Thursday, November 28, 2013

How To - Replacing A Wheel Stud (with out a stud tool)

For those that don't know wheel studs are what the wheel is held onto the car by. A broken stud can be a real safety nightmare if you don't fix it. They make specialized tools and even pneumatic air guns that do the job but the tools that are actually required to do it your self for free are basic if you know what your doing. Here's a simple way to fix or replace them.

In our case the stud wasn't broken, but we did want to run an extended stud since our project will be running a wide tire for racing and need a little more stud clearance. The steps are the same and pretty easy to do, which should save you some a decent amount of money over going to a repair shop.

First Step - Remove the wheel, If your lug nut on the stud is cross threaded or stripped this may not be a simple task. In this case you'll need to drill out the lug nut using a bi-metal drill bit. If you need to do this be patient and tape off your rim so you don't scratch it up while drilling.

Once the wheel is removed look at the back of the rotor. Rotate the rotor until you can see the head of the broken stud. Next the fun part, using a 5 lb hammer, you'll need to hammer out the stud. A few good smacks should free it up. If the stud is broken flush off at the rotor, use a small punch to act as a prod to push it out.

Next place the new stud in the hole, threads out. It will not seem like it fits once it gets to the nurls(base of the stud). This is supposed to be that way, you need to pull the stud in and seat it. Those nurls are what hold the stud in place to the stud doesn't fall out or free spin when tightening the lug nut down.

To seat the stud, place a washer over the stud against the rotor (this will stop the next step from gouging the rotor hat). Next thread over at least two nuts on the stud and seat them again the washer. You can use your lug nut to do this but I recommend going down to your local home improvement or auto store and picking up some normal nuts, so you don't damage your lug nuts in the process. 

With the nuts seated against the rotor, use a 1/2 drive ratchet and deep socket to start tightening the nuts again the rotor. This will pull the new stud in the rotor seating it. You'll need to tighten the nuts until the stub is flush against the rotor like the others. If the rotor turns while your trying to tighten down the nuts. There are two options. First if your have person available they can hold down the brake which will stop the rotor from turning. If your solo you can use a jack stand place at the tip of another stud as a stopper. Just be sure your not on the threads or you could damage another stud while replacing the broken one.

That's it. Easy fix and only a small amount of time and tools required.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

1968 Mustang Gets An AutoMeter Custom Built Gauge Cluster

Who doesn't love the sweet glow of Autometer's large line of gauges. From classic to futuristic they've got you covered in ace's. My project mustang deserves no less then the best, so its no wonder I turned to AutoMeter to find some jewels to monitor our beast. The mustang factory dash contain three 2-5/8 gauges and two 5 inch gauges. Now you can buy aftermarket or factory pre-built gauge clusters, but where's the fun in that. Not to mention the price tag that come along with pre-built ranging from $1100+. AutoMeter offers a range of gauges that fit our needs, but I settled on the Cobalt line. the black face and LED blue at night is a great pairing. Now this project is not for the timid, but if you want to make your own here's how to do it.

First choose your gauges (make sure they have a 2 5/8 and a 5" size) I recommend using the 5" areas for tach and speedo and for the smaller I choose the essentials (water temp, oil pressure and fuel level). I can always add more gauges later on the a pillar or in a center console. Next if you have a good factory cluster you can skip this part. If not, like us you'll need to order a new cluster fascia, depending on your selection a basic one like ours runs about $30-40.

Next disassemble the cluster. All you need is the fascia and the metal backing plate. Everything else can go. Ours was pretty worn so we had to replace some of the blinker bulb lights and the plastic warning lights. With everything removed you can move to the next step, prepping the fascia. The fascia has factory tabs to line up the gauge glass and metal trim rings, these are no longer needed and have to be removed. I used a hacksaw to cut them off and a piece of 80 grit to sand and smooth the remainder.

