Volume II, Issue 8, Page 1

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This is where we got out the creepers so we could get under the car with ease and in comfort. Actually, there were no creepers as you know them. We were the creepers, flesh-and-blood creepers lying on a soft, old flannel top sheet. “We” is yours truly and young-gun Justin Brayman, my hot car connection from down the street.
I’d written a feature on Justin’s low-9-second nitrous Nova for a print magazine. We two and his wife Eva jawed about the inequities of living in a deed-restricted ‘hood, the real value of having absolute humps as next-door neighbors, and about no good deed going unpunished. Justin is half my age. Could easily be my son, alright, but he’s a real doer not a dreamer like I am. Here’s how it went.

While I was in his garage touching and fawning over his pin-neat racer and collecting folksy bits for the story I’d be writing, we got to talking cars. I related the details of my Biscayne’s poor behavior, seemingly related to something in its fuel delivery system (see Twice Pipes, June ’07). I declared then that I’d be looking for the reason and that Justin would be helping me to find it.

When I’d asked around what the trouble might be, I got a different answer from everyone who was fool enough to listen. This is what I’d told them: The motor flat quit while I was heading for the highway. No fuel pressure. Had it towed. Somehow the nose-up attitude jogged something in the fuel system (recommended fuel pressure for this EFI is 42psi) and it began doing what it was supposed to do. Just like that. The next time I exposed the car, it ran just fine. Then it sat in for nearly two weeks. When I tried firing it off, all I got was a whiny fuel pump and no fuel pressure. As a last try, I whipped out the floor jack and put the nose of the car about foot off the floor. As soon as I touched the key, the fuel pressure came right up and mocked me—42psi, chump—and the engine started right up. Now what?

Diagnoses ran from a bad ground on the fuel pump to a bad fuel pump to insufficient voltage to unworthy gasoline to something in the engine management system. Justin came to my door and asked if he could help, hence the creeper story. He looked. He poked. He said he would call the fuel pump people and tell them what the irk was. Meanwhile, he thought the pump might be mounted a little too high on the frame, but to him the red flag was the way the -10 line output line was looped, higher than the top of the fuel tank. Then the concussion grenade: there were no filters anywhere in the system, so a clog somewhere could be imminent.

He’d brought a length of copper tubing with him that he used to fashion a working template for the revised line route. At least then we’d know that fuel-pump-to-fuel-tank juxtaposition was not the reason for the starvation scenario. He told me to come over the next night and he’d make the new fuel line, a bracket for the repositioned pump if need be, and be able to blend the new hard line with the steel-braided host for function as well as appearance. What happened was a little different.

Justin worked methodically, making only one change at a time. He repositioned the fuel pump forward so that he could attach the fuel filters directly to the fuel pump’s inlet (100 micron) and outlet (10 micron) sides. He followed the fuel line forward to a spring-loaded, one-way check valve designed to maintain fuel pressure when the system was silent. From there, the line snakes up to the fuel rails. He applied compressed air at each stage and it came out clean. Finally, we were at the fuel rails. He said, “Hold this little tank to catch the gas.”

A second later, we heard the shrapnel as it ricocheted off bottom of the catch tank, a vaguely circular piece of rubber about as big around as your pinkie finger, not thick, not thin, but definitely big enough to bunch up and gag the system. Immediately, the fuel pressure jumped from 42 to 50psi and the engine sounded smoother and crisper. Justin dialed back the fuel regulator to the prescribed 42psi.

Now, two more things to do: put some more air in the system to counter the rich condition caused by the fuel blockage and reposition the fuel tank a little lower and raise the inlet (as in bend) so that the sumped part of the tank actually becomes the lowest part of it. As it sits, when the AutoMeter gauge registers a quarter-full, the pump tends to suck air and cavitate. I’ll let you know how that worked.

Right now, I’m going to creep back to my soft flannel top sheet, stretch out underneath the car and take a nap.