How to start a muscle car that has been sitting - 1965 Buick Skylark - Part II

Friday, August 23, 2019

How to start a muscle car that has been sitting - 1965 Buick Skylark - Part II


Wondering about the challenges of starting a car that's been mothballed for a while? In this episode of House of Hacks, Harley continues the saga of getting a 1965 Buick Skylark Convertible started.

Part 1 of this series
Making a vacuum cleaner

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For a written transcript, go to How to start a muscle car that has been sitting - 1965 Buick Skylark - Part II

Music under Creative Commons License By Attribution 3.0 by Kevin MacLeod at
Intro/Exit: "Hot Swing"
Incidental: “Iron Bacon", “Prelude and Action", “Fast Talkin", “Zap Beat”, “Pump", “Happy Alley”, "Chipper", “Rocket Power", "Decisions"


Hi! Harley here.

In the last video on trying to get this car started, I got the oil changed, I siphoned out the fuel and as I was working under the hood, I realized I should probably change the coolant.

I put a little pressure on the radiator hoses and could tell that the wires inside them had corroded and I didn't really want that floating around inside the car.

It was probably a good thing that I did. I pulled off the radiator hoses and found that the coolant inside had kind of gelled up a little bit and I'd never seen that before.

But because of that, I want to really kind of do a power flush of the system and try to get all that gunk out of there.

So, what I'm going to do today, my primary task is to try to find some fittings that I can attach a garden hose to both sides of the radiator system to be able to flush out both the radiator and the block.

I want to be able to connect garden hoses to both sides: one going in, one going out, for drainage purposes.

We'll see if that helps.

Once I've got new coolant in it, then I need to put new fuel in it, get the battery going and then I think we'll be ready to try to start this baby up.

Hopefully, we'll get all that done today, but I'm not going to make any guarantees.

Let's get started.


The trip to Lowe's was a success. I found a 1-1/2" flex pipe to slip joint adapter that fits perfectly into the radiator hose.

Put a hose clamp on that and that'll work just fine.

And then going into this adapter, I've got a bushing that slips in there for the 1-1/2" side and the other side there's a 3/4" slip connector.

And then I've got two hose adapters, one male, one female, and they've got a slip 3/4" connector on that side.

And so then I'll just take a little bit of 3/4" pipe and put right there in the middle like so and I'll be able to run water in one side, through the radiator hose and then on the other end it'll go into the radiator hose and come out the garden hose outside the garage to be able to flush out both the radiator and the block.


OK. I've got everything hooked up with the water and I have one minor leak in one of the solder connections that I made in my plumbing.

No leaks around the radiator hoses or the thermostat housing or the engine block or anything like that.

Water's coming through fine. I have it on high speed on the water, full blast, and I'm getting full flow at the other end.

So that is really good news.

One of my biggest concerns with this when I found the gelled up coolant was that there'd be a solid block somewhere in the radiator or in the engine block and it would inhibit the flow.

There might still be a block somewhere, but I don't really know how to check that without just completely dismantling the engine.

So, we're good to go now, I think.

I am going to reverse connections on the hose to put reverse flow through the engine to just kind of help knock loose any blockages that might be in there.

And then the next step will be to do the same procedure on the radiator and then connect up the whole radiator and put coolant in it.


So now, this is going to be the first time in I don't know how long, over a decade, that I've put key in the ignition with a battery in it and tried to start it up.

Let's see what happens.

OK. That is great!

I wasn't sure if this engine was going to be seized from sitting so long or what, but obviously it's turning over just fine.

So, now I'm going to just put some starter fluid in it and give it a couple more tries. See what happens.

[starting attempts]

We could hear it try to start but the belt started sqeeking and I checked the belt and that pulley is really, really, really hot on the water pump.

So I think the water pump is actually frozen up even though the engine is turning over.

So, I'm going to have to do some checking on the accessories on the front end of the engine before I really try to start it.

[Heavy sigh] If there's not one thing, there's another.


The internet in general and Amazon in particular are great innovations.

Back in the mid-80s when I was working on these cars on a regular basis, getting parts for them was always kind of hit-or-miss proposition.

You never knew if when you went to the auto parts store if they're going to have what you needed or if they were out of stock or if they even could get them at all.

Sometimes you had to go to the junk yard to find parts and hope that they in decent enough shape that you could use them.

I got a new water pump for this thing on Amazon for less than $20 delivered to my door within a week and a half of ordering it.

That's just amazing to me. It's mind blowing.

And I had a choice of many different brands to choose from all under $20.

And in addition to this, I could go to eBay and get new, original stock parts, genuine GM parts, originally manufacture, exact replacement, matching numbers, everything, for $80.

