Removing your car from storage/Reviving a Dead Corvair

Need to know how? Want to show how?
Post Reply
User avatar
Scott H
Site Admin
Posts: 3786
Joined: Tue Nov 17, 2009 5:21 pm
Location: Hesperia, CA

Removing your car from storage/Reviving a Dead Corvair

Post by Scott H »

Great article written by Larry Claypool

Removing Your Car from Storage
Larry Claypool
Chicagoland Corvair Enthusiasts

Storage of cars always presents problems. Aside from the cost of procuring a storage place, the most troublesome aspect of not using your car is fixing all of the deterioration that occurs from disuse. Having had plenty of experience in this field (“It’s been in the garage for three years now, do you think you can fix it?”), I offer these suggestions for putting your Vair back in service, whether it had been sitting for four months or four years. First off, plan on spending the day with your Vair to get reacquainted. After all, you can’t expect it to jump out of hibernation without a little coaxing.

Let’s start with the engine. If the car has been parked for a half year or less, there should not be any problems due to rust (unless the car had been parked in the swamp section of your yard or the engine lid left open).
If the car has been left untouched for longer periods, however, it is advisable to take the following precautionary steps.

Step 1
Put a wrench to the crank pulley to see that it is not locked up. If the engine won’t turn over, remove the spark plugs and squirt liberal quantities of penetrating oil into the cylinders and down the carbs (leave the plugs out). Let it sit a day, at least, then try to turn the crank again (do not use the starter). If the engine still does not turn, go directly to Step 2, repeat the penetrating oil transfusion, then try the starter. If the engine frees up, cease cranking immediately. Turn the crank bolt with the wrench at least four full turns to check for stuck valves. Should you find the engine won’t complete a full turn (goes 1/2 of the way around, for example), remove the valve covers and squirt the valve stems with penetrating oil. With the crank halfway between where it stops, tap all the rocker arms (at the valve end) with a light hammer to see that the valves all move. Sticking valve(s) will not snap back. Dose it liberally with penetrating oil, and if it is an intake valve, dump some down the carb on that side. Rock the crank lightly back and forth against the stoppage point, tapping the rocker arm at the halfway point each time. Continue to rotate the crankshaft until several turns can be made without binding. If the engine did not free up at all, might as well plan on a rebuild. Even though you might be able to free a badly seized motor, the end result is usually not worth the effort. Rusted cylinders and rings never recover, resulting in excessive blowby and oil consumption.

Step 2
Change the oil and filter if you didn’t change it before it was parked, or it you had to use penetrating oil to free the engine. Next, remove the distributor cap, note the position of the rotor and the distributor housing, then remove the distributor. Special tools are made for this step, but you can also use a long bladed screwdriver on the end of a drill. Engage the blade to the oil pump gears down at the very bottom of the distributor hole. With the drill in normal clockwise rotation, run the drill for 20 seconds or so to get oil through the filter, cooler, and bearings. This prevents damaging dry start conditions that will make its first start its last one. When re-installing the distributor, check the points to see that they have not corroded (as they will from sitting), and that they are gapped properly (about 0.016²). After the car is running, the points should be checked again, and reset if necessary with a dwell meter to give 32 to 34 degrees of dwell. Line up the rotor and distributor housing the same way they were when you removed the distributor, and re-install. It may be necessary to turn the oil pump gears a bit to let the distributor seat all the way down.

Step 3
Check the fuel system. Is there any gas in the tank? Or did it all evaporate or leak out a new rust hole or cracked hose? Gas leaking from tunnel covers underneath is a dead giveaway of rusted out gas lines in the tunnel. Check the gas pedal to see that it’s not sticking (your engine doesn’t need 6,000 rpm when it first starts!). If the pedal sticks, curable by removing, sanding, greasing, and re-assembling the gas pedal and support. By loosening the fuel pump retaining bolt and nut, the fuel pump can be pushed up and down by hand to fill the carbs without cranking the engine. After the carbs fill up, watch for gas coming out the carb vent holes. If it does, you have a stuck float—tap the carb top with a hammer to unstick it. Work the gas linkage to check for a nice, strong accelerator pump discharge in the air horn of the carb. If no accelerator pump action is seen, then plan on disassembling the carb to replace the pump plunger or, better yet, put in a whole carb repair kit. Occasionally, the pumps come back to life after being submerged in fuel a few hours, so you may want to delay the rebuild a day or so.

