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The Best Fuel Stabilizers: the Good, Bad and Ugly

A year ago, we wrote some winter car storage tips on six ways to kill your classic. One of our points was that nonuse is abuse. For those of you who live up north though, this is easier said than done. Many of you may feel that a fuel stabilizer is necessary and use it to keep the gas intact during the winter. Fuel stabilizers are supposed to leave your gasoline fresh after winter sitting. Some prove to do just that while most prove to do nothing. However, some cause harm to your car’s engine. So how can you tell the best fuel stabilizers apart from the ones that are as good as poison?

To start breaking down the question of what can kill your car while it sits and how, we’ll start by looking at what’s in gasoline. Or rather, what else is in gasoline. The EPA legally allows endless amounts of other chemicals and additives in gasoline which all evaporate at different rates. Thinner compounds tend to go first, then the heavier additives. This can clog up your fuel system. 

Evaporation 

Although this is something to make note of when storing your vehicle, fuel stabilizers are anti-evaporative. At least, they claim to be. Researchers found when testing popular stabilizers such as Sta-Bil, StarTron, SeaFoam, STP, K100, and Ipone, this wasn’t the case.

Test and video by FortNine.ca
Image from video by FortNine.ca

Water 

Even so, this doesn’t necessarily mean that all fuel stabilizers are the murder weapon. Modern gasoline is partially ethanol, an alcohol that lessens gasoline’s negative effect on the environment. Ethyl alcohol is also hygroscopic meaning it tends to absorb moisture from the air. After it absorbs too much, the particles will no longer be suspended throughout the liquid and sink to the bottom.


Image from video by FortNine.ca

This is why fuel stabilizers claim to be hydrophobic; to prevent the attraction to water in ethanol. When treating popular stabilizers with ethanol, K100 and StarTron actually drew more water. But stabilizers also contain methanol, a water-soluble fuel. If they blend instead of creating layers, they can help it burn away. In another test, researchers soaked paper in the ethanol and stabilizer solution and tried burning it. Every one burned except Ipone, which fizzled out.


Image from video by FortNine.ca

Ice

Another issue is that water can freeze. Stabilizers also have anti-freeze properties. To put these properties to the test, researchers froze the ethanol stabilizer samples. Ipone and K100 froze within five hours while the rest stayed liquid.


Image from video by FortNine.ca

Oxygenation

Of all of the ethanol's faults, oxygenation is the worst. On one hand, you want an oxidizer in your fuel because oxygenated gasoline burns more completely leaving fewer emissions in the environment. On the other hand, the quicker the fuel oxidizes, the quicker the fuel goes bad. Fuel stabilizers have antioxidants in them which prevent redox reactions from eating away at the engine.

So in another test, researchers dropped a small piece of metal in the ethanol stabilizer solution to see any deterioration. Every solution saw deterioration except for K100. Ipone and Sta-Bil saw smaller amounts of erosion while StarTron and SeaFoam were easily the worst.


Image from video by FortNine.ca

Although there are many ways an engine can go bad during winter storage, it is this oxidation that we see most typically kill cars.

Conclusion

In conclusion, ethanol is an accomplice to pretty much every storage crime. If you can fill your car with ethanol-free gas, you’re more likely to have fewer storage issues. However, we know that’s easier said than done. If you can’t get ethanol-free gas, fuel stabilizers don’t generally help much. The only exception is oxidation protection which only K100 does best. Just keep in mind is also freezes fast. Stabil is another tempting choice limiting water ingress.

January's Cool Ride: Charles' 1967 Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme 442, 455

I've owned this car for more than 15 years and have spent the best part of that time restoring it a little at a time. It's not a factory number matching car, so I've taken some "liberties" with the restoration to make it more enjoyable to drive, including upgrading suspension, brakes, and driveline.

The Original Air parts are the hoses, drier, and expansion valve.