Again, trying to find something like that back in the day would have been a real challenge.

So, the internet is an incredible resource for working on these old vehicles.

That said, I did get the new water pump and started working on this. When I took off the old one, I did have one bolt head break. Fortunately, it broke just underneath the head and I was able to get some Vise-Grips on there after putting some penetrating oil on the screw and was able to pull the screw out without any problems whatsoever.

Fortunately, none of the other bolts had any problems coming out whatsoever. That was kind of a concern that something would break off and if something broke off on this then it makes it a much larger project.

So, I got the old one off and got the new one and started getting ready to put it on. I started scraping off the old junk that was on the mating surface so I could get a good surface for the gasket to seal to.

And in the process I found a hole on the back side of the water pump assembly.

The way these Buick blocks are designed, is you have the block and you have the timing gears that mount to the front of that. And then there's a casting that mounts over the top of that that the bottom of the crankshaft comes through and that assembly also contains the back side of the water pump.

So, it's a fairly thick casting. It's several inches thick that acts as both a timing chain cover and also the mounting for the front of the water pump and then also acts as the back of the water pump.

There's a common failure with these where the back side will wear through. I believe my Dad had a failure of this mode back in the 70s when he was driving one of these cars and had exactly the same thing.

He had a water leak. Changed the water pump and still had the leak and further investigation found that it was actually coming through the casting itself, not the water pump assembly directly.

So, it seems to be a fairly common failure on these, in this design.

Again, I went to the internet and did some searching and did actually find this assembly. I can get it, depending on where I get it from, it's between $110 and $250. Again from many different manufacturers.

So, that's a good thing. The bad thing is it's got a seal for the crank assembly and it's more disassembly of the front end of the engine that I just really don't want to go through.

Particularly for what I'm doing with the car at this point. I just need to move it around the property. I'm not planning on driving it. It's not going to be a daily driver. It's not even going to be registered for the road or insured. So, I really don't want to put that much effort into it at this point in time.

So, to do a much simpler, faster, cheaper, patch job, I'm going to use JB Weld.

I've never used JB Weld on a engine patch like this. I've have talked to people who have done this successfully without any problems so I'm going to give this a shot.

Hopefully it will work.

JB Weld does come in a couple different formulations. This is the original formulation. They also had a quick setting formulation that has a shorter working time and sets up sooner.

But in looking at the specifications for it, the quick set has a lower tensile strength and also lower maximum temperature that it's designed to work in.

So, the original has twice the temperature range that it's going to be working on and so because this is on the engine around the coolant, it's not going to get super hot like the inside of the engine on the block, but it is high enough that the quick setting stuff was kind of on the edge of where I felt comfortable using it. So, I did get the original formulation.

So, now I'll do some more cleaning out. I'll put some of this on that hole to patch the hole and then I'll also use some gasket...

Once the JB Weld is setup, I'll put some gasket material on the inside, just in an effort to make sure it seals properly and then I'll go ahead and put the new water pump on.


The other day, I got the patch on the timing cover. I don't think it's a perfect solution, but it's good enough for what I need to get done right now.

There's always, in working on projects, there's always a balance between practicality and perfection. In this particular case, I need to get it running, so I can move it around the yard and get it out of the garage to be able to work on the other project.

So, it doesn't need to be perfect for this application.

This car needs a lot of work on it before it's considered road worthy in my opinion. And this is kind of the least of the issues. So, this is good enough for now.

I think it's actually good enough, I'm not going to bother putting any silicone sealant inside here. I think that'd just be overkill and so now I think I'm ready to put the new water pump on.

I've got the new water pump, bright, shiny and ready to go.

It came with a gasket.

I got some red, high temperature silicone sealer and some new bolts.

The procedure on this will be to put some of the silicone sealer along the edge where the gasket goes. Then the gasket will go on top of that and then another thin layer of sealant on top of the gasket.

Then this will go onto the timing cover. There are two pins in there that will help locate it. And then I'll put one bolt through to hold it in place and then it'll just be a matter of installing the rest of the bolts.

When that's all done, it needs to sit for 24 hours to let the sealant set up and cure.

Then I'll be ready to put coolant and try firing this baby up again.


New day. It's been enough time for the silicone to set up and today's task is to replace the lower radiator hose, refill the coolant, attach the battery and we'll give this another try.

Hopefully it'll work today.


I don't know why I thought that this was going to be an easy project. Nothing ever goes according to plan.

I started putting the coolant in and heard a drip that was more than what was accounted for my the little bit of spillage that I had when I started to pouring things in.

I started looking around and found a fairly major leak somewhere around the upper radiator hose where it goes into the block.

