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Friday, June 6, 2014

An 80's 4x4 adventure- not like that tho... Part 1

Another adventure begins. A long-time friend and client called me up to check out his old work truck and give him a diagnosis and likely cost of repair to get it running again. He said it should be no big deal, should be quick and easy he said. I believed him...  Little did I know...

Some info about the truck: its a mid 80s large American 4x4 beast with a big V8 engine, automatic transmission, 4 barrel carburetor, and a mile or more of vacuum tubes going every which direction under the hood. 

The first thing that stood out when I popped the hood was that the battery and cable connections were crusty, corroded and straight-up nasty. 

Next I noticed that there were a bunch of cracked, broken or disconnected vacuum lines- most are the hard nylon type with rubber ends. 

Then I saw the mouse nest next to the distributor and under the air cleaner housing- yuck.   

So I removed the top from the big round air filter housing and couldn't help but notice the filthy grime covering the carburetor and all its openings and the missing breather filter- it was laying in the oily sludge behind the air filter. Disgusting. The choke plates on the carb were a sticky, gummy mess, all coated in slime, and had to be forced to move instead of operating smoothly with no effort like they should.

 All I could do was hang my head and sigh. What a mess... When I asked the owner how much maintenance the old truck gets, the response was that it only gets the minimum it needs to run 3 or 4 times a year and drive 50 miles. It just sits the rest of the time. That would explain it. 

 As to the question about the last time it ran, he said 'maybe 6 months ago?' Ugh, the plot thickens like the sludge I am visualizing in the carburetor. He told me he didn't have a lot to put into it, and only needed it for hauling stuff for a few miles today, then we could park it and do more work later to get it running proper. I told him I'd do what I could, but it didn't look too likely.  

After checking fluids- all good- and cleaning the battery posts to assure good connection to the starter and the rest of the electrical system, I hooked up the jumper cables to my truck and verified the battery was taking a charge. While the battery was charging, I fixed a few of the important hose leaks and reinstalled the breather filter. 

With only 70k miles on the odometer and judging by the proper sound of the starter when we cranked it over, I am guessing compression is good. Since I didn't bring a compression tester with me though, that would have to wait to be verified.  

I opened up the distributor to inspect the cap and rotor- all looked brand new inside. A fat, healthy, blue spark would POP over half an inch to a ground point from any spark plug wire I pulled. Not an ignition problem thats for sure- great spark. 

Could be compression maybe, I doubt it though because it sounds mostly right, so timing maybe, firing order maybe, bad spark plugs maybe, crud filled carb maybe, 20 years of minimal maintenance maybe... Oh boy. 

 When I turned on the key, everything came on properly in the dash- so far so good. In cranking the engine, it sounded correct, but didn't even try to start right away. After a few attempts, it tried to fire up, but no matter what I did, pump it, floor it, or ignore the accelerator pedal completely, it did exactly the same thing- try to start but not quite. Sometimes closer to running than other times, but before the starter motor burnt up, we had to stop cranking and wait for a few minutes for it to cool down. 

After a few rounds of crank and wait, crank and test, crank and try-a-few-other-things I told him it actually looked pretty pointless for today. The fuel tank switch, he said, had been 'fixed' a few times over these many years and was now labeled backward- L=R, R=L... great. The fuel gauge didn't change one iota whether the key was off or on, or which tank was switched on. I asked if both tanks work or if just one works, which one. He told me the right tank (US passenger side) works, thats the one he fills...  he thinks. But the switch was on the right tank setting when I had arrived, which is re-labeled to left, and so he couldn't remember anymore. He had just put five gallons of nice fresh fuel into the passenger side tank tho, so we went with left (right). 
 At this point I realized that if he wanted this thing running there were alot of small problems to be fixed. Since I didn't have the tools or time today to deal with all of them, I would have to come back better equipped. Since its a 10 mile drive each way, I would be needing most of my electrical testing stuff, my hand vacuum pump, compression tester, spare hose and connector sets, fuel supply testing equipment... and cleaning supplies.  

So I charged him $40 and told him I would be back later in the week. I told myself 'when I go back I will make sure to be better armed with more tools and more cleaning equipment too.'
 I'll cover the rest of the adventure in the next article.   MW out... again.

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