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  1. Choosing an air compressor is not a light subject. This can be an expensive purchase, and an unwise choice is costly and frustrating. This is not an item for "cutting corners" or bargain shopping. You will get what you pay for... When I needed an air compressor for the magazine's shop/studio, my thoughts were about air tool operation. My previous shop was well served by a DeVilbiss 80 gallon upright compressor and a quality black pipe system. That compressor was a two-stage (not "twin stage", avoid these!) iron compressor model that ran on 230V. Bought it in 1995-96 timeframe from Costco for $800. Our new, smaller scale shop/studio, I thought, could get by with a 20-gallon upright portable compressor and an iron, two-cylinder unit compressor head (two-stage, of course). The Ingersoll-Rand 'Garage Mate' fit the specifications I wanted, and that purchase proved wise—initially. There are jobs that require high volumes of air, and one in particular is bead blasting. The smaller compressors, you will discover, often make higher output ratings by running the compressor's rpm up the scale, to the point that service life becomes an issue. The DeVilbiss unit, in fairness, held up in this category with its 7.5 HP motor. (The I-R Garage Mate gets used so little that it should also last "forever".) Horror stories about sucking a reed valve on the DeVilbiss never happened, and that unit served faithfully for fourteen years—it was still working fine when we sold the shop property and the complete air system stayed at the shop. When I discovered the need for another bead blaster (had one at the previous shop, a very nice T-P Equipment unit), I thought a smaller unit would work fine with the Garage Mate compressor. It didn't. After much research and study, I realized that volume is everything for blasters, and my quest turned up a terrific solution: a used commercial compressor with a huge, slow speed Champion R-15 compressor head, 120 gallon horizontal tank, and a 5-horsepower, industrial strength Baldor 220V motor with magnetic starter. If you'd like to know more about this compressor, and perhaps what amounts to my sense of humor, read this account at the magazine: http://www.4wdmechanix.com/Downsizing-and-Air-Compressors!.html. For $250 less than the new I-R Garage Mate cost, I'm in business and so is the bead blaster! There are values like this around if you'll look and be patient. The Garage Mate works fine for quick, shorter burst air tool chores or inflating tires. I'll keep it, as the resale price is ridiculously low, and the unit is in "as new" condition. Moses
  2. Hi, guys. Today i had an unusual issue on my utility trailer. It was towing funny, and when i checked it, i found that rocks had somehow become embedded between the tire and the bead, dont ask me how, because i have no clue. Anyway, i was going to take the tires to a shop and have them take care of it, but my neighbor said he could do it right in the bed of his truck, so i said ok, show me. We took the tires to his house, and he has a portable, easy to use and also somewhat easy to store hand tire changer that he attaches in the back of his truck using heavy duty hood pins, like Nascar cars use. I asked him where he got it, and he said harbor freight for less than $50. We took the cores out of the valve stem, and he proceeded to pop the tires off the rims with almost no effort. We cleaned the rocks out, aired the tires back up, and they seem to be holding up just fine. There are a couple of downsides i see to it, such as it has to be attached to something solid for it to work. Also, it does take a bit of muscle to get the tires off the rim, but, for the most part, i see where it could be very useful in an off road situation as long as you can find a place to attach it in the back of your vehicle or in a trailer. It also has no provision for balancing tires, but, as a quick and easy way to get back on the trail, it looks to me like it might be a worthwhile idea to have one. You can always have the tires balanced once you are back at "civilization". The changer has a built in bead breaker, and also a screw-down steel plate to hold the wheel securely to the changer while taking the tire off and putting it back on. I have enclosed a couple pics from harbor freight's website, so you can see what it looks like:
  3. There are many times when a light engine rebuild is possible. If cylinder taper (wear toward the top of the piston ring travel and TDC) is negligible and the cylinder is still "round" in bore shape, honing can restore the cylinder(s) to get a good piston ring seal on new rings. This is the traditional "ring and valve job" overhaul procedure, where the piston(s) are reusable and the rings will be renewed after cleaning the ring grooves carefully with the correct tool. This is a precisely honed motorcycle cylinder from the magazine's Honda XR650R. L.A. Sleeve has achieved this true, perfect cross-hatch with the use of a power cylinder hone. Machine shops strive for this type of cross-hatch pattern. For more details, see the magazine's how-to HD video series on the top end rebuild of the XR650R engine. Whether to "hone" or "glaze bust" is a matter of wear and how true the cylinder measures. A three- or four-stone cylinder hone is capable of truing the bore and also creating a "cross-hatch" pattern desirable for good ring seating and seal. The cross-hatch is actually done precisely on a boring/honing machine when an engine or cylinder barrel gets