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Discussion Starter #1
Hey guys just replaced the starter on my 78. ( 305 non original engine ) went to start it would only spin and not fire at all. Adjusted the timing of the motor. Put everything back together and nothing. When I turn the key to the on position the lights and accessories work fine. Once I try to start the car using a push button starter everything shuts off and it acts like it's getting no power whatsoever. I cleaned the battery posts bought new terminals for the battery posts and bought a new push button starter but nothing. Any ideas would be appreciated.
 

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Mike - 74 Nova Baltimore, MD
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Can you provide a little more information.

Did the engine run ok before you installed the new starter?

Did you install/change anything else while you were installing the new starter?

When did you adjust the engine timing?... before or after you installed the new starter?

What type of ignition system and distributor are you using?

When your key is turned to the "On" position, do you have any voltage at the bat terminal of your HEI?... or at the + terminal of your coil if you are using another type of system?
Now check for voltage at the same terminal while cranking your engine.

You can also test for a spark while cranking. Disconnect one of your spark plug wires at the spark plug and install a spare plug into the disconnected boot. Hold the threaded end of this spark plug to a good vehicle ground and have someone crank the engine and check for a spark at the plug's electrode. NOTE: Be sure you are clear of all moving engine parts during this procedure just in case the engine should start and do not take the plug away from the ground while cranking.

You also mentioned that you are using push button starter switch to start your engine. Are you referring to a remote starter switch that is used to temporarily engage the starter?... or do you have some kind of permanent push button starter switch that is separate from your ignition switch?
 

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Discussion Starter #3
No the starter wasn't correct so it was grinding horribly

I only replaced 1 spark plug because it was starting to get stripped.

After I installed the new starter.

How would I know what distributor or ignition system I have?


I have not checked for power there. I honestly didn't think of that.


My push button starter is only used to start the vehicle. I still use the key to turn the vehicle to the "run" position.
 

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Mike - 74 Nova Baltimore, MD
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1 - No the starter wasn't correct so it was grinding horribly

2 - (Timed) after I installed the new starter.

3 - How would I know what distributor or ignition system I have?

4 - My push button starter is only used to start the vehicle. I still use the key to turn the vehicle to the "run" position.
1 - Did the current engine that is in the car ever run?

2 - If the engine did not run after the new starter was installed, how did you time the engine?

3 - The 78 Nova with a 305 engine originally came with a HEI distributor. The coil was located within the cap of the distributor. Just google "images of a chevy hei distributor" for examples. Does yours resemble any of these images?

4 - Did your existing ignition (keyed) switch not start your engine... and you/someone wired in a separate push button starter switch to solve this issue?
Did the engine ever run using the push button starter switch?
 

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Discussion Starter #5
Yes it ran before the starter went.

After I installed the starter I tried to start it and the engine just cranked without firing up. So I brought it to TDC and noticed the rotor wasn't facing the #1 spark plug so I assumed that's why it wasn't firing correctly.

I just checked the distributor cap and it does say HEI on it.

When I bought the car 4 years ago it was like that so I'm not sure if thatd what the previous owner did.

Yes the engine did run using the push button starter!
 

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Mike - 74 Nova Baltimore, MD
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After I installed the starter I tried to start it and the engine just cranked without firing up. So I brought it to TDC and noticed the rotor wasn't facing the #1 spark plug so I assumed that's why it wasn't firing correctly.
When the timing mark is at TDC, it could be firing the #1 cylinder or the #6 cylinder. When you checked, was the rotor at least pointing close to the #1 terminal of the distributor cap?... or was it way off (almost 180°)? Note: At TDC for #1, the rotor should not be pointing to the actual #1 spark plug that is installed in the engine. If you trace the #1 spark plug wire, it will connect to a terminal within the distributor cap. That is were the rotor should be pointing at #1 firing position.

To confirm your distributor is firing on #1 at TDC you would have had to remove a spark plug and put your finger on the spark plug port and feel for air pressure as the timing mark was moving closer to TDC... or you would have to remove the drivers side valve cover to confirm both intake and exhaust valves were closed and not moving as the timing mark moved closer to TDC.

I am a little concerned about the installation of the separate push button starter switch, but at least the engine did run with that set-up.

Let me know when you can confirm that you have voltage at the bat terminal wire going into the distributor cap when both cranking and in the run position.
 

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Discussion Starter #7
It was pointing 180° off so way off.

That's exactly what I did to find TDC

I honestly was considering putting it back to turn key but was unsure how big of a challenge that would be.

I'm attempting that now can let ya know what the voltage is if there is any. It's only me so I'm not sure how I can check when cranking.
 

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Mike - 74 Nova Baltimore, MD
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From the time the engine last ran until now, was the distributor ever removed from the engine or rotated in any way? (other then when you just rotated the dizy to try and fix your non-starting issue).
 

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Discussion Starter #9
I replaced the cap maybe 3 years ago. I replaced the intake manifold in 2018 so yes it has been fully removed from the engine
 

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Mike - 74 Nova Baltimore, MD
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Did the engine ever run after you replaced the intake manifold and reinstalled the distributor?
 

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Discussion Starter #11
No but that was because of the starter issue. I replaced the intake manifold only because I stripped the bolts that held the coolant hose to the intake manifold. I've went through 2 starters the 1st one wasn't the right one I didn't know at the time so I kept adjusting it using shims but to no avail.

