LT1 Based Engine Tech 1993-1997 LT1/LT4 Engine Related

94 Firebird Formula - Dies (Need HELP!!)

Old 09-05-2015, 02:01 PM
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94 Firebird Formula - Dies (Need HELP!!)

Hi everyone. I'm new to the forum, and after dealing with this car, I think I will be a regular. I picked up my 94 firebird formula about a month ago. I've never been an ecm fan. I thought this car would change my mind. Anyhow...I picked it up cheap, on a 3-way trade. I made out good, hopefully...

The car had no spark. To my surprise, I was then introduced to the OPTI-SPARK (ugh).

I'm a budget kind of guy, so I tested everything, and had spark all the way to the opti. I bought a new opti off of ebay for only 70 bucks!! (My wife wouldn't let me by the msd opti).

So, installed it...turn the key...vroom!!!! Thank God the previous owner installed a flowmaster exhaust (no headers- YET). Everything was great...

Now...comes today. Time to put the water pump back in, and refill the coolant and get her road worthy. Right??

I started her up, while pouring coolant in. She was purring like a kitten!! I'm happy as anything! I kept making my rounds from under the hood to the driver seat, checking gauges, and revving her up. I read that you don't necessarily need to use the bleed screws to install coolant...just have the cap off and let the bubbles flow, and add accordingly.

All of my knuckle-busting woes were seeming to pay off...car is running like a raped ape...waiting for this coolant process to be done.

Then...the car is just about at running temp., and starts to spill fluid out...so I grab the radiator cap and put it back on...

As SOON as I put the cap back on...the bird spits and sputters...and no sooner than I can take 5 steps to get in the driver seat, she dies...

I try to start it...NOTHING. I take the cap back off...try again...NOTHING. I disconnect the battery, re-do...try to start...NOTHING. It just turns over and over...

I tried 4 hours later...still nothing.

I checked to see if spark is coming from the coil...and yes, got zapped pretty GOOD! I pulled a plug wire, got spark.

Kind of crappy because my starter or flywheel is shot. The previous owner lost spark and panicked...thereby destroying the starter or flywheel in the process. I was planning to fix that this weekend, after I was sure all was good...so when I hit the key, I get grinding a turning over...



I tried early this morning, nothing. Then, about 6 hours later I go to start it for the hell of it...and it fires up?!?! I only ran it for a few seconds. I still have a low coolant light and service engine light on. I have no code reader, and was hoping to figure this out this weekend.



I'm stumped...wth is causing this issue??? I appreciate all replies! Thanks
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Old 09-05-2015, 04:46 PM
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Re: 94 Firebird Formula - Dies (Need HELP!!)

I gave a partial response in your thread in the "New Member Intro" forum.
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Old 09-05-2015, 05:17 PM
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Re: 94 Firebird Formula - Dies (Need HELP!!)

Thanks a bunch. I just don't get the part where...as soon as I put the radiator cap back on, it sputtered and died. It was instant. And no...opti never got wet. Have plenty of spark now...and starts fine. I guess my next step is to utilize the bleed screws and fill it with coolant...and see if it shuts down in the process...
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Old 09-05-2015, 06:03 PM
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Re: 94 Firebird Formula - Dies (Need HELP!!)

There is absolutely no connection between the radiator cap being on or off, the low coolant sensor/light, whether there is air in the system, etc., and the engine stopping. You can start the engine without the water pump or the radiator installed - many do that to check the alignment of the Opti drive shaft before they install the other parts.

Go to shbox.com, look at the "how to" section for the bleed procedure. Removal of air is critical to keeping the LT1's reverse flow cooling system from overheating.

Last edited by Injuneer; 09-05-2015 at 06:08 PM.
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Old 09-06-2015, 09:08 AM
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Re: 94 Firebird Formula - Dies (Need HELP!!)

Only coincidental that it shut off when filling with coolant. Your original opti seemed to need only a cap and rotor, since it was getting spark in, but not out. The ebay opti was probably not the best choice, but with a car new to you, there can be all kinds of unknown problems.
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Old 09-06-2015, 03:16 PM
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Re: 94 Firebird Formula - Dies (Need HELP!!)

And, as Rob explains on his website, the coolant level light being on, even when the radiator is full, is a common problem. Another member (GaryDoug) tracked that down to coolant getting into the sensor electronics and corroding the printed circuit board. The low coolant light will go out if you unplug the sensor - just remember to keep an eye on the coolant level if you do that.
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Old 09-08-2015, 11:57 AM
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Re: 94 Firebird Formula - Dies (Need HELP!!)

My coolant light turns on occasionally and my coolant level is full every time.

Originally thought water got on the opti but you said it hadn't. Now the car is running again.

As for opti's it's been proven over time the best ones to get are AC Delco or Delphi, don't waste your time or money on anything else and that includes MSD. I know about budgets but don't skimp on the opti, go with the two mentioned and you'll be better off as they're the most reliable.

The starter is the easier of the two to replace if the gears are shot. Two bolts and you can pull it out then inspect the gear. Disconnect the battery cable first, of course. Don't want a short while you move it around.

