Fluid Changes - 01/25/2015

Any car you've not owned or are aware of its maintenance history makes good sense to redo the consumables and fluids on. Like this car, the coolant smelled like dead fish despite being green and the oil was black as dirt despite being full. So rather than just tempt fate or trust a previous owner, I changed the coolant and oil. I figure that since I'm changing the coolant completely and I've got zero history other than "sat a lot over the last 10 years" I would do a complete fluid change and pull the block drains too.

I get to work in the garage today!

Let the mess begin. Can't drain coolant and oil without spilling it everywhere.

This was fun. The petcock in the radiator broke off. Fortunately this is the only thing that broke today and it came out of the radiator pretty simply. The plug on the right is what goes back in since I unfortunately do not have a spare petcock for the radiator. I'll be doing the water pump soon enough I believe so I can change it then.

Block drains are pulled. The amount of coolant and mud in the bottom of this block was unreal. It also stunk like you wouldn't believe. I had to use an awl and screwdriver to dig out the driver's side block to get the coolant to start to drain.

Part of the motivation for changing these fluids is the new sending units for gauges.

Removing the old idiot light sender and putting a gauge sender! Also caused a giant inrush of air to spill coolant out the drains all over the place. That was fun.

Passenger side block drain is replaced with a petcock for ease of future draining. I also made sure to put anti-seize on it so that it won't freeze up.

Driver's side block drain replaced with petcock. This was NOT easy to do with the starter and exhaust pipe in the way, but I managed. Once I got everything started the hardest part was dealing with the buildup making it difficult to fully seal. More gunk removal fixed that.

New sending units = new gauges! I have a cluster from a '76, and they are identical where they plug in except the bottom right wire on the plug is the dark brown wire for the other side of the alternator field for the idiot light cluster and it is absent on the gauge cluster up top.

I transferred the old speedometer over to the gauge cluster. I would like a trip odometer but '75-76 only had 100MPH speedometers and I've already got the mileage set on the original, so I'll live for now.

Cluster is installed, dropped right in actually. I took this opportunity to replace the AC controls head unit bulb since it was burned out. The car fired right up and the gauges worked perfectly... unless you turn the lights on or step on the brake pedal and then you get +20F and -15psi. And the turn signal indicators don't work and neither does the seat belt light (buzzer still works). So I'm going to need to add a second ground to this cluster to make it work better and also fix some bulbs that *look* good but apparently *aren't* good...

New air filter and breather. Note the green twist ties on the breather: that's so the element doesn't blow away in the air cleaner. The newer ones don't come with staples holding them in and the element slides right out. Easy fix that doesn't require too much effort. Old air cleaner and breather were completely black due to all the misfiring and lean popping it had been doing for who knows how long.

Since I didn't drill the thermostat (didn't want to run the risk of breaking the housing bolts AGAIN) I had some trouble with air pockets in the block. I pulled the heater valve off and backfilled the engine with HOT water from the sink, that fixed the pockets and allowed the thermostat to open preventing a steam filled explosion. It then sucked the radiator dry, requiring 1.5 gallons of anti-freeze in addition to the 2 gallons of water I had already added. The coolant circulated just fine, the temperature regulated itself to 210 at the head since it's a 195 thermostat. The water pump is kind of weak and the flow at idle isn't great, so it will be replaced one day. The radiator has also seen better days and probably will need to be redone or replaced as well in the future.

Good thing I did all of this, I found that the dash controls for the heater are not getting a strong vacuum signal as AC & Vent are at best Bi-level, and Bi-level and Defrost only do full heater - the vacuum hose asssembly hasn't been messed with so it points towards insufficient vacuum (the Grand Am had similar problems when it was first in my possession). Another item I found was that the heater valve was not only installed backwards, it also is the wrong kind. These cars require vacuum to close the valve and this car has a valve that only opens with vacuum. So the only time it will let coolant through the heater core is when the slider valve is at full cold. Time for a new vacuum valve and to install it correctly.

But the car drives great off idle and at speed so far. Had some lean misfires today, indicating the points probably should be replaced sooner rather than later. Gets up to 65MPH with no backfire or hesitation anymore, which is good!

Return to 1973 Grand Safari

Last updated January 25th, 2015