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Eastwood Auto Restoration Blog - Free How-to Automotive Tech Advice for Everything DIY Automotive

  • Repair Manuals Will Save Your Project

    If you plan on doing any type of serious work on your car or even just basic maintenance its a good idea to to buy a vehicle specific repair manual.  Depending on the car you drive it may be harder to find the exact manual, but for the most part a simple internet search will help you find the correct one for your car.  If you think buying one of these is not necessary you should probably reconsider.  The companies that produce these manuals have already done all the hard work for you.  These manuals usually have step by step instructions on how to take apart and reassemble every part of your vehicle, some even will show a full engine break down.

    Nova Manual

    Going in to a project blind can be fun because we all want to figure everything out for ourselves and not have any help along the way.  What happens if you hit a wall in the middle or forget how something goes back together? In this situation you only have a few options, even searching the internet may not help because you may already be over your head.


    Having a repair manual will allow you to go into a project without any unknowns, some will even give tips on the exact way to remove the part so you don't break it.  I know first hand that my car would not be running today without the help of a repair manual.  If your vehicle requires special tools, a manual will not only tell you what tool you will need, but also give a part number which will make locating one easier.


    Check out the Eastwood Blog and Tech Archive for more How-To's, Tips and Tricks to help you with all your automotive projects.  If you have a recommendation for future articles or have a project you want explained don't hesitate to leave a comment.

    - James R/EW

  • How Air Compressors Work

    The concept behind the air compressor is a simple one and easily understandable to anyone who is into old cars and such. The reason the pump on the top of your compressor looks like a simplified motorcycle engine is because it basically is. The vast majority of compressors, from the tiny 12v tire inflator you stash in your trunk to the big 80 gallon shop unit, basically compress air with an air cooled piston engine. In fact, there are kits to turn air cooled VW bug motors into gas powered air compressors that could be mounted in the bed of a truck; two cylinders power it and two compress the air.


    When the electric motor kicks in, the piston is drawn down the stroke of the cylinder. A simple spring-loaded one way valve opens allowing clean atmospheric air in, usually sucking thru some kind of air filter to keep out dirt and dust just like your car. The piston then moves up, compressing the air, and a 2nd valve opens to let the now pressurize air into the tank, or out into your tire in the case of a tire inflator or the one outside at the gas station. When a gauge signals that the tank has the correct pressure, the motor stops.

    Because air tools, spray guns and the like only allow the air out thru a restriction, the tank stays pressurized for a while. If an air hose were to break, the air would all come out pretty quick and return to atmospheric pressure in seconds. The CFM rating on a compressor indicates how many cubic feet of air per minute can leak out via the tool you are using before the pump would be unable to keep up with the demand at a given pressure.

    Multi-Stage and Screw Compressors

    There are variations on how air compressors work. There are multi stage reciprocating compressors, and nearly silent rotary screw compressors.


    Two stage compressors typically have a v-twin looking head on top of the tank. The first cylinder works just like a single stage, but instead of feeding the tank, it feeds the intake on a second smaller cylinder, the second cylinder, then compresses it even more. There are also three piston versions that work the same way, as well as single stage multi-cylinder units for more air flow at lower pressures.

    oilfree rotary screw casing_tcm1340-3536433

    Rotary screw compressors work more like a Roots-type supercharger. Two rotors intermesh, forcing air into a smaller space along the length of the rotors, and finally out into the tank. Because of how they work, they produce more of a constant “whir” then the “chuga-chuga” of a reciprocating pump. This makes them popular for applications where noise is an issue. This type of compressor is also generally used in larger industrial application because of its increased efficiency and ability to deliver larger volumes of air at high pressure.

    Care and Maintenance


    No matter how you compress the air, you have to deal with the physics of thermal dynamics and moisture. Squishing the air makes it hot, it’s an unavoidable by-product of compression, which is why some units have cooling fins on the supply line to the tank, or even a separate intercooler. All air has moisture in it too and compressing it results in condensation, which is why you need to drain the tank occasionally, and use an air dryer in applications like spraying paint. Just like an engine, compressors need to be lubricated, and if you are spraying paint, you need to strip the oil out of the airstream as well as the water. Luckily, most air dryers function this way already.

