Archive for How-To

CarTech’s High-Performance Ignition Systems

A Peek Between the CoversHP Ignition Systems Cover Photo

When you think about our industry (or enthusiast hobby, depending on your perspective), some facets are decidedly more flashy than others: lighting, engines, boosts, rims, roll bars, raised suspensions, custom paint jobs, and similar effects. Some other details, such as the ignition system (bet you didn’t see that one coming), do their work quietly behind the scenes—until they don’t. Most of us can’t tell an Ohm from a volt from an amp, and yet understanding such concepts is critical to both modifying and maintaining the rides we hold so dear. Industry writer and automotive technician Todd Ryden accepted CarTech’s challenge to take what can be a complicated topic and communicate it in a relatable, engaging way. Suffice it to say, after reading High-Performance Ignition Systems, you’ll never look at coils, batteries, sparkplugs, cylinders, magnets, or wires the same way again.

Ryden approached High-Performance Ignition Systems from the perspective of readers wanting to know how to optimize ignition systems for both street and race applications. He sets an informative tone from the very beginning by giving us a little science lesson on electricity itself (you know, the mysterious current that makes possible all that stuff we love?). Don’t worry; Ryden understands the topic well enough to make it interesting to the laymen among us.

After we gain a newfound appreciation for the level of engineering sophistication that goes on under even the most average of hoods, High-Performance Ignition Systems leads us through chapters covering topics both basic and advanced. You’ll learn the ins and outs of distributors (if your ride still runs with one); ignition timing; ignitions; coils, wires, and plugs; RPM limiters; advanced ignition tuning using computers, retrofit ignitions; and batteries and charging. The tenth and final chapter is devoted entirely to definitions and diagrams, putting useful information and visual guides all in one easy-to-reference place—including troubleshooting your CD ignition.

The folks over at CarTech do a fantastic job of producing thorough, readable, and knowledgeable how-to guides that span the spectrum of aesthetic and performance automotive modification. High-Performance Ignition Systems, here revised and updated, is sure to become your go-to reference for issues related to this intricate and surprisingly wondrous automotive system. Click here to order your own copy of High-Performance Ignition Systems.

Size:                 8.5” x 11”
Type:               Softbound
Pages:             144
Photos:           288 full-color photos and charts

CarTech’s Ford Y-Block Engines: How to Rebuild and Modify

A Peek Between the CoversSA-CarTech SA257 Ford Y-Block Engines: How to Rebuild & Modify 600x600

Falling between the first mass-produced V8 engine in 1932, the venerable flathead, and its FE successor in 1958, the Y-block engine served passenger- and muscle-car enthusiasts alike with aplomb from 1954 to 1964. The Y-block, Ford’s first overhead-valve V8 engine, set a tone of outstanding performance by bringing home records at Utah’s Bonneville Salt Flats, snatching checkered flags at NASCAR events all over the country, and capturing the hearts of car lovers around the world. An engine this popular and successful could fill an entire book devoted to its restoration and enhancement. And now, finally, specialty publisher CarTech has given this venerable engine the attention it deserves with Ford Y-Block Engines: How to Rebuild and Modify, written by Ford aficionado and seasoned drag racer Charles Morris.

The aptly dubbed Y-block engine derives its name from its shape: the deep-block design looks like a “Y” when viewed from the front. The engine was designed to grow in power as time went on. This “high futurity” concept came to fruition as Ford executives expected; iterations saw continually increasing cubic-inch displacement values, including 239, 256, 272, 292, and 312. In Ford Y-Block Engines: How to Rebuild and Modify, Morris leads readers down two different paths: one for rebuilding stock versions of those engines and another for building a modified Y-block fit for modern performance.

All aspects of the process receive in-depth attention, including inspection and cleaning, pulling the engine, necessary prep work, machining, identifying and selecting components, solving known Y-block oiling issues, and reassembly. Chapter 9 breaks down what to do after you’ve completed the rebuild or restoration, while a comprehensive appendix is a resource for topics ranging from torque specifications and dampener timing settings to firing order and rotation and cam timing.

