The Case for Timing (Lights)

I remember my first timing light, it wasn’t much to talk about and how accurate it was is something I will never know. It was a cheap tool and didn’t last very long but the Motors book I had said the Ford engine had to be set at the following:

Point gap = .015
Dwell = 27
Timing = 6 deg BTDC

Right, well I knew what a point gap was but what the heck was Drell? And 6 deg BTDC? All I knew for sure was that when I connected the timing light and pulled the trigger on it, a light flashed. You see here’s the problem, when I started out working on cars there was no YouTube or Internet, email wasn’t even a thought at the time. I had a Motors manual as a guide and that was about it. I finally talked with a neighbor that had some amount of automobile knowledge and he told me how to use the timing light. It was still a long time before I really understood what Dwell and BTDC meant but I actually thought I knew something about setting the timing on an engine at this point.

Then we move forward to today and most modern engines if not all of them now have their timing controlled by a microprocessor or in other words, a computer. In fact, it is programmed to change this timing figure based on input it receives from various sensors mounted to the engine. These can provide information from coolant temperature to the required fuel mixture depending on speed, fuel amount required and the quality of the fuel. In essence, it has for all intents eliminated the need to pull out the old timing light and do any checking. We change the spark plugs at 100,000 miles and simply call it good.

So my case for timing lights really comes down to using them for performance engines. I am constantly amazed at the number of racers at our local dragstrip that simply have no idea of how or why they perform a timing check, nor do they have much of an idea of the effect that changing the timing of an engine can have on its performance or lack thereof. But it is rather easy to get in the familiar process of setting an engine to a certain timing number and then just leaving it there. We say the engine seems to run it’s best at this number and we can find no reason that we should check it again and again but honestly it is something that we should look at far more often than we do. It can be an early warning of something going amiss in the valve timing or simply a part that is on the verge of failure. And if used properly, it can add a great deal of longevity to our racing engines. I know for a fact that someone, somewhere will ask someone this basic question this week – “the engine is a blah with blah-blah – how much timing should I put in it?”. Well, the answer is one that needs to be worked at and starting off with a baseline number is fine but finding out exactly what the engine wants on a given day at the track is a trial and error situation until you build historical data on that engine. So what you really should be doing is setting the timing to a baseline number, make a run and noting if there were any issues during the run, then increase the timing amount by 2-4 degrees and repeat the test process. To be very accurate about it, once the speed or elapsed time no longer improves, then you would want to back off the timing one degree for each test until you see another change in the test results. At that point, you increase the timing by 1 degree and should be at the optimal timing setting for the engine. Taking notes on weather, track and other settings of the vehicle will help you build the historical data that will allow you to readjust the timing quickly within the same conditions.

Timing is also an important factor in the typical hot rod engine used on the street. And when I say typical, I am talking about one that still uses an engine mounted distributor to move the spark energy to the spark plug. Most of the time, these engines are equipped with a carburetor and there are normally three elements of timing involved. Those are static timing, mechanical advance and vacuum advance. All three of these elements need to be fine-tuned to the engine combination and the vehicle in which it is used. Failure to miss on any of these elements can result in an engine that simply doesn’t start correctly and certainly, will not run very well. And just a note, unless an aftermarket engine balancer (harmonic balancer) was used during the build of the engine, you will need to install a timing tape so that you properly read the information that the engine is providing you. Next time around we will go through the proper procedure for a street style Chevrolet engine and we will do a review of the battery-powered timing light sold by Amazon.


Good People – Dremel Tool Company

Thanks Dremel Tools!

I had to return my Dremel Multimax for repair after it quit on me during a remodel job I was doing. I wasn’t mad at the tool or anything like that, I have had it for a very long time and it has taken a pretty good beating over the years. I just received a package from them and it contained an updated tool to replace my broken one, all the accessories, plus a couple extra blades for the tool. I was expecting to pay about $60-$65 for the repairs as my old Dremel was no longer under warranty. Well they just went well above the normal customer service line – they replaced my broken Dremel at ZERO cost! Now that’s an outfit that I will continue to do business with and I certainly recommend them to everyone.