Once fascia is finished. Place over the now empty metal housing. Using a sharpie I marked the gauge openings onto the housing, since our gauges are longer the the factory the back housing will need to be modified to fit. After marking the openings, take the fascia off. I used a 2-5/8 and 4-1/2 inch bi-metal whole saw to make easy work of drilling out perfect circles for our gauges.

Now the scary part. AutoMeter gauges come with nice trim rings that keep everything in place and accent the gauge nicely. Unfortunately that will not work for our setup, there is simply not enough room. So to fix the issue, they have to be cut off...... Scary right. Not so much, its a lot easier then you think it is. Using the same open end hack saw mentioned above, cut the back of the metal trim ring, then the top edge. once through (doesn't take much) I used a butter knife to lift and separate the trim ring from the gauge. Once apart you'll see the gauge is made up of of a few pieces. The gauge housing, the gauge, the glass and the now unneeded trim ring. Since we don't want pieces rattling or moving around during assembly, I used so electrical tape around the ridge of the gauge to hold everything in place while we fit in the housing.

With the hard and scary part over, now its all down hill. Simply place the gauges though the metal housing and reattach the fascia. Then slide the gauges forward fitting the flush in to the fascia. Using some self tapping screws and a couple washers, I secured the gauges into place. This way they can't rotate or slide while driving.

Lastly just follow the wiring diagrams supplied by AutoMeter and done, custom gauge cluster. For about $400 cheaper then a pre-built one and a nice piece to claim as your own.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Modding Our Mustang Taillights In Four Simple Steps

There's nothing wrong with a factory style taillight setup on the 67-68 mustang, but our project is far from factory and while the Shelby taillights are a nice change up. They are being done way to often for me and wanted a little something different, but still maintaining that classic mustang look. There are tons on back panel covers, billet light block and even L.E.D. conversions but they can be very pricey and again I'm looking for something a little less "off the shelf". Now I've seen people do the shaved bezel look a few times and wondered how they did it, so I figured out a way to delete the bezels, use all factory pieces, keep the cost to an extreme minimum and give my car a nice clean custom look. Here's how I did it.

Step 1 - In any project the tear down. Very simple 6 nuts on each side, remove the tail lamp housing and the bezels from the outside of the car. That's it for step 1.

Step 2 - Remove the threaded rod from the factory bezels. You don't have to do this, you can buy new threaded rod from most metal shops or home improvement stores. Just don't go to large you need to be able to adjust the angle of the rod and it need to fit through the housing. The largest I'd recommend its 1/4. If your bezels won't let them loose, you can use some WD-40 and put two nuts on the rod. Tighten then down to each other and then using the bottom nut unscrew the rod. That should break it loose. You will also need to pick up some small washers (the only cost if reusing your factory rods)

Step 3 - Next the hardest part (not really that hard). The holes for the bezels are angled and much to large for the small diameter rod, so to fix here's what I did. Using some small washers I placed then on the tip of a body hammer. centering them in the whole of the bezel and flush them with the tail panel. Then a couple spot welds hold the washer in place. Next I placed the rod in, angling it approximately the right direction leaving about a 1/8th inch out of the rear taillight panel. Spot weld it in place and then finish welding the washer and rod into place. Grind off excess and do the next one, repeat for all twelve holes.

Step 4 - Once welded and ground down. I used a little bit a filler and with some minor sanding. Presto! project completed.

When reassembling, you'll need to slightly adjust the rods to fit through the rubber gasket and the housing. I found it easiest to separate the two pieces, putting the rubber surround on first and then the metal housing. This somewhat aligns the rods to fit through the metal housing easier.

Later I will probably tint the taillights for a smokey look, but not 100% sure yet.
But even with out, I think the look is clean and just a bit more the factory.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Vintage mustang driveshaft tip

While it would seem the big ticket items like a motor or tranny would be the most costly part of a car project. It in fact is almost always the little things that will leave you scrounging for an extra dollar in your wallet. Finishing up the little details on a car can be the most expensive part, but sometimes with a little research you can save big on these little details. That's the case today on my 68 mustang project. Since the motor and transmission has been installed, all that is left to finish the drive train is the drive shaft. 

