'97 Dodge

1997 Dodge 3/4 ton diesel, with camper

An indulgence. I had wanted one of these trucks since they came out (in '94), but figured I'd have to wait until they were about ten years old before I could afford one. But good fortune intervened, and here it is in its native element (loaded).

The ad. described it as a "Good work truck", which was a bit scary. My brother suggested I look for corked boot tracks on the dash! In this case, it turned out that the term meant that it was not loaded with all the goodies. No leather, no power windows/seats, etc. But, that meant it was nearly perfect for what I wanted! It does not have the squeak-and-leak rear doors, which was the reason the PO traded it in. It has A/C and cruise control, which to me are the only really important options. I have upgraded to a factory (I hate light shows) CD stereo, bought from a guy who upgraded his Jeep stereo.

It drives smoothly, as did my older Dodge pickup. A very car-like ride. Strong and quiet, except for the throb of the engine, which I like. I have a set of Hadley "Bully" air horns on it, which can wake the dead. On its stock tires (not pictured), I routinely got 19-20 MPG. Sometimes a little more. One notable trip from Spokane to Seattle and back on one tank yielded 26.2 MPG! (I was swapping a transmission for my wife's 450 SL, and I was [temporarily] unemployed, and had more time than money. I set the cruise control so the engine was running about 1850 rpm, supposedly the efficiency peak for this engine. This was a little over 60 MPH in 5th gear. I filled up at the same pump before and after the trip, on the same day.)

But the stock wheels and tires looked stupid, like roller skate wheels, and were getting near to needing replacement. Unfortunately with the new, larger heavy-duty tires I bought for use with the camper the mileage has dropped. We get about 14 MPG loaded, which is just fine, but unloaded it's more like 17 MPG. (Hard to tell exactly, since most miles on it are now loaded miles.) C'est la vie. The new tires are wider, which helps with the stability of the rig. My dad had suggested air bag helper springs, which really helped his Ford, but this truck handles the camper great with just these tires and the stock camper and towing packages. I think I'll save my money.

I bought it with about 16,000 miles on it, in late '98. This made it nearly two years old at that time, and the Cummins engine wasn't even fully broken in by many accounts. It still has less than 40,000 miles on it. I drove it a lot in its first year with me, but I drive the convertibles much more now. This truck is for working!

It has had the very common fifth gear nut failure, which was 'fixed' under warrantee. I suspect that it was no fix at all, and that it will fail again sometime. Transmissions are Dodge's weak link, it seems. There is a proper fix for this problem, which I will probably pursue if/when it fails again. There have been no other repairs, other than a sloppy outside mirror that was replaced under warrantee.

Monday, November 28, 2005

Today turned out to be snow tire day. (It snowed last night.) We'd swapped back to original tires for an economy run (the bigger tires for the camper cost several MPG), and we wanted to have the 4WD of the truck accessible this winter. The camper tires are also much more tread-y, so on they went. The air wrench speeds this up.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

The transfer case has been leaking from the front driveline seal for some time now. I still haven't had a good opportunity/motive to replace it. We need the truck/camper next weekend, so I just topped off the oil in it. Took most of a quart of ATF, I really need to fix this.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Bought a new transfer case front output seal. $13+ at the dealer.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Seal time! Unfortunately I didn't get too far, I only got the front driveline yoke straps removed and the skid plate. It looks like I'm going to have to drop the crossmember before I can get onto the companion flange bolts at the rear of the driveline. The transfer case is NV 241DLD, I hope the parts guy picked the right seal. (There is also a 231HD, and supposedly it takes a different seal.) They said the VIN would tell them what they needed, so let's hope it did.

I did get the skid plate washed off, as it was covered with oil, dirt, and rocks. I also cleaned off and re-painted the hoop steps, they were looking mighty bad as the black paint was coming off the corroding aluminum in sheets.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

This is going slowly. (My back's been killing me for a week now, it really slows things down, and takes the fun out as well. Stupid back spasms.) We're planning to leave Friday morning, I'm starting to panic a little bit!

I was unable to drop the crossmember, but I didn't really need it out so much as out of the way. I was able to drive it backwards enough to gain access to the rear yoke. (I had to remove the transmission mount. Also, the bolts don't have captive nuts, you have to do the old-fashioned two-wrench thing. All in all, quite the pain, especially when you consider that I hit myself in the face with a rather heavy wrench. Hard. Left a bump, perhaps it'll bruise. Nice.) With that done, and it wasn't quick, I got three of the yoke bolts out, the last I couldn't reach. I had to jack up the rear of the truck in order to allow the yoke to rotate enough to get to the bolt. Of course the truck is very heavy right now and one of the two jacks wasn't up to the job. That slowed things down even more, and involved deploying a jack stand. Sheesh! Anyway, finally the driveshaft could be removed.

The nut retaining the yoke ('companion flange') itself was not very tight, it just came right off without strain. No way it was tight to the specified 130-200 lb-ft. A puller was barely needed to pull out the yoke, I didn't need a wrench to drive it. Naturally it spilled a lot of ATF at that point, so then I had a mess to clean up. I found there is a rubber spline seal that's looking pretty chewed, I had better get another one of those before reassembly. I ran out of time, and then some, but at least the seal is exposed and ready to pry out.

