<%@ Page Language="VB" ContentType="text/html" ResponseEncoding="iso-8859-1" %> Fluid Maintenance
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Tuning a Carbureted Street Rod Engine Part 1 of 2

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Fluid Maintenance

By: Henry P. Olsen

A modern automobile is built to last 150,000 miles or more, but the failure to use the correct manufacturer recommended lubes could lead an engine to an early death.

Engine Oil

The oil you use in your car can determine how long your engine will last. Modern engines are designed with a specific weight/viscosity; if you use heavier viscosity oil, the life of the engine will be shortened. The clearances around critical engine parts are much tighter than in years past, so if incorrect viscosity oil is used, the oil may not be able to get into all the areas needed in time to avoid engine damage. If the recommended oil is 5w-20, use that oil! Thicker oil may make an engine that should last well over 200,000 miles last only 30,000 miles due to wear caused by the fact oil does not get to the entire engine quickly enough on start-up. When the oil does not get to an area such as an overhead cam bearing quickly enough on start-up, the bearings are running metal to metal with no lubrication. This causes damage to the engine and reduces its life. If the engine manufacturer recommends synthetic oil, always use it.

Engine Coolants

Coolant is an area that does not receive the attention needed. Modern engines have a lot more electronics installed on the engine. The newer engines also use dissimilar metals such as cast iron and aluminum, which promotes electrolysis causing corrosion. Tap water should not be used as a mix with the correct antifreeze; tap water has minerals that, in combination with the lightweight metal components and all the electronics on the engine, are creating the electrolysis problems. Use distilled or deionized water; they have had the minerals removed from the water and will help avoid problems and extend radiator life. In years past, the radiator cap had Zinc in it; this metal was used as a sacrificial anode that electrolysis could attack instead of vital engine metals. Most radiator caps sold today no longer have zinc in them so you can either drop a zinc tab from a marine shop into the radiator or use a radiator cap from Rad-Cap Company that includes a zinc tap hanging from it. Always use the correct type of antifreeze and follow the service guidelines from the manufacturer. One way to check for electrolysis is to use a voltmeter reading from the coolant to ground; a reading of 0.10 volts is borderline bad while a 0.20 volt or higher reading means the coolant is not acceptable and must be replaced!

Brake Fluid

Brake fluid maintenance is often overlooked. Brake fluid is ascorbic and therefore absorbs water. Since it readily absorbs moisture, it not only will lower the boiling point of the brake fluid, but it may also create rust or corrosion in the master cylinder, wheel cylinders and the disc brake calipers which will shorten their usable lives. When the boiling point of the brake fluid is lowered, the result is brake fade caused by boiling brake fluid. There is a tool available from OTC/SPX Tool Company called a Brake Fluid Safety Meter that you can use to check the boiling point of the brake fluid. You do this by heating a sample of the fluid. The meter supplies a reading of the boiling point of the fluid as well as the proper reading. Vehicles with anti-lock brakes must also have clean brake fluid because the components used in this type of system have a very low tolerance for debris or dirt in the brake fluid; if the brake fluid looks dirty or tests contaminated, replace it. Many vehicle manufacturers recommend replacing the brake fluid every two years. How long has it been since you replaced your brake fluid?

Gasoline and Vehicle Storage

Gasoline is a fluid that must be maintained. It has a life of about 60 days before it starts to degrade, according to the people at STA-BIL. A product such as STA-BIL from Gold Eagle can be used to keep the gasoline from deteriorating so quickly; STA-BIL can keep the fuel from going bad for up to 12 months or more. It is also best to keep the fuel tank fairly full to avoid getting water into the fuel that can come from the moisture in the air that is in the fuel tank. Water or moisture is the enemy of both fuel injectors and carburetors. There are chemicals that can be put into the fuel in order to help remove the water from the fuel but the best thing to do is to avoid the water in the first place.

Transmission Service

Transmission fluid must be not only the correct type and be changed as recommended, but care must also be taken to cool the transmission fluid if the vehicle has a high stall speed torque converter or is used for towing. Too much heat will kill a transmission so if the vehicle does not have a transmission cooler, have one installed. Just a simple drain and refill of the transmission fluid may not be enough. A service that includes a complete flush and purge of all the fluid including the fluid that is in the torque converter is necessary if you are going to get all the old fluid replaced with clean fluid.

The Rear Axle

Rear end oils must also not be ignored. Change them according to manufacturer guidelines. Many newer vehicles use a differential that is undersize for high loads such as towing. Synthetic gear oil can help to give better lubrication in high load driving conditions but synthetic lubes may not be enough if overheating of the fluids is not corrected.


Ole's Carburetor & Electric Inc.

120 El Camino Real

San Bruno, CA 94066



OTC/SPX Corporation

655 Eisenhower Dr.

Owatonna , MN 55060