Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Triple A Motor Club - Full Price, partial membership UPDATED!

See that thing up there?  That's a Triple A Motor club card.  A representation of just one of dozens of associated motorist clubs in the nation under the Triple A banner.

An organization over 100 years old built on serving the needs of an increasingly mobile nation. 

Providing everything from road maps and travel planning services to car insurance and of course what everybody joins up for.... The towing.

Drive anything with a few miles on it and you'll soon see the benefit of carrying that little gold card the first time you don't have to pay that $200+ towing bill for getting ol' reliable hauled back home from Grandma's house somewhere over the river and through the woods.

For your annual dues you get varying levels of benefits.  I'm only concerned with the road service as I've found most of Triple A's so-called discounts to be anything but.  A quick flip through their bi-monthly glossy magazine reveals stunning photography of places you can't afford to go and discounts that won't help you get there any faster.

With your membership you'll get the added benefit of constant junk mail and offers for overpriced and under performing auto and life insurance.  

Their Triple A certified auto repair?  One of those vaulted establishments cost my cousin a transmission.

So yeah, it's pretty much for the towing.

Somewhere along the line, however, it seems Triple A is more about those glossy pages than service.
A belief evidenced by my recent contact with their membership department.

As I've said before, 2016 hasn't been a great year so when it came down to paying the $97 renewal or the light bill, the light bill won.
That was roughly 2 months ago but as I said at the beginning of this article, you just don't drive an old car without having something to help with the inevitable towing bill.

Now I can excuse the organization's push into more areas of revenue generation.  People have less to spend so you better give them more options to spend with you rather than somewhere else.

But when you compromise your core service offering there's a problem.

It all started with a phone call early this morning.  One that yielded a recording telling me to call back during "business hours" which might as well be "banker's hours."

OK, at least I wasn't calling for a tow truck.

Their "business hours" are 8 to 5 and I called at 9.  I figured I'd let the poor cubicle dweller who got to suffer me at least get his first cup of coffee. 

I have a soft spot for inbound call center workers.  Imagine working 8 to 12 hours a day fielding phone calls from people who rarely just call to express their love and admiration.

With that in mind I called primarily to follow-up on my renewal which I completed online.  It seems the Arizona Triple A website is less than accurate when it comes to membership status.  Even when payment was tendered the site still insisted that my membership had expired.  

Worse both the website and my paperwork had insisted that I'd received a new membership card.

I hadn't.

The friendly representative on the other end of the line answered my queries, ensured that I was indeed covered with my recently paid renewal and all was well.

Ah, but you know I just had to screw it up. 

I made the mistake of asking a probing question.  My membership expired October 31st this was December 27th, almost 2 full months had passed.

I asked if my expiration date would now change due to my renewal being 2 months tardy.  It was supposed to be a rhetorical question...

It wasn't.

I was informed that my membership would still expire on October 31st of the following year.  That didn't seem right.

When questioned further I was told that I was within a "grace period" for renewal which allowed me to avoid an extra "reactivation fee."  

That's nice, except when I asked if that meant my benefits were extended through that "grace period" as well I was told a firm....No.

Uh, something's wrong here...
I told the friendly cubicle dweller on the phone that it didn't seem quite right that I was paying for a year's worth of service and getting only 10 months.  I verified that this was indeed the case with him  and reluctantly, said representative confirmed my conclusion.

When you call a call center these days you usually get a recorded message saying something along the lines of, " This call may be recorded for Quality Control purposes..."

I reminded my hapless cubicle compadre of that and said I was pleased that this call was indeed being recorded because this was not a good policy nor proper treatment of a member.

I also informed him ( for the sake of Quality Control of course) that there are other similar competing services out there and perhaps next year I'll investigate their offerings instead of renewing my membership.

It seems to me there may even be a potential FTC issue here.  A grace period is fine if you're waiving late fees but if you're going to charge me full price for something I'm not getting that's at the least bad business.

At worst, fraud.

So for the time being I at least have some level of roadside assistance from Triple A but I have to wonder if I wouldn't be better served elsewhere.

