car shuts off at random? - Team Camaro Tech
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post #1 of 35 (permalink) Old Jun 28th, 19, 01:27 PM Thread Starter
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car shuts off at random?

69 Camaro 350

Trying to help a friend who has this car. It has shut off on him 2 separate times but does restart in about 5 min. I am not at the car as the owner just texted me asking if I could help. Its his DD and he goes in for radiation treatments daily for cancer so just trying to help.

He has a HEI distributor, IDK what brand but its red.

Is there a ICM or "module" in that type of distributor that can go wonky like ICM's in later model cars?

a bad NSS will just make car not start, it won't shut it off once running, right? (he has a B&M shifter on it)

He has no external coil so I assume it is part of his distributor.

Obviously this could be anything but was asking for some things it could be or to check

Thanks
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post #2 of 35 (permalink) Old Jun 28th, 19, 02:17 PM
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Re: car shuts off at random?

Roger, We really need to know what HEI system he's running. Could be a bad module or coil giving
up due to heat. Some 1980's GM modules had that problem if I remember correctly. Might be something
else entirely. Does it seem to be spark related and not fuel such as a vapor lock? Does it just puke while
running or what symptoms does it have? Any pre warning.

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post #3 of 35 (permalink) Old Jun 28th, 19, 04:00 PM
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Re: car shuts off at random?

Coil is located in the top of the distributor cap, under the wire holder cover. they can have problems as they fail, and testing is to remove the coil from the cap, and take it to an auto parts store that has an off vehicle electrical run tester. Let it run, as most epoxy filled coils have problems when they get up to, or near operating temperatures.

If the coil is proven to be bad, or, going bad, it can fail the HEI module that is located under the cap and rotor. A coil that is going bad can fail a few modules before it fails, and won't give you any indication it is the coil causing the problems.

Also, make sure all the wire connections are in good shape, and clean/tight as well. Ground from the battery should be from negative on battery, to engine, and then, smaller wires between engine and body. Lots to check, not hard, though. Main things to check are the coil and module, and to ensure all connections are clean and tight. HEI runs on a full 12 volts, not through a points ignition porcelain ballast resistor, or resistor feed wire.

First quick test is when it fails, use a jumper wire with alligator clips between positive terminal on the battery, to the BATT terminal on the cap, this bypasses the ignition switch and wiring, and see if the engine wakes back up.
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post #4 of 35 (permalink) Old Jun 28th, 19, 06:22 PM
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Re: car shuts off at random?

For what it's worth - I had a 67 that did this and it was the external coil. I know with the HEI the coil is embedded but I would look there first. As soon as the car cooled down a bit it would restart - drove me nuts when I was 17 until I figured it out.

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post #5 of 35 (permalink) Old Jun 28th, 19, 11:37 PM
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Re: car shuts off at random?

Run it till it stops. Put a 12v test light on the tach terminal, other end to a good ground. Crank engine. If the light flickers it may be the coil. If it doesnít flicker, test the pickup coil ohms & change module if the pickup tests good.
The light will flicker but not completely go out, this is normal. It wouldnít hurt to put the test light on when cold to get a look at a functioning pulse.
If you have a bad plug wire the HEI can arc down to the module & damage it. Or developing all that extra voltage can overheat the module. So test all your plug wires for ohms. Iíve usually seen pickup & module failures, hardly any coil failures, but I have seen rotors burn through the center & excessive coil center post (carbon) wear.
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post #6 of 35 (permalink) Old Jun 29th, 19, 08:02 AM Thread Starter
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Re: car shuts off at random?

Appreciate the responses guys

I went over to his house to see if I could help. He can't hear well so does not use a phone and his texts were short so I was unclear as to what exactly was happening other than car shut off then started back up 5 min later

His problem is the car will not even turn over, nothing as the starter does not activate. His volt gauge would come up when key turned but no starter. This has happened twice to him. Of course the cars starts when I get there but he/I know something is intermittent.

My thought was ignition switch in steering column or whatever activates the wire that triggers the starter. I am not sure how to access this switch in the column or if it is visible at the base of it. I discussed the cars issue with fellow car guys at Cruise night last night who felt the ignition switch in steering column activated by rod from key switch as a likely suspect. Maybe it is just lose or going bad. My understanding is the yellow wire from IGN to the + side of coil triggers the starter but he has a AAW wire harness so I was unsure on what color or wire does that. He did have the AAW schematic that came with the car when he bought it but I did not see a yellow wire to coil on it but maybe its different with a HEI distributor. He also has what I think is a B&M ratchet shifter which may not have a NSS wired as I believe the car will start in gear. He can't shift manually with the shifter. Its a TH350 trans

The distributor is red and does have a coil encased in the top of cap but no "brand" name on it. My guess is MSD but IDK what brand it is to then Google 411 on its components.

Just trying to help the guy who is having health issues and not very knowledgeable about cars. He was diagnosed with prostate cancer that has spread to lymph nodes so he is going through radiation treatment 40 times for the next several weeks and this is his DD. He is in his 70's now and sadly not in the kind of shape where he can do much work himself. I am going to put UBER app on his phone and show him how to use it so he can make his daily radiation treatments.

I was going to go over later today to see if I can figure out where the switch is in the column but really not sure how to test it other than see if it is still attached correctly. Wiring is not my best subject by a long shot and I am just guessing it could be this switch in column

The car appears to have been thrown together by someone who inherited a partially done car then just threw it together to sell it. It has some high $ parts on it (suspension, crate motor) and body/paint is very nice but I can see several short cuts the more I go over the car. Has a autometer gauge cluster replacing the stock speedo, etc.
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post #7 of 35 (permalink) Old Jun 29th, 19, 09:09 AM
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Re: car shuts off at random?

