Archive for the ‘Automotive’ Category

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10 Common Mistakes Automobile Owners Make

Here is a short list of common actions vehicle owners make as a result of being uninformed and sometimes misinformed.  Such actions are typically needless or harmful.

Topping off brake fluid.  This is your brake component wear indicator.  As your brake linings, shoes, rotors and pads wear, the brake fluid level in your reservoir decreases.  A low fluid level can be a sign that it is time for a brake inspection.  Be aware this decrease in fluid should occur gradually and any rapid decline in your reservoir likely means you have a leak.  If you suspect the fluid loss is due to a leak, visit your trusted mechanic as soon as possible.  In general, topping off brake fluid is needless and only serves to create an overfull condition when you have your brakes serviced.  If your mechanic isn’t careful during the service, brake fluid can overflow and wreak havoc on your car’s paint and undercoating.

Not allowing your car to warm up to operating temperature.  You’re in a hurry (seemingly all the time) and so you hop in your car, turn the key and are nearly moving before the starter stops spinning.  If this is your first time driving that day, your car’s engine is only as warm as the outside air.  Not sure about where you live, but here in South Carolina it never really gets up to 200 degrees outside.  While the operating temperature for each vehicle is different, it is common to see normal operating temperature ranges for late model cars around the 200 degree mark.  Why does this matter?  Many reasons, but for now I’ll mention performance.  Cold fluids perform differently that warm fluids.  Among others, both engine oil and transmission fluid function differently at various temperatures.  With cold fluids you may notice variations in transmission shifts and a lack of engine oil pressure, both effect performance of your vehicle.  Additionally, oxygen sensors need time to warm up, even heated oxygen sensors.  Prior to your sensors reaching operating temperature, your vehicle will not perform as efficiently as engineered.

Fuel.  I see it all the time (and use to do it myself), people at the gas station clicking and clicking to get to that magic digit on the gas pump.  This desire to get more fuel in the tank is even more common with cash paying customers considering many gas stations requirement to pay before you pump.  That walk back inside for change, may save you more of a headache than it is itself.  Overfilling your gas tank can create issues with the evaporative emissions components in late model vehicles, which will surely illuminate your check engine light.  Additionally, keeping your tank full or below a quarter of a tank all the time also prevents your evaporative emissions monitor from running.  Lastly, using premium gas to “clean” your fuel system is ill-informed and can be harmful.  Octane ratings refer to the combustibility of the fuel not the cleanliness.  In all actuality all the grades at a given pump are virtually the same gas.  The octane rating is derived from a sample of a batch of fuel.  The higher the octane rating the slower the fuel burns.  It’s typically best to use the fuel recommended by the manufacturer.

Tire pressure.  Both over-inflating and under-inflating tires creates abnormal wear patterns.  The max PSI written on the tire is not the recommended capacity.  Reference the tire placard typically located in the driver’s door frame for the recommended tire pressures.  Note pressures in the front tires may differ from the rear.  Understand the information on the tire placard is for the stock size tire and is brand specific.  Thus if you have different wheels or tires, the best pressure may not be what is on the placard.  In this instance, the advice of a mechanic may be in order.  To complicate matters more, recommended tire pressures are typically listed as cold tire pressure.  This is not dependent on outside temperature.  Tires generate a great deal of heat through friction with the road surface during driving.  The issue is most vehicle owners are driving to gas station or other compressed air source.  When you get there (unless you drive less than a mile) your tires are “hot” and I can’t see you waiting around for three hours until your tires are cold again.  Bridgestone recommends setting “hot” tires to 4 PSI above the recommended pressure and then rechecking the tires when they are cold.

Ignoring the signs.  There is only so long you can ignore noises, check engine lights (MIL) and anti-lock brake lights (ABS) before there are consequences.  Just because you can’t feel a difference in the car doesn’t mean there is not a significant problem present.  Always having the radio on and loud can impair your ability to notice how the vehicle typically sounds and distinguish abnormal noises.  Vehicle owners often take for granted that their vehicle will get them where they need to go, but towing, roadside assistance and car rental businesses all say there is a chance your luck will run out.

