Keeping It Breathing

When I initially started the engine I hadn’t installed the new gas tank yet, so it was running off of the gas in the fuel bowl only.  When the gas in the bowl ran out it would stall.  I came back with the plan of inserting a fuel line into a gas can and running that to the fuel pump inlet, creating a temporary fuel source.  I wanted to keep the engine running long enough to warm it up and adjust the timing.  I filled up my gas can and ran the hose to the fuel pump.  I primed the fuel bowl and started the car up.  It ran for a minute and then ran out of gas.  I repeated the process of priming the fuel bowl and starting the engine 4 or 5 times with the same results.  I checked the sight plugs on the carburetor but fuel didn’t seem to getting there.  I tapped on the needle and seat to try freeing it up in case it was stuck.  I started the car again but still no joy. Time to do some diagnosing as either the fuel pump wasn’t working or the needle and seat were stuck.

I removed the fuel line from my gas can and placed the nozzle of my squeeze bottle of gas into the fuel line.  I suspended this above the engine compartment so that gravity could feed the gas.  I primed the fuel bowl and started the car again while watching for any fuel flowing out of the squeeze bottle.  The engine ran out of gas once again and stalled.  I tried it with my finger over the gas line to see if I could feel any suction created by the fuel pump.  That test failed as well.  I was beginning to suspect a bad fuel pump.  I removed the fuel line from the carburetor to see if any gas was getting up to the engine.  The line looked dry.

At this point I remembered that I had a vacuum gauge that could also measure pressure.  I bought it back in the 1980’s and only used it a few times as a vacuum gauge.  I had forgotten about it and even more importantly I had forgotten that it also measured fuel pressure as well as vacuum.  I attached the gauge to the fuel line and cranked the engine.  At first there was no pressure, but then it rose to 3 psi and finally made it to 4 psi.  Some gas started sputtering out as well.  So it looked like my fuel pump was working.  My next suspect was a stuck needle and seat.

I hooked the fuel line back up to the carburetor and gave the needle and seat a few more taps with the handle of a screwdriver.  Then I primed the float bowl and started it once again.  It sputtered a bit when it started to run out of gas, but then the engine sped up and kept running.  I let it idle for a few minutes and it smoothed out pretty well as it warmed up.  The fuel pump and carburetor were working as intended.

I let the engine warm up and made sure the cooling system was working.  The temperature gauge sat at about where I remembered from the past when the engine was warmed up.  The radiator and hoses got warm so I knew the thermostat had opened.  And the thermostatic fan clutch stiffened up and caused the fan to turn faster.  There was a fair bit of smoke coming up from both sides of the engine.  I shined a flashlight down both sides but couldn’t see any obvious oil leaks.  My guess is that I dripped some transmission fluid onto the exhaust manifolds when I squirted it into the spark plug holes.  The smoke is just the transmission fluid burning off of the exhaust.  If so it should burn off and stop smoking.

After the engine warmed up and the choke came off I shut down the engine and grabbed my timing light.  I started the engine back up and checked the timing.  It was set slightly retarded.  I shut down the engine, loosened the distributor clamp and started it back up.  I advanced the timing a few degrees, shut it down, and tightened the distributor clamp back down.  Starting the engine and double checking my work showed the timing right where I wanted it.  I may advance it a few more degrees after I test drive the car and see how it runs and whether it pings.  But for now I’m satisfied that the engine is ready and waiting for action.  I’m also fairly confident in the starting system and the cooling system, although I do need to change the 15 year old coolant even if it is still green.  The charging system appeared to be working as well, but i need to do some further testing before I’m fully confident that it is working properly.

There’s still plenty of work left to do.  Next up on my list is a replacement of the rear universal joint.  That shouldn’t be a terribly difficult job.  But I’ve regretted using those words before so I should probably wait and see how it goes.