Piston Slap: Happy 30th Anniversary Edition, Edition

Sajeev Mehta
by Sajeev Mehta
piston slap happy 30th anniversary edition edition

Due north of Toronto, TTAC reader Nick R writes:

My dad’s Ford Thunderbird 30th Anniversary Edition (i.e., 1955-1985) hasn’t been started in about two years. It has 140,000km, never been winter driven and its original save for the radio (I still have the non-functioning original one though). I want to start cleaning it up and fixing a few little things, but to do that I have to get it started and run it.

It has been stored outside, under a cover, in my driveway. I know the oil was replaced and the tank filled up just prior to being put in storage. Prior to storage the battery was removed, the oil and coolant changed and the tank filled with gas.

After prolonged storage, is there any special I should do other than dropping a new battery in it? Are the tires likely to be flat spotted? I also need to fix the antenna, which got bent; any tips on finding a replacement for that would be helpful too!

Sajeev answers:

The 30th Anniversary Thunderbird was the first car I drove. I’ll never, ever forget its glowing digi-gauge cluster encouraging me to make things happen with my right foot. The unique blend of Turbo Coupe underpinnings with a 5.0L mill was awesome. I mean, for the time.

Luckily for me, my brother kept his rare Blue Bird. And it sits around a whole lot these days, lookin’ all sleek and Fox-y in the garage.

So I’d check the brakes: hold the pedal down and listen for a pop. If you hear it, you unfroze a caliper’s dormant piston. If not, you’ll need more than a brake fluid flush/bleed: examine the calipers (front) and wheel cylinders (rear) before you stray too far from the driveway.

Ah, about fluid. Burn off the old gas, re-fill and change the fuel filter. Change the engine oil/filter too. As far as tires, they might be flat spotted bad enough to not “come back” after a few miles of use. If they have dry rot (cracks), change them sooner rather than later. You’ll regret it when the belt separates from the tire and subsequently smacks steel belts all over your freshly waxed Medium Regatta Blue fender. Other than that, I think your hibernation regiment has you covered. Good job!

Bonus! A Piston Slap Nugget of Wisdom:

Sometimes Quality is NOT Job 1: the 5.0L engines older than 1986 used a Phenolic cog in the timing chain. Which won’t last much longer than 10 years/100k miles, and sometimes destroy motors when they fail. If the ignition rotor has slack and it struggles to crank, replace the chain with a roller unit for $80. Have fun with the labor. And, of course, thank FoMoCo for their brilliant engineering.

[Send your technical queries to mehta@ttac.com]

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2 of 16 comments
  • Sajeev Mehta Sajeev Mehta on Jun 09, 2009
    David Holzman : Sajeev, do you think maybe we could have special columns for people who have brought their problems to you to let us know how they turned out? Are you reading my mind? Whenever an update to a previous Piston Slap arrives in my inbox, it will get Piston Slapped again. You must have ESP, because you are next on the re-visiting list.

  • David C. Holzman David C. Holzman on Jun 11, 2009

    Well, I don't have much news on that particular piston slap that you linked to, except to say that the 1975 Deux Cheveaux that I've driven, and am about to review feels peppier than I ever expected a 2cv to feel. And in ref to the one about how high hybrids can fly, uh, climb, before they run out of juice, my brother just bought a Prius and I alerted him to this. But he lives far from any major climbs, and has no plans to drive to the Rockies for a vacation.

  • Haruhi Where’s this exact location
  • ToolGuy This is a good approach and a nice writeup, but it shows Tim Healey as the author. Who wrote it?
  • FreedMike Race car drivers are all alpha-types. Aggression is part of the deal. I think you see more of that stuff in NASCAR because crashes - the end result of said aggression - are far more survivable than they would be in F1 or IndyCar.
  • Analoggrotto Only allow Tesla drivers to race, we are the epitome of class and brilliance.
  • Wjtinfwb When my kids turned 16 and got their Operators, we spent $400 to send both (twins) to 2 driving schools. One held by the local Sherriff was pretty basic but a good starter on car control and dealing with police officers as they ran the school. Then they went to a full day class in N Atlanta on a racetrack, with the cars supplied by BMW. They learned evasive maneuvers, high speed braking, skid control on a wet skid pad and generally built a lot of confidence behind the wheel. Feeling better about their skills, we looked for cars. My son was adamant he wanted a manual, Halleluiah! Looking at used Civics and Golf's and concerned about reliability and safety, I got discouraged. Then noticed an AutoTrader adv. for a new leftover '16 Ford Focus ST six-speed. 25k MSRP advertised for $17,500. $2500 above my self-imposed limit. I went to look, a brand new car, 16 miles on it, black with just the sunroof. 3 year warranty and ABS, Airbags. One drive and the torquey turbo 2.0 convinced me and I bought it on the spot. 7 years and 66k miles later it still serves my son well with zero issues. My daughter was set on a Subaru, I easily found a year old Crosstrek with all the safety gear and only 3k miles. 21k but gave my wife and I lots of peace of mind. She still wheels the Subaru, loves it and it too has provided 7 years and 58k miles of low cost motoring. Buy what fits your budget but keep in mind total cost over the long haul and the peace of mind a reliable and safe car provides. Your kids are worth it.