That Nasty Four-Letter Word
by David Small - AROC Detroit
(750-101-105-115 Alfa Romeo spiders, 750-101 Sprints)
What, you ask, qualifies me to speak about that nasty word, especially as applies to Alfas? Well, in 1973 I bought my first Alfa (63 Spider Normale).
For over 100K miles this car had collected more than it’s share of “issues” running around Malibu, CA. In subsequent years I have attempted to rescue several additional Alfas. I was born on a ranch in Montana by depression-era parents who were an enterprising lot having to make-do with what is available. With that heritage, and the
incurable ALFA syndrome, every subsequent Alfa I bought was not a concours example. Often my shiny new Alfa turned-out to be a prime example of downright bad attempts at disguising truly shoddy repair and/or neglect. In that cumulative experience, I have found several areas built into our favorite marque that ‘had the owner known
at the outset’ might not have led to each car’s demise. The four-letter word: Rust.
This brief article is intended to be the first of several where I will show you, the Alfa owner, how to identify areas of concern, take definitive prevention steps, and to know when it’s time to call in the pros. Let’s begin with an easy repair for a novice starting on a small task that is perfect for wintertime using Susie’s '91 Spider as an
example. Her Alfa is very clean and rust-free, or is it? Replacing a headlight in preparation for the 2010 convention proved to be a challenge as the little screws holding the retaining ring were rusted. I noticed telltale ruddy streaks below the headlight bucket. Applying copious amounts of my favorite rust release agent, gentle persuasion
(and time) I was able to remove those tiny screws. I removed the headlight bucket from the fender to discover several issues. The bucket itself was rusted, spring clips which fasten to the bucket were rusted, the edge of the fender opening was rusted, even the rubber gasket was damaged! It
was almost as if the headlights alone were left out in the rain.
This was, as mentioned, on a relatively new car. I used the buckets off a ’74 Spider (very rusty car we will discuss in another installment) that were in better shape to restore for Susie’s car.
Remove your headlight trim rings, headlights, buckets, etc. and eliminate all rust from all parts, paint and oil as appropriate, and replace. A word of caution: use a “new” Phillips screwdriver of the proper size (#1 or 2) to remove the screws AFTER pre-soaking with a rust penetrant/lubricant.
Step one: DO NOT FORCE the screws, first rotate IN one/eighth, then out one/eighth, back and forth rotating a bit further out each time using great care with the screwdriver to keep the tip in the grooves of the screw. Once removed, disassemble all parts (take photos for reassembly), and thoroughly clean.
I have a sandblast cabinet, but coarse grit sandpaper, wire brush and elbow grease can do nicely to remove all rust. Treat the rust with a ‘rust converter’ or Naval Jelly per the package labeling.
I also treated with Ospho™ prior to priming and painting with several thin coats of a good quality rattle can paint. I use Krylon® or Rustoleum®-Semi Flat Black. When reassembling, remember this is an Alfa and it uses metric screws. I sourced mine from ACE hardware. Allen (hex) head, stainless screws for the three tiny screws
surrounding the headlight itself, and lube with petroleum jelly or axle grease when replacing them
(do not screw without a lubricant). Use metric phillips head screws with the chrome trim rings to look OEM.
Liquid Wrench®, PB Blaster®, SeaFoam®, Naval Jelly®, Permatex® Rust Treatment, Ospho™, 3-M® Wet-Dry sand paper (150-250 grit), wire brush
(hand or on a drill), liquid dish soap, hair drier or red heat lamp, quality paint as desired.
Specific to 1955-1994 750/101/105/115 models; generally applies to all Alfas
When most of us think of our beloved Alfa Romeos, we mostly think of a sweet running, technologically excellent, spirited driving MACCHINA. In discussing more in-depth issues of Alfas, the subject of rust, lower quality iron-curtain steel, previous owners and inept attempts etc., often arises. Frequently the discussion begins with
the topic of rusty rocker panels. In this installment I will discuss a couple of issues a prudent Alfa owner might undertake to research about your car that will ultimately lead to damage of those critical rockers. You will need a few small tools, a bright flashlight, some shop towels, note pad, eye (glasses), hand protection (nitrile or mechanics
gloves) and maybe an assistant to observe your testing. A digital camera may help as well.