Together Again: A 1973 Grand Am's Story of Theft and Restoration

My Father passed away when I was in high school. I decided that I would pursue an auto mechanic career. To gain experience, I restored a 1968 Camaro. I purchased the car in pieces without a motor. By the time I graduated, I had a mint condition Camaro with a 1963 corvette motor. It was an incredible car. The local police also had it on their “radar.”

As it turned out, I was in love with my high school sweetheart. However, her father was transferred to Santa Fe. Of course, I had to follow her, so I found a college in Santa Fe to attend. I also planned on taking my Camaro. My mother had different plans for my Camaro. Unfortunately for me, I was not 18 when I purchased the car; the title was in her name.

My father was a salesman and every two years he would take the family to Eddie Ruch Pontiac in Wheaton Illinois to order our new Pontiac Catalina. Harry Toft was our “family” salesman. Because my Camaro was popular with the local police, my mother was not going to let me take it to Santa Fe. Instead, we were going to see Harry to purchase a car she would consider safe for me. My grandfather had passed away and I had inheritance money. My mother insisted I would use this money to purchase a new car. She also informed me she did not care if she only got a dollar for my/ her Camaro, I was simply not taking it.

I had two weeks to sell my Camaro! You can imagine I was not a happy customer. Harry showed us a Grand Am and bragged that it was a “sporty” car for me. My mother made me buy the car just a few days before I was to leave for Santa Fe. I was very angry. My Grand Am was in both of our names. My mother passed away many years ago and it wasn’t until last year that I finally obtained a title in my name.

To make things worse, my mother insisted on riding with me to Santa Fe. A few days prior to departure, I decided to actually give the car a chance and started to check it out. Whoa! I discovered it had a 4 barrel 400 ci engine. I could easily get a 2nd gear scratch. And it was an AUTOMATIC!

During the drive to Santa Fe, I discovered my Grand Am had many “deluxe” accessories. It had fully reclining seats with lumbar adjustment, awesome dome light, headlight bright dim switch on the blinker arm, excellent stereo 8 track, cockpit-style seating and great console, full gauges, tilt steering wheel, and incredible handling (RTS was new). But most of all, the car was fast. I buried the speedometer many times on long stretches of I 40 (old 66 from Chicago to Albuquerque). The car was so smooth, my mother had no idea. I LOVE THIS CAR!

My fellow students at the College of Santa Fe loved it also. More importantly, my girlfriend and her parents loved my Grand Am. I still maintain close contact with her parents (I did not marry their daughter) and they still love my Grand Am 47 years later. Below is a photo with my college friend Rubin at a rest stop at Tucumcari New Mexico. l wanted to look like Hank Williams, Jr. The other is a picture of my car at a stream in the Pecos. Yes, I did drive the car into the stream. I paid a price for doing it. I crunched in my gas tank. To this day, my gas tank wears the patch from this adventure.

Other stories significant to the car's condition you ask? I fell asleep on the enchanted trail outside Albuquerque and smacked a guardrail hard. The car's solid frame took the blow well, but my rear-view mirror flew off and cracked. Every time I look into my rear-view mirror, I still see the crack. Last story- I was driving down Cerrillos road in Santa Fe very early in the morning. A 1969 Pontiac GTO ran a red light and I T-boned it. Again, my Grand Am came through ok, but it needed a new hood. The only hood the Pontiac dealer in Albuquerque had was the hood with the vents. Damn the luck. The GTO was sadly decimated.

The car served me well while I served twenty years in the Navy. The pictures are of me at Officer Candidate School (OCS) in 1979 at NAS Pensacola. Shortly after school, I painted the car black. The car could not get any cooler!

In the mid-nineties, I decided to paint the car white. Not as cool as black, but I still loved my Grand Am. At over 200,000 miles on the motor, my Grand Am showed no signs of slowing up. With pride, it could still deliver a second gear scratch. I guess changing the oil frequently works for keeping the motor healthy. The car moved to San Diego in 1982.

