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I've just completed rebuilding my Suburban's 350 into a 383, and feels/sounds so, so close, and I'm not 100% sure what I'm missing yet. I think it might be just not getting fuel, but then I did some reading about people having the distributor put in 180 degrees off of the cam (or the crank, I'm not sure), which causes backfiring out of the intake, which seems like what might have happened when we tried to use our starting fluid.

I've actually got a video of us trying to turn it over here in this link.

Does this sound like just not getting fuel? Or does it sound like I might have that 180 problem, or both?

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It doesn't sound like it's getting fuel, first off. Things to check:

  • You don't state the year, so I don't know if this has a mechanical pump or an electric one. Ensure the carb is getting fuel. As long as it is a carb, fill up the float bowls through the vent tube.
  • If this is fuel injected (throttle body), you'll need to put a fuel pressure gauge on the Schrader valve. If FI, you should also be hearing the fuel pump run. (I can't quite tell if it's FI or carb'd from the video and you don't mention this). If you're not getting fuel pressure at the Schrader, check to ensure you haven't blown the fuse for the fuel pump.

Second thing is, it sounds like the timing is off. It could be either 180° out (doubtful from how it sounded with ether), or you might have your wires out of order (more probable in my mind):

  • Double/triple check to ensure your wires are on there correctly. The firing order for most Gen I SBC's is 1-8-4-3-6-5-7-2 ... When you check each lead, follow it completely to the end ... don't make assumptions.
  • Ensure the distributor rotor is pointing to the #1 cylinder at TDC.
    • Pull the #1 spark plug, place your thumb over the hole, then have someone bump the starter a little at a time until a large rush of compression comes out the hole. Look at the timing mark on the harmonic damper and bring it all the way to TDC (0° to the timing mark).
    • Pull the distributor cap off, noting position of the #1 spark plug lead. Normally, this is located at about the 5 O'Clock position:

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More than likely, both of these things (fire & fuel) are at issue with your trying to get it to start.

  • 1999 Suburban, my bad! The engine is the 350 Vortec L31 – Brian says Reinstate Monica Jan 3 at 19:32
  • And thank you, you're fantastic, I will dive into the engine again once I get home :) – Brian says Reinstate Monica Jan 3 at 19:34
  • So follow for the throttle body instructions. The distributor should still be the same. – Pᴀᴜʟsᴛᴇʀ2 Jan 3 at 19:34
  • Getting an engine to TDC can also be done by rotating gently with a spanner (without plugs fitted) and using a welding rod or similar to « see » the piston movement until you get close to the timing marks. – Solar Mike Jan 4 at 7:36
  • So I wasn't getting fuel, but I definitely am now (I can now smell gas up by the engine), and I checked the timing it seems to be exactly correct, but still not starting. I don't think I'm getting any spark, so I'll need to get a check light and make sure the ignition is all working I guess – Brian says Reinstate Monica Jan 4 at 13:42

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