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Car Restoration: Common Issues with the Chevrolet Corvair

Updated on October 5, 2009

The Top Ten Most Common Issues


Car restoration is a chore and hobby. The objective is to get the car back to its new or original state. Whether it is a Corvair or other car, the same general issues for the potential buyer come to light.

The Corvair is a simple car in many ways, yet, it is made complicated because of time. Over time, knowledge about the car and its own nuances are lost, made complicated by the condition of the car. “Garage mechanics” come in all sorts of skill levels and their knowledge does not always apply to the Chevy Corvair. The GM Corvair manuals remain the best source, yet they also lack many times being written in the 60s. Many Corvair books have been written by expert hobbyists, these are great supplements.

In general terms, the Corvair you are trying to restore usually requires repair or adjustment of the following, depending on the condition (assuming the engine does not need to be rebuilt or removed):

1. Oil Leaks. Sooner or later, you will need to change the O-rings around the Push Rod tubes and use Viton rings. Once this is done, no oil leaks from this area for a good year or more. This is the most common areas for oil leaks (but there are many others also). If you change them, you need to adjust the valves again. Again, not a big thing after a few times.

2. Carburetion. New and old owners need to maintain them by cleaning when necessary. Taking them off and apart. Tiny metallic particles and other debris within the gas line or gas tank that is too small to sift out by filters, get through. When these particles get into the carburetor jets, they clog it. This then causes a host of problems from stalling at stops, poor idling, bad acceleration etc. Once cleaned and reinstalled, the next issue is obtaining proper adjustment. There are two of them: adjusting the air flow for them so both have a same or similar intake of air using a Unisync air flow tool. If the carbs are not in sync, you will have problems, and the car will not function well. The second is obtaining the proper RPMs while in idle by adjusting the Idle and Fuel Mixture screws on each of the carbs. The same adjustment made on one carb must be duplicated on the other carb, otherwise, problems.

3. Fuel tanks. Face it. The car is at least 30+ years old. It has seen way better days. Probably sat around somewhere for years before you got it. Gas sat in the tank for as long, decaying and turning to solids. Many owners either replace the tank and replace it with a new one (not fun to do) or add another inline fuel filter into the incoming fuel line near the left rear well to catch the debris before it hits the carbs. This is far cheaper and usually works. Of course, if it leaks, you must replace it.

4. Engine Overheating. If the car has been in a barn or out in the elements for some time, odds are critters may have used the engine area as a nest or home. Many times you do not know this unless you remove the top engine shroud to expose the cylinder fins and plugs, then you see the nests and debris that are within the finned areas. If enough of them are clogged, the cylinders are not able to keep cool and overheat. Normally, corvair engines never overheat and the single most common cause is this. Remove the debris and the problem should vanish.

5. Brakes. Most common thing needed is new brake shoes and wheel cylinders for each wheel. The problem usually occurs because rust has made simple chore into a nightmare. Clogged brake lines can be a chore as well.

6. Powerglide. In automatic transmission corvairs, a common issue is improper shifting or old brown AT fluid. One can either siphon the old fluid out (far easier) or slug it out with the mother of all bolts connecting the tube to the AT pan. If you have a problem getting a fluid stick reading while the car operates, you might need to remove and replace the modulator. If the modulator is bad, fluid is going to places it should not.

7. Shocks and Spring Coils. These are easy fixes only made into a nightmare by rust and time.

8. Windshields. The easy way is simply to pay $250 and have the guy come to your house and do it. The alternative is do it yourself and is more of a mess.

9. 3 or 4 speed Transmissions. If the tranny is fine, many issues hover around the stickshift linkage and needing lubrication. Renewing lubrication can do wonders.

10. For those with convertibles, removing and replacing the top is a major chore. It can take a few days for a novice to do and even then it may look “funky”. New tops can be got for $300 or so, the problem is doing it and a lack of instructions for it. If your interior seats are ripped etc., the cheap way to make it look good is to buy leather seat covers or you can pay over $500 to fix them.

A restored 1967 Corvair


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