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Old 02-02-2016, 10:46 PM   #1
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1977 28' Argosy 28
Loma Linda , California
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Need advice to help pass CA smog check

My son-in-law and I just picked up a 1977 Argosy 28 foot motorhome. WE LOVE IT!!!

We had it towed to my house since it wouldn't start at the seller's home and we're 60 miles distance. After replacing the dead starter battery, it does run after a fashion.

I believe someone installed the HEI distributor incorrectly and that it is one or more teeth off in timing. Also the QuadraJet doesn't have the choke hooked up and there are some loose vacuum lines.

Any help or advice would be much appreciated. I'm betting someone can take one look at my distributor picture and tell if it is off.
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Old 02-02-2016, 11:14 PM   #2
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It is impossible to tell by the pictures if the distributor is out of timing, and I think the part of the carb is the diaphragm that opens the vacuum secondaries.

Check your plugs and plug wires first, pay attention to the color of the plugs when you take them out.


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Old 02-02-2016, 11:20 PM   #3
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If the distributor is off more than one tooth, the engine wont run at all.

My GUESS is that you have something else going on.

If I were to guess, I would say the carb and/or fuel system is gummed up, or maybe the HEI module and/or pickup coil is going south.


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Old 02-03-2016, 08:25 AM   #4
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Todd, welcome to Airforums and Argosy ownership!

I'm no where near an expert on quadrajets or any other large carburetor but I'm fairly certain that the choke should stay open unless you push the pedal to the floor (one time) at which point the choke should close and stay closed until the engine starts at which point the choke should start to open automatically as the engine warms up.

The engine will definitely run crappy if the choke is closed for to long so if the choke is closed all the time then you'll need to deal with that problem first.

Spark plug wires can definitely be an issue especially old ones or ones that are heat damaged. Heat damage to spark plug cables is all to common on the 454 engines, mostly due to poor maintenance efforts. If the cables are installed and routed probably heat damage shouldn't really occur (at least that's my opinion!).

Also verify that the cables are connected in the proper firing order. Here's a diagram showing the firing order.


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Be sure and post pictures.

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Old 02-03-2016, 12:05 PM   #5
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As far as the distributor, being installed off one tooth doesn't matter too much as long as the timing has been set correctly. The only difference being "one tooth off" results in the distributor rotated to a slightly different position, again as long as the timing viewed on the crankshaft pulley is correct. The timing at idle specs is easy to find but probably in the range of 4-8 degrees BTDC. Then you need to check the timing advance as engine rpm increases usually to a maximum of 28-32 degrees BTDC on a stock engine.
The choke is missing the linkage and may have had a metal cover which was called a choke stove to keep dirt out of the coils and facilitate the warm up time. But once the engine is at operating temperature, the choke is irrelevant unless it is still closed which will severely affect engine performance.
Quadrajets were pretty decent carbs and usually rebuild well. I always preferred to rebuild the original rather than purchase a "rebuilt."
One question I have is how long was the engine sitting without running. Bad gas and carb deposits could cause your symptoms.
When people brought vehicles into my shop, I always started with the basics in this order.
Cylinder compression test, leak down test if compression test did not meet specs, plugs, plug wires, distributor cap and rotor, vacuum test and checks, timing, fuel filter, and lastly carbs. Something as simple as a bad PCV valve can affect engine performance too and is a easy and cheap fix.
Even a brand new carb won't help and engine with other problems like I've listed.
Another way to help a marginal engine pass smog test is to change the oil and and both oil and air filters before the emissions test. Gasoline can leak past the cylinders into the oil pan and contaminate the oil affecting the emissions.
And then there is the emission system, but due the year and GVW I don't know what was required like EGR and oxygen sensors.
And finally, if you want some advice, you really need to describe precisely the symptoms, such as idle, cold start, hot start, how it drives, etc. Good luck, and I hope this helps.
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Old 02-03-2016, 07:46 PM   #6
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I think here in CA smog requirements only apply to vehicles under 40 years old, so you could also wait two years until it's smog exempt
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Old 02-03-2016, 08:46 PM   #7
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First off, drain any old gas. Change plugs and plug wires then use some carb cleaner. If that doesn't work, have a shop fix it and send the bill to Jerry Brown
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Old 02-03-2016, 09:00 PM   #8
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Once you have corrected all the problems in including fuel add bottle or two Chevron Techron fuel system cleaner and burn through a tank of fuel then add another bottle of Techron and get it smogged.
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Old 02-03-2016, 09:11 PM   #9
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One other thing you'll want to do once the MH is in service.

OK most MH sit for long periods between trips.

Keep the fuel tank full and add Stabile for ethanol laced fuel to keep the fuel fresh . Ethanol will cause moisture to form in the tank in less then a month of disuse.

All gasoline at the pump in California is 10% ethanol.
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Old 02-03-2016, 09:26 PM   #10
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BTW your original fuel hoses are not happy with ethanol. Replace all the fuel hoses with new hoses rated for ethanol.
This would include the hose from the tank to the hard line, from the hard line to the fuel pump. These would be less then 2 feet of hose.

Another item you may want to install is a water separator in the fuel line .

The fuel pump if original could also be affected by the ethanol and leak internally into the crankcase or externally onto the exhaust manifold .

You may want to install an electric fuel pump near the tank along with an oil pressure cut off switch with relay to power the pump. Remove the mechanical pump and rod and install a block off plate.
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Old 02-04-2016, 09:26 AM   #11
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1977 28' Argosy 28
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I am feeling SO welcome in this forum!!!

Thank you all for the replies. You are reinforcing my thoughts pretty well.

We can't wait to get the smog check done and get the Argosy on the road and "burn through a tank of gas". We are going to finish changing the plugs on Super Sunday, move the distributor over so the coil wiring is at 9 o'clock and do the oil change. If that allows it to run half ways decently there is a Chevron station only a few blocks from my house and we'll go get some good gas in the tank.

Thanks again!
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Old 02-04-2016, 09:41 AM   #12
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The first things I would do is substitute, for testing purposes, a know good fuel directly to the carb. and make sure All vacuum lines are connected or plugged. This should let you get the engine running at idle. Plugs, plug wiring, and carb issues will show up once you get it on the road.
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Old 02-04-2016, 11:20 AM   #13
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I lived in california for three horrible years courtesy of the Navy. Not once did any of my vehicles pass the first time thru smog inspection. Solution was to give the operator a hundred dollar bill. Amazingly I passed when the same test was run again 5 minutes later. Cheaper than having it fixed to california standards.
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Old 02-04-2016, 12:01 PM   #14
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Back when my old Cadillac had to pass smog (the 90s) you could buy what was called a Smog Kit. Basically it was two rubber nipples that fit over two of the fuel inlets inside the carb. Made the car run like crap, but she passed. Of course, they were removed in the parking lot of the smog place immediately afterwards (don't tell Pete Wilson).
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