Maybe I'd have gotten better treatment If I booked a cruise...

UPDATE:  I wrote this article on December 27th.  My replacement Membership card just showed up today January 12th.  16 DAYS!  and yes, it still has the October expiration date.  

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Fix It: Misfires, long cranks, bad mileage? Take a deep dive with me into a Tune Up!

Fuel, Air and Spark...

What does it really mean to do a tune-up on your car?  Regardless of what you may drive, if it has an internal combustion engine it's going to need 3 things: Fuel, Air and Spark.  When most people think tune-up they think ignition system ( SPARK ) At least with a gasoline powered vehicle.  Yes Diesel's are different but it's still Fuel, Air and BOOM!.

We're going to be dealing with the BOOM! in your gas powered engine today.  I'll show you the basics and try to answer the how and why's in the video below.  

Friday, November 18, 2016

Fix It: Finishing the Carter AFB Carburetor rebuild

No need for a lot of verbiage.  This is the conclusion of the carb rebuild series featuring the Carter AFB.  The Second video picks up where the first left off and shows you how to reassemble the Carter AFB carb and covers important topics like how to set float level, float drop, and initial setup.  There's also a bonus section on testing the fuel pump.

So enjoy and if you learned something, let me know!  I'm here to help!

Without further ado....

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Fix It: Rebuilding a carburetor

It's been a rough couple of months and after over a year of picking up the slack for the Formula, the El Camino is starting to show the strain.  It started with the brakes getting a little noisy, then 3 of 4 tires developed sidewall bulges.  From there we had battery, alternator and wiring issues.  Most recently I went on the hunt for the cause of some poor performance issues that led me to a bad vacuum advance unit that was doing little more than providing a huge vacuum leak through a ruptured internal diaphragm.

On the bright side it's provided excellent material for my videos over the past few months...

It was successful completion of that last project that provided the catalyst for the latest round of underhood gymnastics.  While we may have succeeded in restoring additional timing to the engine when it needed it via the new advance unit we uncovered other problems with the ignition system.  Problems that led to ripping it apart down to the spark plugs to chase down a mysterious misfire that was cropping up under part throttle loads.  

Add in a tired carburetor assembled in desperation from the best bits of 2 used examples and things get even more interesting.  When that carburetor stops responding to the input of the go pedal we have to address it.  Issues with the fuel system were also making it harder to diagnosis our mysterious misfire.  If the carb is starving the engine for fuel, it could be causing a lean misfire but now we're straying dangerously close to grasping at straws.  We need a baseline.

Time for a rebuild.

That's the thing about classic cars.  No matter how much money you put into them, the more you drive the more work you have to do.

We want to continue driving and to do that we need to fix what's broke.  We can't if we're trying to herd too many cats.

Once we straighten out the fuel system we'll have a better idea of where our misfire problem is coming from.  It's a process of elimination and honestly something that should have been done a long time ago.

Below is the first of 2 videos documenting the process of rebuilding the Carter AFB carburetor currently living on top of my El Camino's engine. 

Friday, November 4, 2016

How to buy a classic car and live with the consequences: Part 2 - Buying the car and living with it.

Last time we left off with some homework...

You had some hard questions to answer.  To answer them, you needed to get realistic about your expectations.  Owning a classic car is much like taking on another family member.  It's not some knickknack you admire on your shelf.  There's care and feeding involved.

So after your own personal reality check if the answer to: "Do I really want to do this?" is an unequivocal and emphatic "Yes!" then read on.  I've got more to tell you...

Research, research, research.

In the last article I went over how important it was to research any car you're planning on buying using all the online and offline sources available to you.  Those same resources are going to come into play in your purchase and ownership of the car.

You'll find a dizzying array of resources to get that sweet ride.  Ebay Motors, Auto Trader classics, auctions, private sales and even specialty dealerships to name a few.

The thing to remember is that you don't always get what you pay for especially if you don't know exactly what you're buying.

This is where research pays off.

Classics are valued by their popularity in the market plain and simple.  Factors like rarity, options and provenance all play a part but emotion has a lot to do with it.  This is why it's never a good idea to buy a classic car for investment purposes.

