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240z Tips and Tricks

When you work on enough cars and bikes, you start to learn little tricks. I've learned a few good ones with my 240z project, so here are a few of my favorites.


The Factory Service Manual

240z Factory Service Manual If you're going to work on your car, nothing beats the genuine factory service manual. Aftermarket books, like from Chilton or Haynes are ok, but the factory manual has better pictures and diagrams and is specific for your car's year. Click here for a free pdf version.

Take it to your local print shop and print it double-sided, then have them do a spiral bind which allows the manual to lay flat while you're working. Trust me - it's worth a couple extra bucks.


Air Cleaner Restoration

240z Air Cleaner If your car's air cleaner looks faded and dull, Dupli-Color makes an almost-exact match.

It's called Chrysler Hemi Orange, part number DE1652. You can find it online, but the local O'Reilly auto part store had the cheapest price and I didn't have to wait for shipping. Give it a good cleaning (dish soap and steel wool work great), then use some fine grit wet sandpaper to smooth out any scratches and pits. Rinse it, dry it, then give it several light coats of paint a few minutes apart (no need for primer) and let it cure for 3-4 hours.

How does the filter look? What about the gaskets that go between the air cleaner's backing plate and the carbs? It's easy maintenance while the paint is drying.

If the thin rubber seal around the edge of the air cleaner cover is broken or rotted, your local hardware store probably has some small adhesive-backed foam intended for doors and windows. Before you do any painting, remove the old rubber and clean the little channel it sits in with a rag and some rubbing alcohol. When the painting is done, apply the foam.


Easily Clean a Rusty Fuel Tank

240z Rusty Fuel Tank A 50 year old car can accumulate a lot of rust. One of those places is inside the fuel tank. The best way to clean a tank is to drain the gas, then remove the tank from the car. (See below on how to make new vent hoses on a budget.)

There are a lot of traditional methods to get rid of the rust. One is vinegar - fill the tank and let it sit overnight, but that requires nearly 15 gallons (which is pretty stinky). Another method is muriatic acid - pour some in and gently slosh it around (make sure you wear rubber gloves and eye protection) and let it sit for an hour, then carefully pour it out (and neutralize it), then wash the inside several times with water. A third method is to throw some ball bearings or hex nuts or a piece of chain inside (along with some water) and shake it vigorously for 10-15 minutes. All of those methods work to varying degrees, but there's an easier and cheaper way.

Think about chroming a bumper. It's suspended in a tank of solution and connected to the positive lead of a power source. Also inside that solution is a plate of chromium connected to the negative lead of a power supply. When the power is turned on, microscopic particles of chromium flow from the plate to the bumper. Leave the power on long enough and a nice layer of chromium covers the bumper.

To clean a fuel tank, you reverse the process. Tilt the tank on its side and plug every hole. Completely fill the tank with a solution of water and one cup of Arm & Hammer Washing Soda (not baking powder). Suspend a steel rod or bar into the tank thru the fuel level sensor hole and (this is important) don't let the rod touch any part of the tank. Use a piece of wood as an insulator. Clean a small part of the tank (such as the filler tube) down to bare metal. Connect the negative clamp from a battery charger to that bare spot. Connect the positive clamp from the charger to the steel rod, then plug it in.

The rust on the walls of the tank will gradually break free and flow to the steel rod. It's seriously that easy. Every half hour or so turn off the charger and pull the bar out. It'll be covered with ugly gunk. Wipe it clean, drop it back into the tank and turn the power back on. Within about two hours the inside of the tank will be sparkling clean. Turn off the power, remove the rod and the clamps, then rinse the tank clean. Unlike acid, the washing soda is safe to pour down the drain. Put a little oil inside and slosh it around to coat the surfaces to prevent any rust coming back. I sprayed mine with WD-40, which worked quite well. Instead of oil you can use something like POR-15 to coat the interior and prevent it from ever rusting again.

That's it. You're done.