reconditioned at a machine shop. When performed at the machine shop environment, actual angle or "degrees" of the cross-hatch intersect lines achieve a precise angle. This is controlled by the speed of the hone going up and down in the cylinder. At left is a flex hone or "glaze buster" with silicone balls mounted on stiff wire strands. Note that the hone must match the bore diameter of the cylinder being serviced. At center is a three-stone hone, known for better control of cylinder "round" and best for truing a cylinder. The stone package at right is "240 Grit", there are other grits for different honing finishes and speeds. If you choose to hone your cylinder and not sublet it to a machine shop, there are two distinct procedures: 1) honing with a stone hone and 2) breaking the glaze with a silicone ball glaze buster or "flex hone". Again, for precisely truing, the stone hone will be best. The silicone flex hone is a brush-like approach with pressure at each wire/ball. The glaze buster will follow the contour of a cylinder, and unless round and true, the result will be a glaze bust with cross-hatch that mimics the bore's shape. So, the best start is to measure the bore accurately for taper, out-of-round and size. If you can hone without making the cylinder oversized, the new rings and piston-to-wall gap will be within tolerance. Follow the manufacturer's recommendations for bore size, piston-to-wall clearance and the piston ring end gaps. Some like the flex hone for its ease of operation and relatively failsafe results. The stone hone, by contrast, must be used with caution and safely. There is the chance of breaking the stones or damaging the bore if you do not use the stone hone properly. See the forum on "General Repairs and Technical Tips" for details on the actual use of cylinder hones... Moses
  4. In the article "How-to: Rebuilding a Jeep AX15 Transmission—Disassembly & Inspection" in the magazine, what are the dimensions of the angle iron that you used in the hydraulic press to remove and install bearings? I'm guessing 3" x 13" long and 1/4" thick from the photos? I'm rebuilding a R-154 Toyota transmission. Some of the techniques are similar. Miller makes a rectangular box shaped fixture but they want a whole bunch of money for it. (Miller tool 8227.) Bru
  5. At our Jeep TJ Wrangler forum, we've been tackling the #1 Cylinder Misfire P0301 DTC issue. Member Belvedere brought up the weak valve spring issue and offered some great suggestions on changing out the valve springs on a Jeep inline six! Regarding weak valve springs on the 2.5L four or 4.0L and 4.2L inline Jeep six, weak springs can show up in a simple manifold vacuum check. At any steady throttle setting, there will be an erratic, shaky vacuum needle movement with the vacuum gauge hooked up to an intake manifold vacuum source. (Not to be confused with the wider swinging needle movement associated with a valve that is steadily leaking.) As Belvedere shared, weak valve springs can build up carbon, as the valves do not seat firmly when closed. Valve springs can actually be tested for valve seat pressure on the engine. Above is a photo of a simple tester available for that purpose. (Click here for a more upscale Moroso 62388 design available at JEGS.) With the rocker arm(s) removed, head and valves still in place, this over-the-top spring pressure tester can indicate the actual seating pressure, which is a true test of each valve spring's function. This is a sensible testing method with the least amount of teardown work: simply removing the valve cover and rotating the crankshaft to close the valve(s) to be tested. (Caution: Disconnect the negative battery cable to prevent starter engagement when turning the crankshaft by hand.) There are two off-the-engine tests for weak valve springs. If Belvedere still has the original springs, measuring and comparing the free standing height of the springs can be one test. Another method, commonly used by automotive machine shops and race engine builders, is actual spring compression testing (read in actual pounds force or as PSI) with a special gauge. This measures pressure as the spring compresses. As for removing the valve springs, Belvedere's classic rope-in-cylinder method works. (See the exchange at the Jeep Wrangler TJ forum under the #1 Cylinder Misfire thread.) So does an air hold, and this is especially easy for #1 cylinder, since the timing mark for TDC on the crankshaft damper is a quick way to find TDC for #1 piston. Here's how I do an AMC-design Jeep 4.2L or 4.0L valve spring removal: 1) Disconnect the battery negative cable to disable the starter. Remove the valve cover and spark plugs, at least #1 plug in this case, all of them to make rotating the crankshaft easier by hand. Rotate the crankshaft by the damper bolt, turning the crankshaft in its normal direction of rotation. Watch the valves open and close to be sure #1 piston is coming up on its compression stroke as you bring the damper pulley around to TDC on the compression stroke. 2) Set the damper mark at TDC to be sure the #1 piston is at the top. This will prevent fears of "losing" a valve into the cylinder. 