Tech Tips by the Dozen XII

On cars with wire wheels, check for loose spokes by removing one wheel, lay it down and “play” the spokes like a xylophone with the back of a screwdriver. A loose spoke will sound like a bad note. Tighten any that are loose.   
A thin steel kitchen spatula makes a great garage tool. When cut to the proper shape, they’re the perfect strength and thickness to slip alongside a Hurst four-speed shifter to remove the lever mechanism.
When tuning up your collector car, don’t throw the distributor cap away. Some models are getting nearly impossible to find and can sell for hundreds of dollars. In many cases, a new carbon pole that costs about $3 can be used to fix the old cap like new.
When mounting a new under-the-bed spare tire on a pickup, be careful not to damage the rear wiring. We recently had a spare mounted at a discount store. The installer broke the wires. As a result, we drove from Minnesota to Idaho with no rear lights.

  • Knockoff wheels evolved in the racing industry and were designed to come off when the racing car was jacked up. Never remove a knock-off wheel from a car with the wheel and tire touching the ground. Jack up the wheel first, and then remove the assembly as designed.
  • If you’re working on an engine over a period of time, it’s extremely important to keep dirt out of any openings. While the engine is sitting in the shop, cover all openings with plastic sheeting, plastic bags or shop towels.
  • Some collectors that use tubeless tires on earlier cars without “tubeless wheels” like to use tubes in their tires. If you do this, be sure to scrape the plastic tags off the inside of modern tires or they will rub a hole in the tube.
  • Like to start your car occasionally in the winter to lube the upper engine? Not a good idea. It actually promotes oil drainage from that area. A better option is to remove the spark plugs once in a while and squirt some oil into each cylinder; then replace plugs.
  • On C5 Corvettes, removing front shocks is literally impossible if the tie-rod is attached to the A-arm. Tap the side of the A-arm with a mallet until the tie-rod pops out. You can also use a pickle fork if you don’t damage the rubber boots. An air wrench makes the job easier.
  • If your car won’t start and the battery is charged, try tapping the starter while someone holds the key-operated ignition switch in the on position. This may get you home without a service call, but won’t work too much longer. It’s time to buy and install a new starter.
  • Need parts for 1960s and newer cars? Try locating some salvage yards in Western states via the Internet. We just got back from a trip to Washington, Oregon and Idaho and discovered that restorers in those states call auto boneyards for rust-free older parts.
  • With a dirty or worn ’58-’81 Corvette tranny, it’s possible to engage first and reverse gears at the same time. If this happens, stop the car and pull the shifter out of reverse to keep the car from rolling. Next, carefully reach each under the driver’s side and pull/push two long levers to a vertical position. The car is now in neutral and can be shifted. Next time, come fully out of reverse before engaging first gear.

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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