Figure 1: Hole in wheel arch. Note no factory sealer and resultant rust, especially tracking into trunk and into substructure into sides of rear package tray and cloth top fastening strip (arrow).
This article applies directly to the 105-115 cars but the same rules and procedures can be used on other Alfa models. We begin inside the trunk. Use the flashlight to carefully look around all surfaces for signs of accumulated dirt or debris. Some models require re moving the floor carpeting, and carefully tipping up the carpeting
held by the trunk weatherstripping. Pay particular attention to the metal seams. Also look closely at the shock absorber bracket and bolts on the trunk floor. Moisture will leave tracks of stain or dirt accumulation particularly in low areas. Tap into your latent Sherlock Holmes and try to imagine the source of these accumulations. On my ’87 spider I thought the bracket was loose, leading to water leakage.
I recently dissected a ’74 spider and found another potential, and possibly more likely, source of water leaks into that area of the trunk. The accompanying photos show there is a hole (approximately ¾-inch, as shown in Figure 1) at the top of the wheel arch that is filled with a glob of sealer at the factory (Figures 2 & 3). In the case of the ’74 (and a ’71) that glob was compromised or missing altogether. This is a serious issue if the ‘glob’ leaks. Water spinning off the tires will be thrown into the area above the wheel-arch and into the interior of the bodywork. Water then can drip into the wheel-arch/fender area, into the interior of the package tray behind the seats and trunk and into the outer rocker/middle rocker area/rear quarter panel!
Figures 2 & 3: Opposite side with factory sealer in place, while showing surface rust, there is no damage to the top mounting area. Removal of the sealer shows new
Figure 4: Note damage in wheel arch rusted from within the structure due to water dripping down to area where wheel arch and the panel with the oval openings are welded.
An axiom: Rust begins on the interior of automobile panels (absent a scratch through the paint).
So how do we inspect that hole? Jack up the car, remove the rear tire and block the car with good quality jack stands. With flashlight and fingernails, examine the area directly above the tire in the wheel arch for any irregularity in the undercoating (if your car is undercoated). In a darkened room, have your assistant look for pinholes of light
in the trunk while you shine everywhere from beneath; wheel arch, area above rear axle, above fuel tank, below the taillights. Look for places where the undercoating or the factory seam sealer has loosened. In both the ’71 and the ’74, the damaged sealer was immediately obvious, loose, and on one side completely missing. The missing
side had serious wheel-arch rust (Figure 4), rust of the post-door outer rocker, rust of the rear quarter panel and rust into the top fastening surface (Figure 5).
Figure 5: Note extreme damage to top mounting surface nearest the offending wheel arch hole, yet no evidence of top leaking elsewhere
Once you’ve found issues, then what? Note everything , take lots of photos (with and without flash). Immaculately clean every surface in the trunk with soap and water, maybe even use a water-based degreaser. If you can see both sides of the metal and can determine it is sound (use an ice pick to
look for soft spots) then sand/wire brush clean, use a rust converter product, apply seam sealer, paint with rust-inhibiting primer then topcoat with a matching quality paint. Use multiple thin coats per package directions. The wheel arch where the factory hole is will require careful debridement, carefully removing the loosened undercoat/seam sealer (safety glasses/gloves). The area must also be devoid of rust before finishing as above—look carefully. As a topcoat in this area, I used several
coats of Rustoleum brand Undercoater.
Another Axiom: It is not possible to repair rust that started on the inside of a panel by “repairing,” “derusting,” “bondoing,” etc., from the exterior of a panel. Period. If you cannot get to both sides of a panel to derust, protect and topcoat, then you run the risk of postponing and even promoting the eventual recurrence of the damage-usually more severe.
May I offer word of caution here: This article deals with the concept of finding a potential problem area and is not meant to solve a more severe problem.
If your Alfa has rusty rockers, that is a whole other issue. I believe with a basic understanding of the bodywork ‘assembly’, the interconnection of the interior cavities and the potential routes through which moisture can access those cavities, we Alfa owners can be better equipped to protect our investment. We can be better consumers, too, of
specialty shops we entrust to repair our cars. The examples I have encountered and used for this article were truly at the top of ‘what not to do’ when it comes to repair.
Note: Access to the areas seen in the figures is only by complete removal of the entire outer fender.