Unfortunately because its a 68 mustang with a mustang II front end, an 88 mustang roller 302 engine, a T-5 trans and a Heidts ford 9" rear end held in by a custom 4-link suspension. There is no "off the shelf" version the you can buy from a Jegs or summit type warehouse. Now a custom one can range from $300-700+ dollars depending on metal type (steel, aluminum,  carbon fiber) and yolk type.

So, with that said, I know that one of the best things about Ford is their use of interchangeable parts (like the explorer rear end which has 3.73 gears and fits in everything from Mustangs to rangers). This got me thinking and after a little research and several measurements. I knew I needed a 50" drive shaft with a T-5 yolk. And wouldn't you know it, winner winner chicken dinner. Ford explorers 98-04 4dr V8's have the exact length and yolk needed for a direct install. Plus, its aluminum not steel. So, it weighs less, performs better and can be found at most local salvage yards. We found one at ours
and with four bolts, a new u-joint and
$38 later. Our drive line is completed!

Monday, November 11, 2013

10 car buying tips for the average joe

So you want to buy a new car or a new used car?
Don't want to get screwed over?
Want that deal you can be proud of?

Well here's some basic buyer tip and cautionary buyer bewares from yours truly. To
help you get the car you want, with out paying through the nose for it.

Tip #1
Car shopping is like grocery shopping. Never go when your hungry. While there is a chance all be it small that the first car is the perfect car. Be prepared to walk away if its not right (price or otherwise). You don't have to take the first one you see and just because it has a price doesn't mean its the lowest you'll pay if you fight for it.

Tip #2
Carfax... while this can be a great tool its not the end all be all. Most smaller shops don't report to Carfax and you have to pay for the service. In my experience its been all but useless at times. The main things to look for is damage reports and owners (how many and where were they located). The damage may not be listed but I'll explain some warning signs to look for later. Bit if any damage was listed make sure it was repaired by a dealer not a body shop. Why? Because dealerships will usually use new parts not salvage parts like smaller body shops(not always, but normally) Why owners? Well if a cars is say a few years old ans has had several owners its a sign there's underlying issues that people simply didn't want to deal with and  probably neither will you. Also if a car is from a northern or flood state you'll want to check for flood damage or rusting (I'll also explain how later)

Tip #3
Do your research! Kelly blue book ( or can give you a good idea what a car is worth so when you deal with a salesman you can know what the car is really worth. They are going to try and keep the price as high as possible since most are commission based, but don't let them sell you on promises of higher trade in values or incentives. Keep the bottom line on the price of the car not an extended warranty or some non-sense.

Tip #4
Warranties. While factory warranties are awesome. Most extended warranties offered by companies are complete shams. They cover very little and cost a butt load. They'll show you a huge list of covered items and what they aren't saying is everything it doesn't cover, which is normally double the covered list.

Tip #5
Hidden damages. The most typical place for damages on a car are the corners. Don't be afraid to pop the hood or trunk and check around. Most typically your looking for wrinkling of metal behind or near the lights (headlights and taillights). It should be smooth if not and its not on the Carfax its probably been repaired by a smaller shop and not reported.  Make sure you also take a peek under the car, why? You want to make sure the car wasn't lowered or altered in some way and then drug down the road causing damage. If you see excessive scraping, rust or clay like mud under a car DO NOT BUY IT. Unless your willing to risk possible expensive repairs down the road. Check for water damage in the interior and trunk. This can mean possible signs of leaky seals especially around sunroofs or convertible tops. These are notorious for leaking as cars age.