...At lunch I bought the spline seal, about $3. Wow, that doesn't look anything like the smashed thing I took out! Perhaps it and the loose nut was the source of the leak all along? Hard to say.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

I pried out the old seal. It didn't want to come out, I had to hammer on the screwdriver prybar and I managed to ding the shoulder of the seal's seat with the screwdriver shaft before I got it out of there. I used a half-round file to clean up the dings, then drove in the new seal using light taps of a brass hammer. My usual trick of using a large socket as a seal driver wouldn't work due to the length of the shaft, so I used an empty brake cleaner can that I'd chopped the bottom out of to do the final seating, it was almost exactly the right diameter. (The seal needs to be inset about 2mm according to the shop manual.) The can got mangled pretty good, but eventually the seal was in place. I cleaned up the yoke, put the new spline seal on the shaft, and slipped the yoke into place. The nut cinched it down well, I used my foot on the end of the torque wrench to get to the 140+ lb-ft that is the end of the beam scale. Contrary to the instructions, I re-used the old nut. Nothing wrong with it that I could see.

Surprisingly, the rest all went back together with relatively little trouble. Even that wretched crossmember. (It loosens up if you lift it above its normal position rather than try to remove it downwards.) I got it all buttoned up and the tools put away. Tonight I get to do fluids, I plan to change the engine oil and of course I have to refill the transfer case. Mustn't forget!

I had a look at the old suspect spline seal after I cleaned it up, and I don't believe that mere deformation can account for its different shape. I think it was a different style of seal. It is wedge-shaped, more like a differential's ring gear than the toothed washer that is the new spline seal. I don't suppose it matters, so long as it works. We'll know soon.

...I changed the engine oil, but re-used the filter as I didn't have another. I did dump it out, at least. (I have been lax, it was some 8,000 miles since the last change. That really can sneak up on you, I knew it needed changing, but "I'll get it next time...") I then topped off the ATF in the transfer case, it took two quarts. (Getting the fill plug out is tricky, the 10mm hex hole is starting to hog out a bit. My trick there is to put a 6-point box socket on an allen bit and hammer on it with the wrench up against the plug.) Done! Time to move on to readying the camper itself, we've got a lot to do before tomorrow's departure. (I did wash the truck. I noticed that the paint is finally starting to show a bit of its age, and there are some rock chips in the hood that I need to address.)

Friday, September 28, 2007

The new transfer case seal leaks as badly as the old one did. That's extremely disappointing. Could the scoring on the yoke be bad enough to let it leak? If so, to stop this I get to do it all again and get a new yoke.

Bought new wiper blades. The old ones were peeling apart.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Finally peeled the camper off, we need the truck back.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

The voltage gauge has been jumping a lot lately (in the sub-second range), I had feared that the other half of the preheater grid system was also starting to malfunction, or that the alternator itself was starting to fail. Today, given that we spent a lot of time in the truck, at idle I could hear that the engine was loading down slightly as the voltage dropped. That was a pretty strong indication of the preheater system acting up again. At night, as we swapped drivers, the flickering was pretty noticeable so I got out the flashlight and popped the hood. It took me a few seconds to find the relays again (I don't spend that much time under there) and what I found was that both preheater relays were plugged in again! WTF? I unplugged the one I'd unplugged years ago and the problem stopped instantly. Apparently when I'd had the truck in for a bad front U-joint repair they'd noticed the connector hanging loose and had helpfully plugged it back in. Either the engine computer is insane on that channel, or there's a pinched wire in the harness somewhere. Either way I decided that running on 50% preheating was fine, given that the truck is rated to start in colder conditions that it ever gets here. It's certainly been good enough for the past couple of years, so continuing on in that vein seems good to me.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Took truck and car trailer to Walla Walla. There was much free firewood from downed hardwood trees available at the relatives' we've been meaning to visit for awhile.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Filled truck and car trailer with hardwood. Maneuvering it into the back yard was interesting to say the least. We had to pull a fencepost to widen the hole a couple of inches, and on the way out I split another board on that side when I clipped it.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

On the way out of town we filled up the truck, the empty trip down (plus a bit of around-town running before the trip) got 20.1 MPG! Not bad.

Unfortunately, that was the best news of the day. I was a little concerned to be setting off during the heat of the day, and it was unseasonably warm. 91°F? But we were going slowly. Not good enough, we blew a tire just outside of Dixie. Not a trailer tire like we'd all been worried about, but a truck tire! Very loud bang, fishtailing, and flapping/skidding noises. (I'm glad it was a rear tire, and not a front.) The LR tire blew apart like a cheap retread, leaving chunks of itself all along the road, along with pieces of the truck. (The plastic wheelwell shield and the mud flap.) It wiped out the bottom of bed metal behind tire, just beat it all to Hell. We made a skidding smoking stop on the narrow gravel shoulder, there was no possibility of looking for a better spot; we were stopping now! As we stopped, mostly off the road (assuming that being to the right of the white line counts as 'off'), the last of the air escaped the tire and the truck settled onto the differential case due to the geometry of the situation. Had we still been moving it would have tried to plow a furrow in the asphalt, I doubt that would have done us much good. At least there was fairly good visibility where we were, the passing traffic could see us plenty early enough to avoid us, were they so inclined.

I checked the other tires, and most of them were hot. Oh, that's not so good. I walked back and policed the tire litter I'd left along our path, I even found half of the mudflap and some of the wheelwell shield. The tire pieces were hot, but I balanced them on the cold mudflap while I walked back to the truck.

