Monday, March 7, 2011 05:36
Some people think hot rodders are born that way, while others insist they’re made. The Hot Rodders of Tomorrow Engine Build Competition isn’t going to settle the debate, but if you’re a budding hot rodder in high school, or you know someone who is, it’s a great way to stoke the fires of automotive passion.
The Engine Build Competition takes place June 24-26 at the Carlisle, Pennsylvania, Fairgrounds, in conjunction with the 2011 Carlisle GM Nationals. One of six regional qualifying locations, the Carlisle event will send regional winners and two non-winning top-time wild cards to the championships at the SEMA show in Las Vegas on November 1-4.
The competition sounds simple––take apart a Chevy small-block engine then put it back together. The hard part? Do it against the clock using only hand tools while following proper disassembly and reassembly procedures. At stake are prizes, sponsorship, and support from select companies, as well as scholarship money––which totaled more than $600,000 last year––toward further training and education.More...
Monday, December 6, 2010 02:40
Even if you’re never opened your car’s hood, here’s something you can do that’s a) incredibly easy, b) will result in improved performance and fuel mileage, and c) is almost impossible to screw up. Your biggest chances of failure are either a) being unsuccessful at opening the hood or, if your car is so equipped, b) failing to properly secure the hood support. Your owner’s manual explains how to open the hood and, if you have one, secure the hood support rod. If you can’t figure out how to open the hood, please don’t vote. If you can’t figure out how to properly secure the hood support rod and the hood smashes your face into the intake manifold, well, the gene pool needs a bit of chlorine, anyway.
Step one of changing your air filter is to go to a good auto parts store and select the proper filter. You’ll need to know the make, model, year, trim level, and type of engine. (If this sounds like a “...for Dummies” article, understand that many with esteemed titles—Senator, PhD—before or after their names are dummies as far as cars are concerned.) Ask the sales staff for help if you can’t find it. More...
Thursday, December 2, 2010 03:08
We recently received one of those “My Car Is Doing This Bad Thing” notes. (A guy’s 2002 Camry was smoking heavily after cold startup. The smoke stopped shortly afterward. The car, he said, wasn’t using oil.) I was immediately able to diagnose his problem. The diagnosis: Worn-out valve guides.
The valve guide’s purpose it to prevent oil from leaking past the valve stems and into the combustion chamber. They weren’t fully doing their job in our poor questioner’s Camry. When his car is running, the small amount of oil leaking past the guides is mostly burned off with the fuel. But when the car is left overnight, enough leaks into the combustion camber to make the car look like a World War II warship laying down a smoke screen. More...
Friday, November 12, 2010 03:31
I “got into wrenching” literally. I opened the hood of a ’59 Ford F-100 and climbed over the fenders into the engine bay. On that old machine, a svelte 14-year-old (or even a hefty 53-year-old) could easily find several spots to stand and inspect the engine.
My self-education began by tracing wires to see where they started and ended and trying to figure out what did what. Then I started taking unimportant-looking stuff apart. Much to my chagrin, I discovered the pickup had an oil-bath air filter. Instead of a modern paper element air filter, the truck employed oil to remove dirt. The contents of the oil-bath filter covered me and the driveway. Often, you have to learn the hard way.
I crawled under the truck, took wheels off, and generally just looked around. I changed the oil, carefully renewed the air cleaner, replaced the rearend and transmission oil, and changed the spark plugs. All this could be done today by a 14-year-old with few tools, no fear, and a lack of parental supervision.
My first mechanical success came when the truck’s crankcase vent tube clogged up. I diagnosed and corrected the problem. Success is a great motivator. Success comes when you like something and you like something when you’re successful. From there, it was on to changing drum brakes, repairing leaking wheel cylinders, and more.
When I moved up to a ’71 Ford Torino, I purchased a repair manual. That started a reading frenzy. I bought a textbook from the local high school auto shop class. If the Torino needed new shocks or its bearings repacked, I read the manual and started to work.
Not every project was successful. I pulled the head from friend’s Fiat 124 to have the leaking valves ground. Reassembly one the double overhead cam engine went perfectly. Except for one tiny detail. The Fiat’s fuel pump had to be timed to miss something important (never figured out what). The manual either didn’t address it, the important part was smeared in grease, or the Italian-English translation wasn’t clear. That near success turned into a very bad failure. (Later, a pro mechanic friend, an Alfa Romeo specialist, said, “I’d rather starve than work on Fiats.” I sure hope they’ve improved over the years.)
Here’s how to get into wrenching: Just do it. Get a manual: A dead-tree instructional is better than one on a computer. You don’t want to screw up the computer AND the car.