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Old 08-18-2012, 02:42 PM   #1
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Question Running a bit rich

I'm stretching my welcome here a bit, but I've run out of sources to fix a nagging problem with our Import. I've been on a number of forums, but the problem is the vehicle is now 21+ years old and the number of tech types who might know the technology the vehicle uses are few and far between and are probably retired or worse. The original factory shop manual is useless. Without offending anyone, is there an experienced individual out there that can examine this info and suggest next areas to look at?

The only nagging issue I have is that it now runs rich. Since it is a 1990’s vintage the emissions are quite rudimentary compared to newer vehicles. It has a vehicle speed sensor, engine coolant sensor, MAP, MAT, TPS, IAC solenoid and O2 sensor.

If the vehicle is running rich, then it stands to reason that either ignition or fuel delivery is suspect. At first I figured until I could get the oil burning under control (explained below) this would throw the emissions off and could make it run rich, but this symptom is still present.

Its got new everything, and when I say that, no stone has been left unturned. The only things that haven’t been replaced are the sensors mentioned (the O2 has been replaced twice).

What is maddening about this is I’ve never had this much trouble with one vehicle in all the ones I have ever worked on in 45+ years. This would be the 6th engine I’ve rebuilt and it was so easy to do, it was ‘stupid’. I took the vehicle to a shop thinking they might be able to diagnose it, but without the proper scanner (it's pre-OBDI) there is no way to diagnose it properly.

In a nutshell, the vehicle blew NOx at twice the limit during a recent e-test. All the other readings were on target; in fact they were lower than the readings from 2 years previous. I think the reason it blew NOx is because the timing was too far advanced as the vehicle seems to like to run at 14 DBTC and Factory is 9 to 11 DBTC, but it could also have been a plugged EGR after 200,000+ KMs.

For this latest e-test I replaced the Cat and installed a new O2 sensor. I think this contributed to the better readings, but had no bearing on the NOx reading.

I decided to replace the head gasket before its next e-test as the engine was leaking anti freeze. I figured I could eliminate a number of issues and get a much better e-test.

This is where things started falling apart. The shop checked the head for cracks and bad guides, reconditioned the head, lapped the valves, installed new valve seals and milled the head for trueness. Put the head back on, ran the vehicle for 450 miles and it burned 2 US quarts of oil. Now the rings need replacing says the shop.

Pulled it down again, popped the pistons, had them cleaned, reconditioned and installed new rings. Honed the cylinders and popped the pistons back in. It still burned oil for the first 1,800 KMs, but not as much as before, initially it was 1 US quart in 1,000 miles. As of yesterday oil consumption is now under control and I think it is starting to run much better.

The ECM decides how to pulse the injectors (they were replaced about 90,000 KMs ago) based on RPM, air temperature, and throttle position primarily, while monitoring vehicle speed. The MAT, IAC and EGR have all been cleaned and checked for operation. EGR is visual, and tips in according to the RPM schedule. Multimeter tests on the MAT, TPS and O2 have been done as well. The MAP is a closed unit and is not serviceable. None of these sensors or the ECM were suspect BEFORE the engine was torn down. No ECM codes either.

I’ve replaced the O2 sensor twice thinking that all that oil wasn’t doing it any good. The Cat got replaced too, so now I have two of them! Replaced the plugs with new ones, switched them out and re-installed some Platinum plugs that the vehicle seems to ‘like’. New air and fuel filter. Plugs are all the same heat range. New vacuum hoses, and re-checked the routing of each vacuum hose twice.

The vehicle has new wires, new plugs (swapped out twice) new distributor cap and rotor. Timing is set at 11 DBTC. The only consideration I have is that quite possibly the fuel regulator may be acting up. Fuel pump pressure is good and the vehicle has no problem with WOT on the highway, except for the black smoke out the back. Used to be a combo of blue (burning oil) and black, but now just black, which suggests its running rich.

Anyone?


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Old 08-25-2012, 09:16 AM   #2
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Sorry for sand bagging on the forum, but information was scant and the only guy who could help diagnose our Import was probably on the Ark!

I was hoping to find some technical advice that was more theory than practical. The kind of stuff an ASE or licensed mechanic might know. What follows is applicable to any engine, not just ours.

After pawing over the manual two or three times, I figured out that there were basically only 5 sensors that controlled the injectors and what the ECM decided to do with them. Notice that the sensors mentioned are all monitored. The only two not monitored are the Fuel Injector Regulator and the EGR. The EGR operates off of manifold vacuum and is controlled by an electronic timer to prevent tip-in during cold starts.

