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#1
Old 04-19-2001, 02:04 AM
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Long story as short as possible:
I have a '76 Chevy Nova. It stalled out on me the other day at an intersection. The fellow who helped me push it out of traffic asked if I'd gotten the engine steam cleaned recently. He seemed to be implying that such cleaning might have harmed the engine.
(The problem was an ancient ignition module in the distributor; I got it replaced and it's fine now.)
Later, when I told the tow truck driver that I am planning to sell the Nova, he seemed to think that I should get the engine steam-cleaned.
So now I'm wondering....Do I steam it or not??
Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated.
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#2
Old 04-19-2001, 02:24 AM
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Well IANAM, but that doesn't sound like the brightest thing you could do to an engine.
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#3
Old 04-19-2001, 02:53 AM
pmh pmh is offline
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I wouldn't.

Too much chance for water to get into the ignition, intake, or electronics (OK, not much electronics on a '76, but trying to generalize). Also, sometimes all that gunk is the only thing keeping a minor leak from being a big one. In one extreme case I've even seen a head cracked by steam cleaning (VERY rare, but possible).

If you're selling it, you *might* get a little more because the motor is clean and pretty, but anybody that knows their stuff is going to think you're trying to hide a leak or something.

Personally, I think a light coat of grime evenly distributed over the entire engine is a good thing. Any leaks or new parts are easier to spot, and if it hasn't been touched in a while, it's probably been pretty reliable.
#4
Old 04-19-2001, 03:13 AM
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I had a mid-70's Plymouth Duster that hadn't been well maintained before I got it. My dad and I dropped the oil pan, removed the valve cover, and steam cleaned it inside and out. Like pmr suggested, it was the crud that was holding the oil in! After our 'fix' it started leaking oil at the rate of a quart per 100 miles. We went back inside the engine, replaced the rear main seal, and it was fine after that. We had put plastic bags over the carb and distributor during the steam-clean and didn't have any problems with water getting into things.
#5
Old 04-19-2001, 03:49 AM
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It may have no positive effect on the selling price, but if you feel compelled to do it...

It's best to have a warm engine, not a HOT engine.
Wear funky old clothing.
Take it to the carwash, duct-tape a smallish trash-bag (or shower cap) around the alternator, another around the carburetor, and blast away.
For real results, shoot on some degreaser, then wait for the chemicals to cut the grease, and the engine to cool.
EZ-OFF oven cleaner works well and is cheaper than most automotive degreasers.

(A side note for all you folx with aluminum heads, intakes, and the like, The EZ-OFF suggestion is a very bad one. It etches aluminum and makes it look terrible. '76 Nova engines are almost entirely iron.)

Don't pressure-spray right at the oil-filler cap, the air compressor (if it has a/c) or the power steering cap.
Even with the bags in place you may get a little water in the distributor cap, and it may need a quik wipe (inside) with a dry rag afterward. Most everything else is pretty safe.
It's also a great way to get the little bug corpses out of the radiator.

The real drawback in doing this will become immediately apparent. There are a couple hundred little areas on a typical V-8 engine which will direct greasy water right back into your face, no matter what angle you shoot from.
#6
Old 04-19-2001, 10:19 AM
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Used to do this (steam clean engines) all the time at my first job. No big deal with the older ignition systems: Just follow Bboy's practical advice. My brother, the engine builder (stockers), does it just that way. However: Don't do it on a car with an electronic ignition system, unless you're a qualified mechanic: There are other ways of degreasing those engines.
#7
Old 04-20-2001, 12:45 AM
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Thank you all!
I appreciate all the messages.
Since several people are itching to buy it right now, I think I'll leave the decision up to them. The potential buyers who have looked at the engine seem quite happy with it "as is."
#8
Old 04-20-2001, 01:00 AM
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Hey Tranquilis

My first job was steam cleaning engines too.

Viva
A clean engine will probably sell better. It shows the prospective buyer that there are no oil leaks or engine blow by. And it is prettier.
All the used car dealers do it.

BTW Viva I like your screen name.
#9
Old 04-20-2001, 02:40 AM
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justwannano: Glad you like the screen name. It suits me very well.
Hmmmm....Well, I'm still pondering....

