Auto Restoration for Beginners

akashinoakashino Member Posts: 36
Okay, hopefully we can have a good conversation
here about Auto Restoration from engines to bodies.

I'm hoping that this will put to pro's and
amateurs together for some honest and insightful


  • akashinoakashino Member Posts: 36
    Okay, I have a 1979 Suzuki LJ80 that my father put away 13 years ago and hasn't touched since. It's a 2 seat 4x4 with a 797cc engine and a 4 speed manual tranny. A month before he put it away, it was fully serviced (valves, oil, grease, new plugs, etc).

    I recently dug it out of the garage under a tarp covered in dust and found it in excellent shape, no rust, no puddles from any fluid.

    Now, I want to get this thing on the road again. The tires have to be replaced, I will replace all hoses, drain and replace all fluids, check all seals.

    My question is this: What would you strongly suggest I do to ensure that the motor doesn't blow up when I try to start it? Should I take the whole thing apart? Should the gaskets be replaced?

    Any insight would be greatly appreciated.
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Sonoma, CaliforniaMember Posts: 64,482
    I've started engines that have sat longer than that. It kind of depends, I think, on the conditions under which the car was stored. In some engines, the piston rings have rusted to the cylinder bores, and well, then you are pretty much hosed no matter what you soon as you turn the engine, no matter how gently, the rings will break.

    But if the engine isn't stuck when you try to wiggle it (DON'T DO IT YET!), you may come out okay.

    Here's what I'd do....remove the spark plugs, squirt Marvel Mystery oil (about 2-3 tablespoons)into each cylinder, let it sit overnight. Next day, squirt some spray lube in each cylinder (NOT WD-40...WD is not a lubricant, oddly enough---go find the word lubricant on the can if you don't believe me!)...anything, chain lube, silicone lube, whatever...then try to turn the engine by hand...if that works, next step is to disconnect the ignition coil wire (on some cars with electronic ignition, it may be best to ground this wire before cranking) and then spin the engine on the starter for 10-15 second bursts. Assuming you've checked for a clean fuel supply already, you can then reconnect the ignition and give it a try. Once it starts, just let it idle until you have some oil pressure and it starts to warm up. Then rev it a little bit for 5-10 minutes altogether. Then shut it off and drain the oil and refill with clean oil and filter.

    That should do it....oh, and while the engine is running, check for can run without water for some time, but not without oil of course.

    I've brought back many engines from the dead. Be optimistic. The only engines I had bad luck with were flat ones (like VW and Porsche)...they seem to suffer mightily from storage.
  • andy_jordanandy_jordan Member Posts: 764
    shocks / springs.

    It sounds like the car wasn't jacked under that tarp so is there not a risk of suspension damage? I always thought thatif the vehicle wasn't moved for a prolonged period of time the weight of the vehicle would cause the car to 'settle' (for wont of a better term).
  • ls1v8ls1v8 Member Posts: 34
    If Shifty's method fails to produce the desired results that is, is to pull the heads and wack a piston or two with a 3lb hammer and a chunk of Oak!

    Remember the first rule of Auto resto though. "Don't force it...Use a bigger hammer.
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Sonoma, CaliforniaMember Posts: 64,482
    True enough, if an engine is stuck solid, you don't have much to lose by getting aggressive.

    Sometimes the suspension comes back to life with some driving around, sometimes not. Tires and brakes are usually shot, though.
  • akashinoakashino Member Posts: 36
    I'll try the Mr Shiftright's method, but what the heck is Marvel Mystery oil?

    The trucklet was fully serviced (I'm talking engine overhaul, body work and fresh paint) and then put to rest for some unknown reason, so who know's what it's like?

    I've bought all the replacement hoses (downright cheap for this sucker). Drained the gas tank and replaced the fuel hose and filter and will probably change the oil and filter this weekend before I try to start the engine since I don't know what the oil is like after 13 years.

    Rad's been flushed and pressure tested with no leaks.

    Found an grease stain on the right rear axle so I'll assume I have a leaking axle seal which I'll get the dealer to fix.

    Oh yeah, forgot, drained and replaced the oil in the differentials (front and rear) and the transfer case.

    My goal is to get it running well enough that I can get it to the dealer for a full systems check on the brakes.

    Hope I've done enough.
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Sonoma, CaliforniaMember Posts: 64,482
    You've done more than most people would!

    Oh, Marvel Mystery oil is just a light can use automatic transmission fluid, which is like a 10 weight very high detergent oil...any light oil will do.
  • ls1v8ls1v8 Member Posts: 34
    Where is the Bardall man when we need him.