In 1998, I decided to perform a frame-off restoration and rebuild the motor. All mechanical parts were rebuilt as well as all fluid lines. The car was nearly 80 percent complete. I was getting very anxious to drive the car again. Attached are photos during the frame off restoration.

I returned from an extended Navy deployment. My new girlfriend was anxious to see my Grand Am, so we went to the body shop to see it. Hopefully, the car was completed. To our horror, the shop was abandoned and there was no sign of my car, as well as the other classic muscle cars that were also in restoration. None of the neighboring stores knew where the cars went. The sheriff’s department was not any help. My Grand Am was gone!

I married this girlfriend and was living a great life. When I was approaching my 55th birthday, I decided I was going to spend much time looking for my Grand Am. I canvased many neighborhood auto body shops in East San Diego. Bingo, I found the shop owner working at a small body shop.

Needless to say, he was surprised I found him after 13 years. Tom, the man who stole my car, told me he had my car and its parts in storage all these years. He had a terrible excuse that he could not contact me by phone. To this day, I still have the same phone number. You can see I keep things for a long time. The owner of the body shop had much sympathy for me and offered me one of his bays.

For Tom, storing the car all those years was partially true. I met him at Ace towing in east San Diego to see my car. The Ace owner, Tom, and I walked to a remote area in the desert lot and found my car. Attached are the pictures of my Grand Am in the wrecking yard. The owner told me Tom had run out to put the blue tarp on before I arrived. As you can see, the car was in horrible condition. I was saddened as I thought I was saying goodbye to my Grand Am. Tom had not paid any fees. I was amazed the owner kept the car. Thirteen years of storage fees added up to thousands of dollars.

I decided to go for it. I wanted my car. I stuck a deal to have the car delivered to the body shop for $1800. The owner made Tom perform much of the work after hours. And for free.

The motor that was rebuilt was now rusted solid. My motor was on the limits of not being able to be rebuilt. However, it made it back to my Grand Am. Attached are pictures after it was painted. I decided to restore my Grand Am the way I found it in the showroom. That was late 2011. I worked on the car until late 2013.

You can get every part for a Pontiac A body for 1972 and prior. Obtaining parts for my Grand Am took years of phone calls and internet search. The great news is that Tom had most of my interior parts at an indoor storage facility.

During this 2nd restoration, I ran out of money and time and the car sat in my garage for 6 years. Reenergized with money and time, about a year ago I decided to finish the car. Last June, I drove the car for the first time since 1998. Oh yeah! Baby is back! My car’s nickname from my Navy buds was the “Mag.” Short for magic. The car really is magic. I loved to hear, “How’s the Mag doing?”

I was delighted to find Classic Air to restore my air conditioning system. I look forward to installing the system when the restoration of my AC parts is completed. I also look forward to working with their technical department folks to help me with the install. They are super.

Attached are pictures of my car in front of my house. I have to finish the wheels, emblems, and chrome. My goal is to take a road trip back to the places significant to the car's past as well as visiting friends that have “history” with the car. I also plan on attending car shows when the care is complete.

I have to install the interior panels of which I have. Plus, there is much detail work like getting the clock to run, the horns to work, or the windshield wipers and washers to operate. The electrical system was a nightmare to restore with all the damage to the fuse boxes and wiring. It all works and with nearly all of the original wiring.

I am truly amazed I still have this car. My daughter is 17 and she is discovering how great it is to have this car in the family. She is probably the only student in her school that knows what a carburetor is and has actually seen one get rebuilt and working. Not to mention hear the secondaries open and feel the car lurch.

October’s Cool Ride: Jim and Diana’s Custom Nova Featuring Mike LaVallee

We are very excited to show off a cool custom Nova owned by Jim and Diana Workman. This car has both a 68-72 Big Bowtie trunk panel kit and a solid deck lid cover. We love to see one upholstered this way that really compliments a beautiful car. This one is unique because it features not only custom stitching, but custom air-brushing by the one and only Mike LaVallee. It is when we received these photos that we learned of Mike's passing. 

