Saturday, June 29, 2013

Terror of the Vacuum Leak

Tuesday brought me a most unpleasant surprise.  My 1956 Ford Fairlane left me stranded in Calais, about 11 miles from home.  It was a most sudden and unpredicted experience, and of course it happened on the hottest day of the year (thus far), and when I had my wife and 3 of my 4 children along for the ride.

Pulling out of Hospital Lane onto South Street, the engine went dead.  As soon as I gave it gas, nothing.  It rolled to a stop in the wrong lane, and I was fortunate to have nobody coming down the road toward me.  That gave us time to push the thing back out of the way before traffic flowed.  An older gentleman then stopped and further helped us push it down the road and into the driveway of a now vacant house; that little green one across from Palmer Street with the boat painted on the garage.
The 1956 Ford Fairlane after its triumphant return.
Once we were out of the way, my wife went to call for help.  While I sat with my 3 daughters in the car, I did a quick exam of the engine.  I had first thought it was the fuel pump, but checking the carburetor I found it was certainly getting gas.  I tried the ignition again, and it actually started, but the engine was really rough.  I turned the car around and waited for the tow truck.  Once we were back home, I checked my second suspect; the old vacuum lines.  There are 3 of them, and after a quick inspection the problem became clear.  They were goners.

Rotten hose, split off the carb!

The hunks of hose appeared to be original, putting their age at 57+ years old.  Two of them were in really rough shape, and the primary vacuum advance hose was split right off of the carburetor.  I'd noticed the car was getting sluggish at times, and that explained why.  Tuesday's heat must have been the final straw that made them get so bad the car wouldn't even run.

Fortunately, I still had a fresh hunk of vacuum hose from the old wiper motor I had to scrap.  You see, I'd bought a brand new hose for the vacuum wipers last summer while I was still trying to  get them working, but since the old motor had refused to cooperate, I replaced it with an electric model.  So, I had this nice hunk of hose lying around that came in real handy.  I replaced all 3 vacuum hoses, and what a difference.  Without a vacuum leak, the car is back to running right.  It's something I should have done a while ago, and I wouldn't have had to pay a towing charge.

Vacuum leaks are the bane of old engines, and a few dollars worth of hose can make all the difference.

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