**All Posters: My related dilemma now is what to tell people when they ask how much I want for it. I've tried poking around on MSN Carpoint and automart, but have so far only found a couple of '76 Novas, going for $600 and $1000 OBO, respectively. Mine has no a/c (disconnected long ago; no freon); and needs upholstery in the back seat. Otherwise, pretty good condition, some very recent repairs/replacements, no accidents.
#10
Old 04-20-2001, 10:08 AM
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Quote:
Originally posted by vivalostwages

My related dilemma now is what to tell people when they ask how much I want for it. I've tried poking around on MSN Carpoint and automart, but have so far only found a couple of '76 Novas, going for $600 and $1000 OBO, respectively. Mine has no a/c (disconnected long ago; no freon); and needs upholstery in the back seat. Otherwise, pretty good condition, some very recent repairs/replacements, no accidents.
Hmm... Body rot? bad vinyl on the roof? If not, you may be able to go a bit over the $1K mark. To some enthusiasts, you've got a piece of hot property, but to others, what you've got is a parts store on wheels. Hang out at a couple of car shows, or look for a local enthusiast's club, ask what they'd sell a car for, if it were in the same condition as yours. Al (the engine bro) is out of town, or I'd ask him.
#11
Old 04-20-2001, 11:10 PM
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Tranquilis:
Thank you.
No body rot, no crappy vinyl except on that unused back seat. The things I had fixed or replaced recently were:
radiator; ignition module; battery; front brakes.
Back brakes okay for another few thousand miles.
Trans. has a teeny dribble which is easily corrected with a bit of fluid now and then.
I have not steam cleaned the engine.
I told my neighbor one-thou OBO. If he doesn't bite, I know someone else who will. I've never sold a car before--this is the car I've had for 20 years--and didn't realize that people would go for it so quickly.
#12
Old 04-21-2001, 02:49 PM
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Quote:
Originally posted by vivalostwages
No body rot, no crappy vinyl except on that unused back seat. The things I had fixed or replaced recently... ...this is the car I've had for 20 years--and didn't realize that people would go for it so quickly.
D*mn! 20 years? I'm impressed!

Sounds like, based on your description, that $1k is about right.
#13
Old 04-21-2001, 03:20 PM
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Quote:
A clean engine will probably sell better. It shows the prospective buyer that there are no oil leaks or engine blow by. And it is prettier. All the used car dealers do it.
I would be hesitant to buy a used car with an engine that HAD been cleaned, except at a lot where they did it to all the cars anyway, and I would rather the dealers didn't. All it shows you is that it hasn't leaked oil since it's been cleaned, so it doesn't have massive leaks. It could easily still have small leaks. From a private buyer, I would rather see the engine with the normal accumulation of dirt so that I can tell it hasn't been coating anything with oil over time. If it's been steam cleaned, I'm going to wonder why they felt they had to do that.
#14
Old 04-21-2001, 10:16 PM
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Quote

I would be hesitant to buy a used car with an engine that HAD been cleaned, except at a lot where they did it to all the cars anyway, and I would rather the dealers didn't. All it shows you is that it hasn't leaked oil since it's been cleaned, so it doesn't have massive leaks. It could easily still have small leaks. From a private buyer, I would rather see the engine with the normal accumulation of dirt so that I can tell it hasn't been coating anything with oil over time. If it's been steam cleaned, I'm going to wonder why they felt they had to do that.

Yep.

Thats why they clean them.

Of course there are no oil leaks. It was owned by a little old lady school teracher.
#15
Old 04-22-2001, 12:29 AM
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Quote:
Of course there are no oil leaks. It was owned by a little old lady school teacher.
Hmmm...well, a petite female college instructor in her mid-30s, anyhow.
You almost nailed it.
And yes, I did maintain the car as best I could.

I have a .jpg of it, though I don't think it would show up here.
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#16
Old 04-22-2001, 01:37 AM
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I've "done" it twice...

The first time was when I sold my Cougar [loved that car] because I was leaving CA for the East Coast. I thought it would make the car look nicer. The first question the guy who bought it asked was "why did you steam clean the engine?" Well, to make the car prettier [you idiot!]. He figured that I was just some dumb blonde and not someone who was hiding an oil leak problem.....

The second time was really a lie to a customs agent in Africa. My US shipper was driving my car to the boat [yes, literally] when something or another blew a humungous whole in the engine. I was already overseas, but my brother went to look at the car. Luckily it was 35 miles under the engine warranty so Toyota fixed it at no cost to me. That was the first installment of overseas shipment hell of my Celica to Africa. It was driven from Antwerp to Paris packed in the freight box with my consummables and personal effects and about to be airfreighted to the Heart of Darkness Africa until someone opened the box...shit. Car had to be driven back to Antwerp to be put on a boat [but the customs papers were with the af which left Paris]. Cut story a couple a months: car now at Pont Noire - held hostage by a shipper who hadn't paid their railroad account for about a year. Finally, 18 months later: car is at customs in Brazzaville and they are refusing to release it to me because "it has a new engine". Aha! same story: well, I thought the car looked better with a steamed clean job. Car released with lower value which meant lower import taxes for who ever bought the car from me when I left six months later....

There is some point to these two stories which I won't admit to using.
#17
Old 04-29-2001, 02:07 AM
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Well, the Nova is gone (sold), and no one said a word about the engine which I never did steam clean.
I now have an '89 Dodge Daytona which I probably will not steam clean either.

But I want to thank everyone who posted.
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