis people always complained about them stopping in the wet and looked at me with disbelief when I told them that if they cleaned the motor properly it would not happen. I have run a Mini through water over the bonnet in rallies and it always kept going because the motor was clean.
    CHRIS

  16. #15
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    Remote chance but you may also check the engine ground, if it has one and if it's corroded you could get intermittent starting.
    Innovations are those useful things that, by dint of chance, manage to survive the stupidity and destructive tendencies inherent in human nature.

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