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Corvair: the little car that could

September 21, 2011

This is a great little car.  The Corvair was the only car that was mass-produced and American made with an air-cooled engine in the rear.  The battery is up front.  It was made by Chevrolet between 1960 and 1969.  Here’s one that I spotted at the car show at Anchorage Park in North Palm Beach last year.

The Corvair wasn’t made in one type only; it had derivatives including a pick-up, and a van, both commercial and passenger, although I have never seen these myself.  The Corvair 500 series four-door, made in 1960, sold for under two thousand dollars.  According to Wikipedia, the car was “powered by an 80 hp (60 kW; 81 PS) engine and three-speed manual or two-speed Powerglide automatic transmission . . . (it) was designed to have comparable acceleration to the six-cylinder full-size Chevrolet Biscayne.”

The owner of the Corvair at the car show said that he loved the car–no complaints.  You won’t find strictly air-cooled engines in modern vehicles.  Heat generated by an air-cooled engine is released into the air, aided by metal fins outside of the cylinders to increase the surface area.

Pictured here is the Corvair’s air-cooled engine.

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Some stop and go action

August 12, 2011

Doing my brakes.  Bet you didn’t know you could use a fishing lure to block the brake line? Probably not a very good idea.  I still got air in the line.

We’ll call him Bob the Brake Blocker.  Who knows, maybe my friend will catch more fish this way.  Mmm, DOT 3.

Lawnchair car show in Pennsylvania.

January 17, 2011

Pictured above: A Hemi ‘Cuda, and me.

Me standing next to an old Clemens Supermarket delivery truck.  (Sort of ironic that I ended up stocking shelves for the competition, isn’t it?)

This is a Yenko Deuce.

My all-time favorite, a Delorian:  Looking for a Flux Capacitor? Look no further! Coming soon: What is a capacitor, really? Rosy tells all in an exclusive expose.

And, lastly, for no real reason other than a bit of fun . . .

Never give up.

January 17, 2011

How many times can you work on one thing before it begins to drive you completely insane? Good thing I never gave up.

Pictured above is the hydraulic slave cylinder that I installed in my car this past year.  I like to talk about how anyone can fix their car if they really want to, but this repair job was definitely a pain.  Especially because I had to do it in ninety degree weather down here in Florida.

One of my previous posts concerned my clutch, so I’ll catch you up on what I was talking about.  The clutch is what connects the flywheel of the engine to the transmission or transaxle input shaft.  This is how a manual transmission switches gears.  In a car with an automatic transmission, a torque converter does the job, so the driver doesn’t have to operate an extra pedal.  But that’s getting ahead of things.

Anyway, when I first began having troubles with this, I thought I was done for.  I tend to jump to the worst possible conclusion first.  (It keeps me from being disappointed later.)  The initial issue was that I couldn’t shift gears.  Rather than shift, the gears would simply grind.  I discovered later that it was a good sign; it meant that I didn’t have to replace my actual clutch, which can be a very expensive job.  Something else was wrong.

Rather than take it right to a shop, I resolved to find out how to fix it myself.  It was out of pure necessity; my car is paid off, and I cannot afford to buy another one.  With the help of a friend, and the long-distance coaching from my dad, I got started.

I was on the phone with dad one day, and I had just followed my brake line from the clutch master cylinder to the slave cylinder, which was actually rather easy to locate.

I had my wrench out, and I was on the phone with my dad.

“See that rubber boot?” Dad said.

(You can see it for yourself if you scroll up and examine the photo.)

I told him, “Yeah, I see it.”

“Pull it aside.  Underneath that is a metal arm that pumps fluid.”

Before I continue, I want to pass on a small warning: Although you may look absolutely silly in safety glasses, you really ought to wear them.

I didn’t know it, but my slave cylinder was shot, and the boot that Dad was talking about was not actually supposed to move aside.  The fact that it did move, said a lot about the state of the slave cylinder, and suggested that my dad knew it was shot, despite being twelve hundred miles away.

The boot slipped easily off the main part of the cylinder.  Fluid immediately spewed from the leak and landed in and around my eyes.  This is not a fun experience.  Remember what I said about safety glasses.

After I washed out my eyes and cursed a lot (not completely in that order), I got back to work.  At least I knew what was wrong; now I had to figure out how to fix it.

I established that I would have to get a new slave cylinder, take out the brake line, install the new slave, and bleed the line, ensuring that no air pockets got into the system.  (If air pockets get into the system, it won’t work properly.  One air pocket in a brake line, for example, can completely disable the brakes at the worst possible time.)

This was probably one of the most frustrating jobs I’ve ever done on my car, mainly because I went into it with next to no knowledge about the clutch system.  I learned as I went.  It was also difficult because I don’t have much of a work space; I have a parking lot in front of my building.

The job took quite a while, mostly because I was working a lot, and had limited time to put toward the car.  I rode my bike to work, and took to calling my car a ‘stereo system on wheels.’

I knew there was no way I could afford a new car, let alone a used one, so I had no choice.  I had to keep going.

It was like putting together puzzle pieces.  Taking the brake line off first was the best way to get the new part in, but then getting the brake line back in was twice as difficult.