Garage Antics, Mechanix Gloves and Road Trips

I have spent the last few days cleaning up my garage space, moving stuff around, trying to position Elvira and GT350 in workable locations, thrown out some junk but in the end, I am not sure I really gained anything at all. That could be the end of the story right there but one thing that I have found over the years is that when I “stall-out” on a project, one of the best things I can do is simply move it’s location. Something as simple as turning a car from nose to tail to tail to nose where it sits has been enough to relight my interest in the project. I have no idea why but I read that information in a car magazine ages ago and it works. So, in my case my space is wider than it is deep and while that’s fine for simply pulling in a normal sized vehicle, Elvira is a 235″ wheelbase dragster and it has never been able to fit in one of the garage stalls. I either have to move one end or the other to the side slightly to get the garage door to close. So to finish her up, I decided I was going to move it 90 degrees to the garage doors and this left me with plenty of space to move the GT350 alongside her. There is now enough space between each vehicle to work and I can create additional room just moving stuff outside temporarily. Admittedly it looks a bit funny right now but again for some reason it changes my perspective of the projects too.

I recently had the chance to attend several races with Doug and Phil, one of which I made a “live post” from. That was a lot of fun and in the future if I have the time and inclination, I think I will do it again. The app available for the iPhone worked rather well but typing on that little screen reminded me of Robin Williams in the movie “RV”. You could go blind if you had to do that a lot. One thing that I noticed during one of the races was younger racers trying to wear Mechanix type gloves as some type of fire protection. This is absolutely the wrong thing to be doing. Those gloves are mostly nylon and will simply melt and in a bad situation, they will melt and stay connected to your skin. Ask anyone in a burn unit that has seen something similar, I simply cannot imagine the pain involved with a doctor having to remove bits and pieces of melted nylon from your skin which is already severely damaged.  I certainly recommend that anyone racing, no matter the class, speed or elapsed time should wear safety gloves, but spend a little bit of money and buy the right gear. If you ever have need of it you will be glad that you have them on and that they can do their job to protect your hands, not add to your misery.

Each time I take the RV out on a road trip and the bulk of these have been to race tracks, I always have a mental list of items that either need repair or upgrading or just need something done about it. RVs are neat but they can also sound like a gypsy wagon going down the road with dishes, glassware and assorted other items banging around. Our RV is also about 10 years old now and while the mileage on it isn’t really anything to worry about, things just get loose over time and they need to be tightened up or mended in some fashion. On a nice smooth roadway, my RV is almost like one of those big Buicks my dad used to drive but just as soon as the pavement changes or there is any kind of pothole – look out, things can get a little bit exciting. Right now I am trying to quiet things down by taking some of the leftover indoor/outdoor carpet I have from the trailer project and use that to pad the wooden floors of the cabinets. I also had to replace the stereo system last year in the coach and need to put some Velcro on the feet of it to stop it from trying to march out of the entertainment cabinet. A new battery charger/convertor needs to replace the factory piece of junk that burns up the coach batteries and there is a new leak in the toilet valve that just showed up last weekend. A really good cleaning inside and out is also on the agenda. Plus it’s that time of year to climb on the roof and make sure everything is sealed and waterproof. And of course if I keep thinking about it the list is just going to get longer and longer. I do like having the RV at the race track especially on the multi-day events. We have in the past stayed in hotels, slept in the trailer or the truck, however being able to watch some racing, fix a meal, take a hot shower and bed down comfortably for the night without having to drive anywhere else has it’s advantages. And on that note, Debbie and I are going to take our first camping trip with the RV pretty soon. Should be some fun and I am looking forward to it.


Mid-Atlantic Championship

We are here at VMP for the Mid-Atlantic Championship. The race primarily consists of the top 20 in points in each racing class from local area dragstrips. Last night’s part of the event was lost to foul weather but today is at least dry but very heavily overcast. Phil is racing as an outlaw at this event as he missed the top twenty in points at Virgina Motorsports Park by one position. Doug is representing Richmond Dragway in the drag bike class having finished 8th in points. This is Doug’s second appearance in the finals with only two years of racing the bike.

Currently we are working our way through time trials and the runoffs between the different dragstrip’s class champions.

Our first time shot with the Camaro resulted in a minor bog at the launch so we made the decision to switch back to our larger carburetor. The first round of eliminations will start within the next hour and we will know if it was the right choice.