At the center is the Engine Coolant Temperature sensor and the Fuel Injector Regulator. If the voltage from the ECT is erratic, this will cause the ignition timing to fluctuate and fuel delivery to run rich (usually). When this occurs, regardless of how well the O2 sensor is working, it may not be able to compensate for the rich condition and 'throttle' the ECM back. The FIR can also cause the engine to run rich.

The EGR, EGR timer and the Vacuum Switching Valve control when the EGR valve will open. This reduces the amount of richness and also reduces knock in higher compression engines by cooling the mixture and reducing the rate of fuel burning in the cylinders. The EGR a $300 item, is functioning properly.

The Intake Air Temperature sensor will also feed the ECM information on the intake air temperature, while the MAP provides a signal relative to the state of atmospheric vacuum in the intake manifold. This tells the ECM if the engine is under load, accelerating or decelerating. Oddly, the vehicle doesn’t have a MAF sensor, but does have an IAC solenoid. The IAC is functioning properly. If it wasn’t, the engine would idle erratically and may even stall.

The TPS will provide a signal that tells the ECM how wide the throttle is open from idle. This sets the dwell angle for the distributor and timing BTDC for ignition. Incidentally, timing is continuously variable depending on load and the TPS setting.

All of this is applicable to any engine diagnosis, not just ours. It is NEVER a good idea to throw parts at a problem without understanding what they do, or how they perform in relationship to each other. In the absence of any true diagnostics (especially if you are working on anything pre-OBDI) this is an alternative, as long as it doesn't do a cost runaway in the process.

What I have decided to do, in the absence of any diagnostic tools, is to replace the temperature sensor (actually a thermistor), fuel regulator, TPS, MAP, and O2. Total cost: under $100. Then I'll see how it runs.
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Old 08-25-2012, 09:31 AM   #3
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Sorry for sand bagging on the forum, but information was scant and the only guy who could help diagnose our Import was probably on the Ark!
For people that remember carburettors, points and condensers, four wheel drum brakes, no emissions and greaseable suspension joints, I'm not sure "90's" and "vintage" belong in the same sentence.

What import make and model are we talking about here? Brits, Italians, Germans and the Japanese all addressed American emission controls in slightly different ways in the very "early" days.
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Old 08-25-2012, 10:05 AM   #4
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IIRC it's an Isuzu, but IDK any other information.
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Old 08-25-2012, 10:14 AM   #5
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My advice: as the engine or at least the cylinder head has been removed, double check the condition and location of the cylinder head ground. Actually, I would recommend grounding the intake manifold if an acceptable bolt location can be found. A #10 AWG wire should be good enough, and you can easily find crimp rings or forks (yellow). No matter what you're connecting to, make sure that you clean the metal beneath the wire's terminal. This should be connected to the firewall or chassis- not the battery. On these older cars that grounding "strap" was always provided, but usually not reconnected after being removed. On electronic control vehicles you'll get lower voltage readings, but if you test it using the battery for a ground- you won't see a problem. You might not even notice a problem with the car sitting using the intake as a ground.

Also, check your intake manifold bolts, and tighten from the inside to outside always. For some reason those seem to loosen on me more than any other part's bolts. I routinely over torque these by about 5 ft-lbs after a couple of weeks, but you don't have to do that if you don't want to. That's just me. I don't know what I'm going to do on plastic manifolds though- probably not that.
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Old 08-25-2012, 01:20 PM   #6
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BC_ZX3, it's an Isuzu 4xe1 SOHC 1.6 liter 4-cylinder Auto. And for what it is worth, I keep telling people I'm as old as dirt, so the car isn't far behind either. We've owned it since it was new and I know every inch of it, and now know the engine even more intimately!

Thanks guys for being patient and open to talking theory. Will re-check the engine ground, but there are two of them, one engine to chassis and one ECM to chassis ground, both quite solid. Ground loops are indeed common with these little cars.

As a matter of fact, ever wondered why so many Chrysler vans go down the road with one head light dimmer than the other, that suddenly brightens when the turn signals are used? - Ground loop due to a poor ground in the head light. Electricity, like water, will find its way to ground.

I'm thinking that the engine coolant temperature sensor is a first stop. We're talking about a $7 part. Since it has the greatest affect on ignition and fuel, it stands to reason that after 200,000 KMs it may need to be retired. Along with this, I'll replace the fuel regulator - a $23 part, because the return line came loose when the head was pulled and a small piece of black plastic that was unrecognizable fell out of the back of it where the return line goes in. It fell out when the intake and head were disassembled. Hmmm, an important piece, or just over engineering???

