Plenty of people have contributed to the Eastwood How To Center over the year, and every one of them has advice in their area of expertise. Below you'll find a collection of advice they have given covering every stage of your automotive project, from reviving that dead project car, to maintaining it over the long winter months, to detailing and improving it for daily drive duties. If you want to follow along with Eastwood projects, we also have plenty of how to advice in the Project Pile House (pictured), on our blog and the Zed Sled project in our Hands On Cars YouTube series.
All restorers have come across an engine that has seized up from lack of use. You'll hear many stories of how to break such an engine free. But, the trick is to break it free without "breaking the engine." We've even seen, on a rare occasion, a stuck motor revived and run fine.
First, pull all the spark plugs. Our secret recipe formula elixir is 1 part Marvel Mystery Oil and 1 part automatic transmission fluid. Fill each cylinder with this mixture and let it sit for a couple weeks. Using a large breaker bar and socket on the end of the crankshaft, try to turn the engine ever so slightly each way. Each time turn a little more, until you've turned the engine over. If this doesn't work, remove the cylinder head.
When you drop the distributor back into the engine, you need to rotate the rotor ahead (clockwise) roughly 10° to 15° to compensate for the spiral gears (assuming the direction of the rotor was marked on the engine prior to distributor removal). It will turn back to its marked position when it is fully seated.
If the engine was disturbed, the left valve cover needs to be removed and the engine turned over SLOWLY so that you can observe first the exhaust, then the intake valve, close on the #1 cylinder (#1 is the front cylinder on the left bank, intake valve is the second valve back on #1, exhaust is first). Then align the timing mark on the balancer to the TDC point on the timing gauge on the chain cover.
Next, the oil pump slot needs to be turned to align with the tab on the end of the distributor shaft (the tab is aligned with the rotor). Finally, identify the #1 plug wire on the cap and point the rotor toward that direction but ahead (clockwise) roughly 10 to 15° to compensate for the spiral gears. It will turn back to the #1 position when it is fully seated.
This should allow the engine to start, after which the timing can be set with the timing light.
If you've been using a 12-point socket, switch to a 6-point. That extra contact might save the day. If not, and you're working with U.S.-size bolts, try the very next size smaller, but from a metric set (for example, go from a 9/16" to a 13mm). Gently tap it onto the bolt. If you've rounded it off enough, it may fit, giving you a fresh start. If not, the next step may be the heat wrench.
A common myth in relation to collector cars is the idea that 6-volt electrical systems are in some way inferior to 12-volts. Some hobbyists convert their cars to 12-volts, switching to alternators, complex batches of resistors on stock items like gauges and original radios. Of course all light bulbs have to be switched so they won't instantly blow.
Obviously, if you're driving a highly modified car with contemporary stereos, halogen lights and CD ignition, then 12-volts may be necessary. However, if you have a basic stock, 6-volt car, the truth is that you do not need to make the change. If your old car is suffering from slow starts, dim lights or worse, the 6-volt electrical system is not to blame.
Make sure your battery cable terminals are clean and clamped securely to the battery. Test the battery with a proper teater set to 6-volts, or a digital multi-meter. Many guys have thrown out a good 6-volt battery after using a 12-volt tester. Test the battery under load too, many times a battery that tests good, will test bad under the strain of cranking the motor.
If the battery is bad or weak, purchase a good quality one from your local auto parts store(most likely a special order) or a company that specializes in the original-looking tar top script batteries.
If the car still is slow cranking, the next most likely place to look is the starter. Remove the unit and take it to a specialist in your community who tests and rebuilds starters. These guys are still around and often will check out your unit and rebuild it as needed for not much money.
Go through your wiring, connections and test your generator for output as well. It is not uncommon for a generator to not start charging the battery till the engine RPM reaches 1,000-1,500. With many old cars able to idle down to 500 rpm without stalling, this can be a problem in modern traffic. Test is and see what RPM is starts to charge at, to adjust your driving accordingly. In an extreme case you may be able to swap pulleys and turn t he generator faster at lower RPM, or it may just need to be rebuilt. Make sure you have a fresh, tight, generator belt as well.