Just completed our first round of the gambler’s race. Ran a 6.01 on a 5.99 dial and took the win. Second round is probably a good 2 hours from now.

A little after 7:00p and we have now completed 2nd round with another win running 6.03 On a 6.00 dial. Humidity is high at 73% and that is killing a lot of power on our alcohol fueled engine. Doug took his round besting his opponent by a full bike length, running 6.02 on a 6.00 dial. Next round should be around 8:00p.

It is just after 9:00p and Doug just moved onto 3rd round with another victory. He dialed a 6.00 and ran a 5.99, however his opponent dialed at 6.10 left early turning on the red light. Next up after the drag bikes will be the 3rd round of Mofified racing.

Roughly 9:30p and 3rd round was our ending. A late tree that couldn’t be recovered from was the deciding factor. So the Camaro was put away for the evening. 3rd round for the drag bikes was also the end to Dougs running. A 5.80 on a 6.00 dial was just a bit too quick.

Tomorrow is the runoffs between the various tracks and that racing is scheduled to begin at 10:00a.

Day Two

It’s 11:00a and we are in the staging lanes ready for first round action. There is no re-entry or buy-backs for today. You either keep winning rounds or you go home.

And we win Round One with a 6.04 pass on a 6.03 dial. The pass would have have been a 6.03 but he killed some mph at the trap. Track is biting and the air is a touch dryer than last night, should be some fun, old style racing today.

Dougs first elimination run in drag bike comes at 1:30p but it ends his day as he breaks out running .002 too quickly and going red handing the win to his opponent.

Next up is the second round for Modified. The air has dried out considerably since the first round earlier and this normally translates to the Camaro running a bit quicker.

And we move on to third round having run a 6.02 on a 6.02 dial-in and our opponent leaving too early resulting in a red light.

Third round in Modified started just before 3:00p. Phil was the third set of cars to go down the track and once again dialed a 6.02. His opponent dialed at 8.31 red lighted giving the win to Phil and the Camaro. Phil ran the car out on what is basically a free time shot to a 6.01. The fourth round should start in about an hour.

It’s right at 4:00p now and we just finished the fourth round for us. Unfortunately Phil was a bit off on the tree and unable to catch his opponent. The Camaro ran a 6.01 on a 6.01 dial so we had the car figured out pretty good, just came up a little short this time.

I had a great time this weekend and enjoyed seeing a lot of my racing friends and even made some new friends. I am looking forward to the next event on our calendar, the Halloween Klash at Richmond Dragway.


Finally – Racing Again

It didn’t all go the way we had planned but I am okay with it. I finally got back in a racecar and down the track thanks to my son, Phil.

The original idea was to hit Richmond Dragway’s Old Dominion Duels event and run the Camaro in the Top ET class. Phil would run the Footbrake class and we would take all of the money home. It didn’t exactly come out that way but I had a good time and got some runs in with the car.

Friday was a TnT session for entrants of the event. Phil made a couple of passes in the car off the foot brake and the car ran consistent numbers so we were set for that part of the program. I had not been in a racecar in about 3+ years and the last passes I made were in the Camaro with a smaller engine and just footbraking it. The Camaro is a completely different beast now and leaving off the transbrake/2-step setup was some kind of fun. I ended up making 3 complete passes and one aborted attempt. On my first shot, I got the burnout right, lined up the car, staged a little bit loose. The problem was I was late getting on the 2-step and extremely late in letting go of the transbrake button. I remember looking at the 2nd amber and saying, “oh I was supposed to have already let go of the button”. On the next shot, I didn’t get a very good burnout and then lined up about 6-8 inches out of the groove. Once again, I was late getting on the hammer and letting go of the button, maybe a smidgen better but being out of the groove, the car went to the left really hard. I got out of the throttle and just drove the car down the track. Come the third attempt, I think I was a bit perplexed. All of this stuff is so easy in my dragster. Click a few buttons, do a burnout, stage and let go. The Camaro has the release button on the shifter, I have to toggle another switch between the roll control unit and the transbrake, my son is taller than I am so I almost feel like I am stretching to push the pedals correctly and it’s really noisy. Seeing around the hoodscoop isn’t a piece of cake either. Anyway on this shot, I still managed to screw up the hit on the tree along with not getting on the hammer soon enough again, but the car made a full pass and was pulling hard at the 660 foot mark. After a short break, I took the car up for a fourth attempt but this time I sat at the back of the staging lanes for a bit, got my safety belts the way I like them, then closed my eyes and went through the entire routine in my mind. With that done, I rolled up, did a great burnout, staged the car really shallow, when my opponent lit his stage bulb I went on the hammer and when that first amber flashed I was off that transbrake button. I was rewarded with a .009 reaction time and a 6.19 at 112+ in the 1/8 mile. That was pure fun! Discussing the run afterwards, the thinking was that I probably either unintentionally pedaled the car a bit or I did not get the carb completely open. The car normally runs in the low 6, high 5 area at 113 mph. Phil took the car out next for a pass off of the transbrake but the tires chattered a bit and he had a 6.10 on that run. With that done, I decided that I needed more hits in the car to have any competitive chance in the Top ET class so I am going to try and run the car in that class at the next regular bracket event we have available. This race was too expensive to take the gamble.