3) Use an air hold fitting in the #1 spark plug hole to keep the valves up in position. These adapter/tools are commercially available and inexpensive, or you can make an air hold tool with an air coupler and an old spark plug. (See my comments below. Summit Racing lists the KD 901 adapters for $4.97, the best price I've seen anywhere! For that price, no need to make your own.) 4) Remove the #1 cylinder intake and exhaust rocker arms. The pedestal bolts simply get torqued back into place, there is no valve "adjustment" to be concerned about when you reassemble the rockers. (Just align the arms carefully with the pushrod tips and valve stems when you reinstall the rocker arms.) 5) With a stream of air applying pressure from any reasonable size home shop or garage air compressor, you can remove the valve springs using the "over the top" method. (80-90 PSI should be plenty, there will be some leak down, so your tank compressor should be full when you begin the spring change out. You can recharge the compressor if necessary between each spring removal.) Belvedere's approach with a pry tool attached to the rocker stud can be effective, and this tool is readily available. KD has made an affordable rocker pedestal pry bar for many years. Even if "universal" fit, however, make sure the tool is designed for the Jeep 4.0L engine application, or you will be fighting this task. 6) There is also an over-the-top valve spring compressor available, which can be easier to control for the less practiced mechanic. (OTC's version is shown at the Summit Racing page link. KD makes a tool like this, too.) This is a two jaw compressor that can compress the spring between the valve spring retainer and the spring coils. This tool is great—as long as there is enough installed spring height and adequate coil gaps for the jaws to fit. You must be able to compress the spring enough to safely remove the valve keepers. With either tool, stay centered on the valve spring retainer to prevent valve stem or keeper damage, and carefully remove the keepers like Belvedere cautions. Belvedere's magnet suggestion works for lifting out and installing the keepers. Note: If you do use Belvedere's rope method for holding the valves, make sure the piston is coming up on the compression stroke before inserting the rope. Otherwise, rope could get caught between a valve head and seat, which would reduce exposed valve stem height (or chew up the rope under valve spring pressure). As for making an air hold tool, above is a photo of the hold I made in ten minutes for a tight-access Honda four-valve motorcycle engine. The KD type adapter is so inexpensive that unless you need the tool this minute or have a unique situation (like the narrow access Honda four-valve thumper motorcycle engine, which will not accommodate the air hold adapter!), buy the KD or similar air adapters. Steps involved in making and using an air hold tool: 1) Remove the ground strap from the old spark plug shell. 2) Knock the porcelain and center electrode out of the plug shell. Use eye protection, you're breaking porcelain/glass here. 3) If the shell size allows for tapping with a pipe tap, you can drill, cut and thread for an air coupler fitting's male threads. 4) Use Teflon tape on threads of the air coupler fitting if you do use the threaded method. I find brazing works very well and can be a much quicker way to attach the air coupler fitting—if you have an oxy-acetylene welding/brazing torch. 5) Surface grind away any rough areas, like the remainder of the ground strap weld. Wire brush your "new tool" as required. You don't want loose material to blow into the engine's cylinder. 6) Thread your KD type or homemade tool into the spark plug hole. With the piston at TDC and the valves closed, hook your hose coupler to the air fitting and apply compressed air at the fitting and into the cylinder. The air hold tool is a way to hold the valves in position and also run a crude cylinder leak down test. (For details on a leak down test, see my HD video how-to at the magazine site.) Though you cannot measure the percentage of leak with an air hold adapter, you can certainly find a badly leaking valve or leaky piston rings by the volume of air leaking out of the cylinder through the exhaust pipe, intake manifold/throttle body/carburetor or into the crankcase. The leak down test is only reliable when performed with each piston at TDC on its compression stroke and both valves closed. That the PCM would send a #1 Cylinder Misfire DTC, code P0301 in this case, due to weak valve springs is "interesting". The diagnostic tie-in here would be incomplete combustion, since fuel flow volume through the injectors is uniform (whether the valves seat properly or not), and the ignition spark reliability can be easily determined with an oscilloscope analysis. Poor injector flow or weak spark can also create incomplete combustion and a misfire. So, that means that the DTC reflects poor combustion at #1 cylinder, which could also be the result of inadequate valve sealing from the weak springs. AMC-design engines do not have a history of weak valve springs, so weak valve springs should not be an epidemic or wide-ranging concern. However, it would be a factor in some cases, and "weak valve springs" can result from valve seat recession/wear, overheated valve springs or over-revving the engine to the extreme and "floating the valves". The 4.0L and 2.5L engines are known to run 250K miles without valve spring issues. Belvedere, thanks for sharing. This kind of information is very helpful to the forum members! I'm very pleased that you take time to contribute at this level! Moses
  6. In your How-to: Rebuilding a Jeep AX15 Transmission—Disassembly & Inspection you have a bench top jaw vise that’s holding the trans up off the table for better access. What is the proper name of this holding vise and would you know where something like that can be purchased?