Classic Motorsports offers tips to tackle degrading rust from the May 2007 issue
Questions answered by Carl Heideman of Eclectic Motorworks, located in Holland, Michigan.
Rust Never Sleeps, Part 1
We’re still slowly working on our MGB project. Aside from the tow home, the car has not moved in 25 years. How can I tell whether the floors need replacing? The side sills? Everything seems strong and relatively light on rust, but how can I really know?
We consider all rust-pitted metal very suspect. If the pitting is light, we’ll sometimes wire brush or sandblast the area before treating it with a metal conditioner that contains phosphoric acid, like Ospho or PPG 57175. Then we can paint the area.
If the pitting is heavy, meaning it extends through more than 30% of the metal’s depth, replacement is usually the best option. While some of the miracle chemicals and paints out there do a good job of postponing the inevitable, that rust on the thinned metal won’t sleep forever.
A good rule of thumb for us is that if we see any pinholes, we replace all the metal within about two inches of the pinhole. So if there is a series of pinholes at the bottom of a rocker panel, we’d replace the metal two inches above the pinholes.
Rust Never Sleeps, Part 2
Now that we’ve replaced some rusted sheet metal, what should we do about rust prevention?
Is a good primer all that you need for rust protection?
The first and most important thing is to start with clean, rust-free metal. While there are products out there for treating rusty metal, we always prefer to have clean metal.
We also prefer to cut away any metal that has severe pitting, then weld in new metal to replace it. Once we’re left with only lightly pitted or unpitted old metal, plus new material where necessary, we clean it with sandblasting or a wire wheel if we can. Then we treat it with one of the many phosphoric acid metal preparation products, like Ospho or PPG 5717S, following the directions.
After the metal is clean, we like to prime it with two coats of an epoxy primer like the PPG DP-series.
We feel that we could usually stop there, as we’ve found this primer to be rock hard, long lasting, and completely waterproof. (Many primers are not waterproof.) However, most of our customers like to wear both belts and suspenders, so we go further by using one of three rustproofing options:
1. For areas like floors and wheel wells and some interior panels, we’ll use black rubberized undercoating in a spray can product from 3M called Underseal (pin 08883). We also have used a gun-sprayable version called Body Schutz (pin 08864). This undercoating looks very attractive, dries completely, and is very
2. For areas that are especially prone to rust, like door or fender bottoms, we’ll use a non-drying underseal like Waxoyl or CRC’s Heavy Duty Corrosion Inhibitor. This stuff will continue to reseal itself as panels age.
3. For full restorations of some cars that came with body-color rubberized coatings on the floors and other underbody areas, we’ve been using truck bed liner. Lately we’ve been very fond of SEM 3965A, which can be tinted to any color you like. Other bedliners can be painted, but we prefer the tinting because the color stays true if any chipping occurs.
Following this work, we ensure that there are large drain holes in any boxed-in areas so that any moisture that gets in, can get back out. We feel this step is more important than any coating we put on the metal.
Restoring the Oil Vapor Separator (OVS)
by Elio Comello, Camlachie, Ontario
Alfa literature says little about the OVS. However it is a key component for engine health and emissions reduction, and it is a common fixture in most all Alfas.
Oil Vapor Separator as used in early Spica cars:
The OVS is an ingenious cyclone separator and oil demister that keeps the engine under a slight negative pressure (see Alfa figure). Recovered oil is returned to the sump, vapors and moisture go to the air cleaner in the older Spider or direct to the throttle valve inlet of Bosch Spiders. If it does not work properly, in the extreme, it can lead to engine oil leaks, increased oil consumption, plug fouling, increased tailpipe oily soot and even impact the catalytic converter. In a Bosch fuel injection equipped Spider it can affect the fuel/air ratio because what is passed to the throttle inlet is unmeasured air.
The OVS should be regularly cleaned out with solvent. When this is done, invariably we find it is full of sludge, gunk and even chunks of non-ferrous alloy. The crud is material that is sucked out of the engine: oil vapors, moisture and blow-by all drawn out from the cam cover space. The metal flakes are rust or brass from a disintegrating demister. It is not unusual to find the carbon steel outer body to be corroded to the extent that it holes through.