    Ls1v8 feeling mighty old right now. "What is Marvel Mystery Oil?" Heaven help us, and pass the STP, please.....
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Sonoma, CaliforniaMember Posts: 64,482
    I think you need to re-think this whole thing...the project is going to cost you an enormous amount of money, you know. Had you thought about just buying another of the same car in mint condition for around $3,000 and, if you are sentimental about the old one, use some of the parts on the new one? Someone else I know did this, and felt pretty good about it afterwards.
  • rea98drea98d Member Posts: 982
    I was told by my cousin (ASE Mechanic) that it would take at least 10 grand to fix this car up, and it would be worth about a fifth of that when I got done. Then again, I never looked as cars as an investment (which, to me, implies you're looking for a monetary return. Old cars are the wrong way to go.) Besides, I'm not gonna do the whole thing at once. I'm planning ot take it in pieces, and spread the cost over a longer time. First will be the tranny, and get the car drivable. Then the engine. Then work on cosmetic things like paint, interior, ect. Anyway, its not so much as liking a 78 Mercury for being a 78 Mercury, but because I practically grew up in that car, learned to drive in that car, went through high school and a year of college in that car. I don't think a different one (even in identical colors) would have the same "feel" to it. Then again, I've learned sometimes you do things despite the practicality (or total lack thereof).
    Look on the bright side, I'm jumping in with eyes wide open 8-)
  • akashinoakashino Member Posts: 36
    Funny, like rea98d the LJ80 I'm restoring was the car I learned to drive in and had it all the way through high school. A lot of good memories in the little trucklet. A lot of friends have taken a ride in that thing. Anyway, I'm with you, it doesn't have to be a classic, it just has to be meaningful.

    By the way, the tire size on this thing is nothing I have ever seen before. Must be an old way of doing tire sizes. I'll post it later and maybe someone can help me convert it.
  • dgraves1dgraves1 Member Posts: 414
    Please don't tell us us it looks something like E78-14. Then I'm going to feel old. I still have to translate metric sizes into the old letters before I have a feel for how big of a tie we're talking about.
  • akashinoakashino Member Posts: 36
    ... dgraves1,

    Hate to do this to you there buddy, but believe me, no intent to make you feel olf. The tire size believe it or not is FR78-15.

    Can anybody tell me what size tire I should be looking for???

    Suzuki LJ80 Update:

    Suzuki Canada was kind enough to track down a service manual in Japan and get it to me, what a godsend!!!

    Spent the weekend taking the engine apart and draining replacing all fluids. The oil filter was a bugger, ended up getting one from Canadian Tire after making the parts guy go through his tech library. Not the same, but it will due for now.

    Replaced all of the rad hoses and pressure tested it, good to go.

    Took the valve cover off and lubed the valves, lifters, camshaft, rocker shaft et al., new gasket, and closed her up.

    Used an air hose to get oil in the cylinders and turned the crank a number of times to get it lubed and moving.

    Wiring, distributor, rotor are in A1 shape. Replaced the plugs after

    Got a new battery and will install it next weekend.

    Should I replace the timing belt since it hasn't moved in 13 years?

    Now, next step is to clean and replace the airfilter (replaceable foam) get gas in it (I drained close to 3 gallons 13 year old gas), and fire it up.

    My goal is to get the engine running, warm it up and check for leaks. If no leaks, get it towed to the dealer for brake work (I don't trust myself on the brakes) and check the axle seals and such.

    Any thoughts from the folks with experience out there????
  • dgraves1dgraves1 Member Posts: 414
    There's probably a Table somewhere. Working backwards, the 15 is the wheel diameter in inches on both numbering systems. The 78 is the aspect ratio which is the same in both systems. 78 used to be pretty standard, anything lower was a "low profile" tire. The "R" just means radial. Now the fun part - in the metric size, the 225 is the width of the tire. But in the "old" system, the letter (F) was a load rating so it was dependant on the tire volume. Therefore, you can't just translate the letter into a width. The width would depend on the wheel size and the aspect ratio. So an F78-15 would have a different width than an F60-14.
  • dgraves1dgraves1 Member Posts: 414
    The answer is that people didn't do much sizing up or down then. When your tires wore out you got new ones just like the ones you had. The drag racer types (like me) just put the biggest damn tires they could afford and fit on the back and didn't worry about what it did to your speedometer reading.
  • ls1v8ls1v8 Member Posts: 34
    Amen dgraves. I used to buy the widest 14 or 15 in Bias belted tire $25 would buy. Redlines were optional
  • akashinoakashino Member Posts: 36
    I drained about 4 gallons of gas out of the tank. It was left as is for 13 years. My question is "is there anything I should be doing to the gasline?" I mean is leaving the gas in there for 13 years going to cause me problems? Also, what do I do with the old gas? I'll bet dimes to donuts that the gas is leaded so wht can I do (Legally) with it????? Is it good to use? Can I treat it with a stabilizer and use it? Water it down with fresh gas and use it?
    HELP !!!! :-)
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Sonoma, CaliforniaMember Posts: 64,482
    No, gas breaks down over time and forms a nasty varnish like substance. All you can do is bottle or can it and take it to a toxic recycling place in your area. Stabilizers are meant to be used in GOOD gas to keep it stable. It can't help gas turned bad already.
  • akashinoakashino Member Posts: 36
    Thanks Shiftie, but what about the stuff I couldn't siphon out???? Will adding a tank of fresh gas dilute it? Should I take the whole gasline apart and flush it? Will it have done anything to the gasline, gas pump, fuel gauge or gas tank?
  • andy_jordanandy_jordan Member Posts: 764
    What is the best way to clean varnish, carbon etc from an engine / fuel system.