I'm hoping it's just the thermostat housing because that's an easy fix. If it's not the thermostat housing, then the only other place it could be leaking from would be the intake manifold and that changes the project to a whole new level, which I don't know that I really want to get into.

So, I do have another block that I think has a thermostat housing on it. I'll take that off. Hopefully it's serviceable enough to patch this one and get this thing back going.

I got the thermostat housing off the extra, spare block and it's in serviceable shape.

It has a little bit of corrosion on it, but just surface stuff. Nothing really that would make it a problem.

I'll take it downstairs into the basement and put it on the wire wheel and kind of clean it up a little bit. Get it so it's serviceable on this other car.

Hopefully I can get the old thermostat housing off without breaking any bolts. I did have one bolt on this one break in the old block. I don't care at this point.

And then I'll hopefully get this one installed on the car I'm trying to get running.


Here's the old one. You can see right in there, there's a hole.

That's on the bottom side of the engine where I couldn't see under there. Actually it was filled with corrosion that only became obvious once I got it off and started cleaning it.

As I was cleaning it, another huge chunk fell off. You can see it right there.

Now if we look at this and compare it to the new one, or the one that's not in as bad a shape, you can see what that looks like.

And if we look at the bottom side, you can see how it's all corroded and eaten away on the old one...

...and how the new one looks a lot better.

Fortunately, it's not the intake manifold that's the problem. Yay!


OK, that's really encouraging!

Putting the starter fluid in there, it did try to start and stumble along and ran for a second or so.

So that's telling me it's got spark. The engine is probably basically is fine.

I do need to find out why it's not getting any fuel though.

I took the fuel line off the carburetor and it's completely dry.

So, it's not getting up from the fuel pump up to the carburetor.

My guess is it's probably just taking awhile to pull the fuel out of the tank through the line the length of the car through the fuel pump and up.

So, I'm going to put a vacuum on the line going into the fuel pump to kind of pull the fuel up from the tank.

Prime the pump so to speak.

And then we'll see what happens.

I made this real simple setup to try to pull the fuel out of the tank and get most of the air out so the fuel pump isn't trying to pull a bunch of air through the carburetor as I'm cranking the engine over.

Hopefully that'll help the car start easier.

It's just a trash salsa container that I put a couple holes in and epoxied in a couple fittings.

One fitting is a barbed fitting that will go to the fuel line coming from the tank and the other, I have a compression fitting with a little bit of this hard tubing that the inside diameter of this is the same as the outside diameter of this other hard tubing that's going into the vacuum pump.

And I'll just push this in here. I suspect I'll probably have enough seal in here just through friction that I won't need any additional clamping on it.

If I do, I'll just put a hose clamp on it.

I got this great little air pump from some people that didn't want it any more and they were just going to throw it away and I gladly took it off their hands.

It has this flexible tubing that's connected to the vacuum side.

It also has a output side that's pressurized if you need air pressure instead of air vacuum.

And there's nothing wrong with it. It is a low volume, little diaphragm pump.

It's pretty quiet though so I think it'll work perfect for this type of application.

OK. As you can see, we have the fuel pump right here and we've got the vacuum chamber down there that will receive the gas.

We've got the vacuum line here and the line coming from the tank there.

Now all we need to do is apply power. Let's see what happens.

It looks like it's working.


And we got some gas out. Hopefully that's enough to get the air out of the line and fuel up the carburetor.


Well, it's obviously trying. It's just not getting any gas. Obviously. It runs for brief, a second or two, when I put fuel directly into the carburetor and it tries to go for not quite as long when I use starter fluid.

So, I'm getting spark. I'm getting air. It's just not getting any fuel, enough to keep the engine running from the pump or through the carburetor, or something.

So, now I need to kind of do some diagnostics on that. [shakes head]

Off screen: It's not going to catch fire is it.

On screen: Nope. At least I hope not.

Off screen: You got a fire extinguisher handy?

On screen: Yep.



OK. That's good.

Well, I had my wife turn the engine over while I was holding the end of the fuel line that goes into the carburetor and nothing was coming out of it.

So that really points the finger to the fuel pump. We have fuel coming to the fuel pump because I used the vacuum to pull it up. I replaced the fuel line and the fuel filter from between the fuel pump and the carburetor so we know that's all good.

So the fuel pump is really the only thing left in the system that could possibly have anything wrong with it.

So the next step is to replace that. That'll be in a future video.

For now, YouTube has some videos down below of things that it thinks that you'd be interested in and my latest video that I've released.

And up here in this playlist, somewhere over there, there's other car related videos if you're interested in those.

Until next time, go make something.

Perfection's not required.

Fun is!