Salt in the Wound – Dave’s Garage

Now that Spring has finally gotten a foothold on our Vermont weather, it is time to wash the salt off our cars. Salt is much more corrosive when the temperature is above freezing. The salty, sandy mixture of road treatment debris, combined with the protective layer of mud from mud season is a perfect recipe for corrosion.

It is really important to thoroughly wash the mud, sand and salt off before it can do any more damage. Washing out the wheel wells, rocker panels, door bottoms, joints where panels meet, floor pans and any other place where debris can collect is a tedious job, but one that will avoid costly rust damage.

rustKeep an eye out for cars similar to the car you drive. Look for rusty areas. These are the areas of your car that you need to pay particular attention to. Make sure drain holes in quarter panels, rocker panels, hoods and doors are open and able to drain correctly.

My Subaru is a 2002 with 205,000 miles on it. It has never had any body work done to it. This spring, a patch of rust appeared where the rear quarter panel and the bumper meet. There is a pin hole now, and the corrosion has taken off over the last few weeks. I plan on sand blasting the area, welding new metal in any holes, and epoxy priming the bare metal before painting. Epoxy primer does a excellent job of both adhering to the metal, and preventing further rust.

Rust prevention and repair are both time consuming and expensive, but with the cost of new cars today, it is money well spent.

Please email all inquiries to: Dave
or snail mail
32 Turkey Hill Road
Richmond VT 05477

Keeping Your Car in Line – Dave’s Garage

Wheel alignments are one of those preventative maintenance items that is often put off for too long. Several months ago I was driving my Subaru in a freezing rain storm. I was shocked at how poorly the car was handling. The back of the car kept side stepping requiring almost constant correction to keep the car from skid-ding out of control. Several weeks later while parked in a hotel parking garage in Connecticut I noticed the inside of the rear wheels was very worn.

I made an appointment to get a four wheel alignment. When they brought the car in and put it on the lift, they showed me that the inside of the rear tires was so worn the steel belts were showing through the tread. They asked me if the car had recently had body or sus-pension work done. Nope. The car has never had any body work, body damage or rear suspen-sion work, ever in 11 years and 202,000 miles. How far out of alignment was the car? The front was within spec., however the rear wheels were towed out (pigeon toed) two full inches. The spec. is for the wheels to toe in .002″.

I am at a loss to explain how the wheels “migrated” so far out of specification, or just when it happened. The signs were all there. I noticed that the tread wear was uneven, or “cupped.” The tires were making more tire noise than normal. The car was not tracking well, and was outright unsafe on slippery roads. Rather than having the alignment checked, I continued to drive for months.

The alignment shop charges $69.00 for a four wheel alignment, and they said they usually take about 20 minutes. Being 11 years old all of the alignment bolts on my car were frozen. They worked on the car for a full two and a half hours to free the bolts up and align the rear wheels. They said because of the extra time, they had to charge me a little extra. How much? An extra $10, for an out the door cost of $79.00. (I’d recommend this shop in a second if anybody is interested).

Had I taken care of this when I first noticed it, that would have been the total cost. Unfortunately, I waited too long, and now I need to buy a new set of snow tires. I could have easily gotten one more season out of these tires if the alignment were not so far off. Lesson learned.

Please email all inquiries to: Dave
or snail mail
32 Turkey Hill Road
Richmond VT 05477

Waterless Coolant – Dave’s Garage

Waterless Coolant?
I have been seeing reference to a waterless coolant lately. I read a column written by Jay Leno in which he touts the advantages to waterless coolant. After doing a little research, I have come to the conclusion that the invention of waterless coolant is another advantage we in the old car hobby can take advantage of, much like modern engine oil and silicone brake fluid.

Ok, what is waterless coolant? Conventional coolant is a 50/50 mixture of ethylene glycol and water with either supplemental coolant ad-ditives (SACs) or long-life organic acid technology (OAT) additives. To keep the coolant operating properly and to protect engine parts, the additives must be checked and maintained periodically. The coolant breaks down over time, and must be flushed and replaced. Failure to maintain conventional coolant will result in both failure to cool the engine, as well as corrosion to engine and cooling system components. Ethylene glycol is also highly toxic. Three tablespoons is a lethal dose. Every year thousands of animals die after consuming conventional coolant, being attracted to the sweet smell.