A Short History on Mike LeValee

Mike began drawing dinosaurs at the age of two. Later while in high school and moving on to sketching other animals, one of his teachers recommended he enter a national art competition. After winning, he decided to pursue a career in art and attended Butera School of Art in Boston. 

Initially, he learned how to paint signs. He got a job at a sign-producing company and stayed there for about a year. LeVallee decided the job wasn’t for him and instead set up shop in his parents garage. There, he learned airbrushing from his father who used it for his taxidermy business. Instead of using dead fish as a canvas, Mark chose motorcycles and cars.

A friend saw his talent and suggested he ply his new trade at the Laconia motorcycle rally up in New Hampshire. He ended up making more money in that single weekend than an entire month of working in the sign business. 

The motorcycle rally was the spark LeVallee needed to find his success in the airbrushing business. He traveled like a gypsy from show to show until he eventually settled down in Washington State. While attending a show in Seattle, Mark came up to a black ’32 Roadster. He mentioned to the guy working underneath the car that he could fix the scratch for 20 bucks. Mark fixed the scratch the next morning and met the owner of the car who was none other than Chip Foose of Foose Design.

Foose was so interested in LeVallee’s work he flew him down to Southern California where Mark painted his flames on the side of a ’51 black Chevy pickup. It was later featured on the cover of Classic Truck Magazine turning LeVallee’s work into an international sensation. 

Mike passed away April14th, 2020 from complications of a stroke at 60 years old. Mark’s airbrushing techniques have changed the automotive industry. He called his technique True Fire which as since become the industry standard for airbrushed flames. 

See some of Mike’s artistic process here: 

 

The Risk of Rust: A History on How Automakers Fought Corrosion

Those of you who live in cold, snowy, or hot moist climates know the menace of rust. Although your classic is more at risk in those areas, corrosion tends to eventually attack vintage vehicles at some point. However, the history of car rust is not so simple. Modern cars today can withstand rust better due to a combination of advancements in design, manufacturing, engineering, and implementing anti-rust plans.

Thick Skin and Steel Frames

Galvanization is a chemical process that fights rust. Sounds like the perfect solution for cars, right? Wrong. Even though the Brooklyn bridge used over 15,000 miles of the galvanized wire during construction in 1883, car companies didn’t catch on. Instead, up until the 1950s, the steel used to build cars was much thicker than today. Even though rust could still affect thick steel, it took a long time to ultimately corrode.

Cult of Consumerism

Another crude solution to rust is to not let your car age. In addition to thick steel frames, 1950’s post-war American convinced consumers that they needed a new car every other year. Car companies would frequently introduce new body styles during that same time, making the appeal of a brand-new car too good to pass up. 

Finally, Zinc 

While the general American population was fine with swapping cars like hot potatoes, overseas felt differently. And we’re not talking Europe. Japan is an island nation that habitually fights moisture from the sea air. As Japan became a new automotive powerhouse, companies like GM, Chrysler, and Ford began taking on anti-corrosion technology. Enter galvanization.

Rust happens when metal gives up its electrons to another piece of metal willing to receive it. Typically, a liquid, otherwise known as an electrode, facilitates this transfer. With cars, steel gives up its electron to water, road salt, and carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.

Galvanization is the process of coating steel with zinc to avoid corrosion and rust. In other words, it halts the chemical process of rust from occurring by keeping the metal’s electrons in place and instead, sacrificing its own.

Glass Bones and the Unibody

After American companies began adopting galvanization, they also started simplifying designs. This decision was partially an imitation to Japanese designs, so moisture can’t get into smaller parts of the car. 

Anti-Rust Treatments 

As the ’90s came around, so did multi-year corrosion warranties. Although many different and effective anti-rust treatments exist, none can guarantee zero perforation. The easiest and safest way to avoid the risk of rust is to take care of your classic. Keep it away from salt. Remember to always park it in a dry yet ventilated area. And as always, store it in a safe spot for winter.