    I know of a couple of engine cleaning systems - Motorvac and another whose name escapes me from the North East, but does anyone know if they work.

    What about some of the bottle systems, anyone know?
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Sonoma, CaliforniaMember Posts: 64,482
    Oh, I think you just take everything motto is that nothing out of a bottle will fix an ailing engine.
  • andy_jordanandy_jordan Member Posts: 764
    that was what you were going to say.
  • rea98drea98d Member Posts: 982
    To have a barbeque! Nothing like the tasted of possum roasted over an open gas can!
  • akashinoakashino Member Posts: 36
    That would be great idea if we had possum's in Toronto ;-)

    Anyway, I took apart the brakes and guess what I found? Rust, crud, leaking wheel cylinders and lot's of fluid. But the most exciting find was that the beast has drums on all wheels plus an "emergency" drum brake (now called a parking brake) on the driveshaft behind the transfer case.

    The brakes are NOT self adjusting. You actually have to periodically go through a hole in the drum and spin the star wheel to adjust the shoe clearance.

    Man, talk about freakin' STONE AGE !!!!
  • akashinoakashino Member Posts: 36
    Okay, fuel system is clean, new filter and all, so the line is bone dry. Do I have to prime the line or will the pump get it going? If not, how do you prime it?????
  • ls1v8ls1v8 Member Posts: 34
    If the usual ways fail, I've taken an air hose and stuck it in the gas tank filler neck to force gas up the fuel line to the fuel pump...
  • lefty53lefty53 Member Posts: 1
    Does anyone know how to polish syainless steel to look like chrome?
  • akashinoakashino Member Posts: 36
    Okay, the engine runs, but rough. Got a lot of exhaust, but no blue smoke so I'm happy. Problem is that the battery wouldn't charge and when I hit the light switch I could hear the relay under the dash going nuts, and then she stalled. I did run it for a half hour and she got nice and warm but not hot and NO leaks :-)

    Could it be an alternator? Can an alternator go bad just sitting in a dry garage??? Could it be the relay? Could it be anything else?

    Also, the roughness in the engine. Should I have taken the carb apart knowing that the gas in the fuel system before I drained it was old leaded gas, or could it just need a tuneup after 13 years in hibernation?

    Thanks in advance.
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Sonoma, CaliforniaMember Posts: 64,482
    Could be lots of things...ignition probably, old plug wires, corrosion....a good run on the road might help (also known as an "italian tune-up").

    How old is this battery...if more than 4 years old, throw it out and start with that.
  • akashinoakashino Member Posts: 36
    ...would be a good choice if I had the wheels and brakes setup

    Anyway, the battery is brand new. I'm going to take a voltmeter to the alternator tonite.

    As for Italian tune-up's, a friend also suggested blowing the crap out of the cylinders by using measured amounts of distilled water and a hot high reving engine by putting the water in through the carb. Apparently the explosiveness of the steam as it hits the cylinder will blow the heck out of the crap in there like the carbon deposits and blow it out the exhaust. Just becareful not to use too much water at a time since you could blow the engine.

  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Sonoma, CaliforniaMember Posts: 64,482
    A "gyro-gearloose" suggestion if I may say so in the spirit of good-natured criticism. Where do people come up with these ideas? Pour water into a carburator? Why not gasoline into washing machine?