Glycol-based waterless coolant has recently gained popularity as a maintenance-free alternative to traditional coolants. Brought to market about a decade ago, the waterless coolant provides adequate lubrication for water pumps. Because no water is in the coolant, there’s no need to use additives to protect engines from water’s deleterious effects.

Traditional vs. waterless coolant…

Water is an excellent heat-transfer medium when liquid, but it changes state. When it boils at 212° F, it creates vapor pockets that can insu-late and hold heat in the metal rather than transferring heat away. When below 32° F, water freezes, expanding to generate enough pressure to crack engine blocks.

Freezing/boiling levels…

Traditional, fully formulated coolants prevent freezing to -34° F. It also raises the boiling point to 224°. Since engines operate at close to water’s boiling point, the glycol adds a safety margin to prevent boil-over. Additional margin is provided by pressurizing the closed cooling system to 1 atmosphere (15 psi) above ambient. With the pressure cap, water boils at 250° and 50/50 coolant boils at 263°.
Waterless coolant, however, won’t freeze below 40° F and boils at above 375° — even without pressurization — giving a huge safety mar-gin. Water carries scale-forming minerals, so waterless coolant prevents scale buildup. It doesn’t need a 15-psi radiator cap — the manufacturer recommends 1 to 2 psi, just enough to close the system. With no water to boil off, localized hot spots and mineral deposits are avoided.

Engine protection…

Pitting is caused when water vapor bubbles form next to cylinder liners as they flex from the side thrust of pistons. When the bubbles im-plode, coolant impacts the outer walls of the liners with enough force to drill through. That lets coolant into cylinders and the oil sump.

In traditional coolants, supplemental additives form a protective coating that absorbs most of the impinging force. Without the protection, repeated implosions drill holes in the steel liners. Also, organic acids in long-life coolants protect from pitting. Protection levels must be moni-tored.
With waterless coolant, no water vaporizes and no bubbles form as the liners flex. Waterless coolant prevents voids. Since water is a corro-sive agent, waterless coolant also resists corrosion.

Damage caused by corrosion from coolant can be very expensive to fix, or could even ruin an engine.


The antifreeze in Evans’ coolant is mostly propylene glycol, not ethylene glycol found in conventional coolants. Unlike ethylene glycol, propylene glycol is nontoxic. In fact, pure propylene glycol is used as a sweetener in many medications. If propylene glycol leaks and is in-gested, no harm is done.

The drawbacks of waterless…

Availability. You may be able to limp home on a slow leak, but if something catastrophic like a burst radiator happens, you can’t just repair it and replace with ordinary coolant. You need to find a service provider that carries Evans’ coolant. If you just add water, you lose all the bene-fits of your expensive changeover.


Evans coolant is not cheap, it costs upwards of $40/gallon, roughly twice the price of $15 – $20/gallon for traditional coolant. I have seen it available on line for less.

For a collector car that will be maintained indefinitely, waterless coolant makes sense. It is expensive, but will pay for itself over the long haul. Skipping the chore of flushing and replacing the coolant every few years (everybody reading this does this, right?) and avoiding the costly effects of corrosion in the engine make this product save money overall. There is also the added benefit of it being non toxic, potential-ly saving a life should the coolant escape the cooling system.

An engine rebuild can easily reach costs of $4,000 or more. Waterless coolant is a cost effective means to protect your investment.

More information can be found at the Evans website:

Please email all inquiries to: Dave
or snail mail
32 Turkey Hill Road
Richmond VT 05477

I’m Going To Make It After All – Dave’s Garage

Recently I went through the annual exercise of getting my old work truck ready for the state inspection. The parking brake did not work. The piece that connects the front and intermediate cables had broken. This is the part that allows for adjustment to take up slack in the cable. It is a simple piece of metal that has a 5/16″ hole on one end to accept the threaded end of the front cable, and a slot at the other end to trap the ball at the front end of the intermediate cable.

