1973 Polara - maintenance advice for a noobie

Engine, Transmission & Driveline

  1. JoeyL

    JoeyL New Member

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    polara no lisence.jpg
    Hey I got a 1973 Polara and love this car . Its got 140,000 miles and runs great . I drive it around town everyday . But being an old car I don't want it to be breaking down on me . I don't know how to work on cars but I'd like to learn....because I'm always broke .

    So I was just wondering what should I be looking out for with these Polara's ? Is there any common problems they share that I should be aware of ? It was leaking some oil and transmission fluid ....I checked the levels and it needed a little oil.....but after I've been driving it daily it seems to have stopped leaking , or at least it leaks a much smaller amount now because I'm not finding anything on the garage floor .

    Its a 400 , 2 barrel , built at Belvidere ......I'll have to look again but I think November 1972 . Inside the Glove box has the ORIGINAL receipt when it was bought from the dealership . The price , owners name , features .......

    I plan on keeping the car forever and don't mind spending the time to learn how to work on it . I picked up the book , "How to rebuild the Big Block Mopar"....started reading it to see what goes into rebuilding the engine if I ever have to . mopar book.jpg

    So any advice , what to look out for to keep this car reliable would be appreciated . Thanks ,
    polara no lisence 2.jpg
     
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  2. Davea Lux

    Davea Lux Senior Member FCBO Gold Member

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    The 400 is a highly reliable engine. Start by getting a copy of the FSM (field service manual) available for free down load www.mymopar.com. If you have any maintenance records for the car check to see if the timing chain has been replaced. At 140k on the original unit, it is a disaster waiting to happen. Read the FSM on how to check the chain. The next item of business would be to check the brakes for excessively worn brake linings, leaking calipers and wheel cylinders and for cracked rubber brake lines. Check the bottom side of the master cylinder for fluid, if it is wet the unit is leaking. If the car runs well, it probably does not need a tune up yet. Check the belts and hoses for obvious signs of failure such as cracks or blisters on the hoses. Remember that this car needs to have the chassis greased. Invest in a grease gun and lubricate the tie rod ends, ball joints and other steering components that need it. U-joints should be inspected for excessive wear, there are several threads on this site about broken transmission tail shafts from failing u-joints. If the car has tires that show obvious defects, replace the tires as needed, you do not want to crash your classic because a tire blows out. Put a couple of drops of oil on all the pivot points on all hinges, that will save you trouble with them failing later

    Dave
     
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  3. JoeyL

    JoeyL New Member

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    Wow , thanks Dave for the detailed response . I will check everything you described and report back soon .
     
  4. Newport 66

    Newport 66 Senior Member FCBO Gold Member

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    Nice looking car! With proper maintenance, regular washing and detailing it should last you a long time. As Dave stated, get a factory service manual, also if you have it the owners manual will gave good basic tips and service intervals as guidelines.
     
  5. Davea Lux

    Davea Lux Senior Member FCBO Gold Member

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    As a followup, most of today's motor oils are designed for modern engines. That poses a problem for older cars. When you change the oil be sure to use a 15w-40w or 15w-30w diesel service rated oil. These oils still have the additives that will keep flat tappet camshafts, such as the one in your 400, from wearing out and going flat. These diesel service rated oils are just what your older engine should run for oil. Valvoline, Shell and Chevron all make these quality oils. Do not run Fram oil filters as they are a POS these days, use a Wix or Hastings filter.

    Dave
     
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  6. 65sporty

    65sporty Old Man with a Hat

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    Like Dave said, Diesel oil's have higher levels of ZDDP. Those are good or use a special formulated oil with high levels of ZDDP. There is also bottles of just the ZDDP additive like the one from Lucas.
    tbn:ANd9GcTpRY8P4wkh49_8zc3kr1VepiLpB-i_xda0ZtFo2uM3iOcMZOqorZYHu7mUF13qmFmGGmsI-MeJ6Oc&usqp=CAc.png
     
  7. Newport 66

    Newport 66 Senior Member FCBO Gold Member

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    I've used Lucas zinc additive for break in of camshafts and lifters etc. With fresh oil and add it at oil changes.
     
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  8. Wildbunch02

    Wildbunch02 Well-Known Member

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    As always great advice from Mr Davea Lux!
    If I may add my .02, the 15w 40 diesel from Walmart, Supertec seems to do the job just fine. The Walmart Supertec oils seem too rate pretty good and will save you some $.
    I also substitute a quart of Duralube with my oil change, she seems too like it.
     
