How (Not) To Fix Stuff

By Staff

This past week I attempted to tackle a couple of projects that had been on the back burner for quite a while. Namely, my carb needed rebuilding and my Wico EK was acting a little less than enthusiastic on my 1929 Economy EK. Between the two conditions it was a wonder the thing ran at all, but trying to differentiate between a fuel problem and a spark problem can sometimes prove challenging.

The correct thing to do in a case like this is to adopt a systematic approach, working on one component at a time, testing until that function is working properly, and then moving on to the next piece. I never do that, of course, but you should.

When you disassemble an item like a magneto or a carburetor, the correct thing to do is start by laying a clean shop towel on your workbench and then slowly take things apart, being careful to lay them out on the shop towel in their proper order. This allows you to reassemble things exactly as they came apart. I never do that, either. But you should.

I yanked the mag off the engine, and then yanked the carb off, paying no attention to how they came apart. I mean, the thing was running poorly, so why would I want to assemble things exactly as they were before? Wouldn’t it then run exactly as it did before I started fixing it? Once the parts were removed, I took the carb in my left hand and the mag in my right hand, and thought to myself, ‘What the heck did I do that for?’ Somebody should write a guide on how to fix stuff. No matter. I once watched my neighbor’s uncle’s friend rebuild the carb on a 1972 Chevy Nova, so this shouldn’t be too hard with my vast experience.

I started with the carb first. Unscrew the needle valve. Yank off the choke plate. Pull out the plunger. Dump a couple of check balls onto the floor. Kick a funny looking piece under the workbench. Get bored. Grab the mag. Take off the covers. Get out some brass polish and shine up half of the nameplate. Get bored. Go watch some TV. Fall asleep. Go to work the next day.

Six weeks later you are ready for step two. Throw things back together, using nothing but a wild guess as to how things fit. Forget the funny looking thing that you kicked under the bench. Don’t bother with the check balls. Leave the mag band half polished. Use metric wrenches that are ‘not quite right.’ Use ill-fitting needle-nose pliers on the soft brass fittings. Shove the extra parts into a drawer. Now you are ready for step three.

Don’t drain the old fuel out of the tank. Don’t clean the spark plug. Don’t file the points. Don’t check to be sure your needle valve is seating correctly. Don’t clean the rust and dust out of the carb bowl. Don’t check to be sure your fuel lines are clear. Don’t be careful about cross threading brass fittings and mag bolts. Now you are ready for step four.

Fill the tank. Fill the carb. Fill the oiler. Pull the flywheels. Pull the flywheels. Pull the flywheels. Wipe your brow. Pull the flywheels. Pull the flywheels. Pull the flywheels. Pull the flywheels. Explain to the neighbors that yes, this is an exercise machine. Pull the flywheels. Pull the flywheels. Pull the flywheels. Pull the flywheels. Pull the flywheels. Pull the flywheels. Open the needle valve like you should have done 30 pulls ago. Pull the flywheels. Pull the flywheels. Pull the flywheels. Pull the flywheels. Bang! Chug, Chug, Chug, Bang! Chug, Chug, Chug, Bang!

Man, fixing these things is a piece of cake.

Contact engine enthusiast Tim Claremont via e-mail at:

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