So there we were, stuck in the middle of nowhere. Do the new cell phones work there? No. Are any of my tools, such as the toolkit or the air horn compressor's tire hose still in the truck? No. CB radio? Also removed by my wife. Do we have a same-sized spare? No, just the factory one, I'm not even sure the new lug nuts will work with its steel wheel. We do have the factory jack, and that's about it. I lowered the spare tire from underneath the truck using its little winch, and it's decent, still has plenty of air from whenever in the dim misty past I'd last checked it out. So, I proceed to try to change the tire. Can't hurt. Daniel is trapped inside the hot truck cab, there's noplace for him to go that's at all safe. We open all the windows.

The jack wouldn't fit under axle in its designated place, something I've found before when a tire is actually flat. I used the trailer jack to try to take some weight off and lift up the truck an inch or two. The handle promptly broke off the trailer jack, the little pivot bolt acted as a shear pin. (It shouldn't have, I wasn't stressing it that hard. Not yet, anyway! I guess it just decided to try to join in the fun.) So there we were, stuck but good. Jill hiked off with my cell phone to see if she could climb into a wheat field to get some signal. (Her phone was discharged.)

Me? I'm far from giving up yet. I got a piece of wood (that, we have!) and used the factory jack to lift up on a leaf spring a few inches. (It only slipped off once.) With the axle lifted a bit I wedged a stout piece of firewood under the axle and let the jack down again. Then the jack would fit where it needed to. Progress! About this time somebody stopped to see if he could help. He had a floor jack, but by then I was confident that the jack situation was in hand. He didn't have a small screwdriver or any such thing to use to replace the trailer jack's handle pivot bolt, so off he went. Nice of him to stop.

I get the axle jacked up and the old tire removed. The rubber is still quite hot, and I throw the tire up on the trailer. It's also got torn steel belts hanging out of it, a real pleasure to handle. I put the spare on, and try on a lug nut. (The new once-shiny enclosed ones intended for the new alloy wheels.) Yes! It does go on far enough to tighten down without bottoming out. We are making progress. I get the tire mounted and the jack and firewood pulled out. I wind up the tire winch. Now let's see about that trailer tongue jack. All we need is a piece of stiff metal to serve as a pin, something like a framing nail, small bolt, screwdriver shank... Hey, my keyring is steel, and is a snap-open binder ring of some sort about the size of a shower curtain ring. I've had it since high school. I wonder... Yes, it fits through all the holes. The new tire's up, there's no real stress on that jack any more and I can wind it back up, keys merrily scraping as they go 'round and 'round.

We are set. Jill got back from her hike, she's managed to contact her aunt and they're going to come rescue us, bringing some tools, etc. We're not going to wait on the shoulder of the highway if we don't have to, so off we go.

The truck pulled hard to the right for a few hundred yards, then there was a loud bang and things straightened out. I can only guess that the limited-slip mechanism in the differential was working hard and then died. That, or the hitch got wedged into a weird state during all the jacking, but there's nothing obvious by looking, and how would that explain a pull? The tires are still hot, and obviously somewhat underinflated for the load and conditions. We make trip the few miles to the next little town at 35 MPH with the flashers on and then stop at the city park to wait. That's much better. We're in the shade, there's water, a restroom, and a place for Daniel to play. No traffic whizzing by. We call the relatives again, and they haven't actually left yet. They don't need to bring so much, I only ask for a tire pump and a framing nail. Some time later they arrive, bringing water and tools. Their car actually has on-board air, as do we in fact, but they also have the hose. We used their hose on our compressor and let it start pumping the spare tire up to 80 PSI, its maximum rating. It's a very slow process, and it turns out that it won't quite make it that high without the hose's pressure relief valve cutting in, but we get about 72 PSI which is probably enough. While we wait we use the manual tire pump they brought to pump up the trailer tires to 40 PSI, about 5 PSI above their maximum rating which is where they all were. (I'd aired up before the trip.) They look a lot happier with more air, as does the spare once it's up. We put about 60 PSI in the truck's front tires and 65 PSI, the maximum rating, in the other rear.

(There's a story there. The trucks 'new' tires, ones I'd explicitly ordered to be able to better carry the heavy camper, are in fact lighter duty than the ones that had come off. I was not pleased to find that out, and I'm embarassed that I had not myself noticed that until long after it was too late to do anything about it. My dad, a more experienced tow-er, pointed it out to me.)

It is perhaps a blessing that this happened as it did, rather than some time when the camper was on. With such a catastrophic tire failure we could have rolled if the circumstances were right. We decided to take a little stroll around Waitsburg while we waited for the roads to cool off some, it's by now getting late enough that this is not going to take all that long. Finally around 5:00 or so we take off to the next little town along the way, I'm going maybe 45–50 MPH, it's maybe 10 miles or so to Dayton. Our relatives follow along on this leg. I stopped and felt the tires. Hot, but not so hot as before. The cooler part of the day, better tire inflation, and slower travel seem to be doing the trick, I think this will work. We should have been home already, so Jill bought sandwiches and such for our now on-the-road dinner, we wave goodbye to our relatives and thank them profusely for their help, and off we go. Slowly. I stop every ten miles or so at first to check the tire heat and it's manageable. As we progress the evening cools, and the tire heat is no longer an issue. I'm holding it to 45 MPH in part because of the different-sized spare, the differential is hot, but not smoking hot. At 45 MPH I can stay in third gear down the steep hills, using engine braking so that our brakes don't take a beating and we don't build up dangerous speed. On one of the stops I noticed that the air compressor is still running, it's not shutting off right anymore, so I unplugged it. It's been running more and more, I think there's a leak. We don't really need the air horns anyway. We stayed on back roads where we could so that we were not impeding the major highway traffic and we could avoid the freeway through Spokane. The rest of the trip was actually pretty uneventful. But long, we didn't get home until maybe 10:30 or so, which made for a long day. We'd left at maybe 2:00, it's not normally a very long trip, maybe 3 hours.