The folks over at CarTech do a fantastic job of producing thorough, readable, and knowledgeable how-to guides that span the spectrum of aesthetic and performance automotive modification. Morris leaves no stone unturned in this exhaustive work on the Y-block engine—dare we say the essential resource for anyone interested in bringing to life a classic engine whose time has not yet passed. Click here to order your own copy of Ford Y-Block Engines: How to Rebuild and Modify, and join the legion of fans who cannot get enough of the engine that long ago secured its place in the canon of automotive history.

Size:                 8.5” x 11”
Type:               Softbound
Pages:             136
Photos:           417 full-color photos and charts

CarTech’s Ford Mustang 1964½–1973: How to Build and Modify

A Peek Between the CoversSA212 Mustang

Fresh off the presses, Ford Mustang 1964½–1973: How to Build and Modify takes pony buffs back and forth in time for a very important mission: upgrade the quintessential American muscle car so that it can go toe-to-toe with today’s modern upstarts. Author Frank Bohanan, a former Ford Motor Company engineer and product planner as well as a prolific industry writer, proves uniquely suited to this task. He notably leads readers through the process in an easy-to-follow fashion, despite the fact that he offers not one but three targeted upgrade levels: the daily driver, the high-performance street car, and the streetable track-day car. Though Bohanan has also authored a book on restoring Mustangs of this time period, Ford Mustang 1964½–1973: How to Build and Modify caters to those aficionados who have performance-driven retrofitting aspirations.

Though impressive for their time, the components found in 1964½–1973 era cars have fallen way behind the curve by contemporary standards. Drum brakes, breaker point ignition systems, and 14” skinny steel wheels have been eclipsed by present-day suspensions, steering, and driveline technologies—not to mention all the cutting-edge aftermarket possibilities. Ford Mustang 1964½–1973: How to Build and Modify provides step-by-step instructions for implementing three tiers of performance overhaul. Bohanan schools readers in areas including crate engine installment, G-shock brake kits, tubular A-arms, and other high-impact modifications.

Every aspect of the 1964½–1973 Ford Mustang receives Bohanan’s undivided attention. He includes chapters on Short-Block and Rotating Assembly; Camshafts, Cylinder Heads, and Valvetrain; the Intake, Exhaust, and Fuel Systems; Ignition and Starting; Lubrication and Cooling; Engine Swaps; the Transmission; the Driveline; Brakes; Suspension and Steering; Wheels and Tires; and the Electrical System. Chapter 12 focuses on interior modifications, including areas of safety; seats and pedals; tilt steering column and wheel; gauges; and data acquisition, which explains how to gather performance metrics and use them to calibrate your setup to achieve maximum results.

The folks over at CarTech do a fantastic job of producing thorough, readable, and knowledgeable how-to guides that span the spectrum of aesthetic and performance automotive modification. If you’re interested in transforming your classic Ford Mustang into a modern predatory machine that nevertheless maintains its original spirit, click here to order your own copy of Ford Mustang 1964½–1973: How to Build and Modify.

Size:                8.5” x 11”
Type:               Softbound
Pages:             160
Photos:           313 full-color photos and charts

CarTech’s Corvette C3 1968–1982: How to Build and Modify

A Peek Between the CoversCorvette C3

If you could choose only one guru to show you the ins and outs of the ’68–’82 C3 Corvette—nestled indelibly in a sweet spot of the muscle car’s iconic history—you couldn’t choose a better tour guide than author, ASE-certified mechanic, and 11-year Bloomington Gold School Technical Instructor Chris Petris. Genre-leading publisher CarTech leverages Petris’ tremendous talent and experience in its 2013 publication Corvette C3 1968–1982: How to Build and Modify, which walks readers through 13 lucky chapters that provide a comprehensive look at pulling the car apart and putting it back together again—as it originally appeared or with a few high-impact surprises.