It has been our experience that when everything in your electric system is A-OK, your 6-volt car will start and perform as well as a 12-volt car of the same vintage. Remember, people drove 6-volt cars to work every day without much trouble from the the 1920s until the mid 1950s. If your car has other symptoms, such as slow starts only when hot or cold, you may need to take a look at the engine itself.
Carburetors, ignition points equipped distributors, mechanical fuel pumps, these marvelously basic components were found on virtually all cars before the advent of modern electronic fuel injection and computer control systems. Vintage cars with mechanical ignition and fuel systems required periodic tuning to keep them running right. You'll need a proper shop manual covering your specific model car, or one of the old Motor Manuals, (the mechanic's bible back in the day) which cover every car made within a few years of its published date. Some of the useful old school tools you may want are:
Vacuum Gauge – This is perhaps the most useful yet underused tools, it reads both vacuum and pressure, for gas and fluids. You can use it to:
- Adjust the carburetor for the best fuel mixture at idle. The steadiest and highest vacuum reading at the specified idle RPM indicates the ideal air fuel ratio.
- Identify bad valves or seats. A quickly fluctuating needle indicates valves that are not sealing properly.
- Indicate an exhaust restriction. A reading lower at 1500-2000 RPM, than the idle, indicates excess exhaust back pressure.
- Indicate a vacuum leak. A low reading at idle, dropping to nearly zero when the throttle is opened, will reveal a vacuum leak, or possibly worn piston rings.
- Test mechanical fuel pumps. The vacuum gauge will also read low pressures and is used to test for mechanical fuel pump pressure and reveal internal leakage.
Compression Tester – This will reveal much about the condition of individual cylinders and the overall health of an engine. Unscrew all the spark plugs, and screw the tested into each spark plug hole in turn. Crank the motor with the throttle open and observe the readings for eacy cylinder. You can use it to:
- Identify a bad head gasket. Two adjacent cylinders display readings significantly lower than the rest, most likely indicates a leak between cylinders.
- Indicate worn rings. Compression that builds by cranking the engine to a point, yet does not develop close to the factory rating indicates may indicate bad rings.
- Find damaged or leaking valves. Low readings that do not increase with a spoon of oil in the cylinder indicates valves that are not sealing.
- Indicate carbon build up. Readings exceeding factory specifications can be attributed to excessive carbon buildup on pistons and combustion chambers.
Timing Light – You can't properly set the ignition timing without one. The strobe “stops” the engine, allowing you to read the timing marks. You can also use it to:
- Reveal erratic timing. The strobe effect of the timing light can reveal a distributor or timing chain that is worn and resulting in erratic spark timing.
- Identify valve train noise. Noise the coincides with the tempo of the strobe light flashes indicates top end or valve issues, as opposed to bottom end or crank noises.
When purchasing new spark plugs, use the specified manufacturer's plugs when possible. If not, replace them with a well-known brand such as Champion, A/C Delco, Bosch, etc. Don't waste your money on the hyped-up, "newest breakthrough" in spark plug technology. These plugs rarely pay for themselves in fuel economy or longevity.
Use compressed air to blow debris away from around the spark plug before removing plug. Pull on the plug boot, not the wire. Check the condition of the old plugs to get an idea of what is going on inside the combustion chambers.
When replacing the spark plugs, Check the plug gap against your car's specifications, even if they've been preset. Use a small amount of anti-seize compound on the threads to avoid galvanic reaction with the cylinder head. Apply a small amount of dielectric grease on the inside of the plug boot where the boot contacts the ceramic insulator of the plug to make it easier to get off in the future.