Step 4
Assuming you have gotten this far, pop in a nice, fresh battery, making sure the cable ends are clean and tight. With the carbs full of gas, it should start up with no problems, although the lifters will no doubt make quite a racket. If you’d oiled up the engine before shutting it off prior to storage, it will probably let out quite a puff of blue smoke, too. Just let the engine run awhile (don’t get rev-happy), and it’ll quiet down and clear out. After the engine is running, check the fluid level on the Powerglide and add as necessary (some fluid probably leaked out of the shifter cable during torque converter drain down). Manual shift cars should also be checked for fluid level in the transmission and differential, as some may have leaked from the transmission selector shaft seal. 1964 and ’65 have a dipstick to aid in the check, but you still have to get underneath to fill up the transaxle if it is low. Now that it is running like a million bucks, you’re ready to floor it off down the road, right? Not so fast. Another area of your Vair that takes a real beating while sitting is the brake system. Hop into the driver’s seat, grab the steering wheel, and stomp on the brake pedal. After you stomped on it real hard, try it again, even harder. This obviously is the hard-harder test. What we are looking for is rusty brake lines. Oh sure, they may seem OK driving around the block, but what if you had to really stand on the brakes, say if a ’66 Chevy veered out in front of you? I’d rather blow out lines in my driveway than wear Tony Barretta’s rear bumper! If your car has been sitting only a few months, the hard-harder test and check of the brake fluid should be all you need.
Vehicles in storage longer, though, should go deeper into the brake system. Pull off one drum at a time, and have someone push slowly on the brake pedal as you observe the wheel cylinders. Both pistons should move out. No action, or only one piston moving, signals time for a rebuild or replacement of the rusty culprit. Before reinstalling the drum and checking the next wheel, how is the drum? Rust on the braking surface tends to collect and glaze the brake material rather than wear off the rust.
When checking the rear brakes, have someone pull up on the parking brake, then release it. The brake shoes should do likewise—expand and then pull back. No movement or sticking would indicate a frozen rear parking brake cable. Surely little is more embarrassing than yanking up the parking brake the first time and not being able to drive away later.

Step 5
The final tip on getting the car running for the summer is to check the fuel filters in the carbs to see how they look after a few days of driving. If they are all full of rust and crud, chances are all that junk is .from the gas tank. The best method is to pull out the tank and have it flushed out, or if it really bad, install a new one. At this time, the strainer on the end of the gas tank sending unit should also be replaced. Although some people try to get away with just blowing out the lines and installing an in-line filter, the inconvenience of “gas-outs” and innumerable filter changes would seem to make doing it right the first time more attractive. Hope these tips lead to a fun, and faithful, summer of service
from your Vair!

Posts: 1
Joined: Fri Mar 29, 2013 7:35 pm

Re: Removing your car from storage

Post by chasgould »

Hey Scott,
Thanks for the exceptional article about removing Corvairs from storage. Very concise and informative. I was hoping that I could ask for some advice. I just acquired a 1968 Corvair Monza. Apparently the engine has a number of stuck valves, and at least one broken or bent pushrod.
I have had good luck freeing stuck valves on other cars without removing the heads by grabbing the end of the valve stem with a pair of needle nose vise grips, and gently rotating the valve while dousing it with penetrating solvents.
Can you tell me whether it is possible to grab the Corvair valve stems without removing the heads, and is it likely that I will be able to free the valves without disassembling the engine? Can I et the broken pushrod out with a magnet, or by dropping the pushrod tubes? Can I remove the hydraulic lifters either through the tube holes or without removing the heads? Is there any reason to replace the lifters? or just the broken or bent pushrods?
Thanks for any help that you can offer. Please respond to me directly at as well as on the forum.
I also have a Ramp side pickup!

User avatar
Scott H
Site Admin
Posts: 3786
Joined: Tue Nov 17, 2009 5:21 pm
Location: Hesperia, CA

Re: Removing your car from storage

Post by Scott H »

I have not personally done what you are attempting so I cannot speak from experience. BUT yes you can get the lifters out and pushrods out without removing the head. Just pull the valve covers and you'll see all that you will be dealing with.

Jerry Whitt
Posts: 884
Joined: Thu Sep 26, 2013 2:42 pm

Re: Removing your car from storage/Reviving a Dead Corvair

Post by Jerry Whitt »

Previous posts suggest priming the oil pump. One way to do that, is use the shaft from an old distributor, remove the gear at the end, then put the shaft into a drill motor, and
put shaft down through the distributor opening and engage the oil pump. Spin the oil pump for a while. If you have an oil pressure sender switch still there, place a car battery in the area, hook the a continuity light to the positive on the battery, and touch the other end of the pigtail to the oil sender blade. Ground the battery to the engine.

When the drill motor spins the oil pump, the pressure should trigger the switch to turn off the light. Light "off" means pressure opened the switch.