Petris begins the journey by giving us an overview of the C3’s many incarnations, which span 14 years of innovation and evolution. He calls out the more rare and exalted models (’68–’74), which you probably don’t want to risk devaluing, as well as the less-expensive ’75–’82 models, which generally don’t possess the lofty pedigree or performance values of their earlier counterparts. Petris rightly points out that the latter group shouldn’t be seen as inferior; in fact, it’s exactly because they are within the reach of most mere mortals that they make such great candidates for performance modification. In other words, if you want to get your hands dirty, open the hood of a later-model C3 and get started (after you open this book, of course).

Corvette C3 1968–1982: How to Build and Modify charts a course from the beginning, starting with chapters on Engine Modifications, including choosing between a crate or LS engine; Power Adders; Performance Fuel Systems; Exhaust Systems; the Performance Cooling System; Transmission and Drivelines; the Driveline; and Brake Upgrades.

The book expands to cover exterior and structural considerations with chapters devoted to Aftermarket Chassis Installation; Chassis Modifications; and Wheels and Tires. Last but not least, Chapter 13: Interior Upgrades offers suggestions on creating the ideal personalized cockpit for your new turbocharged beauty. It considers aspects like seat belts, rollbars, seating, gauges, steering wheels, pedal pads, and more. Nothing beats the satisfaction of slipping behind the wheel of an utterly new creation, sprung directly from your own untamed enthusiasm and unique sensibilities. (Getting pinned to your seat by a few exhilarating Gs never hurts, either.)

The folks over at CarTech do a fantastic job of producing thorough, readable, and knowledgeable how-to guides that span the spectrum of aesthetic and performance automotive modification. If you’re interested in tackling your own Corvette C3 project and could use the step-by-step expertise found in Corvette C3 1968–1982: How to Build and Modify, click here to order your own copy.

Size:                8.5” x 11”
Type:               Softbound
Pages:             176
Photos:           362 full-color photos and charts

Safety Checklist for Rear Disc Brakes

1. Are the bolts on the base bracket correctly tightened?

2. Are the mounting bolts on the caliper correctly tightened?

3. Do the rotors slide easily onto the axle?

4. Does the splash shield, the brackets or any other part interfere with the rotor?

5. Is the caliper centered over the rotor?  Hint: axles differ in length, so you might have to shim the caliper in and out.

6. Is there any interference with the caliper or rotor?

7. Are all the brake parts tight?  Are there any leaks?

8. Is the parking brake properly adjusted?  With the vehicle on the ground, have you checked to see if it drags?

9. If your system has an adjustable proportioning valve, is it installed correctly?

10. Was the distribution block properly modified? (May not be applicable to your vehicle).

11. Did you bleed the system?

Safety Checklist for Front Disc Brakes

 1. Is the spindle securely mounted to the ball joints?  Is the castle nut and cotter pin inserted?

 2. Are the mounting bolts tightened properly?

 3. Are the wheel bearings packed with grease?

 4. Were the inner bearings put in place before the grease seal was added?

 5. Did the rotors and bearings slide easily onto the spindle?

 6. Are the washer and castle nut properly torqued?  Is a cotter pin installed?

 7. Are the calipers in place?  Are they properly torqued?

 8. Does the rotor spin freely?  If not, find the issue preventing it from doing so.

 9. Are the flex lines installed correctly?

 10. If the system has a power booster, was it installed correctly?

 11. Was the master cylinder correctly bled?

 12. Are the brakes lines tightened?  Have you checked for leaks?

 13. Are the wheel locks locked?  If not, what is the issue?

 14. Can you spin the wheel without friction from the brakes?

Bleeding a dual port master cylinder

Dual port hole master cylinders must be bled on both port sides of the master cylinder.  (Dual port holes = 4 port holes with 2 on each side).  Failure to do so will trap air in the system, causing brake failure.

Here’s how to bleed a dual port master cylinder:

First, refer to the master cylinder bench bleeding tutorial on this site and follow its instructions for the side you’ll be hooking the brake lines to.  The other side must be plugged.

