7. My Wheel Life – How To: Why to install headers AND how to repaint rusted headers

A rat rod with long tube headers.

A rat rod with long tube headers.


Quartermile:
Headers let your engine breath better, thus increasing performance, speed, acceleration and fun factor!
Use rubber gloves when using paint to avoid paint on your hands and to avoid getting your hand oils on the headers after you have cleaned them, before painting.
Header wrap or High temp paint, or both can be used to protect headers.

The Full Monty
First, if you are newer to engines and modifying them, or if you are an old hand even, you should watch this video and hopefully you can get an idea of the basics of how an engine works. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=60QX5RY_ohQ

This Model T Ford is a mixture of Gasser and Rat Rod. It's mostly for fun, and not so much for actual performance. This engine has a straight pipe for each cylinder. They are actually about the best you can get for flow, unless you start dabbling in tuned length runners, etc. It's really an independent header for each cylinder.  I think it's awesome!

This Model T Ford is a mixture of Gasser and Rat Rod. It’s mostly for fun, and not so much for actual performance. This engine has a straight pipe for each cylinder. They are actually about the best you can get for flow, unless you start dabbling in tuned length runners, etc. It’s really an independent header for each cylinder. I think it’s awesome!

If you are reading this you just might be interested in making the engine perform better in your vehicle of choice. I will use the old old old old analogy, “The engine is an air pump.” If you can get more air (and a corresponding amount of fuel) into the combustion chamber, and ignited, you will make more power and go faster. An important part of the airflow of the engine is the exhaust. This removes the used A/F (air/fuel) mixture out of your combustion chamber and gets it ready for a new mixture. Efficiently removing this air allows more new mixture in, thus making more horsepower.

There are many parts to your exhaust. After the valve and the exhaust port, the exhaust manifolds are the first part of the exhaust making up the system of pipes that lead the exhaust to the back of your car. Usually the factory exhaust manifolds are heavy and ugly. Thus, replacing them with headers is both an appearance upgrade, a weight saving (performance) and makes your engine develop more horsepower (performance x2!).Headers are a popular first or second upgrade for any engine. The best analogy I can give is a water hose. The manifolds would represent squeezing the hose right at the end closest to the water source, if you let that expand, you flow more water. This is in essence what headers do. You see why headers are so great!

These are exhaust manifolds. They do the same job as headers, but they don't flow as good or make as much horsepower and often weight more because they are cast iron instead of steel tubes, which are thinner. Although headers could weight more because they are longer but they they make more horsepower.

These are exhaust manifolds. They do the same job as headers, but they don’t flow as good or make as much horsepower and often weight more because they are cast iron instead of steel tubes, which are thinner. Although headers could weight more because they are longer but they they make more horsepower.


There are a myriad of types of headers and I don’t have the space to write about all of them but I will give you the long and short of it, literally! The two most basic types of headers are called “Long Tube” and “Short Tube” headers. Gearheads like to keep it simple, so the names mean exactly what it sounds like, the physical tubes making up a long tube header are longer. See picture. Long tube headers generally make more peak horsepower, good for racing but they take up more underhood room as they are physically larger. Short tube headers generally are good for a street car because they are easier to install (smaller, less interference with other parts of the car) and they have good lower end torque (idle to ½ throttle) where you are typically driving a street car.

short tube headers

short tube headers


Long tube headers

Long tube headers

There are various ways to protect your headers from the elements. The easiest would be to buy stainless steel headers. They don’t rust since they have a high chromium content (>10.5% by mass). Another expensive solution is to have the headers chrome plated. These are very attractive but also expensive. A third solution is to apply your own high temp paint which I will chronicle my experience with below. This is definitely the most “cost effective” method, approximately $50 in materials, max.
One more way to protect your headers is to wrap them. When wrapping headers I would still recommend painting them. The header wrap could actually absorb water and hold it on the headers. Header wrap also will keep your under hood temperatures down and greatly reduce the risk of burning yourself. They are popular on motorcycles and race cars.

This is a Model A Ford Sedan with header wrap. It's barely visible behind the front tire, but it was the best picture I had, and again, sweet car. Picture is justified in my blog!

This is a Model A Ford Sedan with header wrap. It’s barely visible behind the front tire, but it was the best picture I had, and again, sweet car. Picture is justified in my blog!


