Rebuilding Our Carburetor (the Bane of Our Cortez)



Having recently made great progress on our 1965 Clark Cortez motorhome by welding then sealing and painting its roof, my hopes were high to move on to more important and fun jobs.

This is why finding petrol spraying out of the carburetor when driving the Cortez one afternoon was not what I expected.

I was driving the Cortez to the garage when I noticed the strong smell of petrol. Then (due to not having engine covers) I saw petrol spraying from the front of the carburetor over the top of the intake manifold on the engine.

It was here (several cuss words later) that I shut off the engine and determined my only option: I need to remove the carburetor, rebuild it, and reinstall it.

Driving back to the shed where we store the Cortez, I attacked the carburetor with several tools, got it removed, and (with those other more important, fun plans for the Cortez put on hold) headed home. 

Once home, I prepared to head outside to clean the carb because the smell would be potent since our carburetor was covered in oil and gunk on the outside and full of petrol inside. However, with L being as amazing as she is, she recommended me work in the sink so — before she could change her mind or get a whiff of the overwhelming smell — I blasted foaming engine degreaser and carb cleaner on our carburetor before scrubbing it with an old toothbrush.

Cleaning and recording video as I went (so that I had a reverse map for the reassembly), I systematically disassembled the carburetor. With the parts wiped down and bagged, I next did research to find and quickly purchase a full rebuild kit online for our carburetor (which is a Carter BBD two-barrel carb).

The following day, the parts were placed in my work’s heated ultra-sonic cleaner with extra care to make sure not to contaminate $5,000 worth of cleaning solvent!

There’s no wonder it did not run right because it had been absolutely disgusting — The amount of dirt removed was really impressive!

Use the slider arrows in the middle to compare before and after solvent cleanings!

After the cleaner, I blasted all passageways with high-pressure air then cleaned the mating surface (where the carb sits on the engine) with sandpaper.

I should point out that I have never removed, disassembled, cleaned, and reassembled a carburetor, but I was excited to tackle it. I was also really interested in making a stop-motion video — This is where multiple photos are taken of a process then laid together to make a video. Therefore, armed with the carburetor, rebuild kit, camera, and tripod, I was ready …

Playing and pausing the video taken during the disassembly, along with using several carburetor drawings from the kit, I set to work rebuilding it with the new parts provided. Beyond taking awhile to capture the stop-motion video (made of over 600 images), the rebuild took a little over an hour to complete — It certainly wasn’t the quickest way to rebuild a carb, but it was fun and went well. I went from this …

to this …

The result was a carb that was not only clean but looked almost new, and the best part is I did not have any leftover pieces!

If you have precisely 58 seconds to spare, check out the video (and give it a like) — I only left off a cheeky squirt of lube after because I didn’t want to stain my paper!

Later with our rebuilt carburetor in hand, L and I went back to the Cortez. We agreed rather than bolting our shiny carburetor to our filthy engine, a little tidy would be beneficial so we armed ourselves with a few tools, load of cleaning rags, cleaner, degreaser, and new gaskets.

First, we disassembled the top part of our engine by dropping the coolant out of the radiator. (For mechanics and enthusiasts, the coolant in our engine runs through the intake manifold so this is necessary to avoid coolant draining inside the engine when the intake manifold is removed.) After, we took out our thermostat housing unit, which had built up rust and grime.

Next, we removed the valve covers, followed by the intake manifold.

(I should mention the manifold is a lump of cast iron and weighs about 40 pounds — It’s ridiculous!)

Then it was time to clean: I cleaned the engine inside the Cortez …

while L set about cleaning the valve cover and intake manifold outside.

Both were proper rank so was attacked with a combination of a sharp pointy thing to dig out crud, wire brush, engine degreaser foam, and oven cleaner. Here is L being the top wife she is giving both parts a good wash then brake cleaner before both were been deemed clean enough.

It turns out the valve covers are red and have a cool old Chrysler Industrial sticker on them — We’d never seen the stickers before!

While I de-rusted bolts inside the garage …

the wife did a fantastic job outside giving the valve cover and intake manifold a good rinse — The star even had time to pose for a photo for ‘the Gram‘.

From here, we should have taken the time to clean the other valve cover and paint the engine parts to further improve the look, but at the time we were focusing on get the Cortez running again so knew we would return to this in the future. This is why we began reassembling our engine. All was going smoothly until I was removing one of the heater fittings and broke the engine temperature sensor with a spanner … oops! Bless, L was shocked (mainly when I twisted the spanner over the sensor a second time) — I don’t think she understood the sensor is easy to pick up.

About an hour later, we were bolting our clean carburetor back onto the intake manifold, connecting all of the vacuum and fuel lines, and finishing off with refilling our radiator with coolant.

“Do you think it’ll work?” asked L.

“Maybe yes,” I replied.

“What percentage?” she wanted to know.

“I’m a solid 40% chance it’s going to work,” I answered.

Apparently, this wasn’t a high enough result for L — Trust me, she let me know how she felt to have worked that hard for not even 50%.

Did it fire up? OF COURSE IT BLOODY DID! … for five seconds anyway.

Here’s our reactions in those five seconds …

We tried again, but this time the battery was simply too tired to turn the engine over enough to pull gas from the tank at the back of the Cortez to the engine at the front. Realizing that we weren’t going to make progress without charging our battery, we set L’s car to work.

(Yes, not only is my wife amazing, talented, hot, and wields an angle grinder like a boss, she also owns a 2017 Subaru STI.)

After a couple of attempts, there were still no signs of life from our our engine so we packed up and headed home, picking up a battery charger en route. With the battery charged all night, we planned to returned again to the Cortez.

The Cortez seems to be putting up a fight with everything we do, but we’re more stubborn.

On our next visit to the Cortez, we installed the battery and crossed our fingers.

“We can only go up from here,” L told me.

“In flames,” I said back and turned the key …

The starter motor burst into life, turning over our big 5.9-liter V8 engine far better than it had before! It was idling strong but very fast (3,000 rpms)! The look of excitement and relief in both of our faces could clearly be seen.

After letting the engine run for a couple of minutes, we turned it off and began looking for coolant or fuel leaks. Fortunately, we didn’t find any and — other than a ton of black soot on the floor from the exhaust over fueling from the carburetor not being setup …

Overall, we were happy, and a proper test drive was in order!

That’s when I fired up the Cortez again and pushed the clutch down … but there was no clutch so that’s another job and story for next time!

Author: Andy

Ey up! I’m the calm, laidback, English one of the two. If L is the fuel, I’m the engine -- Without her, I’m pretty happy being sat still. That said, when I’m out and moving I make the most of it. I’m super squeamish, a stickler for the rules, and if I’ve not had a cup of coffee in the morning it’s probably best to let me be. I love fishing, hiking, and vehicle mechanics and I’m not scared of learning something new!

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.