1982 Fiat Spider Run/Start Problem

I’ve got a 1982 Fiat 124 Spider with an intermittant start problem. It was originally equipped with a turbo (removed) and has fuel injection, traditional distributer cap. This car is stored in the Winter and I do put a fuel stabilizer in the tank.

When it is cold, it seems to start no problem and runs ok most of the time. However there are times when it either dies at idle at a stop light, or very infrequently it dies going down the road at cruising speed. Once this happens it is a bear to get started again. I’ve also noticed that if we stop some where, for 20 minutes or so, it can also be very difficult to start. So I tend to think the restarting problem is associated with the engine being warmed up. Eventually after much cursing, I do get it started after the battery is all most dead.

So I’m considering different possibilities-

-Water in the Fuel Tank.

-Intermittent Electrical Problem

-Intermittent Fuel Supply Problem (pump?)

Regarding water in the tank, I have added a fuel additive called SeaFoam which I was hoping would take care of any water.

What really is frustrating is that a couple of years ago (yes it’s been doing this for that long) we took it into a foreign car garage and they could not get the car to do it (display the problem) for them. Maybe I need to go to another shop…

Any ideas? Thanks! :slight_smile:

Yes, take it to another shop. It doesn’t have to be a foreign car specialist. This is a simple car from a simpler technological time (the early eighties).

Another way I used to do with my Fiat 850 Spyder when it wouldn’t start: I would put the transmission in neutral, ignition key in RUN, open the door, push against the door frame to get the car rolling, jump in, push in the clutch, shift into gear, let out the clutch, and away I would go …until the next time. If your “we” includes someone to push, it’ll takes less practice to perfect the procedure.

P.S. This may not be a permanent solution; but, depends.

Thanks for the response!

I’ve got a Clymer Fiat manual and reading through the fuel section, I’m wondering if the Fuel filter or Cold Start Valve could be involved?

Is the Fuel Filter assessable from underneath the car?

They started using Bosch mechanical fuel injection around 1980 on these cars, which isn’t always the simplest thing for some non-foreign car shops to adjust who aren’t familar with it.

It would appear that you have one of the rare turbo models that was cobbled together during that period, why did you remove the turbo?

A large problem on these cars is that the electrical systems have poor grounds. In fact I’m sure you probably suffer a bit from dim lighting, as many spiders do. However, I’m not so sure that’s the trouble if your spider is fairly rust free. If it’s a bit rusty I suppose we can investigate, but you’ll need to pinpoint the source of the problem first. In other words is it a spark or fuel problem. Next time it cuts out take a spare spark plug and test for spark at one of the wires. This will help narrow things down tremendously. I would probably replace the fuel filter though in case you’ve built up some rust or debris after all these years.

I don’t know where you’re located, but there are some Fiat specific mechanics out there who are obsessed with them, restore them, and know every little quirk about them. I’m sure this is something they’ve seen before and may know where to look. You can look through the mechanic files here at this site, but also look through the Fiat Spider forums on the net to see who people use. Good luck.

I would strongly consider the possibility of a failing fuel pump relay/EFI relay or an intermittent failing fuel pump; the latter of which can knock out a relay over time.

You could remove the fuel pump relay, pop the cover off, and examine the contact points for burning. If they’re burnt the relay could very well be the problem and a worn pump could be the major cause of that. It’s like a string of dominos; one thing always takes down the next in line.

I live in the Minneapolis, Mn suburbs. This car came with the turbo from the factory, but the previous owner had it removed, I can only imagine it was causing problems. I purchased it from a dealer. The car has 44000 miles on it, we drive it less than 3000 miles per year, it’s stored in the Winter and is mostly rust free on the body. For all I know it is the original fuel filter. My Fiat manual does not really show where the fuel filter is found. Is it underneath the car chassis?

It was recommended I get a Fuel Injection Troublshooting guide. Do you by chance know if any special equipment is required to trouble shoot fuel injection?

Thanks for the help! :slight_smile:

This Clymer manual I have tells me the fuel injection is VERY complicated and to take it to a Fiat dealer or mechanic who is familiar. Unlike other sections of this manual there is no attempt what so ever to give directions on how to work on the fuel injection. :frowning:

There is a fuel system diagram in this book showing components, but it does not show a fuel pump relay/EFI relay. Based on some other suggestions, I’d consider changing the fuel filter, the fuel pump, and even the fuel pump relay if this car has one and if I can find them. :slight_smile:

For anyone familiar with this kind of fuel injection, is it difficult to troubleshoot and work on?

I agree with ok4450 on the potential fuel pump relay-it’s worth investigating. As for the location of the fuel filter here’s a schematic: http://www.spiderroadster.com/33.htm Just replace it. Also I recommend you replace the timing belt if it’s been more than 3 years of 36,000 miles since it was last done. These cars go through timing belts like candy and it’s an interference engine.

I’m sort of surprised your Fiat manual doesn’t seem to offer much information. You need to get a better manual. If Bentley happens to offer one get one of theirs or find a Fiat specific book that goes into details. Also the internet is littered with helpful info at owner sites. You really should be on a Fiat Spider forum.

While the diagram is small and I have not gone through the process of enlarging the pic, the electrical part of the FI system does not look to be any more complicated than many other European cars of this era. They all work on the same principles. Here’s a link.
Page 52 should be it.

If you’re not real familiar with wiring diagrams and fuel injection it can appear to be very confusing. The diagram appears to show that the pump is controlled by what is called a “double relay”. These were also used on other earlier European cars such as VWs and Volvos. They were also prone to failure with age and miles.
I have a wiring book at my house but I’m currently on the road right now and won’t be home until later this week so it will be few days before I have a chance to look this over in detail. It is possible to jump a couple of relay terminals and drive the car to see if the problem goes away.

Of course, a jumper wire should not be left in place as this will continue to run the pump at all times. This is only a test method. I do not remember all of the relay terminal numbers off the top of my head but with most Bosch relays terminals 30 and 87 are the ones that could be jumped. Will take a closer look at this later this week and hope that little bit helps some.

Thanks Dave the for link and the info!

-Dave Peck :slight_smile:

Thanks for the link. I have looked at electrical diagrams but without looking at the car this is not real clear to me. I have no idea where that relay is located.

As I said earlier, infrequently the car dies, but usually when it is running, it will run all day without problems. The problem seems most prevalent when the car is warmed up, it dies, and I’m trying to start it. I think replacing some of the components is doable at my expertise level (I have adjusted the valves on a previous Fiat I owned.) So I’m trying to make an educated guess. My first step would be to replace the fuel filter and check out the fuel pressure.

You’ve basically got links to the entire service manual for this car, as well as wiring diagrams, transmission manuals, etc at these sites. This is more than enough information to fix your car. If you’re capable of adjusting valves you should be able to sort this all out in a day.

Ok, this is going to sound like it’s out in left field, and when it was first told to me, I thought the italian mechanic expert in our area was crazy, but, it totally fixed the problem…he replaced the ignition key (so, where you put your key in to start) - he replaced that part, and I haven’t had a problem since. He explained that the contacts deteriorate over time (especially in our climate - western canada). The first person to have this type of problem paid a fortune to have it diagnosed and fixed, but, then, every person after that with the same problem only pays for part and installation.