Here’s the latest reader question, along with my reply!
Ed asks: I’ve read your tributes to the carburetor and get the emotional appeal but for those of us who aren’t adept at tuning and adjusting a carburetor, having one is a real deterrent to owning a nanny-free older car. What do you think about replacing an old car’s carb with a throttle body fuel injection system?
My reply: I think, as Gomez used to say, that it’s a capital idea! TBI is very simple; analogous to a jet engine vs. a piston engine. But not as complex as a modern high-bypass turbofan engine.
TBI system don’t require re-engineering the engine. The “stand alone” aftermarket units are designed to bolt to the intake manifold that the carb used to sit on. The only other significant change is replacing the mechanical fuel pump with an electric one – but that’s easy and cheap, too. An oxygen sensor in the exhaust system may also be needed but – again – not a big deal or an expensive one.
Once installed and set up (many have self-learning capability and will tailor the air-fuel ratio just so, for your engine) these TBI systems usually run forever – decades – with no adjustment needed. Just keep ’em clean.
The downside is the initial cost – vs. a carb. A TBI kit will cost you about $1,000 or so (depending on the make/model/application) and if you have to pay someone to do the install, figure another $500 or so for that.
This would pay for a lot of carburetor tune-ups and rebuilds – though I admit you can’t put a price on not having to deal with taking it in for adjustment and just driving your car. You’ll also usually get faster warm-up and crisper throttle response with the TBI and may even see a noticeable uptick in gas mileage.
So, you’ll have to weight the costs – vs. the advantages.
Also, be sure you keep the carb! I mean, keep it in a box somewhere. Because someday, you may decide to sell the car and it’ll be worth more if you still have the parts it came with!
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