Unfortunately, after checking at the dealer and auto parts stores I learned this part is not available anymore.

A check of the local wrecking yards revealed parts no better than the broken part I already had. Frustration led to despair. I realized that this part was manufactured once, so, it could be again. After a little thought I realized I could easily make one.

parking brake fixI took a piece of scrap steel, 3/16″ by 1-1/4″ and cut it to a length of 8″. Next I drilled a 5/16″ hole about an inch and a half from one end, placed it in the vise and bent the end over 90°. This gave me the end for the threaded rod on the front cable.

For the other end that accepts the ball on the end of the intermediate cable, I drilled a 1/4″ hole about 2-1/2″ inches from the end, then drilled a 3/16″ hole about an inch from the end.

I placed the part back in the vise and bent a 3/4″ tab over the other end. I removed the piece from the vise and placed it in my metal chop saw, then made a cut connecting the two holes I had just drilled. This gave me the slot to place the intermediate cable in.

Final cost? One piece of scrap metal and about 10 minutes of time. Often when working on older vehicles we have to manufacture our own parts. Fortunately, with a little time and effort, this is possible.

Please email all inquiries to: Dave
or snail mail
32 Turkey Hill Road
Richmond VT 05477

“Alternative” Preventative Maintenance – Dave’s Garage

I recently embarked on the task of winterizing my vehicles. I realized that my Subaru still has the original alternator, and it has 195,000 miles on it. I have never had an alternator last this long. When I brought the car in for an inspection, I asked the guy how often they replaced alternators on Subarus. He said they replace a few. I asked him how many miles do they last. He told me they can go at anywhere between 80,000 and 150-160,000. Hum. I called Auto Electric in Williston and asked them how long this particular alternator lasts. They said they seem to last between 100,000 and 150,000 miles. I asked what wears out, and they said the basic wear items- brushes and bearings, but the rest of the alternator holds up well. I asked what it would cost to recondition a working alternator and was quoted between $50 and $80.

I priced remanufactured alternators and saw prices starting in the range of $150.00 and quickly going up well past $200.00 (not including the core charge).

I removed the alternator and decided to bring it in. The first thing I noticed is that when I spun the pulley, the bearings sounded rough. Auto Electric replaced the bearings, brushes and the regulator. The brushes were almost completely gone, and the bearings made noise. Final cost was $80, or less than half what it would have cost to buy a re-manufactured alternator. This remedy also avoided a potential road side break down and unplanned down time.

Penetrating fluid update:

Recently I recommended a mixture of acetone and ATF as an alternate penetrating oil, and I stated that I would try it and report back with my findings. I have done a lot of work recently, work involving removing very rusted nuts and bolts, pressing out frozen bearings, freeing heavily rusted frozen parking brakes, and removing brake bleeder nipples and hydraulic fittings.

I am happy to report that this home brewed concoction has worked very well, exceeding my expectations. The only down side is that the ATF and acetone do not like to remain in suspension, so I have to shake my oil can before each use. The fluid needs to be kept in a sealed container, as acetone evaporates quickly.

I hope you try it, and have as much success as I have had.

Please email all inquiries to: Dave
or snail mail
32 Turkey Hill Road
Richmond VT 05477

Rubber Fuel Lines and Ethanol – Dave’s Garage

I have heard of people having problems with collapsed fuel lines due to attack by ethanol. Although most of my fuel line is metal, there has to be a short section of flexible line between the body and the carburetor. Is there any specific material you know of that is impervious to ethanol? When I asked that question at my local parts store, he first gave me a blank stare, then asked what kind of car it was for. When I told him it was for a ’29 Plymouth, I got another blank stare. Then he said he didn’t know of anything and suggested I use non-ethanol gas. That’s pretty consistent with your last column. -Wendell Noble

First, the good news:
Fuel line today is made of neoprene, not rubber. It is impervious to the alcohol in E10 ethanol. I usually use fuel injection hose, not fuel line because it is much more substantial. This is available in auto parts stores in 1/4″, 5/16″ and 3/8″. If you really want to be sure, you can use marine fuel line. This stuff will holdup to E85 and bio diesel. Marine fuel hose can be purchased from marine supply stores.