Another option. I tried this on a fresh motor, installed but not yet started. With spark plugs out, battery and starter hooked up, used the continuity light to the sender.
Then cranked the engine until the light went out. Now sure oil pressure all through the engine.
Jerry Whitt
Hemet, Callifornia
65 Monza, purchased new
65 Corsa convertible

User avatar
Scott H
Site Admin
Posts: 3786
Joined: Tue Nov 17, 2009 5:21 pm
Location: Hesperia, CA

Re: Removing your Corvair from storage / Reviving a Dead Corvair

Post by Scott H »

How to start up a Corvair that has sat for a very long time.
Written by Rad Davis" onclick=";return false;

Do you have a checklist of things to do before attempting to start an engine that has been sitting for so long?

1. Jack front of car, cut rubber line in middle, drain all fuel (or whatever) from tank. Plug tank cut line piece (clamp), add 1 gal acetone to tank. Cap tank. Let it sit at least four days. Disconnect fuel pump inlet steel line. Blow through with compressed air, and then soak in acetone as tank is doing. Be sure to plug pump end of line or acetone will evaporate. Drain acetone from tank and line, blow line out with air. Connect tank, line, engine with new rubber hoses (even if the engine end hose wasn't bad before, acetone isn't good for it).

Trust me on the fuel system stuff. It is much easier to clean tank and line than repetitively do carbs. If you're not planning on driving the car, and just want to run the engine, get a 1/4" pipe-barb connector, attach to fuel pump inlet, and feed the engine from a tank and hose behind the battery or somewhere. Don't feed the carbs from those 19-year static lines.

2. Remove the distributor and all six spark plugs. Put the heaviest engine oil that will pour at the available temp range down the plug holes (about 50 mL/cyl). Drain crankcase and refill with cheap, but not brand X oil in a 10/40 or 20/50 grade (coking restrictions don't apply--you won't be using this oil for even 500 miles). Change filter. Let oily cyls sit for at least a day before attempting to turn the engine. Get/make pump priming bar (bar stock with flat ground on one end is my fave, long spoon bits and discarded distributor shafts have also been used). Hook to your strongest drill-motor, set to clockwise, and give a good rip. When the drill slows down, you've primed the pump. Let it run another 30 sec like this (use a watch-it seems like an eternity). Then try to turn the engine over with a wrench on the crank pulley. If successful, turn engine slowly with wrench while running oil pump--this will fill each rod bearing as the galleries line up. Go through two full crank revs like this. If your drill is strong, you'll get 20-30 psi, which is enough to pump the lifters and pushrods up, which will also save you some grief. If the wrench wouldn't turn the engine, try a little more leverage(but don't try to
break the crank bolt--it will). If this didn't work, a fresh battery and the starter are worth a try. If the starter won't budge it, you're down to kerosene, marvel mystery oil, and your favorite deity. If the starter *does* budge it, stop as soon as it moves, and turn it by hand--can break rings on rusty bores otherwise. Engine turns? Hand-turned and primed
through two revs? OK. Next step:

3. Hook fuel pump up to fuel source. Take off the air cleaners and cross-pipe. Jack up back end of car so that rear wheels are clear of ground. Use jackstands, because you're going to run it like this. Check diff and trans oils (don't skip this one—trust me!). Put it in neutral, install a fully charged battery, and give it one last drill motor priming before you reinstall the distributor (don't hook up yet--don't want any ignition just yet). Check everything visually, and then get somebody to turn the key while you watch the engine. Spin the engine over on the starter motor for 30 sec (use watch again--it's even longer when you're holding the key to "start"). You're watching for gasoline to flood out of a carb... The oil light hopefully went out quickly during this. With no plugs in the engine, the starter motor just slung oil all over the engine from the crank throws, which is what we want. It also blew oil out all six plug holes, so clean up the mess and install the plugs. You probably already primed the fuel pump with the starter, but check it for prime now. Of course, if you have a stuck or sunk float, you found out about pump prime from this...

4. Hook up the ignition and fuel systems. Check belt tension. Start the engine. IF the carbs primed, and you set the timing right, it'll almost certainly catch. If it doesn't seem to want to, check for oil fouled plugs, though this is rare after 30 sec of no-plug cranking. If it catches, only let it run for about five seconds, then cut it off, put it in first or low, and restart. This allows you to pump lubricant to all the transmission parts quickly, and coat the diff gears all under no load. A fast idle should be enough to throw some oil to the pinion bearings, but I usually change to fourth or high to make sure it works (this is about
equal to 20 mph wheel speed). Fourth(3rd if no 4th) in the manual transes also locks the shafts on the trans, which removes any load from the cluster gear, ensuring it sees oil before load.