There are lessons here.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Since I'd finally finished up the boat trailer, I finally got a chance to unload the stupid firewood. I moved the rig down to the unloading area and got about half the trailer unloaded. Generally the wood seems lighter than when it went on, perhaps it has dried some.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Got the rest of the trailer unloaded, and half the truck. Oh so pleasant: this morning it was 36°F outside with a rain and snow mix falling. I love June!

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Finished the unloading, swept off the debris and got the trailer put away. I then moved the truck over to the boat trailer and got the electrical plug wired correctly.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Today was finally tire day. Bought new 10-ply load range E tires, in 265/XR16 instead of the stock 245/XR16 (range E) or the 285/xR16 (range D) of the set that failed. (They had less than 40kmi on them, which was more than I'd thought.) Just shy of $900 for the set of four. According to the guy the D's only support a few pounds less load than the E's, but can be had much wider and take less maximum pressure. Regardless, I'm not risking that again. The E's should have less sidewall flex. I went with a slightly less aggressive tread than the last set, something between the offroad mud specials and the hard-as-nails highway tires. (We do enough snow driving to want the in-the-middle tires.) The new tires still appear to have a wider stance than stock, which is something I wanted. Also according to the guy my truck is supposed to have 17" wheels on it, but it's had 16" wheels since I got it. Dealer swap? Machs nicht.

They even put the spare back under the truck.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Time to get the truck ready for the road trip (with camper). I pulled the broken wheel well liner out, washed it, let it dry, and began gluing it back together. Shoe Goo, naturally. It will take several sessions to finish the job. I checked the mileage, and it's time for an oil and filter change. I only had two gallons of oil, so at lunch I bought one more at NAPA and an oil filter.

After I got home I glued another section of the broken liner.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

More liner gluing. I was able to do two sections this morning. (I can only do a section at a time because I really can't clamp things together. I have to prop or clamp things so that a section rests in alignment, whereupon I can glue it. When it sets up I can do the next section. It's slow.) I then changed the oil in the truck. I topped off the leaking transfer case lube, it took about a full quart. (Which requires the use of two due to the fluid pump I have to use to get it up in there.) I pumped up rear tires for the load, 80 PSI. I set the fronts at 65 PSI. The truck is ready to go, except for maybe a bath, assuming I either finish the wheel well liner and get it in today, or do without it this trip. (It'll be dry, so it'll probably be just fine without it.)

...After work I did some more gluing. It won't be done in time, and even if it was I won't have time to attach it.

Friday, August 8, 2008

I did the final gluing on the wheel well liner. Left it at home to finish drying. I washed the truck, it's easier to see out without all the dirt. I also vacuumed it out.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

I was talking to my cousin today, and he's put a Smacks hydrogen generator on his Ford diesel truck. Says it boosts his mileage (unloaded) about 4 MPG, and cost him about $100. Very interesting, indeed. It was a very tidy installation, it wasn't prominent at all.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Don't bet the farm, just yet! Opinions from the mailing list:
A local guy was selling the same systems—I believe he's facing fraud charges and will likely go to jail, for a long, long time.

He was selling the same type systems that used energy from the battery to break water into hydrogen & oxygen & was claiming huge economy gains. Problem was, the only ones with any mileage gains were those who were driving more carefully after the gizmo was installed.

He took a lot of people for a lot of $$$ before enough complaints caught up with him.

and:
Our company demoed several of these units in our big trucks. The moisture in the intake ruined every engine before 200,000 miles. Nothing we'll try again...
I did notice considerable moisture in the line to the intake. He also stated that according to the information he had, a longer feed line resulted in less gains. The cited 'chemistry' sounded bogus to me, something about H2 and O2 recombining over longer distances. Without a catalyst I'd have to call that combustion, and I think it would be noticed. Poly tubing isn't noted for its catalytic effects.

So, is it possible that the gains, if any, are due more to inadvertent water (vapor) injection and not to the presence of H2-O2? A long line would give the water vapor time to condense out before it hit the intake.

Cuz has his on a switch and turns it off somewhat before reaching his destination, so as to boil any excess water out of his exhaust. He was aware of that as an effect.

I definitely need to do some more research.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

I bought some generic plastic mounting buttons for the wheel well liner. Will they fit?

Friday, August 15, 2008

I put the mounting buttons in, they fit well. That'll keep the liner from falling into the wheel, at least until the attachments at the wheel opening can be straightened out.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Took off the camper today. We'll be needing the truck unencumbered, for Mom's Taxi duties.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

We've been having an arctic blast, weather down around 0 °F, and now it's starting to snow. Jill wants to be able to drive the truck if we get a lot, but it's still got summer fuel in it. We've had gelling problems before. I poured in some anti-gell, if she can get it started and running, and slosh it around a bit maybe we'll be OK. The usual trick is to get a mile or so down the road then stop.

...Yes, she made it out and topped off the fuel with current blend. Should be fine now.

Friday, December 19, 2008

The 2' of snow we got dumped on us Wednesday and Thursday finally had to be dealt with, Jill had commitments to meet. (The talking heads have been urging us to stay home if at all possible, the road crews are swamped and few roads are in good shape.) We dug out the truck and a channel down the driveway so we could back out to the luge track that is the county road. This is four-wheel-drive weather!

