Saturday, January 9, 2010

One Year! (part 3)

So I found myself with a nearly-30-year-old car with fuel-delivery troubles. Running rich, rough idle, smooth idle but crappy cruise, stalling if my foot was off the pedal, fouling out the spark plugs, flooding, runaway engine, coughing soot on the would run beautifully to a restaurant, then take 35 minutes to get started. Stranded me three times.

That third time was the final straw. I was on the way to work. I stopped for my morning Sobe, got back in the car and back on the road. Within a quarter-mile, the engine starts to bog down--no power, black smoke, less and less response to the throttle, and then *clunk* it shuts down. Good thing it was at the top of a hill. I let it roll down, trying to start it, getting nothing. Coasted to a stop right in front of a little cemetary, cussing the car up one side and down the other.

Long story short: the constant flooding burned out the ignition module, which had been replaced a few days before (after the FIRST time I got stranded--and cussed the car). I replaced that one and it got me home, but oh man was I pissed off. I knew what the trouble was. There's this little piece of crap O-ring in the carburetor. If it's damaged, fuel can leak past it uncontrolled into the main fuel passage. I'd replaced the damn thing several times by this time, but the replacements could easily have been decades old or deteriorated from sitting in a hot warehouse.

I'm still playing around with ideas for eliminating that O-ring altogether. One was to make a lead casting that would fill the "well" this O-ring sits in, with a small passage through it for the bottom end of the mixture-control solenoid. Lead's got a low melting point, it's easy to work with, and it's easy to get from a tire shop: wheel balancing weights are made from it.

The down side? Well, it combines with combustion byproducts in the engine and kills ("poisons") the catalytic converter, rendering it unable to clean some of the pollution crud out of your car's exhaust. That's why tetraethyl lead was removed from gasoline in the States back in the '70s and '80s. Lead's out. Maybe aluminum or pot-metal. That's on the back-burner, because...

There's that last straw thing. The O-ring meant I couldn't get the engine settings where they needed to be, and without that, the engine computer was useless. So I went to my local U-Pull-It yard and grabbed the distributor and carb from an '85 Chevy S-10 Blazer, tore them both down and rebuilt them, and dropped them into the car. Her original parts are in storage, her computer unplugged: the S-10 items don't need a computer.

From stranding to parts yard to VROOM!! took about a month--and baby, she was allllright. There were hiccups (big one in Part 4), and it took about 6 months to get it all dialed in, since the big old Internet doesn't have a lot about setting up the non-computer carb or working out ignition timing for a non-computer distributor.

I do want to solve the O-ring problem, if only so that other folks with early-'80s A-, X-, and J-cars (Celebrity, Citation and Cavalier and their GM equivalents) can keep them running. That damn piece of rubber is what led me to park my '83...and what led to me having to sell the car for scrap when the County pricks nosed around. Rust or not, I would still be driving that one if I'd done the same S-10 carb swap.

That being said, I do like the non-computer setup. I've got more power and better mileage than I was getting under computer control.

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