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Archive for May, 2010

Let There Be Headlights!

May 24th, 2010 7 comments

Believe it or not, I got my wife to ride in the truck last night!  I lured her with ice cream – but still.  Now that the truck is running (reasonably) well, I’m wanting to take it out more often so an ice cream run seemed like a good start.  After we had finished our Marble Slab goodness, we headed home.  It was probably 15 minutes or so after sunset, so as the heavens went out, I flipped the headlights on.  Now, they have always been a bit dim.  And they had a bad habit of flickering every once in a while that I had chalked up to a loose connection.  Recently I took the connectors apart, cleaned them up, and slapped some bulb grease on them in an attempt to rectify that.  But it turns out I was mistaken – that was not the problem.  Or at least it wasn’t the WHOLE problem, because after the headlights had been on for ten minutes or so, they started flickering again.  And not just a little flicker.  Imagine a signal lamp operator with turrets and you’ll get the idea.

I discovered after some (frantic) experimentation that if I turned the lights out for a minute or so, I could get a few minutes of non-blinking headlight.  But we were ten minutes or so from home – and I’m pretty sure the people around us thought I was trying to tell them to pull over.  So I pulled over and did a bit more experimentation.  I discovered that if I unplugged one of the lights, the other would operate flicker-free.  so we went the rest of the way home as a popeye.

Some research led me to believe that the problem lay in the wiring.  A common upgrade for old C/K trucks is a “Headlight Relay Upgrade”.  The OEM system routes power from the battery, through the fuse box, through the headlight switch in the dash, through many feet of wire, to the driver side light, through several more feet of wire and finally to the passenger side light.  That is a lot of room for resistance.  This resistance can eventually cause the switch to overload, hence the blinking.  It also results in dimmer lights, as they aren’t getting the voltage they really need.  The solution is to take the lights out of the circuit and instead have the power from the switches activate two relays (one for low beams and one for high).  then you can run higher gauge wire directly from the electrical system, through the relays and into the lights.  Much less resistance.  If you Google it you’ll get a ton of pages on it, but my favorite, and the one I used is here. Really helpful info.  I ended up using  Optronics A715 relays – less than four bucks a pop at O’Reilly’s.  I used 10 gauge wire for most of it which was overkill and a bitch to solder, but it was what I had on hand.  At least in the future if I want to add HIDs or something I won’t have to run new wire.

It took about four hours or so, but the result is working headlights.  They do seem brighter too, so bonus.  Another problem taken care of!

The big problems left now are:

  1. Paying someone to replace the oil pan and gasket
  2. Replacing the transmission pan and gasket
  3. Getting the carb adjusted or rebuilt
  4. Replacing the rust tank and lines
  5. Rebuilding the rearend
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Engine Work

May 22nd, 2010 No comments

Lots of fun stuff recently.  I’ll admit – I’ve lost steam a little bit.  Having the bad experience with the rockers and then the bad luck with my Ion really took the wind out of my sails.  And the money out of my wallet.  I figure I have now flushed almost $2500 on those two problems now, only to end up right back where I started.  Cheeses me off a bit.

But that makes progress feel all the better!  I was telling my buddy Greg about all the leaks and whatnot and how the truck wasn’t running as well and he offered to lend a hand.  He has rebuilt several American engines, and is easily one of the most intelligent people I’ve ever met.  Plus he has a kickass Z.

The major symptoms were:

  1. It ran like crap
  2. Coolant was dripping from the bottom of the timing chain cover
  3. It was overheating
  4. It leaks oil and transmission fluid.  A lot.

The oil and tranny fluid would have to wait, but he was pretty sure the coolant was actually from the water pump.  This scared me because getting to the water pump meant taking out the radiator, fan, belts, and various other intimidating looking bits.  But hey – learning experience right?  So I began to prepare.  Greg said he could come over some weekend day and we could get it knocked out.  I decided to get as much of it done as possible before he came over so I had time to paint the bits I was taking off, and to get a good look at everything.

I decided that if I was going to take the radiator out, I might as well put the right size back in (not that I don’t love the “ziptied radiator” look).  So I bought a new radiator in addition to the new water pump and gaskets.  I then started to remove all the components.  I kept a really detailed list of everything I removed, and the order in which I removed it.  For each step I took a baggie and put any small hardware from that step in the baggy and labeled it with a sharpie, making sure to separate unlike sizes and lengths.  I also took the time to strip and repaint the alternator brackets, part of the tranny lines, air cleaner housing, fan and fan clutch and radiator mount.  I also snagged a new battery tray because the old one was pretty much nonexistent.

I also decided that it would be a good time to replace the thermostat housing which has leaked ever since I changed the thermostat last, and also to check the plugs.  Why check the plugs you ask?  Because when I last put in plugs, I didn’t gap them.  Yes, really.  I realized too late that I didn’t have a gauge.  So instead of jaunting down to the parts store I decided “What the heck.” and just didn’t gap them at all.  So yeah – mystery on why it was running poorly was solved.  So I pulled the plugs and gapped them.  I redid the thermostat housing as well and SOMEHOW (I still don’t understand how) I put the thermostat in upside down.  I was very surprised when I took that housing off.  So overheating problem solved!  I used a thin layer of Permatex 2 for the thermostat housing.  The new housing required slightly different length bolts than the old housing, so that meant another trip to the parts store.  It also had a brass plug in a threaded hole where a temp sensor can go (I guess).  I found out much later that you need to REMOVE that plug and seal the threads before you put it in.  Yeah, that was fun.

Anyway, on Saturday Greg came over and we got to work.  We hit some fun snags, like the fact that the PO had decided to use only 3 of the 4 required water pump bolts (wonder why it leaked?)  But eventually we had all the right hardware, and we put a thin layer of Permatex Thermostat Housing and Water Pump sealant on the block, and to one side of the gaskets.  Then stuck the clean side of the gaskets to the sealant on the block, and put on the pump.  I can vouch for that sealant – really impressive stuff.  No leaks!

Put everything back together and filled up the new radiator – runs like a champ now!  Well, ok , it did after a new fuel filter (darn rust!).

Altogether, a freaking great Saturday.

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