  • Why Powder Coating is Better Than Spray Paint

    For some unknown reason a lot of car guys are very hesitant to take the plunge into the world of powder coating. This means a lot of people are missing out on all the benefits powder coating has compared to other types of coatings. It seems like there is some fear of powder coating that is preventing car enthusiasts from buying the equipment and starting to coat on their own. You might be surprised to learn that in some cases it's actually cheaper to powder coat something than painting. The truth is that there are fewer tools and materials needed to powder coat compared to painting. For instance there are many more consumable materials needed when painting and thats not including the paint itself. If you were to compare the differences between painting or powder coating a part for your car, the first step would be to take it down to bare metal.

    From here the processes are different, and also vary in the time required to complete each.


    consour pro

    If you're coating the part with a traditional 1K or 2K paint the piece must be sealed to prevent corrosion and rusting. Using epoxy primer, which can be applied directly to bare metal is the best option. Automotive paints generally shouldn't be applied directly to bare metal because there could be adhesion issues. If you're spraying the part with a 2K primer you will need the correct activator which means another cost associated with the job.

    Ok so now that you went out to buy more activator and sprayed the piece with primer, you then have to apply a top coat. Not only will you need the paint, you will also need the reducer and activator if you are using a 2K top coat. Just when you think you're finally done you realize there is still one more step, applying clear coat. The clear coat requires its own activator as well, that's more money out of pocket if you don't already have it. At this point you think you may have spent too much time and way too much money, but the end result does look great.

    With Powder Coating you first make the investment in a powder gun and oven. From there all that is needed is to buy the powder itself. Pretty much any electric oven will work (just don't use one you cook food with!). No special activators, reducers, or other chemicals are needed (other than PRE, to clean the bare metal).  Prepping a metal object to paint or powder coat is a similar process, the only difference is that any non-metal pieces must be removed since they will not be able to withstand the heat needed to cure the powder.


    Lets see how they match up.Paintvpowder

    When comparing paint and powder, durability is always #1 on the list. Before we compare the two we first have to mention the different types of paint. Generally speaking, 1K paints in an aerosol can are worlds apart from the paint on your car. Most 1K aerosols paints are usually enamel paint. The down side to enamel paints are that they never fully dry, they just harden when exposed to air. Additionally they will break down and essentially melt if they come in contact with a solvent.  The paint on your car is known as a 2K catalyzed paint. This means that before the paint is applied an activator is mixed into the paint. The catalyzed paint will actually change its chemical make up and cure, making it resistant to solvents. While a catalyzed paint is much stronger than aerosol paints it still does not compare to powder.






    Once powder fully cures it's much harder than traditional paint, making it much more scratch and chip resistant. There's a reason almost all high-end custom cars have powder-coated frames!  A powder coated part that is exposed to extreme conditions is less likely to chip off and peel like paint would.




    Powder isn’t just harder than paint, it's also extremely flexible. We've tested the flexibility of powder by applying it to tin foil, crumbling it up, and flattening it back out. The results were incredible, none of the powder had flaked off! Try doing that same test with spray paint, more will end up on the floor than the foil!


    One of the visibly noticeable differences between powder and paint is the actual material thickness. A functional coat of powder can be up to 10X thicker than paint. This means that there is a greater protection between the outside world and the bare metal.


    Corrosion Resistance

    When prepped and applied correctly, powder does an incredible job of preventing corrosion because of how strong it is.  When a painted surface is scratched it is much more likely to go down to bare metal.  At that point corrosion will begin and start to spread.  Since powder is so much harder than paint the chance that a scratch will reach bare metal is very unlikely, making it the perfect coating for chassis and suspension parts.


