July 31, 2002
OK, we now have over 20 feet of new heater hose in the Buick, plus a new upper radiator hose made from a spare elbow I had lying around. I filled the radiator with water (no use in using anti-freeze until I know it doesn't leak or if it still overheats), and fired it up. I let it idle for a while and it warmed up to about 185 degrees on the gauge (which seems pretty accurate), but no hotter. Success!
As long as I was underhood and getting everything wet, I decided to try to clean off all the dried dirt and grease that burned up every time I ran the engine. I started by soaking the engine with Simple Green (a really good product, by the way) for a few minutes. Then I scrubbed all the nooks and crannies with an old toothbrush and rinsed it with pressure from the garden hose (I'll pressure wash it when I'm ready to tackle the undercarriage). Turned out pretty well. At least you can now see that the engine is original: it's red. 1941 was the only year for red engines.
So I fired it up again, but discovered that it the starter doesn't engage when it's hot. It's not a starter problem, but the vacuum switch on the carburetor doesn't cooperate. I don't know why. Add this to the list of questions for Doug Seybold. But jumping it with a small wire spins the starter and the engine fires right up.
However, now it was running rough. My previous exhaust repairs were in vain, since the exhaust pipe has rusted completely though around the hanger, and it now has a rough sound to it--kind of like it needs to clear its throat. Wicking the throttle produced somewhat smoother notes from the engine, but idle was really bad. So I took my airgun and blew out all the ignition components, especially under the distributor cap. It smoothed out a bit. It's still not perfect, but I attribute that to the leaky exhaust. A proper exhaust system and a new set of spark plugs should help.
I also checked out the brake light switch. It's a pressure switch located on a junction block just in front of the master cylinder. Unlike modern cars which have spring-loaded switches on their brake pedals, this one reacts to pressure in the brake lines. So if your brakes ever fail on a 1941 Buick and you plow through the window of a flower shop, expect people to say that you didn't even try to stop because your brake lights never came on. Touching the two wires together lit the brake lights, so I sanded the terminals on the switch and reconnected them. Voila! We have brake lights. We're legal.
After that, Julia and I took it for a quick drive around the block, and I watched the temperature gauge intently, but it showed no signs of getting hot. Towards the end it was showing a little above 190 or so, but I didn't think that was anything to worry about. It was a far cry from the 220 degrees and the far side of the gauge I'd seen only 2 days earlier! And I continue to be impressed with the power and smoothness of the engine. Hard to believe it's 61 years old!
But, as is my luck, I wasn't totally off the hook: when I shut it off in the garage, a considerable amount of coolant puked out of the overflow tube. Why, I don't know. It just gurgled out as soon as I killed the motor. I'm guessing that there was some air in the system that was trapped by the thermostat, and when I shut the motor down, it was able to find its way out past the (now open) thermostat. I'll check coolant level and refill it if necessary with the engine running. But overall, this was a good day.
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