Second, look for air bubbles in the plastic hose.  If you see none, open the bleeder screws in the supplied plugs.  Allow gravity to bleed the master cylinder.  DON’T push the master cylinder piston in during the gravity bleeding process.

Third, close and tighten the bleeders when you see a clear and steady stream of fluid coming from both bleeders.  Stroke the master cylinder piston several times.  Double check to make sure that you see no bubbles in the clear plastic tubes.

Fourth, remove the tubes as well as the plastic fittings.  Attach the master cylinder.

Important: Don’t let any brake fluid leak onto the painted surface of the vehicle.

Bench bleeding master cylinders

All air MUST be removed from a master cylinder when it is installed.

Bench bleeding is the best way to do this.  Use the SSBC master cylinder bleeder kit, # 0460.

First, clamp down on the cylinder ears in a vise, not the body.  Ensure that it’s level.

Second, attach a clear plastic hose to one of the plastic nozzles (the short end).  Attach one to the other hose and the nozzle too.

Third, using a clip, attach the clear plastic bridge to the wall.  Submerge the ends of the hose in the reservoir on both sides of the wall by pushing them through the holes.

Fourth, using a twisting motion, firmly push the nozzle’s tapered end into the cylinder port hole.

Fifth, fill the reservoir.  Be certain to use clean brake fluid, following manufacturer’s recommendations.

Sixth, push the piston in and release, using full strokes.  Repeat until every bubble has vanished from the clear plastic hose.

It is vital that you keep the hoses submerged in the fluid while bleeding.   Failing to do so will ruin the process.

The master cylinder may now be mounted.  Make sure fluid doesn’t leak from the front or rear ports.

Stopping Problems: Diagnosing Common Brake Issues

Brake systems are indispensable, but they can also drive you crazy.  Leaks, noises, squeaks, squeals and other issues can make your life miserable as they pop up again and again.  In this tutorial we’ll look at common braking problems and how to diagnose their causes.

Problem: After changing the pads and rotors my brakes work fine, except that I hear a clicking noise when I go from forward to reverse.

Likely cause: Most modern calipers use anchor brackets with stainless steel clips.  They’re made of spring steel and can wear out over time.

Solution: New clips come with most quality brake pads.  They can also be bought separately.  The clips should be lubricated with a synthetic brake lubricant for high performance vehicles.

 Problem: Since having my rotors machined and installing new pads I hear a thumping sound when I apply my brakes.

Likely cause: A rough finish on the rotors.  It can draw up the pads when they make contact with the rotor’s surface.  When they snap back into normal position that causes the thumping noise.

Solution: Check newly machined rotors for grooves.  If you see them, either sand them with 180 grit sandpaper to remove ridges or have the rotors remachined on a very slow speed.

Problem: I had major brake fade the last time I went down a mountain or other steep grade.  Now the fade occurs when I drive in congested environments.

Likely cause: First, let’s take a look at what causes brake fade.  When brake fluid gets very hot it can actually boil!  That causes air bubbles to form in it, and they can’t be compressed.  If this happens even once it can permanently affect the fluid, causing continuous brake fade.

Solution: Whenever you have a major brake fading episode, it’s best to check your pads and rotors and also to replace the brake fluid.

Problem: I recently changed my pads and rotors.  Now, whenever I take my foot off the pads I hear a chirping sound.  Applying the brakes makes it go away.

Likely cause: Rust under the rotor can change its surface.  That will make the rotor rub against the pad every time the wheels turn, causing the sound you are hearing.

Solution: Clean the surface of the wheel hub at the point where the rotor joins it.  Tightening the wheels with a torque wrench helps as well.

Problem: I use “low dust” pads but still get plenty of brake dust on my wheels.

Likely cause: You’re probably having an issue with insufficient caliper retraction.  The caliper is surrounded by a seal designed to keep the fluid from leaking around it.  The seal tightens like a rubber band when the caliper extends out.  That same tension also makes it retract when you ease off the brake.  When the seal becomes worn it fails to fully retract the caliper, causing the pad to rub against it and making the brakes wear quickly and create a lot of dust.