Monday, December 22, 2008

Six more inches of snow in the night, enough that I think I'll be taking this to work instead. I plugged in the block heater this morning when I shoveled it out, that should be kinder on the starting system.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

We went on a bike ride today, and Jill noticed something hanging down under the truck. It was the vacuum hosing to the front 4wd engagement pod! Looks like it got caught on something and yanked out, but neither of us remembers any circumstance when that could have happened. Weird. Looks like it might be easily put back right, but I won't know until I get a chance to crawl under there.

Monday, August 31, 2009

Said chance was today. I went under, and it wasn't really that bad. Something must have caught that hosing and gave it a good yank. The two hoses had pulled out of the rubber connector on the axle, and gotten pulled out of the wraparound sheath, which helped make it look particularly bad. The metal lines up at the frame had also gotten bent a bit by the yank. I bent them back, rethreaded the vacuum hoses into the sheath, wet the ends and pushed them back into the connector. I also put the resultant cable assembly back into the retaining clamp. Looks like new again, we'll see if it works later.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Put the camper on, and had to put another quart of ATF in the transfer case.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Stupid driver's mirror. It keeps blowing back, and the tie-down hook always slides out of place. I spent some time with a piece of plastic twine and lashed it in place better, I hope. We'll see.

There is some moisture underneath the driver's floor mat, so I removed it to let it dry. I hope that's not a sign of a windshield leak or anything like that.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

The mirror's twine rotted in the sun some time ago. Today I replaced it with some bare copper wire. We'll see how it holds up.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

0 °F this morning, and Jill's car (the Chicken Wagon) wouldn't start. (It hadn't been plugged in.) Neither would this, it still had a load of summer fuel in it and died almost immediately after she started it. When I got home from work it would run, barely, and I put in a glug of winter fuel treatment and let it idle for awhile, then took it for a short drive to mix it. It still choked out on me, but after resting a bit it perked up and thereafter was fine.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Changed the oil and filter. $40 in materials, even at Wal-Mart! (Delo 400, Fram filter.) Was about 10.5kmi, way late. Must try to do better...

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Prepped the truck for a road trip, still only 2kmi on the oil so it's good, as is the level. I checked the leaking transfer case and it still had plenty of oil in it. I adjusted the copper-wire mirror tether, it had slipped/stretched a bit.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Went to go bike riding and the truck wouldn't start, the batteries were dead. I put it on charge for 5 minutes and got it started, it'd only been a month or two since it was last driven. The batteries were last replaced in early 2004, so it may be time for new ones. We'll keep an eye on them.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Changed the oil, it was only 6,500 miles since last time, which means I didn't screw up too badly this time. (5kmi is my target.) That was the last of the $7/gal. Delo I got at the liquidator's a couple of years ago. (It was overpriced when it first got there, but then oil shot up to maybe $9–10 and I remembered they'd had some. I went back and they hadn't marked it up to match market conditions, so I bought all they had. Probably 10 gallons or so. Of course, it's much worse now. Used to get it for around $5/gal. in a 6-gallon case at Costco, any day.) The filter was $12 at NAPA. My last-ever, I'd guess, $33 oil change.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Jill took the truck to Walla Walla to pick up our new family heirloom piano, I was unable to go. (Stupid work!) It handled the chore uneventfully. The relatives were concerned about the weight of a 7–800# piano until I explained that the truck routinely carries a 3,000# camper! They got it rolled in via ramp from the high porch, and tucked away against the (padded) front rail, then padded and tarped it, and lashed it down well. There were no troubles at all. (We hired piano movers to get it into our house the next day, there was no way we could do it ourself, unless maybe using the Mog's crane, and which Jill was uncomfortable doing.)

Saturday, March 2, 2013

I have a battery-operated alarm clock that I'd stuck in the passenger-side cubby above the glove box so that there was a clock I could see while taking a nap in the truck, without having to power-on the radio. I'd glued a block of wood to the back of the clock to help hold it in place for optimum visibility. That'd all fallen apart, and the battery'd leaked—it was a mess. I cleaned it all up and glued the wood block back on, this time with Shoe Goo, and installed a new battery. I've been driving the truck since the muffler fell off the Frankenheap, and even have taken a nap or two in it, it was long past time to get my auxiliary clock back into operation.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Father's Day. Jill tells me that painting the truck is my gift, she found a guy that will do it for less than the $5,000 that quality paint shops are currently charging, yet better-done than MAACO.

Yes, it has been getting kind of ratty looking.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Prior to our road trip I checked the fluids, and put most of a quart of ATF into the (leaky) transfer case. The level is good enough, I think.

Monday, July 15, 2013

I ordered a new fuel level sender and a replacement high brake light assembly at the dealer today. Should be a little over $200, total.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

I dropped the truck off at the paint guy's day job. Nick Ervin of Kulture Kustom Rodz, kulturekustomrods@hotmail.com, (509) 209-3436, working at K&C, a local paint supply shop. Pedestrian job compared to what he prefers to do, but I guess Jill begged well enough that he took pity on her. Jill paid him $1500 down payment, for the paints and prep material. Due back before August 2, when we next need the truck.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Picked up the fuel sender and the light today, $231.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

I went up to the paint guy's place to install the sender, he had the truck bed off. It turns out that the fuel sender cannister is quite large, maybe 8" across, and unscrewing its plastic retaining ring was a bit difficult. I finally had success using an old automotive V-belt, and a pair of vise-grips. I doubt the belt appreciated the procedure. Releasing the fuel lines required a special tool, it's a good thing the paint guy had one. The sender unit was easy to replace, but the two parts of the cannister were sliding loose, the screws were not tight. They wouldn't tighten down, in fact, so I decided to leave well enough alone. I'm hoping that this doesn't signify an actual problem. With the key on the fuel indication slowly went up to about half a tank, corresponding to reality as best I could tell.