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  9. CBODY67

    CBODY67 Senior Member

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    While you're at Walmart getting the diesel-rated oil (look for the service designation like CJ-4, or CK-4), you can probably find a Mopar-brand oil filter, too. Even the Rotella T5 semi-syn oil has enough zddp in it and also comes in 10W-30 viscosity (costs about $18.00 for a 4 quart jug, but you'll need 5 qts for the oil and filter change.

    For the grease cartridge for that new lever-action grease gun, Valvoline makes a synthetic chassis grease that also meets the Ford disc brake spec (with moly in it) I usually find it at Pep Boys locally, but the regular Ford disc brake-rated moly grease is available, anyway.

    For good measure, pull up the trunk mat and see if there's any condensate on the bottom of it. If there is, dry it out. Same if the car has plastic/rubber floor mats in the foot wells, especially on the rh front side.

    Get acquainted with the car. Learn the throttle position it likes for it to start quickly when hot and cold. I concur on the timing chain issue! You can get either a stock replacement set, or a roller chain set from Cloyes (Plus Roller). Once THAT is out of the way, that engine should run for a long time.

    Enjoy!
    CBODY67
     
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  10. JoeyL

    JoeyL New Member

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    You guys ROCK !!! Thanks for all this info !!!! I'll report back soon about the timing chain . I do have the original owners manual . I'll check out all the guidelines for servicing . I have the original wheels and hubcaps too . I think I'm gonna put them back on and take off the custom rims . I like cars when they are all original .

    I took the car to a local mechanic for the weekend because some of the electrical was not working . Dash lights and Heat , AC fan ......my dad knows a little bit about how to work on cars but he said don't mess with the electrical stuff myself . So we took it in and got the call today from the mechanic that its now fixed . So the car is now working 100% . Its just a matter of me learning how to maintain and keep the car running . Hopefully I can keep it running for a long , long time . I can post some more pics of the inside , its super clean .

    I don't know much about older cars , or cars in general , and reading online many people say having an older car as a daily driving might not be a good idea......But a Dodge Polara like this is not a run of the mill old car....these things were built like tanks and can be reliable , correct ? Or at least can be reliable if they are maintained properly ?
     
    Last edited: Jul 14, 2019
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  11. CBODY67

    CBODY67 Senior Member

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    To me, the "daily use" issues can vary with your driving environment/location. PLUS traffic density. When they were just "used cars", they were reliable if taken care of. AND still can be! Once you get the "catch-up" stuff done, then you shouldn't have any real concerns, I suspect.

    ONE more thing to put on your "get done" list. Rubber fuel line segments. There's one at the back, where the tank sending unit meets the chassis fuel line that goes to the front. A segment at the fuel pump intake side, and at the inline fuel filter. Ethanol'd gas (which y'all had in CA before we got everywhere else, will dry out the rubber from the inside out. Best to replace those segments and be done with it. A little extra care at the back as the fuel tank gauge "ground" is through a little strap that bridges the rubber line back there.

    The advantage of driving one of these cars is that you have visible reference points of where the outer corners of the car are. Even viewable via the inside rear view mirror.

    Although the Fuselage Chrysler products were quieter and smoother than the Slabs which camne before them, you can still hear the sounds of the car as it works, just to a lesser extent. Which is ONE of the neat things about cars, hearing the engine, the slight gear whine of that TorqueFlite in low gear. The famous Chrysler starter do its thing, too. All GREAT sounds that make Chryslers Chryslers! GMs and Fords have their own symphonies, which are unique to their species also.

    The reason I mention these things is that many people want a vehicle to "do their bidding", even if it might be a bit outside of the vehicle's capabilities. Rather, learn what the vehicle can do and finesse your inputs to get the best out of the vehicle's performance. The "team approach" works best, by observation. For example, a "1/2 throttle punch" from a stopped position can work much better than a "floor it" situation, at least to get the car moving. Just some things like that to learn what works best.

    So, learn about the car, the various "touches" it likes to operate at its best, the ride/handling that is unique to Chryslers of that era, and ENJOY,

    CBODY67
     
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  12. JoeyL

    JoeyL New Member

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    I moved out to the country , so thankfully theres no traffic around here just empty highways . But if you breakdown theres nothing around , thank goodness for cell phones ! So no city driving everyday but maybe once a week drive 40 Minutes to Stockton or Lodi CA , which aren't big city's but they have more of a city like environment .

    Yeah getting a feel for the car is what I love . The Dash , the handling (gonna put some new shocks if anyone can recommend some ) Just getting it started has a special touch like in the movies . And the sound of the engine starting and while driving is what its all about ! I don't need the radio on I just listen to the car's engine as I drive . It sounds exactly like this cop car . It is a 1973 polara as well .



