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‘87 Gl wagon with ea81 has a hard time accelerating from a stop and going up hill

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Hey all, new Subaru owner here and beginner mechanic. I could use some help. I’ve got an ‘87 Gl with a 4” lift and bigger tires. Ea81 and Webber carb. I’ve been having a hard time accelerating from a stop.  It also looses all power going up hill, freeway and just in town. My rpms are there, but the car isn’t moving hardly at all. I believe this issue started just before I inherited it from my friend 6 months ago. Since then I have replaced the fuel filters, done an oil change, and that’s about it. Last week the bushings on my clutch cable disentigrated causing the cable to loosen. I didn’t replace the bushing but did tighten the cable back up with just the tensioning bolts. It was running better (still not great) with the last tank of gas which was premium gas with some fuel system cleaner put in. Today I filled from almost empty with regular and my car is REALLY struggling to move. I’ve read from other threads to check fuel and air. I’ve been planning to replace the exhaust/cadalitic converter soon. Any other advise, thoughts or tips? Sorry for the novel and thanks for looking! 

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Are you saying you can get high rpms in neutral, or that the engine is spinning and the car is not (or barely) moving? 

 

 

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Sounds like you may have clutch problems. If the engine is running fine but the car is not responding check out the clutch or maybe the transmission.

Just for grins, make sure the parking brake is not engaged and none of the brakes are malfunctioning.

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Try pushing in the clutch pedal part way while accelerating. If you don't feel much difference the clutch disc may be worn so thin that the clutch doesn't engage/lock up fully.

Edited by czny

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I had that problem with my Ea-81 and it was the distributor wasn't advancing under load. It reved just fine but had no power when driving. I had the dist. rebuilt and it fixed the problem. The guy said the diaphragm in the dist. breaks down and you have a vacuum leak basically. 

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Some facts and figures will help us help you. So an idea of the hill incline, what gear and what speed indicating , revs etc

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15 hours ago, czny said:

Try pushing in the clutch pedal part way while accelerating. If you don't feel much difference the clutch disc may be worn so thin that the clutch doesn't engage/lock up fully.

Thanks for the recommendation. I’m at work now but will try this when I get home. 

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15 hours ago, Naked Buell said:

I had that problem with my Ea-81 and it was the distributor wasn't advancing under load. It reved just fine but had no power when driving. I had the dist. rebuilt and it fixed the problem. The guy said the diaphragm in the dist. breaks down and you have a vacuum leak basically. 

How would I go about checking on my own if it’s the distributor? I appreciate all the help diagnosing my issue here

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10 hours ago, Steptoe said:

Some facts and figures will help us help you. So an idea of the hill incline, what gear and what speed indicating , revs etc

Alright, sorry guys, first time being on a thread like this so I’m figuring out the processes. Thanks for being patient with me. 

As far as Hill incline, I mean ANY incline whatsoever. Seems like even flat land I’m having a hard time getting the car to move at all. The engine will spin upwards of 4K Rpms before moving more than a few feet from a stop. Once it gets up and moving I can keep that momentum up and shift into 2nd and 3rd ok reaching around town speeds of up to 45mph no problem, and maintain speed so long as I don’t hit ANY sort of incline again. Any size of incline greatly reduces the power, to the point I’ve flipped U-turns halfway up and found new ways Home. I live in western Washington so we have plenty of hills of all sizes. It doesn’t seem to matter what size the incline, they all zap the power away. The steeper the Hill the faster I slow down and less chance I seem to have of making it all the way up. Rpms will still spin upwards or 4K-4.5k and the car still loses all power. I hope that’s enough detail to help diagnose this thing. Thanks again. 

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It's ok to be new at this.

Is it spinning 4000rpm while in gear and not (or slowly ) moving?    Means Very different problem/s from spinning 4000 in neutral but not having power to climb hills.

