Make your Corvette faster,
easier to work on,
and make it shine
Provided by Corvette Fever Magazine
We've poked, we've prodded, and we've generally nosed around until we found 101 ways to make your Corvette faster, easier to work on, and make the details shine. Some of the ideas we discovered are safety-oriented while others are simply good, old-fashioned "time savers"; but nonetheless, they all make life in the Corvette fast lane a bunch easier. Pick and choose the tips that suit your Corvette. We're positive that you too can work on your pride and joy without breaking the bank!
1. THE BIG SQUEEZE
When considering the compression ratio for a new Corvette normally aspirated engine and factoring in today's gasoline octane, there are some variables you should consider. Here's the rundown:
* A higher compression ratio requires higher-octane fuel
* More spark advance requires higher-octane fuel
* Lower humidity requires higher- octane fuel
* Higher altitude allows the use of lower octane
* Leaning of the air/fuel ratio requires the use of higher octane
2. GETTING TORQUED
The folks at NGK point out that torque is one of the most critical aspects of spark-plug installation. Torque directly affects the spark plug's ability to transfer heat out of the combustion chamber. A spark plug that's under-torqued will not be fully seated on the cylinder head; hence heat transfer will be slowed. This will tend to elevate combustion-chamber temperatures to unsafe levels, and pre-ignition and detonation will usually follow. Serious engine damage is not far behind.
An over-torqued spark plug can suffer from severe stress to the metal shell which in turn can distort the spark plug's inner gas seals or even cause a hairline fracture to the spark plug's insulator. In either case, heat transfer can again be slowed and the above-mentioned conditions can occur. NGK also states that the spark-plug holes must always be cleaned prior to installation; otherwise you may be torquing against dirt or debris and the spark plug may actually end up under-torqued, even though your torque wrench says otherwise. Of course, you should only install spark plugs in a cool engine, because metal expands when it's hot and installation may prove difficult.
3. DULL DRUMS
Plenty of vintage Corvettes are equipped with drum brakes (actually, everything prior to '65, and even a few '65 models), and for the most part, servicing these components is pretty much a no-brainer. One thing to remember, however, is that when you replace the shoes, use a bit of Scotch-Brite to clean the contact points on the wheel backing plates. Next, lube these contact points lightly with white grease. This allows for smooth shoe action. Just be careful not to drop any grease on the shoes. If you do, use some spray-on brake cleaner to clean it. Otherwise, the friction material won't be too happy!
If you're encountering a tough brake bleeding operation on one or more of your Corvette calipers, try this: A turkey baster can be used to pump brake fluid into the bleed screw to force the bubbles out of their hiding places.
If you're going to store your Corvette for months at a time, disconnect the battery. This will reduce the discharge. On the other hand, you can also charge the battery once every two to four weeks and leave it hooked up. If you have the battery stored and disconnected, a charge every month or two will help keep the self-discharge from draining the battery. Also look for regulated trickle chargers that are designed for this type of application.
6. BROWN OUT
If you find brown, foamy residue in the coolant of your Corvette you may have also located a cracked cylinder head, which can cause overheating. Have your radiator pressure checked at your local radiator shop. Pressure loss can cause overheating. Before you start peeling apart the engine, give this some consideration: Many times a failed radiator cap is the culprit. A cap that has failed to hold system pressure can cause coolant loss and overheating conditions.
7. TIRE HIEROGLYPHICS
The air pressure listed on the sidewall of a tire is not the correct air pressure for your Corvette. The number listed on the sidewall is the maximum air pressure for the tire. Follow Chevrolet's published recommendations. You and your Corvette will be much happier.
8. ROOFER'S FIX
Many vintage Corvettes came factory-equipped with Holley carbs (and more than a few other Corvettes were retrofitted with Holleys). If the bowl screw on the carb leaks (normally due to a torn gasket), find a common roofing nail. Use the rubber washer from the nail to fix the leak. Problem solved.
9. CYLINDER CONFLAGRATION
Is your Corvette misfiring? Are you scratching your head trying to figure out which cylinder is the culprit? If the car is equipped with headers, here's a quick test. With the engine running, squirt a small amount of water on each header tube (close to the exhaust port). On cylinders that are functioning properly, you'll see the water evaporate instantly. Not so on the dead cylinder(s).
10. PLUGGED ARTERIES
Most cam break-in lubricants are moly-disulfide concoctions. We recommend you use them when installing a new cam in your Corvette. But remember: They can easily plug an oil filter within 20 minutes of operation. When the filter is plugged, it will typically bypass and the result will be copious quantities of dirt inside the engine. After breaking in the camshaft (or a new engine), replace the filter after 20 minutes of running time. It's cheap insurance.