So I take it the problem is not that the car shuts down when running? It's a starting problem.
Is this from a cold start or after a drive and then restarting? Begin by checking the simple stuff.
Battery condition, cable(s) condition, connections at the battery and solenoid. Alternator condition
and connections. Battery ground on block, etc. It may be a bad starter/solenoid. I doubt it's the
ignition switch if cold start is fine.

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post #8 of 35 (permalink) Old Jun 29th, 19, 09:24 AM Thread Starter
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Re: car shuts off at random?

No Al the car shuts down while driving and won't restart. Each time it has happened it was about 10 minutes into his drive. The starter does not turn over, nothing. Then in about 5 minutes, after several turning key attempts, it does and will start several times. It apparently always starts when it is cold

To me it seems whatever triggers the starter is intermittent or heat affected or lose or failing component. But yeah it could be a lose ground somewhere or other wire

The owner just had new MM and header flange gasket installed (got absolutely raped for $ by the shop...over $1k they charged) so my thought initially was the wire to starter got "moved" or something. The wires to starter solenoid are there and match the color of wire shown on the AAW schematic. Nicely heat wrapped so headers don't kill them
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post #9 of 35 (permalink) Old Jun 29th, 19, 09:42 AM
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Re: car shuts off at random?

Ok. Follow Dave Ray's post #3 then.

Al

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post #10 of 35 (permalink) Old Jun 29th, 19, 10:46 AM Thread Starter
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Re: car shuts off at random?

Quote:
Originally Posted by allanjs View Post
Ok. Follow Dave Ray's post #3 then.
...but the engine does not crank over at all so why would that be coil or module??

apologies if I was not clear, when the car does shut off while driving turning the key to re-start does nothing. Engine does not turn over

This is what leads me to "something" (ignition switch or wires/connection of the ignition switch at base of column) is the reason. Not a coil or module.

When my Pertronix module failed my engine would crank over but not fire.

This guys car will not turn over at all until about 5 min later and it fires right up.
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post #11 of 35 (permalink) Old Jun 29th, 19, 10:57 AM
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Re: car shuts off at random?

Dave's last statement:
"First quick test is when it fails, use a jumper wire with alligator clips between positive terminal on the battery, to the BATT terminal on the cap, this bypasses the ignition switch and wiring, and see if the engine wakes back up."

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post #12 of 35 (permalink) Old Jun 29th, 19, 11:26 AM
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Re: car shuts off at random?

If the engine doesn't even crank over, I would first look at EVERY electrical connection there is, solenoid, starter, GROUNDS, and especially the bulk head connector on the firewall, on the driver's side of the engine compartment. This is the one all the wires go into, and is held in place with a centered screw. This is where EVERYTHING comes out the cab, for everything. The connector came new with a water proof grease and insulator to stop water and corrosion on those terminals. It might be that over the years, enough corrosion has formed on the terminals inside the connector to stop current movement.

Now, to fumble through testing with a light or meter when this happens, and checking the coil with an ohm meter, I covered all that above. MOST large HEI failures occur when the coil gets to its operating temperature, and that cannot be tested effectively when the coil is hot, there isn't enough time to find the coil issue until it cools back off to run temperatures.

As I advised, have a section of wire with two alligator clips handy, drive it until it stalls, then, go out and add the jumper wire between the battery positive terminal and the BATT terminal on the cap, and see if it starts. If yes, the issue is with the car wiring and switches, if not, distributor issues prevail.

I don't see this as a neutral safety switch issue, as you indicate the ENTIRE car goes into non-electrical function.
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post #13 of 35 (permalink) Old Jun 29th, 19, 01:09 PM Thread Starter
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Re: car shuts off at random?

Thanks for the 411 Dave. I am not with the car when this happens and the owner is not capable of doing these tests for the most part. The test wire alligator clip test I easily get and maybe the owner could do this himself so I will print out your posts for him to follow

He is hesitant to even drive the car as when it shuts off it has no power steering or brakes so is very hard for him to control the car. The 2 times this has happened to him he was on suburban city streets so he was able to pull over

Maybe just letting the car idle for 15-20 min will instigate the problem enough to shut the car off so he can do the + BATT to BATT terminal on car to see if it starts that way

I am familiar with the bulkhead main wiring harness connection. His is AAW and the car has recently been "built" and never see's any rain but certainly that connection can be in ? as there are more than one electrical things not connected as there are a few hanging wires with connectors under the dash. I noticed the AAW plug into his brake switch was labeled clutch...for example. So there may (read very likely) be sub standard install on wiring

I was just trying to help a fellow car guy and Veteran. Appreciate all the comments guys.
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post #14 of 35 (permalink) Old Jun 29th, 19, 04:29 PM
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Re: car shuts off at random?

I would start at the bulkhead connector at the firewall.

Sometime when bolting the outside to the inside connector the terminals on the engine side het pushed out of the connector

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post #15 of 35 (permalink) Old Jun 30th, 19, 03:27 AM
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Re: car shuts off at random?

I originally posted that I had a car that when it got hot would not start so I replaced the starter and solenoid. Then I thought about it and I forgot that this car is dying while running and my car was not doing that, so I deleted the post. Now that I think about it I wonder if it could still be starter related. If the electrical might be wired in a way where the 12 volts that is going through the starter is affecting the running voltage. Just a thought....

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