Intake Manifolds: Born To Rev

Intake manifold
Intake manifolds
are a fascinating part of the internal combustion engine. Their design has a great deal of influence on how the engine performs. The simplest change can drastically alter how the engine feels under power.

Your engine in its most basic form is an air pump. As the piston moves down the cylinder during the intake stroke, it’s pulling a fuel/air mixture through the intake valve. Above that, your fuel system (unless your car has direct injection) is delivering fuel through the open intake valve. The oxygen supply needed for combustion is coming in at the same time, via the intake manifold.

And why should you know this? Because the design of the intake manifold has a significant effect on the output of your engine.

The Long and Short of It

Back in the days of prohibition, moonshiners started modifying their cars with the purpose of getting away from the law. One of the quickest ways to get more power out of a car is to allow the engine to breathe more efficiently. If an air intake is like your nose, then the intake manifold is like a pair of lungs. You can sniff all you want, but if your lungs aren’t up to the task of taking on that air, you’re going to have trouble.

Intake manifolds are designed to evenly distribute air to each cylinder of the engine. The more cylinders an engine has, the more complex this becomes. Older vehicles were pretty uniform in the way their manifolds were designed. Each cylinder has its own dedicated “runner” that delivers the air to the cylinder through the intake valve(s).

The tricky thing is, the length and diameter of the intake runners affect where you get your power. If your intake runners have a larger diameter, you’ll have higher horsepower, while a smaller diameter has less power but will allow you to reach that peak power more quickly. Longer runners are good for low-end power, while short ones are best for when you need the power in the upper registers of your power band. This is where modern technology comes in handy.

Power Where You Want It

Engine bayOlder cars had to find the happy median with their intake manifold design to perform the best for their typical scenario of use. Many new cars can have the best of both worlds — or at least a broader range of the two. Commonly called the DISA valve, a butterfly valve is built in to their intake manifolds to adjust the length of the intake runners depending on the throttle position. This ingenious little device is quite common on BMWs, for example. It helps bring a wider range of performance to a vehicle without having to swap the intake manifold out for specific power needs.

If you’re modifying an older car and you want more power, you’ll have to stick to the more traditional method. Depending on where you want your power, you’ll want a specifically designed manifold for that purpose. Take this Edelbrock Performer intake for example. You’ll see that in the product description, it’s designed to run at idle to a 5500 RPM limit and will provide a broad torque curve with excellent throttle response and mid-range power. This particular setup would be good for a muscle-car owner who is looking for good power on the street. Good throttle response and mid-range power is what you want if your goal is to be the stoplight drag king. This Edelbrock Performer RPM intake, in contrast, is built with high-end power in mind and would be better suited for situations in which top speed is the end goal.

When To Replace Your Manifold

You may not be looking to soup up your daily driver, but knowing how your car works is always a benefit to a car owner and can save time and money. Most intake manifolds on late-model cars are made of plastic. Over time they may crack, warp, or have a bad gasket. Typical symptoms of a faulty intake manifold would be hard starting, stumbling during acceleration, and often a “check engine” light. A leak in the intake manifold would likely set off a code that your engine is running too lean or getting too much air. A lean running engine could lead to premature detonation in the cylinder, which leads to major damage of the engine.

Have you found the perfect setup for your car? Let us know what you’re running in the comments below!

How to Choose Windshield Wipers

Behind the wheel in rainy weather

Source | Jaromír Kavan/Unsplash

When it comes time to choose windshield wipers, the number of options available might surprise you. While wiper blades all share the same function, they don’t all do it in the same way, for the same price, or to the same level of performance. In order to help you choose the best wipers for your budget or circumstance, we’ve highlighted the three main types of windshield wiper blades below, how much you can expect to spend on them, and when they’ll perform the best.

Types of Windshield Wipers

traditional wiper blade

Traditional Wiper Blade:

The traditional wiper blade has been around for decades and is constructed of a steel frame and rubber blade. The frame itself is what attaches to the wiper arm of the vehicle and has pivoting suspension points that help keep the blade planted to the windshield.

