1968 Bel Air Diagnostic Test - Playing Doctor

Sneak a Peek Under the Hood and Between the Framerails

Mike Harrington Nov 2, 2006 0 Comment(s)
Sucp_0607_diagnostic_04_z 1968_chevy_bel_air Clean_drum_brake 1/35

After looking the brakes over, everything checked out in our favor. Once everything is put back into place, a quick dowsing of brake cleaning solvent should be the icing on the cake.

Sucp_0607_diagnostic_08_z 1968_chevy_bel_air Front_suspension 2/35

It made perfect sense to inspect the entire underside of the vehicle, since the car was up on stands. Once again, we were pleasantly surprised to find that the frontend had recently been rebuilt. All the bushings were in top shape, the chassis was lubed, the steering box was new, and some of the control arms had been replaced. We did, however, notice a leaking shock, so we put that on the list of must do's. Besides that shock, the underside of the car was in excellent, rust-free condition, and the exhaust looked fairly new! This budget vehicle is starting to look better and better.

Sucp_0607_diagnostic_12_z 1968_chevy_bel_air Oil_filter 3/35

While under the car, you might as well change the oil, right? After all, we have no idea when the last oil change was. If you're anything like me, I have lost about three oil filter wrenches in the last two years. This time around, a K&N filter is on the list for use. Why K&N? Not only do they make some of the best filters around, they also have a 1-inch nut attached to the bottom of the filter saving me from having to hunt for my missing filter wrench.

Sucp_0607_diagnostic_05_z 1968_chevy_bel_air Vacuum_bleeder 4/35

Here is one of the must-have tools from Equus we spoke of earlier. This hand-held vacuum brake bleeding kit is a time saver. Just pump the handle to create vacuum on the brake line, and then turn the bleeder valve. What used to be a two-man job of brake bleeding can be turned into a one-man show. It might be a very good idea to first bleed the master cylinder then bleed the lines, but that usually involves removing it and bleeding it on the bench. There is no way to determine the age of the brake fluid in your car. For all we know, it could be from 1968. It's time to drain and replace all of it; this vacuum bleeder is a must. Remember to start at the wheel farthest from the master cylinder and then work your way around. Repeat if needed.

Sucp_0607_diagnostic_09_z 1968_chevy_bel_air Repair_manual 5/35

Now that we are done crawling around on our backs, it time to climb up top and under the hood. Before starting any tuning and adjusting, having a reference manual or book with all the specs and diagrams is a big help. Tony Kelly saved the day and let me borrow his motors manual for the weekend tune-up of this 327 small-block.

Sucp_0607_diagnostic_14_z 1968_chevy_bel_air Engine 6/35

And here is the stock 327. It sure isn't pretty to look at, that's for sure. But "pretty" doesn't get us down the road, either. It's time for a quick visual inspection of the engine.

Sucp_0607_diagnostic_15_z 1968_chevy_bel_air Coolant_puddles 7/35

Right away, I noticed pools of radiator coolant on the intake manifold. It looked like a faulty thermostat-housing gasket was the culprit-an easy fix and an inexpensive part. Looks like we've got another trip to make to the local parts store.

Sucp_0607_diagnostic_16_z 1968_chevy_bel_air Radiator_cap 8/35

Before draining the radiator and flushing it, take a look at the condition of the coolant inside, it may have some telltale signs in it.

Sucp_0607_diagnostic_17_z 1968_chevy_bel_air Coolant 9/35

You want to look for any oil that may be present in the cooling system, which could be a bad sign that a blown head gasket is releasing oil into the cooling system and vice versa. In this case, the coolant was as green as the Incredible Hulk, which is just what we want.

Sucp_0607_diagnostic_18_z 1968_chevy_bel_air Dipstick 10/35

Another way to check for a leaking head gasket is the dipstick. If the oil appears to have a milky look to it, you could be in for some more repair work. Just like the coolant, the engine oil was fine.

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