     Ease of Cleaning Up


    If you've spray painted before, you'll know how awful overspray can be. No matter how much you prepare, it seems to get everywhere. Cleaning up overspray can be very difficult because it requires the use of harsh chemicals. In its raw form, cleaning up powder is no different than cleaning up sugar and flour spilled in the kitchen. Simply sweeping it up or using a vacuum is all that will be needed.


    Reclaiming/Reusing Powder

    2K paint must be used once it is mixed, powder does not require any additives. This means you can use it at you own leisure. Powder under normal circumstances does not dry out or cure even when it's left out.

    If you really want to be frugal, powder that doesn't stick to your part can be reclaimed and reused by sweeping it up and sifting. Just make sure you use a very fine screen to sift so that there are no other contaminants in the powder. This may be very tricky to do at home, but with some care it can be done.

    Eco Friendly Application

    Traditional paint guns atomize the liquid paint into the air while a powder coating gun uses air to propel the powder towards the part. As the powder is leaving the gun a slight charge is added to the powder. The powder sticks to the grounded part because the powder has a slight charge when it leaves the gun and it's then attracted to the grounded part.

    Unlike liquid paints that are sprayed, there aren't any may health threats to being in the same room without a mask on. Powder coating does not even require the use of a typical carbon filter mask, just a simple dust mask to keep from directly inhaling the powder when spraying. Because powder is heavier than atomized paint, overspray will fall on the ground right around the part and won't float in the air for extended periods of time.
    Check out the Eastwood Blog and Tech Archive for more How-To's, Tips and Tricks to help you with all your automotive projects.  If you have a recommendation for future articles or have a project you want explained don't hesitate to leave a comment.

    - James R/EW

  • How to Select a Project Vehicle

    It is impossible sometimes to stop a friend (or yourself) from selecting the wrong project vehicle. After all, the heart wants what it wants, as they say. If you fall in love with an incredibly rare car, you may have no choice. Condition and completeness are less of an issue when you find the only Humber Super Snipe within 500 miles after 6 months of searching.

    For the rest of us, looking for more typical cars, there is hope. Below are some tips to make your project an easier one.

    Play to Your Strengths


    What is it about this hobby that you enjoy doing most? What parts of old vehicle restoration are you good at? What are you hopeless at? What are you going to have to farm out, no matter what?

    If you are the kind of guy who likes the dynamic systems, like drivetrain, brakes and suspension, a well preserved car, even one with no motor or transmission is going to be much better than a car in need of extensive body and interior work. If you can whip up interiors in a flash, a car that lived a hard life, with a saggy headliner and ripped seats, that smells like someone has been living in it might be an easy fix for you. If you are an ace collision bodywork guy, or an artist at rust repair, you should look for a body shell that needs the kind of work you excel at.

    Nothing is worse than having a project that gets stalled at a plateau simply because you need a major piece of work done that you can’t handle and don’t have the money for. This is why you see beautiful shiny cars that still blow smoke out the tailpipe, or good running cars with rust holes, ratty interiors or dents in them. Be realistic about your abilities, and shop for your project accordingly.

    Nothing But the Best

    This suggestion seems kind of silly to have to say, but buy the best example of the car/truck you can find. If after a few weeks or months of searching you can’t find anything but rusted out hulks, which are home to a family of squirrels, maybe you just don’t have the budget for this particular car/bike/truck. Garages and yards are full of projects that seemed simple, but snowballed, got too big, went downhill fast and overwhelmed their owner, never to be finished.

    Look for the least rusty, least wrecked example you can find. There is a reason people all over the country (and the world really) shop for cars from California, Arizona, New Mexico and the like: The dry, snow free climate is good for old iron. Cars from the desert areas of the south west tend to be almost mummified they are so well preserved. Sure, the paint may be baked, or sand blasted off by the wind and the desert, but the underlying bones of the car are going to be there to build on.

