Maintenance on the OptiSpark requires pulling apart most of the front of the engine as opp
Charles Jousma, Calumet, MI: I've been working on my own vehicles for the last five and a half years without once bringing a vehicle to a mechanic. At this point, I am the person everyone comes to for diagnostics and to try to get free repairs. I now want to take the Michigan mechanic test, but I realize there are two areas of the test in which I lack knowledge: engine rebuilding and repairs and automatic transmissions. Are there any books you can recommend that will prepare me for these portions of the test? I would like to attend school for this, but I do not have the money or time, and at this point, I have vast amounts of hands-on experience. I love the magazine and enjoy the What's Your Problem? section the most.
Jeff Smith: There is a ton of material out there Charles; it's just a matter of choosing the area you want to concentrate on. Since you're reading Car Craft, we'll assume you are into domestic engines and transmissions. There's a website called boxwrench.net that offers some generic information and books that are accompanied by a very professionally produced DVD. I found a CarTech title called How To Rebuild Any Auto-motive Engine that is 144 pages and comes with a DVD that would probably be a good place to start. This book and three-hour DVD are affordable at $39.95 and might be what you're looking for. As far as automatic transmission information goes, I also found a book on the 4L60E GM automatic overdrive trans, but if you have only limited experience with automatics, I would suggest learning on a more basic transmission like a TH350. These transmissions are easy to find and inexpensive, so you could buy one and go through it without a major expense. I'd recommend the Turbo Hydra-Matic 350 Handbook by Ron Sessions that's sold through HP books. I found it for sale on Amazon.com for less than $20. The TH350 is a relatively simple transmission, and you will be able to learn much more about basic hydraulics and the use and control of planetary gearsets.
Delteq offers this slick conversion kit based on the waste spark DIS used on the Cadillac
I might also suggest looking into taking the Automotive Service Excellence (ASE) series of tests for the automobile and light truck certification (test series A). If you log on to ase.com, there's a wealth of information on all the different tests you can take to become certified in several different areas. For example, the A-series of tests involves roughly 40 to 50 questions that cover the basic area in question, such as engine rebuilding or automatic transmission repair. The least expensive route is to take the paper test, which requires a one-time registration fee of $36, and then each test (there are eight in the A-series) costs $28. Currently, ASE has certified more than 400,000 mechanics since 1972, and the certification lasts for five years. There is also an ASE Master Certification program that covers the entire A-series. This is not an easy test, since the ASE says that only two thirds of the test takers pass. But you do get an ASE shoulder patch and a certificate that can certainly help when looking for a job and commanding a better salary than someone without a certification. It's a great place to start.
Automotive Service Excellence (ASE)
The Disco Nova
Remember the Disco Nova? This short-lived project was a paint and body model for the 2005 redesign of the magazine. How time flies. On the right is former CC Executive Editor Terry McGean, on the left is Hot Rod Editor-in-Chief David Freiburger adding the stripes for the story. We don't know where the car is now.