Traditional blades can be found on most new cars and are reasonably priced—at under $10 per blade—when it comes time to replace them. Most wiper-blade manufacturers recommend replacing these blades every six months.

Beam wiper blade

Beam Wiper Blades:

If you’re looking to up your window-clearing game, you’ll want to check out the beam blade section. Most wiper-blade manufacturers offer a beam-blade option, and they certainly have their perks. Rather than having a metal structure like a traditional wiper blade, beam blades are made of a solid piece of rubber. This comes in handy when the weather gets nasty. Where snow and ice can clog up the frame and freeze a traditional wiper blade, you can simply slap a beam blade against the windshield to clear it of debris. Beam wiper blades also have a fin or spoiler along the spine of the blade that help keep the wiper placed firmly against the windshield for maximum contact, even at freeway speeds.

The price for this kind of windshield wiper is higher than traditional blades—between $15 and $30 per blade, but they generally last quite a bit longer.

Hybrid Wiper Blades:

If you like the cost savings of the traditional wiper blade but want to have the all-weather prowess of a beam blade, you’ll want to look into getting yourself a set of hybrid wiper blades. Hybrid blades are constructed like a traditional blade with a steel frame and pivoting suspension points but also have a plastic or rubber protective coating over the frame. This helps keep the cost down and provides protection against the more harsh winter elements. The cost of these blades will usually be right between that of a beam and traditional blade.

All three types of wiper blades are relatively easy to install, but your local Advance Auto Parts store will do it for you for free.

Got any wiper tips? Leave ’em in the comments.

Are You Neglecting Your Windshield Wipers? Here’s How to Make Them Last

Windshield wipers are one of the most commonly replaced items on a car. Coincidentally, they’re also one of the most neglected parts as many DIYers are unsure when to change windshield wiper blades. Wiper blades come in numerous shapes and sizes, and while most vehicles have at least two wipers, many have three or even four.

The general recommendation is that you should replace them every six months—and that’s roughly how long windshield wipers last, but it’s not a rule. In order to maximize the life of your wiper blades, here are some guiding principles on what causes them to fail and how to avoid installation mistakes when it comes time to change them.

Take care in extreme temperatures

If you looked at a graph of when things break or fail on a car, you’d see an upward trend in the bell curve during the times of year when the temperatures are really hot and when they’re really cold.

In summer: Extended periods of extreme heat and exposure to the UV rays of the sun can cause the rubber in wiper blades to become brittle and crack. If you don’t keep an eye on their condition and neglect to change them before the rains come, you’ll get nothing but a blurry mess instead of that satisfying squeegee effect that leaves you with crisp and clear visibility.

In winter: Extreme cold often equals ice, which can really be tough on your blades, especially on those days when your car has been sitting out in the snow or freezing rain all day. If you don’t take the time to scrape your windshield before letting your wipers do the work, the ice can take chunks out of the rubber, which will leave streaks when clearing your field of vision. You wouldn’t be the only one to have had a blade long enough that the rubber part has actually separated from the frame and flaps in the wind like laundry on the line.

Use proper maintenance

The recommendation for changing blades may be every six months, but there are things you can do to get as much as a year or more of life out of your blade.

  • If possible, park in the shade or under cover. If your car is garage kept, it’s likely you’ll get more than six months out of your blades.
  • Clean your windshield regularly. Even if the weather in your area is moderate, a dirty windshield can take its toll on your blades. By keeping the surface clean, you spare the rubber blade from dirt, gravel, and other materials that can cause wear and tear.
  • Don’t use your wipers as ice scrapers. As we mentioned above, using your wipers to scrape your windshield clean is both ineffective and hard on your blades. Even when using de-icer, it will significantly reduce the lifespan of your blades. Keeping an ice scraper handy will help you maintain a clear field of vision and maximize the life of your wipers.

