Tech Tips by the Dozen IX

  1. When working on an engine that’s going to be partly disassembled for a length of time, use duct tape, plastic, or old newspaper and masking tape to cover up openings for bolt-on parts like manifolds and water pumps. This will keep dirt and debris out of the motor.
  2. Sometimes long valve cover gaskets will be distorted by normal packaging and allow oil leaks. This can be remedied by unpacking the new gaskets and slipping them over the top of a spare valve cover for at least several hours before installing them.
  3. If your car is missing on acceleration and has rubber spark-plug boots, try this: Rubber spark-plug boots that have become hard and carbonized with age will cause spark leakage and flashing. Cut off the boots and replace them with new ones.
  4. Dirt and sediment build up in carburetors. Run the car at 1,000–2,000 rpm with the air cleaner off. Put your hand over the air intake until the car almost stalls. Repeat a few times. Engine vacuum pulls raw gas through the carburetor cleaning jets and passages.
  5. Water pump squealing and hard to reach for lubrication? A foot-long piece of 1/8-inch copper tubing can be bent to reach into the lubricating hole. Use a windshield wiper hose on the upper end to couple a squirt-type oil can to the tubing, and pump oil into the hole.
  6. If the “Temp” indicator light on your ’60s GM car is glowing, though the car is not overheating, be sure the ignition switch is completely returned to the “on” position from the “start” position. The light comes on in the “start” position to check that it is working.
  7. Did you know that leaving a battery carrying strap on the terminals will cause a chemical reaction, resulting in a gooey white substance buildup on the terminals? If you use a strap to remove a battery before storing a car, be sure to remove the strap.
  8. Bent terminals or longer-than-stock screws on your voltage regulator can touch the metal firewall and cause electrical shorts. To prevent, this fasten a piece of gasket material or rubber tire patch to the firewall directly behind the voltage regulator terminals.
  9. The taillights of an older car will burn brighter if you thoroughly clean up any heavy rust on the insides of the housings and then carefully paint the insides of the lamp receptacles with white enamel to increase their reflectivity.
  10. To clean a car battery when it’s out of the car, sprinkle a handful of sawdust on the battery. Let it stand for a few minutes while the sawdust soaks up mud, moisture and corrosion. Then sweep it off and remove residue with your shop vac.
  11. Having trouble separating a rusty tailpipe and muffler? Try loosening the clamp on the end of the muffler and slipping it down the pipe a few inches. Then, tighten it on the pipe and drive the pipe out of the muffler by striking the clamp with hammer blows.
  12. A transmission gasket can stick to parts – especially a torque converter – making it hard to remove. Try coating the gasket with paint and varnish remover. Wait a few minutes while this solvent sets into the gasket material, and you’ll find that it strips off very easily.
    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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