1. Welcome to owning a hotrod.
2. There are two type types of hotrod owners. There are those that work on their cars and fix everything themselves, and those that have a mechanic do it. There is nothing wrong with either type. Only, one will spend a lot more money than the other, and one will be more likely to own their hotrod for a longer time.
Allright, I'll get to my point. I work on my Camaro more than I drive it. I have all of the bells and whistles, bolt ons, and engineering into to it like you wouldn't believe. Not to mention some well thought out spent $$$ too.
And no, this isn't a response for jay'srs/ss alone.
Go through all of the basics. I run into problems like you are having more often than not. And I end up chasing my tail trying to find what is wrong, only to find out it was something basic.
I do however have somewhat of a checklist for tracking problems.
-Start with voltage. Trace it all the way to the plugs. That means battery, grounds, plug wires, dist. cap, pickup, rotor, and plugs.
-Check your TDC mark on the balancer and then check timing with a timing light. Make sure it doesn't start advancing until above idle. Then plot it every 500 RPM until it is all in. With that being said, never trust your timing light. If you have checked everything else here go back to this one.
-Check for fuel. Check pressure, filter, that the tank has gas, float levels and then mixture. I doubt this is jay'srs/ss's problem, but you never know. Carbs can do something goofy things when they are having issues, lean spikes etc.
-Check all the rocker arms for looseness or play. Make sure none of the pushrods are bent or adjustment nuts backed off. Make sure none are too tight. I once broke 3 exhaust rocker studs and could barely tell. No tick nothing. I run stud girdles and luckily the there was still enough stud left, the rockers stayed on the pushrods, and it didn't grenade on me. I felt beld for cursing at the carb that day...Sorry miss Holley.
-If you don't have one already, get a vacuum gauge and set the mixture. It sounds easy enough, but it takes years of practice to do it right. And, it takes even more years to learn what right really is. A quick shortcut in the learning curve is to invest in an AFR gauge.
I have been doing this for years, and read and study about cars on average an hour a day, (at least since the internet). I still get stumped for a few hours on some of the dumbest things. I start to take for granted what I have learned, and overlook the easy in search of a problem more deserving of my ability level. But hey, spark plugs still go bad, as do rotors, and carb gaskets.
Thanks for the extremely informative post!
Up until recently I have been Hot Rod owner #2, the guy that pays someone else to do the work. I'm 26 about to be 27, and in my life time I haven't learned as much as I should've mechanically speaking. My Dad has always had muscle cars while I was growing up. I'd watch him work on them when I was young, even help with lil stuff. But when I got my Camaro at 19, he had paid his dues and was done working on cars to a certain extent. Which I can understand, so many years of wrenching could do that to someone. He did help me a lot, with my Camaro it mostly came down to my schedule wouldn't allow me to finish certain parts of the restoration in the time I wanted it done. It was either pay the labor, or wait a long long before I could drive my Camaro. So I paid, but I'm not paying anymore!!!
I got a basic set of tools a few years ago, that way my dad doesn't hound me about his tools missing. I try to read up as much as possible, on the net mostly, about mechanics. I watch every DIY auto related show on TV, gotta love Tivo!
So I'm still green as a blade of grass when it comes to some stuff. But I can turn a wrench, I'm not afraid to learn, and my love for cars will keep me going. But I've never rebuilt a carb, never bled my brakes, never used a timing lite or anything like that. But I'm getting there!
With the help of this forum I've been able to get more involved in my cars restoration, than just writing a check. And I will continue to get more involved as time goes on. Not to just keep money in my bank account, but to have the self pride of knowing I can do it!