Yeah, Shelby Cobra's went up in value after Carroll Shelby's passing but Shelby Chargers from the 80's will never reach such lofty heights.

That's an important point.   Just because something SEEMS collectible doesn't mean it is.  There have been countless "special" options and packages available over the years but most of them aren't that "special."

A "Boss" Mustang is special.  A "Pony edition" is not.

Even the most rabid of car enthusiast isn't going to get excited over a pinstripe.  Unless, of course, that pinstripe is proof of something far more interesting like a more powerful engine.

Knowledge is power so time to go on the hunt but where to look?


The most obvious places are classic car auctions.  You may get a deal but after the auction house has taken their percentage you may have immediate buyer's remorse.

Auctions like Barrett-Jackson run for multiple days with the first day usually offering the least expensive cars.  These will be examples that need a little work, aren't popular or may not have their documentation.  Title issues have to be disclosed but it's up to you to investigate the veracity of the owner's claims about the actual car for yourself.

Some auctions will provide a VIN number or a CarFax if the vehicle is new enough ( 1981 on) and may even have services on site to help you evaluate the car.

Barrett-Jackson doesn't call itself an auction anymore, they call themselves "events."  Which is to say that attending one is more like a trip to the circus than a car lot.  There's the auction of course but it's just the big top in the circus.  Auto related services, parts, nostalgia and accessory vendors are all over the place.  It literally looks like an automotive products convention.  In short, lots of neat stuff to look at but you're going to pay for all that "lifestyle" kitsch one way or another.  It's usually in the bidder fees and of course the 20% buyer's commission.

Many of the more popular auctions have copied the format to some degree to draw more of an audience but none approach the carnival atmosphere that is Barrett-Jackson.

Silver, Russo  and Steele and Mecum are some of the more popular and less "circus" auctions.

I won't go into the whole bidding process.  It's an auction meaning the seller and the auctioneer are trying to get the most money for themselves.  The best advice I'd give is to know the real value of the car you're interested in and set a hard limit.  Especially with Day 1 auction cars, you need to be cautious as you don't want to end up buying a LeMans priced like a GTO.

Private Sales

This is where the Auto Trader Classics and Hemmings come in....

Same rules apply here.  Do your research, bring along someone knowledgeable that knows the model you're looking at and don't take the seller's word for anything that isn't obvious.  The nice thing about private sales is that you can get much more up close and personal with the car without fighting a crowd or the distractions of an auction like Barrett-Jackson.  My best advice here is #1 Research, #2 Skepticism.

That said,, be reasonable.  Protect your interests but don't be an ass.  This is a negotiation not a death match.  Put yourself in the owner's shoes and figure out how you'd want to be treated.  If you know a car is worth 25K don't make an offer of $500  you're just wasting everyone's time.  It's insulting and actually makes it less likely to get a good deal.   Once you've made that deal, however, make sure everything is on the up and up.  The seller is not going to take a personal check so either have cash or take a ride down to your bank and draw a cashier's check.

You can also set up private sales through online services like Ebay that will hold the money in escrow.  No matter what, the seller is rightly going to want to know he's getting paid.  As for you, you need to be sure the ownership documents are in order.  It used to be a paper title was enough but these days most states have moved to Electronic titles.  That makes it easier for dealers to transfer ownership and for any liens against the car to be recorded.  You may have a clear paper title but if someone filed a lien electronically against it you won't know till you try to transfer ownership and have to pay off that lien and ruin your day.

There's usually an online mechanism offered by a state's DMV to check the status of a car's title.  All you need to provide is a VIN and a small fee to find out.  You should be able to get this information ahead of time from the seller and know what's up before you go meet him/her.  You could do it on a smartphone when you're there but unless a deal has just dropped out of the sky on your lunch break, I wouldn't recommend this.  You should have as much information on the car as possible before going to see it.  Research, research, research!

Ebay and online ( Not local ).