  7. Most engine troubleshooters understand and use a compression gauge to diagnose serious engine seal problems. I use a compression gauge for a quick and general overview of engine condition. In addition to the relatively inexpensive compression gauge, I have used a cylinder leak down tester for over thirty years now. A quality compression gauge is valuable. This gauge has been with me for many years. Ford truck buffs will appreciate the 18mm spark plug thread adapter. Triton aluminum head owners would value the iron FE and big-block heads—with 18mm iron spark plug threads and tapered seat ends—no need for a gasket, a proven Ford approach until the aluminum cylinder head era! (Click on photos to enlarge.) A compression gauge requires a cranking engine to force compression pressure into the gauge. Used properly, the compression gauge reading indicates the PSI (U.S. and British measurement) of gases compressed into the cylinder head's combustion chamber. Basics for using a compression gauge: 1) Disable the ignition to prevent engine startup, 2) hold or block open the throttle during cranking to assure adequate induction air volume for test accuracy, and 3) crank the engine for seconds per cylinder, not for a lengthy period. As the engine cranks, watch for a peak reading at the gauge, which will occur within a few seconds of cranking. A typical automotive or truck engine is designed to crank over at 80-200 rpm to achieve ignition/combustion, so several seconds of cranking is plenty for a compression check! The compression gauge provides a reading of peak compression during cranking, not when the engine fires or is running. Actually, the engine's compression while firing under load may be much lower than the cranking compression. As cylinder pressures rise, like when climbing a grade or pulling a load—or crawling rocks along a 4x4 trail—the ability of the cylinders to seal will be far less if there is engine wear. Note: Engine wear that I'm discussing here is not just worn valves, a head gasket leak or valve lift issues. It's also the cylinder's ability to seal under load, and more specifically, the condition of the cylinder walls, pistons and piston rings. In the case of pinpointing cylinder wall and ring seal, a compression gauge is simply not up for the task! This is my Snap-On cylinder leak down tester, an MT324 model purchased in 1981. Prior to that time, I used a compression gauge and an engine oscilloscope "dynamic compression test" mode to compare relative cylinder condition. The leak down tester provides pinpoint diagnosis! (Click on photos to enlarge.) When we move to the leak down test, our entire aim changes. Instead of cranking compression, we're now addressing one thing: actual cylinder seal. This means consistent valve seal, piston/ring seal, head gasket seal and no casting cracks. The test is not a cranking test. It's static with the piston at top dead center (TDC) of its compression stroke, valves closed. This last point is very important. The leak down test takes compressed air from your air compressor and an air hose source and runs that air into the spark plug hole (plug removed). Typically, a leak down gauge will operate at 60 PSI or higher, enough force to push the piston downward if the piston is not precisely at the peak of its travel: TDC! This is one way to find TDC accurately: a two-stroke engine timing tool, purchased during my motorcycle repair shop days in the early 1970s! Note the spark plug thread adapters with a slotted section in the adapter to aim a dial indicator directly through the spark plug opening. This tool finds TDC within 0.001" accuracy! The setup is time consuming, however. There are other, quicker ways to find TDC for the purpose of a cylinder leak down test—as long as the piston is at its peak and not likely to plunge downward when you apply compressed air! (Click on photos to enlarge.) It takes time to set up a leak down test. On a Jeep engine like JJ_Jeep's 4.0L inline six, there are only two cylinders that can use the crankshaft pulley marks to set TDC: #1 and #6. The other cylinders either require 1) looking into the spark plug hole to align the piston with TDC, 2) use of a two-stroke timing kit or similar fixture and a dial indicator in the spark plug hole to find TDC, or 3) marking the crankshaft pulley accurately for each of the other four cylinders at TDC. Make sure the piston is on the compression stroke's TDC when running a leak down test. Note: A crankshaft pulley 360-degree tape is available from sources like Summit Racing. This can make leak down tests much easier. The firing order helps identify the cylinders, and in the Jeep inline six, the order is 1-5-3-6-2-4, making #1 and #6 pistons reach TDC at the same time. Remember, too, that we're working with four-stroke engines, and the piston must be at TDC on the compression stroke, not the exhaust stroke! If you set the piston to TDC on its compression stroke, each of the valves will be fully seated. Introducing compressed air at this point will fill the combustion chamber and the narrow space around the piston and above the upper piston ring. The air will come in steadily (if you have enough air supply!) at the air system's line pressure that you set. The principle of the leak down test is for the gauges to measure incoming line pressure and also the pressure bleed-off within the cylinder. The bleed or "leak" is read as a percentage of the total air volume filling the combustion chamber, head gasket space, and piston-to-cylinder wall gap above the upper piston ring. Example: Let's say that 100cc of air fills the combustion chamber, head gasket space and the piston to cylinder wall gap above the upper piston ring. If the ring gaps and any other seepage allow 10cc bleed-off of compressed air, the "leak down" in this case is 10%. 