The Redneck Rotisserie, aka Wooden Rollover Jig

240z Redneck Rotisserie The best and easiest way to repair underbody rust, or add reinforcements, is with a rotisserie which allows you to rotate the car's body to any angle needed.

Unfortunately, the type of rotisserie used at body shops is too expensive for a one-time use by someone who only uses it once. Some people have bought engine stands and modified them to accomplish the same thing, but I think it's easier and cheaper to build one using ordinary lumber. I saw several examples on YouTube and decided I could make my own.

It only cost about $60 and worked great. Click here to see how to make one yourself.


How to Straighten Hoses

240z Coolant Hoses When you buy bulk hose at your local parts store, it's always curled because they have it wound on a spool. To straighten it out, use an old piece of wood and some nails to hold it in place, then use a heat gun to soften it up. You need to get it pretty hot, then let it cool and repeat the cycle a few times.

Be careful with the heat gun to prevent it from melting entirely, or worse, catching on fire.


Fuel Tank Hoses

Ace 240z Hose A couple of the fuel tank vent hoses are molded to specific shapes. If you try to use an ordinary hose it'll kink and close. Some people put a long spring inside the hose to keep if from collapsing. I couldn't find a spring that would fit, so I wound about 3' of woven cable on the outside. It's 1/8" diameter and you can get it at your local home improvement store. The sharp ends were covered with a few blobs of epoxy. The result is a hose that won't kink. Look at how far I was able to bend it.

A bonus is the protection. One of the hoses is slightly underneath the body and right next to the tank. With the cable wrapping there's no chance of the hose chafing or splitting.

The pair of stock molded hoses was about $100. Using bulk hose and cable was about $20.

Warning: never use coolant/heater hoses to vent gasoline. They will rot. Always use hoses made for gasoline.

Shaped Hoses

240z Brake Booster Hose A pre-made brake booster hose is expensive. The cheapest I could find online was $95 but I made one that looks nearly identical (and works just as well) for a mere $15. Click here to see how.

Remove Floor Deadening With Dry Ice

Ace King's 240z I didn't invent this method, but it's certainly worth passing along. When these cars were being built, they applied some sort of thick, rubbery insulation on the floors and transmission tunnel. Over the years it becomes rock-hard. Removing it is nasty, ugly work, typically using a heat gun and a putty knife and a lot of toil.

Buy a block of dry ice and a large bottle of rubbing alcohol. Break the ice into small chunks and dump them into a bucket. Pour the rubbing alcohol over the chunks of dry ice and stir until it forms a thick slush. Pour that slush directly on top of the insulation. Within 15-20 seconds you'll hear cracking sounds. The slush is so cold that the insulation freezes and turns brittle, and in the process it shrinks so quickly that it breaks itself into pieces and pops right off the steel floor. Bang on the insulation with a hammer to break it up even further. A putty knife can easily scrape up the little remaining pieces.

The dry ice and rubbing alcohol will evaporate, leaving clean metal behind. It takes about 10 minutes on each side.

Warning: make sure you have good ventilation because you don't want to breathe the vapors - you could suffocate from a lack of oxygen. Wear thick gloves because dry ice will burn your skin.

The sides of the transmission tunnel are a little tougher. Use the same kind of slush but pour it into a plastic bag, drape it against the side, wait 2-3 minutes and then you can break apart the insulation, but only in that area. It's slow but still better than a heat gun.

Compact Emergency Spare Tire

240z Sentra Spare Tire From 1972 and up, there are a pair of storage compartments behind the seats that can be used for the jack and handle. The '70 and '71 don't have them. Instead, the jack and handle were stored in a pair of plastic boxes, which these days are nearly impossible to find. I discovered the emergency spare from an '07-'12 Nissan Sentra will fit a 240z hub and leaves just enough room in the tire well for a tiny scissor jack and wrench. It's also 13 pounds lighter. I snagged this brand-new one from a salvage yard for a mere $17. What a bargain.