11. SQUEAL ON YOU
If you have a persistent squeak from your brakes and you've tried everything to stop it, try this: Remove the pads and clean the back to remove dirt and dust. Brake cleaner works perfectly. It dries fast and does not leave a residue. After cleaning, spray or brush on a good coating of disc-brake anti-squeal compound on the back of the pads (most auto parts stores sell it). Allow it to dry for half an hour, then replace the pads and anti-squeal shims (if used on your car). The squeak should be banished for a couple of years.
12. IN HOT WATER
The folks from Fel-Pro point out that a water-temperature gauge indicates only the average temperature of the coolant in the engine. A water-temp gauge does not indicate the cylinder-head casting temperature. The casting temperature is what the head gasket is subjected to.
13. NAIL BITER
Believe it or not, nail-polish remover makes an effective and inexpensive small-parts cleaner. The polish remover is acetone, and the most potent, least expensive stuff comes without scents or oils. By the way, in diluted form it will remove bugs and tar from chrome, and remove grease and oil instantly. Just keep in mind acetone is also a wonderful paint remover, and, for a perfectly restored Corvette, that's the last thing you need to spill.
14. MORE MATH
Tire diameter of the metric or P-metric tire can be calculated by using the tire size nomenclature. The section width and aspect ratio are molded into the sidewall. The section height (SH) of a tire is the section width multiplied by the aspect ratio. The overall diameter (OD) includes two section heights converted to inches, plus one rim diameter. The following formula is valid for all metric and P-metric tires: OD = (2 x SH) + Rim Diameter
15. BRAKE LINE BOBBLES
When it comes to brake lines, what size should you use? That's simple: Use 3/16-inch steel line wherever possible. Use flex line only where necessary.
16. CORROSIVE CONCERNS
If you're plagued with bulbs on your Corvette that constantly need attention, think about this: Is there corrosion at the base of the light bulbs? If so, apply a wee bit of electrical grease to the bulb base. This goes for the prongs of blade fuses as well. Your problems should be solved.
If you have a dim headlight, the cause is a bad ground (and on a Corvette, there are plenty of them). Clean the ground and the headlight will work well again.
18. BACKSPACE STATISTICS
Don't take aftermarket wheel backspace dimensions with a grain of salt! When you buy new or used wheels, be sure to check the backspace dimensions of all of the wheels. This is particularly important when it comes to multiple-part wheels (wheels where the center is bolted, riveted, and welded to the wheel rim). Why so? Simple. Some folks have found that wheels can be out by as much as 3/16 inch. And that can cause you nothing but grief when fitting wheels to your Corvette. Double-check the wheel backspace. You'll be glad you did.
19. BEARING THE BRUNT
Wheel bearings don't last forever (most grizzled Corvette owners can attest to that). To check wheel bearings, grab the wheel at the top and bottom, and push and pull to determine if the wheel will move in or out at the hub. If there is noticeable movement, it indicates the bearings are loose and in need of adjustment. It could also indicate the bearings are badly worn. Translation? It's time to tear things apart.
20. DRILL STOP
While commercial drill stops are readily available, it's pretty easy to make one by wrapping a piece of tape around a drill bit at the depth you need the hole. It's cheap. It's easy. It works. What more could you ask for?
22. HOLE SHOT
When shopping for high-performance wheels for your Corvette, one thing most people forget is the actual size of the center wheel hole. Believe it or not, the center hub holes in wheels are not all the same. In fact, certain vehicles have significantly smaller hub holes than others. A good example is the late-model Corvette. A wheel designed for the Corvette often has a much smaller hub hole than a similar wheel designed for use on a late-model Camaro. Check first before you buy.
23. LUBE JOB
There are two main types of lubrication in things mechanical: oil and grease. Which chemical is used where depends upon the speed of rotation, the operating temperature, and whether heat must be removed from the area concerned. If a function of the lubrication is to control or cool friction-generated heat, then oil is the chosen product since it can flow away, dissipating heat while recirculated oil is introduced to induce relative coolness. On the other hand, grease is used when the bearing operates under normal speed and temperature conditions.
24. SILICONE SCRAPER
Some people prefer to use "gasket in a tube" instead of header gaskets. While it seems like a good idea, think about the cleanup time required to peel the high- temperature silicone from the cylinder heads and header flange once you remove the pipes. We've watched racers spend half an hour or longer trying to scrape all of the goop clean. A simple header gasket can be replaced in seconds.
Worn idler-arm bushings cause front-end steering shimmy and can negate the responsive "feel" the steering demonstrates. So what's the point? Never overlook the idler arm on an early Corvette when it comes to steering maladies.
26. MORE GOOP TRICKS
Here's another grease trick: It works well as a sealer for Corvette carb gaskets. If you use a small amount of grease on the gasket(s), it can be reused a number of times and it won't stick to either the carb or intake manifold.
