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Tech QuestionsAugust 2002 Tech Q & A

Answer by Technical Editor Rex Chalmers

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August Topics:

Brake Upgrades | "Modern" Headlight Bulbs | Milano Firing Order | SPICA Low Fuel Pressure
Dellorto Flat Spots | Reviving Stored Alfas | Clogged A/C Drains | Breaking Clutch Pivots

Brake Upgrades : question by Robert | ’78 Spider 2000

I am restoring my baby from scratch at this moment and would like to ask you if it is posible to upgrade the brakes. Can I use bigger disks and pads in new housings from later Alfa Romeo models using the same mounting pieces?

If yes, could you tel me which models will fit?

I have a weakness for braking, so I would like to upgrade the system big time.
Answer : Upgrading your brakes for street and occasional track use can be accomplished with a minimum of modification. First of all I would make sure that your master cylinder, steel brake lines, proportioning valve, and booster are in good working order. Next check the three flex hoses for cracks, swelling or dry rotting, if there is any question, replace these lines. As an upgrade that will give a bit harder pedal you could go with stainless braided Teflon brake lines. I would replace the brake discs with either slotted or drilled and slotted discs. For brake pad material, I would go with some type of Carbon metallic pad. Performance Friction, EBC and Hawke are the main Manufacturers I would consider. I would also go with the street compound for whichever pad you choose. The standard ATE calipers are units of very high quality and are adequate for most all street applications. At this age you may want to either rebuild or replace the calipers. ATE makes a nice upgrade caliper that is a bolt on and takes the same brake pad. It is from a mid 70’s VW transporter and has larger pistons in the caliper. There are several advantages to this caliper. First the piston works on a larger area of the brake pad and second there is more brake fluid in the caliper, which, in theory, should dissipate heat better. If you go with the VW calipers you will need to use a 10mm Banjo fitting on the front flex hoses to connect with the caliper.

"Modern" Headlight Bulbs? : question by Dave Toof | ’91 Spider Veloce

I'd like to "Modernize" my 91 spider with diamond cut plasma headlights for better visibility. Ebay has companies selling crystal headlights that are advertised as DOT/SAE approved, and replaces stock bulb numbers H6024.They are described as fitting any 7" diameter bulbs. They come with super white xenon bulbs that will look like modern, expensive cars (with a blue tint). My question is, will these cause damage to the car, or the wiring, or somehow overload anything? The bulbs are replaceable, and seal into a housing that is watertight. They describe the bulbs as being "Super white plasma German technology xenon 110/90 watt light output.

I would never put extremely high watt bulbs in side markers, or the rear lights as it might melt the plastic reflectors or taillights, but this is in a diamond cut GLASS housing, and will not melt.

I'm sure their claim of it fitting the 7" light is correct (they say no modifications are nessary, and takes about 10 min. to change simple as changeing a headlight bulb), they are NOT experts about how an ALFA works, or what wattage it can handle safely. So, will this wattage fry my wiring or components, or do you find this to be safe?
Answer : I would not install anything over a 50-watt bulb without first installing high and low beam headlamp relays. I have seen several headlamp switches melted down by using high wattage bulbs. I am sure that these high watt bulbs will test your wiring and I know that they will burn up headlamp switches. Bosch makes some nice relays that will handle the 110/90-watt bulb quite nicely. You will need one relay for high beams and another for low beams.

The Bosch PN is 0 332 003 025, short PN is 36077. This is an "old school" heavy-duty relay. It has been used by Alfa in the past as a horn relay and on the later GTV as a fog lamp relay. Bosch relay 0 332 015 001, short PN 36022, should also work. It is one of the newer style push-in style relays, but this number has a tab with a mounting hole on it. Alfa used it as a starter relay on late GTVs, so it should be able to handle the load. Connect the wiring for either relay as follows:

12v constant in
power out to headlamps
connect to ground
12v impulse in (signal in from headlamp switch)

Any relay that is rated to carry the load will work, but I guess I’m just a sucker for Bosch design and esthetics. I wire in the relays into the headlamp harness in the engine compartment on the left side as the harness runs the length of the inner fender at the top. There is an easy B+ voltage access on that side and the length of the additional wiring can be kept to a minimum to make for a neat installation.