8-10% is excellent seal for a production automotive engine with gapped piston rings. Caution: Always make sure the gauge couplings and the fitting at the spark plug hole do not seep air! A leak at the gauge's spark plug fitting seat will throw off the leak down readings. The biggest asset of a leak down test is the very fact that the piston is at TDC. On an internal combustion engine, the wear of cylinders, or "taper", rakes outward toward the top. This means that the widest wear point in the cylinder will be right below the cylinder "ridge". The ridge is created as the taper grows, and the greatest wear point is where the top piston ring stops. By pressurizing the cylinder with the top compression ring and other rings in the tapered zone, there is the highest likelihood of compressed air "leaking" past the piston rings: The ring gaps, especially the top compression ring, are at their widest, and this is a direct cause of leakage. With the piston in this position, the rings lose tension, their gaps are widest, and compressed air leaks by in greater volume. The extent of ring wear or cylinder taper dictate the percentage of leak down. One proof that this phenomenon works: On a worn engine, back off the rocker arms and close both valves. Keep them closed. Raise the piston to TDC (maximum cylinder taper) and check the leak down rate. Now drop the piston to the BDC (bottom dead center) point with the valves closed. The piston is now in a "normal", minimally worn zone of the cylinder wall. There will be a distinction in the degree of seal and the leak down reading, since the ring gaps close up at BDC, the ring tension increases, and the cylinder seal becomes normal or at least closer to normal. If there is little leakage difference, and the leak down percentage is low or minimal at both of these piston positions, cylinder taper is minimal...Without tearing the engine down for inspection, you likely have an engine with minimal cylinder wall and ring wear! Before loosening rocker arms to close valves, run a regular leak down test with nothing but the spark plugs removed. Since JJ_Jeep's issue with the 4.0L is a #1 cylinder misfire, it's easy to set up the leak down tester for the #1 cylinder, using the timing mark on the crankshaft pulley and the timing cover marker to set the crankshaft at TDC. Make sure the ignition is disabled to prevent engine firing...I bring the pulley to the "O"-degree position by slowly turning the crankshaft in its normal direction of rotation. Make sure you're on the compression stroke. If necessary, remove the distributor cap and note the rotor position. (JJ's pre-'99 TJ 4.0L still uses a distributor cap and spark leads.) Coil-on-plug engines are a bit more involved. Make sure the piston is coming up on its compression stroke to exact TDC. Read the tester instructions for recommended air supply pressure. On gapped rings with inside gas ledges on the compression rings, supply pressure will determine the force that the rings will exert against the cylinder wall. A cranking or running engine will typically have 120-175 PSI working compression in each cylinder. The leak down gauge may want much less incoming pressure than this...See the manufacturer's recommendations for your leak down tester. With the valves seated, piston at TDC and air pressure at the tester gauges set properly, we now have a steady stream of compressed air entering the cylinder. Even if the valves and head gasket seal perfectly, a percentage of incoming air will "leak" by or "down" the cylinder and past the rings. This is normal if rings have end gaps, which is the case for most production automotive engines. Note: Overlapping end, interlocking or "zero gap" rings have minute leak down. On a typical production engine, there is a controlled and predictable leakage, optimally around 8% to 10%. Zero-gap rings on racing and performance motorcycle engines can seal as tightly as 2% leak down. We need ring gaps on everyday automotive engines to allow for a wide range of heat cycling, expansion rates and varied operating conditions. So, a reading of 8-10% on a newer engine is great. Up to 20%, even 25%, on an engine with some wear can still function well if the engine also has good cranking compression readings. On an engine with 20%-25% or higher leak, I do run a cranking compression test and make sure there is not excessive oil consumption. Assume that a 20-25% leakage engine has a shorter remaining service life. As with a compression gauge reading, uniform seal per cylinder is desirable under any leak down test. If readings exceed 20% or so, start looking for leakage. You will find leaks readily while running a leak down test. When an intake valve leaks, you will hear air escaping through the throttle body or a carburetor's air horn. For exhaust valve leaks, listen at the tailpipe. For piston ring blow-by, pull the dipstick or oil filler cap, and listen for the air entering the crankcase past the rings. If you have difficulty hearing this air flow at any of these points, use an automotive stethoscope or even a piece of tubing, like rigid electrical conduit, as a sound amplifying device. For accuracy, do not run the test for a long period. Oil will leave the cylinder walls, and the reduced seal will be detectable as a higher leak down percentage. Also, on rare occasions, a valve may have carbon or deposit buildup near its face, and the compressed air dislodges debris. If debris lodges between the valve face and seat, there will be a false leak reading. Note: Such an instance would be an engine with serious carbon or deposit buildup. One way to minimize this risk is to not apply air pressure until the piston is at TDC with the valves completely closed on the compression stroke. Why do we care whether the engine has too much leak down if the compression cranking test with a compression gauge indicates "normal" or factory-recommended cranking compression? There's a big difference, as I've shared. In the case of testing for cylinder taper and piston ring gap issues, the leak down tester pinpoints specific wear at the cylinder walls and even the degree of piston ring wear—yes, a widened ring gap, even with negligible taper on the cylinder, indicates ring face wear, loss of ring tension and poor ring seal. This raises the percentage of cylinder leak down. It does matter that the cylinder seal is within proper leak down