Excessively deferring fluid exchanges or flushes.  The understanding of the importance of engine oil changes is relatively common.  However, vehicle owners often fail to budget the recommended maintenance of many other fluids.  Engine coolant, brake fluid, transmission fluid, power steering fluid and differential fluid all require servicing.  Failure to service these fluids can cause varying degrees of problems.  Often your mechanic may recommend some of these services and you may simply see this as an effort to extract more money from your already thin wallet.  In some instances you may be correct.  This is why it is important for you to personally understand the maintenance intervals for your vehicle and keep records of service dates and types you elect.

Recharging air conditioning.  Your refrigerant shouldn’t be low.  If it’s low you have a leak.  Don’t simply pay for a recharge, get the leak fixed.  Definitely don’t use R-134 cans in your system to attempt to make you’re A/C colder.  There is a specified amount of refrigerant for your system based on a variety of factors.  Much more than the specified capacity will actually make your system not cool as well.  Don’t panic if your mechanic uses one of these cans, this doesn’t necessarily mean he doesn’t know what he is doing.  I am referring to you yourself, pulling up to a parts store and doctoring you’re A/C in the parking lot.  Typically, just a bad idea.

Cold air intake. By now it is common knowledge that the oil from many aftermarket cold air intake systems creates issues with mass air flow sensors.   While the products available vary, I offer a word of caution to individuals desiring to add one of these kits to their vehicle.  The bottom line is these intake systems don’t really help performance unless they truly bring in colder air than the original intake.  Additionally, the stock system must be inefficient for the size of the engine before these types of systems have a chance at improving performance.

What you tell your mechanic.  Has any recent work been done, by either another mechanic or you?  How long have you had the complaint or noticed the symptoms?  Take note of when the problem occurs.  Is it present all the time, when starting the vehicle, within the first few miles, after the vehicle warms up or traveling over bumps/holes?  The more information the mechanic has, the less time it takes for him to figure out the problem and repair it.  Trying to use a mechanic to vet another mechanic’s recommendation only works for so long.

The average driver likely doesn’t understand something like tire pressure to be so complicated, so don’t feel like you’re behind the curve if some of this information is new to you.  Many of us drive to work each day just fine without really understanding thermodynamics or Pascal’s and Ohm’s respective laws.  It’s likely your mechanic doesn’t really understand these concepts either.  At any course, if you are interested in preserving the life of your vehicle, tips like the ones above may be of some help.  Just remember every manufacturer has different recommendations for each vehicle they produce.  As well, with the continual progression of technology, the complexity of vehicles increases.  It’s always best to consult with a knowledgeable and trustworthy source concerning maintenance and repair.

Jordache Williams Atlas ConceptsJordache Williams, of Rock Hill, South Carolina, is the Program Manager for Atlas Concepts, LLC.  He understands that sometimes a small piece of information is the difference between success and failure. His contributions to the Shop Talk blog are purposed with sharing relevant information based on his own experiences.


1973 Volkswagen Beetle Restoration, Part 3: Engine & Exterior

1973 VW volkswagen super beetle bug

When I look at these old pictures of my bug, I can’t help but miss the way it was.  Dents, dings, bits of rust, mismatched fenders…it was what I bought and, to me, “it had the look.”  I’m not too sure, as I think back on the restoration process, what drove me…I didn’t really have a vision.  In reality, I had very little automotive experience.  What the car reminds me of now is how much it changed me.  It helped me grow from an average admirer of vintage vehicles to a person who has a much deeper appreciation of the process, dedication and skill required to accomplish auto restoration.  As I believe the beetle holds the record for the longest-running body type of all time, I’ll spare most of the details and attempt to cover the parts of my restoration which are on the ends of the spectrum of good and bad.

True to novice form, I actually had the car painted before the engine work was completed (or started for that matter).  This is a pretty good car to make that mistake on because, of course, the engine is removed from underneath the car.