Milano Firing Order : question by John H. Pitts | ‘87 Milano 2.5

I need to know the firing order for a 1987 Alfa Romeo Milano 2.5 V6. If possible, I could use the instructions on the proper way to set the igniton timing when the distributor has been removed. Thanks in advance.

Answer : The firing order for all v-6 Milanos is 1-4-2-5-3-6. The easiest way to ensure that you get the firing order correct is to remove the distributor with the engine at TDC (top dead center) for cylinder #1. It’s easy to find if you perform these simple steps before you remove the distributor. Simply remove the distributor cap and rotate the engine until the ignition rotor is pointing at the #1 terminal of the distributor cap. To determine which plug wire terminal is for #1 just locate the #1 cylinder and follow the wire back to the distributor cap, this is the #1 terminal. I like to put a drop of Alfa Red touch up paint on the terminal for future reference. At this juncture the “P” reference mark on the crank pulley should be close to the pointer as well. To keep the ignition timing close, rotate the engine so the reference line next to the “P” lines up with the pointer and mark the ignition rotors position on the distributor body. If no one has changed the distributor’s original factory installed position; the rotor should be just slightly past the notch in the distributor body. The notch is the factory references mark for #1 TDC position. It is not essential that the rotor line up with the notch as it just means that the distributor’s relative position had been changed some time in the past. At this point you can remove the distributor, do whatever you need to it, and re-install it correctly simply by making sure that the rotor is in the same position that you marked earlier. Always check the timing with a timing light after re-installing the distributor.

If you weren’t clever enough to reference #1 TDC before you removed the distributor, I have a slightly different set of instructions. First you need to find #1 TDC, so rotate the engine until the timing pointer on the front of the engine lines up with the reference mark for “P” on the crank pulley. To determine that you are at TDC #1 you will have to check the camshaft position. If you are lucky enough to have an early set of belt covers, there is a reference mark on the cover that lines up with a notch on the cam pulley hub. If you don’t have the early covers, you will have to remove the cam covers and check that the notches on the camshafts line up with the reference marks on the cam caps. Once you have found TDC #1 it’s a good Idea to make a reference mark in the belt cover so you won’t have to remove the cam covers next time you need to reference #1 TDC. Now install the distributor, making sure that it engages the drive shaft correctly. Be careful as it easy to get 180 deg. out. Just make sure that you have a very positive engagement between the distributor drive and the drive shaft. Rotate the distributor until the rotor lines up with the factory reference mark on the distributor body. Make sure that the wiring, vacuum dashpot and distributor cap clamps clear all obstacles and are serviceable. If not you will either have to rotate the distributor to a new position and choose a different #1 TDC position for the rotor (the distributor doesn’t care which terminal you use for #1 TDC) or by trial and error process, remove the distributor drive shaft from the cylinder head and rotate until the desired position of the rotor is achieved.

SPICA Low Fuel Pressure : question by Chris Heslin | ’78 Spider

I am getting a low fuel pressure warning light on my '78 Spider with SPICA. It comes on after running for about five minutes. I have replaced both fuel filters, and the main fuel pump. The tank pump also works. It happened all at once, after the car was warm it started running rough and the fuel pressure light came on. I am totally at a loss to figure out what can be done to remedy this problem. Please help!
Answer : Sounds like you have done everything except repair or replace the in tank fuel pump, it’s feed tube and check for blockage in the system and perform voltage checks. If you had brought the car to me I would have first checked the fuel pressure and delivery rate at the front filter assembly. Next systematically check the fuel pressure and volume backwards in the fuel system, checking at the fuel pump outlet, fuel pump inlet, and at the rear fuel filter. At some point we would have encountered low fuel pressure or out of spec fuel volume. I am betting that you either have a blockage at the in tank fuel pump pick-up, a broken in tank pump feed tube, a failed in tank pump adapter hose, a bad in tank fuel pump, a failed fuel line that is collapsing or an interruption of voltage to one or both of the fuel pumps. I’d get the symptom to occur and first check for proper voltage at both fuel pumps. If you have system voltage at both, You may have to pull the in-tank pump and diagnose where the failure has occurred