specifications. So-called "normal" compression gauge readings do not reveal how the cylinders seal under firing and engine load conditions. There is a rise in cylinder pressures when the engine is under load, like accelerating, pulling a grade or even going through the gears. Cylinder pressures also dictate the amount of spark voltage demanded. Why is a compression gauge inefficient at diagnosing cylinder sealing troubles? Because the real test of engine seal and performance is the ability of rings, valves, gaskets and castings to work under load. Piston compression rings have inside ledges that face upward. Compressed gases fill this void and force the piston ring outward against the cylinder wall for better sealing: The higher the cylinder pressure, the more outward ring pressure. As the piston rises in the cylinder, the ring pressure increases, and that contributes to cylinder taper. As I shared, taper creates a loss of compression due to the widening ring gap and loss of ring tension. Combustion pressure rise creates even more outward force at the compression rings, especially at the cylinder's taper zone. Note: Ring gap is the measureable space between the ring ends, not space between the ring face and the cylinder wall. Unless zero gap type, new rings call for a specific clearance gap in thousandths of an inch or mm, measured with a feeler gauge. As one example of the difference between cranking compression and cylinder leak down testing, I recall the stock, FJ40 "F" engine in the 1971 Land Cruiser that I built into an OFF-ROAD Magazine project in the late 1980s. The engine had considerable mileage, though it consumed minimal oil and ran "okay". A cranking compression test showed adequate and uniform compression over the six inline cylinders. Uniform compression, in particular, is always desirable. When I ran a leak down test on this engine with my Snap-On tester, the results were astounding: While the engine had uniform cranking compression around 120-125 PSI, the leakage per cylinder was 40% or higher! How is this possible? In this case, it had much to do with the incredible integrity of Toyota iron engine block castings, with higher nickel content and the hardness to resist taper. Tearing down the engine for a ring-and-valve job, I found the F-six had worn its top/compression piston rings to the point of razor edges! I had nicks and cuts on my fingers from unsuspectingly handling the pistons and rings during their removal. In this example, there was minimal taper, actually almost none, as I could still see factory honing or "crosshatch" running to the top of the ring travel in each cylinder! The ring gaps and diameters had worn to the point that air could leak past the top rings during a leak down test. The lower oil control rings still kept oil from wicking up the cylinder walls and burning. The result: adequate cranking compression, no oil loss, yet high leakage and poor sealing. The pistons and rings could bluff through a compression test by forcing enough air into the compression gauge during cranking—especially with a long stroke inline six. This could not fool a leak down tester! This engine ran sluggishly, the result of inadequate cylinder seal at the rings. The valves seated, the head casting and head gasket were fine, however, the combustion gases leaked past the rings and into the crankcase. Engines like this have a distinct "blow-by" smell in the crankcase oil. While the PCV system can recycle blow-by gases, the remnant of combustion gases remains in the oil. I have often referred to this odor, notable with the oil filler cap removed and the engine running, as the "smell of death". Summing up, the compression gauge does have its place for quick diagnosis of major engine wear or damage. A valve that will not seat, or is actually "burned" with a piece etched out, will not evade detection in a compression test—nor will a blown head gasket or severely warped/cracked head casting. For that reason, an easy and fast check for severe damage can be done with a compression gauge. The leak down tester is a pinpoint diagnostic tool. This test can detect specific valve leaks and wear like cylinder taper or the widening of ring gaps. It can simulate the engine under running load by continually applying compressed air into the cylinder—at the rate and pressure you select. As an added benefit, you can detect a head gasket or casting crack leak, including leaks between cylinders and leaks into cooling ports, which will force cylinder gases into the cooling system, detectable as bubbles at the radiator. Caution: If you suspect a head gasket or cracked casting leak into the cooling system, the leak down test will raise cooling system/radiator pressure to the extreme. Remove the radiator cap before applying air to the cylinders, and start your air flow at a very low PSI, watching for bubbles in the radiator. Cooling systems normally operate in the 12-18 PSI range, depending upon make and model application! If you suspect leakage into the engine's cooling system, set your leak down tester's air supply pressure accordingly. Warning: Always make sure the engine and coolant have cooled down before running a compression test or cylinder leak down test! There are affordable leak down testers. If you do any amount of engine diagnostic work and want to get a better sense for what's inside an engine, to make an informed decision about its condition, I highly recommend a leak down tester. I still use a quality compression gauge to quickly test an engine for major trouble, often following up with a leak down test on the low pressure cylinder(s). Here is just one example of an affordable leak down tester, I found this in two minutes with a Google Search: http://www.tooltopia.com/otc-tools-5609.aspx?utm_source=pricegrabber&utm_medium=cse&utm_term=OTC5609&utm_campaign=pricegrabber_r1 Your test approach and tools of choice depend upon your needs and objectives. I've owned my Snap-On MT series leak down tester since 1981 and use it when necessary. The current generation of testers from OTC and others are more compact and easy to hook up, and