Thursday, October 24, 2013

FranktoidTM No. 11 - The Missing Link

I knew at a very young age that something was not quite right. I could see that there was a difference between me and other guys my age. In my youth almost all of my friends liked a certain something that I didn't even care about. They would spend countless hours obsessing about it, talking about it, watching it, and even playing it. As I got older they would bet on it, argue about it, fantasize about it, make decisions based on it, purchase items because of it, and even change their life for it. What is this all powerful force I am referring to? Is it a super addictive drug? A hardcore addiction? Is it an extreme fetish? Some folks would think so. The influential corps that I am talking about is none other then sports. That's right, SPORTS!

I really think there is a sports gene and that I was born without it. While my classmates were playing flag football I was reading Popular Hot Rodding and drawing pictures of blown Chrysler Hemis. When the neighbor kids were outside playing baseball I was building models like the S'cool Bus and the Tijuana Taxi. When friends were watching the playoffs on TV, I was watching movies like American Graffiti, Two Lane Blacktop, and The Hollywood Knights. Some guys can rattle off batting averages or yards rushed for almost any given player. I knew engine cylinder firing orders, block codes, and spark plug gaps. My buddies wore jerseys and sweat shirts with their favorite team logo on them. I wore tee shirts with characters drawn by Ed "Big Daddy" Roth. Team jacket? Nope, NASCAR jacket. NFL, NBA, MLB, MLS follower? Nope, SCTA, NHRA, SCCA, NJBA follower.  You see, for every sports reaction, there is a non-sports counter action. But my counter action goes much deeper.

The aforementioned gene completely missed the pool in my case. Not only did I not have any interest in sports, but also fishing, hunting, camping, et al. I have know other guys who liked the car stuff along with the sports and other junk, but I have yet to meet another male who feels the same way I do. I know that there are more of us out there, but we are a rare breed, often referred to in Latin as Exterius Ludis, or "without sports". Consider the following; as I am writing this the World Series is playing out on television. I could not tell you who is winning or for that matter, which teams are even playing! Ditto for the Super Bowl when it rolls around. NBA Finals? You guessed it, clueless. We even speak a different language. Consider these popular sport terms and what they mean to me:

Grand Slam - Breakfast at Dennys
Single - Without a girlfriend
Line Drive - Engine, transmission, and rearend
Home Run - Scoring with the girlfriend
Dribbling - Too much beer in my mouth
Double Dribble - Beer coming out of my mouth and nose
Traveling - Road trip!
Unnecessary Roughness - Crappy body work
False Start - You think the engine is going to start but it doesn't
Illegal Return - Returning a used auto part as a new one
Impeding Progress - Honey do list is preventing you from working on your project car
Technical Penalty - Sounds like a DMV fee to me!

So there you have it, a gear heads take on a very testosterone laden subject. Like Popeye said, "I yam what I yam" and there is no changing me. Motor oil will forever run through my veins and my memory is no where near full. There is plenty of room left on my hard drive for the next automotive adventure. Just think of all the stories yet to come. I don't know about you but I can't wait...

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

An Exhausting Situation

I was driving around in my latest purchase, a 1967 Olds Delmont 88, assessing the cars needs and trying to get a good idea of just how much I can trust this hulking behemoth on the open road. One thing I noticed was that the engine was running as though there was a major restriction in the exhaust. From my pre-purchase inspection I knew that the muffler and pipes were mostly original and in sad shape. The entire exhaust is in dire need of replacement due to rust, holes and leaking, but not a restriction, or so I thought. To exasperate the situation, the car had a major heat soak problem which was causing a hard start condition after it was warmed up. If you have ever worked on a early GM product you know that most are equipped with a heat controlled valve located at the end of one of the exhaust manifolds. The purpose of this valve is to re-direct the exhaust gasses when the engine is cold, up through the center of the intake manifold, passing them directly under the carburetor and then exiting through the opposite head and finally dumping into the exhaust manifold. Why you ask? Well, GM engineers discovered that this method not only warmed up the engine quicker but also aided in making the motor run smoother when it was cold.

The valve in question is counter weighted and controlled by a bi-metal spring. It's natural state is in the closed position, only opening when the spring heats up from the exhaust heat and starts to coil up, opening the valve in the process. GM engineers installed a counter weight to aid the spring in the opening process and also to act as a fail safe in case the spring broke. What they didn't account for was the valve seizing up, rendering both the spring and weight useless. I checked the valve on the Olds and it wouldn't budge. It was seized solid and I had the sneaking suspicion that it was in the closed position. Unfortunately there is only one way to find out for sure, you have to pull the exhaust crossover pipe down from the manifold. This sounds simple enough but consider that the bolts in the exhaust flanges have probably not been touched in over 40 years! My initial thought was to take the slow approach and muscle the bolts out using a socket and ratchet. As I started to crank on one of the bolts, something just didn't feel right. I got this sick feeling that the bolt was about to twist off and then I would really be up a creek. At this point I figured I had nothing to lose so I abandoned the ratchet and broke out the impact gun. This turned out to be a good decision as it made quick work of removing all the flange bolts - in one piece!
As you can see the bolt on the right was real close to breaking.
As soon as I removed the crossover pipe all of my suspicions were confirmed. The valve was stuck in the closed position. At this point you basically have two choices, you can either get the valve working again or remove it. I chose the latter and decided to remove it permanently, but this is no easy task if you plan on doing it while the manifold is still bolted to the engine.
A little restriction anyone?
As you can see by the photo the selection of tools available for this valves removal is very limited given the space constraints. My initial thought was to use a cut off wheel to remove the plate and just leave the shaft in place. This was easier said then done as there is just no room to maneuver the tool up to the plate. I had to come up with another way to remove this valve that didn't involve removing the exhaust manifold. Finally I came up with a plan. My idea was to use a cold chisel to break the shaft at each end and remove the entire plate. I figured the whole thing was nice and brittle from all the heating and cooling cycles over the years. I think this would have worked if I could have hit the end of the chisel with a hammer, but once again I found out that there was not enough room to swing the hammer because the chisel was just too short. While I was looking for a longer one I ran across a bit that fit my air chisel. Before you could say "Bobs your Uncle" I had come up with a new plan.

Armed with my air chisel I crawled under the car to attack the valve. In less then a minute I had the whole thing out. The shaft sheared cleanly on the inside leaving the counter weight intact on the outer piece of the shaft. It was still seized up and the inner edge was bent a little so I wasn't too worried about it falling out. What a piece of cake! I don't know why I didn't think of this in the first place.
This is what was left of the offending valve.
After the valve was out I cleaned up the flanges of the crossover pipe and buttoned it back up with stainless steel hardware. I also coated all the bolt threads with anti-seize to make future removal easier. Now that the stuck heat riser valve was taken care of, the next step is to address the exhaust, which is in dire need of replacement. I'll cover the exhaust system makeover in another blog because, if you'll pardon the pun, I'm exhausted!