Stolen and Won't Start

Don’t know why I never did this before…

Okay, over the summer I picked up an '88 Chevy Beauville van for next to nothing. The thing had seen better days, to be sure, but ran great. Started reliably every morning, got me to work on time, kept me off Philly’s public transit system…life was good.

Then one October morning, everything changed. I woke to go to work, only to find someone had stolen my trusty pile of junk. Only the gods know why, but it was not towed off by the Parking Authority as an abandoned eyesore- some moron actually STOLE it.

It was recovered three days later in New Jersey, and I had to pay to get the thing back. The battery was stolen, so I picked up another one and installed it.

The thieves had cracked the column in order to steal it, so I figured I could probably start it using a screwdriver myself in much the same manner. Sure enough, after tinkering with the tilt wheel for a bit, SUCCESS- almost anyway- she started cranking, but didn’t fire.

“Okay”, I thought…there was next to no gas in it when it was stolen (We’re talking a full-sized 350 Chevy here, gas was like $3.20 a gallon at the time, and darn it, I WORK for a living!), so I figured the thieves just ran out of gas and dumped it. So I put about 3 gallons in it, and it still would not fire. I shot some starting fluid into it, and it didn’t even sputter.

I am assuming I am getting no spark somehow. I really haven’t messed with it in the last couple months, but would like to get it going.

Does anyone know if there is some sort of cutoff or something, or should I do what my dad suggested and hotwire the distributor by running a jumper off the battery?

Any help would be greatly appreciated.

When you try to start it, do any of the dash lights come on? This van should have some electronic controls, even if it has a carburetor. Does it have a check engine light? And, does it light up when you try to start it? Also, check for voltage at the distributor before trying to hot-wire it that way. If the coil has battery power with the switch on, hot-wiring it will do no good.

Also, check for spark. Just pull the wire from one of the cylinders, place a screwdriver into the spark plug boot, and hold near a piece of metal on the engine. When a friend tries to start it, you should see a spark.

If not, then you need to run through the wires, and see why power is not flowing to the proper connections.

The dash ‘idiot’ lights work as they always did- check engine comes on at start up and shuts off after a few seconds, so I am assuming that the system acts just as though there is a key in the ignition. I was concerned that there was some sort of anti-theft thing that would be tripped or something, as a few people have suggested in the past. I really doubted it, as the thieves stole it easily in the first place, right?
Anyway- great ideas, especially the plug wire idea. Should’ve thought about that a long time ago. Electrical was never my forte, though. The starting fluid didn’t even generate a sputter, like I said before, so I think they knocked something loose stealing my old battery or god knows what else. I guess we’ll see!
After all, a guy who calls himself ‘Busted Knuckles’ has to know a thing or two about cars!