Quite right on the intake bolts. There are two sets of these 12mm bolts. The intake stub and injectors bolts to the head, and then the common chamber bolts to the intake stub. When I pulled the head off to pop the pistons, the bolts were anything but tight. Did re-torque them to about 30 Ft/Lb (spec is 18 Ft/Lb) when the head went back on. Vacuum gauge confirms steady vacuum at factory spec, so will move on from there. Compression is now an astounding 180 lbs on all cylinders up 35 lbs from before re-ringing it.
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Old 08-26-2012, 12:04 PM   #7
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The only thing I can add to the mix with regard to running rich is that I've read that excessive NOx usually form when the engine is running too hot (whether it be from a lean mix or ignition timing issue or both ) so I agree with the ECT sensor as a cheap first step.
As to the the missing black plastic piece associated with the fuel regulator/return fuel line: Replace it as you suggest. Most cars are built to a cost and if it's not necessary, it's not added. I'd eliminate it as a possible cause so you don't have to keep questioning it.
Good compression numbers.
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Old 09-02-2012, 05:36 PM   #8
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Well, I think its finally ready for an e-test. Rings finally seated after 2,000 KMs. Installed the 6 sensors (O2, MAP, TPS, IAT, CTS, EGR coolant switch) minus the fuel regulator yesterday. It did run better with a new CTS and TPS for sure. The nut on the fuel line at the regulator is 15/16" or 24 mm, and I don't own either one, so got out my trusty grinder and turned one of my 7/8" open end wrenches into a 15/16" , sweet! Installed the fuel regulator Thursday night and took it up the highway and back. Think the ECM is still learning after changing all of the sensors, but starting to straighten out.

Couldn't do an e-test anyway on Friday. Machine broke down 2 hours before the test and they couldn't get a tech out to fix it (due to the long weekend that was coming up). Now it has gray white smoke coming out the back under WOT; time for a new trans modulator valve! Sucking vacuum and trans oil. Finally figured out where the liter of ATF went over the last 500 miles (no leaks). Have to take it in to the trans shop on Tuesday for a new one. Funny, it shifts OK, but definitely pulling oil too.

Running a 180 F thermostat. Rad was flushed last year, but could benefit from another with Oxalic acid.
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Old 09-23-2012, 07:52 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by BC_ZX3 View Post
The only thing I can add to the mix with regard to running rich is that I've read that excessive NOx usually form when the engine is running too hot (whether it be from a lean mix or ignition timing issue or both ) so I agree with the ECT sensor as a cheap first step.
As to the the missing black plastic piece associated with the fuel regulator/return fuel line: Replace it as you suggest. Most cars are built to a cost and if it's not necessary, it's not added. I'd eliminate it as a possible cause so you don't have to keep questioning it.
Good compression numbers.
Finally got to the bottom of my issues with this vehicle. Cracked head on number 4 cylinder. Either it cracked after doing the rings (stress??) or it was never checked properly. Chased this thing for two months. While replacing the valve seals (installed by the machine shop) I noticed that number 4 cylinder pressurized the cooling system while I had the head under compressed air. Took about 15 minutes to pressurize the cooling system on number 4 only. Then I broke the spring compressor and had to stop. Got a really good spring compressor at NAPA in Niagara Falls, NY a KD Tools KDT3271, - just the right size for this small engine.

NOTE: The cylinder head was the only piece I didn't touch myself. Machine shop prepped and got it ready to install. As I tried to figure out what was happening with this engine I kept thinking that the cylinder head had to be a root cause.

Drained the cooling system, flushed it with Irontite commercial grade flush and then flushed it again. Then added the Irontite sealer and let it run at fast idle. Before the sealer was added you could feel the excess heat in the cooling system, but as it continued to run at fast idle it started to cool down. Left the sealer in for a day or so and then flushed it out, added anti freeze and presto, stopped running badly, stopped running rich and stopped burning oil (new valve seals).

At no time did it appear to be burning coolant (coolant never went down) so the crack had to be a small one to begin with. And this is where I started with a leaking head gasket 3 months ago. Engine is nice and tight now, no leaks and when the compression was checked last week was 200 lbs across 4 cylinders. Not bad for 21 years old (the car I mean!)
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Old 09-23-2012, 08:34 PM   #10
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you used a sealer? for a head? why not repair/replace head?
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