Is there a water leak in a windshield, rear window or body seam that you just can’t seem to find...or stop? Most water leaks originate along windshield and rear window seals or cowl and other body seams. This time-proven technique using Eastwood's Heavy-Duty Anti-Rust (in Neutral or Black) is for you.
1) On a clear, dry day, climb inside your car and have your helper take a garden hose and run the water over the car in the area suspected of leaking. If you're not sure from which area the leak is originating, start from the lower areas, such as the cowl, and work your way up around the windshield pillars and around the roof. Once the water flowing from the hose reaches the entry point, your leak should begin. At this point stop the water, note the exterior location, and thoroughly dry the car. Leaving it in bright sun for a few hours is best.
2) To seal the leak, pour some Eastwood Heavy-Duty Anti-Rust into an empty metal coffee can or other suitable container, and place the container into gently boiling water. Allow the Heavy-Duty Anti-Rust to “melt” and thin-out to a water-like pouring consistency. Form a pouring spout in your container by bending it, and while wearing heat-resistant gloves, CAREFULLY begin pouring the thinned out Heavy-Duty Anti-Rust into the suspected leak path. It will flow like water into the leak area. Let it cool and solidify, after which it will fill-in the gap, seam or hole, sealing the leak.
3) After the Heavy-Duty Anti-Rust has solidified, use kerosene to remove any excess spilled on the exterior of your car. It will quickly dissolve the Anti-Rust and not harm your paint.
That is all there is too it, if you do the job right the Anti-Rust will have done exactly what the water was doing, and in the process plugged the hole, sealed it, and coated it to prevent future rust in the area.
A years ago, I bought $1600 high-performance car stereo system for my 1990 Chevy Beretta GT. After a weekend of installation, everything looked good and it was time for the ultimate test. I placed the key into the car's ignition, turned it, and Boom, Boom! To my surprise, I quickly realized I couldn't hear the music because of all the noise. It hadn't occurred to me that 1,000 watts of pulsating bass pumping through 12" woofers would cause the car to rattle so much. Inside the car, the rattling was real bad, but standing outside you could hear the entire body resonating.
Some research revealed a product called Dynamat. Which was effective in virtually eliminating vibrations and dampening road noise in cars. The mat adheres to sheet metal, fiberglass, plastic and wood, and can easily be cut to size. I bought three rolls of Dynamat, along with a Dynamat Applicator Roller for less than $100.
After an additional few hours of pealing back carpet, and sticking mat to body panels, I was ready to try again. I turned the key in the ignition again with a bit of anxiety, and...BOOM, BOOM! NO RATTLE! I got out and listened from the outside of the car, and nothing! The only sounds to be heard were the bass and the music. Not only did Dynamat put an end to the rattling of the car, it also increased the quality of the sound!
Eastwood also has brush on, or spray on sound deadening paint, and other products that can help control annoying noises, not to mention heat as well. Choose from the original Dynamat, or the latest Boom Mat from DEI, or Eastwood's own X Mat, and liquid products from Eastwood and Lizard Skin. Check out all of them right .
There's been a trend in recent years to switch old cars, from post-war years, up to the 1960s, from bias to radial tires. Some people do it because they don’t know where to purchase the original style bias play tires, and others do it because they're convinced the car will drive better with radials. The truth is, very few, if any, collector cars drive well with radials. These cars were not designed to run on radials, and radial-tuned suspensions were not commonplace on American cars until the mid-1970s.
The other problem with radials is their lower profile, making your car ride and look lower. This is fine for hot rods, customs, and daily drivers, but not for accurately restored classics. In some cases, such as 9.50”x14", no comparable radial exists. As a test, we added the correct-size bias ply tire to a 1960 Lincoln Continental that had been poorly fitted with the largest available 14” radial. The result was a car that sat almost two full inches higher, and immediately took on the look of a restored classic, as opposed an ordinary used car. No other item you can add to your car makes it look more authentic than a fresh set of tires that are the correct size and construction.
