25 May 2006

Tech Tips by the Dozen VI

  • Styrofoam packaging liners with round and/or square indentations in them make great temporary organizers for parts storage as you remove components and assemblies from cars. And when they get too dirty, they can just be relegated to the recycling bin.
  • When checking the condition of bodywork on a classic car, rub your fingertips over the sheet metal with a thin rag or paper towel under them. This will help you feel irregularities in the surface of the metal that your eyes can’t see.
  • Using a long-nosed nozzle on your air compressor hose, blow out the lid of a paint can before opening it. The compressed air will clear away dirt and grease in the rim of the can that could contaminate the paint.
  • Use Teflon thread sealant when installing “through” bolts that fill holes with fluid behind them. Put a lot of sealant on the first bolt, and then use it as an “applicator” to transfer sealant to other bolts. Roll the threads of the bolts against each other to transfer sealant.
  • When installing a new diaphragm on a fuel pump pull rod, put a little dab of silicone rubber on the area where the pull rod goes through the diaphragm material. This will help to seal it.
  • When you custom bend new brake lines, it helps if you make the new lines match the old one exactly. To get curves just right, hold the original line gently in a vise as you use a bending tool to give the new line the same contours.
  • A persistent squeak in a rubber-bushed spring shackle on a vintage car can usually be eliminated by drilling a small hole into the bushing and forcing brake fluid in with a pump-type oil can. Brake fluid won’t hurt the rubber like regular grease does.
  • You can make your own tap to clean spark plug holes by filing four square-edged notches across the threads of an old spark plug. Turn your tap into the cylinder head without a gasket. It will clear out carbon on bottom threads left by loose or short plugs.
  • If a car has assemblies that use lead washers under bolts to make a seal and fluid is leaking, you can sometimes stop the leak this way. First, loosen one bolt at a time and then re-tighten. Usually the bolt will tighten more than it loosens, reseating the lead washer.
  • If reseating a lead washer (above tip) doesn’t stop a leak, replace the lead washer with an aluminum washer of the same size and shape. The aluminum washer will also give, but not as much as the lead washer. The aluminum washer will often make a tighter seal.
  • When using a bottle jack, you can extend the jack faster by hand than you can by raising it with the jacking lever. Loosen set screw and twist it counter-clockwise to extend or clockwise to lower. Once it’s against what you’re lifting, lock the set screw and jack.
  • Small vacuum cleaner drive belts make great “tires” for your hydraulic floor jack to keep it from scraping or gouging the floor in your shop. A vacuum repair shop should be able to find a size that fits perfectly and then glue one drive belt to each wheel of your jack.

John "Gunner" Gunnell is the automotive books editor at Krause Publications in Iola, Wis., and former editor of Old Cars Weekly and Old Cars Price Guide.


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