íKNOW, Iíve been writing my Dirty Stuff column in this magazine for a tad over 30 years now, beginning with the Nov/Dec 1985 issue. So Telfo suggested I put together a bit of a Ďfix-ití piece, a list of 30 things that might go wrong with your ride and how you can sort them out Ė or better yet, avoid them happening in the first place. Hopefully they might help you avoid a tilt-tray trip home after your ride dies on a cruise. Theyíre all based on my 58 years of mechanical and electrical experiences with modified street machines. So here they all are, in no special order.
THE car has been running funny and finally stops. The ignition is working fine, but thereís no fuel to be seen inside the inline filter, and the carbs are as dry as a dead dog bone. Thereís mobs of unleaded in the tank but the pump is only delivering air. Then you notice a fuel weep from one of the bundy pipe connections, and you suddenly remember that when you refitted the Holley Blue, you forgot to tighten the olive nuts, causing a vacuum leak on the inlet side of the pump.
THE engine wonít fire after you stop at a country pub, because the battery is dead. So you ask the missus to go borrow another one and fit this into the machine, while you throw down a couple more stubbies.
Maybe sheís crabby at that, because she puts the battery in backwards and when you go to light up the engine, these wrong connections blow the bejesus out of the onboard computers.
YOUR machine develops a mid- to high-speed misfire, but itís got fuel and sparks and the plugs and leads are new. The ignition system is electronic, but the alternator has seen lots of kays. This is where you need to carry a dead-cheap volt meter, and a check with that across the main posts of the battery with the engine running reveals that youíve only got 12.2 volts.
Electronic ignitions are designed for an alternator output of 14.2; anything under that and the plugs only get weak zaps.
SUDDENLY, thereís a nasty thumping noise from the rear, and the car now seems to drive lopsided. Youíd better stop the thing and go look for the left rear mag, which fell off half a kay back. The nuts are gone, but you can pinch one off each remaining wheel to get you slowly home.
WITH the foot down while going uphill, the engine is flaring as the auto tranny seems about to die. Most likely itís low on oil, which you can check with the dipstick with the engine at idle. If thereís zilch on the stick, youíve either got a leaking rear seal, a split in the pipes that run forward to the oil cooler, or youíve done in the transmission sump when you bounced over that last speed bump.
THE leg effort need to stop the machine has increased to almost impossible, with a rock-hard pedal. Before you rip off the brake booster behind the master cylinder to fit a new one, check the condition of the reinforced rubber hose that feeds vacuum to the booster from the inlet manifold of the engine. They can collapse inside where it canít be seen, completely blocking the vacuum feed.
WITH a fizz of steam, a radiator hose splits. I always carry a coupla rolls of PVC tape and four litres of coolant, just in case a mongrel hose blows on the road. Three layers of tape will be enough to patch the hose, with a half-tightened radiator cap to ease the pressure.
If an engine mount is busted, a jump-about engine will rip a hose off real easy.
ANOTHER case of a suddenly dead engine. Thereís no sparks out of the MSD, so this is now volt meter time with the ignition on, with the black lead on a clean engine earth and the other checking to see if youíve got juice at the dizzy with the contact points open. Low-tension leads have a habit of breaking inside the insulation when they get old and hard, shutting down all battery voltage.
THEREíS a nasty bumping, growling noise from a front wheel as you cruise. You dummy Ė youíve fitted an outer tapered-roller wheel bearing in backwards, and now youíre about to lose that wheel!
YOUíVE got high-speed hot engine misfiring, worse under wide throttle load, with intermittent backfiring. Thatís usually caused by the wrong choice of sparkplugs, where theyíre too hot in the heat range for a modified engine; only trial and error with colder plugs will get that right.
SUDDEN loss of small-block power. Didnít you miss that whine from your top-mount blower, or notice the shredded Gilmer drive belt lying back there in the middle of the road? No easy fix for this, but the half-power machine should get you home.
YOUR old Chevy/Ford/Holden with stock contact-point ignition wonít start from cold, and thereís no blue zaps to be seen with a plug lead end 3mm off the block and the engine cranking. Their contact point systems are inside the distributor, and any grey grot on the platinum switching faces will shut down the normal low-tension feed to the coil. So clean these faces shiny with fine wet-and-dry emery paper.
SAME scene, but that straight-six or bent-eight is refusing to fire when itís been hot and stopped for a while. Could be whatís called hot carb percolation, where the fuel inside the bowl is seeping up over the sides and flooding the engine. The fix for this is a 6mm insulating block under the carb base.
ITíS all sweet when youíre cruising along, but then the engine screams and a rear wheel flies off into the shrubbery. That cheapie shortening job you got done on the nine-inch axles, where they machined off the flanges and welded the axles back in, didnít work, and one broke at the weld.
