Q.

I have a '68 Chevy pickup that I love and want to keep running for as long as I can. I live on a farm, but I only use it when I have to go to Home Depot to pick up duct tape - it's a great "old dude" magnet! The truck starts and runs beautifully, but the last time I started it, it began to sputter and die. I opened the hood and, to my horror, saw that the carburetor was spewing gas. I immediately called the mechanic who lives down the road, and asked him if he would look at it. Unfortunately, he had just successfully retired after many previous attempts, and he held firm even when I offered to rebuild the carburetor myself under his tutelage. However, he did give me a tip that works like a charm: He told me to tap it lightly with a hammer, because the needle valve gets stuck. Sure enough, it worked, but I'm concerned that it might happen while I'm driving and the gas might ignite on the hot manifold. Would you say that this is a good fix, or should I try to find another oldster who has actually worked on an old truck? Thank you for many years of good laughs and, occasionally, good advice!

TOM: It's getting harder and harder to find guys who've actually worked on carburetors. It's harder than finding a guy to change the goat-skin membrane in my ear horn.

RAY: It sounds like your carburetor is flooding and liquid gas is coming out the vents.

TOM: Your instincts are correct: That's not a great long-term situation, and you're right to look for a more permanent fix.

RAY: But since you can't get help rebuilding your carburetor, I'm going to suggest that you try to replace it.

TOM: Go online, and see if you can find an already-rebuilt carburetor for your 1968 Chevy truck. I'm guessing you have a V-8 engine, and probably a Rochester carburetor. Ideally, you'll find a remanufactured one for a few hundred bucks that will be just as good as new.

RAY: And the needle and the floats will all be brand-new, and should work perfectly. Or at least no worse than they worked in 1968.

TOM: And if you were game to rebuild the carburetor, swapping it out is even easier.

RAY: You simply disconnect the linkage and the fuel line, which is no big deal. Then you unscrew about four nuts that bolt down the carburetor, and you're pretty much done.

TOM: Well, you're done when you successfully put those four nuts back in, along with the new carburetor, then reattach everything and see if the truck starts. But it's a pretty simple job, and you sound like you're up for it.

RAY: A nice trick nowadays is to set up your smart phone and record yourself removing the old carburetor. That way, when you have two or three parts left over, you can go back and watch it, and see where they came from.

TOM: This will be a fun project for you. Plus, the old dudes who are already attracted to your truck will go nuts when they find out that you swapped out your own carburetor. You'll be swimming in amorous old dudes.

Q.

I have a 2004 Chevrolet Suburban with a six-liter, V-8 engine. It blew out the No. 5 spark plug. I took the car to a Chevy dealer, who put in a Heli-Coil as a repair. Within 1,000 miles of driving, it blew out both the plug and the Heli-Coil. What are we doing wrong?

TOM: You're not doing anything wrong. But don't be surprised if your next fortune cookie says, "Time for a new cylinder head."

RAY: When the threads in your cylinder head get stripped and a spark plug blows out, a Heli-Coil sometimes can save the day.

TOM: The Heli-Coil is basically an insert. It's bigger than the original spark plug; so you screw the Heli-Coil into the cylinder head, and then the spark plug screws into the Heli-Coil. Got it?

RAY: But it doesn't always work. Sometimes the hole is badly damaged to begin with, or sometimes, because of the design of the engine, it's difficult to get good access to the affected cylinder. Or sometimes the mechanic screws it up. It's a tricky job.

TOM: What the dealer did wrong was that he neglected to warn you that the repair might fail.

RAY: Now that it has, you probably need to have your cylinder head sent out and repaired, if possible. If it can't be repaired, you'll need a new cylinder head, which probably will cost you a good $1,500.

TOM: Before you drop that much on this vehicle, have the rest of the truck thoroughly checked out first. Make sure you're not about to need a ring job or a new transmission, too, before you invest in a cylinder head.

RAY: But if the Suburban is otherwise in good shape, and you want to keep it for some more years, you should start cylinder-head shopping. Or get used to the sound of a V-7 engine. Sorry for the gloomy news.

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