Will You Survive the Storm? Prepping for Hurricane Season

Original Air is located on the Gulf Coast of Tampa, FL, so we know a thing or two about hurricanes. We’ve experienced more than a few close calls with Irma, Dorian, Laura; you name it, we’ve dodged it. However, luck can’t last forever. And many weren’t so fortunate. In 2017, hurricane Harvey and Irma wrecked nearly 1.4 million cars. If you own a classic and put countless hours into it, always be prepared.

Collector Insurance

The best piece of advice we can offer you when it comes to your classic and hurricanes is protecting yourself with the right insurance. Make sure you have the right plan to cover all your collector car needs. Most standard auto insurances will only pay the cash value of the classic. This may land you thousands of dollars below the actual market value.

Years ago, after losing about a thousand classics post-Katrina and Rita, the collector car business for insurance changed. Some insurance companies wrote about 75% of their claims were a total loss.

To qualify as a classic, in general, the car must be:

  • At least 25-30 years old
  • A modified car or hotrod
  • Classic trucks
  • Muscle cars
  • Exotic or luxury
  • In limited use
  • Secured in storage
  • Attend car shows and meetings
  • For the owner to hold a clean driving record

Classic Car Policies

Each classic is unique, so there is no standard value for specific types. You and your insurer will have to agree on the value of the vehicle. If you already got insurance and have taken care of your classic over the years, know your value might have increased. Remember to speak about adjusting the amount as time goes on. Depending on the state, some types of insurances can also cover a portion of expenses needed to evacuate.

Evacuating with a Classic

If your classic is your daily ride or you think it’s best to bring it with you, make sure it’s ready for the distance. Read our tips on the proper classic maintenance before taking it out on the road. More than likely, you’ll hit evacuation traffic, so be sure you have everything you need including a functioning AC.

In addition to maintenance, you want to bring a handful of items with you on the road. Bring a roadside emergency kit that includes tire sealant in case of a flat. Add a can of gas as gas stations are notorious for running out of gas during hurricane evacuations. Plus, bring a cigarette lighter-to-USB charger for vintage cars for phone charging. Many classics don’t have an option for phones to connect, so consider getting a Bluetooth speaker.

Cars with a garage

If you have a garage but live in a nasty flood zone, you might be better off with your friend or office garage. If the garage’s structure is weak, it may not last the hurricane and damage your classic even more. Furthermore, many modern houses install flimsy garage doors that break in high winds. Consider finding storm braces.

Even if your neighbor has lived in the area for 20 some years and swears it’s never flooded, there’s a first for everything. You can look into car capsules but depending on your budget, you might want to stick with jacks.

Cars without a garage

Simply put, you need some shelter. Check-in with friends, family, and neighbors to see if they’re willing to help you out. If you work at a larger office building with a concrete garage, use that. If you know similar places in the area that won’t tow, use that instead if you don’t have access to a private one. Furthermore, make sure you park above the first floor toward the middle near the walls.

If you don’t have access to any garages, find a tall, strong structure away from trees, water, and powerlines. Make sure the area is clean and ideally vacant. You don’t want any projectiles flying into your classic.

Once the car is parked, disconnect the battery. Raise it on jack stands if you’re not parked in an upper-level garage. Put on a protective cover and an additional tarp.

Be Cool and Help Out

Lastly, if you see someone in need, lend a hand. Hurricane season can be challenging but coming together as a community can make the difference. This guy saved a stranger’s Mazda RX-7 from tropical storm Cristobal’s floodwaters. The water would’ve ruined it entirely if not for the heroism of someone with good taste in cars. Be more like him.

Read the full story here.

September's Cool Ride: Mark's 1967 Oldsmobile Toronado 495

I bought the car five years ago. It was a heat-only car but here in Florida, an A/C is essential. The car is now a resto-mod. The front discs are from a 70 Toronado. The parts and pieces are from three Toronados in order to make one new A/C system. We also rebuilt a 425 transmission with a switch pitch converter. The engine was bored and stroked to a 495 cc (8.11 liters) with a 12:1 compression.

