Like most of you, whenever I'm getting ready to leave on a trip (Maggie Valley in a couple of weeks), I try to give my car the love and attention that it's been lacking.
We moved out of the place my dad and I built about 3 years ago. It's a long/boring story, but I built a new house on a lot that wasn't really big enough for the kind of shop I've grown accustomed to. I've got a space that would be the envy of most of us, but it's more cramped than I'm used to and (aside from a 2-post lift) it isn't set up very well yet. It's on the list, but it isn't there yet.
Last year, I got way too involved in putting a "comfort seat" in the passenger side, so that Jeanie would make the drive to NC with me. Mechanically, the car had been running OK, and I put off "trip prep" until the day before I was leaving-- did a valve adjustment, etc.
The morning of, I took the car out for a drive. Some of you may remember that (because I'm insanely OCD mechanically) I monitor head temps on all 4 cylinders. It's ridiculous, but it allows me to see an idle jet (or some other issue) starting before I can even feel it. So the morning we were leaving for NC last Sept., my car sat idling on the drive for the warm up... and I noticed that #4 temp wasn't coming up. Jeanie was packed, the doors were locked, the fridge was cleaned out, and the mail had been stopped.
... and there I was, in the garage, tinkering.
Once I was on the transitions, the temp came up and smoothed out. The idle was loping, and the cylinder wouldn't respond much to the mixture screw. I pulled the jet and it was clear. I blew out the carb in the car. I took the carb off and took it apart. I took the manifold off and cut a new gasket. After everything I did, I put everything back together and tried it out. No change. An hour became two, became four, became 10. Jeanie was patiently waiting, sitting on the luggage and reading a book. And just when I was ready to light the entire car on fire-- the temp came up on #4.
We drove to NC, tore through the mountains, and drove home. I had a couple of issues on the trip, unrelated to #4, but which gave me some pause. I cleaned up the car and dumped some sta-bil in the tank. I was done until this spring.
This winter, my dad passed away. I finished a complete gut- remodel (down to the studs, new roof, plumbing, electrical, new garage, new master suite, etc.) on the house next door and moved Mom in May 1. My daughter has been fighting some significant health issues, and we've been keeping her 4 kids since early May. Needless to say, the shop has gotten nothing and the car was just pulled out and driven this summer. I've yet to burn through the second tank of gas.
Last weekend was "getting ready". #4 was not coming to temp on idle. It ran fine on the mains, but at idle-- not so much. #4 was unresponsive on the mixture screw. I pulled the 3-4 carb off, and found a piece of "something" in the transfer passage for air on the idle circuit. This is buried in the carb, and access is limited to spraying carb cleaner or blowing air both ways. Once I was satisfied it was clear, I started the car-- and still got nothing on the temp gauge at idle. The thing was-- the carb was responsive on the mixture screw now, but #1 was not.
I pulled off the 1-2 carb and did the same thing. The result was the same-- #4 temp gauge did not come up, but the cylinder was responsive to the mixture screw, and #1 looked normal on the gauge, but was unresponsive to adjustment.
At this point, I put the car on the lift and started it. I shot the exhaust tubes from each cylinder with an infrared gun. #2, #3, and #4 were all reading over 500*, and #1 was hanging out at 150*.
A light finally went on in my head. Somewhere in the infinite swapping of engines, I must have crossed two leads going to the temperature gauges. #1 at the engine was reading as #4 at the gauge. I pulled the 1-2 carb off again, and had the same result. At this point, I pulled the 1-2 intake manifold. I flattened the bottom of the intake by placing a piece of 220 grit wet-or-dry on a flat surface and ran the manifold back and forth until I saw cross-hatching on every surface. Then I cleaned the mating surface on the head (getting the stuck-on gasket off down in that hole is ZERO fun). I pulled the #1 plug-- it looked great (nice and tan), and did a compression check. The cylinder itself was fine.
I cut a new gasket with 1/32 brown Felpro material from NAPA. I coated the gasket with Never-Seize to keep from having a repeat of 1 hr of scraping the head next go-around. I installed some Jet-Doctors on both carbs to try to keep the crap out of the tiny little air passages. I put the whole shebang back together and started it up.
After syncing the carbs, and setting the mixture screws, I watched all 4 gauges rise in perfect unison for the first time in 18 months. I set the idle speed for 1100 RPM warm, which means it'll take several minutes of feathering the throttle to keep it running on a cold-start. I'll figure out what cylinder goes to which gauge later-- I know that #4 on the gauge is really #1 on the engine now.
While I was at it, I replaced the torn screen on my wind-deflector and put a new lift-cylinder on the deck-lid. Now I don't look so much like a Beverly Hillbilly driving down the road, and shouldn't get my noggin bonked every time I try to work on the engine.
I'm officially ready for a long drive.
I guess I'm rambling on about this because I never want to give the impression that owning a higher-output analog engine is easy all the time, even if a guy is set up halfway decently and pretends to know his way around an engine. Sometimes you get the bear, and sometimes the bear gets you. I was mauled by this particular bear, The Revenant style (click the link, if you dare).
I've not had a plugged idle jet in years, and somehow I ended up with a piece of crud in an air-passage, and a tiny vacuum leak on the other side-- both at the same time. I'm pretty sure the neighbors think I was praying to my car for a day and a half. I wasn't, but I was sure praying about it.