    But yeah I know what you mean about the sounds . As soon as I heard that cop car video I was like "Hey , I know that sound its so familiar , thats EXACTLY what my car sounds like!"........And thats the reason I'm hooked on this car is because being a kid and watching 1970's and 1980's TV and Movies they always had those crazy cop car chase scenes . They had Dodge Polara's and in the Blues Brothers Monaco's flying around with stunt drivers . So when I drive this car I feel like I'm in a real life car chase scene from a 1970's movie and I'm just going to the grocery store.....now thats cool ! This car resonates with my childhood and when that happens your done . That feeling doesn't go away . So I gotta learn how to baby and maintain it so I can continue to enjoy it for MANY , MANY years....
     
    Last edited: Jul 14, 2019
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  13. CBODY67

    CBODY67 Senior Member

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    Learning "the right touch" to get the best performance out of a vehicle . . . ANY vehicle . . . is about learning what it likes and the right touch to get it out of it. No matter what. Like learning at what speeds you can do a WOT kickdown and have the engine respond as expected, rather than being a few mph too fast that it doesn't downshift as far as it might (going into 2nd rather than 1st), for example. As I've found, putting a slight bit more preload into the trans kickdown road adjustment can make a huge difference in performance and feel. Just raising normal upshift points a few mph. NO affect upon trans durability, either, probably helps it, all things considered.

    Until you spend 4 hours in the car, on a trip by yourself, just you and the car, you can notice the sounds and response-to-input things. In a metro environment, it can take much longer to notice these things.

    In our '66 Newport (383 2bbl, 2.76, 8.55x14) it did well for what it was. Cruised at 70mph with no issues. Firm suspension and flat cornering, as expected. But the few times the cruising speed went to 75mph, it was obvious the car liked it. Natural Interstate cruising speeds, when safe and possible, was 75-90mph. Under 75, it was "bored". At 75, it was "having fun, lets do this some more", up to 90. Past 90, the suspension dynamics got a bit busier, but still good. The peak torque rpm equated to about 88mph, so "no strain". In the generally slower metro area freeways, no way to find this out! Only on my monthly trips home from college, 4 hours away. Each time I made that trip, it seemed the car ran a bit better each time. Nothing major, just "bits at a time". As if the residual "carbon" in the combustion chambers was getting cooked out with the continued use at highway speeds. Those longer trips also gave me time to analyze where the wind noise was coming from, too.

    Great memories with that car! As well as the '70 Monaco DH43N0D, and '80 Newport which came later. All three are "in waiting", at the present time.

    Enjoy!
    CBODY67

    CBODY67
     
  14. skoien

    skoien New Member

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    You will not be able tofind a radiator for the 1973 polara ra any more and rock auto sent me a email regarding the disconinuation of some of the parts that you may take for granted as being available. protecct the subframe thay are almost extinct, so if you ruin it ??? plan ahead like you are doing. i miss mine more than i miss the ex wife more useable parts
     
  15. JoeyL

    JoeyL New Member

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    Man I'm sorry to hear about parts starting to become more rare . That sucks ! I hate it when parts get discontinued like that . I have to extra careful . No Accidents !!

    Update on the car : Its still at the mechanics !! So no electrical problems . Only a bulb was out for the dash and the AC switch to turn it "On" was broke . He said you can't buy the "On" switch anywhere so he installed a new different type of switch under the dash where you can't see it . Also hes "recharging" the AC Unit , I guess adding freon ?

    Seems like forever since we dropped the car off at the shop , but no major issues so thats good to hear . I really wanna check that timing chain . Any one know the average cost to get the timing chain replaced ? I'm gonna ask the mechanic when I pick up the car , hopefully this weekend .
     
  16. goldfish65

    goldfish65 Active Member

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    Great looking Polara, all great advice and very good to see your appreciation for it, I'd only add not to get discouraged when issues come along that keep you from driving it. For a while there my Fury wasn't running right and it took quite a while to track down the problem since I rely on an older mechanic, I was bummed out but the way it drives ever since it has paid off. When you love these cars and don't beat on them, they love you back and also as you drive it regular you'll see it will run better and better.
     
  17. polara71

    polara71 Old Man with a Hat FCBO Gold Member

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    My advice is don't beat on it . I've got a heavy foot which means I stop harder. I TRY to be more gingerly with the old stuff. 50 year old machines break down more easily than 5 year old machines do.