27. CORROSIVE TREPIDATION
28. RAINY DAYS
Did you know there is more than one use for Rain-X? It can also be used as a lubricant between door-glass and associated rubber window-glass seals on your Corvette. If you apply Rain-X to both sides of the side windows, you'll never have that not-so-pleasant experience of a seal tucking down and jamming the operation. Better still, Rain-X helps preserve the rubber glass seals.
29. FRONT-END SHIMMY
If you've had the front end completely rebuilt or restored (fresh parts, proper wheel balance and alignment) and still notice a vibration, try this: There might be pebbles lodged in the tires. Check your tire treads for small pebbles. By the way, you should also consider washing the dirt, grime, and rocks from the inside of your wheels so the balance won't be affected.
30. DRAG DUTY
Engine valvetrain damage is rather common, particularly if the engine is modified. According to the pros, the majority of this damage can be attributed to weak valvesprings. Some enthusiasts believe a very stiff spring stresses the valvetrain and soaks up power as the spring compresses. That might not be correct. Very little drag is actually added by stiff valvesprings. Why? That's easy: There are always the same numbers of lifters opening as there are closing valves. Think about it. It makes sense.
31. FANCY FILLETS
If you have a close look at all V-8 engines (Chevys included) you'll find the connecting rods can be installed in one of two ways. The big end (crank pin) of the rod has one side finished with a healthy radius. The other side doesn't. The rod end with the radius matches the fillet radius on the crank. The flat end faces the other connecting rod it's paired with on the journal. To install them correctly, always face the radius end toward the crank fillet.
32. GRAB THOSE GEARS
If you've swapped tires and increased or decreased the diameter, then the true axle ratio in your Corvette has changed. Perplexed? Here's a formula to help with the axle gear ratio: MPH x Gear Ratio / True Tire Diameter x 336 = RPM
33. COMPRESSION CONUNDRUM
Universal joints that are equipped with a grease fitting should be installed with the fitting compressed. In other words, they should be installed so they are ahead of the driveshaft in the direction of rotation.
Have you noticed that as oil becomes dirty (prior to a necessary change) the oil pressure in your Corvette goes up? Similarly, have you noticed that after the oil has been changed, the pressure seems to go down? The reason is, clean (new) oil has a lower true viscosity than used oil. As oil is used in the engine, it gathers contaminants and this causes the oil to oxidize. Simple enough, we'd say, but also a good reason to keep on top of the oil change schedule.
35. BREAD BAGS
You know those little plastic clips that keep bread bags together? You might want to start saving them. Here's why: Think back to the time you mixed up the ignition wires when you swapped distributor caps on your Corvette. If you had used these tags on the wires, and wrote down the appropriate cylinder number (for example, 1-3-5-7) on the tag, then you would have saved oodles of time.
36. CLEAN COUNTS
Fin count plays an important role in cooling. As a rule of thumb, a radiator will normally have between 8 and 14 fins per inch. When the fin count number is increased, the radiator can "radiate" more heat to both the surface airflow and the surrounding air. Unfortunately, as fin count increases, so does the opportunity for plugging, especially with bugs, dirt, and other foreign road junk. Bottom line? Keep your Corvette radiator clean.
37. SOFT DRIVER
It's pretty common to use a flat-blade screwdriver to remove interior panels in a Corvette (to pop out the retainers). Trouble is, the panels are usually soft (and expensive). On the other hand, screwdrivers are usually small and sharp. If the screwdriver slips while you're prying a panel, things get expensive quickly. The solution is simple: Wrap the end of the screwdriver with electrical tape. You'll be much happier. So will your door-panel upholstery.
38. RISKY BUSINESS
If you spy a tire with a foreign object such as a nail embedded in the tire tread, don't try to pull it out (we know, the temptation to do something like that is pretty compelling). Why? Remember that a tire is a pressurized vessel. If the nail is loosened, it could become a high-pressure-powered missile. Anyone and anything nearby is a candidate for injury. In addition, the escaping air can also pick up debris (dirt and other junk) from the area of the puncture. It too will be forced outward. What's the solution? Deflate the tire before you yank out foreign objects.
39. COOLANT TRIBULATION
We all know that neglected coolant can lead to a clogged cooling system and a loss of cooling system efficiency, but it can also cause other less obvious problems. If the coolant age or condition can't be easily determined, there is a quick check for coolant contamination using a digital volt/ohm meter (DVOM). Attach the positive DVOM lead to the radiator, then dip the negative lead into the coolant at the filler neck. A voltage reading of 0.2 volt or less is good. A reading of 0.5 volt should be considered borderline, and anything over 0.7 volt is unacceptable. If the coolant fails this test, the cooling system should be thoroughly flushed and cleaned. Remove any engine temperature sensors and inspect them for contamination or other damage.
