I’ve been working pretty much nonstop on stuff for work, going on late into the night, so I decided to take a little mental health time during the day when the sun was out to go get my hands dirty on the Scout. I have a long punchlist of stuff that I want to get accomplished, but today I had to choose some stuff I could accomplish in a few hours, which left mainly cosmetic improvements. The first thing I did was to adjust the parking brake, which has been weak ever since we did the rear brakes. This is a pretty simple matter of loosening two bolts attached to a wire running to each rear brake drum, tightening the wire, and then retightening the second bolt. After tightening, I tested it and it felt good.
Next, I wanted to clean up the janky speaker wires I installed ten years ago when I swapped the original stereo for the new one. When I put it in, Finn was a baby and I had the duration of a nap to get any project done, so I hurriedly carved metal out of the dash, quickly ran wires from the holes hacked in the tub up to the transmission tunnel, and ran them out of the transfer case boot up into the dash. They’ve been there ever since. This was a pretty simple fix, but took some time, as I had to disassemble part of the dash, disconnect the stereo, and re-route the wires through an existing hole in the firewall. But once I was done, it cleaned the dashboard up really well.
While I had that apart, I put some new LED bulbs in two of the light sockets in the speedometer, which has been dead for several years. Getting to all five of these bulbs is a royal pain in the ass, because the only really good way to get the speedo out is to disconnect the hardline and unplug the speedo unit, which is dangerous, because the 50-year-old pins on the back of the units are notoriously brittle. So I fought with the lousy angle and the tangle of wires and the tiny bulb sockets and got two of the LED units in place. Then I buttoned up the dash and left a complete rewire and rebulb for a future day.
Then I tested the parking brake, and…it’s still weak. Two out of three isn’t bad.
I got a very heavy package delivered to the house yesterday: a shiny remanufactured starter motor from AC Delco. The weekend forecast is for warm weather but showers and thunderstorms, so I probably won’t be able to take advantage of the time to put it in.
Top: original crusty starter motor pulled in 2011. Bottom: sexxxxxy new reman unit. Y’know, I think I’m going to bust out the pressure washer and see if I can clean the old one up.
One of the things I’ve been thinking about are the points of failure and wondering what they might be. It’s been so long since we pulled the last unit, I don’t remember what the issue was—if it was making the same noise, stopping intermittently, or something else.
There’s the possibility that there are missing teeth on the flywheel, based on the sounds the engine is making when I turn the key. It could be that the solenoid isn’t working correctly, and getting stuck could be the reason I get a grinding sound. It could be that the contacts aren’t clean enough, which means there isn’t enough juice getting to the starter (the single biggest current draw on the whole truck). One other thought is that we didn’t get the bolts snugged tight enough in 2011 and they’ve come loose.
Once the contacts are clean on both sides, and the new starter is in place, I should be able to walk through the rest of the symptoms and figure out what’s happening. And hopefully, there will be no more grinding.
I’d started planning for a spring workday here at the house a few weeks ago. I sent out an email with a calendar poll for weekends in April and had pretty much settled on a day—then the virus hit. So I sent a follow-up email to postpone until May, in the hopes that things will have blown over by then.
In the meantime it looks like I’ll have some time on the weekends to get things done, and I’ll need to get outside for sunshine every day. So I ordered a part for the truck: a new (remanufactured) starter motor to replace the used unit Bennett and I installed in 2011. Mine has been grinding intermittently for years now, and I’d like to get ahead of it before it craps out completely at an inconvenient time and place.
Next, I’d like to fix my turn signal cancel cam, which has been broken since the day I bought the truck, and while I’ve (theoretically) got the wheel off, I can replace the ignition key cylinder with a new unit and new key. I’ve got a wheel puller I bought at Carlisle years ago ready to go, so it’s just a matter of setting up the puller correctly and taking things apart.
Finally, I can take some time to reroute the speaker wire that’s been hanging down below my dashboard and stuck under the transmission tunnel cover and properly send it out through the firewall and down the frame rail. It’s a small thing to clean up an ugly truck, but every little bit helps.
Finn and I got the Scout out on Saturday for the first time in two weeks to go get breakfast. She took a little time to get started but once she was running everything sounded good. It’s been averaging around freezing temperatures for the past two weeks, so my window to enjoy the soft top has slammed shut. To celebrate, the driver’s window on the Scout has stuck itself at the bottom of the well. No amount of coaxing would get it to come back up, so we enjoyed a blustery ride down to Ellicott City with the heat blasting on our feet.
