I picked up a 2000 TJ with a bad motor. I bought a junkyard motor, tore it down. Machine the head and block. Complete rebuild except kept stock pistons, crank and cam. Clearances within spec. Install motor, hook up all the wires. Problem is when I go to start it just cranks.
Here is what I know:
1) I am getting fuel. Don't have gauge but smell gas, hear fuel pump kicking on and when valve on fuel rail pressed, gas comes out.
2) Figured I could have been rough on crank sensor since didn't remove when motor taken out. I replaced with new crank position sensor. It had the air gap piece that falls off when started.
3) Had an extra distributor and coil laying around. I used different combinations to see if one of them was bad. Distributor gear looks fine.
4) New battery
5) Starter is engaging and turning the motor.
6) Went through wires again. Cant find anything unplugged.
7) Timing - Timing marks were lined up. Both gears can only go on one way. Played with the location of the distributor.
Make sure the distributor is clocked the correct way. I replaced a manifold on a different motor and installed it with the rotor cap at 12 o'clock when it should have been at 6. If you're getting fuel and some spark you should be getting something. Pull a plug, keep it connected to the wire and see if you are getting a spark to the cylinder. Also, see that the plugs are wet with fuel. Guy built a motor and duct taped the head ports to keep them free of junk. He forgot to remove the tape and put manifold on. Fuel was getting sent but not to cylinder. He figured it out after finding dry plugs.
Wasn't sure if disconnecting entire coil pack would still be ok but makes sense. Tested 3 plugs and each had a weak spark. It was night and still had to look for spark. Thought about distributor. Installed the same way as it came out. Length of wire isn't enough to allow it 180 degrees out. It certainly can be a few degrees off. I played with placement when trying to start
Bring the #1 cylinder to TDC on the compression stroke. Then make sure the timing mark on the harmonic balancer is at 0 deg. Now look at the rotor and make sure it is pointing at or before the post that the #1 wire is plugged into.
If you just installed the distributor the same way it came out of the other motor then the plug wires are probably off from where they need to be on this motor.
Although it snowing, wanted to try flipping the distributor guts 180 degrees out. Same thing although it did give a puff thru the throttle body. When rebuilt, new plugs but reused coil since was running. On the little distributor, what is the pointer of the rotor. Once the cap is removed the spot where a rotor would usually be is just a half circle.
Ok, so couldn't figure out why people kept talking about damn plug wires and rotors. Come to find out I failed to mention i have a 4.0l. The last post was awesome. Its 1:30am and I just came in from the 2 inches of snow cause I had to try. Followed directions and motor started up. Took 8 seconds of starting - I know its too long. Ran rough. Tried to restart and same thing. Granted its late and snowing. I will go back out when the weather is better, and the sun is up, and retrace my steps to make sure its correct. Will keep everyone posted.
....also, if it's just the distributor clock wrong the motor will backfire and some feed back, not just crank like you said.
I know the OP figure it out, but I'm pretty sure if the crank position sensor and cam shaft position sensor (which is in the distributor) are not in sync the computer will trigger the ASD, which will allow the engine crank all day long but won't have fuel or spark.