Thursday, August 4, 2016

High Energy Ignition (HEI) Vacuum Advance replacement


Old cars break stuff, it's a fact of life. Sometimes, however, it's not obvious that something's broke.  It's more subtle.

Hard starting, a loss of power or just that feeling like you're dragging an anchor behind you.  You'll get where you're going but it won't be as much fun getting there.

When everything else has been checked and you've got symptoms like the ones above it might be worth a look at your vacuum advance unit on your distributor.

Most points and early HEI ( non computer controlled) units will have them and when they go bad you usually don't get any notice.

There's two easy tests that don't involve anything but pulling the vacuum hose off the carburetor (because chances are you don't have fuel injection) and see what happens.

Get the engine to operating temperature and then pop the hose off the vacuum advance unit.  If the idle speed drops you know the unit is probably good.  If nothing happens it's probably bad.

Time for the next test.

Get a vacuum pump like a mighty vac hooked up to the vacuum advance unit and give a few squeezes.  Whether the engine is running or not, you should see some vacuum reading on the pump's vacuum gauge.  If the engine is running you may hear the engine speed up as well.

If you don't get either of those things and you know the pump is hooked up and working right then you've got a bad vacuum advance.

Trolling the automotive forums most people will tell you it's an easy fix.  You pop the distributor cap, remove a couple of bolts and wiggle the old one free.  Of course it gets more complicated if your distributor is hard to access and it's even worse when the engine is hot.  Yeah, you can probably change it in 5 minutes if you yanked the distributor out but that's usually an even bigger pain than dealing with it in the car if your setup is anything like mine.

I made the video below because nobody was ever going to read the 1000 words it would take to describe a 15 minute job.

So have at it and check off another little project on your classic car "to-do" list.


Monday, July 4, 2016

Avoiding a blowout: What that tablet in your dash won't tell you.


It's a fact of life, bad things are going to happen and most of the time you don't get much, if any, warning.  We are an imperfect form of life that produces imperfect things most of which will not persist after us.

Knowing this I find it maddening that so many people have so little clue about a 2 ton hunk of metal they trust their lives to every day.

To most people they give no more consideration to it than just jumping in the car and driving off.   Oblivious and ignorant to the condition of anything but the gas gauge.  

You don't have to be a ASE Master Technician to have a car but you owe it to yourself and those along for the ride to be aware of more than the difference in gas prices on either side of town.

In my case, I drive older cars meaning I have to be a lot more vigilant about a lot more things than just waiting for the "Fix Me" light to come on in the dash or some flashing icon in the "Information Center."  

I kind of blame companies like BMW, Mercedes and other so-called "luxury" brands for that mindset by the way.  They've constructed a fantasy where nothing ever goes wrong and never needs to be checked.  

If anything does, however, the car will just beam itself up to the starship Enterprise and Scotty will get right on that warp core problem straight away!  

It sounds stupid but it's literally the fantasy the luxury brands sell and it's dangerous.

Most newer cars have some basic level of diagnostics for such things as tire pressure, oil life and MPG and that's fine.   Thing is, a tire pressure monitor won't tell you of an impending blowout at 75MPH due to a bad tire.

Learning what to look for AND ACTUALLY LOOKING once in awhile will.

Which is the basis for the video below.   In it you'll see the early signs of impending disaster that can be averted if you're just the tiniest bit alert to the problem.

So watch the video, learn a little more than your "Driver Information Center" will tell you and be safe out there.