Tips for successful windshield-wiper installation

Installing wiper blades in the right way is just as important as keeping them in good wiping order. There are several types of windshield wipers out there, and some are so similar that you’d never know that you installed the wiper incorrectly until it flies off in the middle of a downpour. Oops.

  • J hooks: The most common wiper blade arm is the J hook. Most people, however, don’t realize that they come in two sizes. Wiper blades typically come with the J hook adapter already in place, but if you don’t have it flipped the right way it won’t stay on the hook for long. By taking the adapter of the blade itself, you can simply install it in reverse to match the other J hook size.
  • Pinch tabs: Pinch tabs come in three different flavors and are found on newer vehicles. Pinch tab wiper blades are typically sold to fit a specific set of vehicles and come with only that right attachment system in places (unless it’s a more universal wiper blade). These usually snap into place with a “heel to toe” motion.
  • Bayonet arms: Most cars with bayonet-type arms are pre-’90s. The bayonet arm is straight, with a small hole for the wiper to secure itself to. Installation is very straightforward, but it can be tough to get off because it gets frozen in place when the plastic gets old and brittle. When this happens, a small flathead pocket screwdriver will be your best friend.
  • Pin arms: Pin arms are similar to the bayonet arm, but instead of the arm having the hole, it’s the wiper blade.

Sometimes it’s nice to have hands-on help. If that’s more your speed, the folks at your local Advance Auto Parts can help you find the right wiper blades and even install them for you.

Do you install your own windshield wipers? Share your tips.

Crucial Cars: The Datsun Z

Yutaka Katayama. You may not have heard of him, but you’ve surely seen his influence on the automotive world. Affectionately known as “Mr. K” and the “Father of the Z car,” Katayama is to many a hero and a legend.

Datsun 240z

Source | Matthew Davis

In the 1960s, Japanese cars in the United States were nothing more than disposable transportation that got decent fuel economy and were known to be more reliable and affordable than their domestic counterparts. In short, they were anything but cool. As an executive at Nissan, Katayama had some radical ideas and introduced several cars to the American market that changed the perception of Japanese cars forever. One was the Datsun 240Z.

To Japan, Nissan has been akin to one of the “Big Three” in the United States. When it first started selling cars in the U.S., it used the moniker “Datsun” instead of “Nissan,” for fear of the line failing in America and thus tarnishing the Nissan name. But when the Datsun 240Z hit showroom floors in 1969, it was such a smashing success that over the next 15 years Datsuns started to display badges that advertised “Datsun by Nissan” and, eventually, just “Nissan.”

1970 Datusn 240z

Source | Matthew Davis

There have been other vehicles, like the Datsun 510 and Toyota Celica, that helped cement the status of Japanese cars. But if David and Goliath was an allegory about Japanese car success, the stone that hit Goliath in the temple was the Z.

The Datsun 240Z entered the U.S. market at the tail end of the great muscle-car era and at the peak of popularity for British roadsters. The latter group, with models such as the Triumph TR6 and MG MGB, were directly in the crosshairs of Mr. K’s creation, and they were blown from the sky by the Z. The 240Z was a two-seater GT (grand touring) sports car with a short deck and elegant long hood. Many consider it to be the budget version of the venerable Jaguar E-Type. It certainly had a British feel to the design, sound, and feel of the car, but without the quirky, unreliable aspects.

With an MSRP of $3,500, the Datsun 240Z was priced slightly higher than the MGB GT and roughly about the same as a Porsche 914. Those who wanted something along the lines of a Chevrolet Corvette or Ford Mustang would have needed to pay over $2,500 more, nearly doubling the price of the Datsun.

The Z gave people the cool factor they wanted at a price they could afford, and it was reliable, day in and day out. As muscle cars lost potency through the 1970s, the Datsun Z increased in popularity in the U.S., while its British competitors all but ceased to exist.

The Datsun Z Straight 6

Source | Matthew Davis

Powered by a 2.4L straight six (the L24), the Datsun Z produced 151 horsepower and could hit 0-60 mph in just over eight seconds. That was quick enough to hang with the likes of the Porsche 911. Rear independent suspension enabled the Z to handle just as well as it looked, and it had great success on the racetrack as well as on the showroom floor. “What wins on Sunday sells on Monday” was a popular saying in those days.