The truck will not be ready for our trip, Plan B is required.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Finally picked up the truck today, since we missed the deadline we told him to take his time if it would help to do it right. Final bill was $3,500. It was $500 above the quote because I wanted the bed removed. The paint looks very good, but there is a lot of compound left to wash off. The paint needs to cure for 90 days before the final polish and wax, which is included in the price. The plastic needs treating with some blackening agent in order to match the shine of the paint, and the front bumper is a bit out of whack. Some of the plastic cover material on it doesn't seem properly attached, but supposedly that was not touched. Wear and tear exposing itself now that I'm looking? I also need to paint (or otherwise treat) the hoop steps, they're looking pretty ratty now.

It was nice to have the fuel gauge not resting on empty. The air horns aren't hooked back up, nor is the key-on signal for the camper plug. (Same circuit.)

Monday, June 23, 2014

Been having trouble getting our included-in-the-price post-paint-cure waxing scheduled. We're needing the truck, I put the mudflaps on. I had bought two new ones for the rear, so that they would match, but these new dealer-item flaps are a steaming POS compared to the originals. While they look the same superficially, they're a 1-piece molded thing with a hollow that looks like it'll catch vast amounts of dirt. The originals were 2-piece with no visible 'inside', though I assume they are hollow. So I re-used the good original, and we'll live with the color mismatch. I'm sure the new one will fade and get dirty soon enough.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Took it in to get licensed, and it failed the mandatory stink test. The limit was 40% opacity, and it blew 40.1%! That's just ridiculous. I gave it some good Italian tune-ups, and bought a diesel fuel system treatment at NAPA that claims to reduce smoke. I don't need much to gain 0.1%! I also bought a wiper blade to replace the other one that shredded. (I put the new one on the driver's side, and moved its to the dead passenger side.) If they're going to insist on selling only a 2× more expensive assembly, I'm going to insist on replacing them half as often. The passenger can suffer with a much less clear view. About $20 today.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

When the truck was painted the bed was removed, and the painter cut the wiring and hoses to the air horn installation, and the ground wire to the in-bed camper plug. I went out there today and made a new ground lug for it and screwed it to the frame. I painted it all with anti-seize, hoping that will help cut down on corrosion.

Monday, June 30, 2014

Got the truck licensed today. It barely passed the stink test, but passed is better than failed! I grabbed the available records for its test history off of the official test site http://www.emissiontestwa.com:

YearOpacity
(%)
200417
200621
200821
201013
201220
201438.9

That's not a good trend! I put in a new air filter today, too. It was long past time, the filter minder had been moving about halfway to 'plugged' over the last year or so. About $36.

Saturday, August 9, 2014

The BAT line to the camper plug in the bed got broken somehow, probably when the truck was painted. This caused the camper's refrigerator to really beat up the camper's battery while on the road, and prevented my auxiliary backup power switch from working once we got to camp. See the full story here.

Monday, November 17, 2014

I needed to drive the truck today, because the SEL would not start. (The truck didn't enjoy starting, it was 18°F out there and it had not been plugged in since I wasn't anticipating using it. It ran really rough at first.) While driving it I noticed that there's a fuel leak up front when the engine is running, so I dropped it off at the shop. (Hurricane Diesel Performance and Repair. Nobody else in the Valley would even look at it; these guys made no promises, but at least it was close by.) I don't have time, and it's really cold outside.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

They called with a laundry list of things they recommended, pushing $2500! They did not have time to do more than diagnose it, which cost me over $100, and couldn't get to the job until next week anyway. I went over the list and chose the items I wanted done. Unfortunately we need the truck, so I scheduled it in for service in December. The fuel leak wasn't that bad when I picked it up, it seems variable.

Here are their recommendations that I am not opting for:

  1. Adjust fuel pump timing
  2. Replace fuel overflow (overpressure) valve
  3. Delete fuel preheater
  4. RF axle leak

I don't think the pump needs timing: we're getting normal power and mileage, both good. I want to look into the low fuel pressure situation, I'm thinking that one of the gauge-equipped aftermarket kits might be suitable. This could be causing its emission opacity problems. I want a fuel preheater. If it has trouble clogging, clean it out and make sure that the inline fuel filters are good. I have not noticed a significant leak at the front axle.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

I dropped off the truck at the shop today. The estimate for the scheduled work is about a grand. I rode my bicycle from there to work, it was a beautiful blue-sky morning, though very cold. Jill picked me up after work with the bike rack on the X5. (Much darker and colder then, I was sure glad I didn't have to ride home!)