40. GASKET GOOP
When installing Corvette valve-cover gaskets, it's common to use silicone for the sealing agent. Trouble is, the gaskets tend to tear if they have silicone on both sides. Try this instead: Use silicone to glue the gasket to the valve cover, then use a bit of grease on the side that mates to the head. The gasket won't leak and won't rip off the next time you lash the valves.
42. RIGHT ROD RATIOS
People cling to rod ratios (rod-to-crankshaft stroke percentages) as if they are magical. Rod ratios or "l/r" ratios are for the most part the naturally occurring result of other engine-design criteria. In other words, much like with ignition timing (spark advance) they are what they are. Unless you want to completely redesign the engine (including your block deck height, piston compression height, rod length, and so on) don't worry so much about rod ratios. Your time would be better spent searching for more airflow from the cylinder heads, but that's another story.
43. FLOAT FINE-TUNE
If the engine in your early Corvette runs uneven or surges, the float-level setting could be the culprit. Remove the bowl, flip it over, and have a look at the float location. Adjust it (with the external hardware) to a point where the top (now bottom) of the float is parallel (square) with the inside of the bowl. This is the preliminary adjustment. Fine-tuning will be accomplished when the engine is running. Repeat the process with the second bowl. And if it's a Tri-power car, repeat once more.
44. SOLDERING STUFF
When working on the electrical system of your Corvette and you need to solder wire together, use resin core solder. It's the best bet for the application. Keep in mind this stuff isn't cheap. But in this case, you likely don't need to buy it in huge quantities. It's an old tip, but it's still appropriate.
45. FOILING FILTERS
How many of you have an oil filter wrench that slips? Plenty, we'll bet. Instead of buying another wrench and finding that it slips after a short period of time, try this: Wrap several layers of electrical tape around the circumference of the wrench. Then try the wrench. Magic! The wrench doesn't slip.
46. VANISHING FUEL
Let's say you don't use your vintage Corvette for some time, particularly in the summer. If that's the case, gas tends to evaporate from the fuel bowl (remember, these cars don't have an electric fuel pump as do late-model EFI models). As a result, you'll spend considerable time cranking the engine in order for the fuel pump to fill the float bowl (mechanical pumps). To stop the strain on the starter and battery, try this: Use a small funnel with an inner diameter of 3/8 inch, place it over the float-bowl vent tube, and pour a small amount of gas into the bowl. Bingo. The Corvette will usually start immediately.
47. WRENCH FIT
When thinking about tools, the actual "fit" of the wrench is something most folks ignore. Believe it or not, if you have trouble with wrenches that routinely slip off fasteners (and consequently give you a case of busted, bleeding knuckles) and regularly round off fastener corners, the problem is likely the tool. You see, a good-quality wrench such as the Mac combination wrenches have closer tolerances than some department store tools. Keep this stuff in mind. You'll appreciate it if you've been spending far too much time reaching for the first aid kit in your shop.
See that weatherstrip seal between the fan and radiator? This high- temperature seal increases fan efficiency considerably. It's like adding a shroud to a conventional engine- driven fan. Try it. It could solve a hot-headed Corvette in a heartbeat.
49. FLUSH WITH FLUID
If you have a vintage Corvette, flush the brake fluid! Years (perhaps decades) of rust, scale, and crud manage to collect in the brake lines. In turn, this stops the brake system from working to its design potential. The simplest way to flush brake lines is to open up the bleeder screws and let Mother Nature do the work. Keep the brake reservoir full with fresh fluid (DOT 3 or better). Repeat the process until the expelled fluid is clean. Expect to use a few cans of fresh brake fluid.
50. DRESSING DOWN
After the tires on your Corvette are cleaned, allow them to dry completely before applying any dressings. Once the dressing is applied, allow it to soak for at least half an hour before you wipe off any excess. Of course, this doesn't apply to dressing overspray--wipe that stuff off immediately!
When tightening any assembly held together with a number of fasteners (for example, Corvette engine parts), Mac Tools states that each fastener should be tightened down a little at a time, going to each fastener in turn, until the specified torque has been reached. Mac Tools suggests you follow this practice when torquing fasteners:
* Apply 3/4 of the specified torque to each fastener.
* Reset the wrench and tighten each fastener to the specified torque.
After tightening all the fasteners, repeat the final tightening to make certain all fasteners are at the specified torque.
52. CONE HEADS
Popular replacement conical-style air filters used in some late-model Corvette performance "kits" should be shielded from air movement created by the fan, particularly in EFI applications (where they're the most common). If they aren't shielded, the mass-air meter gives incorrect signals to the computer.