Wondering where to buy tires for your classic? Contact the folks at Coker Tire in Chattanooga, Tennessee. They have tires to match cars of every era and style. They even have a database to ID the correct size and style for nearly any car ever made. You'll note that wide whitewall radials are now available, and these are great on street rods or cruisers, we still recommend going with the OEM bias tires in a correct size and tread pattern. And if your collector car is of the more modern muscle variety, Coker sells reproductions of the original red line and wide oval tires those came with.
Some folks will tell you their car already has the correct style of wide whitewall tires, but it drives horribly. This is most likely because the car has a set of older tires or tires made from molds featuring a straight-rib tread design. For your car to track properly, your tires have to have a real tread. Straight-rib tires follow every irregularity in the road, while treaded tires do not. We took a set of Lester straight-rib tires off a 1938 LaSalle and replaced them with a set of correct-style B.F. Goodrich tires from Coker. The owner was completely amazed how much better the car drove and steered.
Modern gasoline formulations tend to breakdown while in storage, sometimes starting in as little as 6 weeks. Years ago, you could store a car and have gasoline be fine for years as long as it didn't evaporate, or get water contamination. Additives (many blame the ethanol) in new fuels can also cause swelling in rubber parts like fuel lines, and break down parts like fuel pump diaphragms, o-rings, gaskets, and carburetor floats and seals. We recently saw an original'57 Chevrolet show car have its carburetor opened to reveal the accelerator pumps had been completely dissolved by the modern fuels.
Draining your gas tank for winter storage may be impractical for many cars and owners, and can also allow the inside of the tank to rust. Sta-Bil makes several products to stabilize your fuel for winter storage. Just a small amount of fuel stabilizer in your gas protects against phase separation and deterioration, as well as gum, varnish, rust, corrosion, and water in the fuel. This product can also be bought at lawn and garden stores, tractor dealerships, boat yards, auto parts stores, private airports...any place gasoline engine vehicles are frequently stored. Of course you can order it right here too.
Sta-bil also has products meant for regular use in your daily driver, to protect from the bad effects of ethanol - Sta-bil Ethanol Treatment. Their formula, not only stabilizes your fuel, and counteracts ethanol's effects, it guards against rust and corrosion too, in the entire fuel system. You can even use these in lawn and garden equipment, motorcycle, outboard motor, or anything powered by gasoline really.
Once you've hit the big fall car shows and done your share of leaf picking and foliage tours, it's time to think about getting your special car ready for a long winter's nap. A crucial item in winter car storage is your car's battery. If not handled properly, you can count on a dead battery, and, possibly, a cracked case and spilled battery acid.
One way to avoid this kind of potential trouble is to remove the battery and store it in your basement. That environment, being warmer than the garage, will help keep the battery from running down. Further, since it will be disconnected, you are sure not to have an electrical drain on the battery. Those with a heated garage can accomplish the same thing by leaving the battery in the car, and simply disconnecting the battery or utilizing one of the many battery cutoff switches available today. Eastwood has a top-post Battery Shut-Off Switch.
If you do not have a basement or similar storage area warmer than a garage, and need to leave your battery in the car for the winter, there are several precautionary measures we suggest. As we prepared to put a 1970 Plymouth Super Bird to rest for the winter we, too, followed these steps:
1. - First, take your battery out of the tray and clean the tray thoroughly. A solution of water and baking soda will neutralize acid remaining in the tray. Scale and rust should be removed, too. If rust cannot be completely removed, then remove any grease/oil residue and apply a couple of coats of Rust Encapsulator. You may want to seal your tray at this time.
2. - At this point, we hooked-up our battery to a Deltran 12v Battery Tender Plus. The Battery Tender keeps the battery gently charged without overcharging (like trickle chargers can and sometimes do). Your battery will remain charged and ready to go without suffering from damaging run-down.
