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Classic Auto Doc: Rebuilding a carburetor

1963 Dodge Dart

1963 Dodge Dart

Steve Linden is a classic, antique, and collector vehicle expert who offers advice, tips, and news on all things classic car related on Long Island. Send in your questions to steve@stevelinden.com.


Question
My father just gave me an original 1965 Dodge Dart that he’s owned for a long time. It only has 55,000 miles on it and it’s in great shape but it runs very rough even after being tuned up. He didn’t use it very often and he said that the carburetor needs to be rebuilt. I’d like to save some money by doing this myself. Is this a good idea or a bad idea?

Answer
I think it’s a good idea. The worst that can happen is that you’ll have to pay a professional to do it, and that’s what you have to do now anyway. Your Dart should have a Carter BBS or Holley 1920 one barrel carburetor. As far as carburetors go, these are relatively simple, and rebuild kits are readily available. There are several things to keep in mind when rebuilding any carburetor, and if you adhere to these, success is almost guaranteed.

1. Make sure that you clearly understand the instructions and follow them one step at a time, particularly as they apply to settings such as the float level. Don’t be intimidated. It’s not as hard as it looks.

2. Before removing any adjusting screws, screw them all the way in slowly, counting the number of turns so that you’ll have a starting point when you reassemble the carburetor. 

3. Go to your auto parts store and buy a carburetor cleaning kit which will contain a solvent for cleaning the carburetor and all of the internal parts, and be sure to work in a clean, well lit area.

4. Allow an hour for disassembly. Let the parts soak overnight, and allow at least a few hours for reassembly, installation and adjustment. Expect it to take longer the first time.


Question
The oil pressure gauge on my 1976 Trans Am barely moves at all when I start the engine. It stays near 0 PSI whether the engine is hot or cold. My mechanic said it’s probably just the gauge and not to worry about it. Should I trust him?

Answer
That depends. Are you a gambler, because if he’s wrong it could mean the end of your engine, and I find it shocking that he would tell you to ignore it. That’s why cars have gauges in the first place. He should connect an external gauge to the engine to verify that the engine is producing the proper oil pressure. I agree with your mechanic that it probably is, because your engine has hydraulic lifters that are “pumped up” by oil pressure.

If the oil pressure were near 0 PSI these lifters would be making a real racket. However, I think he’s wrong about the gauge being at fault. A much more likely cause is the oil pressure sending unit. An easy test is to unplug the wire from the sending unit and touch it to a good “ground” on the engine. The needle on the oil pressure gauge should move all the way to the right. If it does, replace the sending unit. 


Question
I was given a new 1986 Alfa Romeo Graduate when I graduated from high school in 1986. It spent four years outdoors when I took it to college in upstate New York, and the years since then have taken their toll. It still runs well but the body and interior need to be completely restored. Does it pay for me to restore it?

Answer
Absolutely, positively, 100% NO. Don’t even think about it! Well, after deep thoughtful introspection, maybe you should. Financially it makes absolutely no sense at all, but after 24 years of ownership I would imagine that you have an emotional attachment to the car, and for that reason alone it’s worth considering a restoration. 

The downside is that the cost to restore the body and interior alone are going to cost at least 2 – 3 times what the car will be worth when it’s done. The upside is that you and your Alfa will have the opportunity to enjoy another two decades of blissful motoring together. Unless of course you don’t have a garage, in which case I’d junk it!


Tip Of The Week
If you store your collector car in a barn, tent or similar structure, it’s a good idea to keep a fan on. It costs only pennies a day and it goes a long way in preventing condensation from forming which will ultimately form rust.

 

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