How to paint headers:
If you read about My Monte in post #2 https://mywheellife.com/2014/05/20/my-wheel-life-my-monte/
you would have noticed that headers were the first performance upgrade I did. That was 5 years ago and they have become rusty despite the anti-rust coating applied to them by the manufacturer when I bought them. I recently had some starter issues with that car and had to take the headers off to get the starter off. I took that opportunity to re-rustproof the headers. Since headers are the hottest exposed part of the engine they need special paint or coating to protect them from rust, normal paint will burn off.

The first thing you need to do is to remove the rust off the headers. They need to be stripped to bare metal. I used a wire wheel and a 3M varnish/paint remover pad, both mounted on a ½” drill. This worked a lot better, faster, easier than using sand paper. There are a few other ways you could remove the rust and paint. You could use an acid paint/rust stripper. I have never done this but that stuff is definitely abrasive to the hands. You definitely want to use rubber gloves when using that. I have heard it does a very good job cleaning them though. Another way would be a sand blaster, but I believe the drill works fastest and easiest in this case and with the least exposure to chemicals! It took approximately 30 minutes – 1 hour per header.

Headers as they started in the car. Rusty, ugly. Eventually they could have rusted through and I could have had an exhaust leak. That's not good!

Headers as they started in the car. Rusty, ugly. Eventually they could have rusted through and I could have had an exhaust leak. That’s not good!


Passenger side. Rusty headers. These have been in the car since 2008 so they were possibly due to be recoated.

Passenger side. Rusty headers. These have been in the car since 2008 so they were possibly due to be recoated.

http://www.amazon.com/3M-Scotch-Brite-Varnish-Remover-9414NA/dp/B000BQWPAQ

drill and wire wheels used to remove rust

drill and wire wheels used to remove rust

After the headers are cleaned of paint and rust to bare metal they need to have any grease removed before they can be painted. Carb cleaner, paint thinner or acetone are good cleaners for grease. There are also specific grease removers for this. I used carb cleaner and and a new clean shop rag. After that, you can prime the bare metal headers. VHT sells a primer specifically for use with their paint. VHT Flame Proof is the specific brand they use for 1200-2000 degrees F. This is header specific coating. They also have lower temp paints for engine blocks and brake calipers or drums. I followed the directions on the can to apply 2 light coats 10 minutes apart and a medium coat. This makes it so all coats are tacky and you don’t have to sand in between them. Holding anything when painting it is difficult. I hung the parts from a nail on the wall, as seen in the picture. Wire from a rafter or cherry picker (engine lift) works also. Make sure to not get overspray on anything when painting! After the primer stage let dry for 24 hours at least. I lightly sanded the headers with 200 grit sandpaper then sprayed 3 coats of VHT Flame Proof paint. The VHT website is a bit confusing as they say there is not VHT Flame Proof primer, but the can specifically says use a VHT Flameproof primer, and I was able to buy VHT Flame Proof primer. The name primer was only on the bar code. It’s not on the label anywhere else. I’ll have to get in touch with VHT on this. Anyway, after VHT Flame Proof paint is applied, it needs to be cured. First it has to dry for at least 24 hours. After that it needs to be headed to cure. This can be done in an oven or on the engine with light running, letting the headers cool, and later a harder run to get them hotter.
http://www.speco.com.au/vht_faq.html

Headers hanging on the wall being painted. 3 coats seemed to be about right. I also had 2 coats of VHT primer.

Headers hanging on the wall being painted. 3 coats seemed to be about right. I also had 2 coats of VHT primer.


Headers after they have been cleaned and repainted, and re-installed. Don't they look so much nicer? Also they should not rust away for some time! Disregard the dirty charcoal canister, radiator, inner fender wells and valve covers.

Headers after they have been cleaned and repainted, and re-installed. Don’t they look so much nicer? Also they should not rust away for some time! Disregard the dirty charcoal canister, radiator, inner fender wells and valve covers.


Well, hopefully you’ve learned a few things about headers in this article, and why you should buy them for your car, immediately.
Do you have a car with headers?
What was the first performance upgrade you did to your car if it wasn’t headers?
Keep the rubber side down! (Don’t forget to follow my blog (upper right, just type in your email and be sure to confirm once you get an email) so you don’t miss a new post!)
Also if you enjoy this, please share with your friends, on Facebook or in person even!