53. LIGHT HEADED
When dealing with aluminum cylinder heads and/or aluminum cylinder blocks, cold lash numbers can vary greatly from the hot figures. Why? Because aluminum moves around significantly more than cast iron when hot. Because of this, you can understand why (and how) valve-lash figures often become decidedly different with "aluminum" combinations. Although it's difficult to provide hard and fast numbers for all cam and engine combinations, Chevrolet offers this advice: "Cold-lash all-aluminum engines are 0.010 inch tighter than hot-lash specifications." Generally speaking, you can use this as a starting point. Some aluminum-head/iron-block combinations are close to an all-iron engine in terms of cold lash while others might be anywhere from 0.005- to 0.010-inch tighter. Do what we do: Contact your cam grinder and ask for a specific cold-lash number for your particular combination.
54. CARBON EXODUS
Here's a tip from the ancient past, and it still works: If you have an engine that's filled with carbon, the best way to clean up the works is to flush it away with water. Fill a small squirt bottle with water (a common sports-drink squirt bottle works great). Remove the air cleaner. Start the engine. With one hand on the throttle (lever), lightly trickle the water from the sports bottle into the carburetor or throttle body. Simultaneously, keep the engine rpm to a point where it will run (remember, water doesn't burn). The idea here isn't to flood the engine with water; the last thing you need to do is hydraulic the engine. The idea is to steam the carbon free in the engine.
55. DISTRIBUTOR ELECTROLYSIS
If at all possible, don't use spark-plug wires with brass terminals along with a distributor cap with aluminum inserts (normally a cheap cap). Why? Moisture will create corrosion. The result will be poor spark and even worse performance.
56. DOWN THE DRAIN
There is a seal between the oil pan and drain plug on your Corvette. If the plug is overtightened (for example, by the gorilla at the local quick lube), there's a good chance the seal (often plastic or copper) will be distorted. The result? A persistent drip. The solution? Buy a new seal.
57. SPRING'S THE THING
Buy a number of alligator or spring clamps in several different sizes and keep them in your toolbox. They come in handy when sizing pieces (such as upholstery material) to be cut. They also hold things firmly until adhesive sets up. It's like having a second pair of hands during a Corvette restoration.
58. CLOGGED DRAINS
Do you have a C4 Corvette with what appears to be a fuel-related hard start or lean condition? Have a fuel sample test done to see if any water has contaminated the fuel. If it has, check the rear fuel-fill compartment seal to see if the drain is plugged. A clogged drain can cause rain or car wash water to back up into the fuel-tank filler tube.
59. HOLE IN ONE
Valve stems are valve stems, right? Maybe not. Many Corvette enthusiasts forget about the actual size of the valve-stem hole. This might not seem like a big deal, but given the differences in wheels, it's a good idea to grab your calipers and measure the diameter of the hole. Why? Most screw-in metal valve stems are sold in varying diameters.
60. MATCHING NUMBERS
Ring-and-pinion gears are matched pairs, and should never be mixed with gears from other sets.
62. STAINLESS STUFF
Why do so many aftermarket brake calipers for Corvettes use stainless steel for pistons and/or sleeves? Stainless is a good choice for these applications due to slower heat transfer than mild steels. Something to consider when shopping for replacement calipers.
63. POLISHING PROCESS
There are dissenting views on this topic, but many professional race-engine builders believe that engine bearings that are not aftermarket coated should be polished ("coating" refers to various friction-reduction coatings). The polishing process removes the shipping coating, which in turn improves bearing life. The idea is to use a crosshatch pattern on the bearing surface with white Scotch-Brite (fine).
64. SHIM & GRIN
Here's an old concept that always seems to go unnoticed: In Chevrolet applications (for example, small-block and big-block), there is a need to shim the starter so it meshes correctly with the flexplate or flywheel. Here's how it's done: You need approximately 0.035-inch clearance between the peak of the tooth on the starter drive gear and the valley of the flywheel ring gear. FYI, a good old-fashioned paper clip is approximately 0.035 inch. In order to check the clearance, disconnect the large wire from the battery to the starter (disabling the starter). Leave the power to the solenoid so it will function when you engage the starter. A remote starter switch works perfectly for this application. Shim as required.
65. SLIGHTLY SIMMERED
Installing a fresh pickup on an oil pump can be a curse, especially if the pickup tube is a press-fit such as those found on most Chevy V-8 engines. While there are special tools available to press the pickup tube into the pump, you can get Mother Nature to help during the installation process. Spray the end of the pickup tube with an aerosol lube and slide it inside your freezer for an hour or so. In the meantime, slip the bare oil-pump body in a pan of water and household cooking oil. Bring the pump to a boil and, with the help of some oven mitts, quickly slide the cold pickup tube into the hot oil-pump body. It's a slippery fit and usually doesn't require the use of a hammer or any special tools.