Finally, the new slave cylinder was in, and I don’t think I’ve ever been more proud of myself than I was on that day.  Until my buddy and I bled the system, and the car continued to be inoperative.

It turned out that the clutch master cylinder was also shot.  Go figure!

In the end, I had to have a trusted mechanic install the master cylinder; I was running out of time.  I had to have my car by mid-August, and I knew I wasn’t going to have it finished by then.  There’s not enough time in the day.

Although I was disappointed that I ended up taking it to someone anyway, I was still proud that I had installed the slave cylinder.

It is true that anyone can work on their car if they really want to . . . But you have to really want to.

It’s a good thing I don’t give up.

Power windows …

January 17, 2011

One small movement.

January 14, 2011

It’s amazing how a few small steps can be the start of a series of complicated movements.  However, when we examine those movements more closely, we can understand how they work, and they can appear less complicated.

My original aim with this blog was to target those who know very little about auto-mechanics and what makes a car operate.  Now that I’m in school, I’d like to take it a little further and use this as a forum to examine my own ideas about the subject, as well as the automotive industry itself.

Let’s talk about pistons and the four-stroke engine.

The majority of cars these days rely on a four-stroke internal combustion engine.  Internal combustion means just what it sounds like; combustion occurs within the engine, which gives the engine power.

The “four strokes” refer to intake, compression, power and exhaust.  These four strokes is what it takes for the engine to complete a full cycle.

With the intake phase, the piston (located within a cylinder) moves downward, and the intake valve opens to allow an air and fuel mixture to enter.

This sounds kind of complicated if you’ve never read these terms before, but I encourage you to look it up, because it’s really quite interesting.

The next stroke is compression.  When the piston is pushed back up, the air and fuel mixture is compressed to prepare it for ignition.  Ignition occurs just before the piston gets to the very top of the cylinder.  A lot of pressure comes from the expanding gases, which then forces the piston down again.  This is the power stroke, which essentially makes the engine “do work.”  When it moves up again, this is the exhaust stroke; the exhaust valve opens and the waste, or burned gases, is forced out of the chamber and into the exhaust system of the vehicle.

Cool, huh?

If you’re sitting there with a bemused expression on your face, consider this illustration:

The picture shows us the fuel and air mixture entering the chamber on the left, and on the right we see the compression of the fuel and air.  Below is the crankshaft, which is linked to a connecting rod that changes the movement of the pistons into a rotary motion in order to move the wheels.

I think that’s enough technical stuff for this evening.  However, I will be sharing more about how the engine works in future entries.

For now, you can also click here to take a look at this page, which has an animation of the four strokes in action.

Towards the end of this month, I’ll be going to a car show here in the Village, and hopefully I’ll have some neat photos to post.  For now, I think I’ll sleep on it.

Pride, wheels, work and toil.

December 12, 2010

After I installed my slave cylinder and had my master cylinder replaced, I had to find a reason to hang out with a friend of mine.  We had gotten to know each other over my engine, and now I didn’t know if our friendship, as it was, would extend to “hanging out,” going for a drive, or having lunch together.

Thankfully, the friendship only grew stronger, and now I have somebody I can call on when I’m bored, or need someone to talk to, or need someone to get me out of the house.

He kind of reminds me of my dad–I know they would both like each other.

Here’s my friend, S., giving my battery cables the finger:

I am what you would call a “grease monkey.”

Whenever I go into a garage, I relish the scent that greets me.  Grease is my favorite smell.  I cannot explain it.  Alternators are my favorite car part.  I cannot explain that, either.

In January, I am starting school for Automotive.  I’ll get my certification, and possibly a degree in Automotive Business Management.  I keep thinking of my dad, and wishing I could call him and tell him all about it.  I miss him so much.   The other day, when my brake line failed me, I felt as though he was standing there, making sure that no one hit my car–making sure I was safe.  I want him to wake up.  I want that to be my Yule present.  Wake up, dad.

I take a lot of pride in my car.  I know she’s not much.  But she’s mine.

I get annoyed when people tell me I should get a new car.  Why?

This reminds me of America’s tendency to consume more than they need to.  Why should I get a new car when my engine still runs solid? If I can fix it, I keep it.  Period.

I have a lot of pride in my vehicle, because I have repaired so much of it myself.  When I look at the hoses, the belts, the alternator, all the little details that escape most people’s eyes, I think of my hard work, or my dad’s.  I see the rear fender, and the bolt that goes through it . . . That makes me think of Dad, because he fixed my fender with a bolt a year ago, when a tow truck accidentally pulled out my fender while I was being dragged from a ditch on an icy winter morning.  And now Dad’s asleep.  So whenever I see those parts of my car that he fixed, I think of him.

Knowing that my fortitude and my dedication keeps that car on the road, affords me pride.  Pride in myself for the hard work I’ve done, and pride for the fact that I haven’t had to buy a new car, that I’ve paid for my car myself, and that it is no one else’s but mine.  I have no loans for my car.  Midge belongs to me.

In January, I’m starting school, and it will be a whole new adventure.  I have a tendency to try to run from things when they get “scary.”  I’m not going to run from this.  I’m not going to think about the future.  I’m going to think only of today, and do my best.

Just this moment, and nothing else.