6. My Wheel Life – How to buy a vehicle

How to buy a vehicle and look as happy as this guy!

My friend on the 1982 Virago 920 he just purchased. It was his first motorcycle. Bought from the 2nd owner who had owned it since 1984.

My friend on the 1982 Virago 920 he just purchased. It was his first motorcycle. Bought from the 2nd owner who had owned it since 1984.


Quartermile:
Have an agreed upon way to transfer money between you and the seller.
Bring a blank Bill of Sale to fill out to show you have ownership of the vehicle. (just google “bill of sale or use this link http://www.jogero.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/11/Car-Bill-of-Sale.jpg )
Do a bit of research on the vehicle you are considering buying for price and common failure modes of the vehicle (weak points, ex: this engine had a tendency to blow head gaskets, or the paint was bad on X year of this vehicle)

The Full Monty

While watching racing or walking through a car show is fun, there is nothing like having your own pride and joy to ride, drive, race, modify or show off. That being established, I’d like to share some of the things I’ve learned from buying cars with my father, from my own experiences or guiding friends as they buy their first toys. To be clear most vehicles I buy are toys but most of the points in this article can be applied to toys or to basic transportation vehicles or even lawn mowers or tractors.

Often the first thing you will need to identify is how much money you are willing or able to spend.This will depend on the year of vehicle you are buying and your access to credit. I have been lucky to be buying vehicles less than 10 years old lately so I have had access to credit. If you are buying a car more than 10 years old or an ATV/dirtbike you will likely have to come up with the cash. When calculating what you are willing to spend on a vehicle remember there are usually a lot more costs than just the purchase price. You will have to transfer the title to your name. That will cost somewhere between $20-$100 (rough guess). When you transfer the title you will then have to pay a “road use tax” at least in Iowa. This is basically “the Man” getting you for sales tax. You will also have to pay for insurance within a certain number of days. I like my current insurance company because all my vehicles are covered through them so any new vehicles are automatically umbrella’ed under my coverage when I buy it, so when I drive it home I am already covered. Lastly, if you are like me you will likely want to immediately modify your vehicle in some way to make it yours. You should keep in mind any maintenance you will have to perform immediately. New tires? $400. Oil change? $30-40. New wipers? $10. Fixing a leaky rear window that you forgot to ask the previous owner about because that seems like a silly question to have to ask? Turns out that cost me about $50 and a days work. More on that in a later post.

Where to find a vehicle?
The easiest place to find vehicles these days is Craigslist. It breaks the whole country down into areas that you shouldn’t have to drive more than an hour to find something you want. Browsing craigslist is tons of fun since there is new stuff everyday. If you are looking for a specific vehicle make/model you can become a CL power user and search via SearchTempest.

About the funniest Craigslist ad I've ever read.

About the funniest Craigslist ad I’ve ever read.


http://www.searchtempest.com/
Another way to find a certain make or model is to look on a forum for that vehicle. Most specialty vehicles have a dedicated forum and usually there is a thread for vehicles for sale. Often these vehicles are well taken care of as the previous owner took enough time to look at the vehicle specific forum. Ebay Motors is also another good place to look for vehicles. My personal preference is to know what a vehicle will cost, so on Ebay Motors I prefer to search for “buy it now” vehicles only. Often Ebay Motors listings will include contact information outside of Ebay. I am not condoning or condemning that practice. I will leave that up to your judgement.
http://www.ebay.com/motors

This is a 2001 Dodge Viper I found for sale on EbayMotors for $31k. The MSRP on this car new would have been anywhere between $65k-$75k. It has 15k miles which basically is a new car. For window shopping purposes, you can buy this Viper or a brand new V8 Camaro or Mustang for the same price. The Dodge will probably cost more for insurance and replacement parts. The upside of car like this is there will be thousands of other Camaros and Mustangs. How many Dodge Vipers will you see on the road? Not many.

This is a 2001 Dodge Viper I found for sale on EbayMotors for $31k. The MSRP on this car new would have been anywhere between $65k-$75k. It has 15k miles which basically is a new car. For window shopping purposes, you can buy this Viper or a brand new V8 Camaro or Mustang for the same price. The Dodge will probably cost more for insurance and replacement parts. The upside of a car like this is there will be thousands of other Camaros and Mustangs. How many Dodge Vipers will you see on the road? Not many.