We've touched on this angle in the last section when we talked about escrow.  Consider these services nothing more than classified ads ( like Auto Trader )  with escrow.  They're just a middleman and most of the same rules apply as the straight private sale.  The thing to watch out for is the fee these services charge. Sellers are more disadvantaged than the buyer in this transaction but there other factors like taxes and escrow fees that have to be accounted for.

Specialty dealerships like this particular angle when they have a vehicle that may be harder for them to sell or want to draw in buyers from a wider area.  They've also got a better chance of getting an inflated price for a lemon since many buyers base their purchase on emotion without doing any research.  All it takes is some good photos.  The perfect sucker bet.  See the next section for why I'm not a fan.  It is an option but in my opinion a bad one most of the time.

Getting it home

Regardless, a lot of these cars won't be local meaning you have to factor in travel, transport and if you're smart inspection costs.  That could make a great deal more expensive than you bargained for.  I can tell you that transport costs alone can be in the thousands.

When I had my 1995 Formula transported from Colorado to Arizona in 2013 using Reliable Carriers (a specialty auto transporter) it cost $1100.  With a distance of 800 miles that's about $1.37 a mile.  Oh and it took 3 weeks to get the car to me...

By the way, I wouldn't try driving a classic car home if it has to go more than 100 miles from where you bought it.  It's an old car, things happen and that tow truck isn't going to be much cheaper than the transport if the worst happens.  That and specialty transporters use enclosed trailers keeping your new baby safe from the elements and thieves.

I have to stop for a moment and say this.  While the idea of driving a classic car home seems attractive know that it's not the brightest option.

Classic cars tend to be less fuel efficient, more temperamental and less reliable than your daily driver.  Why would you want to do that to yourself?  You don't know the car and you don't know its quirks.  Finding out for the first time in the middle of nowhere isn't fun.  I know from experience. Save the road trip for the big cruise when other people are around that can help out if need be.

Specialty Dealers

Unless there's no other option I'd stay away from these guys.  They usually don't stick around for more than a couple of years and won't deal.  They'll stick to the highest market price for the vehicle and all cars are sold As/Is.  This is where you're most likely to find the LeMans prettied up as a fake GTO.  I'm not going to say much about these guys.  Plain and Simple it's a used car lot with a better profit margin.  I've seen more overpriced, bondo Betty's at these places than anywhere else and once someone's on to them they're gone like the wind.

It's all yours.... 

OK, so you did all the research, you're on a first name basis with the car club president and can decode VIN codes and cowl tags better than the guys that built it.

It's yours.

Now what?

Well, hopefully you're basking in the glow but wait.  I hope you called up your insurance company.

Chances are, however, that it won't end up being the same one that's covering the Kia in the driveway.   A lot of insurance companies have divisions that offer coverage for collector vehicles but you're actually better off looking elsewhere.  I've talked to a lot of classic car owners who were actually paying 10x as much to insure their vehicle while getting a fraction of the coverage.

Companies like Hagerty and Grundy are far better options offering features tailored to classic vehicles like agreed value coverage, parts location and premium roadside assistance.   Another nice bonus to using these specialty providers is that the premiums are much lower.  The trade off is that you're going to be far more limited on your use of the car.

So don't expect to be driving it to work every day.  Part of the reason the coverage is so much cheaper is that you're not exposing the car to as much risk as your daily driver.  Most policies require you own another car for daily use.  Yes, there are policies out there that will limit mileage but for the most part specialty insurance companies know their owners are a fussy and protective bunch.

Besides, this is a "classic" car.

Do you really want to sit there on some frigid morning for 15 minutes on ice cold vinyl waiting for the engine to warm up?  Does is sound like fun to jump into morning rush hour in a car with a longer braking distance than the average school bus?

That's another "reality check."  Even with safety upgrades be aware that you're not buying a new car no matter how well preserved or restored.  What you are buying is an old car with old technology that will ALWAYS respond accordingly.

Talk to anyone who actually drove that 69 Roadrunner to work everyday and they'll tell you stories about constantly pulling over to dry off the distributor every time they hit a puddle.

That may be charming for the cruise night but it's intolerable in a world of gridlock and Hybrid cars.

There is no argument.  Classic cars are cool to drive but they're absolute garbage as daily drivers unless all your driving happens on a racetrack.