I would remove a section of the flexible hose and bring it to the auto parts store. The old rubber fuel hose will dissolve with the E10 ethanol we are stuck with today. Replacing the old rubber hose with new neoprene is cheap, easy and makes the car much safer and more reliable.

Please email all inquiries to: Dave
or snail mail
32 Turkey Hill Road
Richmond VT 05477

Penetrating Fluid 101 – Dave’s Garage

I have passed along the tip of using a 50/50 mixture of ATF and Acetone as an alternative to penetrating oil. Anybody who has turned a wrench on a daily driver, or restored their pride and joy knows what happens to all the hardware on our vehicles here in the wet, snowy salty northeast. There is a reason the northeast is referred to as the rust belt.

I have used both PB Blaster and Liquid Wrench for years. Of the two, I had a preference for PB Blaster.

I have mixed up the ATF/Acetone mixture for small jobs, but found it to be time consuming and hard to brush the mixture on to frozen hardware as needed. I recently bought an inexpensive oil can and filled it with the ATF/Acetone mixture. This will be my dedicated penetrating fluid can. I will use this as my first plan of attack when I am confronted by frozen hardware, and report back with the results. I’m already quite pleased with the savings. This concoction is a lot more economical than com-mercially available penetrating oils. Word of caution: Acetone is a solvent, and will mar paint and plastics.

Not convinced? Here’s the cold, hard facts from the April/May 2007 edition of Machinist’s Workshop. They did a test of penetrating oils where they measured the force required to loosen rusty test devices. The results reported were interesting. (The lower the number of pounds the better).

Penetrating oil Average load Price per fluid ounce

  • None …………………516 pounds
  • WD-40 ………………238 pounds ……$0.25
  • PB Blaster …………214 pounds .. $0.35
  • Liquid Wrench ……127 pounds ……$0.21
  • Kano Kroil …………106 pounds ……$0.75
  • ATF-Acetone mix…53 pounds ……. $0.10


  • Please email all inquiries to: Dave
    or snail mail
    32 Turkey Hill Road
    Richmond VT 05477

Ethanol does it, again! – Dave’s Garage

Several weeks ago I was mowing the lawn with my trusty 1978 Sears lawn tractor, when the engine suddenly sputtered and quit. I also smelled gas. A quick look under the hood revealed a split fuel hose. I replaced the hose, but noticed the leaking hose actually rotted out from the inside out. Another Ethanol problem. I was toying with the idea of writing an article about the fuel system in older cars and how to avoid problems with Ethanol.

My recent experience with the Stowe Car Show has a few Ethanol stories. Saturday morning a few people walked up to me and told me that my Volkswagen smelled of gasoline. A quick inspection revealed that there was gas leaking from the rubber hose that goes from the metal pipe in the floor pan to the engine. The leaking gasoline had actually caused the paint on the frame to bubble up and peal down to bare metal. When I restored this car in ’94, I had the floor pan painted with DuPont Imron urethane paint. At the time, it was considered to be just about the toughest, most resilient industrial paint on the market. I am quite upset that my beautiful floor pan now has paint bubbling up and falling off.

After a quick trip to a friendly and helpful flea market vendor, I crawled under the car to replace the hose. At the lowest part of the hose, the rubber was actually dry rotted away. Obviously, the cloth braided Volkswagen fuel hose is not Ethanol compatible. Later in the day I was trying to help a model T owner start his car. His carburetor was leaking gasoline. The float bowl gaskets were not Ethanol compatible, and neither was his float valve. The valve was sticking closed, then open.

So now what do we do? Modern fuel line is made out of neoprene, and is Ethanol compatible. I prefer to use fuel injection hose. It costs more, but lasts longer. Make sure when you order a carb kit or a fuel pump you buy a newer kit that is Ethanol compatible. I knew about carburetor gaskets not being ethanol compatible, but I was unaware of the problem with the needle and seat float valves. The old brass ones are ok, but the valves made with plastic and rubber parts may not be.