It’s a great practice to bring at least one friend when vehicle shopping. Often you can get caught up in the excitement of buying a new vehicle and you can look over any problems the vehicle has. Review the following questions with your friend, bring someone you trust and enjoy the car buying experience.

Once you have found a vehicle and set up a meeting there are a myriad of questions that you should ask.
Does the seller have the title? If not why?
How long will it take to get the title? Will they hold the vehicle until they get the title for you?
Does the vehicle have a clean title?!? If not why?
Is the vehicle still under a loan? (In Iowa the bank holds the title until the loan is paid off.)
How long has the seller owned this vehicle? If it’s been a short time it’s ok to be a bit suspicious and ask a few more questions about that.
What is the primary reason for selling this vehicle?
What problems are there with the vehicle?

Then you should check the vehicle over for a few things:
Do you see any rust?

The bad spots on this car were a bit more apparent than on some cars. Floors and quarter panels, and around windows are good places to look for rust

The bad spots on this car were a bit more apparent than on some cars. Floors and quarter panels, and around windows are good places to look for rust


Do you see any dents or dings? If so where did they come from?
Take the vehicle for a drive. You should actually drive the vehicle a little “hard” during a test drive, at least I think so. You should probably ask the seller and be clear that if you break it you don’t buy it. I’m not saying hard as in reckless, but accelerate, brake, turn sharply a little, obviously safely. Note any strange noises, slow accelerations or hick ups etc.

The topic of cash is an interesting one all by itself. Do you really want to pay for an $8000 vehicle in cash? Will the person selling the car be willing to take a check? The last vehicle I helped a friend purchase, a pristine 1982 Yamaha Virago 920, we had to make an atm run the day before and the morning of, because he had hit his daily limit for withdrawing cash. If you don’t have a physical bank in your area, just getting a large amount of cash can be difficult! One time a friend of mine paid the seller via paypal. The important thing here is to establish with the seller before you show up how you will pay them, and have the money ready when you get there.

What to pay? The negotiation.
If you decide you are ready to buy the car the next thing to discuss is the price. Here you should always do your homework before you go. Kelly Bluebook is always a good place to start at least. It will get you in some sort of neighborhood if you have no clue what you should pay.
http://www.kbb.com

Hemmings Motor news, ebay, and craigslist are all good places to baseline similar vehicles too.
The most important thing when negotiating is that you never pay what seller is asking because he undoubtedly inflated that number because he was sure some donkey like you was going to come along and lowball him, and he was right. Ok that is a joke, but normally, in my opinion, people are willing to come down a few hundred to maybe even a few thousand, depending on exactly what you are buying. If you don’t ask you will never know. One thing though, often I will not enter a negotiation unless I’ve already decided to pay the asking price and I am mostly looking for a good deal. I’m not saying that’s the only way to do it, maybe you really won’t buy it unless the seller comes down $500 on a $10k car, but really, if you are that interested is $500 really worth you not having the car you really want? Sometimes the extra time you’d get driving the car will be worth the little extra money. Also you need to consider the time and money you are investing driving to look at all these vehicles. Gas isn’t free and neither is my time (maybe your’s is). In case anyone is interested in hiring me for anything my time starts at $100/hour, but I can be negotiated with also….

Once you have sealed the deal on your new beauty you are almost ready to take it home. You should always bring a blank bill of sale to get signed. This is always good to cover your butt. It is a document both you and the seller sign with all the relevant vehicle information and it is a legal document. You can use it in lieu of a title for 30 days (at least in Iowa). It also is something you can show the police officer when you get pulled over on your way home testing the limits in your new pride and joy.

The last vehicle I purchased (April 2014).

The last vehicle I purchased (April 2014).

I’ll share a quick story of when I bought my crotch rocket. I was cruising back to my home, it was about 60 miles away. As soon as i got on the freeway I thought “lets open it up and see what she does!” then i had a 2nd thought that said, “That’s too stereotypical crotch rocket guy I’ll just cruise” and not 1 minute later there was a cop camped between the 2 lanes. I was so happy that i had not gunned it because I probably would have ended up with a ticket and it probably would have been fast enough to lose my license! So let that be a lesson to you all!

Keep the rubber side down and go out and buy something!
Do you think I missed something? Let me know! The best thing about the internet is I can always edit it away!
What was the last (preferably fun) vehicle you bought?