Nope, reality check and I know.  I've owned A LOT of classic cars and met A LOT of tow truck drivers.

Long Term Relationship

So baby's in the garage,  All your weekends are taken up with car shows and meetups and your significant other has already banned the words: Horsepower and New Old Stock from the house.

A classic car is a family member.  Care and feeding includes things like regularly taking it out for a spin and maintenance.  I've known "car guys" who buy a car and never drive it thinking they'll ruin it's value if another tenth of a mile rolls over on the odometer.

Trouble is, cars are meant to be driven not just looked at.  Unless you own a museum piece, part of keeping it maintained is actually one of the best parts of owning a classic.  That being actually driving it.  Tires get flat spots, batteries go bad (even on chargers) grease dries out and seals start to leak if a car is left to sit.

You didn't buy it to be the next guy's "barn find" did you?

That's another tip.  Yes, you can buy those ultra-rare low mileage cars but they're not much fun.  They are literally the automotive equivalent of a time capsule and even driving it around the block can decrease their value.

Leave them to the museums.

I like nice "driver quality" car.  One that I may fuss over but don't' fear taking on a leisurely weekend road trip.  Among classic and collector circles this is becoming the most popular group since owners can actually enjoy the car as it was intended.

Jay Leno is a great example of this type of owner.  There are few cars in his collection that haven't been driven both before and after restoration.  In fact it's probably a large factor in the rise of the "driver quality" classic.

Look, cars are meant to move, statues are meant to be looked at.

Besides, it's kind of cool to actually know how to start a carbureted engine properly.  It's almost like knowing a secret handshake.  Hey, fuel injection is great but there's something about knowing just how much to crack the throttle to get a warm engine to start without flooding it.

So if you've taken the plunge congratulations!  It's a special experience to be the caretaker of a classic and one no Prius could ever match.  There'll be highs and lows in the course of your stewardship and surprises along the way to keep things interesting.

Thanks for allowing me to share the experience with you.  Take a look at some of the articles on the sidebar too.  They're all bout the gearhead lifestyle and can give you valuable information about owing and loving a classic car.

Drive on!

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

How to buy a classic car and live with the consequences: Part 1 - Do you really want to do this?


It's a given.

Even for the Millennial generation classic vehicles are alluring.  Sometimes the definition of a "classic" becomes a bit blurred with the younger set but so long as they're enthusiastic about something other than smartphones and Instagram there's still hope.

Yeah, I was around when the Honda CRX was just another weird Civic with 2 seats.  Now it's a holy grail akin to my reverence for 70 454 Chevelle with factory Cowl induction.

At least to some.

Here's the reality.  Any car over 25 years old can by law (in most states) be considered a classic car.  Meaning that CRX would technically qualify; of course your mom's 81 Caprice would too.

However,  that doesn't mean every car is destined to become a classic  just because it's old.  Some cars, no matter how "vintage" will never attain the lofty heights of being considered a "classic."

Simply put; cars become classics because a lot of  people consider them to be that way.  It's the purest expression of a free market.  For better or worse.

For example; did you know that in 1969 you could buy an Oldsmobile station wagon with the same engine as it's muscle car cousin the 442?

Believe it or not the famed 400 V8 (one of the 4's in 4-4-2)  was available along with a number of other stout poweplants.

To which I say, So what....

It's a perfect example of what you need to understand about the classic car market.  For one thing while age is important, it has to be desired by someone to have value and to most of the market A Vista Cruiser with a 400 is just dad's old station wagon.

Meaning you won't be getting much interest (or $$$) from the 442 faithful but that 442 bloodline may peak the interest of the Vista Cruiser crowd, if there is such a thing.  Which is an important factor in getting involved with a classic car.  The halo effect or depending on your perspective; guilt by association.

Buying a classic car is no different than a Sci-Fi nerd paying 100's of dollars for a vintage 1977 Star Wars action figure in it's original packaging.  It's a kind of time capsule.  A door open to the memory of happier times unspoiled by the ravages of reality.

