As the years go by and the availability of part numbers and OEM specifications becomes scarcer, the need for your own personal automotive library becomes more and more important. For me, there's nothing like a printed manual, but there are many manuals on CD, making it easy to download the section on which you are working for a particular project.
Keeping our cars running well has become more of a challenge, with ethanol in the gasoline (scrubbing out our tanks), the disappearance of non-detergent oil (in our area it has to be special-ordered), the reduction of ZDDP in the oil, and now with many parts stores not even carrying regular, non-synthetic DOT 3 brake fluid. By going generic on a part or a fluid, it sometimes makes a difference in the way a car performs. Even parts like the correct gas or radiator cap can make a difference. In previous articles, I discussed buying a gas cap for my 1954 Cadillac. Todays listings call for a ventedcap for '49'-58 Cadillacs. What they don't tell you is that this is for cars with non-vented gas tanks. These had a tube which attached externally at the top of the filler neck, ran down and reattached by way of a rubber hose at the bottom, not venting into the atmosphere. It was to keep the gas from kicking back when filling the tank. However, there were, according to the Cadillac Master Parts Book, six different part numbers for the '54-'55 filler necks. Some used a vented cap and the others, where the filler neck vented into the atmosphere, used a non-vented cap. Can you imagine just finishing the restoration, putting a non-vented cap on a non-vented system and having the car quit, just as you pulled out of the driveway? Besides ruining the first drive out to dinner with the wife, you might end up pulling the carburetor and fuel pump, even going through the entire system, before realizing that it was the wrong cap!
Another discrepancy I found is on a '51 Chevy 216, manual shift. I recently bought this one-owner, low mile car, and it is original, right down to its non-pressure radiator cap. Wanting to detail the engine compartment, I called around for a new radiator cap. One store listed a 13-pound cap, and most called for a 4-pound cap. Actually, the correct cap for '49-'51 Chevy 216, manual shift, is a non-pressure (R-3) cap. The 4-pound cap (R-8) is for a '49-'53 Chevy 235 with Powerglide. This cap will work on the 216, but it would push coolant out of the overflow until it reached its pressure level. It would also raise the boiling point of the coolant by 12 degrees Fahrenheit (3 degrees per pound), so the car would probably run at about the same temperature as the non-pressure cap, but it is not correct. I have a friend who put a 4-pound cap on his non-pressure Chevy just before going on tour. He drove a few uncomfortable miles, watching the coolant run out before reaching its level. After that, it was fine, but why not put the right cap on to begin with? I thought it might be helpful to publish some of the older gas and radiator cap illustrations and part numbers. This month, we will feature gas caps and next month, radiator caps.
See you next month with the rest of the listings. Keep em cool, and keep em driving!