Failed CA smog HC at idle, something with engine

Failed CA smog HC at idle, something with engine

Postby esmartuek [OP] » January 17th 2013, 3:01am

Okay, just to point out that I put this in the correct category, I know for a fact that this problem doesn't have anything to do with my exhaust, since my Cat-back was replaced during my last 2yr inspection.

My engine has been somewhat on life support.
3 years ago, I replaced the Cylinder heads during 4deg. weather. It unavoidably developed some very small leaks from the new exhaust manifold gaskets (yes they were installed with absolute precision, my friend and I made special care of this due to the temperature; everyone asks about this when I talk about the leak)
Everything was cleaned with special care, and even today, some of the parts still look new.

At this time, the vehicle had just hit 200,000 miles.
During that work, we made a lot of observations while we had the engine torn down to the block:
-Cylinders 1&5 looked reconditioned.
-Cylinders 2&6 looked like crap.
-3&4 looked as to be expected... somewhere in between.
We put special care in cleaning as much as we could in 4&6, making sure not to make any scratches or do any damage that could alter the performance of the moving parts (think: solvents, vacuums, and LOTS of rags and towels)
After assembly, compression was tested, and the cylinders performed just like they looked.
150-170 for 1&5
135-145 for 3&4
100-112 for 4&6
I made note after that to make plans to rebuild the piston rings (ALL of them, since that's how it's supposed to be done, none of this "2 at a time crap")
My engine never did get rid of it's clicking sound after the replacement of the heads, which left me really worried. I thought there was some valve lash on the old heads causing that sound =(
During that repair, I replaced the EGR, PCV, entire distributor, vacuum lines, and valve covers.

I only use Shell/Chevron gasoline, and only 89 octane or higher (you can't get lower than 89 in CA :P)
I've always used Castrol 5W30 Synthetic oil with K&N filters. I regularly used the Restore brand oil additive to preserve what compression I could. (this was only broken when I took the advice of Maher and used SeaFoam for the first time... and then failed my Smog test horribly :P)

During my last inspection, I replaced all of my spark plugs, my cap&rotor, and wires. I also retuned the van to sea level.

I seafoamed my oil 2 weeks ago during an oil change, and did the intake on sunday. All were done as per instructions on their website.
Not only did I not see a damn thing come out of my tailpipe during the treatment, but my oil consumption problem appears to have worsened.
That's ok, I'll talk to them about a refund, since it's guaranteed for at least that. (at least other stuff does nothing when it does nothing, instead of making the problem worse. This isn't the first time I've heard that seafoam is bad, though)

Here are my results from the Smog Test:
Code: Select all
RPM     HC(PPM)      CO(PPM)
MEAS  |MAX|AVE|MEAS|  |MAX|AVE|MEAS|
650    120 30  270    1.0 0.10 0.58    FAIL
2498   180 20  22     1.0 0.10 0.06    PASS
EGR (Functional)... FAIL 


Now, I know that since I just replaced the EGR valve, something isn't right. Also, after discussing this with others, they pointed out that my emissions at 2500 RPM from non-HCs would've been higher if my EGR was non-functional. the tech could've just looked at the valve and seen that it had just been replaced, the damn thing is still bright and shiny.

Something isn't right.
I'm curious if my electrical system could've caused this.
So, could a barely functioning alternator and a mid to low battery cause the ignition system to barely spark enough to burn everything at idle, but at 2500RPM be enough to burn everything?
That's my theory right now... it's cheaper than tearing in and replacing the piston rings. The rings don't explain why high RPM don't produce high HCs.
I want to know why my high RPM produce such spectacular results and my idle looks like crap.

Thank you for your time.
Original Poster [OP]
esmartuek
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Years of Membership: esmartuek has been a member for 4 full yearsesmartuek has been a member for 4 full yearsesmartuek has been a member for 4 full yearsesmartuek has been a member for 4 full years
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Location: Rio Linda, CA
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Van Make/Model: Chevrolet Astro
Extra Info: 4.3L V6 AWD 225k

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Re: Failed CA smog HC at idle, something with engine

Postby esmartuek [OP] » January 17th 2013, 5:54am

I was starting to pull my Spark plugs, Alternator, and TBI shroud tonight to poke around and test. I put my battery on my charger, since the last time I started it, it felt it was about the last time it was ever going to have enough juice to start.

During my alternator removal, everything went fine (as it should, since I just pulled it off 2.5 weeks ago) up until I got to the cable. The threaded nut was stripped, and during removal, it seized and the bolt snapped.
I walked over to my neighbor's and got a ride to the LAPS and got a new alternator (since I've been planning it anyways) and decided to get some 10ga. wire and replace all of that just in case there was damage. I have a good suspicion that the fusible link is blown, which would explain why it's felt like I've been driving on my battery this whole time... Damn, my Die Hard Gold is amazing, worth every penny.

So, I'll put all of this in and still do my compression test and check all of the plugs for condition.
The wires still look as good as the day I bought them, same as the cap & rotor.
I pulled the PCV valve and cleaned and inspected it. I have reason to believe that I may have NOT replaced it when I did my cyl. heads, as it is really marred and dented... BUT, when I did a suction/pressure test on the hose end of it, it performed just as well as, or better, than the new PCV valve I just bought.