It's like any other collectible market driven by irrational motivations fueled exclusively by the intoxication of rose colored glasses.

All collector markets are built on this.  If we were really being honest all these old cars and action figures would be of more use ground up and recycled for raw materials for a half a dozen Hyundai's.  .


Hey, I'm just putting it out there.  I don't believe it and honestly I wouldn't want to live in such a plain vanilla world.  That would be like using the Mona Lisa as a door mat or living on cup-o-noodles for the rest of your life.      Yuk...

Here's the "How"part...

Your first step toward owning a classic car is to answer the question, " Why do you want to do this?"

If you look at a classic car like a retirement account you can expect the same return as that IRA you took out in 2007.   Don't believe the hype over someone's "barn find" 70 Hemi Challenger with 23 original miles going for a million dollars.  Chances are you're going to end up owning a Fury with a 318 and a lot of Bondo.  You can pump 50K into it and not get back half the money

Remember the Vista Cruiser?

It's a market and markets are not only picky but fickle. Fickle equals volatile which translates into yo-yo valuations only a day trader would tolerate.

Don't believe the reality TV car shows either.

Those wrench monkeys have got resources and
expertise available at their fingertips that you'd have to pay extra for.

The words "cheap" and "restoration" don't go together unless you're aiming to own a "beater" not a "classic."

 Older vehicles are going to have problems that need attention and the cost of dealing with them will vary depending on what they are and how much of the work you can do yourself.  Not to mention HOW you choose to deal with them.

Even if you're Chip Foose it can be expensive if you happen to be working on a vehicle with sparse parts availability or serious rust issues.

So yeah, don't buy a 1974 El Camino....

By the way, be honest and know what you're capable of.  A couple of rattle can paint jobs and a few oil changes does not make you an automotive restoration expert.

Playing the Field

From here you have to take a hard look at the car's market and determine what it (and you) will bear.

Paying 442 prices for a run of the mill Cutlass does nobody any favors.  Meaning you need to do some research.  That doesn't stop at just looking up prices on Hemmings or the latest auction either.  You need to connect with people who've already made the leap not only to see what they paid but the cost of upkeep.

Check the more mundane sources like Auto Trader or the classifieds.  See what's available locally before heading into a nationwide or even worldwide search.  Often the cost of transport of a "perfect" car is trumped by one that needs a little more love found in your hometown.  Only after exhausting local resources should you expand your search outward.  Even sites like Ebay motors can be filtered to listings in your local area and by default Auto Trader sites (including classic) do the same.

Know what you're looking at!

Too much of the word "new" can be the death knell of a classic car's value.  Find out what your chosen model originally came with.  Tires and batteries are irrelevant by the way.  We're interested in things like drivetrain and available options.  Some cars demand original everything while others known for unreliability will offer more latitude in modifications.
For example, nobody is going to ding you for swapping drum brakes for disc brakes on a classic that's actually driven.  Safety upgrades are acceptable in all but the most rare of classics and nobody is driving those very often.

Be aware of "tribute cars" and fakes.

What's a Tribute car?

Simply put, a tribute car is a model upgraded to a more desirable model after the fact.  The only difference between a fake and a tribute is how honest the seller is about it.  Don't be fooled into paying 50K for a fake 67 GTO that's really a 30K LeMans.

That research thing again....

If you really want to get to know a car you're interested in get to know the people who own one.  A quick Internet search can yield dozens of resources and forums where you can learn about a car you're considering.  Use multiple sources and treat it the same way you would as if you were buying a house.  Ask questions like: What are the problem areas?  What are the parts availability?  What's it cost to fix?

Speaking of fixes.  Don't buy someone else's failed project.  Rust buckets will continue to be rust buckets AKA money pits.  Protect yourself and learn what to look for so you don't buy one.  It's never a bad idea to bring along someone who knows what they're looking at.

Don't limit yourself to one information source either.  Online car forums are wealth of information  but realize that not everyone in them is an expert.  Don't just rely on online either.  If there's a regular car show or meetup near you go check it out.  One thing about the classic car hobby is that owners love nothing more than talking about their cars.   It's a great source for finding things like car clubs and good local shops too.