Dellorto Carb Flat Spot : question by Ralph DeLauretis | ’77 Alfa Romeo Spider

I am having a new problem this month and I'm hoping someone can help.

My spider has a 2L with euro cams and dellortos. In the morning the car runs great but as the engine warms up a flat spot develops between 1500 and 2000 rpms. The car chugs until the tach hits 2000 and then the engine will smooth out.

I've tried various carb cleaners, different distributor, coil, replaced the accelerator pump diaphragms and o-rings in the carbs all to no avail.

I'm guessing its heat related and the mixture is leaning out in the transition from idle jets to main jets. But why only when the car is hot? Wrong Plugs? I have new Champions RN7Y Plugs with new wires.
Answer : As the engine heats up the combustion and inlet temperatures rise and the combustion becomes more efficient. At this point the engine should actually need a leaner not richer mixture. Check the ignition timing and advance curve of your distributor, do a compression test, check for system voltage at the B+ terminal of the coil @ 2,000 rpm, check for vacuum leaks, check for correct carburetor synchronization and check the valve clearance before you place blame on the carburetors. Sounds as though the engine was running fine and then this problem just popped up, so the possibility of the jetting being the wrong size is fairly low. It is possible that you may need to strip the carbs down and have the bodies and jets all cleaned out. If there is a jetting concern it would be with your idle/midrange jets. The stock jetting for a euro 2.0 fitted with DHLA 40 Dellorto carbs is:

Main jet:
Air Corrector:
Idle jet:
Pump jet:
Choke jet:
Float needle:

As far as spark plugs go, I am not a big Champion fan. I would use NGK BP6ES for daily use. If you plan on a track day switch to BP7ES or B7ES.

Reviving Stored Alfas: question by Bob O'Shea | ’89 Spider Quad

I'm buying a 1989 AF Spider with 3,000 miles that has been kept in a garage and not driven/started for 3 years. Before I pick it up, aside from draining the gas, replacing the battery and the oil, what steps should I take to get the car started and running? I've read that Marvel Mystery oil should be added to the crank case as well as a tablespoon to the gas; true?
Answer : I would bring along a new set of spark plugs as well. As far as starting the engine, change the oil and filter, drain the fuel and add fresh gas. Follow these steps to avoid damage to the engine bearings, ignition system, pistons and rings:
  • Remove spark plugs
  • Install one or two oz. of Marvel Mystery oil into each cylinder
  • Disconnect the B+ lead at the coil and insulate lead with rag or other appropriate material to avoid grounding .
  • Rotate engine by hand several times to distribute mystery oil to rings, pistons skirts, and liners
  • If possible add several more oz. of Mystery Oil , screw plugs in one turn and let stand over night
  • Remove the spark plugs. Rotate engine by hand several times
  • Place shop towls over the spark plug holes. Crank the engine over with the starter motor until oil pressure is achieved. I would crank for no more than 30 sec. at a time to avoid overheating the starter.
  • Install spark plugs and re-connect the B+ lead to the coil. Turn the ignition key to the start position.

If all components are functioning properly the little jewel should now be running. I would warm it up and re-torque the cylinder head. Now drive the car for several hundred miles and change the oil and filter again. You might want to flush the cooling system with the heater on full as well.

I have been using Mystery Oil for many years. I remember the Mystery Oil can from my childhood as my father was a believer long before I knew pistons from valves. With the quality of oil available today, I don’t think it is necessary to add to your oil, but it can’t hurt. I use it in gas regularly, just follow the directions on the can.

