Dart Story #6

So I spent the day dinking with it. I took a two foot length of vacuum hose, hooked it to the back of the choke pull-off and sucked on it. It was working just fine, and held a seal, so I guess the diaphragm in that is intact.

As you may recall, yesterday I disconnected the choke, and the choke plate was perpendicular to the top of the block. All lean, no fat, y’know. So, when I tried to crank it this morning, nada. Nothing. Not gonna start with no choke when cold, no way. Starter fluid elicited a good 30 seconds of running, then once that ran out, nothing.

So, last night this guy on one of the Mopar boards I go to for advice offered to send me a choke thermostat! It should be here by the end of next week… I can drive it with the choke on until it’s warm, then disconnect it when it’s running well. No big deal, just put a bag of twist ties in the glove box, etc, right?

Well, that just didn’t sit right with me, so I went and got the can of carb cleaner and a toothbrush and went to work. I sprayed and scrubbed all the linkages for the t-stat, and went ahead and got after the rest of the carb, as well. I drove it about ten miles, came home, lifted the air cleaner can off, and the choke was still closed. I checked to see if the t-stat was articulating at all, and it felt fine- the spring felt springy and the whole assembly seemed in good shape.

Then I remembered what someone at the Mopar board had said…

You will also need to make sure manifold heat valve is working and passage in intake manifold is not blocked with carbon. Manifold area around choke spring should get too hot to touch after only a couple minutes.

I pulled the t-stat off and the little bowl underneath, and underneath was the nastiest ball of crud you have seen in your cotton-pickin’ life. Oh, man, that was some nasty stuff. I started scooping it out with a flathead screwdriver and throwing it away. It was a golfball sized wad of black crud, studded with those Yoohoo-colored globs of water/oil/carbon you see on your dipstick when your head gasket is gone.

Here’s what I think happened: This Dart was a little old lady car. It has 79k original on it, and I bet it was hardly ever driven over 40mph. (It has some “parking by braille” scars on it, too.) I doubt she ever got it warm enough to really blast all the moisture out of the block (and, and the main thermostat was bad, too, when i got it, so it was running cold all the time until I replaced that) or even for the choke to shut off. All that carbon has been building up in there for 30 years. I am afraid to pull the plugs, now, and see how carbon fouled they are…

I dug and I dug down into that crap until I got to the bottom, then stole some Q-Tips from the wife’s makeup table, soaked them with carb cleaner and rooted around in the manifold heat valves. (There must be a better tool for this….) Once I had gotten it as clean as it was gonna get, I put the t-stat assembly back together, cranked it and let it run while I cleaned up my tools. Sure enough, after about ten minutes, the base of the t-stat was too hot too touch, and the choke was slowly starting to open.

I think we’ve turned a corner, here, gentlemen.

I think, if that guy sends me the other t-stat, I will go ahead and replace it, because it never did seem to get the choke plate as lean as I thought it should be once it was warm, but at least I think I tackled the root of the problem.

I only called Mike about six times today, which I hope he didn’t find too annoying. Mike, if your reading this, there’s another dinner in this for you.

It’s been a good day, with some interesting discoveries. I really like dinking with this Dart.

I also spent way too much time trying to put an oversized oil plug in Mrs. Dog’s Honda today, which was not much fun. At all. And it’s still not right enough to suit me. Those Honda oil pans are fucking shitty.

Fixer, I am going to look into that Edelbrock carb/intake combo after I fix dinner. I will let you know what I find out.


  1. So you made more progress with it after I left? Also, my tools are still over there… I guess that’s what you called about. I don’t need them anytime soon since I’m taking my car back to Mike tomorrow. I’ll pick them up one of these days.

  2. A lot of our customers are little old ladies. Usually a good run once a week (like a sustained 80 mph run for 10 minutes) is a good ‘tune up’. Also, a little trick from way back when:

    Take the air cleaner off and plug the vacuum hoses (if necessary). Screw the idle up to about 1500 rpm. Slowly, very slowly, use a mister bottle and sparay water over the carb. Not enough to make the motor stall (or hydrolock). The water will turn to steam in the combustion process and clean the carbon off the valves.

    Gord’s right though. With all that raw gas flooding the cylinders, an oil change is definitely in order.

  3. And by the way, misting the water around will tell you if you need new plug wires. Heh…

    Those Honda oil pans are fucking shitty.

    Steel drain plug in an aluminum pan is a recepie for disaster for the DIYer. You don’t know how many I get in that are overtightened once and the threads are stretched. We’ve replaced a good number of pans. I’ve tried to Helicoil ’em a couple times but I was never happy with the results.

    And speaking of oil changes. Back when I used to drive customers’ throw aways, I came across a product called ‘Restore’. You add it in at the oil change and it ‘tightens up the gaps’, so to speak. Good product and I usually don’t recommend additives.

    And since you speak of Marvel Mystery Oil so reverently (my dad was one of their followers too), remember this. You can get carried away with the stuff. Remember this little bit of Fixer Wisdom.

    Miracles do not come in cans.

    And yes, 10W-40 is a good oil to use for that car. 10W-30 won’t kill it either.

    Also remember this. The engine was built for leaded gas. Keep an eye on the valve seals. You’ll know they’re starting to wear when you see a puff of smoke out the ass at the upshifts. The guides will follow shortly and the puff will get worse. Back then, the lead in the gas lubricated the valves.

  4. Darren

    Add me to the Restore chorus. A rare find in the world of snake oils. If you’ve got an old oil burner, one theory is to add Restore to top it up between oil changes. Not sure if it’s the best long-term plan, but if it’s already an oil burner . . . .

    Also, Patrick, do you have covered working space out there at the farm?

  5. And since you speak of Marvel Mystery Oil so reverently

    Actually, I was more referring to past experience where someone has used MM oil to cover up the problems in a car. I have never actually bought the stuff myself.

    I will throw some Restore in with the oil change. I have been checking the oil religiously since I bought this car, and it has not needed any yet.

    I don’t have a covered work space, or even a paved one. I have been jacking and using jack stands for safety. I am going to get some ramps and soon, but I am still going to be lying on the ground. I had a big cardboard box I had flattened out to use as a “creeper,” but Lisa took it to the dump.

  6. Darren

    Well, perhaps in exchange for some hard labor helping me prep my garage (clean out, paint, hang some lights), we can arrange for you to use the space from time-to-time . . .

  7. In the spirit of stirrin’ shit up, try pouring a can of ATF through the engine to help clean it out. ATF is highly detergent. It will remind you of why you left the big city! Heh.

  8. In the spirit of un-stirrin’ shit up, anytime you screw steel into aluminum, it’s a good idea to put some anti-seize on the threads. This goes for spark plugs, drain plugs, motorbike case screws, etc.

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