5. Let it run with the rear wheels whizzing over for at least fifteen minutes. Make sure the chokes and thermostat doors open normally, but don't take it off the fast-idle cams--it needs to sling oil around inside everything. It'll smoke you out of the garage--beware. When it's hot, put it in neutral, synch the carbs, set the timing, etc. Put the engine back together.

5a. For manual transes, the clutch is almost certainly rusted together. The quick way to *try* to pop it loose is to put it in fourth, start the engine (drive wheels spinning again), and when the engine is warm and torquey, tromp the clutch to the floor (you checked for adjustment first, didn't you?), goose the throttle and yank up on the handbrake. Either a)
the engine will die, b) the clutch will pop loose, or c), you will find the handbrake doesn't work. If c), manually set the fast-idle cams on the engine to get it spinning fast, then push the clutch to the floor and tromp the brake pedal. A) or b) will occur. If a), a more aggressive second effort may succeed. If it doesn't you get to pull the engine and
do the clutch.

If b), or your automatic works right, Grin, drink beverage of choice, take it off the jacks and go for a short drive (short only till you check out steering and flush the brakes).

BTW, if you had an auto trans, these will sometimes suck up a quart of fluid to fill the convertor. Be sure to check fluid level before actually moving the car with the engine for the first time, and watch it carefully for the first ten mins driving or so for level changes.

where do I go to get acetone?

Once upon a time, you could even get it at K-mart. Look in the paint supplies section. Be warned, though, that acetone is flammable, potentially explosive, and a pretty good anesthetic. So be careful around it. Oh, and it has a much higher vapor pressure than most components of gasolines, so it's still a danger even at relatively low temperatures.

I've been through this step already, but i used marvel mystery oil.
why do you recommend using the heaviest oil that will flow at ambient?

MMM is a good penetrating oil, which is what you need if something is stuck. If it isn't stuck, it needs lubrication far worse, since all the oil that lubed the bores ran into the pan years ago. Heavier bodied oils have a higher film strength, and you're in a marginal lube situation, so that's important. Hence heavy oil in the cylinders. This isn't so critical before the starting process, but when the engine fires, combustion pressure forces the rings into the bores with several hundred lbs of pressure, so good lubrication is mandatory if you don't want scuffed bores and rings.

Then try to turn the engine over with a wrench on the crank pulley.

any worries of varnish in the fuel pump?

Some, but more worries of brittle parts breaking when you mess with it. Just put fuel through it, and it'll be fine. The volume of the pump is so small, and basically nothing in it makes powdered rust. So there's just a layer of varnish inside. Acetone will remove plasticizers from the rubber parts, so don't flush it with anything but gas. Just trust the gasoline to do the job. A small squirt of engine oil down the vent hole on top won't hurt anything either...

I applied a little common sense over the weekend, so I've primed the oil pump (twice),
and turned the motor by hand about 16 crankshaft revolutions. i was able to
verify that the pushrod tube seals still leak

Priming *while* turning crank is key to getting pressure to all the bearings. Looks like you've lubed at least some of the valve gear, though, or you wouldn't have seen oil coming out pushrod tubes. Good work.

I pulled the tops off the carbs, and neither one had much scum in the bottom, but the gas was pretty dark.

That's varnish. It is what happens when gasoline oxidizes. It also makes the float pivots and needles stick, which causes the flooding. Go over these carefully and make sure they move freely.

the accelerator pump cups were crusty, so i'm ordering the "minor kit" deal from clarks. i'm probably gonna pull the fuel tank so i can replace the rubber filler and vent tube sections, and i plan to order the rubber fuel supply and return hoses.

Not a bad idea. Put the acetone in along with some clean granite gravel (old ball bearings, or what-have you. Seal all the openings and shake the tank like jiffy-pop. This will dissolve/shake loose the powdered rust and varnish that would otherwise end up in the carbs. Oh, and seal the tank while you have it out.

thanks for the acetone reference. I was wondering what i should use to get rid of the varnish in the tank.

I discovered the acetone trick by accident. In the last job I had, I was
in the habit of dumping good flammable chemical wastes with a high octane
rating into the fuel tank in small doses. Cheaper than waste disposal,
and a little octane boost too. Had just gotten my (now crunched) '65
corsa cp, and it had sat for several years before I got it. Poured in
about 1/2 gal of acetone and plugged up the fuel stones on the way home.
It had completely dissolved the varnish that was gluing all the powdered
rust inside the fuel tank, and the stuff happily suspended into the fuel
and was carried to the carbs, where it plugged the stones. After that
tank was gone, the fuel system was pristine, and never plugged a stone again.

Acetone applied as a rinse to the Greenbrier's tank gave similar results.

Post Reply

Return to “DIY - Explanations and Demonstrations”