Cars are just money pits, so I
minimize car costs and invest in my property instead. Buy a $2000
car that I can repair myself, not much to fail, no labor costs, no
collision insurance bills, and parts are sooo much cheaper. Drive
it to 250,000 miles.
My cars from the 60s had a lot of maintenance, but my late 70s have all
kinds of improvements. Electronic alternator, HEI, valve
rotators, hardened valve seats, plus all the stainless plumbing I put
in. The late cars might be built as well, but with 4 times as
many parts there is no way to easily/economically maintain them.
And no drive train can outlast an Olds small block and a THM (Turbo
Hydramatic) 400 transmission.
Short and Long Term Preventive Maintenace Schedule (Time
change oil/filter, grease, inspect
things like engine/trans mounts, leaks
check and tweak alignment
check wheel bearings and brakes
change transmission oil and filter
clean air filter
gap or replace plugs
change water pump
inspect/change rear axle oil
change alternator front bearing
change alernator brushes and rear bearing
change timing chain
change U joints
consider transmision (400 switch pitch)
change rear suspension rubber bushings
recore (custom 4 row) radiator
rebuild front end
consider rear axle swap
consider engine swap
change all coolant hoses
change brake, fuel (EFI high presure),
and power steering hoses
check condition of gas tank
swap brake cylinders and calipers.
GM V8 maintenance Rule Number 1: Change the timing chain every 15 years
or 100,000 miles, which ever comes first. 120,000 after that for
standard, or when 4 degree slack measured for roller chain. The chain
and sprocket are replaced as a set. and I would recommend getting a
true roller set. Once the original plastic is replaced, you can
go pretty much by the slack; a good set will last a long time.
Don't forget the distributor; these wear out too. The upper
bearing grease dries up; the lower bearing gets egg shaped; the vac
advance gets stuck, and the weight pivots wear out. Keeping
things lubed on a regular basis helps. The lower bearing can be
replaced if the shaft is not too bad, but a special diameter ream is
needed to finish it. Better yet, get an HEI.
If your final drive is leaking, get some new seals (the RIGHT ones are
hard to get); otherwise leave it alone. If you can find the
correct cover gasket, you could refill it with AMSOIL.
Replace belts when obviously worn. Carry spares and tools.
Carry spare low beam, tail and running lights, fuses, HEI module
Old bearings need new grease, whether we are talking antenna, wheel
bearing, or upper distributor bearings. They can last a very long
time, but only if the grease is replaced. I try to buy new
bearings instead of new cars, but greasing is better.
The front wheel bearings on my Eldorado have grease fittings.
Avoiding repeated repairs
What's wrong is, if it broke and I repair it, it will break again and I
will have to repair it again. I eventually figured this
out. So the following conversions are recommended when a failure
- Converted generators to alternators
- Converted points to electronic ignition,
- Converted transmissions to use THM400/425
- Converted exhaust/brake systems to 304 stainless
- Replaced 1979 plastic bearing speedometers with 1980 brass
- Put grease fittings where there were none
- Use only 4 row radiator, shroud, and declutching 7 blade fan
Plastic parts deteriorate with both time and use, so like a time bomb
they will stop your car. I can show you plastic parts that worked
fine in the 70s, but by the 90s they curled up or broke. And if
you actually find a replacement (that's been on the shelf 2 decades),
it will already be approaching failure. If there is no metal
equivalent metal, THERE IS NO FIX. In the old cars, this simply
All transmissions need drain plugs, to facilitate fluid/filter
changes. Unfortunately, a lot of older GM transmissions did not
include one, so it is useful to modify the pan to add one.
I've had a 79 Toronado/Eldorado around for over 2 decades. I
found the 79-81 3 speed to be a pretty reliable transmission,
once you put in the mandatory shift kit. This does include adding
a drain plug so I can do transmission oil/filter every 10,000 miles or
so. However, I have had 2 differentials fail, a couple of
crystalized teeth break off the ring gear and make a mess.
A low mileage but old trans needs a seal kit to replace all those
"hard-as-a-rock rubber seals. The expensive metal parts should be
just fine. If a clutch pack fails to hold pressure one day, it
could burn up and fill the whole trans with poison: that will be a far
more expensive and inconvenient repair.
[Moral: low milage does not always translate to road-ready. Age
destroys parts, too - even if the car is garaged.]
The Well Stocked Garage for a 1970's Era Car
I have a set of tools in the car; a set of car tools in the garage; a
set of metal bending/cutting/drilling/welding tools; a set of metric
tools, a set of THM400/425 overhaul tools; a set of chassis work tools;
a set of puller/install tools; a set of electronic fab and repair tools
in the basement. Another set of electronic tools at
work. A little discipline keeps everything where I can find
I don't have a problem with a generic puller. But the ones I have
were difficult to use in this situation, so I made a custom version
(driven by my steering wheel puller) that fits perfectly and is easy to
My method to not lose parts, is throw everything from a project
in a box. When the project is finished, the box should be
empty. Some of the mechanics who used to work on my cars had no
such organization, as examining the results revealed. No
more. Some projects, esp ongoing like making things, might take 8
boxes, but they are put away and labeled when not active.
I haven't licked the "mess" problem 100%, but every mess I don't make
saves me time and grief.
There are a few things about car repair not discussed much:
1. Keeping track of tools;
2. Not loosing any parts;
3. Not making a big mess to clean up;
4. Not getting hurt.
Plan the job carefully
Get the right tools for the job
Any tool pays for itself the first time you use it
The straight forward way to get the job done is preferable to an
apparently quick but ultimately frustrating method
Example: don't be afraid to pull the engine out to get the
Rebuilt vs. Used Engines
My luck with used original engines is far better than with
rebuilts. So I will ALWAYS go for less than a rebuild IF that
might fix it. Once the pistons come out, you are full out for a rebuild
and break in, with their risks.