Tips to Maintain Your Classic Muscle Car's Engine
Whether it’s a Charger, Camaro or GTO, classic muscle cars all have one thing in common: Their engines love to perform. They do, however, require a little maintenance to keep laying down rubber every time you step on the pedal. When you hear the finely tuned rumble of an Oldsmobile 442 go by, what you don’t hear is a rich or lean air/fuel ratio, dry o-rings or a gummed- up fuel line. That’s because someone took very good care of that engine. We’re going to touch on a few maintenance tips that will keep your muscle car running right, and keep heads turning at every auto show you visit.
The Air/Fuel Ratio
Let’s start with the air/fuel ratio. You could always test it by pulling out out your air/fuel tuning meter, which will run you about $350. If you’d rather spend that $350 elsewhere, you can get to the same destination by disconnecting a hose and using your hands. Hot Rod Magazine offers this tip from their list of ways to improve your muscle car fuel system: Get your engine warmed up to operating temperature, then remove a hose connected to the manifold vacuum. Your carburetor is rich if the engine speeds up; it’s too lean if it stalls.
You can also hand-choke your engine to test the mixture. Put your palm over the carburetor—if the engine runs faster, your mix is too lean. This can also indicate a vacuum leak. If you run into one of these, check the hose on your power brake booster. That and the PCV hose are two spots most people forget to look.
While we’re talking carburetors, it does your car good to hit highway speeds periodically. You don’t want to put any more miles on it than necessary, but getting the RPMs up will circulate oil through the engine and clean the carburetor.
You likely spent a long time picking out the rubber on your wheels, but when was the last time you thought about the rest of the rubber in your engine? If you’re not taking your baby out on a regular basis, the o-rings in the gaskets can dry out. If you fail to replace them regularly, they'll dry, crack and leak. We all know what that leads to: that telltale spot on your garage floor and a lot of time wasted cleaning the fluid off the engine compartment or undercarriage. You might also see a drop in power; even a .020-inch leak can hurt engine performance.
So, don’t focus strictly on those big rear tires—consider the rest of the rubber in your engine and what kind of product you’re using. According to Apple rubber seal products, Buna-N is the seal product industry's most widely used natural rubber. Its resistance to petroleum makes it ideal for muscle cars. You can find Buna- N and many other products on their website at applerubber.com.
Prevent Fuel Breakdown
Last on our list is the fuel sitting in your tank. You probably keep the paint fresh and the rust at bay by keeping that vintage muscle car tucked away in a garage or under cover during winter or the rain, and that's a good thing. However, doing so has a drawback: When you store your car for an extended period of time, the gas in your tank, especially an E10 mixture, can break down. This causes gummed-up fuel lines and carburetors. You could always drain the gas, but then you end up facing the possibility of rust inside the fuel system, and you have to dispose of a tankful of gas, too. A better option is a Fuel Stabilizer, which can keep your fuel from breaking down for up to 12 months, and helps ensure an easy start next spring.