1973 VW volkswagen super beetle bug

For me, the most difficult item to find for this engine was a K & N Filter to fit the Air Cleaner shown.  I know enthusiasts swear by the stock cleaner, but I haven’t really seen any negative effects of the supposedly erratic air flow created by this style cleaner.  My two favorite modifications are the Gene Berg Oil Temperature Dip Stick and the SCAT Serpentine Belt System.  If your a fan of EMPI you can also check out their comparable Polished Aluminum Pulley System (paid link) as well.

1973 Super Beetle VW Volkswagen 3 modified

After the decklid is closed, there isn’t much to see back here except the CURT trailer hitch (paid link).  Yes, the beetle can tow!  I mostly use the hitch to haul and launch my 14’ foot aluminum jon boat.  Since there’s usually more beetles than anyone wants to see at car shows, this is where my bug really gets some attention.  On the back end, I also refit the entire muffler system.  My biggest complaint is the chrome tailpipes.  There’s just no way to stop them from rusting.  Mid America Motorworks lists a set made of polished stainless steel, which I am sure are much more resilient.  The only issue for me is that anytime I go to make the purchase they are out of stock.

The question I get the most about my Super Beetle is, “Is that (truck) bed liner on your fenders?”  The answer is yes.  The story behind the bed liner is also telling of my level of experience when I was completing this project.  As you can see in the first picture, the passenger side rear fender was damaged.  I proceeded to hit the fender with a hammer (a wooden handled, homeowner type hammer) until it appeared to be close to normal.  Then, using body filler for the first time, I called myself doing body work.  The truth of the matter is that the bed liner was something that came to mind when I was searching for a way to mask my shady workmanship.  So in a nutshell, this is the story that usually starts every conversation I have about this car.  Inadvertently, total strangers constantly remind me that if I reach my hand underneath that fender, I can literally count the dents and tell how many times I hit it.  It is of note that the particular bed liner I used was Herculiner (paid link).  While it was very easy to apply (it rolls on with a paint roller), it faded tremendously over the first summer, in a matter of months.  At the time I didn’t know that it wasn’t UV resistant, so to fix the mess, I merely taped the car off and spray painted the fenders gloss black and then clear coated them.  That fix has held up (for the most part) for over 3 years.

1973 VW volkswagen super beetle bug

All in all I am happy with the car.  I usually find something to mess with on it from time to time, even though I usually refer to the project as being complete.  In reality, the 2 biggest mistakes I feel like I made are 1) trying to use body filler to fill in the louvers underneath the windshield and 2) not replacing the hood and decklid seal channels.  With all that I have learned over the past couple of years, I’ll definitely dig back into this car at some point, but for now, I just enjoy driving it and sharing my experiences with others.

Jordache Williams | Atlas Concepts
Jordache Williams
, of Rock Hill, South Carolina, is the Program Manager for Atlas Concepts, LLC.  He understands that sometimes a small piece of information is the difference between success and failure. His contributions to the Shop Talk blog are purposed with sharing relevant information based on his own experiences.

Tips for your 700R4 Rebuild

Posted: February 7, 2016 in Automotive
Tags: , ,

If you’re diving into your first 700R4 rebuild (or maybe it’s just been a while), and are looking to verify some of the suggestions from your friends, local mechanics, or even the instructions from your rebuild kit, this is the write-up for you.  There is not likely any new information here; however, I have tried to compile a short list of tried and true techniques that I have personally had success with.  Let’s start with the Anti-stick Spring.

700R4 Anti Stick Spring


Anti-stick Spring – This is the small (.015” diameter) tapered spring which goes between the Throttle Valve and the Valve Body casting (or TV Bushing if equipped).  This spring is used to keep the Throttle Valve from sticking, which helps to maintain control of throttle pressure.  This spring works well to upgrade an OEM or a smooth tailed Throttle Valve; however, it tends to actually get hung on replacement valves with grooves on the tail (pictured above).  If the spring hangs on the grooved valve, it causes throttle pressure to remain high.  I suggest avoid using the Anti-stick Spring with the grooved Throttle Valve.

