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20 Ford Mustang Performance Tips & Tricks - Tips 20 You Can't Live Without!
20 Tips That Made Us Say, "Gee, Why Didn't I Think Of That?"
Have you ever been working in your garage and had a friend look at a problem you were puzzling over and give you the exact solution? It always seems to come out something like this: "You know, if you had moved the whozzy-whatzit behind the flibber-flobber, you could have removed that doomaflotchy an hour ago." Stunningly, they are right. We hope that some of these tips will do the same thing for you as your friend. Certainly, some of them did that for us.
Along with the new tips, we had to include some old ones as well. These are for the newcomers to our hobby and are such staples that we can't help but put them in year after year. We also thoughtfully included icons that let you know what the tip is for. The Resto icon deals with such things as keeping the pedals clean before a show or how to attach mudflaps. The Shop icon shows some tips that will help keep things neat around the barn. The Tuning icon will give you tips that may help you tune or work on your steed. And finally, the Safety icon deals with things to keep you and your Mustang safe, whether on the road or in the garage.
Let's just say that you have a bulb that is no longer in production or is difficult to locate. We ran into this recently with the Lazarus Project. The 1187 flasher that Ford used on the brake warning light portion of the Convenience Group was not locally available, and we were at that stage where the dashpanel needed to be reassembled. This posed a problem. After years of being bashed around, the bulb's electrode was worn out. Contact with the power wire was sporadic at best; however, we tested the bulb and found it to be good. What to do? Simple. We just pulled out our soldering iron and soldered a new tip on the bulb, then ground it down to the basic shape of our good bulbs. We now have the correct flasher bulb at the cost of some solder.
Fuel system safety is a big issue for classic Mustang buffs. But there is much you can do to make the ride safer. Mustangs assembled prior to the summer of '67 suffer from poor fuel line routing where the fuel line travels close to the left, front wheelwell, making the line vulnerable to injury. A stray stone or an accident can damage the fuel line and potentially start a fire. If accuracy is less important to you than safety, we suggest retrofitting your '65 to early '67 Mustang with a late '67 Mustang body fuel line.
In the late '67, Ford rerouted the body fuel line behind the left-hand framerail extension and through the torque box to the framerail. This can be accomplished on '65 to early '67 Mustangs with minimal effort. For '67 Mustangs, you will have to bore a 31/44-inch access hole at the front and rear of the torque box in line with the body fuel line. For '65-'66 Mustangs, simply run the line along the framerail extension and join it to the forward framerail line with a 51/416- (six-cylinder or small-block) or 31/48-inch (big-block) fuel hose. In the interest of safety, we suggest you use a braided fuel line hose that will tolerate today's harmful fuel additives. You can even install a narrow inline fuel filter in this location for added measure.
Tune For Performance
For years, most of us have been using a timing light to time our engine's ignition system. But did you know that an engine can be timed without the use of a timing light and with better results? Your engine's timing mark is located on the harmonic balancer or crank pulley. Harmonic balancers consist of a hub and an outer ring separated by rubber. Over time, the rubber deteriorates, allowing the ring to slip, thereby disturbing the timing mark's position, which leads to an erroneous reading when we use a timing light. This is where the value of becoming at one with your engine comes into play.
Understanding how your engine works allows you to effectively tune it better. During the four-stroke power cycle inside each combustion chamber, spark timing affects how much power will be derived from a fuel/air charge. Engines work best when the fuel is ignited prior to the piston reaching top dead center (TDC). Igniting the fuel before top dead center (BTDC) allows a smooth light-off, where heat and pressure get fully underway by the time the piston reaches TDC. This makes effective use of the fuel/air mixture and woof! we have a hot, productive light-off. If we light the mixture at TDC, light-off, heat, and pressure won't occur until after top dead center (ATDC), rendering the spent mixture ineffective. We then have a noisy, underpowered slug.
Advancing the ignition timing to where the spark occurs at the proper time before TDC gives us more power and smooth performance. It gives us torque and good throttle response. We get spark advance via the vacuum advance unit and the centrifugal advance in the distributor. The vacuum advance gives us spark advance when the throttle is opened and the vehicle is under acceleration. When engine speed is underway, the centrifugal advance takes over where the vacuum advance leaves off. The centrifugal advance advances the spark as engine speed increases. Between the vacuum and the centrifugal advance, we should have a total of 36-40 degrees of total spark advance at 3,500 rpm.
Relatively stock V-8 engines should have an initial advance of 6-12 degrees BTDC at idle speed with the vacuum advance hose disconnected. With the vacuum advance hose connected, timing should be 12-16 degrees BTDC. We tune for power by opening the throttle and bringing engine rpm up to 3,000-3,500. If you're using a timing light and you know the harmonic balancer is correct, total advance should be 36-40 degrees with the vacuum advance working.
How can you tell by ear? Easy. Hold the throttle at 3,000-3,500 rpm and slowly walk the distributor clockwise. When a miss develops, slowly turn the distributor counterclockwise until the miss stops. The engine should be running smoothly. Allow the engine to idle, then goose the throttle, and see what the engine does. It should respond smoothly and smartly without stumble, a ping, or a misfire. If it pings (spark knock), adjust the vacuum advance for a slower rate of advance because it is advancing too quickly (check the service manual for this procedure).
If, while driving, you hear pinging under acceleration, retard the initial timing or slow the rate of vacuum advance. And remember, too much spark timing (advanced) will harm your engine. Keep your spark curve conservative.
And one more thing. If your harmonic balancer's outer ring has shifted, immediately replace the balancer in the interest of safety.
Change All Fluids
Experts tell us we should change our engine oil every 6,000 miles. But did you know that you can infuse more life into your transmission, power steering, rearend, and brakes with regular fluid changes? A Mustang's components are hard on the fluids that lubricate them, even when they're weekend drivers. In fact, life is even harder on vehicles that sit for extended periods because fluids grow stale, seals harden, and metal parts corrode.
Power steering systems run extremely hot, breaking down the fluid and harming the seals. The same is true of automatic and manual transmissions, and differentials. This might be overkill for some of you, but we suggest changing all lubricating fluids every 20,000 miles. Automatic transmissions get a filter change as well at this interval. Brake systems should be flushed and bled every time brake shoes or pads are changed.
Cooling systems should be flushed and replenished with a 60/40 antifreeze/water mix every two years. Do this in the spring and inspect the cooling system for leaks. Always properly recycle the old coolant.
If your Mustang is an occasional driver, we suggest a complete fluid change every 1-2 years-power steering, transmission, rear axle, and brakes. Clean fluid is the best life insurance you can give your Mustang.
The experts suggest an engine oil and filter change every 6,000 miles. We suggest clean oil and a fresh filter every 3,000 miles. If you're running a synthetic oil such as Mobil 1, Royal Purple, or Castrol Syntex, change the oil and filter every 6,000 miles. Occasional drivers should see an oil and filter change every spring before firing the engine.
While we like the idea of Halogen headlights, we have to say that you might be better off with regular incandescent lights if you aren't planning to install a new light switch. The reason? Simply put, the switch that is now thirtysomething years old was not designed for the higher draw of the Halogen bulbs. A new switch will not necessarily make the situation better, but it will be new.
Have you got a tech tip that is too killer to keep to yourself? If so, send it in and we will inspect it with our withering gaze. If it meets our approval, we'll proudly print it in Pony Tales. Send Your Tip to Tech Tip c/o Mustang Monthly, 3816 Industry Blvd., Lakeland, FL 33811.