they perform the same functions as my Snap-On tester. (Even Snap-On has simplified its testers for today's market.) There are also compression testers and leak down testers for diesel engine applications. I made this leak down tester adapter in minutes. My Honda XR350R and XR500R four-valve thumpers have deeply recessed spark plugs, tough to reach with a spark plug wrench! I took an old spark plug, knocked out the porcelain electrode, removed and smoothed out the electrode strap end, then cleaned out and brazed the threaded plug shell to a piece of threaded black pipe. The brass "T" fitting provides for an additional gauge, and the air coupler nipple fits my Snap-On MT324 leak down tester. You can make an "air hold tool" in a similar fashion. (Click on photos to enlarge.) If you want a very inexpensive leak down simulator without measuring actual percentage of leak, I've made testers for obscure motorcycle applications with peanut spark plugs and deep plug access. (See the photo above.) In this case, you still run the piston to precise TDC on the compression stroke, with the valves completely closed. You can listen and hunt for air leaks at the common points. For the crankcase, listen at the oil filler opening. For an intake valve leak, listen for air at the throttle body or carburetor air horn. Listen at the exhaust or tailpipe for an exhaust valve leak. For a head gasket leak, try soapy water applied at the head gasket edge, compress air into the cylinder at TDC on the compression stroke, watch for air bubbles. Or for head gasket seepage or a cracked casting into a cooling port, watch the radiator for air bubbles—always using low supply line pressure as I've discussed. The commercially available "air hold tool" is essentially to keep OHV valves closed during valve spring replacement without cylinder head removal. This tool can serve as a leak tester—without gauge readouts for the percentage of leakage. K-D and others have made air hold tools for years if you want a ready made tool. The principle remains for leak testing: Run the piston to exact TDC on its compression stroke and apply compressed air into the cylinder. You can set air pressure at your air system's regulator. Listen for escaping air. While you won't know the volume or percentage that leaks off, you can detect major air leaks quickly. I've made air hold tools as simply as knocking the porcelain and electrode from an old spark plug. Removing the electrode ground strap, I braze an air coupling nipple into the remaining spark plug shell—the threaded metal section. Clean up the piece thoroughly, removing all debris and loose metal, before inserting your new "tool" into the engine's spark plug threads... Trust this helps you make the right tool choice! Moses
  8. Many of my current hand tools date to the 'sixties. The oldest, to my recollection, is a Craftsman beam-bar 1/2-inch torque wrench that I bought in 1965—for $7.39 out of the Sears catalog! My most recent acquisition is a deep set, Pittsburgh axle nut set from Harbor Freight, intended for occasional use. Tools have various functions and purposes, and their price and quality can range accordingly. When I first worked professionally as a light- and medium-duty truck mechanic, Proto tools were popular. By today's standards, that would be Craftsman or S&K quality. I ran a motorcycle repair shop at Carson City in the early 'seventies and discovered Snap-On and Mac Tools. Craftsman tools at the time offered an extraordinary lifetime warranty, and I have Craftsman sockets, ratchets and extensions still in my boxes to this day. I did, however, migrate to Snap-On for box ended wrenches, screwdrivers and a 3/8" tilting head ratchet. A Champion spark plug offset handle, swivel head ratchet wrench carries forth from the late 'sixties, pre-dating the Snap-On tools. The Champion 3/8" spark plug ratchet was a private label tool, likely built by Proto. It has weathered extremes of use and, in hindsight, abuse from excessive torque application on some occasions. Yet it survives. When picking tools, the quality and warranty are important. So is the "feel" of a tool if you're working with it professionally, day in and day out. Cost aside, my best ratchets have been Craftsman, not Snap-On. The reverse levers on the Craftsman tools fit my fingers and hands much better than the ratchets I bought from Snap-On years ago. In fairness, Snap-On may have improved this design, or your hands may be happier with one design over the other. Some hand tools are simply better quality. I mentioned Snap-On screwdrivers, their tips are exceptional and long lasting, handles feel right, and they prove superior. That said, however, the newer Craftsman "Professional" line of hand tools have come a long way for both fit and durability. Tool boxes are another story altogether. Boxes often get purchased on the basis of brand names that carry cache. When I worked at a GMC truck dealership as a line mechanic, Snap-On tools, and especially its boxes, stood for a true professional investment. Since I believe a mechanic's worth is his or her work quality, boxes are not the end all for me. I like Craftsman professional series boxes and have a shop full of them. Weight being a factor, if you want "big", you'll pay by the load capacity. Even the Harbor Freight U.S. General big boxes have a high load capacity and unloaded weight. On that note, don't dismiss Harbor Freight—just be selective and know the "line" names. I've done very well with the black, six-point Pittsburgh impact sockets and knockoff tools like the ball-joint removal and installation kits. Pittsburgh brand often means something. For torque wrenches, however, I opt for contemporary high-end electronic types and quality, known brands like Mac, MATCO, Snap-On and such. It just depends on your intent and plans for the tools. If day in and out use is the plan, buy better. When it's a one-shot or rare project and everything appears acceptable with the tool, consider an inexpensive item. Harbor Freight's heavy steel products tend to be the best buy on this side of the ocean, especially at the price, though these products all come from the other side of the big water! I'd be happy to elaborate on any aspect of tools, welding equipment or automotive testing/diagnostic equipment. I've been at this professionally for forty-six years and can cast a broad light. When time permits, I'm planning a tool box walk-through for the magazine's HD Video Network. The tour will cover all of my hand tools, air and impact tools, specialty tools and pullers, welding tools and diagnostic equipment. I'll watch for your posts and reply! Ask away... Moses
