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Car Guy Diary – 4/30/2014 – Counting on Carbs

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The last American vehicle factory equipped with a Carburetor rolled down the assembly line in 1991. Fuel injection has replaced “carbs” as the fuel metering method of choice for new cars and trucks since then, making them run cleaner and more efficiently while allowing them to tune themselves while they drive.

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But there are still plenty of vehicles out there that rely on the old carburetor for their minimum daily requirement of unleaded. Additionally, there are still plenty of aftermarket performance carbs being made to supply the hot rod and performance car and truck enthusiast with an inexpensive alternative to fuel injection. Under the hood of most vintage vehicles, like my ’65 Rambler Marlin and my wife’s ’76 Pontiac Grand Safari, you will find a carburetor still mixing the air and fuel for the engine to inhale. Rebuild kits are available for these units to keep them working their best.

Like brands of cars and trucks, there are different brands of carburetors as well, and car guys all have their favorites. Rochester carbs were found on most General Motors cars including my beloved Pontiacs. A few Fords got them too. Holley would appear to be the most popular brand as they not only showed up on a slew of Fords and Chrysler vehicles from the factory, but Holley’s are also the dominant aftermarket performance carb. Carter was the brand of record for most Chrysler cars and trucks and their four-barrel units were marketed for aftermarket performance use as well. Edelbrock, the performance parts giant, makes a new version of the Carter four-barrel carburetor for performance hungry enthusiasts. Motorcraft carburetors, made by Ford, naturally found their way under the hoods of scores of Fords and plenty of AMC cars and Jeep 4X4s.

Me, I’m a Rochester man. They are simple, easy to tune and repair and with only two gaskets; they are not prone to leaking like some other brands. The Marlin, much to my chagrin, has a Carter WCD two-barrel carb mounted on its 232-cubic inch straight six engine. I think this carb is needlessly complicated, has more gaskets with their accompanying possibilities of leaks and about 50% more parts than an equivalent Rochester two-barrel.

Changing to a Rochester was not in the cards at this point so when it began to look like it was time to do something about the way it ran, the Marlin was scheduled for a carb rebuild. A rebuild kit was purchased from Rock Auto.com and my factory repair manual was studied closely as this would be my first Carter WCD rebuild, but it would not be the first time this one was apart as I would find out later.

A few simple tools and a few minutes later, the filthy, leaky old Carter was on the workbench, ready to be rebuilt. Now, just to be clear, this was a rebuild, not a restoration. The carb was completely disassembled, all the parts were soaked in a carburetor cleaning solution, the tiny passages and orifices sprayed with cleaner and then the whole thing blown dry with compressed air. If I had been restoring the carb, I would have sent it out for a more thorough scrubbing and re-plating process to make it look factory fresh. All I was looking for was a return to factory function. And with one small exception, I got it.

As I alluded to earlier, this was not the first time this carb was apart. I didn’t need to be clairvoyant to know it either. All I had to do was spot the fact that there was a part missing from deep in the guts of the old Carter. A small machine screw used to cap off one end of one of those tiny internal passages and its accompanying gasket were not in attendance when the carb was disassembled. Because it was a special screw, particularly small, with a special head and threads, I couldn’t just go into my bins and pull out a replacement. So despite being as clean as a whistle inside and out and having all new gaskets and seals, one of the big reasons for the rebuild was not addressed as the missing screw leaves the old Rambler with a cough on acceleration that often makes it to stall.

A fellow Rambler enthusiast on Facebook is graciously supplying me with the missing screw so that I can cure the Marlin’s cough once and for all. Once the new screw arrives and the carb is back up to snuff, the Marlin and I will be able to count on it to do what it was designed to do.

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