That's the status for now. I'll get back to work on it. I do need to drive this in the morning :P
Original Poster [OP]
esmartuek
U.S. Armed Forces
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Years of Membership: esmartuek has been a member for 4 full yearsesmartuek has been a member for 4 full yearsesmartuek has been a member for 4 full yearsesmartuek has been a member for 4 full years
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Re: Failed CA smog HC at idle, something with engine

Postby jrsride2002 » January 17th 2013, 7:49am

I am no expert by any means.....

My buddy had the same issue with a toyota supera, when he adjusted his timing(maybe the rotor in this case) and the shop cleaned the throttle body. He passed...... Not saying that will fix it but thats what worked for my buddy...

Best of luck dude,
~Junior
E-Fan mod(Ford mystique/contour), 1" radiator swap , external trans AND oil coolers (2)Flex a lite 3826, three piece bed bench installed, firestone air bag helpers
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Re: Failed CA smog HC at idle, something with engine

Postby chevymaherchevymaher is online! » January 17th 2013, 12:55pm

Sea foam cleans parts and ungums them. Helps what is there function its best. But it can't put metal back where it is missing. Nobody uses Sea Foam if the engine isn't already screwing up. It unsticks the oil control rings but it can't fix worn compression rings. It can only do what it was designed to do. Clean out deposits. If the engine ran better with the deposits then there is a issue in the engine. The deposits were behind the rings holding them out. In other words it was going to do it anyway.
You have 2 cylinders which are leaking pretty bad. Compression wise. So this makes sense the HC levels. At lower RPM's the cylinders have time to leak compression and this causes incomplete combustion. At higher RPM's they don't have time to leak and those 2 cylinders are burning correctly because the cylinder pressure is back where it should be.
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Re: Failed CA smog HC at idle, something with engine

Postby esmartuek [OP] » January 19th 2013, 6:12am

Well, on Wednesday, I was pulling the alternator out to clean it up a bit, and sadly, it didn't survive the removal. (it had stripped threads on the cable nut) Battery was on the charger the entire time, since I had completely ran it dry that day.
Since I was planning to replace it anyways, I bothered a neighbor for a ride to the LAPS and got the one I was planning to get and put it in, making sure to test every cable with my ohmmeter first to ensure that I didn't need to replace those too. (0.3-0.4 ohms of resistance on every test) I also cleaned up every connection and bolt with a fine wire brush to ensure maximum conductivity.

Since I was testing every wire, that meant that I dropped my starter motor. It gave me a chance to get a peek at the condition in that area after the oil change, since I had wiped everything down to being all shiny. I noticed that all surfaces around the pan was covered in a new coat of med-colored oil, confirming my main suspicion that my oil pan gasket is in dire need of replacement, and most likely my top consumer of oil. (I just don't like the idea of doing the job, as it requires me to drop my front axle again, and this time without the aid of my friend. Although, if I have to do that ring job, that's the perfect time to do that gasket.)
In light of that, the actual level of oil is still okay, despite the lies that my gauge and engine sounds had been telling me. (no, I don't get worried when I get so low that I lose pressure. I swear by using Slick 50 on my engines when I first acquire them to prevent seizure from the odd leak.)

So new alternator in, everything in place, I started it up and went through all testing procedures and noted that there was an immediate difference in everything. The engine sounded different, it ran smoother, every gauge was where I wanted them (except the fuel :P), and my passenger window motor miraculously resurrected itself.
I also noticed that there was a steady stream of whitish smoke pouring out of the tailpipe. I was unclear as to the origins of this, as I had used my Carb cleaner on my TBI while I had my air cleaner off (and I scrubbed the hell out of my EGR valve to shine it up to look 'new' again, since it's just a few years old) It's possible that the smoke was that SeaFoam smoke finally deciding to appear, 200miles late, now that the engine's HEI ignition system is receiving proper voltage. (and thus, it's actually burning out all that crap that it was washing down)
I think that smoke (and all of the other signs) is a very good indicator that the HEI ignition system wasn't operating at it's proper potential, and thus not causing enough ignition to burn everything. This is more apparent at low idle, as the engine is more dependent upon the full energy of that spark to ignite the mix, as opposed to radiant heat and momentum at higher RPMS. (I'm bending logic for this, bear with me)

To note on that EGR valve: I took notice when I was removing it's vacuum line that the dust on the line was suspiciously undisturbed, leading me to disbelieve the story the Smog Tech had told me about how "I even pulled the line and tried to feel the vacuum from the valve and got nothing" The line was well secured and would've required enough force to disrupt the dust on the line to leave a clean mark.

I plan to do a compression test tomorrow, since I didn't have the time to pull my plugs on Wednesday. If the compression test shows results that are of negative drastic difference to what they were 20,000 miles ago, then maybe action will be needed in that category, regardless of the fact that I have firm belief that I have resolved the problem by providing adequate power to the HEI coil. After all, I DID pay the DMV $50 for a TOP sticker to extend my Smog deadline to mid-march.
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esmartuek
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Fueling (3/8 tank)
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Years of Membership: esmartuek has been a member for 4 full yearsesmartuek has been a member for 4 full yearsesmartuek has been a member for 4 full yearsesmartuek has been a member for 4 full years
Posts: 49
Topics: 5
Joined: July 2010
Location: Rio Linda, CA
Alias (AKA): Esmartuek
Year: 1992
Van Make/Model: Chevrolet Astro
Extra Info: 4.3L V6 AWD 225k


 
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