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

I picked the truck up today. $1104.01! Mostly as estimated. Here's the breakdown:

DescriptionPartsLabor
KDP tab4.00285.00
Timing Cover Gasket (KDP)130.90
Front Crank Seal (KDP)40.50
Belt40.11
Front TC Seal21.02123.50
4Q ATF (TC)32.00
Fuel Drain Valve seals20.0095.00
Valve Adjustment123.50
6 Valve Cover Gaskets51.78
2 Valve Cover Grommets38.34
Fees10.00

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

It passed the stink test today! I grabbed the available records for its test history off of the official test site http://www.emissiontestwa.com:

YearOpacity
(%)
200417
200621
200821
201013
201220
201438.9
201618.1

The limit is 30%, so we're good again after the fuel system repairs.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

We bought another camper recently, and it came with a 2½" hitch extender so that you can tow a boat or a toy trailer too. Unfortunately it's for a Class V hitch, which we don't have. So I ordered one for the truck, just under $200 shipped from etrailer.com, with a 2" adapter sleeve so that we can continue to use our older hitch items.

Saturday, August 12, 2017

I got out the PB Blaster and some wrenches, and started removing the original hitch. Rust! I got 5 of the 6 bolts out eventually, using the air impact wrench for most of them. The one I can't reach with the rattle gun is blocked by the exhaust pipe. I can use the heavy 1/2" Snap-on ratchet and a 5# sledge to do it, though. Tedious. I ran out of time before I could finish.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

I got out the propane torch and heated the one semi-inaccessible nut quite a bit. When hot it would move easier, but it cooled rapidly. I had to heat it half a dozen times before I finally got it off. I used the floor jack to hold up the loose end, the wired end, while I removed the last bolt. (One of the ones that was easy to operate with the air gun.) I was again out of time, so the wiring is still attached to the old hitch.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

I got the old hitch all the way out and the new hitch installed. Installation was pretty much according to the instructions, though the wretched Harbor Freight 5/8" drill bit dulled and bent before the second (of two) holes was enlarged, even though I used oil and was trying to be careful. (I straightened it and sharpened it. Nothing like using good tools! [Literally, nothing like it.]) I cleaned and painted the enlarged holes to help prevent rust.

I then used the floor jack to lift the new hitch up to the frame while I got the bolts located. I used a lot of anti-seize, in the hopes that if it ever does need to come back off it'll do so. The new configuration is a lot more beefy than the old, as is to be expected, and there's no way to fit an air gun in there due to the way the metal is shaped, so it was mostly box-end wrench work. Once tightened down I inserted the hitch extension we got with the camper, and put a hitch into the receiver. Looks like it'll work. I still need to attach the electrical socket to the new hitch, and move over the electrical extension from the old camper. That, however, can wait.

Saturday, March 31, 2018

The truck was destroyed today, Daniel was driving. We were taking a leisurely cross-State trip, early in the morning so traffic was light, and he needed to log some hours for his eventual driver's license. It all went well until we were to make our turn South on Highway 18. Daniel got rattled, and somehow was not expecting to make the turn. He came into the turn much too fast, froze momentarily, then locked up the brakes. We shot straight through the intersection, through/cross the 3' ditch, and came to a sudden stop in the weeds. The airbag did not deploy, we went up in the air as much as we stopped going forward. Once still the engine was idling normally, Daniel did have the clutch depressed, which is what we had discussed doing during emergency maneuvers. I had him shut it down.

Upon first examination, the truck was badly damaged. The bumper was punched in, crushing the air horns, and the front wheels were folded back in the wells. The front driveline was broken loose and hanging on the ground. Of note was that the 1" steel track rod was bent in a semicircle at one end where it had been wrapped temporarily around the differential during the collision with the ditch wall. The differential was cracked and leaking, as was the engine oil pan. The entire front suspension was destroyed.

The most disturbing thing was the ½" gap between the bottoms of the fenders and the bottoms of the doors: bent frame. There was no sheet metal damage, though the bicycles in the bed did a number on the paint just below the bed rails.

The extraction was a fiasco. AAA was called, and after about 2 hours a shiny new roll-back showed up. It could not reach us, and got stuck trying. A second truck was called, which eventually got the first rig pulled out of the mud. The roll-back then tried to winch us to the road, and broke his cable. He drove off in disgust, much time lost, truck muddy, winch damaged, and no pay since there was no extraction. The second truck, a traditional crane style, pulled us out easily, and then lifted the front onto its carrier. He towed us to the yard with our rear wheels on the ground.

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

The insurance company (USAA) was confused by the failed tow attempt, and called the wrong place and was unable to find the truck. I had to re-call and get them to connect to the correct place. Once that was all straightened out the clock started again. Maybe we'll hear this week.

Thursday, April 5, 2018

USAA called, and said the truck was so badly damaged that it was unlikely to be repairable, but that this was not yet definitive.

Monday, April 9, 2018

News from USAA. They valuated the truck, pre-accident, at approximately $18,000! (This is a depreciation of only about $8,000 over 20 years, which is nearly unheard-of.) They are revisiting the scrap/repair decision in light of that, I should hear more on Wednesday. I had been worried that they would try to screw me on the value, but their figure is actually fairly plausible. Low-mileage examples of the 12V trucks seem to be going for a premium, $15k and up seems to be the norm. Ours had 110kmi on it. One 50kmi example was offered for $27k!

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

No news on the truck, but for the last week or so I had been eyeing a local 1996 V10, automatic, 207kmi, as a potential parts donor. (It has the same body configuration, and because of the V10, the same frame. It also has auxiliary suspension air bags, and a Tekonsha brake controller.) 'Weak transmission', negotiated $1450 for the truck at UGM Motors. $1807 out the door ready to drive, followed immediately by $340 worth of used 10-ply tires, the ones on the truck were bad, bad, bad. Lumpy, unsafe at any speed.