66. GROOVY SERPENTINES
When changing serpentine belts, count the number of grooves. In some applications there are a couple types of belts: Some have seven grooves and some have eight, depending upon the year of the vehicle. In addition, vehicle accessories determine belt length. By the way, when you replace a used-up belt, keep the old one. It will usually have sufficient life left to get you back to civilization. One more thing: If you have a problem routing a serpentine belt in your Corvette, pay close attention the engine compartment. There's usually a sticker somewhere with a diagram showing the belt routing.
67. BAD--WHAT'S BAD?
When tracing electrical gremlins in a Corvette, keep this in mind: Wires almost never go bad. Connections do. Don't be tempted to run a new wire, thinking you're solving the problem. Quite often, if you trace a short, you'll find a bad or corroded connector that you can clean or replace. You'll save yourself time and, at the same time, you won't hack your wiring harness.
68. SPLINTERED SPLINES
Have you ever come across a new clutch disc that doesn't want to slide easily over the input splines on your Corvette transmission? If you have, don't worry. You're not alone. The problem is a burr on either the gearbox input shaft or the clutch-disc splines. To ease the job, take the time to carefully deburr the splines on both the clutch disc and input shaft. From now on, the installation will be a snap. The problem is common on both well-used components and new clutch discs.
69. CHARGE RECAP
A quick way to check a charging system is with a voltmeter. For a 12-volt system, it should read 12 volts with the engine off, and 13-14 volts with the engine running.
70. LEAK DETECTION
Can't find small oil leaks in a restored Corvette engine? Check the PCV valve and make sure it's functioning properly. If the PCV system checks out, try plugging up your PCV system temporarily. Start the engine and check for leaks. The crankcase pressure will build up and any small oil leaks will probably get big enough to find easily. Obviously, it also helps to start with a clean engine to make the leak more apparent.
71. FLUID FOLLIES
Question any seasoned racer about brake fluid and one of the first things that will come out of his mouth is "Ford High Performance Brake Fluid" (sometimes referred as "Ford Heavy Duty Brake Fluid"). Let's back up for a minute: The really good racing brake fluid available today is called "Castrol SRF." It is a somewhat rare super-fluid designed primarily for racing, but most people don't buy it because of the high cost. The reality is, Ford Motor Company purchases this fluid by the barrel, repackages it, and sells it as Ford Heavy Duty Fluid to owners of heavy-duty trucks. Anyone may buy it from a Ford dealer under PN C6AZ-19542-AA. The packaging states: "High Performance Dot 3," and the cost is considerably less than the Castrol-packaged fluid.
Another good quality brake fluid is Castrol LMA. It's good at rejecting moisture and may be kept in your brake system for several years. The LMA stands for "Low Moisture Absorption." It is sold in plastic containers that do not have a long shelf life. Do not purchase a large quantity of this fluid at one time, since moisture can make its way through the plastic containers. Ford Heavy Duty DOT 3 is quite inexpensive and is popular (particularly among racers) because of its excellent dry boiling point. It absorbs moisture quickly, but the racers don't care since they change their fluid frequently. It's sold in metal cans and, as a result, it does have a long shelf life (provided the seal isn't broken). In terms of specifications, Ford Heavy Duty is classified as a DOT 3 fluid. The dry boiling point of this fluid is 550 degrees F while the wet boiling point is 284 degrees F. Castrol LMA is classified as a DOT 4 fluid. It has a dry boiling point of 446 degrees F and a wet boiling point of 311 degrees F. And by the way, your Corvette won't disown you for using Ford fluid!
72. CURB CRUSHER
If you smack a curb or hit a pothole with your Corvette, the front-end alignment can be thrown out (it's easier than you might think). The result, of course, is eventual tire damage. With the cost of tires today, it's good preventive maintenance to have the alignment on your car checked regularly. Some folks have the alignment checked every time the tires are rotated, or at 6,000-8,000-mile intervals.
73. BOOSTER SHOT
A number of Corvette folks report plug fouling problems when using various octane boosters. If that happens, go straight to the spark plugs without passing go! The solution is to clean and/or replace the plugs (and perhaps search for another octane booster).
74. CASTING CALL
How can you tell if a Corvette crankshaft is cast or forged? A cast crank will usually have a line on the counterweights where it was poured into a mold. A forged crank does not have the fine lines on the counterweights.
75. BAG LADY
Changing oil is a messy job. That's a given--but to make it less messy, try this: Slide a plastic bag over the filter after you break it loose with the filter wrench. Hold the top of the bag firmly against the engine block with one hand, and use your other hand to unscrew the filter. The oil slop will be contained inside the plastic bag.
76. OIL SPACE
Believe it or not, too much oil in the pan of your Corvette is just as bad (perhaps worse) than too little. If the oil level is too high, it can be above some windage trays. At the least, the oil can be picked up by the rotating assembly. Next, it is whipped into a frenzy--creating foam, which really means the oil becomes aerated. Hot, aerated oil will not maintain pressure and, because of this, will definitely create low-pressure problems.