Clogged A/C Drains and Cold Feet : question by Dave | '89 Milano

Just recently I was driving and went around a corner and water not antifreeze poured out on my feet on both driver's and passenger's side floor. Just wondering if this may be a common problem with Alfa Milanos and if there an easy fix solution for a drainage for the a/c compressor line.

Please let me know what you think.
Answer : Yes, clogged a/c condenser drain lines are a fairly common problem for Milanos. The drain line is located at the bottom of the evaporator unit on the passenger side just to the right of the heating/ac unit and passes behind the top of the kick plate that holds the ECU. Some times the line can be unclogged by blowing compressed air at very low pressure back through the hose from under the car. I prefer to disconnect the hose and blow it out from inside the passenger compartment so the debris won’t get blown back into the heater/ac unit. The clog is usually at the bottom of the hose, so if you can’t get at the hose where it attaches at the condenser, feel free to cut, blow out the hose and splice it back together.The most common cause of these drain lines clogging is from road dirt and grime from under the car. You don’t really want to blow dirt into the heater/ac unit so make the extra effort and blow the hose out from inside the car. With age the end of the hose can sometimes stick closed so you also want to check and make sure that the end of the hose is open and free.

Breaking Clutch Pivot : question by Brian Branman | ’90 Spider Veloce

This problem pertains to my clutch. Back in 1996 my clutch master cylinder and the slave cylinder failed and were replaced with rebuilt units. I drove the car for another two years then placed it in storage from 1998 - 2000. I had it serviced at the end of the storage period, fluids replaced, etc. I then drove the car cross country in the summer of 2000 with no evident problelms. About a week ago I began to notice intermitent laxity in the clutch pedal (very little initial resistance which seemed to correct if I pumped the pedal). The fluid level in the resivoir appeared to be ok but I did note the appearance of some "old" leakage around the master cylinder. Two days ago while parking my car in front of my house I noted that the clutch pedal stayed depressed to within about an inch or so of the floor though the clutch did disengage when I removed my foot, and when I pressed down firmly the clutch would reengage. I tried to gently raise the pedal back to its normal position, felt a slight "pop" and the pedal felt like it was completely disengaged. I had the car towed to an Alfa Shop (former dealer). The mechanic diagnosed a broken pivot pin and also noted a lot of fluid in the boot around the slave cylinder so he replaced the slave and master cylinders as well. I picked up the car, on the way home the pedal again went to within an inch or two of the floor and stayed there. Again, with firm pressure the clutch engaged and disengaged when pressure was released. I returned the car to the shop, was told the now "former" mechanic had apparently screwed up and that the pivot pin had been damaged and would need to be replaced. Yesterday the mechanic replaced the pivot pin. When he tested it before purging the master cylinder it seemed to work fine however as soon as he bled the air out of the system and depressed the pedal, it once again stayed on the floor and when he tried to lift the pedal by hand experienced the same "pop" I felt and the pivot pin is now shot.

Thats where things now stand. I would welcome any insight you might provide.
Answer : By pivot pin, I assume you mean the arm that connects the clutch pedal to the clutch master cylinder. It’s hard to imagine how a worn pivot pin could cause the pedal to stick down. Chances are that the bushings for the arm in the pedal box are corroded or have somehow grown with dried up grease or scoring to cause the arm to bind in the bushings. When I replace a broken arm, I will always hone, clean, and grease the bushings and make sure that the arm is absolutely free before re-assembly. I would also install grease-fittings in the bushings to insure a successful long-term repair. It is difficult to believe that a new arm would break unless it was defective. To error on the side of caution, I would make certain that the clutch release arm; clutch and throw out bearing are in good working order. I suppose it is possible that either the throw out bearing is seizing to its guide sleeve or the clutch have somehow come apart and won’t allow the throw out bearing to move. Not likely, but possible. It is a simple system the cause of your problem should be easily diagnosed by a competent technician.

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