If it doesn't end up being used for parts, at least we have a truck for hauling things around in for awhile.

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

I fabricated a loop handle from a section of dead V-belt to serve in place of the broken and missing door pull cup on the driver's side of the donor truck. It works fairly well, and is strong. A new replacement is $25-ish, and not worth considering on a parts truck, unless sourced at a junkyard.

Saturday, May 5, 2018

The messed-up passenger door latch was causing real problems as regards the donor truck's temporary duty with us, so I took the door apart and used two big hammers to flatten out the bends where the metal had cracked and deformed at the latch. I then used the wire-feed welder to close the cracks. I used two hammers to flatten out the welds and the general area, and ground some of the excess off. The latch went back together easily. The missing attachment screw will need to be replaced. Once reassembled the door worked well, as did the locks. (But not the electric locks.)

I looked closer, and the driver's door has the same cracking problem, though a fat washer added to one of the screws is preventing the bending. It may not need a better repair, the donor truck is not expected to live very much longer.

Monday, May 7, 2018

I went to Pull-N-Save, and wandered the Dodge pen until I found a vehicle that used the same door latch screws. I grabbed two, one for the missing one and one just in case the weird one on the driver's side should need replacement. There were none of these trucks in the yard, so no specific items like a door pull cup for me.

Fuel pump wouldn't start on the donor truck, stranding me briefly. Banging on the tank seemed to get it going again. Scary. (Not the first time it would not start, but I finally was able to chase it to the fuel pump. Could be the relay, but is probably the pump.) The real problem with this truck, though, is the box-of-rocks sound that you get at RPM as you float between acceleration and decelaration. I think the engine is also on its last legs, which is not a problem except it means that I probably cannot use this truck to go fetch the wreck home.

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

I stopped by Washington Auto Collision, the local expensive body shop, and asked if they were interested in a swap job. They said they didn't do that sort of thing, it took too much time and space, but that they contracted such work out to a guy. This guy, contacted in turn, said that that is pretty much all they do there, and seemed interested in the job. Maybe in a couple of weeks, roughly $3,000–$3,500 plus incidentals. Sounding pretty good at this point!

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

I brought the donor truck to a shop we have a relationship with, and borrowed an ear. He confirmed that it was probably rod noise, and when presented with my plan of using it for one more cross-State trip to pick up the truck carcass, suggested that I dump some Lucas in it and try to keep it out of rattle range as much as possible. He thought that this would not be an overly risky proposition.

When leaving there, the truck would not crank. As I had recently swapped the starter and fuel pump relays, this was a good thing! I swapped relays around again, and got the truck running. My next stop was FLAPS, where $32 bought me a replacement relay and a jug of Lucas oil treatment. Having a definite thing to blame means that it is unlikely to need a hard-to-replace fuel pump before the operation.

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

The little battery clock I'd stuck in the dash cubby died some time ago, I stopped by the thrift shop and got another one. $1, it seems to work. I taped it to the same wooden block I'd used on the last one, to try to hold it in place.

Friday, May 18, 2018

I used the truck to pick up the out-for-repair , and the transmission chose today, on the pickup run, to work perfectly. All four gears, and a locked torque converter at higher speeds. (I could feel/hear all four transitions.) About 1500RPM at 50–55MPH, staying well away from the bearing noise zone. It also lit the low-fuel light on the way, and I filled up at 334 miles, the truck turned in 10.8MPG. Wa-hoo! Double digits!

I am concerned that the transmission reverted to limp-home behavior after the fill-up. I think that in order for a haul-the-carcass-home trip to be practical I need to be sure of keeping the engine out of the rattle zone most of the way, and for that I really need fourth gear and the TC lockup.

Saturday, May 19, 2018

I cleaned and treated (De-Ox-It) the big relay contacts in the power distribution module, opened and cleaned/treated the contacts in the intermittent relay I'd replaced and put it in the glove box as a spare, and opened/cleaned/treated the transmission control relay. I opened and treated the big three connectors by the brake booster (C125/C126/C127) and looked for where the loose orange wire that is right there should go. Looks like maybe it's supposed to be loose, which seems odd. The only orange wire in the loom I could identify (in my 1997 manual) is the +5V line for the transmission solenoids. I didn't measure anything on it, though.

I cut a stick to wedge under the seat cushion to keep it from sagging. Now it's a bit high-feeling, but probably less annoying. We'll see, it's not like a stick is hard to remove or anything.

I moved the truck closer to the air compressor, and went under the truck again. I pulled the transmission connector and flushed it out with brake cleaner, again, and puddled some into the upwards-facing socket. I used compressed air to blow it out, and definitely felt some dirt moving around. Not sure whether or not it was in the connector, or just sitting in the area up there. I used De-Ox-It on the connector and plugged it back in. I think the connector seated deeper than before, with a more positive 'snick'. I drove the truck downtown and back, to the evening's parade activity, and the transmission operated properly. Looks good, but I'm going to need to put a few more miles on it before I call it fixed. You can definitely feel all four shifts now, going into fourth gear and then having the torque converter lockup engage at freeway speeds. Engine turns now at about 1,500RPM at 50–55MPH, which is very nice. Plenty of torque, it's happy loafing along like that.

Sunday, May 20, 2018

I drove the truck today, and the transmission behaved perfectly at all times. I think we can say that it is fixed! The seat feels a little weird, it could probably use some more work. Will it get it?

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