I opened my OVS, shown in the following photo:
The body had become thin from corrosion, and the internal brass alloy demister had disintegrated. Obviously it did not work, everything went to the intake, and it recovered no oil. I found no sources anywhere for an OE replacement. An eBay purchase was in not much better condition. I saw details of a number of DIY versions and even an after market copy for $150US plus shipping and duty. I looked for alternatives and “oil catcher” solutions, but most had no beneficial scavenging action or were expensive. I was stuck.
Serendipity came when I attended an event of the Alfa Romeo Detroit Chapter: Benson’s Barn open house and BBQ this past summer. The featured guest was David Boenke, a master body metal restorer. It was rumored that he had studied the OVS and had made an improved version. I had heard that it was possible to open up the OVS and rebuild it if the outer carbon steel body was not too thin, to this end I sent a couple of OVS’s, for Dave to dissect and or repair.
Dave was able to roll open the top. He removed what was left of the brass alloy oil demister, replaced it with a continuous wound spiral coil of thin corrugated stainless steel duplicating the original demister function and dimensions, he repaired a thin spot in the body by brazing. The repaired OVS was reassembled and the top metal rolled back into place to seal. The entire repair was done for a very affordable price and it was for
all intents “Original”.
I am very happy with the performance. Dave has indicated that he is willing to do this repair to the OVS’s of other Alfisti, as long as the body is in good condition. If you want further info on how to contact Dave or assistance in Canada/US handling I’d be pleased to help. Perhaps we can do a group repair while our cars are in winter hibernation. Dave is in Michigan; I am in Ontario on the border near Sarnia. ecomello@ xcelco.on.ca
Proper winter storage for our Alfas is a topic that comes up each autumn. We went to the best source of information we know, a person who has made a decades-long study and career of long-term storage and preservation of collector cars and motorbikes. Betty Schoepke pulled her Montreal out of storage after ten years. The paint, trim rubber, exhaust, even the brake rotors looked the same as when the car went into its unheated, dirt-floor barn in Michigan. The outside of the zipped-up protective cover had piles of debris left by birds and rodents, but the inside remained pristine. A couple of small rust blisters under the paint plus usage wear that were present before storage did not heal themselves (darn!), but aging had completely stopped for the 1971 Alfa. After 26 years, those rust blisters are still small, the same, and under the paint.
“This car is actually exactly the same, in every respect, as the day we bought it 26 years ago” said John Schoepke.
Information on obtaining a CarJacket® is included later in this article.
Three things are needed to produce the same results (hopefully without the bird and rodent dung) and keep your Alfa preserved until next spring:
preparation, preventive maintenance and proper storage.
Repair and Maintenance
• Dean Russell, a local mechanic who has worked exclusively on Alfas for over thirty years, will tell anyone who asks that autumn maintenance is critical for prevention of problems next spring. The time to get repairs done and have everything checked out is before sealing the car away.
Winter (or other long-term) Storage Prep
• Add a gas stabilizer like Sta-Bil.
• Wash and detail the car, preferably including seats, carpets, truck, engine compartment, everything. Treat leather and vinyl surfaces.
• Drive the car to remove any standing water that gets trapped in the hidden areas. Do not drive on wet roads or even wet grass just before storing.
• If your Alfa has air conditioning, some experts say to run the air conditioner for 10-to-15 minutes on that last autumn drive to help moving parts get lubricant circulated so the seals will not dry out. Betty suggests not running the a/c 24 hours prior to storage because the evaporator may continue to drip water. Dry any damp areas that you might spot. Perhaps you have noticed a moldy odor when first turning on the a/c the following year. This is because the unit can cause moisture to form in part of the vent system, promoting mold growth. Shut off the air and run the ventilation fan for the last 10 to 15 minutes of a drive to help dry the vent system.
• Apply silicone lubricant or WD-40 to door and trunk seals.
• Mice, red squirrels, chipmunks and other rodents will chew anything. Mothballs on small paper plates might help, but are not 100 percent effective. It is 100 percent certain that the car is going to smell of mothballs for a long time. Bounce fabric sheets have been reported to repel mice from car interiors, but others have said that mice merely make a nest with it. I side with the latter group.
• Spray a bit of fabric deodorizer where it should not stain if left for months, such as on both floor mats.