That window has always been tricky. At some point the PO did some butchery to the doorframe and drilled out one of the mounting points, so there’s more give to the scissor mechanism than there should be when the crank is turned, which translates to resistance in the mechanism. The passenger’s side goes up and down like butter (I took them both apart and cleaned/lubed the channels a couple of years ago), but the driver’s side takes more work. I’m going to have to break the door down and see what’s going on in there when I get a reasonably warm day and an hour’s time.
The Scout is finally home after two weeks in Essex having the rear driveline worked on. The issue, as mentioned before, was that the rear U-joint was beginning to disintegrate, taking the yoke and driveshaft along with it (and in the process one of the rear brake cylinders). The shop rebuilt the U-joint and yoke, had the driveshaft rebalanced, and repaired the rear brake line.
Jen drove me out to Essex this morning and we picked it up; the transmission shop (Jim Jennings, who I recommend highly) provided some pictures of the damaged parts before sending me on my way.
The work made a huge difference in how she drives. Shifting into and out of gear is smooth and crisp again, and the repair to the brakes also made a big change in how she stops at speed.
So, that’s good news. I’m going to clean her up and get things ready for the drive to Ohio, which means stocking up on oil, coolant, and ATF. I did smell coolant on my way home from Essex this morning, so I’ve got to look over the coolant system and see how full the radiator is (and if the overflow tank is pulling correctly).
I also called a company in Columbia to inquire into adding a kill switch sometime in the future; they figure it’ll take about an hour and be a pretty simple procedure. Scouts are getting more and more desirable, and I’m conscious that it’s a rare vehicle with a 1970’s-era ignition lock and no roof. And opening the hood to pull the coil wire all the time can be a drag.
The word from the transmission shop is that the problem is not actually the transmission: it’s the rear driveshaft/U joint. Apparently it was in such bad shape the U joint had almost disintegrated and the driveshaft is out of balance. So the shop is rebuilding the joint, sending the driveshaft out for service, and putting everything back together. It’s going to be expensive to fix, but when compared to the cost of rebuilding the transmission, it’s a fraction of the cost I was expecting I’d have to pay.
After some back and forth and miscommunication, I dropped the Scout off across town this morning for caster correction surgery. I was a little nervous after the initial efforts failed, but I trusted the online reviews and an hourlong conversation with the owner in April and handed them the keys. At about 10:30 they called and the mechanic had an honest conversation with me: He said he’d worked on many different lifted trucks and because the tires were the size they were, he couldn’t promise the correctors would do much, especially as he figured it would take two hours a side to get them in. I figured I was in for a penny, in for a pound, and told him to go ahead anyway.
They got back to me at about 2:30 and said it had taken a lot less time than they figured—only one hour per side. He took it out on the road for a test run and said the tracking was much better, and that he was surprised at what a difference it made.
On the ride home, I noticed a big difference in the way she handled at speed. Where before every bump sent the wheels in a different direction, and expansion joints unloaded the suspension and sent the whole truck sailing on a random course, the steering is staying straight and true. Before, I spent a lot of time anticipating what I thought the truck would do and adjusting for it, which made for some white-knuckle driving. Now the small stuff is negligible and the expansion joints are tolerable. Because I was on mostly elevated highway around Baltimore I didn’t have a lot of flat straight sections to test the hands-off results on, but what I did try was straight and true.
It’s not perfect; the only thing that’s going to fix everything is a taller wheel and a thinner tire. But that’s something I’m not going to spend money on this year.
Saturday morning I made a pile of hash browns for the family, cleaned up the kitchen, and ran a bunch of tools out to the garage to get a long-awaited project started: installing a new aluminum radiator.
I’m always conscious of starting projects that I might not be able to finish in a weekend, and this time I was under the added pressure to getting it done by the afternoon, because we had family plans for Sunday. Additionally, I’ve got an appointment next Saturday across town to have the caster correctors installed, so I wanted to have everything road tested and ready. I have anxiety about having a broken-down truck sitting in the driveway with an appointment on the horizon.