As it turn out they ended up with something in the area of 370 Footbrake cars and probably close to the same number in Top ET. The crew at Richmond did an outstanding job of getting this many race cars down the track in good time on Saturday. Sunday was more of the same although there were more race car delays due to broken bits and pieces. Once again, we had a great time and one of these times we are going to get to the serious money at the end of the day.

Something New

Charlie’s Garage is now open to the public. It’s a minor side venture in doing some basic automotive repair for people that don’t want to deal with a dealership or get run over by the local garage. Most of the work performed is your basic minor repair stuff from spark plugs to a window regulator replacement. We are not equipped to get into engine rebuilds or pulling transmissions unless we’re talking about your hot rod here. That basically meaning a specialty car that dates back to the mid-70s or so and is not your daily transportation.

I do trailer wiring, radio and speaker installations, brake jobs, timing belts, oil and filter changes, headlights, switches, batteries, etc. I can also do updates on RVs and fix a number of common issues with them. I think you get the idea.

I have decided that my I.T. (Information Technology) gig is over. It’s a great field to be in but honestly it seems like you run in circles doing things over and over, only to have someone throw it out when you’re finished and you start all over again. Usually this happens because someone thinks that they have a better mousetrap, but so far I haven’t seen too many good ones in my 40+ years of messing with it.

Give us a call at 910.620.8124

Where Race Cars Go to Die

Sometimes it’s their own trailer, other times they just end up in the back-40 somewhere and slowly are simply forgotten about. Normally they hit a certain point and restoration becomes an almost impossible task. Rust, cylinder corrosion, valve spring deterioration, sneaky mice and other rodents, oil that has simply sat and absorbed moisture – all of these plus more are the death knell of a racing car. Batteries simply sit and die over a period time, other parts that worked perfectly before, refuse to even think about functioning again.

Such is the apparent fate of the Monza. Her last trip down the strip was a dismal one having once again destroyed the transmission, this time due to a faulty pump that was fresh out of the box. I am not sure what exactly happened, but repairs were made, the transmission issue resolved and the car was driven to her trailer – now it appears almost 6 months later that this might just be her tomb. Her engine hasn’t turned over once, cobwebs are gathering and she might be on flat tires before winter hits. Sad end to a racing car that wasn’t given a chance.

The Joys of Hot Rod Wiring

There’s nothing like rebuilding your hot rod save for that wiring job you now have to take on. In my case this is Elvira right now and with the circuits that I am changing, adding and deleting all at once, the wiring looks like a colorful pile of spaghetti – and I don’t like spaghetti, just ask the missus.

I cannot remember really which car was the first that I even worked on as far as the wiring but an early one that I remember was my mom’s car. I was slowly taking the car over and had added a couple of gauges to the car, one of those oil and ammeter combination deals. Everything worked just fine until she was shopping one day and the car refused to start. After getting a mechanic to look at the car, it seems that one of the wire connections I had made to the ammeter had failed which cut all of the battery power to the car. Not long after this, I learned how to properly crimp a wire connector – squeezing it with a pair of pliers just doesn’t get the job done.

Over the years I have added different electrical items to cars including gauges, ignition systems, stereo units, speakers and fuel pumps. I have wired hot rods from the ground up; they didn’t have the first piece of cable in them and when I finished there was an operational vehicle with all of it’s electrical functions functioning. One car that I am still a little proud of was a NHRA/IHRA stocker. It was basically a complete wiring job from front to back but just to throw me a curve ball, the owner wanted his power windows to work. They do.