• Drain some of the windshield washer fluid if the container is full, because it often freezes at approximately minus-10 degrees F and there is no sense having a split bottle or bag.
• Repair any fluid leaks. Especially check fuel tank, fuel lines, radiator, water hoses and windshield washer system. If you find leaks, repair or make an appointment with a mechanic before storing.
• Top off other fluids under the hood.
• Check the anti-freeze with an instrument or by age (change every-other year) and adjust as needed.
• One debated item is use of an “oil fog spray” in the cylinders. Spray cans of this are made just for engine storage. The idea is to keep a coat of oil film on all the internal engine parts to coat everything in the cylinders so that moisture cannot reach the metal. This is good for an engine stored for years. For one season, it is more likely for corrosion to occur inside an engine from contaminants in the oil, such as acids, not moisture. Probably the best thing to do for winter is change the oil, run the engine to circulate the new oil, then just leave it.
• If the battery is not sealed, fill the battery cells with distilled water (not tap water). Remove the battery and clean with a baking soda and water mixture. Connect it to a battery tender (computer chip on the battery tender senses when the battery is fully charged, turning off the charger) or a trickle charger. The old rule of never storing a battery on concrete Winter Storage Tips For Your Alfa Dave Hammond does not apply to modern battery case materials. Still, it won't hurt to get it off the cold concrete.
• Inflate the tires to 10 PSI over the maximum rating. This helps deter flat spots caused by the tires sitting. Some fanatics (mostly Porsche owners) advise removing all four wheels and jacking up the car on blocks, but that is extreme and we have not heard of even one car having a problem with leaving the wheels and tires on.
• While you are at it, sweep floor and check tires to remove stones and grit that could damage theCarJacket™ enclosure. If floor is not smooth, place tarp or other padding under Jacket. Sweep the garage floor and lay down a plastic tarp. If using a standard car cover, do the same because concrete gets damp in the winter, but a plastic sheet or tarp will keep much of the moisture away.
• Cushion the wiper blade arms with a rag to keep the blades from deforming against the glass.
• Store your vehicle in the Jacket enclosure during low humidity. Mid-afternoon on a dry day is best. Use A CarJacket Spread out the unzipped Jacket on the garage
floor, drive or push your Alfa onto it, then zip the jacket shut. When it’s time to take your Alfa out and back into the real world, there’s no rust, no aging. That is not just slogan, but a guarantee: The car comes out from storage as perfect, in every respect, as when stored or your money back. Simple as that. No one paid for mentioning this product and it is described here only because I know that it preserves automobiles and bikes, which is pretty amazing considering Michigan winters.
When your CarJacket is not storing an Alfa, it can help preserve parts, (or furniture, a piano, almost anything that could use protection from light and humidity).
John and Betty Schoepke (Pine Ridge) have been doing this since 1984. Our Duetto, which we have kept for 25 years, is going to be zipped into one this mid-November.
Here is the Pine Ridge contact information:
Pine Ridge Enterprise
13165 Center Road
Bath, MI 48808
By the way, the CarJacket is not for use outdoors, with aging spouses or Keith Richards. And if your Alfa goes in looking like a rusted recycling project, it will come out looking as bad as it did before. Sorry, the Schoepkes are car storage experts, not magicians.
The Next Day
With many insurance policies, call to suspend parts of your insurance while the car sits in the garage (keep the theft and damage coverage). They might insist that the license plate be removed for the winter. If you need to take the car somewhere for repairs during storage, call and have the coverage restored for one day. I have done this with State Farm and other companies will likely do the same. If your car is over 25 years old and you can live with some restrictions, you might want to look into historic
vehicle plates and collector car insurance.
After unzipping the jacket, check the tire pressure and return to normal. Start the car, take it slow and easy until the oil and coolant reach normal operating temperatures, then drive it in the normal Alfa fashion for another ten minutes.
Note: A freshly painted vehicle should not be bagged. Fresh paint should be properly dried/cured two to three months before storing a car or bike in any carbag
Standard Car Cover Instructions
If using a standard car cover, follow the above advice, plus:
Fill the gas tank. The idea is to have the smallest air gap in the tank because temperature changes will cause condensation to form. Stuff a cloth into the airbox intake and push a rag into the end of the exhaust pipes to keep out mice, then leave a note attached to the steering wheel reminding you to remove it next spring before cranking over the engine.