A SMELL of burnt oil, and a half a brake pedal when you pull up to stop. Thatís the tandem master cylinder safety feature, because now youíve only got brakes on two wheels, as one of those old flexible brake hoses you fitted has blown a hole, and almost emptied the reservoir.
THE temp gauge says your engine is boiling, but with the hood up thereís no obvious coolant leaks from anywhere. Let the mongrel cool, fill the radiator Ė which has somehow almost emptied itself Ė to the neck, idle the engine and look into the coolant to see if thereís big air bubbles blowing up through the neck. Itís either steam, which should go away, or a blown head gasket.
THE lights are fading, and the engine is stuttering. Use a volt meter to check alternator output, which should be close to 14 volts. If not, and itís a Bosch alternator, thereís a black box on the back held by two screws Ė extract that and look at the copper brushes. If the end of one is black, itís not contacting. But a gentle pull outwards will stretch the pigtail enough for the brush to contact the slip ring again, returning the alternator to normal charge.
THEREíS been an accident where you bottomed the back of your really low machine on a concrete kerb, and now thereís fuel everywhere from a hole in the tank. If you donít carry epoxy ribbon to plug the situation, a mix of soap and chopped string fibres will stick and effectively cover the hole.
A JUMP-UP speed bump hit too hard, and thereís a sudden loss of drive.
That cut-and-shut tailshaft, which was carefully measured to fit between your Tremec cogbox and the nine-inch, was welded up too short, and with the rear axle at full droop your shaft simply dropped out of the gearbox housing!
YOU have an emergency stop, and the brake pedal almost hits the floor. Some nong has fitted copper-tube brake lines instead of multi-layer steel bundy tube, and a line has got hard from old age and cracked from normal road vibrations.
A SPLATTING noise and steam from the engine, and you discover a split seam or a hole in the radiator. Plastic tanks can be glued with Araldite, while small holes in brass or alloy cores can be almost stopped from leaking by shovelling barbecue pepper into the top tank. It expands in the hot coolant and usually plugs up holes.
THE rear-mount electric fuel pump stops its noise, and thereís no fuel flow.
Find a clean body earth, use volt meter probes to see if there is power at the positive terminal, and then swap leads, with the black one on the pump body and the red on the main terminal. The pump body earth may have corroded and shut off the current circulation, or it might just be a simple blown fuse.
YOUíVE been out on that first cruise, and the small-block is running really ragged. If youíve fitted sub-standard cheapie plug leads and pulled them off the plugs by the insulated outer casing, instead of the plug boots, 19 20 21 22 23 itís a good bet that youíve broken the internal carbon string, which delivers 35,000 volts from the coil.
BUGGERED and broke fan belt on a cruise? Buy, beg, borrow or steal some ladiesí pantyhose, tie that to fit the pulleys and drive home slowly.
NO FUEL in the Holley carbs when you drop out the level plugs? Might be a fair while since the last fill with whatever, and fuel gauges often lie. Especially if the instrument voltage regulator gets all bitter and twisted and goes out to lunch.
DODGY brake pedal again, and thereís fluid missing from the reservoir, just after a full four-wheel brake system bleed. Those stiffto- turn bleed nipples can be real mongrels to fully tighten, and what you thought was okay has been bleeding fluid ever since and ruining carefully applied paint.
ANOTHER cause of high rpm misfiring, especially with old-style contact point distributors, is when the little steel-cased condenser inside doesnít earth properly, or dies internally. Theyíre like an insulated battery, and often the insulation dies from heat in highhorsepower engines. 25 26 27 24 A SUDDEN smell of burning electrical insulation, and your ride slows to a stop with a dead engine. A modern happening is the case of the over-volting alternator. The output of these high-amperage machines is controlled by a small solid-state voltage regulator, usually inside the casing, and when these die, you get anything upwards of 18 volts, which blows all hell out of onboard engine management systems.
And with the earlier XR-XY Fords fitted with Email brand alternators, the main output cable plugs in with a wide brass spade connector, which often melts from high current resistance. Itís usually cured with a clean-up of the male bit and a brand new connector.
A NASTY knocking noise from inside the mill, lots of blue smoke and almost nothing on the dipstick. It can be that the oil filter has spat out the neoprene casing seal because somebody over-tightened the filter; or the rear crank seal wasnít fitted properly; or a hose to the oil cooler has blown; or thereís a big new hole in the thin tin sump. So all that smoke was yours, and it would have been nice to have a pressure gauge!
ITíS been six weeks since the twin-turbo small-block has been fired up, because itís been raining heavily during that time. But today is sunshine-fine and thereís a show íní shine just 35 kays away. On the way there though the injected small-block chokes up and dies, and thereís no way fuel is getting to the vital bits. That would be because you filled the tank with E85 back then, and didnít drain it, so all that soggy wet air has mixed with the ethanol and turned some of it into a thick white jelly. Sorry, but itís time to call out the tilt-tray! s 28 30 29