Removing a Broken-off Bolt

Broken Bolt Removed Here's gift from the previous owner: a broken-off bolt for the differential mount.

A few threads were exposed, so I drilled a hole about 1/8" deep and managed to wedge a nut over the threads, then zapped it with my welder, starting inside the hole and slowly backing out. I let it cool off, gave a few careful tugs, and out it came.

Bonus was gaining a new marker for the next time I play Monopoly.


How to Remove a Broken-Off Tap

Remove a Broken Tap Having a tap to clean out rusty threads is great but if the tap breaks off in the hole it can be a nightmare.

Here's a clever method I found online to remove the broken part. Click on the pic to see how it's done.


Brake and Clutch Pedal Pivots

240z worn-out brake pedal Each pedal has a little hole to connect it to the brake or clutch master cylinder. Here's what the hole on my clutch pedal looked like after 50 years of use. It was so worn that it could have snapped at any time. Imagine being at a stoplight when it broke. Suddenly you ram into the car in front of you, or worse, you lurch out in the middle of traffic. Imagine that happening with your brakes.

My solution was to remove the pedals (one bolt and a spring for each one) and weld the holes shut. If you don't have a welder, a local shop can probably do it for a few bucks. Grind the welds flat and drill new holes. Grease the holes and the bushings when you put it all back together. Ought to be good for another 50 years.


Cleaning Rusty Parts - The Cheap Method

Vinegar Rust Remover If you don't have a sandblaster and don't have cash for chemical rust removers, use grandma's method: vinegar. Put the parts in a small container and fill it with vinegar and let it sit overnight. It's amazing how well it can work. Vinegar is stinky but non-toxic, so when the parts are clean you can pour it down the drain. Give everything a good rinse followed by a coat of primer & paint to prevent the rust from coming back.

I bought a 16 oz bottle for just 99 cents at the supermarket.


Cleaning Rusty Parts - The Faster Method

Evapo-Rust If you can't wait overnight with the vinegar method, use a chemical stripper. It costs a little more but works much faster. Evapo-Rust is pretty good and disolves nearly all rust in about 2 hours. Like vinegar, it's non-toxic, but unlike vinegar it can be poured back into the container and reused, so in the long run it might be cheaper.

There are other strippers on the market and some work even faster, but if you try to buy them at a box store they're special-order items and you'll probably have to wait several days before it arrives. I bought half a gallon of this for $10 at my local auto parts store.


Painting Bolts and Washers

Painting Bolts Painting dull hardware makes a big difference.

Use a piece of cardboard and poke some holes in it to hold the bolts upright. Washers tend to blow off the cardboard, so take some masking tape and make a loop with the sticky side facing out and use it to hold the washers in place.

If you're painting new hardware (like I do to make everything match), give it a good scuff with some sandpaper, then use rubbing alcohol to clean the surfaces. It makes a big difference.

Sorting Thru Nuts and Bolts

If you've been working on cars long enough you tend to have a jar or can of assorted nuts, bolts and washers. When you're looking for a certain piece, you usually have to dump the contents on your workbench to sift and sort, then pick up everything to put it back in the jar.

To make your life easier, pour the parts out on a piece of paper, do your sorting, then use the paper as a funnel to pour everything back in the jar. Another method is dump the parts in a dustpan, then use that as the funnel.


Dashcam and Radar Detector Wiring

Instead of using the cigarette lighter socket to power your dashcam or radar detector (with wires dangling), tap into the power at the dome light.

It's easy to pull the dome light fixture out of the plastic trim, then carefully/cautiously use a screwdrive (or an interior trim tool) to remove the plastic rivets that hold the overhead trim in place. Splice a red wire to the power side, add a black wire as a ground, then you can tuck both wires beneath the edge of the headliner over the door and over the windshield to where the rear-view mirror is located, and from that point it's easy to connect them to your electronics. Replace the overhead trim, replace the dome light, and you're done. Start to finish was about half an hour.

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