77. GASKET CHAOS
Some intake gaskets purposely block off coolant ports to enable the engine coolant to flow in a predetermined path through the engine. If these ports are not blocked off it could create a short circuit in the cooling system. So what's the answer? Buy the right gaskets for the application. Otherwise, the temperature gauge in your Corvette could be headed toward the stratosphere.
78. WALL VENEER
It's common knowledge that it isn't a good idea to break in a flat-tappet-cam engine with synthetic lubricants. Did you know that applies to all engines? According to the pros, all engines, no matter the camshaft type (roller or flat tappet), are best served by using mineral oil during the break-in. Why? The experts claim that the cylinder-wall finish/ring combination used today still needs some time to get acquainted and effectively break in. If it's good enough for professional racers, it's good enough for us.
79. DRESS CODE
When polishing and detailing custom Corvette billet wheels, be sure to use only extra-soft polishing cloths. Old fleece sweatshirt material is perfect. Do not use cross-weave materials (for example, T-shirts and/or diapers) on soft metals, since they can easily scratch the surface.
80. EXPLOSIVE FORCE
Never add air to a tire and rim assembly that has been operated in a seriously under-inflated or flat condition. Why? The condition just might provoke the tire to separate (often explosively). The result can be serious injury. The real solution is to have the tire deflated and carefully inspected by a professional. By the way, we're talking from experience here, folks. Be extra cautious
82. FUEL FAMINE
According to several fuel-pump manufacturers, one of the leading causes of in-tank electric fuel pump failure is fuel starvation. Most tanks have baffles or a built-in sump that keeps the pump pickup submerged in fuel. These pumps use the fuel as a cooling agent. So far, so good; but if the gas tank contains only a gallon or two of fuel and the vehicle is driven hard around a corner, the fuel may slosh away from the pickup and momentarily starve the fuel pump. Repeat this process a number of times, and the pump will ultimately suffer (no more cooling and it will eventually expire).
83. TIP TEMPERATURE
Spark-plug gap size has a direct effect on the plug-tip temperature and on the voltage necessary to ionize (light) the air/fuel mixture. Because of this, gaps are important. Plugs are not pre-gapped at the factory, and the gap must be set and adjusted for a specific Corvette. NGK points out that a modified engine with higher compression or forced induction will typically require smaller gap settings (to ensure ignitability in these denser air/fuel mixtures). As a general rule, the more power you are making, the smaller the gap you will need. NGK also states that a spark plug's voltage requirement is directly proportionate to the gap size. The larger the gap, the more voltage is needed to bridge the gap. Most experienced tuners know that opening up gaps to present a larger spark to the air/fuel mixture maximizes burn efficiency. It is for this reason that most racers add high-power ignition systems. The added power allows them to open the gap yet still provide a strong spark. With this mind, many think the larger the gap the better. In fact, some aftermarket ignition systems boast that their systems can tolerate gaps that are extreme. Be wary of such claims. In most cases, the largest gap you can run may still be smaller than that claimed.
84. IDLE IDIOSYNCRASY
If you're plagued with a vintage Corvette engine that starts, then stalls, check and reset the idle-mixture screws. Turn the screw in until it seats. Repeat with the second screw, then back both out 11/2 turns. This should provide a baseline so you can set the idle mixture on a running engine.
85. FINESSING FILTERS
When servicing K&N filters, be sure you do not over-oil the element. Aside from restricting airflow, excess oil can migrate into the intake system where it can coat electronic sensors. The result, of course, can be catastrophic. When servicing the filter, if oil drips from it, wash the filter and start over. Use only K&N oil. Follow the oiling instructions included with the filter or, if you've misplaced them, refer to the instructions listed in the back of the catalog.
86. YANKING YOUR CABLE
Speaking of the "old days" and ancient tricks, here's something you shouldn't do: It was once common to pull off a battery cable when a Corvette engine was running to check the charging system. If the alternator was working, the engine would continue to run. If it wasn't charging, the engine would stall. Some people think you can do that today. Not so! Those old Corvettes had relatively robust mechanical voltage regulators. Newer examples have internal voltage regulators, and if you yank the cable, you'll create a spike or surge in the system. Everyone knows what that will do to a computer.
The modern automotive electronic voltage regulator has some of the same components as a computer. Pulling a battery cable while the engine is running will send a voltage "spike" throughout the electrical system of the automobile. This can, and often does, damage the voltage regulator. But it can also take out other electronic bits. Included in the mix are computers, ABS control units, electronic instrument clusters, sound systems, and so on. Bottom line? Don't mess with the electronics. They'll come back and bite you.