Roll the car ¼ to ½ turn 3 to 4 times per winter to ensure the rotors don’t stick to the pads and work the pedals Keep windows down half way to keep condensation and moisture from collecting in the car. Do NOT set the ventilation selector to ‘recirculate.’ Leaving it selected to “vent/floor” will allow for air to expand and contract in and out of the car.
If using a standard car cover, keep the parking brake off to avoid having the pads rust to the rotors (not necessary if using a CarJacket because there will not be any rust), and put the transmission in gear.
by Paul Spruell in The Alfaholic – newsletter of the Deep South Alfa Romeo Club
Identifying Common Problems
It seems every time I see a spider I see the same problems. Some of them the owners are aware of and others are not so obvious. In an effort to make life better for all spider owners
new and old I have compiled a list of common spider ailments. Next time you are under the hood or under the car, you might take a look at these things and see what you find. I am not going to give the procedures for fixing or replacing these items but I will give some easy diagnostics so you can tell what is right and what is wrong.
Bent Clutch Pivot Arm
The number one thing I find on spiders old and new is a bent clutch pivot arm. Most owners are not even aware there is a problem. The first signs are a low clutch pedal. Your brake and clutch pedals should line up. If the clutch pedal is low, then the arm is bent. What most people do is adjust the length of the rod coming
out the back of the clutch master cylinder. This is the wrong solution. It will buy some time but will not solve the problem. If your car has already had the rod adjusted then what you will find is the clutch disengages when the pedal is close to the floor. Eventually two things will happen: The adjustable rod will run out of adjustment and the clutch will not disengage even with the pedal pushed to the floor. This is a bad way to drive. If the arm is bent you can get replacement arms from all the major parts
suppliers. The new ones are not OEM and they are generally guaranteed to be bend-free for life.
Worn Throttle Linkage
Worn out throttle linkages are not a safety hazard on your Alfa, but they sure can suck the fun out of the car. When I discovered mine were worn out, I was only getting half throttle with the pedal to the floor. After I made the fix the car came to life. It was like getting a bunch of horsepower for free. This check is really easy to do. Get yourself a buddy or some other device to hold the gas pedal to the floor. Then from the engine compartment grab the throttle and attempt to open it further. There is a throttle stop for wide open throttle that will tell you how much wear is in your linkage. If the wear is not so bad then maybe you can adjust the threaded rods in the linkage to take up the slack. But if you are only getting half throttle or less, then you need new end links in your linkage. They come in two flavors: metal or plastic . The S3 spiders came with plastic . I think the SPICA cars came with metal. They both work on all cars. If you need things to be concours original then get whatever is correct for your car. If you never want to do this job again get the metal. Be sure to lube up the ball ends before you snap the new ones in place.
License plate Lamps
This fix is for S3 spiders. Maybe S4 cars too, not sure. Under the rear lip of the trunk lid there are three license plate lights. With the trunk
closed turn on your parking lights or headlights. Either will do. My guess is you have one, maybe two of them working. They fail for several reasons. Obviously the bulbs could be burned out.
The contacts where the trunk lid meets the body could be oxidized or unplugged or misaligned or even missing. The most likely reason for a light failure here is a corroded socket. If you take the lights out you will probably find them rusty and corroded and quite nasty. You can figure out what to do next.
Ok, this next one is new for me, but if you look hard enough you might just find it on just about every spider on the road: radiator wear
through. I am not talking about rubbing on the body or some other mechanical wear. I am talking about corrosion on the inside slowly eating away at the metal until it becomes so thin coolant can pass through it. Typically this happens at joints or corners. The tell tale signs are green or white crusty build up along a seam or other place it can run and collect. Maybe once
or twice you can get a radiator shop to cut off and braze back on the area in question, but after a while you will be chasing too many leaks to fix. If you are lucky and drive a pre-VVT spider you can get your radiator if you can write the check. If you drive an L-jet spider you have to make a bunch of phone calls and might be able to find one or two new radiators left in the country on a back shelf somewhere.
The parts people I spoke to said they got one L-jet radiator a year from Italy and it sells the moment they get it. Good luck.