Buy, sell, hold

When it comes to collecting cars, the nostalgic Japanese market is an interesting niche to consider. The past five years or so have truly given us a glimpse at the potential of these great vehicles. Fifteen years ago, you could pick up a clean Datsun Z for less than they sold new. Nowadays, an early 240Z will bring over $10,000 in a moderate state of disrepair. Just as with the stock market, in the auto market there are some models you should buy before they rise, some that you should probably sell because they’ve peaked, and others that you want to hold onto because they are climbing in value.

Some say that the 240Z, in particular, is climbing in value at a higher rate than almost any other car. Out of the three early-generation models of the Z (240, 260, 280) the 1970 models have almost already reached the stage where you’d want to hold. The 260Z and 280Z are where you can still pick them up for a good price. The key is finding models that haven’t been wrecked or aren’t too cankered with rust. Japanese cars of this era are notorious for rusting away.

Source | Matthew Davis

The crystal ball

We’ve all heard the stories of the people who sold a 1955 Chevrolet for peanuts and kick themselves every day for it. While there’s no crystal ball to tell you what cars will come into their own down the road, there are a few patterns to consider. The Datsun Z is becoming a collectible because not only was it an icon and a game changer in its day, but also because the people who now want to buy their first collector car remember growing up when the Z hit the showroom floor. It’s the type of car that gets comments at the gas station like, “I had one of those in high school, and it was so cool!”

Sometimes predicting the future is as simple as thinking back to the cars that influenced you when you were in your formative years.

Did you covet or own a Datsun Z? Let us know in the comments!

Weather Stripping: Not Just for Your Home

weather stripping

Source | Juha Lakaniemi/Unsplash

Your vehicle’s weather stripping is like the defensive lineman of a football team—an important player but not often seen on the highlight reel. Just as with your home, your car’s weather stripping is there to keep the elements out and provide a quiet and comfortable environment. And like that overlooked lineman, weather stripping is often only considered when it’s not doing its job. Here’s how we’d recommend taking care of it.

How Weather Stripping Works

Weather stripping’s two most common uses are as window seals and door seals. Made of rubber compounds, it’s meant to keep out water, noisy wind, and the cold. That satisfying thud when you close the door of a new car comes courtesy of weather stripping, and so does that nice conversation you’re able to have at 75 mph.

When You Should Replace Weather Stripping

The best way to tell if you should inspect the window and door seals is to make use of a few of your five senses.

  • Can’t hear a word your passengers are saying or have to blast the radio just to hear the music? It’s probably time to put a stop to wind noise in your car.
  • If you’re getting wet in the car wash, you probably need some car window seal repair.
  • If the heater or A/C isn’t doing the trick (and you’ve ruled out any HVAC problems), you’ll want to check the weather stripping.
  • Look for damaged weather stripping. If wind noise is the problem, inspect your door seals for tears or loose-fitting sections that have detached themselves from the door. The same can be said for windshield rubber seal repair.

How To Install Weather Stripping

Here are a few easy steps to fix the issue:

  • Remove the old weather stripping and clean the surface: Weather stripping is glued in place with an adhesive. Remove the old weather stripping. Then use a good solvent, like brake cleaner, to clean off the old glue. Your replacement weather stripping will need a good clean surface to adhere to if you want it to last a long time.
  • Use weather-stripping adhesive to apply the new seals: Replacement weather stripping is easy to find. While shopping, pick up a can of brake cleaner, some silicone spray, and weather-stripping adhesive. Once your surface is clean, use the weather-stripping adhesive and place a small bead along both sides of the inside of the gasket. Inevitably, you’ll get some adhesive that will ooze out. Clean that up with brake cleaner too—just make sure you do it before it dries.
  • Follow with silicone: Once the new weather stripping is in place, give it a quick coating of silicone spray. This helps keep the weather stripping from freezing when it gets cold and wet. Getting frozen out of your car is a real drag.