First, I drained the coolant. It came out relatively clean, a little milky from age but not black. I got about two and a half gallons out from the stopcock and the lower rad hose into an old cat litter pan. Then I pulled the lower hose and the upper hose, disconnected the shroud mount and pulled that apart into two sections, and loosened the body bolts. Everything came off smoothly; nothing needed PB Blaster (although I used it) to get started, which was a blessing.
Once that was done, the old radiator came out easily. The bottom was getting corroded but it wasn’t as bad as my spare, where the bottom rail is disconnected from the frame.
Then I pulled the new one out of the box and slid it right in place—this time I stood and straddled the fenders to drop it in from the top. Hand-tightening the body bolts, I put new hoses on above and below. The lower hose needed a 2″ trim to avoid a bad kink in the bendy section but other than that they both slid right on. Next I hooked up the overflow tank for the first time since I’ve owned it: the old radiator was missing the brazed nipple on the cap valve. Then I installed and adjusted the shroud mount and shroud itself, tightened the body bolts down, and checked all of the fittings.
The only thing I didn’t have were two blockoff bolts for the automatic transmission inlet/outlet, so I ran around town to find a set and found them at Advance. They’re brass but I wrapped them in Teflon tape and tightened them into place.
Finally, I put about 2 1/2 gallons of new 50/50 antifreeze in the system, topped off the overflow tank (I need a new one, because the plastic mounting brackets have both snapped off), said a prayer, and started her up. I idled in the driveway for 15 minutes, pausing only to cap off the radiator once the bubbles stopped, and let her get up to temperature.
I had to stop at that point for dinner and other family stuff, so Sunday morning I took a 20 minute ride around the neighborhood to shake the hoses around and see how things held up. I chose a route that featured lousy roads (there are no shortage of those) and lights to stop at and some long stretches and banged her around a bit, and I didn’t see any leaks or steam. The temp gauge stayed pegged to the left side of the horizontal bar. Success!
Should I have flushed the system while I had it open? probably. In the fall I’ll have Jiffy Lube do it for me when I get the oil changed. Could I have saved money mixing antifreeze myself? definitely. But I was in a hurry and I had nothing else to mix it in.
Special thanks go to my pop, whose tools I inherited, which made everything much, much easier. Happy Father’s Day, Dad.
I pulled the Scout out of the garage the week of the Polar Vortex and ran it up in the driveway, and she gave me a scare. I started hearing a terrible whine coming from the power steering pump at idle. I shut her down, topped off the power steering fluid, and restarted the engine, but it came right back and frightened me to the point where I scuttled my plan to run down the street for coffee and backed her back into the garage; I didn’t want the pump exploding in the driveway the day before I had to drive back up to Syracuse.
I was in NY State for my father’s funeral for most of last week, but took advantage of 60˚ weather and a work-from-home day yesterday to run her up again, thinking maybe the temperature was to blame. I was right. She fired right up and idled smooth out of the garage, and there was no sound to be heard at all. Whew.
Buoyed by that success, I gave Mike Moore a call to see if he’d be able to help fix my caster issues. True to his character, he told me he could certainly do it but I should really try to find a good, reputable alignment shop around here and have them install them–and not a “$49 alignment special” type place. He also gave me the industry name for the parts I’ve got: Camber Caster Sleeves. I also asked him for a price on what it would take to rewire Peer Pressure, and we talked about that for a while. I don’t have the money right now but it’s good to know what to budget for. Mike is a great guy and I’m glad I called him. I found a place with decent reviews across town and called them for a price; I’ve yet to hear back but will call and follow up tomorrow.
I’ve been having problems with my seat belt for a couple of months now. It won’t release enough for me to get it around my waist. If I’m on a slight incline it won’t release at all. No amount of gentle tugging, violent pulling, or gentle pleading would help. I decided I’d take advantage of 50˚ weather today to pull the ratchet mechanism apart to see what was wrong.
My seatbelt is based around a simple mechanism involving a single ball bearing in a cup. When the ball is stationary in the cup, the seatbelt has give and will release properly. When the ball is moved out of the cup by a strong force–say, a collision–it contacts a pawl which closes a ratcheting mechanism and stops the belt from releasing. Most of the online sources I found said the mechanism was probably filled with dust and the ball was stuck. I pulled it apart and shook out about a pound of dirt, straw, leaves, and dust, but the mechanism was still jammed. After blowing dust out of the cup with a can of compressed air, the mechanism started working and all was well again.