Also checked for voltage at the wires in the distributor cap its reading 11.34 the battery is reading 12.94 volts as well. And there are no lights or anything that will turn on in the run position
 

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Discussion Starter #12
I'm not sure what I did but she will now crank and spin that's all. Wont start which is what it was doing before.
 

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Mike - 74 Nova Baltimore, MD
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When I turn the key to the on position the lights and accessories work fine.
And there are no lights or anything that will turn on in the run position
In your first post, you stated that the lights and accessories work fine when the key is in the on/run position.
Now you are saying that there are no lights or anything that will turn on when your key is in the run position.
Which statement is correct?

Since you have voltage at the bat terminal on the distributor cap, I think it is best that you start from square one and remove and reinstall your distributor after 100% confirming that your engine is at the #1 TDC position. I think somewhere along the way you installed your distributor 180° off (at the #6 TDC position).

Note: When I install a distributor, I would first confirm #1 TDC (as previously described) and then set the timing mark to about 12° BTDC. I then completely install the distributor with the rotor facing where the #1 cap terminal would be after I have confirmed the distributor has engaged the oil pump shaft and the base of the distributor is fully seated on the intake manifold. If you needed to turn the engine to get the distributor to engage the oil pump and drop down onto the intake manifold, you will need to reconfirm #1 TDC before you reference the rotor position. Next, I referenced the exact position of the rotor by using a piece of firm wire (cut up wire shirt hanger) and attaching it to any available bolt on the same side of the engine as the #1 dizy cap terminal. I then bent the wire to point exactly towards the center of the rotor... but left enough space between the end of the wire and the rotor to install the distributor cap. Next, I installed the distributor cap and rotated the dizy so that the center of the #1 terminal in the cap was in line with the wire.

Be sure the carburetor is also primed with gas before attempting to start.
Once you are able to start the engine and keep it running, be sure to correctly set the timing using a timing light.
 

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Discussion Starter #14
Tried putting some starting fluid in the carb just to see if it will go because of a possible gas not getting there issue. It didn't work it ended up spitting through the carb and starting a small fire. I was able to put the fire out so that's fine and there appears to be no damage whatsoever
 

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Discussion Starter #15
Sorry for the confusion on that. The dash lights would come on when I tried to start it everything went out like there was no power. When I stopped trying to start the car nothing would come back on.

I might retry setting the timing again now that I got it trying to start..
When I found TDC I moved the notch so it was then in line with the 0 on the pulley. I then meshed the dizzy just enough so if I spun the crank shaft the dizzy would still spin. I turned the crank shaft until it "fell into place" meshing with the oil pump bolt( not sure what its called) I then tightened down the dizzy and distributor cap until it was tight enough to hold it in place but I could still move the cap to adjust the advancement or retard of the firing order put the spark plugs on using a diagram starting with the terminal facing the #1 spark plug. Where did I go wrong?
 

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Mike - 74 Nova Baltimore, MD
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Tried putting some starting fluid in the carb just to see if it will go because of a possible gas not getting there issue. It didn't work it ended up spitting through the carb and starting a small fire. I was able to put the fire out so that's fine and there appears to be no damage whatsoever
Well... at least you know you're getting a spark.
That is what will happen if you try to start your car and the distributor is not installed/phased correctly. The spark is firing while the intake valve is open.
I am glad that you were able to douse the fire before there was any damage.

When I stated that you should be sure the carb was primed before attempting to start, that would have taken place AFTER removing and correctly reinstalling your distributor.
I highly recommend that you R&R your distributor as stated in my previous post.
 

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Discussion Starter #17
It caught me a bit off guard when I saw the flames Haha

Above your comment I wrote how I found TDC. Am i just not doing it right? I'll definitely give the coat hanger wire a try to see if that helps.

I also forgot to mention that before I moved the notch to 0 I removed the #1 spark plug and felt for air being pushed out, then I adjusted the notch to 0
 

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Mike - 74 Nova Baltimore, MD
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I just reread how you installed the distributor and timed the engine after finding TDC.

Your method for finding TDC for the #1 cylinder by removing the #1 spark plug and confirming air pressure on the compression stroke as the timing mark (line) on the balancer is moving towards the timing tab in a clockwise direction should be correct.
Be sure you are checking the correct cylinder... The #1 cylinder is located on the drivers side of the engine - closest to the front of the engine.

It sounds like when you initially installed your distributor, you did not get it to drop down all the way onto your intake manifold due to engagement of the oil pump shaft.

After you rotated your engine and got the distributor to drop down and engage the oil pump, did you bring the timing mark back to #1 TDC (checking for air pressure as previously described) and note the new position of rotor?
In other words... when did you confirm the position of the rotor at #1 TDC prior to installing the distributor cap?
Before the distributor dropped onto the oil pump?... or after the distributor dropped onto the oil pump?

Please reread the instructions I wrote for installing the timing the distributor in post #13. I just added some information. New information is in Bold Print.

Once you have confirmed the correct position of the distributor for #1 TDC, be sure to confirm that all of the other spark plug wires are installed correctly and routed to the correct spark plugs. The firing order for a SBC is 1-8-4-3-6-5-7-2 proceeding in a clockwise rotation on the distributor.
 

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Discussion Starter #20
I looked up which one was the #1 cylinder it said driver side all the way in the front so that part is correct for me

After I got the oil pump shaft in line with the rotor I never rechecked TDC because I was assuming that when I turned the crankshaft the rotor was spinning with the engine so it never lost where it should be. (Did I explain that correctly? )
I checked TDC before the oil pump meshed with the rotor
 
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