Gas tanks and metal fuel lines are probably ok, but a lot of the gas tank sealers sold until quite recently are not Ethanol compatible. Another problem is zinc parts. Apparently, zinc can be corroded by Ethanol.
Ethanol gas is a great solvent, and will remove gum, varnish and crud in the fuel system. This will plug up lines and filters. It is also a good idea to check filters more often.

Lastly, keep this stuff away from all paint work. It is also a great paint remover.

Please email all inquiries to: Dave
or snail mail
32 Turkey Hill Road
Richmond VT 05477

The Importance of Regular Maintenance – Dave’s Garage

Recently, I went to Rochester, NY for the New England MG “T” Register’s Gathering of the Faithful car show. I decided to take advantage of this trip to also bring my boys, my wife, two of my nieces and my parents to see Niagara Falls. That’s eight people with luggage if you’re counting…

How can I fit eight people in a seven passenger van? In the Chrysler minivans manufactured before the 2005 model year, the seats can be moved around. The three person bench seat can easily be moved up to the center row in place of the two captains chairs. So… It only made sense that I could take out the captains chairs, and add a second three person bench seat. A quick trip to Rathe’s salvage and I was all set. Comfortable, safe seating for eight, with ample leg room and everybody was belted in.

Anyway… Several days before the trip I was returning from Home Depot with a load of Sheetrock and lumber in my Chrysler minivan and the muffler fell off.

While the van was on the lift for the muffler replacement, I decided to give the vehicle a quick safety inspection before the 1,000 plus mile trip.

The van had just been inspected less than 3,000 miles ago, so I was not expecting any issues. A quick inspection of the brakes showed no surprises. Tires looked good. Tire presses were ok. All fluid levels were fine. Front end inspection, VERY LOOSE RIGHT BALL JOINT! It was just about to let go!

The van drove fine, no noticeable noise or movement in the front end. How could this happen?

When I took the old ball joint out, I could see that the cup was broken. It obviously failed fairly quick-ly. The surprising thing is that it gave no symptoms. The scary thing is that wheel was one good bump away from falling off, potentially at interstate speed with eight people on board.

The lesson learned? Pay close attention to your car. Inspect it regularly, especially before any major trips. Fortunately, a major and potentially fatal catastrophe was avoided with twenty minutes of work and less than $50.00 in parts. By the way, my new Harbor Freight Press is working quite well…

Please email all inquiries to: Dave
or snail mail
32 Turkey Hill Road
Richmond VT 05477

Yet Another Use for JB Weld – Dave’s Garage

I like to dabble with models. I have modeled specific cars, and specific trains. When I am working with die cast parts, or need to make a part I often use JB Weld.

Recently, our past VAE president and Wheel Tracks editor Gene Fodor was fortunate enough to find a nice, well used and mostly complete model MG TD (pictured below). Gene decided to restore the model, and model it after his 1953 MG, affectionately named Eliot.

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“Little Eliot” was missing the spare tire, the dashboard decal, and the steering wheel. Gene was able to locate a replacement spare tire and dash decal, but no steering wheel. These steering wheels were a very soft, high lead metal. They were easily broken, as the spokes in the wheel are quite thin.

I took it upon myself to create a new steering wheel for Gene and little Eliot.

  • First, I borrowed a similar model to use as a mold for the wheel. I carefully made a relief mold of silly putty, and filled the mold with JB Weld.
  • Second, I carefully pealed the silly putty off and cut off the casting slag.
  • Third, I took a piece of coat hanger for the steering shaft, hammered a flat on the end, and made a mold for the back side of the wheel. I carefully placed the coat hanger wire in the mold and poured JB Weld in to the mold. The final step was to bend the correct bends in to the shaft, and file and sand the wheel to the proper shape. I have used similar techniques to alter both model trains and cars to copy specific prototypes.

Gene has done a fantastic job with the restoration of little Eliot.

Please email all inquiries to: Dave
or snail mail
32 Turkey Hill Road
Richmond VT 05477