  9. There are many times when a pinpoint reading of brake hydraulic pressure is useful. Brake safety and vehicle handling require the right hydraulic force at each wheel of the vehicle—at the right time! Knowing precisely how much apply pressure is available at the master cylinder, combination valve, ABS system, wheel cylinders or disc brake calipers can help troubleshoot weak brakes, grabby brakes, brake pull, erratic handling under hard braking, hazardous wheel lock-up and more. Whether you tackle your own vehicle service or operate a 4x4, OHV or motorcycle shop that depends on customer satisfaction, one valuable tool for brake system diagnostics is a hydraulic pressure tester. Maybe you're installing a retrofit rear disc brake upgrade like some of our forum members. Or you put oversized tires on your 4x4 and now a major braking issue has developed...If you take brake work seriously or find yourself in need of pinpoint information on a brake system's performance, consider a hydraulic brake and ABS diagnostic tool kit like this: This tool kit can pay for itself quickly in pinpoint hydraulic brake system diagnosis. Click on images to enlarge. (If you cannot see the pictures, join the forums for free, and get full member access!) I find this tool valuable. You can separate hydraulic problems from mechanical issues, or ABS issues from defects in rotors, brake drums and friction materials. With the assortment of fittings, the kit can work on most domestic and import vehicles. If you're having trouble separating brake performance issues, don't waste time and money on parts replacing that fails to solve problems...Take the guesswork out of brake work. Know how the hydraulic system performs before you leave the shop or driveway—not by trial and error. Invest in the right diagnostic tools! Moses
  10. When you work with brake, fuel and vacuum steel lines and fittings, you need the right wrenches! The quickest way to round the corners on tight or frozen flare nuts is with an open ended wrench. The recommended tool for flare nuts is, not surprisingly, a "flare nut wrench". Even with a flare nut wrench, there are times when frozen brake line nuts or old fuel line flare nuts will simply not want to come loose. The hex corners begin to round, the sign of real trouble ahead! I have high quality Bonney flares wrenches, a backup set of Craftsman flare nut wrenches and several chain wrenches—including a small, Wheeler Manufacturing chain wrench from the 1960s. That Wheeler chain wrench has saved my hide more than once, and it is probably my most versatile tubing work tool: Click to enlarge photos...Forum members can view all photos...If you're visiting, consider joining the forums—it's free! In a pinch, if the chain links are short enough, you can grip a softening flare nut. A chain wrench can also grip the base of a collapsed oil or fuel filter! My small chain wrench will grip a rusted brake flare nut securely, and that's small. It will also grip a collapsed oil filter canister near its solid base. There is also this Vise Grips model: http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=search-alias%3Delectronics&field-keywords=Vise+Grips+chain+wrench. It's useful and contemporary, although its chain link size will only drop to 5/8" diameter—okay for hardware but not good enough for smaller brake tubing nuts and most fuel fittings. The side benefit of the Wheeler chain wrench is that when used properly, it does not leave a mark on the steel fitting nut! I've used these wrenches on high-end restoration work where the OEM hardware must appear original. You simply cannot achieve this with higher torque settings and a flare nut wrench. Even the most expensive flare nut wrenches will, by design, spread under load. A tip and caution: Wrap the hardware with a layer of shop towel before gripping with the chain wrench. This will help protect the surface (although it will shred the towel!). Modern chain link wrenches with a toothed, flat leverage point are very rough on hardware and will leave marks if not used with extreme caution...See my Wheeler Manufacturing wrench's design (above), much easier on corners and flats of the nuts and other hardware! So the next time you're at a garage sale, estate auction or used tool source, keep your eye open for a Wheeler Manufacturing chain wrench and other specialty tools "from the day". They truly do not make smaller chain wrenches like they used to... Trust this helps your tubing flare nut and stuck oil filter situations! Moses
  11. So you bought a vintage Willys or Kaiser Jeep or an AMC/Jeep CJ with Model 20 rear axle? You're restoring any older vehicle with a rear axle that has tapered hubs and keyed axle shafts? Splines rusted, and you can't get your later 4x4 front axle shaft loose from the unit bearing/hub? There's a right way to do this and the wrong way...I just finished an HD video on the use of an OTC 7394 Hub puller and the OTC 6574-1 adapter plate. If you're staring at a wheel hub and axle shaft that needs force to separate, check out the 11-minute video on how to do this properly: http://www.4wdmechanix.com/HD-Video-Tool-How-to-Using-the-OTC-7394-Hub-Puller.html. Click on photos to enlarge... Since the late 'sixties, I've been using this kind of tool setup on early Jeep tapered and keyed axle shafts (later on the AMC Model 20 CJ rear axles), plus vintage Ford, Chrysler, Studebaker, early I-H Scout and other vehicles—this is a safer way to remove and preserve these hubs and axle shafts! Moses
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