I am lucky in that I grew up in the phone system so basic electricity was actually a course I took at one time and that as the job situation required, I became very familiar with different kinds of electrical components. I learned that assembling things in certain ways, connecting the circuits and using special bits and pieces as you needed let you customize a solution to obtain the results that you want. I was also trained to read electrical schematics and can normally follow the flow of a circuit from A-Z.

One of the most recent wiring jobs I performed was on the Monza. If you have looked at any of the photos of the car when it was first purchased, you can tell that the wiring job in it was more of a miss than a hit. The car had everything from 110v light switches in it to solid house wiring. Grounds were simply holes drilled in any roll cage pipe that was close by. Simply put, electrical wiring in a vehicle, whether a race car or not escapes a lot of people. These same people can assemble a race engine, weld a complete chassis together and tune the daylights out of a race car but tell them they have to wire it and they will give you every excuse in the book not to do it.

So back to Elvira. Right now I have about 70%-80% of her wiring completed right now. I have moved some components around a bit which has resulted in shortening the wiring to them and in other cases I am making improvements in the way I connected something before. I have also run a total copper ground system in the car to reduce the amount of electrical resistance that might have been in the frame. While the chrome moly frame was a convenient point to make ground connections, I have learned that it is certainly not the best route to take. I have also added additional grounding to some components in an attempt to reduce any resistance in those particular circuits. I am not sure any of this is going to make the car perform better but at least I will know that each circuit will be at it’s best. There is also some additional items that I am adding that I did not run before and of course these will need wiring connections too. I hope to have all of the wiring completed over the coming week and once everything is tested I will be ready to actually fire Elvira up.


Top 25 Motor Oils – June, 2017

Here is the top 25 motor oils available.

Please remember that not all of these oils are available in all areas. Also any racing oils listed are not intended for long-term street use. Using race oils in street cars equipped with catalytic converters can damage them.

1. 0W40 Mobil 1 “FS” European Car Formula
2. 0W20 Quaker State Ultimate Durability
3. 5W30 Valvoline Full Synthetic High Mileage with MaxLife Technology
4. 5W30 Pentosin Pento Super Performance III
5. 5W20 Quaker State Ultimate Durability
6. 0W30 Gulf Competition
7. 5W30 Mobil 1, Advanced Full Synthetic
8. 10W30 Mobil 1, Advanced Full Synthetic
9. 5W30 Pennzoil Ultra
10. 5W20 Valvoline MaxLife High Mileage
11. 5W30 Mobil 1 ESP
12. 5W30 Quaker State Ultimate Durability
13. 5W30 Pennzoil Euro “AV” European Formula
14. 5W30 Motul 300V Ester Core 4T Racing Oil
15. 5W30 Mag 1, FMX, European Formula
16. 5W30 Oil Extreme Motor Oil
17. 5W40 Mag 1, FMX, European Formula
18. 5W30 Valvoline MaxLife High Mileage
19. 5W30 Castrol Edge
20. 10W30 Lucas Racing Only
21. CFS 0W30 NT Millers Nanodrive Racing Oil
22. 5W30 Mobil 1, Advanced Full Synthetic
23. 0W30 Amsoil Signature Series 25,000 miles
24. 5W30 Joe Gibbs Driven LS30 Performance Motor Oil
25. 10W30 Valvoline NSL (Not Street Legal) Conventional Racing Oil

And if you are looking for a mileage improvement, consider Pennzoil Platinum 5W30 Pure Synthetic. Working with my wife’s Nissan Versa Coupe, we have been able to verify a 2 mpg increase with this oil. The oil is made from natural gas so the base stock is cleaner – there must be something to it.

Converters, Measurements and Dial Calipers – Oh My!

It’s a bit funny but I have probably explained the following procedure to a few friends a half-dozen times in the last few weeks. And honestly unless you too are a diehard drag racer using a GM style automatic transmission and converter setup, the information here is probably worthless. But then again, to a lot of those that do use that setup there seems to be a huge mystery to this procedure. Actually it’s all rather simple.

