RWD - 1987 240: white smoke when still, fast idle

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1987 240: white smoke when still, fast idle 200 1987

Hi there experts. Happy holidays. I'm having trouble with my wagon and I hear this is a great place to turn for help. There are a lot of moving parts here, and I apologize for the length, but I want to be thorough.

I'm trying to diagnose white exhaust smoke that appears only when the car is standing still and a fast idle that occurs in P and N only. Sounds like a head gasket and/or vacuum leak, right? Well, maybe. I have no milkshake in the oil, no coolant loss, no bubbles in coolant. The cylinders all show relatively fast compression to 190-200 PSI. Each cylinder tests within that range from test to test. I have a cheapo Harbor Freight compression tester and can't get any of the adaptors to screw in so I was using the handheld rubber fitting.

My background: I had a '75 wagon in the 90s, carrot color, and loved it until it died. I needed a wagon for my mastiff and hauling music gear so I picked up a neglected '87 240 DL wagon about 3 months ago. I specifically picked a 240-series Volvo both because I missed my old one and because I'd read you can learn to work on them yourself, and I picked up a decrepit one because I prefer to get old things and fix them than get new things. Also because the car and everything I've put into so far cost less than the dealer estimate to replace the mirror some jerk just knocked off my parked Audi without leaving a note. I never changed my own oil until this week. I'm reasonably handy though and willing to research and work patiently. Since then I've probably spent 40-hours working on it, figuring it out, and a whole bunch more reading and researching. I got a Haynes, then a Chilton (yeah, I know), then a Bentley. I lucked out and discovered there's a great Volvo mechanic down the road a couple of miles. That said, I want to do as much myself as I can. I've become familiar with my area junk yards and auto parts stores.

Initial symptoms on purchase: fast, unstable idle, nasty exhaust smell (mechanic describes as over-rich fuel mixture), low power, yadda yadda. Temp sensor seemed to move only a little and never got above about 1/6 from C to H. Mechanic pointed out that the front seals have leaked a lot of oil, and they are on the to-do list along with the timing belt and V-belts.

Work done (that I remember):
1. New air intake hose to throttle body and replacement of janky or disconnected vacuum hoses calmed idle but didn't get rid of smell.

2. plugs, wires, distributor cap, rotor brought engine to life. The old plugs were worn and had massive gaps, but were relatively consistent in appearance and didn't show any special symptoms (based on photos in the back of the Haynes).

2a (because I just remembered and don't want to renumber). Seafoam in gas, oil, and vacuum inlet (using the FPR hose), followed by Italian tuneup.

3. Cleaned MAF sensor with MAF sensor spray cleaner.

4. (unrelated: front and rear ipd sway bars, cheap blue tooth stereo and a couple of rear speakers to replace blown factory speakers, rear shocks, replaced large clock with tach and small clock, still locked in a losing battle with speedo/odo)

5. Pulled intake manifold. I discovered the wiring harness was threaded through it and I ended up removing both harnesses (LH2.2, Chrysler ignition) entirely. Then I discovered I could have just pulled the LH2.2 ECU end through the firewall, which I had to do anyway to get it through the manifold. Removed all the cracked, oil-soaked, filthy sheathing. Cleaned, retaped, and tested every single conductor. I DO NOT have crumbling wires. I did have some breaks, which I alternately soldered and shrink-wrapped and crimped using a ratcheting crimping tool. One was the negative wire to a fuel injector. And then tested. Rerouted oil pressure sender, alternator connection, and Chrysler vacuum hose around the firewall and passenger fender using conduit for the wires and keeping away from the exhaust manifold. I replaced the original stiff plastic vacuum tube with new vacuum line to the intake manifold. Reconnected harnesses. Ran conduit around alternator wire and ignition harness under crank shaft

6. Pulled flame trap and oil separator. The flame trap was original style and fully clogged. I could blow through the oil separator easily so I shook some brake cleaner up in it to get out the gunk that was there, let it air out for a few days and put it back in). Installed ipd flame trap relocation kit and flame trap. Installed IPD rear camshaft seal retainer.

7. Obtained junkyard intake manifold, fuel rail, and injectors FROM AN LH 2.4 ENGINE. Thoroughly cleaned out the new manifold and the TB with TB and / or carb cleaner. Installed manifold with a fresh gasket. There's no wire in an LH2.2 to connect to the cold start injector so I connected its fuel line but the electric socket is empty. Transferred the vacuum inlet from the LH2.2 manifold for the vacuum line to the Chrysler computer. Torqued bolts I could reach with my torque wrench to spec. Hand tightened the remainder as close as I could estimate with a closed end wrench.

8. Reinstalled original throttle body (with fresh gasket) because the 2.4 TB didn't have the idle air control module. Adjusted and tested throttle line and position sensor ("click"). Torqued the single bolt I could reach with torque wrench to spec and hand-tightened the other two as close as I could guess.

9. Removed all fuses, hosed down the fuse holders with contact cleaner and wire brushed to remove corrosion, and replaced with new fuses.

10. Changed the oil. It's still dirty. I need to do it again. This is the third oil change since I bought the car, but the first oil change I've ever done myself. Fortunately not rocket science. Valvoline maxlife 10W30. New Bosch filter hand tight, old gasket fully removed, drain plug hand threaded and retightened to torque spec.