Maintaining Your Weather Stripping

Now that you’ve got new weather stripping in your car, you’ll want to take good care of it. Those big linemen need a good pat on the back, too, every now and again. Maintenance is simple.

  • If it’s really dry and hot where you live, try to park in the shade or in a garage as much as possible. Heat and direct sunlight will dry out the seals quickly, and they’ll become hard and brittle.
  • In more humid climates where moisture is an issue, moss can accumulate on your weather stripping. Ensure a tighter seal by keeping your weather stripping free from foreign objects.
  • When washing your car, take care to use a towel and wipe the areas between your door and weather stripping. Keeping it clean and dry will help prevent wear and tear.

Have you prepped your car for extreme temps? Let us know your weather-stripping battle stories.

Drive Belts 101: The Different Types (And How to Replace Them)

Drive belts are a regular vehicle maintenance item. Loud squeals, poor battery charging, and even overheating are symptoms that should lead you to investigate the drive belts on your engine and potentially replace them. But before you begin the diagnostic process, make sure you know what kind of belts your car has.

The Different Types of Drive Belt

Serpentine Belt

Source |  Matthew Davis

Serpentine Belt

The serpentine belt is probably the most commonly used belt today and likely what you’ll find under the hood of your car if you drive anything newer than a 1990 model. Need to change it? It’s pretty simple. The belt snakes its way through multiple accessories, the crank pulley, an idler pulley or two, and a tensioner. Grab a socket and pull on the tensioner pulley to loosen the belt to remove it. Serpentine belts are easy to replace, but if they break, you’re guaranteed to be on the side of the road since they run everything from your alternator to your power steering.

You’ll know they need to be replaced if they begin to look heavily cracked or if the depth of the grooves becomes too shallow. A good rule of thumb is to check them around 60,000 miles and replace them by 90,000 miles. You can purchase an easy-to-use and inexpensive belt-wear gauge to check belt wear for a more scientific inspection.

Drive Belts & V-Belts

Drive belts are usually found on older vehicles, but they do have advantages. Running off of the crank pulley, they go through one or two accessories but usually not more than that. On a car with all the bells and whistles, there will be several individual belts for power steering, air conditioning, and then the essentials like the alternator, water pump, and radiator fan. Break one of these, and depending on what it was driving, you may still be able to get home. Drive belts are also called V-belts because of the way their rubber teeth are tapered. The disadvantages to individual drive belts are the fact that there are multiple to change, they are a bit trickier to get to the right tension, and they can rotate on the pulley under hard load.

V-Belt

Source | Matthew Davis

Loose drive belts will squeal and could cause your alternator to charge improperly and could possibly cause your car to overheat. A good way to test tension is to push down on the belt in the middle of its longest point. You should be able to depress it about half an inch. Any more than that and it’s too loose; any less, and it’s too tight. A belt that’s too tight will put strain on the alternator and could ruin the bearings on the water pump. You’ll know the belt needs replacing if it looks cracked or if tightening to the proper tension does not remedy the squeal.

Timing Belts

Most cars have interference engines, which means the clearance between the moving parts is so small that if they get out of time, they’ll run into each other. The timing belt connects the crankshaft and camshaft, keeping them in sync. You’ll likely not see the timing belt on your car because it’s hidden behind the timing cover. Nevertheless, the timing belt can be your nemesis; ignore it, and you’ll have a very expensive engine rebuild on your hands. Usually, these should be replaced every 60,000 to 90,000 miles. Like any belt, miles and time will cause them to crack like the one pictured here, and you’ll have a very bad day if it breaks. Many cars have timing chains instead of belts, which are designed to last for the engine’s lifespan.

Cracked Timing Belt

Source | Matthew Davis

Like anything on a car, extreme temperature ranges are the killers of longevity. It’s always a good idea to inspect your belts at the beginning and end of winter and summer.

If you have experience dealing with belts, let us know. Leave your stories in the comments.