Steel Plate in servo modification – Cutting grooves in the Steel Plate in the Servo is a common modification.  This is done to allow for a less restrictive flow of oil from the second and fourth pistons.  In the photo below, you will see the four grooves tucked behind the snap ring.  A bench grinder was used on this particular plate.

700R4 Servo

Separator Plate Slugs – Used in two locations given the Valve Body does not have a roll pin and/or transmission has an Auxiliary Valve Body.  Check the existing Separator Plate for holes in the following locations.

700R4 Separator Plate Gasket

If the existing plate looks like the one pictured above, slugs are needed in both locations on your new plate (assuming the new plate has holes).  Insert slugs with a hammer (lightly), with the round side of the plug facing up, from the Valve Body side of the plate.  Slugs will not install flush with the plate, there will be a small margin of the slug visible as shown below.

700R4 Separator Plate Slug

Lining up Valve Body Gaskets and Separator Plate – If the dowel pins are not present or have receded into case, use a hand full of the Valve Body bolts to line up the gaskets and plate.  Thread a few bolts into the case starting near the Shifter Detent and working diagonally towards the 1-2 Accumulator.  Then go ahead and mount the Accumulator and Auxiliary Valve Body, remove the bolts and install the Valve Body.  This is one of those techniques that may take a little time but seems to always work.

700R4 Valve Body Gasket

Oil Pump Pressure Regulator Valve Modification – By grinding a single machined ring off of the Pressure Regulator Valve, more consistent line pressure is presented to the converter feed.  This modification is said to extend the life of the converter, and is a common upgrade with some shift kits.

700R4 pressure regulator valve body modification

Say goodbye to the Load Release Spring Assemblies – These assemblies are used to assist with the release of the 3-4 Clutches however, they are known to restrict the clamping force necessary to hold the clutches.  This restriction results in premature wear of the 3-4 Clutches.

700R4 load release spring

There are many other tips that usually come with the instructions in your rebuild and shift kits.  These may include drilling a .093” hole into the Valve Body Separator Plate, some kits come with a drill bit to accomplish this.  Also, ensuring the 4th Accumulator Piston is oriented a specific way is another common suggestion.

What I have found is that when working on these transmissions, the technical handbooks and various instructions that come with the rebuild and shift kits may seem to conflict on certain points, leaving you uncertain about which route you should take.  Understand that aftermarket kits use a combination of alterations to improve various operations of the transmission.  Once you begin altering the stock combination, the transmission will definitely perform differently…the science comes into play when getting it to perform the way you want it to.

Another thing I can tell you for certain is, if you have an Auxiliary Valve Body, and you put a checkball here….

700R4 check ball 5 removal

You will definitely experience 1-2 tie-up, burned Lo and Reverse Clutches as well as a burned Band.  Don’t ask me how I know!  All I can say is thank goodness for Transmission Dynos.  Ouch!!!  Apparently when the Auxiliary Valve Body was added (1987-1993), checkball #5 (pictured above) was removed, and checkball #12 (Forward Clutch checkball) was added to the Auxiliary Valve Body.  This was done to force Forward Clutch feed oil through an orifice.

It doesn’t take much to get the flow of fluid out of whack in these transmissions.  As you could probably tell, in this write-up, I tried to explain the “why” as much as possible.  When in doubt, take time to figure out how the transmission works, because you can’t fix burned clutches with new clutches.

Atlas Concepts LLC_Jordache Williams_Shop TalkJordache Williams, of Rock Hill, South Carolina, is the Program Manager for Atlas Concepts, LLC.  He understands that sometimes a small piece of information is the difference between success and failure. His contributions to the Shop Talk blog are purposed with sharing relevant information based on his own experiences.

New tranny shifts great and you’re feeling pretty confident that your huge custom aluminum driveshaft will get the job done, then you park on an incline and the next morning it looks like your oil pan fell off.

While there are several common places for leaks on the Turbo 350 Transmission, you may discover that you have a driveshaft yoke problem versus a transmission problem.

What are the signs?