11. Changed transmission fluid via pan drop and replaced filter. That pan was a b*tch to get back on because the dipstick tube and the transmission have slightly different ideas about where the pan should be located (by about 1/2"). Finally did it by starting the tube threads and then pushing it to where I could get a bolt screwed in to position the pan. Drove on it for a while. Then flushed the transmission using the radiator method until fluid came out like new.

12. Drained coolant from radiator bottom hose and engine block to make sure water was moving through the engine and radiator. It was, and my hoses are good. Refilled with about two gallons. Installed new thermostat and housing. I replaced the green stuff that was in there (and caked on) with the O'reilly gold jug (universal, clear with an amber-ish tint) because it was on sale and I figured I would step up to something better when I ensure the car is running well. The temperature gauge reports engine temperature now. Stationary, at warm idle, the gauge sits dead center. I have noticed it vary between one-quarter and three quarters while test driving, but it has not overheated. I took it up some good hills too. The coolant expansion tank never gets hot enough I can't stick my finger in it.

13. Replaced oxygen sensor with new Bosch unit.

14. When I reassembled the harness, intake manifold, TB, and fired it up, I discovered a very high idle (~2000 rpm) in P/N, and the white exhaust smoke when stationary problem persisted. This is the computer doing this: it starts lower, then thinks for a minute and revs it up. When stopped with the brake in D/R/1/2, it idles at about 1000 rpm. Disconnecting the idle air controller prevents the idle from rising, so the IAC is doing something. Maybe even what it's supposed to. Spraying carb cleaner revealed no leaks. I grounded the idle test connector and closed the idle adjustment screw on throttle body all the way. This got it down to about 1000 rpm. Sounds like a leak somewhere, right? I can't figure out where. I've checked all the vacuum hoses and they seem fine. The manifold and throttle body have new gaskets. The only thing missing a gasket now is the idle air control attached to the throttle body, and it didn't have one before either.

15. MAF sensor passed hot-wire and pot-adjustment tests per Haynes/Bentley. Nonetheless, I replaced it with a rebuilt MAF sensor I pulled from a junkyard '87, same part number, and also testing well, to see if it made a difference. This brought the high idle down to about 1500. I set the mixture screw to the same resistance as the original (about 450), but no adjustments to the screw produce a discernable difference in operation. Disconnecting the MAF sensor from the harness brings the tachometer down to maybe 700-1000 with a loping dip on about a one-second rhythm.

Current state: The car drives smoothly and feels like it's about as powerful as it should be, but I still have the white exhaust smoke when the car is stationary and fast idle issues in P and N. The white exhaust smoke when stationary problem has seemed to increase somewhat, but it's also much colder here now (30s-40s) so perhaps more visible as well. When I asked the mechanic about it a few weeks ago, he suggested that if it doesn't happen until the exhaust system heats up it might be condensation burning out of the muffler. At this point it starts within 30 seconds of starting the car and continues at red lights and when stopped for more than a few seconds, long after I'd think any exhaust condensation would have burned off. It does drip water form the tailpipe. The smoke is more pronounced in P and N (perhaps because of the fast idle) but still present in D. It appears to go away while driving the car.

Known issue: The plastic electrical clip that on my distributor is no longer attached to the distributor and has a weak connection so wiggling it kills the engine. It seems just fine when left dangling in its preferred position, but that's obviously not sustainable. This left me in a very uncomfortable no-start situation until I figured it out. I picked up a junkyard distributor and I have a replacement plastic piece on order.

Here are my current theories and prescriptions:

A. I have a small head gasket leak that was aggravated by 1) the Seafoam cleaning out debris, 2) new plugs putting more pressure on the engine, and 3) lots of Italian tune-up. It's not enough or positioned in such a way as to create a discernable loss of coolant, bubbles in coolant expansion tank, or milky oil. Over time it will get worse and I will begin to see it while the car is moving. I should test the gasses from the coolant expansion tank. I probably need to remove the cylinder head, look closely at the gasket and engine for evidence of issues, and do the usual head gasket things.

B. I have an as-yet undiagnosed vacuum leak. I should go over the manifold and TB area with a stethescope and a rubber hose until I find it. Also go back and re-check bolts on intake manifold and TB. Get a gasket for the idle control unit.

C. The claim that you can't disconnect and reconnect the Chrysler ignition computer because the connector is one-shot only (which I discovered only after removing the harness) is in fact true and somehow bad connections at the computer are causing the fast idle or in some way the white exhaust. I need to find a new ignition wiring harness.

D. I don't know what I'm doing and should leave this to a pro. No way, dude. As I pulled the thread on the sweater I realized I might have to get it towed to the shop, but instead it's running. I'm going to work this as far as I can before throwing up my hands.

If you've read this far, thank you. I'd be grateful for any advice you can offer. Photos on demand. Please don't be shy about telling me what I've screwed up - I want to learn.


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New 1987 240: white smoke when still, fast idle [200][1987]
posted by  Kindofhandy  on Sun Dec 24 17:26 CST 2017 >

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