    You could also check for VACUUM LEAKS...this can be done (carefully) by spraying a small amount of carburator cleaner on any hose, clamp, connection, or at the base of the carburator (stay away from spark plug wires and distributor cap!!!)...if there's a vacuum leak, the engine will abruptly change idle speed as it sucks up the carb cleaner.
  • rea98drea98d Member Posts: 982
    Well, Akashino, if you really want me to, I'll volunteer to try it on your car :-)
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Sonoma, CaliforniaMember Posts: 64,482
    Yes, but 'water-injection' is done by a metered fine spray/mist through a valve inserted in the intake manifold,which mixes with the fuel, and that does work (presuming anyone has carbon in their engine hardly ever see it). But this injection is a far cry from emptying a flower vase full of water into a running engine through the carburetor!
  • akashinoakashino Member Posts: 36
    ... I did a quick call to my local mechanic who has used this process in PAST. He would probably agree with you. The funny part is that if you look in the Pop Mechanics book, they have a picture of a guy pouring water from a water jug into the carb and add you should only add about 3 tablespoons (I think iwas tablespoons) at a time while a friends guns the engine.

    Wonder how many people have screwed their engines trying this?


    You'd have to come all the way up to Canada to do that, and coming from Texas, you'd probably end up freezing your behind off in my garage, catch pneumonia, and end up in the hospital near death making me feel really guilty, so thanks anyway. :-)
  • akashinoakashino Member Posts: 36
    1: Since the "rubber" timing belt hasn't moved in 13 years (but was almost brand new when the car was put away) should I replace it?

    2: I will replace the brake fluids and have to replace the wheel cylinders and pads since the sucker leaked, but what about the brake lines? Should they be replaced?

    3: The body has VERY little rust except on the inside of the wheel wells. My intent is to bring the car in during the winter, jack it up, grind the rust spots downs to bare metal, prime, rust proof and paint it. Is their anything else I should do or look for to protect the body?

    4: If the dealer can't get parts, where is the best place for me to start looking? I checked out UAP which is limited and left a message for Suzuki Canada. What about scrap yards or other sources for a '79 Suzuki LJ80??? What about the yellow pages? Where should I check? Canadian sources would be great, but other sources are also appreciated.
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Sonoma, CaliforniaMember Posts: 64,482
    I'd definitely replace the belt if the engine is an interference fit...if it isn't, no big deal, you'll just come to a dead stop with no damage if it breaks.

    Finding parts is all about persistence. You can find just about any part for any car in the world if you are dogged enough. Salvage yards are great if they let you retrieve your own parts or if they are at least well organized. A lot of them are lazy or won't bother to fetch a small part for you.
  • akashinoakashino Member Posts: 36
    After much problems with the electrical system, I went back to the basics, cleaned the battery connections/cables with a soda paste and sand paper, and low a behold, it works !!! Battery is charged and my voltage regulator isn't freaking out.

    I got a can of carb cleaner and pretty much emptied it and she runs a lot smoother now.

    Still no leaks, but I'm going to shampoo the engine (she's just caked in grime) to be sure.

    One thing I would recommend to everyone is that if you take something apart, clean it. Inside and out, every nook and cranny.

    The brakes are next and will be worked on this weekend.

    Body Work:

    Can anybody give me the name of a good book or video on bodywork? The body has no visible rust, but the inside wheel wells and underside are starting to show signs. No dents or dings, but I do want to be proactive on the rust. Since I have no roof, I'll probably store it in the garage over the winter and work on it then.


    Is there anyone in the Toronto Canada area who knows a place where I can get a soft top roof for this thing fixed??? All the plastic windows are toast and have to be replaced.

    Leaded Fuel:

    This is a leaded gas engine. Does using unleaded gas have any effect good or bad? Should I use a lead supplement???

    Ta ta for now !!!!
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Sonoma, CaliforniaMember Posts: 64,482
    Unleaded fuel won't matter as long as you don't indulge in racing or heavy duty towing, neither of which is, I think, in the cards for this vehicle.
  • andy_jordanandy_jordan Member Posts: 764
    You might want to try getting hold of the Guild of Automotive Restorers for some help with the top. They are based in Bradford, and whilst they don't usually deal with cars like this I am sure they would love to help you out.

    Not sure what it would cost, but you would get a good job.

    I didn't post this sooner because I was trying to find their website which I now have. It is:

    Others may want to check it out, they have some truly fantastic cars for sale - have a look at the sales page.
  • akashinoakashino Member Posts: 36
    Thanks Andy !!

    I just might take a day trip this weekend and go up there.

    FYI, though very much a nostalgia thing for me, restoring the Suzuki is kind of like going to kindergarten. Hopefully, as I learn more, I can move up the ranks into real classics, and just bgetting to know things like this site and the Guild will all help out in the long run.

    FYI, I'm in Mississauga, work downtown King and Bay.