Why this might apply to some of the latest GM stuff, I am specifically talking about Powerglides, TH350s and TH400 transmissions. And this procedure should be used every time you have the transmission serviced or maintenance on the converter performed. You should also use it if you are changing the flexplate for the engine or the bell housing/transmission case.

First things first. The convertor has to seated properly in the transmission before anything else can happen. I like to call it the “3-step drop”. What needs to happen is that as you place the converter in the transmission, you need to make sure that the splines of the transmission are engaging the internal splines of the converter and that the converter hub properly seats within the drive tangs of the transmission fluid pump. It’s actually pretty easy although some converters can be a real bear getting them to make that final seating. What you will feel is that the converter “drops” or moves back further on the input shaft as you move the converter back and forth. The first drop is almost negligible and is simply the converter hub aligning itself with the outer portion of the transmission pump. The next drop is significant and typically moves the converter back about 1/2″, this indicates that those splines have now engaged each other. The last and final drop again is about 1/2″ and will be the hub engaging the fluid pump tangs. Now at this point, the converter is completely engaged in the transmission but if you were to run it this way, you would find that you will destroy your transmission pump in quick order. This brings up the procedure that needs to be used.

With the transmission installed in the car and bolted up properly to the engine, it is time to take a measurement. Depending on the combination of flexplate, the thickness of the converter mounting pads, the bell housing or transmission case and whether a rear engine plate is used, this measurement needs to end up being somewhere between .125 and .187. With the converter still pushed back into the transmission, we want to measure the distance between the flexplate and the mounting pads of the converter. The easiest way I have found to do this is to take a set of feeler gauges and insert a stack of them until the stack is just snug between the measurement points. One you have that measurement, you can then take a dial caliper and measure the thickness of the stack. This measurement will be the distance between the flexplate and the mounting pads of the converter. As an example, let us say the measurement is .234 – well that is a little bit too much as if we were to pull the converter forward and simply bolt it to the flexplate, we would run the risk of pulling the converter hub out of the drive tangs for the fluid pump and in turn we would have an inoperable transmission. What we need to do is a little bit of math. If our desired minimum clearance is .125, we deduct that from the measured distance, which in this case is .234. That leaves us with .109 as the excess distance. We now need to find some hardened washers or spacers to take up the extra clearance. Using the dial calipers again, we should be able to find washers that come close. Again as an example lets say we find 3 washers that are .090 in depth – three are required for the GM transmissions and we want to make sure that they are all the same. That still leaves us with .019 extra clearance but if we add that back to our desired .125, we come up with .144 which is well within the maximum amount of .187. We can now bolt the converter to the flexplate with the .090 washers between them and we have the proper clearance for the transmission to fully perform its job function.

Again, it takes longer to describe the process than it does to actually perform it. But making it a habit to do so when working on your transmission/converter setup is well worth the minor fuss. Not only are you insuring that you’re setup will be right, but if something else does happen to occur, at least you will know that the installation was performed correctly and that it is not part of the problem.




Slow, Slow Progress

I suppose any progress is better than none at all but I am thinking that glaciers are moving a little bit quicker than my progress on Elvira.

Since the last post about Elvira, we managed to get the engine mounting T-Bolt straps corrected, the engine/transmission and rear end coupler aligned, the chute checked out and repacked, all new mounting for the transmission cooler and a few pieces touched up with paint. I am actually excited about the transmission mounting as it allowed me to reduce the amount of stainless steel hose used for the fluid connections. I probably saved all of 5 ounces but anytime you can take weight out of a racecar, it just seems like such a huge achievement! Once we get some room in the garage – more on that later – I hope to work my way forward on the car completing systems as I  go along. Next up would be the fuel and cooling systems on the engine.