Should you want to fire that car up once a month or so to keep everything lubricated, or a winter event comes up, you're ready to go. The connections from the tender to the battery are accomplished with alligator clips, or it can be hardwired with a simple plug, which is included. The Battery Tender comes in 6- and 12-volt versions and a Battery Tender Junior is available as well for smaller applications, like motorcycles and garden tractors.
Checking Your Engine Compartment: Under-The-Hood Tips
Does your car run hotter than it should?
Check the fan belts and make sure they're tight, with no cracks or fraying along the edges.
Have radiator hoses gotten mushy and soft when you squeeze them?
If so, they are beginning to deteriorate and may be collapsing internally, thereby blocking water flow.
Has the front of the radiator gotten so clogged with bugs that you can start your own collection of flying insects?
Spray a steady stream of water from the engine side of the radiator to flush them off.
Are the radiator fins bent?
Straighten them out with radiator fin pliers or a fin comb..
Is there anything leaking?
Take a good long look at the engine compartment, using a flashlight and mirror to check inaccessible spots. Notice any wet or discolored spots that might indicate an oil or coolant leak? Can you smell anything unusual, like antifreeze or fuel? These need to be checked out and corrected pronto...especially gasoline leaks.
Are you hearing any unusual noises from the engine?
If you have difficulty pinpointing the source of the sound, get a "mechanics stethoscope" to locate the noise. A knocking sound can usually be traced to the crankshaft or piston rod bearings. A slapping sound may indicate worn pistons, rings or cylinder walls. A whooshing vacuum sound might indicate a leaking intake manifold, loose fuel injectors, or a bad vacuum line or vacuum connection. In general, the louder the sound, the worse the condition.
Of course, be careful when sticking your face under the hood to listen with the engine running. The fan can cut you, or loose clothing may get trapped by it! You could suffer a nasty burn from a number of places. The battery can easily get short-circuited if metal jewelry touches it.
Are your vehicle tires looking a little "tired"? Don't save that bleach-type whitewall cleaner for just whitewalls. Blackwalls and raised white letter tires need cleaning too. A good strong whitewall cleaner/bleach like "Wesley's Bleche-Wite" (that's how they spell it), which has been around forever and is hard to beat, works on all tires. Following the instructions, saturate your entire tire, including black areas, whitewalls and raised white letters.
Scrub with a good whitewall brush, even a wire brush, not a sponge, and rinse thoroughly. If you do use a tire dressing, don't use the slimy kind (we better not mention names here) as they tend to dry your tires out. Groit's Long Lasting Dressing is held in high regard by many detailers, and works on rubber bumpers and rub strips too. For blackwall tires, and a high gloss shine, try Groit's Black Shine tire and trim coating spray. Whatever you do, don't apply these types of dressings to the whitewall area since it will lead to premature browning and cracking.
Even newer cars can take on a run down appearance when their painted wheels begin to show their age. Our test vehicle, a 1994 Ford Ranger, was just such a case. We were adding a new set of OEM Firestone tires and took the opportunity to touch-up the wheels.
1. - We started by washing the wheel/tire assemblies, and making sure they dried properly. Fortunately, none of the wheels had any rust or corrosion.
2. - After a proper sanding we masked off the outer edge of the wheel and tire. We did this before installing the new tires, so it wouldn't matter so much. If you still have the old tires on, you don't even need to mask. We recommend taking wheels off the truck for painting.
3. - With repeated light coats of Eastwood Silver/Argent Rally Wheel Paint, we restored the brightness that had long since left these wheels. We did not bother to mask the center four slotted holes, as we knew we would be painting the reverse side satin black once again afterwards.
4. - Using 3" wide masking tape, we masked each hole carefully so we could paint the reverse side. The wide tape conformed well to the holes and provided just enough shielding from overspray to the rest of the freshly painted silver wheels.
5. - Once masked, we carefully painted the inner facing wheel rims, with Eastwood Satin Black Wheel Paint.
4. - Once unmasked, our Ranger looked fresh as a daisy!
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