These cars are finicky for sure but when everything works it works well. Took me time to get through the issues the previous owner did not address. Granted it ran but the SES light was on for multiple things and that kept me from getting it registered at the time as it wouldn't pass inspection that way.

If you update your profile to show where you're at maybe someone is close enough to stop by and help.
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Old 09-08-2015, 02:04 PM
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Re: 94 Firebird Formula - Dies (Need HELP!!)

Car starts. Runs for 5 minutes or so and dies. Checked for spark, I have spark coming from the coil but not to the plugs. Would the ICM or any sensors or anything cause this??
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Old 09-08-2015, 04:53 PM
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Re: 94 Firebird Formula - Dies (Need HELP!!)

If you have spark at the coil, there is nothing wrong with the optical section of the Opti, the ICM or the coil. At the Opti, the high voltage section (cap/rotor) is no different than a "conventional" GM distributor.... rotor points at the correct contact on the cap, and the spark follows that path. There are frequent cases of the rotor screws falling out, and the rotor coming loose. Did you lock-tite the rotor screws on your new Opti? Even the MSD and AC Delco units can suffer from that problem.

However, hard to see how the cap/rotor would be affected by temperature, unless its the contact where the coil wire goes in, or the spring on the rotor that contacts the button on the cap.

Do you have spark at the coil IMMEDIATELY after it stalls? The ICM can heat soak. Auto parts store can test the ICM, but you have to make sure they let it get good and hot during the test procedure.

If the car wouldn't start at all, no spark at all with the old Opti, it had to be the optical section. That is in the rear/base of the unit. Replacing the cap/rotor and reusing the old unit would do nothing for a failed optical sensor module.
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Old 09-08-2015, 06:20 PM
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Re: 94 Firebird Formula - Dies (Need HELP!!)

Well, I am about to take all of your advice and say it is the off-brand opti. BUT...I just started it up to try another test. I fired it up, put it in reverse, and it chugged and died. It let me start again, and put it in reverse and chugged and died. Now...maybe I should have mentioned this...but I have a half tank of old gas that has been sitting for a couple years. I know that's not a good thing...but between the smooth running when it DOES run, and the loss of spark...I'm puzzled. From my tests, it looses spark when it dies. But, this new test, it died when trying to put it in gear...so confused...
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Old 09-19-2015, 07:06 PM
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Re: 94 Firebird Formula - Dies (Need HELP!!)

I pulled my starter. Not sure what isn't right...the starter seems to work fine outside of the car. Previously, I would turn the key and maybe get 1/2 a revolution and then I could hear the starter 'ZING' and not catch. So, it would take 20 or so tries to fire her up...


So, before I can work on her...I figured a new starter is in order...but I know I will face problems after this...so stay tuned...
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Old 09-19-2015, 08:59 PM
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Re: 94 Firebird Formula - Dies (Need HELP!!)

You sure there wasn't severe corrosion on the battery terminal, battery wire ends and/or starter wire terminal?
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Old 10-10-2015, 01:40 PM
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Re: 94 Firebird Formula - Dies (Need HELP!!)

UPDATE!


Ok, let's recap. I got a good deal on this 94 formula. It had no spark and the starter was clanking and spinning when I got it.


I changed the entire opti-spark unit with a cheap ebay one (I now know that everyone recommends against this). I also replaced the starter, and that is working fine now.


Recently, I was experiencing no-starts. When the car WOULD start, I would have to push the pedal all the way down, and have to keep it running with the pedal, or it would stall.


Now, keep in mind my earlier posts - sometimes the car would start and run for a few minutes, and then just die! Then not start up again for hours or days.


Ok, so...I recently found that one of the wires to the MAF sensor were broken. I bought a new pigtail and wired that up yesterday. Then...the car tried to start...and would start after I play with the pedal...but not to the floor like before. So, she ran a bit rough for the first minute or so then seemed to smooth right out. I was holding her at 2000 rpm, then let off and she was idling fine. I figured...PROBLEM SOLVED.


So, I ran her up and down my driveway a dozen times or so. Once in a while I'd punch it, just for grins. She would backfire out of the exhaust a lil. Then, about 8 minutes in...she stalled without warning. I tried to start it up...NOTHING. I did smell fuel at that point. Even while running, I smelled a lil fuel.


So, other minor details are that my low coolant and service engine lights are on...and abs light. Also, the fuel in the tank (a lil over a 1/4) is 1-2 years old. Other than that, she started up 3 hours later...but it was late, and I didn't run it long. I'm looking for any leads, as I am going to try to figure out how to build a code reader. Hopefully shbox site can help. I also conveniently misplaced my spark tester, so that's next on my list. Just looking for any leads or if this sounds like something familiar to anyone. Thanks in advance!
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Old 10-10-2015, 01:48 PM
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Re: 94 Firebird Formula - Dies (Need HELP!!)

This is a video of the start-up, right after I replaced the opti-spark...if anyone cares to check it out. I had a few beers in me, don't judge me.


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Old 10-10-2015, 03:43 PM
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Re: 94 Firebird Formula - Dies (Need HELP!!)

And here's a vid I took today. Feel free to skip at any time to 6:50 or so, and see the no start...


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cx3v...ature=youtu.be
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