'96 Dodge

1996 Dodge 3/4 ton V10

When my son wrecked the Dodge, the insurance company ended up totaling it, primarily because the parts price was so high for a truck that old; new parts were generally not available, except at "last melon" prices: $12,000 and climbing. Well, this truck, which had almost every necessary part on it, was only $2,124 in puny, but ready-to-drive condition. That $10,000 off the price of repairs changed everything.

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 8.0ℓ [488 cid] V10, the same stronger frame. It also has auxiliary suspension air bags, and a Tekonsha brake controller.) With a 'weak transmission', I negotiated $1,450 for the truck at UGM Motors as a fixer-upper. $1,784 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, and will keep me from ripping the door panel off trying to close the door. 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, which strain but can't manage to move things.)

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 screw and another 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.

The fuel pump wouldn't start on the donor truck, stranding me briefly. Banging on the tank, a trick I've heard about, 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 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.

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, so long as I did not expect a great deal more life out of the engine.

When leaving there, the truck would not crank. As I had recently swapped the starter and fuel pump relays, this was a good thing! (The problem followed the relay, which means that the problem is the relay.) 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 of the other truck died some time ago, I stopped by the thrift shop and got another clock. $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, put in a battery, and parked it in this truck's cubby. It's a clock you can read easily while napping, without having to turn something electronic on.

Friday, May 18, 2018

I used the truck to pick up the out-for-repair lawn mower, 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 1,500 RPM at 55 MPH, 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 10.8 MPG. Wa-hoo! Double digits! (I wasn't expecting it to be even that good.)

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 it was in the connector, or just sitting on top of the transmission flange where the connector lives. 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 1,500 RPM at 55 MPH, which is very nice. Plenty of torque, it's happy loafing along like that.

The replacement battery clock sucks, its hands stick at around 7, so it's always showing the wrong time. Better luck next time!

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?

Monday, May 21, 2018

The tailgate had an incorrect bolt for one of the cable stops, so that it did not pivot correctly, causing it to bind up when closing. (Regular bolt, not a shoulder bolt, so it was pinched tight into place rather than pivoting as the gate closes.) I stopped by the U-Pull and nabbed the correct bolt off of a Dakota. There!

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

They charged a little too much for the license and registration, and refunded me $22.75 today. (Reflected in the numbers above.) I picked up the license plates too. The paper tag is good until June 15, I wonder if I'll actually have to put the plates on?

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Got the final offer on the wrecked truck today. They are throwing in transporting the wreck from Seattle to Spokane, which is more than 300 miles. Such a deal. I have made arrangements to drop the wreck directly at the shop, I won't need to be involved at all.

The V10's days are numbered. Small ones.

Friday, May 25, 2018

I talked to Bryan Long at Spokane Frame & Auto, (509) 868-2605, and he said that while he needed more parts laying around like a hole in the head, he'd take $750 off the price of the job if he got to keep the remains of the donor. That's half what I paid for the entire truck, and well over what I could get at the junkyard. Sold! (I'm sure that careful parting out of the remains could yield more than this, but I am personally not interested in stretching out this process any longer, and certainly don't need yet another carcass laying around here, or another project.) The bed is not included in this deal as the neighbor wants it. I might charge him $1, to make it all legal. (Is that still a thing?)

Tueesday, May 29, 2018

The low-fuel light came on again, and I just couldn't stand not knowing the fuel mileage improvement due to the repaired transmission, even though the donor operation is imminent. I filled up, the third and probably last tank, at 381 miles, the truck turned in a whopping 12.3 MPG. Wa-hoo, a 14% improvement!

Gaining this knowledge was a $100 indulgence, unless I can drive it down to near empty again before it goes in. If I can't, I see some siphoning in my future, no way I'm giving away $100 in fuel with the carcass.

I've got to say I've enjoyed my tenure with this truck, especially since I fixed the transmission. I could easily see owning another one, under the right circumstances. (Translation: a price as right as this one, and a need for a big truck like this.) I like large-displacement low-revving engines, they're torquey and easy to drive. You just have to find a way to stomach the large fuel bills!

Saturday, June 2, 2018

Some friends were taking down several dead trees in their back yard and gave us the wood, all we had to do was haul it. Two full loads. The truck barely noticed the weight. I did have a fair amount of trouble shifting in and out of 4wd, but that's due to my unfamiliarity with this process on an automatic transmission vehicle.

There was some grunching noise up front when in 4wd, that's a bit disturbing since that's part of what's moving to the other truck.

Thursday, June 7, 2018

The title finally came in the mail. Unless I miss my guess, barely in time!

Friday, June 8, 2018

This truck has been my daily driver all week, trying to run the fuel out. Unless something comes up where we need this truck, I think I just drove it for the penultimate time. It's down to 1/8 tank indicated, and the light is coming on. 330 miles, and at $100 a pop I don't want to feed it again. (Probably only about 5 gallons of fuel left, based on the prior two fill-ups. That's 50-odd miles, or a couple of trips to town and back before it sucks air.) At this point I only expect the one more trip: to the gallows. I enjoyed driving this truck far more than I ever expected to, perhaps because it is actually fairly clean inside and it has the same nap-worthy back seat as the other truck, in addition to its torquey low-revving-ness.