  • Your leak occurs only when you park on an incline (front of vehicle elevated higher than the rear).
  • The most forward evidence of the leak is near the tranny tailshaft area, or at the driveshaft yoke itself. You may only see the oil running down the driveshaft.

Is there a part for this?

The answer is yes, there is a slip yoke sealing kit for the TH350 and 700R4. The issue seems to be that what appears to be the “right fix” isn’t necessarily the best fix.

You are an internet search away from understanding that these kits are usually sold with extra yolk seals. So if you are into having it done the right way, plan on getting a hold of several seals and probably go ahead and get a few output shaft drive gear clips as well.

Here’s an example of what to look for.

Atlas Concepts LLC_Shop Talk Blog_Yoke Seal Installation Kit

image credit Techpak-Fitzall

My suggestion.

Simply fill the hole from the outside with RTV.

Atlas Concepts LLC_Shop Talk Blog_TH350 Drive Shaft Yoke

photo credit Atlas Concepts LLC

Realistically there are a few fixes that work. For instance, it’s a great reason to pull out your mig welder, just remember that auto-settings don’t work well when spot welding.

Other alternatives are JB Weld, a machine screw, or using silicon in combination with a “homemade plug” such as a thumbtack.

Now that you’ve taken care of that problem, keep your eye on the oil pan and the dipstick tube.

Atlas Concepts LLC_Jordache Williams_Shop TalkJordache Williams, of Rock Hill, South Carolina, is the Program Manager for Atlas Concepts, LLC. He understands that sometimes a small piece of information is the difference between success and failure. His contributions to the Shop Talk blog are purposed with sharing relevant information based on his own experiences.

1973 Volkswagen Beetle Restoration, Part 2: Interior

Anytime you get your hands on a classic car it’s probably already passed your pre-purchase checklist. This is to say that it was either a great find or a great buy. The truth is that it boils down to what the individual purchaser wants or needs—street rod, hot rod, daily driver or parts-vehicle.

Common concerns typically result in a search for rust, checking the VIN and mileage as well as researching the vehicle’s current versus potential value. Because I purchased my 1973 Volkswagen Super Beetle from a trusted relative, I have to admit that my purchase was based off his “rundown.” Let’s face it, the Classic Beetle is one of those cars that people love or hate.

Perhaps the late model (or New) Beetle’s production, which started in 1997, tainted the purity of the Punch Buggy game resulting in the question of “do those count?” By the way, if you’re looking for the “official rules” visit TravelingMamas or…just use your own rules.

At any rate, the Bug is a German (or Mexican) vehicle that has had a long and relevant history here in the United States. For me, it was as simple as, “I want it.”

As mentioned in 1973 Volkswagen Beetle Restoration | Part 1, the vehicle was generally in great shape, especially the interior.

Atlas Concepts LLC_Shop Talk_VW Restore 002-1

Since there are plenty of websites that walk you through Beetle restorations, such is not my purpose herein. It is my intent to share with you the direction I went with my Beetle to give you some options that you may not have considered.

The way I went about formulating the direction of my Bug was by searching a JBugs product catalog. I quickly learned that these cars can literally be built from the ground up with reproduction and original parts. Simple product installation can really transform any vehicle…so it began. A great deal of the interior was removed prior to the vehicle being painted, and installed (and in some cases reinstalled) after the car’s new paint.

Color Change: Headliner and Seats. I went with a black headliner to replace the dirty and worn original white one. I decided to uninstall and cover the rear air vents and dome/courtesy light. Before installing your headliner, develop a plan for such items. As well, here are a few other areas to consider: visor mounts, rear view mirror mount, the pillars, seat belt mounts, rear seat mounts, rear carpet and rear window seals.

While you can simply buy new seat covers, I decided that the condition mine were in did not warrant such measures. I did, however, decide that a color-matched (with the vehicle exterior) customization would bring the interior to life. The headliner installation (and visor dying), as well as the seat upholstery, was completed by Custom Made Upholstery in Rock Hill, SC.