On the other hand, we made a trip to the beach house to make a few repairs there as we decided to do some minor renting of it this summer. My youngest son recovered his rental house in Wilmington which was trashed and we spent several days there pulling out carpet and padding, a destroyed bathroom door, made multiple truck load runs to the dump with “their” trash, repaired a sliding glass door and went shopping for replacement stuff. A lot of cleaning products were used up trying to get the place back to a decent state. It’s sometimes amazing how inconsiderate people can be just because they do not “own it”. Another trip is coming up to re-do the bathrooms and lay tile for those areas and the foyer entrance. I also started opening the pool at home but immediately ran into several problems with the pump and water lines. Even though I insulate the piping every off season and do so by wrapping it down to ground level with thick insulation that is then covered in plastic and aluminum foil, either a deer stumbled into it or the low temperatures we had for a day or two this past winter snapped some of the plumbing. So it was fix all of the plumbing first only then to find that the pump was screaming its guts out when I powered it up. Normally this is the ceramic pump seal that is making the noise so I pulled the pump, replaced the seal and of course that didn’t fix it. So right now I am in the middle of replacing the pump bearings and should have it back in place today. Hopefully that takes care of the pump and I can get back to completing the pool opening.

And of course that’s not all that has happened. Our little rocket ship the MR2 Spyder that my wife keeps at the beach decided to take a dump on us. It has now thrown engine codes several times resulting in the replacement of various sensors but this last time I decided it needed to come back to my garage so that I could go over everything. We have had a mysterious engine sound since the end of summer and I really want to determine what that sound is. I had to take the open trailer down to the beach, pick it up and bring it back here which sounds easy enough but it never is. The car sits so low that it was a bit tedious to get it loaded and unloaded without tearing anything up on the chassis or body. It will also be getting a new convertible top once the repair work is completed. Of course I can’t get the repair work done because my garage currently is home for 3 cars (MR2, Monza, Elvira) along with a nice quantity of my youngest son’s stuff which we have yet to find other storage space for at this time. To say its cramped in there doesn’t come close. And the reason the Monza is here is that on its last trip to the track, it destroyed its transmission again. Seems the stator decided to rotate slightly in the brand new pump cutting off a large amount of the transmission fluid that normally gets pumped through the transmission. The pump was covered with a warranty which was helpful and our buddy James Smith at Mountain Road Transmissions helped us out with the rebuild. While re-installing the transmission, I discovered that we had an alignment issue with the aftermarket bell housing. This housing had been cracked and repaired in the past, it bolted up okay but depending on the converter being used, either gave us a minor problem or none at all. I took some measurements and found that it was off from one mounting side to the other by almost an 1/8 inch. So we decided to replace the housing which in itself turned into a multiple week event. With the new housing in place, everything looks good and now we are just waiting for the transmission fluid and trailer to show up and take the Monza out of here.

On another note, my littlest guy Theo (he’s our little Yorkie) has been fighting a very bad skin infection for months now. Multiple trips to different veterinarians, multiple drugs, baths and hair cuts later, he’s still dealing with it although it looks like we are now turning the corner on it. The last 24 hours have been pretty good for him which is major progress and I know he is glad to get some relief. We all hope it continues and that he can get this behind him.


Free for the Taking – MSD Wiring Information

If you run MSD ignition components or are even thinking about using their stuff, I have a nice PDF book for you. I just found this recently and now keep a copy of it on my computer for use at the track and garage. No longer do I have to look up a wiring diagram or installation information for one of their components. Someone else having ignition trouble at the track – it’s all here in this one book. Every wiring diagram, instruction, guides, setup tips, all of it is in the book.

Nothing like having a complete catalog of all the information at your fingertips – 192 pages of information – get your free copy now.

Download it here: MSD Wiring Book

Hot Water

Or the lack thereof. Funny how something that is so basic and normal to your life is a minor cause for alarm when it goes missing.

A few weeks back our Rheem tankless water heater decided to take a dive on us. I had installed the unit about 8-9 years ago and other than routine cleaning it was the perfect appliance. All of a sudden there was zero hot water and the control panel was indicating a code 11, which according the troubleshooting chart told us that the flame detector rods were not working, there was not enough gas pressure or the circuit board had gone kaput. After talking to their technical support people, the number one culprit was normally the flame detector rods. There are three of them and they cost a fantastic $6.00 each but with overnight shipping, the tab came to $50. I was also told that the old ones could be cleaned but I decided that maybe it would be better to have the spare parts just in case the cleaning did not work.

