Man, where was this awesome chick back when I was 17?
Carburetors may represent old-school tech in the automotive world, but don’t tell Riley Schlick, a high school senior in Florida who rebuilds them for a tidy profit. Send your tired, dirty, mucked-up carburetor to Schlick and she’ll return it to you clean, shiny, and ready for duty once again. She has operated her Bradenton-based business, Riley’s Rebuilds, for three years now, and a steady stream of carburetors has crossed her path.
At first, Riley’s Rebuilds was a way for 17-year-old Schlick to buy her first car, which had to meet her parents’ specifications: It needed to have a manual transmission and a roll bar. Within a few months, she made enough money to buy a Jeep. Then, she brought on four friends to work with her. That hiring spree solved two problems, in Schlick’s mind. Her friends make more money rebuilding carburetors than they would working a minimum wage job, and they get to spend time together.
She learned how to do the work from her dad. “I said to her, ‘You can get a job at Publix or I can show you how to do some restoration stuff in the garage,” says Schlick’s father, Dane Trask, who rebuilds classic cars as a hobby. He showed her how to do it, and also made use of some YouTube tutorials. “She picked it up quick,” he says.
That alone is impressive. Myself, I had the hoary old gag line drilled into my head from early on: “Carburetor” is French for “leave it the fuck alone.” This next bit is pretty impressive as well.
Once the origin of the carb is determined, Schlick and the team document the model number and CFM rating (cubic feet per minute) and get the device ready to break down. Each carburetor has eight screws on top, Schlick explains, and they remove the hat and the floats (those work similarly to a float in a toilet tank, regulating the fuel level). Out comes the choke, which controls the air intake, and all the springs, screws, and bolts inside.
The team takes the screws and bolts and tosses them into a tumbler for about 20 minutes. Next, they soda blast the body, which harnesses tiny baking soda fibers to remove the dirt and grime. Then they transfer the parts to an ultrasonic tank, and blow out the ports with an air compressor to clear any remaining soda bits.
“We use soda blasting instead of sand or glass because it’s not super aggressive,” Schlick said. “The soda doesn’t get stuck in the carburetor like other materials would.”
We had a glass-beader in the HD shop I worked in, and the quickest way I can think of to convert any carburetor into an overpriced doorstop would be to put it in the beading cabinet and blast away at it. Hell, if my boss had ever seen me walking too close to the beading cabinet with a carb in my hand—even a lowly old S&S Super B, a long-outdated piece o’crap Harley carb consisting of nothing but a venturi’d throat, an idle screw, and an air screw, with a flange bolted onto the side to attach the throttle cable and fuel line to and a float bowl on the bottom—he’d have skinned me alive with a rusty old Buck pocketknife.
Nope, suffice it to say that in our shop, carbs and blasting cabinets did NOT mix. Using baking soda as a blasting/scouring medium is a genius idea, if you ask me. Via Bayou Pete, who follows up thusly:
God bless them all:
- The parents who encourage their kids to succeed;
- The girls who aren’t afraid of hard work;
- The ability of all concerned to recognize a gap in the market, and fill it;
- The girls’ drive to succeed, and build a business that’s as much fun as it is work.That’s just great!
Those girls won’t have to waste tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars on a worthless degree, and won’t have to beg for extra money from their parents. They’re earning their own way in life from a very early age, and setting an example for every one of their peers. They’ll hopefully be able to afford to choose their further education based on what they can pay for out of their own pockets, and what interests them rather than what’s politically correct.
Congratulations to all concerned, and thank you. We need more like you!
Do we ever. This calls for a song I actually wrote for my own darling daughter, who shows absolutely no interest whatsoever in turning wrenches and busting knuckles, the lone exception to that total dearth of interest being the day I snapped this pic at the shop:
The young ‘un took a notion all on her own hook, went to Daddy’s rollaway box, snatched up a wrench, and monkeyed around with the shift lever on that unfinished custom-build for a while before scampering off someplace else, lured away from a prospective mechanicing career by God only knows what. Probably a good thing, as anyone who’s ever wrenched for a living could tell you. Now for that tune I mentioned…