Atlas Concepts LLC_VW Head liner

Atlas Concepts LLC_Shop Talk_VW Restore 002-10

Carpet. There are plenty of carpet options usually varying by color, style and quality. I went with Jbugs Premium Carpet Kit with footrest (34-F1176-301) and Baja Rear Carpet (34-R1104-301). The installation is simple, but obviously take the opportunity to assess your floor pan and deadening material while you have the seats out. When removing your seats, you should take time to note the Seat Lever Assembly as it can be a bit more confusing putting it back in than you would imagine. I ended up using a photo I found online to refresh my memory. My Floor Vents were a bit beaten up from years of feet moving in and out of the car. I decided to uninstall the vents and hide the hole with the carpet. With your old carpet removed is the best time for installing kick panels if you are considering this option. I went with JBugs Speaker Kick Panels (331-003 SBUG) and a Phoenix Gold Component Set (paid link).

Atlas Concepts LLC_VW Beetle Floor Pan_Heater Vent

Rear Seat Delete. It took a great deal of trial and effort figuring out what to do with the space after I decided that I didn’t need or want the rear seat. Again, I did reinstall the mounts, this was done so that the seat could be optional. I finally settled on building a “trunk” that could be used for tools and other random things, which would be secured inside the vehicle. Additionally, the speakers finally settled down to the plywood cover I made for the rear seat compartments.

Atlas Concepts LLC_VW Speakers

Atlas Concepts LLC_Shop Talk_VW Box-1

Atlas Concepts LLC_Shop Talk_VW Box-2

Doors. Though the door panels were in decent shape, I tried several times to seal the saggy door pockets and never had any long term luck. I decided to get JBugs Door Panels (10-1004-11) without pockets to avoid the issue altogether. Another simple installation. I decided to not reinstall the door handles to achieve a cleaner look. Also I went with JBugs Window Cranks (11.4521-B) to match my Grant Steering Wheel. With new seals/rubber all around, there isn’t much else I could do to the door area except add Satin Sill Plates, with polished ribs (NTSP837 4582) from Jbugs.

Atlas Concepts LLC_Volkswagen Beetle Door Panel

Atlas Concepts LLC_Shop Talk_VW runner 1

Dash. I removed the entire dash of my Beetle with the purpose of “fixing” a few cracks. I found that, when it was all said and done, it was much less painful to buy a Dash Cover (4447) from JBugs.  They actually sell complete dashes as well, but they are much more expensive, and I really just didn’t want to take the old dash out again. I installed a VDO oil temperature gauge from California Import Parts  into the clock cutout/hole and in combination with the steering wheel that I already mentioned, realistically that’s about it.

Atlas Concepts LLC_Shop Talk_VW Dash-1

A few other parts used in the interior from JBugs are:

Drink Holder (DH-SUPER); this can be removed/replaced for show.

2-point Seat Belt, Push Button, 60 inch (1201-60); this is a kit with hardware.

8 AMP Fuses (10 –Pack) (N 171 211/10)

16 AMP Fuses (10-Pack) (N 171 214/10)

Lastly, I found the 9-ball shift knob on ebay. It is custom-made and internally threaded (12mm X 1.50) to fit without any adaptors. The last addition to the bug was an LED Digital Tachometer (SUM-G2981) from Summit. The mounting bracket is something I made with scrap metal and a mig welder (have fun).

Atlas Concepts LLC_Shop Talk_VW Beetle Restoration 004-1

Atlas Concepts LLC_Shop Talk_VW Trachometer

Stay tuned for more details on this 1973 Super Beetle’s restoration and customization. Feel free to contact me regarding any specific questions, tips or ideas regarding your own VW Beetle restoration. If you are interested in sharing your automotive experiences through this blog, email Atlas Concepts, LLC at

Atlas Concepts LLC_Jordache Williams_Shop TalkJordache Williams, of Rock Hill, South Carolina, is the Program Manager for Atlas Concepts, LLC. He understands that sometimes a small piece of information is the difference between success and failure. His contributions to the Shop Talk blog are purposed with sharing relevant information based on his own experiences.