    Thanks a bunch.
  • andy_jordanandy_jordan Member Posts: 764
    It is a small, small world

    Used to work at King & York - Exchange Tower - now out at the airport (off Matheson). Currently living in Stouffville, but probably headed north in the not too distant future - long drive, but worth it for the country.

    As I am sure you know classics can be addictive (as well as hard work), but very rewarding.

    Say hi to the Lister XJ-S if you go out there - I think it would look nice in my garage - I'd even let them have my current XJ-S in return.

    More seriously, let me know what the set up is like - I am bound to need their services before too long.

  • akashinoakashino Member Posts: 36
    Helping a friend rebuild an old T-Bird. The beast was locked up in some guys garage and was in pretty good shape. We worked on the engine and got it fired up. It ran really rough so we shut it down. Did some more work on it and fired her up again. This time we smelled smoke, but not oily smoke or electrical smoke. We smelt burnt leaves and paper!?!?!

    We shut the motor down and noticed more smoke still coming out of the exhaust... burnt leaves.

    Anyway, we ripped the exhaust off and checked inside. It was jammed up with a mouse nest and still smoldering... no more Mickey. :-(

    Anyway, thing works fine now. Goes to show that you better check everything before you fire her up. We didn't. Could've been a lot worse.

    Amazing what you can find...
  • akashinoakashino Member Posts: 36
    I had to replace all the brake lines and flex hoses this weekend. What a pain bending and cutting and flaring, but makes me feel better having goood lines. Question: Should I put a layer of rust proofing on these lines?

    Also, I had to rebuild the old wheel cylinders. Replacements are + or - $100 each and the car has 6 (2 for each front wheel and one in each of the back wheels). Has anybody ever converted a front drum system to a frontdisc? Just a thought.

    Thanks !!!
  • akashinoakashino Member Posts: 36
    Well, I got the car on the road and she run's well. The body is in great shape except for rust on the underside and in the wheel wells. My intent is to bring it in during the winter and do some body work on the underside.

    Question: Should I get the underside oiled for the summer to prevent the rust from spreading?

    Question 2: Should I consider just rust proofing it as is and forget about taking it apart this winter?
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Sonoma, CaliforniaMember Posts: 64,482
    No! Rust works from the inside out, not vice-versa, so sealing the rust with "rust-proofing" is closing the barn door after the horse has left.

    You can't really "stop" is relentless...either cut it out or let it go, would be my advice.

    For the short term, you can use a rust neutralizer or neutralizer/primer, but don't expect miracles.
  • akashinoakashino Member Posts: 36
    Thanks Joe,

    Point is taken. I think I'll leave it until the fall when I can store it in the garage and do some work on the underbody since they use salt during the winter here for the roads.

    I also just wanted to say thanks for all the insite. This being the first car I've ever worked on, your insight and everyone elses has been greatly appreciated. Now maybe it's time for me to save up and get a "real" classic to work on.

    BTW, the car has passed the emissions test that the goverment has up here with flying colours. I had it on the highway and it tops out at about 62 MPH or just under 100 kmph, but what do you expect for a 41 hp 4 wheel drive Tonka Toy????
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Sonoma, CaliforniaMember Posts: 64,482
    If you can keep up with traffic, that's all you need with an older car.
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Sonoma, CaliforniaMember Posts: 64,482
    Fortunately for you, since you did not sign a contract with the offender's insurance policy, you can enter into a non-binding arbitration (you don't have to accept the referee's decision). This will require for you to hire an appraiser who is willing to write up the car's value as higher than what you are offered right now...then you present this appraisal to a referee, as does the opposing side, and the referee decides. In theory, if you're lucky, you get enough money to cover the cost of the arbitration (you pay half, the opposing insurance company pays half) and make some money besides.

    Other than that, all you have left is a court case, which doesn't sound very feasible cost wise.

    Given that it sounds like your car wasn't in very good shape cosmetically, and that you didn't already have an appraisal on file, I'd have to say that your chances aren't all that good for getting a decent settlement. The 280ZX doesn't bring much on the market, and you can buy decent ones pretty cheaply.

    What are you being offered?
  • ataieataie Member Posts: 84
    where's a good place to find restoration parts for Mercedes?

    currently working on a 64 220 SEb, and having a real hard time finding the exterior rubber/weather strips. dealer is asking way too much.

  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Sonoma, CaliforniaMember Posts: 64,482
    Hi Ataie,

    answered you in another topic. Try hemmings motor news and the new EBay Motors on Ebay Auction's site.

    Dealer's prices are nuts for these cars, but for certain small items that you don't want to buy used, they may have the only game in town.
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