Time to fire up the Mazcedes, I guess. Not at all nap-worthy, near as I can tell at this point, and pretty unrefined in comparison. But I don't expect it to be a daily driver, either. It is planned for a different role in my life.

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Reprieve? The dead truck finally showed up yesterday. The shop doesn't think a donor frame is necessary at all, and if this is true this truck will not be parted out. Flip it, instead? Keep it as the non-RV truck, circumventing 90% of the scary and tedious camper on/off dance? Most of our non-camper uses of a truck are infrequent, and local, so the terrible gas mileage of the V10 really wouldn't be a big issue. My guess is that we'd probably only put a few hundred miles a year on it. Certainly not worth buying a truck for, but we've already got this one, and it wasn't very expensive.

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

The dead truck is repaired, and I'm going to go pick it up tomorrow, leaving this one in its place for now. He's going to estimate a cheap-ass in-frame bearing job. For now I brought it up top, ready to drive tomorrow. (After I put the license plates on it.)

Since we might be keeping this, I removed the lump-inducing stick from the seat frame, and substituted a 2" piece of closed-cell packing foam. It wedged into place pretty securely, we'll see how it feels with a bit of seat time. The foam certainly has more 'give' to it than a stick does!

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Finally installed the license plates. (The paper tag expired on the 15th.) I had the frame shop guy look at it, and he thinks he might be able to do an in-frame bearing swap, but not immediately. Will call July 12-ish to firm up an appointment. Since I had to leave the repaired truck at the tire shop I drove this one back home.

I did some checking, and a proper seat repair, essentially undistinguishable from new, will be in the $400 range for the parts. The foam repair is better than the stick, but the seat is just so ugly. The current list of planned repairs, if we decide to go that way, is:

I'll probably have to eventually do something about:

Saturday, June 30, 2018

We wanted to go kayaking. Good thing we have a spare truck!

Sunday, July 1, 2018

We needed to haul a load of chairs and stands to our outdoor band concert today. Good thing we have a spare truck!

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

I stopped by NAPA today and spent $16.50 on a 2-oz can of PAG 100 oil and a 12-oz can of R134a. When I had a moment later I dug out the AC gear, and fired it all up. (Vacuumed out the gauge set before starting, bleeding refrigerant into it, etc.) When I removed the high-side cap there was a bit of hissing, so I think the fitting leaks there. The compressor was short-cycling, and sounded kind of noisy, so I started with the oil can. I then fed it the can of refrigerant, and partway through eating that it started cycling longer and longer. With the entire can in the system there was no more short cycling, the compressor sounded much quieter, and vent temperatures were 48°F at idle. (Ambient was only 70°F, so not much of a challenge.) If it's warm tomorrow at the parade, it'll be nice to have the AC working.

The malfunctioning left brake light on the trailer turned out to be a bent contact in the socket on the truck. I used a pick to spread out the contact a bit more, which seemed to cure the problem.

One of the safety chain attachement points on the hitch had been bent, looked like maybe somebody backed into something quite some time ago (rust). I used a big crescent wrench to bend it back into place, and all the paint came off the rust. I brushed it off and dabbed some black paint on. With this straightened it's easier to get the trailer on.

Wednesday, July 4, 2018

The truck handled towing the trailer to and from the parade well. I was a bit surprised how much the transmission reacted to the nominal weight of the empty trailer, it was a lot more shifty. It was a challenge, at times, to keep the RPM's out of the rattle zone. But do-able. It was an overall cool day, but we did use the AC some on the way home. It was nice to have it, and to know that it is there if we need it.

Thursday, August 2, 2018

Daniel went to drive this truck, and it would fire but not stay running. (He drove something else.) Later in the day I got it started, and it would run so long as you kept some gas on. It refused to idle, and would die on its own. After a bit of pedal feathering it seemed to return to normality, and would idle. Odd.

... I am told that this is not uncommon, and that "brushing its teeth", using spray carb cleaner and a toothbrush on the idle air motor in the air intake will likely cure it. Unlike the spring-loaded Mercedes system that tends to stick open, this one can stick when shut, resulting in a no-run condition instead of a stable, but high, idle. (Their former slogan of "The best, or nothing." sure did pay off in little areas like this. Going to miss that.)

Thursday, August 16, 2018

Yesterday's parts procurement run for the diesel truck yielded a door pull cup, but it turned out it was for the wrong side. When I went back today to swap it, we couldn't find a driver's-side cup, which isn't really that surprising. (They're the ones that are going to break, after all.) I swapped the wrong one straight across for a power distribution center cover, to keep dirt out of the underhood fuses and relays, so that's still a win. (Roughly $7.50 for that.)

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

I used this truck to tow the Chicken Wagon to the shop. It did well, and hardly noticed the extra weight.

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