87. NEW MATH
Here's a quick tip: In order to measure a wheel-bolt pattern, measure from the center of the No. 1 lug hole to the outside of the No. 3 lug hole. The number you get is the bolt circle size.
88. JUST A WHINER
Do you have an impossible-to-find whine originating from the underside of your Corvette? If you do, think about adding a small amount of grease to the splines on the transmission slip yoke. This eliminates the metal-to-metal contact from the splines in the yoke to the splines on the output shaft.
89. EXPLOSIVE FORCE
Never add air to a tire-and-rim assembly that has been operated in a seriously underinflated or flat condition. Why? The condition just might provoke the tire to separate (often explosively). The result can be serious injury. The real solution is to have the tire deflated and carefully inspected by a professional. By the way, we're talking from experience here, folks. Be extra cautious.
90. SQUEAL ON YOU
Squealing Corvette disc brakes are a pain in the you-know-what. In order to stop the ordeal, try these two tips:
* After resurfacing a rotor, hand-sand both sides smooth and flat, using 120- or 150-grit sandpaper on a sanding block.
* After sanding, clean the rotor thoroughly with detergent and water. This serves to demagnetize the rotor and remove all of the fine grit and dust that can cause chatter.
91. SCOUR & SCRUB
Car wash sponges are cheap. Dedicate a sponge for tire cleaning only and don't use this pad for anything else. This way, the tire residue can stay in one spot, and you won't contaminate your car's paint with wayward tire dressing, small rocks, and so on.
92. PAIR THEM UP
On vintage Corvettes, rear drum-brake wheel cylinders should be replaced as pairs. Why? Simple. It will equalize the hydraulic pressure pulse. If you don't, you run the risk of replacing brake shoes that can be contaminated by brake fluid leakage from the cylinder.
93. FUEL FIXATION
Have you ever had one of those moments when you're searching for that elusive problem on your Corvette only to find out it was a painfully simple fix? Here's one more to add to your collection: a crimped fuel line. The fuel line is important to fuel delivery but often overlooked. If it's crimped, your car will have no fuel (or much less than required). The maladies perpetuated by this can be numerous. Give it a look before ripping apart the car.
94. PULLEY STERILIZATION
Don't you just hate a squealing fan belt? If the belts on your Corvette are tight and still squeal, try this: Buff the inside of the pulleys with green Scotch-Brite. The abrasive pad gives the fan belt a more positive surface and should eliminate the noise. It's also a good idea to use a new belt once the pulleys are "deglazed."
95. FOOT SOJOURN
When bleeding Corvette brakes manually, be careful not to overextend the master-cylinder piston. This can rip or tear piston-cup seals that, in turn, can result in master cylinder failure. It's simple to cure this problem: Just put your free foot under the brake pedal during the bleeding process to act as a stop.
96. BIG LUG
Pretend you have aftermarket wheels on your Corvette (not a big stretch). And pretend they use different lug nuts from those fitted to your car by the OEM manufacturer (similarly, not a big stretch). What about your spare? If it's stock, make sure you have a spare set of lug nuts that fit the spare. Otherwise, you might not be too happy if you're out in the middle of nowhere with a flat.
97. SHAKY SILICONE
Fan clutches lose speed over time because the silicone fluid inside loses shear strength. After six or eight years of service, the clutch may be slipping to the point it can't spin fast enough to keep up with the engine's cooling requirements. This in turn may cause the engine to overheat during hot weather, when idling in traffic, or when using the A/C. Any fan clutch that's wobbling, making noise, leaking, or turns with little or no resistance is overdue for replacement.
98. GETTING HOSED
Believe it or not, good old-fashioned, standard rubber fullsize coolant hoses should be used to ensure maximum flow. Smaller-than-stock braided-steel AN hoses decrease flow and, as a result, can hinder proper cooling.
99. ROCK AROUND THE CLOCK
If you have roller rockers on your Corvette engine, be sure to install them with the flat side of the seat facing up. If you don't, it will kill the polylock (and quite possibly the rocker). Just make certain the flat surface on the rocker-pivot mechanism faces up. You'll have no broken parts or "missing lash" with this tip.
100. FUEL FUNDAMENTAL
Poor fuel economy can be caused by a defective jet, an incorrect jet, or a loose jet (more common than you might think). Use a large, flat-blade screwdriver or, preferably, a dedicated jet driver to tighten the jets so they aren't damaged in the process. Tighten the jets (Holley torque specs call for 30-40 in-lb of torque). If the carb is a Holley, and it has a secondary metering block, repeat the process.
101. BREAK AWAY
What isn't generally known or understood is that break-away or break-loose torque is considerably less than the applied torque. This means the torque required to loosen a bolt previously tightened to 90 lb-ft would be considerably less than the 90 lb-ft of applied torque. A torque wrench should be tested on a torque-wrench testing machine to determine its true accuracy.