The Original Air parts are the condenser, drier, and evaporator.

Are You Holding on to These Parts? Don't

If you’re like us, you’ve worked on several restored and modified car projects. Chances are you’ve collected your fair share of car parts, and they aren’t cheap. While you hate to throw away something you may need or at the very least costs an arm and a leg, space is an issue. It may be so much of a problem that space has become just as valuable as a garage filled with old parts.

In other words, if you or your family are suffering from a parts hoard, you have options. Your first impulse might be to sell it all but face it; that could take months. Maybe even years. On the other hand, your significant other might want to rent a dumpster and get rid of it all. However, that’s not going to work either. The idea that someone somewhere might be willing to pay for that old muffler is just too good to pass up. All in all, the best approach we can recommend is coming out of a hoard with a clean space and make a pretty penny or two. 

Easier said than done. Ten to 20 percent of car parts may be possible to sell, while the other 80 to 90 aren’t. You’ve got to factor in the time to sort, clean, take photos, describe the part, find a way to advertise it, pack it up and ship it out. Of course, you can always give parts away or donate them, but that’s still a lot of work without the pretty penny. Concentrate on parts that you know has monetary value while considering their condition and how easy it is to clean them up and ship them out.

Here’s Original Air’s list to help out your hoard:

Sell (if it is a rebuildable core or not in reproduction):

  • POA valves - sell us your old POA valves here
  • STV Valves
  • VIR units
  • Compressors
  • Some expansion valves
  • Hose/manifold assemblies (in not in reproduction)
  • Evaporators (if not in reproduction)
  • Condensers (If not in reproduction)
  • Evaporator housings
  • Compressor brackets & mounts
  • Pulleys & Idlers

Throw Away or Recycle (if in reproduction or not rebuildable):

  • Condensers
  • Evaporators
  • Compressors
  • Valves
  • Hoses/Manifolds
August's Cool Ride: Abimael's 1987 Chevy Monte Carlo 350

I'm the original owner having bought it in 1987. The off frame restoration was completed in 2012. It's got a ZZ4 crate motor, hooker full-length headers, and blazer front spindles with the disk. It's also got Camaro rear disks, 1/2 inch dual exhaust with flowmasters, cowl induction hood with an air cleaner, dual electric fans, and a full Original Air system. 

The Original Air components on it are the condenser, hoses, compressor, and evaporator.

July's Cool Ride: Tom's 1969 Chevrolet Chevelle 396

This car has been in my family since 1983. I drove it through high school, took it to prom twice, and raced at the High School Drags at the local drag strip. I drove it through college and on our honeymoon. I drove it more than 100,000 miles with a Maaco paint job and the wrong powertrain.

The frame-off restoration took over 20 years. The powertrain includes a 396 producing 400 horsepower, an M-20 wide ratio 4-speed, and a 3.55 12 bolt positraction rear axle. My brother completed the body and paint, I did upholstery and wiring, my dad fabricated many parts, and we all, including my wife and 2 sons worked on the assembly.

We have a number of air conditioned classic Chevys in our family that have utilized Original Air components in our restoration/134a conversions including a '68 CST K20 PU, '65 Chevelle, 2 '70 Chevelles, and a '72 Chevelle. I knew I wanted to keep the look as original as possible on my '69, so I utilized the Original Air High Efficiency Condenser, Receiver/Drier, half of a barrier hose set (I wanted to keep the factory muffler on the compressor), and a recalibrated POA valve. My brother and I assembled and charged the system and it has provided dependable and comfortable cruising passenger temperatures since completed.

The car has earned trophies at many shows and been photographed for commercial projects as well. The car has been with me for 36 plus years and there are no plans for the car to ever leave the family! Thank you for providing quality parts to the classic car restoration community!

All Original Air Components:

Condenser, hoses, drier, expansion valve, and recalibrated POA valve.