 

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I basically pulled the line from the carb, front of carb, that goes to the dist. I sucked on it and saw my dist. was not advancing. I could have the gas pedal floored, in gear, and it was as if Grandma was driving. NO acceleration, just slight increase. No power. Timing was good, fuel filter was good, plugs and wires good. I was really scratching my head, until I figured that it had to be the dist. That is what advances the timing to keep the engines power where you want it. 

When you say 4k-5k revs, that is with the clutch pushed in?

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56 minutes ago, ausubaru92 said:

sounds like a slipping clutch

That's what it sounds like to me also:

" I’ve got an ‘87 Gl with a 4” lift and bigger tires. Ea81 and Webber carb. I’ve been having a hard time accelerating from a stop.  It also looses all power going up hill, freeway and just in town. My rpms are there, but the car isn’t moving hardly at all. I believe this issue started just before I inherited it from my friend 6 months ago. Since then I have replaced the fuel filters, done an oil change, and that’s about it. Last week the bushings on my clutch cable disentigrated causing the cable to loosen. I didn’t replace the bushing but did tighten the cable back up with just the tensioning bolts.  "

4" lift + bigger tires + clutch cable problem + feathering clutch a lot to get going might = slipping clutch later on.

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3 hours ago, DaveT said:

It's ok to be new at this.

Is it spinning 4000rpm while in gear and not (or slowly ) moving?    Means Very different problem/s from spinning 4000 in neutral but not having power to climb hills.

 

Yeah it’s spinning 4000rpm while in gear and barely going anywhere. Seems like I may have my first attempt at a clutch job on my hands eh? Fun stuff! Anyone have advice on where to go from here? Parts and recommended threads or videos? 

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1 hour ago, adot said:

Yeah it’s spinning 4000rpm while in gear and barely going anywhere. Seems like I may have my first attempt at a clutch job on my hands eh? Fun stuff! Anyone have advice on where to go from here? Parts and recommended threads or videos? 

Get an Exedy or Luk clutch for 4wd, 225 mm dia., have the flywheel resurfaced & the FW register for the clutch cover cut so depth is 0.810 inch for lots of clutch pressure for those big tires.

https://www.rockauto.com/en/moreinfo.php?pk=4696989&cc=1270112&jsn=372

And while you're there replace the FW seal. Check your engine mounts too. Spongy mounts don't help.

Just a thought....... are you sure you didn't overtighten the clutch cable? There should be about 1.5 inch freeplay at top of pedal travel.  

Edited by czny

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Also, get a pressure plate and the throw out bearing and the pilot bearing and seal.

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yeah if it is revving OK just no joy in moving real well it does sound like a clutch

if so you'd likely smell a lasting pong of burning friction material that leaves lingering in nose

Got a good sense of smell and hearing ? Coz that will be copping it too from hearing revs

Beside the clutch cable under the bonnet where cable crosses from gearbox to fork should be a rubber bung plug, not the fork boot, that is the timing marks plug. If you remove plug when engine not running and no smart arses to turn engine over or honk horn you may find black fibrousy crud build up from centrifugal force. That be asbestos friction plate material. Or maybe the pressure plate has lost its spring clamp force.

Either way, you can learn how we all did, to pull the engine to get at the clutch, instead of drop heavy gearbox to get at same

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Before you start get a can of spray on degreaser, give the area a pressure wash so you can see things which may also help if you share photos of "what's this ?"

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While everything points to a clutch issue also rule out a chewed out hub spline. 

If you can rip the hand brake and have the car idle in gear you can have someone check to ensure the castlated nut on either hub isn't spinning. 

If one of the nuts are spinning you'll need a replacement hub, new cone washer and possibly a new drive shaft if its splines are chewed out too. 

If there is no nut moving action then it's definitely the clutch ;)

Cheers

Bennie

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Thanks for all the advice and help. I’ll be back soon enough with pictures and questions I garauntee it. I gotta get this thing mountain ready! 

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