Solution: Calipers with corrosion or high mileage likely have a worn seal.  Replace them.  A tip: caliper life can be extended by regularly changing out your brake fluid.

Problem: My aftermarket pads never last as long as the OE ones did.  Why?

Likely cause: The brakes weren’t restored to full OE shape.

Solution: Do more than just relining the brakes when you do a brake job.  Use new or freshly machined rotors.  Make sure your friction materials are excellent quality.  Give the caliper interiors a thorough cleaning; get rid of all dust and corrosion.  Replace caliper hardware; lubricate the new parts.  Bleed the brake fluid and flush the entire system.  Burnish the pads and break them in properly (see tutorials on bedding brake pads on this web site).  You’ll then have brakes that are as good as OE.

Problem: My vehicle has antilock brakes.  When coming to a complete stop the pedal occasionally drops and pulsates.  It only happens when I’m traveling under 8 miles an hour.

Likely cause: Your ABS sensors have dirt or rust in them.

Solution: Give the ABS sensors a close inspection when doing brake work.  Use brake cleaner to clean them.  Any metal filings should be removed.  Then look at the tone rings.  Cracks or missing teeth mean it’s time for new sensors.

Problem: My pads don’t want to fit inside the caliper anchor.  In fact they’re so tight I worry that they won’t work correctly.

Likely cause: Anchor bracket rust.  Rust under the clip can cause drag or uneven wear.

Solution: Look for wear on the brackets.  Clean them completely.  Worn anchors should be replaced.

Problem: I did a brake job and now the brakes drag.

Likely cause: Pushing the caliper pistons in can force too much fluid into the master cylinder.  That will block its vent and the brakes will partially self-apply when they warm up.  Pushing the caliper piston into dirty fluid can also make it stick.

Solution: Get rid of the dirty fluid.  Attach a hose to the bleeder screw.  Then open it and bleed the fluid out into a proper container.  That will do two things: (1.) It will keep the master cylinder from overfilling; and (2.) It will stop dirty fluid from being pushed into the system.  After performing this service make sure your master cylinder fluid is topped off.

Brake FAQs

Q: Why is my brake pedal soft?

A: The usual cause of this issue is air trapped in the lines or the calipers.  Bleeding the system may help.  Don’t force new fluid into new lines; that might cause foaming, which makes bleeding extremely hard.

Important: The caliper bleeding screws MUST be facing upward!!

Is all of the air removed from the system?  If so, the booster pushrod that’s under the dash may need to be adjusted to lengthen it (some can’t be adjusted).  Don’t go overboard; if it’s too long the fluid won’t return and your brakes will drag.  Use ¼ turn adjustments and check after each.  SSBC offers adjustable pushrods for many vehicles.

If the booster to master cylinder pushrod can be adjusted, you might try that as well.

If after trying the above the issue persists then you might have a failing master cylinder.  Before replacing it first ensure that you removed all the air from the system.  Always bench bleed prior to installing a new master cylinder.  If you didn’t, remove the master cylinder and bench bleed it.  Instructions for doing so are below.

Q: Why does my vehicle pull to one side when I apply the brakes?

A: Because the caliper on that side is the only one that’s working.

Rebleed the opposing side then try braking once more.

Q: Why can’t I feel the power assist?

 A: The booster might not have the vacuum it needs to work properly.  On engines with high lift cams sufficient vacuum may not be generated.  A booster at idle needs a minimum of 16 inches of vacuum to function correctly.  You may need to add a vacuum pump if your engine doesn’t provide this.

A vacuum leak may also be the culprit.  Leaks in the manifold or the hoses can cause vacuum problems.  Also, the booster itself might be defective.  The way to determine the issue is to perform a vacuum test.  Does the booster hold a vacuum for at least 3 minutes after the engine is off?  Then you’ve got a good booster.

