Car Upgrades and TLC
November 1, 2001
By Scott Lewis
When I got my written offer for my new job a slated some of the severance money from my old job for my Z-28. A full tune-up, wheels, tires and a lot of tender love and care.
I didn't think it would be a big deal to do a tune-up on my Camaro. But after checking my Haynes manual and getting a good look under the hood I felt I would be in over my head. (And I was right, as you'll see). So I got a friend that is a mechanic to help me out.
As it turns out you have to remove most of the spark plugs from underneath the car. The distributor cap is a huge pancake shaped unit that sits between the water pump and the front of the engine. Yes, the water pump must be removed, as well as the balancer/pulley. Now, I could have handled the water pump myself, but the balancer is another story.
We initial pulled the fans and were prepared to remove the radiator. However, it seemed the radiator and the A/C condenser would have to be removed together. Not wanting to drain and fill and A/C unit we decided we had enough clearance from removing the fans. The water pump was pretty basic. And as it turned out so was the balancer. It didn't require a puller, and came out with some delicate taping. I would not have known this.
The biggest problem was the distributor cap itself. It used four reverse torx head bolts to hold it in place. I never new they made such a thing. The head of the bolt looks like a torx head screwdriver, so we needed a torx socket. Fortunately my friend had something that worked. But two of the torx bolts were recessed. My friend took his tool to the grinding wheel to make it small enough to fit in the recessed area. Pretty inventive. Had I been by myself I would have given up at this point. Finally the screws that held the rotor on were torx head screws. Go figure!
My friend ran all the wires, which run from the lower front of the engine under the accessories of the engine and come up to the spark plugs. I did about half the plugs... and it was a heavy chore. As were the ones my friend did.
We also flushed the cooling system while we had everything apart. I took about 5 hours for the two of us to complete the work...including adding a Lingenfelter Cold Air Induction package to the car. This is the first modification I have made to the car. I hope to do more in the future, but with my new job 35 miles away, I don't plan on making any modifications that will decrease my mileage (more in an upcoming article).
Overall I was very glad I enlisted my friends help. It was well worth the $75 he charged me.
Before having the tune up done I took my car to Jiffy Lube for an oil and filter change. I asked if they do transmission fluid and filter. They refused to do them because I had not had the fluid changed before. The car had 60,000 miles. They say they have had transmissions stop working after changing out fluid that as that old. They also said they wouldn't touch the radiator and its coolant because it was so bad.
I took the car to a transmission shop for a filter and fluid change. They found nothing wrong with the transmission, but sure enough it wouldn't shift when I left the place. It turned out the throttle kick down was sticking.. no big deal. But I got a second fluid and filter change out of it just to be sure... at no extra cost. Cool!
That about covers all the mechanical maintenance for my Camaro. The grand finally was getting a set of Konig Monsoon wheels. I upgraded from the stock 16 x 8 wheels to 17 x 9.5. I also upgraded the tires from 245/50-16 to 275/40-17. They fit perfectly and look really nice. The wheels were on special for only $120 a piece. I couldn't resist. With the tires, mounting, balancing, lifetime warrantee, etc., etc., the total cost was $1309.
Let's total things up. I spent just under $400 for all the tune-up parts (the distributor cap and rotor was $140 alone) and a ton of car cleaning products. Another $30 for the oil, filter and lube. Plus $70 for the tranny stuff. That's approximately $1900 spent on my car. Realize that I am the original owner, and this is the first time any of this has been done... except the oil changes.
This should last me a few years... even putting 18K+ miles a year on the car with my new job. I will have a hard time getting used to that. My previous job was about 7 miles. I have been averaging 4-5K miles a year for the last 5 years. Now I will most likely break 100K in a couple of years. Ouch!
I am trying to get a friend a job where I work. If that happens I will try to car pool with him. He lives about 15 miles from me, but it is on the way. Sharing the driving just from his house should save me about 5000 miles a year. Well worth it.
As for the car cleaning products. I buffed the paint with Meguiar's Swirl Remover. This is the mildest way to "buff out" a car I have found. It is designed to remove the swirl marks from compounding. So it should be pretty mild on the paint. I also used their Gold Class Clear Coat Car Wax. I scrubbed the interior with some other products that worked well enough. Finally, I used Meguiar's Endurance High Gloss Tire Protectant. It looks about as good as Armor All's Ultra Shine, but is a gel that you wipe on. I have not been able to tell which is actually better... they are pretty close... but because the Meguiar's is a gel it goes on easier, and the bottle will last a lot longer than a bottle of Armor All. I'll report more on this at a later time.
That about covers it. I can't wait to get my car back inside a garage. It has been parking in the sun since July 2000. In a couple more months and it will get the protection it deserves. Unfortunately I don't have a garage at work anymore, so it still gets beat up by the sun 5 days a week. Maybe it is time for a car cover. I will be looking into them.