Taking the unit apart is aggravating. There are about 30 screws that have to be removed from the burn chamber cover plate to get access to the burners and the flame detector rods. There are also three gas pipes that have to be removed and they made sure that these were also in the way of removing the cover plate. There is nothing overly difficult here, just aggravating. So with the plate out of the way, I decided that I would just try to clean up everything and save the parts for a later time. Plus having to remove the entire burner assembly did not look to be like any fun. I rigged up a paint stick with a small piece of 3m pad and proceeded to clean the ends of the flame detectors. I also tried using the vacuum cleaner to clear out the burnt, leftover fine ash from the chamber. That did not work very well, so I thought that blowing it out with compressed air would take care of it. Warning – if you ever have to do something like this, put on a dust mask at least. I didn’t and paid a price for about 4 hours coughing and hacking, feeling like I couldn’t take a deep breath ever again. So with the mess that I made cleaned up and the unit reassembled I was happy to see that the code was gone and we had hot water again -another well done job!

As I said that was a few weeks ago. Tonight right around dinner time, we discover that once again we do not have hot water and the same code 11 has come back. Oh boy, now I am really panicked a bit. Having just cleaned it, it could be some of the other issues they mentioned and none of those were looking real good to me. But I still had those new parts and at the very least I was going to try those to see if they would resolve the issue. From what I had read, the rods acquire a coating on them that prevents them from detecting the burner flame correctly. Maybe my cleaning with the 3m pad had not been aggressive enough. I was also going to have to remove the entire burner unit this time as two of the rods are located on the back of the burner and there is no other way to remove them. So, once again the unit was disassembled, wires were marked, unplugged and disconnected. The gas tubes actually cooperated a little bit by swinging slightly to one side allowing the burner to be removed. Once it was out, I realized that my cleaning job had not been as good as I had thought. The burner itself had about half of its area coated in left over ash deposits but a soft cleaning brush and some more compressed air made quick work of it. I also wore a dust mask this time. The rods themselves are held in place with a few more screws and brackets so swapping them out wasn’t too bad a job. Putting everything back together went smoothly and again we were delighted to see that the code had gone and that the unit was heating water again. Some other members of the family have already taken showers and the unit appears to be operating normally. I suppose for $50 the repair cost is reasonable. I will probably order another set of rods in the near future just to have the spare parts available but at least they will not have to be overnighted this time.

When I installed this unit, the claim was that it would take about 4-5 years to actually recover the investment. These units at the time ran roughly about double what a standard 50 gallon gas hot water heater cost. Based on the number of times we have to fill our propane tank now compared to before the tankless unit, I can tell you that I recovered the extra cost in about 2 years. The fact that you are not heating water over and over again makes a significant difference in the amount of fuel you are using. If you are handy and have the knowledge to replace a gas water heater, then I recommend making the change to tankless – I don’t think you will regret it and of course the newer units are said to be even more efficient than the one I am using now.


Top 25 Motor Oils – March, 2017

Here is the top 25 motor oils available.

Please remember that not all of these oils are available in all areas. Also any racing oils listed are not intended for long-term street use. Using race oils in street cars equipped with catalytic converters can damage them.

1. 0W40 Mobil 1 “FS” European Car Formula
2. 0W20 Quaker State Ultimate Durability
3. 5W30 Pentosin Pento Super Performance III
4. 5W20 Quaker State Ultimate Durability
5. 0W30 Gulf Competition
6. 5W30 Mobil 1, Advanced Full Synthetic
7. 10W30 Mobil 1, Advanced Full Synthetic
8. 5W30 Pennzoil Ultra
9. 5W20 Valvoline MaxLife High Mileage
10. 5W30 Mobil 1 ESP Formula
11. 5W30 Quaker State Ultimate Durability
12. 5W30 Pennzoil Euro “AV” European Formula
13. 5W30 Motul 300V Ester Core 4T Racing Oil
14. 5W30 Mag 1, FMX, European Formula
15. 5W30 Oil Extreme Motor Oil
16. 5W40 Mag 1, FMX
17. 5W30 Valvoline MaxLife High Mileage
18. 5W30 Castrol Edge Professional “LL03″
19. 10W30 Lucas Racing Only
20. CFS 0W30 NT Millers Nanodrive Racing Oil
21. 5W30 Mobil 1, Advanced Full Synthetic
22. 0W30 Amsoil Signature Series 25,000 miles
23. 5W30 Joe Gibbs Driven LS30 Performance Motor Oil
24. 10W30 Valvoline NSL (Not Street Legal) Conventional Racing Oil
25. 10W40 Valvoline MaxLife High Mileage