Important: ALL master cylinders MUST be bench bled in a vise before installation!

 Q: What’s the proper method for bench bleeding a master cylinder?

 A: Use a vice to secure one ear.  Push the piston in with a large screwdriver.  Using clean fluid, top off the reservoir.  Attach our M/C bleeding kit or a dummy line to the two ports.  The front line should run to the front, the rear one to the rear reservoir.  Stroke the master slowly.  It should return slowly, creating plenty of air bubbles inside the fluid.  Stroke slowly again, doing so until there are no more air bubbles.  Then stroke 10 more times to ensure a hard pedal.  The instruction sheet for SSBC part #0460 has more details.

Q: How do I choose the best pads for my vehicle?

 A: Ask yourself how and where you drive.  Stop and go conditions warrant a different pad than the stress of racing does.  SSBC customer service can help you in choosing the proper pad.

Q: How can I know when to change the brake fluid in my street vehicle?

 A: By looking at the color.  Brown fluid has been contaminated by water and dirt and should be replaced.  DOT #3 and #4 fluids absorb water.  Don’t use silicone fluid for track racing.

Q: How do I tell the master cylinder’s front reservoir from the rear one?

 A: Generally, the front one is larger than the rear.  In a select number of vehicles they are the same size, however.  GM vehicles use the rear reservoir for the rear brakes.  On Ford the front reservoir works with the rear brakes.  In most cases the disc brakes are fed by the larger bowl.

Front wheel drive vehicles have brakes that are diagonally split.

The cylinder has four bowls, one for each wheel.  That’s crucial to remember when installing a residual valve, distribution block or proportioning valve.

Q: Where should a proportioning valve be placed?

 A: After the distributor block and before the rear flex hose.  Never, ever install it between the master cylinder and the distributor block.  If you do you will have a very soft pedal.

Q: When should the flex hoses be replaced?  Will I be able to tell from a visual inspection?

A: Flex hoses do a lot of work.  They move up and down continuously like shock absorbers while under high inside pressure.  Over time their interiors will collapse, blocking the flow of fluid.

To be safe, install new hoses whenever the calipers are worked on, even if they look fine.

Q: Will replacing my flex hoses make my pedal harder?

 A: Sorry, no.  However, when you do replace them you should always bleed the system.  That will make the pedal harder.  Take your time and always do brake bleeding properly.

Q: Can a soft pedal be caused by the flex hoses expanding?

A: Only in very rare circumstances.  The number one cause of soft pedals is improper bleeding that allows air in the system.  Flex hoses are tough; they’re designed to withstand 3000 PSI.

Braided stainless steel hoses look great, but they’re not necessary for fine brake performance.

Q: I want to stop!  How much brake pressure will it take?

 A: A normal stop will generate 1200 PSI, whether or not you have power brakes.  In emergency braking conditions 1400 PSI is common.  If the factory installed a proportioning valve then the rear brakes only create 600-700 PSI.

Drum brakes need less PSI because they have a quicker grab.  Installing rear disc brakes can raise PSI to 800-1000 PSI or more.

To ensure that your brakes are creating enough pressure, use SSBC part #A1704, brake pressure gauge.  If a vehicle isn’t generating at least 600 PSI then don’t drive it.  It won’t stop!

 Q: How many pounds of torque should be my wheel bearings be tightened to?

 A: For rear drive vehicles with separate bearings and races, bearings usually require 12 -15 foot pounds of torque, though you might need to back off just a bit so the cotter pin will fit.  Always use a torque wrench and never over tighten, as this will reduce bearing life.

If your vehicle has one piece sealed bearing or hub assemblies refer to your service manual.

Q: What kind of differential fluid does my rear axle require?

 A: For Positraction, a hypoid or limited slip additive is best.  Use the one meant for your particular rear end.  For non-Positraction vehicles, any 80-90 weight gear lube is fine.  Change the fluid frequently if you’re are towing, pulling a trailer or engaging in other high stress uses, as it does degrade over time.