The Land Rover Writer

Monday, January 16, 2012

Old Cars and Winter

It's taken longer than usual for winter to hit here in Maine, but finally we have temperatures around 0 degrees F and some snow on the ground. It's rare that we can be this comfortable so late into winter.

The cold and high winds came on strong this weekend. I could hear their effects when I went to start the 46 year old Land Rover. I've never done a compression test on this engine, but after some 400,000 miles and some 17 years of daily use, it's probably not at 150 psi on every cylinder. Combine that with an oil capacity of 7+ quarts and a single, manual choke carburetor, and you have the makings of hard winter starting. This new starter helps churn the engine so it will fire quickly - it does sound funny, though, as if something's not tight. I'll have to check it when it warms up.

Normally I could minister to the car gently upon starting it at 0 F. You pump the accelerator a few times, pull out the choke, press the starter button, and once it fires up, wait a few moments before driving off. You try to warm the car up while driving so you can push in the choke as soom as possible. This helps reduce carb icing and the "wash down" effect that gas has on the oil that lubricates around the piston rings. 

Since I became an EMT a couple of years ago I don't have that luxury. I must start the car quickly, force it into gear [the thick gear oil makes shifting hard], run the car a short distance, and then turn off the engine. Few things will accelerate engine wear faster than this ritual - it runs counter to everything I learned about how to take car of older design engines.   

The 46 year old Corvair handles this for me very well; with its twin carburetors and automatic choke, it simply won't run at all if you try and move too quickly upon a very cold start. You must wait for it to warm up some before driving away.  

The 32 year old TR-7 used to be a brisk starter and runner in cold weather, but ever since it developed its head gasket leak, it won't start well at all- even with the leak seemingly cured. Right now I fear that I might have condensation in the gas because of the car's stationary situation. I purchased a new fuel filter and installed it this weekend, but an EMT call out prevented me from fiddling with the engine very long. It will start [with ether] but would not run on its own. I need to sort that problem out when the temperatures rise later this week.

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