Tip #6
Rust, floods, snows and other fun things. Earlier I mentioned checking the Carfax for owner locations. Why? Well here in Florida as other states I'm sure. We tend to get a wide range of out of state cars, which can have several types of issues. Typically the most are often rust, damage from snow, water damage from floods and dry rot from sitting.
Each has its own way of being detected if you're patient and look closely.
Rust is the hardest. Most lots will use a heavy degreaser and armorall type shine to mask the discoloration of metal. But check areas like the lower frame or around the exhaust for signs that won't be sprayed over.

Snow damage is actually not from the snow at all, but the salt they use to dissolve the snow. Typically you can see large rust areas on the bottom of the car near the wheel wells and exhaust.

Water damage can be tricky most lots will steam clean or even replace carpets, so seeing flood damage isn't always possible. Try to look for staining along the door panels or any signs of mud/clay around the suspension areas. These are costly so most dealers  won't replace them.

Lastly dry rot. This is easy, just look at the rubber seals around the doors, windows and roof. If there is a lot cracking or even splitting most likely the car was either poorly maintained or had been sitting for some time in the sun.

Tip #7
Know what car fits your needs. To often people are talked into a car that's either out of their price range or something that they really don't even need. If you need a truck but its only you in it most of the time. Don't get talked into a quad cab that's both double the price and will hardly be used. Or if you need a  family car, don't be persuaded in a to 2 door sports coupe. A lot of the time we make excuses for settling and end up unhappy don't let this be you.

Tip #8
Location, location, location. While local dealers are convenient.  They may not the deal your hunting for. Try to find several lots along a route no more the say 25-50 miles and make it a day. Often you can find killer deals a little further out of town the. Most want to go look.

Tip #9
Beware of the special models. For the average person there is always the lure of the "limited edition". While this is a tempting offer there are downsides most don't realize to these gems. The biggest is availability of parts and cost of those parts. Most limited editions have limited interchangeable parts so the cost is greatly higher. Also working on these can be more difficult requiring special tools making cost of labor for repairs more as well. So think twice if you really want the long term cost of the limited production of a car model.

Tip #10
Deal breakers. Look the tips I listed above are just basic advice to someone who knows a little to nothing about cars. Just because a car has some issues doesn't mean its not repairable or not a good deal. Often a minor issue such as a single leaky window seal can be fixed at a low cost. Just make sure its not every seal.

Hopefully these tips will help. Any thing else you wonder about.
Feel free to comment and I'll answer as best as I can.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Ranger finishing touches

If you remember, our Ranger had a custom painted copper engine freshly installed recently. With the said we decided  that the old polished chrome valve covers just wouldn't cut it. Unfortunately, no one makes a copper valve cover for our truck or any sbf engine for that matter. But its okay we have a solution that's both cheap and matches our color perfectly. The cheap comes in because we're painting our old covers so it only costs about $25 in paint and takes roughly a day to complete (only a few hours of work, the rest is dry times) plus we can use our very same engine paint, so it matches perfectly.

Start by removing the covers and thoroughly cleaning them using a degreaser and then a good soapy water mix wash (must make sure all oil, oil vapor, grease and grime are off).

Next I used a 220 grit sand paper to rough the surface a bit and remove any imperfections and scratches from the covers. Afterward I repeated the wash to prep for painting. Just to be sure.

Now I started with painting the whole valve cover the copper color. This allowed me to make sure all the surface was covered in high temp paint, before moving on to the details. After allowing the copper to thoroughly dry. I got a touch-up paint stick from my local auto parts store and got to work. This is the difficult part so take your time and be patient. I will admit I'm not the best with a brush but the new style "marker" type touch up pens make it a lot easier for someone with my non-painting skill set to pull off a job well done.

The reason I coated the entire cover with copper instead of taping off the black was two fold. First taping off the covers details seemed nearly impossible. Second I wasn't sure the touch up paint wouldn't just burn off when the engine got hot, so  the copper acts as a heat barrier or so I hoped. And I was correct the copper did/has acts like a shield and no black has burned off.

I did not clear the cover because we wanted a flat sheen and even the satin clear seem to be to "shiny", but above you can see our finished product!

Tuesday, November 5, 2013