Vacuum Advance Module (Series 3 Spiders)
Ok, here is another S3 spider problem. Do you ever hear a whistling coming from behind the passenger seat? I bet you do. That sound is a blown out bellows inside the vacuum advance
module. There is no way to repair these. Just
get a used one that does not whistle or buy a new one.
Worn Distributor Bearings
This next one has befallen several spiders in recent years. I think ‘80s model cars are going to see it more and more in the future. But if you drive an older or newer model you might want
to check it out just to be safe. This problem is worn out distributor bearings. Specifically the top one. They have no source of lubrication and slowly, with heat and use, the grease makes its
way down the dizzy shaft and out of the bearing. Any good starter/alternator shop should be able to fix it for you. Check it out and be sure it is right before you end up stuck on the side of
the road with a stripped rotor spinning freely inside the cap.
Trunnion washers are an item your car either needs or has had replaced. There is no other way around it. You or a previous owner has done the replacement, or you need to do it now. Take a gander under the back of the car and follow the trunnion arm from the differential up to where it hits either side of the body. There should be a thick rubber/plastic washer between the arm and the body to help locate it. This keeps your rear axle from sliding left and right in the corners. There are few things more
disconcerting than steering into a corner and finding the car pointed some other direction on the way back out. Get poly washers for the replacement and you will never have to do it again.
Electricity is what makes everything in our cars work. You can argue gasoline is what drives the car but I doubt very seriously you will get very far without those spark plugs. The electricity is distributed throughout your car by the fuse box. Unless you have a late model car with modern blade fuses, you are stuck with the old school ceramic fuses. If you want to save yourself some trouble, make time each year to clean and tighten all the fuse holders. I use dielectric grease when I am done to be sure the oxidation is limited in the future. Also be sure to tighten
up the holders. I have one fuse that gets so hot it warps a little bit and gets loose in the holder. By making them all tighter you can avoid twitchy electrics or even a visit to the side of the
Rubber gets old with age and heat and oxidation. If you pop the hood on a S3 spider you will be staring at a lot of rubber. If the rubber has a braided outer layer then it is as old as your car. Take some measurements and go to the store and get some new hoses. Your car will thank you.
S3 Flywheel Position Sensor
Another S3 specific wear and tear item is the flywheel position sensors. They tell the computers the engine is running so it can do stuff like fire the injectors or spark plugs. They have an
integral insulation to prevent signal loss. Over time the insulation breaks down and eventually your car will not run. The test is easy to do and can be found in your shop manual. You can get
new sensors at any auto parts store. If your sensors are out of spec, even just a little, they are on their way out.You may be good for now, but eventually you will be shaking your head on
the side of the road.
Slow Windshield Wipers
Slow, slower, and slowest. What am I describing? The windshield wipers. Raise your hand if you avoid driving your spider in the rain. Ok, so a leaky top might be part of why you keep your
car dry, but that is not the only reason I am sure. Despite the persistent rumors, your wipers did not come from the factory that way. If you want them to be awesome once more, you need to
disassemble the linkage and clean and lubricate
everything. You even need to take apart the motor and lube it up. Also check the joints on the arms used when you pull the wipers away from the windshield. Those rivets get worn and
loose. This can cause chatter when the wipers are used. I think replacement is the only solution for that one.
Beep, beep! Do your horns work? They are positioned low on the front of the car and absorb a lot of moisture when you drive in the wet. When you use your horn you should hear two tones. They are high and low. The horns tend to need a good cleaning at the mounting point and the electrical connection. My horns rarely get used. It is always a surprise when you need them and nothing happens. Keep them clean and happy so they will be there in case of emergency.
Brass Exhaust Manifold Nuts
Last but not least, grab a 13mm wrench and tighten those exhaust manifold nuts. They are made of brass and tend to get loose over time. Every 6 months or so give them a good tug and
you will never lose one. If yours are not brass, get some. The major parts suppliers have them but your local hardware store might as well. They are important because the brass does not
get rusted in place the same as steel nuts. Unfortunately the same properties that make them so easy to remove also make them get loose from time to time.
This concludes my list of items requiring attention on most spiders. You may have things to add.
Please send an email (
) if you think I missed a major item. I do not know much about SPICA cars so maybe they have some different components.
These items are the sort of things I look for first on any spider I buy, and are the things I find most when someone has a problem with their own spider. Hope this is helpful to everyone.
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