i'd like someone to take a look at the following pictures and let me know what they think needs to be fixed/replaced in my ignition system. the car isnt running terribly, but i think it could have more power and well, this area is very rusty and dirty in general..
there's an oil leak beneath the distributor on the intake manifold? where is this probably coming from? i plan on replacing the valve cover gaskets today and thought about sanding and painting the valve covers at the same time - can they be sanded and painted easily or is the metal too thin for a good sanding?
should i replace the vacuum advance diaphragm? because it looks very old and rusty.
i cant tell if the points look okay or not, and maybe you wont even be able to tell from these pictures, but the condensor looks new and shiny.
i have a dwell meter i think in my basement that ill use to set the dwell..
on a side note, does this wire need to be plugged in somewhere? it's in the same strand of wires running from the firewall area to the alternator (4 wires) and engine block (coolant/temp switch?) on the passenger side of the engine. this wire in question comes out of the middle of the bunch of wires, about halfway to the alternator halfway from the firewall. it is also pictured.
to check your vacuum advance, take the vac hose that leads to the cannister and suck on it. With the cap and rotor off, you should see the rod from the cannister pull in as you suck on it. If it feels like sucking on a straw, it definately needs replacing.
Points and condenser I don't know how to visually diagnose. If you can set the dwell angle then it is probably fine. OTOH, these are CHEAP parts and easy to replace, so if you are unsure of their condition and aren't flat broke, then it might be worth $10 to do both.
BTW: setting dwell angle when tuning the ignition ismuch easier than setting point gap and more accurate - use that dwell meter! Also, always reset your initial timing if you needed to adjust the points - changing the points will alter the timing slightly.
The valve covers should be more than thick enough for a light sanding. But, freshly-painted valve covers will make the rest of the engine look even more dirty!
The oil leak by the distributor is most likely the gasket where the distributor goes into the block. It is just a circular piece, and any auto parts store should be able to get it. BUT, you will need to remove the distributor to replace it, so be sure to be careful to reinstall the dist with the rotor facing in the right direction, and reset timing afterwards.
The bog on your Q could be caused by a broken choke break diaphragm. With the engine running at idle, take off the air cleaner top. Then poke the secondary air valve door - it's the BIG flaps at the back of the carb. If they move easily, then the vacuum cannister on the passengers side of the carb near the front is at fault, or the vacuum line to it is leaking.
In general, I would suggest buying the book "Rochester Carburetors" by Doug Roe and then getting a rebuild kit for your carburetor. Rebuilding one is really easy, and when fresh and reasonably-tuned, these carbs perform very close to fuel injected engines in terms of throttle response.
You should be able to sand those valve covers down enough to get the old paint off without worry. Make sure you clean them good, prime them and use a high temp paint. I had actually switched mine out for chrome covers from a Goodwrench ProShop.
I really think you would benefit by replacing that coil. It looks like it has been in there a while. From the picture, it looks like the points were recently done.
I had the cheaper version of your car... the Oldsmobile with the 455. Looking at your pics, much was the same. I need to dig in my tool chests and see what parts I still have. I sold the car to a friend in 2002. Helped him sell it to an aquiantance of mine in 2003. I had driving rights (could drive the car anytime I asked) until he moved in 2004. I do not know where the car is now. I drove it daily for 8 years before I first sold it.
got the valve covers off and now i have pictures of what the top of the engine looks like - can anyone tell me how it looks?
is there any way to clean off the rocker arms, etc. since they look pretty dirty? or do they look normal to you?
i suppose ill need to clean the insides of the valve covers for sure and maybe vacuum out the rocker arm area and the intake manifold so no debris gets down into the engine after i reinstall the covers.
still no clue as to what the wire coming from around the passenger side valve cover is...
i removed the breather and im not sure how to clean the breather filter. there wasnt a replacement filter at the parts place and i dont see how youd get the original out anyway. can it be cleaned with brake cleaner or anything? as long as i let it dry for a while i figured that would be ok.
In that picture of the breather, you don't remove any filter from it. You replace the whole breather. You might not find one the exact size and shape. The one on the 455 was a little smaller. I did find one that was almost identical. Over time, the breather would get traces of oil in it. Instead of replacing it each time, I would just shove a rag in there and soak the oil up. I would try to replace for now though since it is the original.
As far as your rocker arms go, they don't look too bad to me. Do make sure you clean the top of those heads out. There are small oil ports in them that you don't want to plug up with any trash.
this might sounds stupid but, is it safe to vacuum out the heads around the valves and springs and rocker arms with a shop vac? im assuming there's nothing on the engine that would be loose enough to get sucked up. should i wipe it with a wet rag? use some sort of solvent? i dont want to damage anything of course. maybe this would be an ideal time for an oil change as well.
isnt there a risk of grease, grime, rust flakes, or dirt being pushed further down into the engine into one of the passages where the pushrods go or into one of the cylinders via the valves? i know they are very small passages, but how do i clean the thick layer of grime and caked, flakey grease while fighting the force of gravity?
I wouldn't worry about the rockers, they look fine. Regular oil changes are really the best way to take care of any sludge buildup.
If you really want to clean it out, I wouldn't worry about a shopvac - oil fumes are not nearly as volitaile as gas fumes. I defintely would NOT use any solvent unless you plan to change the oil right afterwards. IF you do use a solvent though, carefully pour some fresh oil over the rockers before putting everything back together to make sure they have lube, and run the engine at idle for maybe a minute to flush everything back down into the crankcase before draining. If your oil filter is in good shape, it will prevent anything getting pumped back into the system.