Buying the car is just the beginning.  Living with it is more than just Sunday blasts along the coast.  You've essentially purchased another mouth to feed much more demanding than the Kia now displaced in your driveway.

We'll get into that next time....

Friday, September 23, 2016

Good Advice is hard to come by...

Opinions are like...well you know, we all have them.  But some opinions are more valuable than others.  When it comes to car repair you can't afford to take advice from someone who talks out of the orifice that shall remain nameless.

Eric the Car Guy is a mechanic with a YouTube channel.  There's a lot of them out there offering varying degrees of useful information but Eric is a little different.

He's not somebody "playing" mechanic, he actually is one and even better he's willing to tell you what really goes on in the minds of those we trust with our pride and joy.

Check out a few of the videos below and see if you don't learn something.

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.

Sunday, June 5, 2016

Kinda Quiet around here... Here's why.

So I know I haven't posted much of anything lately. That has a lot to do with not having anything to really share.  Reason being things are not going well in the old wallet these days and my Formula is still unregistered because I haven't been able to come up with the approximately $500 it's going to take to replace the catalytic converter and get the registration renewed.  

FYI, the good state of Arizona charges $8 for the first past due month then an additional $4  for each subsequent month the registration is is late.  So if I can't get it registered for a year it could cost me the original $30 plus an additional $52.

The El Camino needed attention too and I ended up manually doing a 4 tire rotation (5 with the spare) and some brake work.  Brake work that came about because of the brakes getting noisier and a slight pull to the right on applying them.  Nothing worth a video and still not quite right but passable.

So now I have two half-assed cars...

So when money's tight bad things tend to happen and one of them is in the video below.  My water main broke leaving me on the hook for $575 to get it fixed.  

Needless to say I'm on the payment plan.  A BALLOON payment plan that's seriously cutting into the whole food and shelter thing.

But this too shall pass and someday soon I'll be back wrenching on the Formula again in hopes of getting that bad bird back on the boulevard....(see what I did there...lol) 

For now here's a little slice of a day in the life of elcaminoguy....

Monday, March 7, 2016

YouTube Automotive Treasure Trove

For a lot of you the weather is still very much "Winter" so you're probably not out and about or turning wrenches on your baby too often.  So what to do?

Well, if you're like me you find some favorite automotive videos on YouTube and maybe even subscribe.  Oh and don't forget the companion channel to this blog...Gearhead Garden Channel

One thing to remember about HOWTO videos on YouTube though.  Use the information at your own risk.  Don't take anyone's word as gospel and research from more than one source.  Anybody can post a video on YouTube even if they're a complete idiot!

This first example of a channel I follow comes from Scotty Kilmer.  I like Scotty, he reminds me of my step-dad and his information is usually pretty good.  He's a mechanic with almost 5 decades of experience under his belt that he's more than willing to share on his YouTube channel.  Along with videos like this, he also does a weekly Q&A show on his channel where he answers questions about car repair.  In this video he talks about the different grades of gasoline and when to use them.

This next example comes from a specialty automotive supply company called Eastwood.  I've known about Eastwood for 20 years and purchased specialty tools and products that I couldn't find anywhere else.   Their videos usually cover some procedure using their products.  The devil's in the details and Eastwood is a good place to go to deal with them.  There's a lot of good information that's helpful when you're trying to restore a classic.  This video features a project  79 Camaro Z28 and a primer on paint and finish techniques by TV's Keven Tetz.

The last Video is from a channel called Ramblin' Around.  It's basically a talented DIY Car guy named Jordan who details among other things the trials, tribulations and triumphs of putting an '87 Trans Am back together.  Lots of interesting stuff here.  This guy bleeds 50 weight but isn't full of himself.  It's the quiet guys who do the real work which is why I like his channel.  

So that's it.  I figure if I don't have any new content for you at least I can turn you on to someone who does.  Stay tuned though.  I still have the 95 Formula and will eventually get enough money and time to get it to pass emissions.  Expect a few videos and some writeups when that happens.  

You can be sure I'll detail those adventures here.