    Know What Is Available

    Do some research and find out what parts for this particular project are hard to find. For some models there is no source for trim besides going back in time. But for popular cars like Mustangs, of nearly any vintage, you can practically build a whole new one from the VIN plate up.

    Sometimes even similar cars share almost no trim and have no aftermarket support: 1959 and 1960 Chevrolet Impalas, for example. And for some corporate cousins, parts may be easier to come by for the value brand, like Plymouth and Dodge, and next to impossible to find for the Desotos or Imperials of the same era.

    For other cars the drivetrain is the hard part. You don’t find Cosworth Vega or ZR1 Corvette motors at your local wrecking yard these days. The Pantera may use common, easily sourced Ford V8s, but if that ZF transaxle is bad, you are going to spend a lot of money for a rebuild or a replacement.

    Think Small


    What is the goal of your project? If you just want to have a cool old car to cruise around in, or to build an awesome street/strip car, “numbers matching” isn’t doesn’t get you any advantages. If you don’t think your project is going to end up on stage at a Scottsdale auction for big bucks, start shopping the bargain rack. Most top of the line muscle cars go for big bucks, but their run of the mill cousins sell for relatively little. When you get done with a project 1964-67 Tempest, it likely going to be a better car to drive than a bone stock GTO of the same era, so why pay the premium price for a GTO project car? A built crate motor will drop into a slant six powered Challenger just as easily as it will a 340 car, thanks to aftermarket support these days. And in many ways an Impala is just a Biscayne in its dress uniform.

    Crate motors, 5 and 6 speed transmissions, disc brake conversions and all sorts of aftermarket modern goodies are widely available these days. This has made it easy to build a car dynamically better than anything the factory turned out when these old cars were new. Even a dedicated race car, like a first generation Shelby Mustang Trans-Am car, would have a hard time beating a run of the mill pony car of the era rebuilt with modern brake and suspension upgrades and a fuel injected 302 crate motor backed with a 6 speed manual transmission.

    Other People’s Projects

    There are bargains to be had buying other peoples projects, especially from a seller motivated by an angry wife or neighbors. But this method has more pitfalls then buying a decrepit old hulk. If the body work and paint have been done, be extra careful when looking for signs of major rust repairs done with a trowel and a wheelbarrow full of Bondo. Typically, it costs more to restore a car properly than the market value of the car, so buying an almost finished project usually gets you a bargain. Just be sure you know why it’s only almost finished, and make sure you can get over that hump, whatever it is.


    Often times, one of the things that can doom an almost finished project are the legalities of the paperwork. The laws from state to state vary widely when it comes to registering an old project car. Some states need an original copy of the title, signed by the last owner or you’ll have a hard time even trying to sell the car for scrap. Some states will accept a bill of sale scrawled on the back of a cocktail napkin, as long as your check clears. Some states, California for instance, can require you to pay years of back registration fees for a car if it wasn’t taken off the road the officially sanctioned way.

    Be sure to know what the rules are in your state before dropping a large sum of money into a project. You may end up with a pretty lawn ornament that you have no legal ownership to, and can’t register. There are ways to launder a title thru another state, typically advertised in various automotive magazines, but it’s better to know what you are getting into when you buy the car. Knowing the ins and outs of your state’s title process is also a good way to negotiate a little better deal on your project.

    Happy Hunting

    So good luck, and happy project hunting! Try not to fall in love with the first one you find. Remember, the guys who get the best deals have a wad of cash in an envelope and a trailer hitched to their truck before they ever see the car for sale ad. For many of us “How to Stop Picking Project Cars” would be a more useful guide at this point.

  • Building a Simple Hot Rod Chassis From Scratch

    I decided to start building the chassis for a 1930 Model A Coupe project I've been gathering parts for. The vision for this project was to build a traditional hot rod using a strong chassis that gives the car a nice stance all while utilizing some old and original parts to give the build the "soul" of a car built back in the late 1940's-early 1950's. This means other than raw material used and the replacement maintenance type parts, we'll be building it using old "stuff".

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