On the Road Again

March 12th, 2010

A milestone over the past week as I finally fixed the old truck.   Something with the clutch or transmission wasn’t working, and it was either getting stuck in gear, or popping out of gear.  I finally figured out (guessed!) that the slave cylinder had a tiny leak. Not enough to drain the master reservoir, but enough to prevent good hydraulic pressure to the transmission. After a little research online, a stop at the parts store and a few hours one night, it came out as good as new.   That was the only thing wrong with the clutch fortunately.

I thought it would be painful to bleed the system, especially with no bleed valve on the cylinder part. Instead I slowly dripped Dot 3 fluid into the tiny fluid port as bubbles popped up until it appeared totally full. That took a while, but had to open the master cylinder reservoir up top, the fluid started flowing out the end of the tube where I could quickly attach it to the slave cylinder, keep pressure on the clutch, and the air gradually was evacuated. Voila! No air bubbles!

My next move wasn’t so smart… like a knucklehead I wanted to test it out too fast, and pushed the clutch pedal in and heard a “Pop!” noise. Climbing back under the truck I realized it worked exactly like it was supposed to… except since I had not installed the slave cylinder to the transmission yet, when I actuated the clutch it popped the piston out of the cylinder and broke the retaining clip that held it in for easy installation. Arrrgh!

With messy visions of starting over, I took a few deep breaths and with lots of grunting and groaning, I was able to squeeze the piston back in enough to get it in place. Aahhh… I felt lucky that this particular truck had the slave cylinder attached outside the transmission bell housing, or I would have had to do a lot more work taking the transmission apart.

Why do this myself? Partly because I like to, but mostly to try and save some bucks. I spent too much at the dealer a few months ago to fix some fuel system issues, and they said I needed a new starter at the time because it wasn’t starting the truck properly. Heck, it costs money to get an opinion after nearly an hour of labor charges… the diagnostic fee.  I’m learning, but replacing the starter would have been hundreds more dollars on top of what I already spent.

Sure it started rough, and sometimes not at all, but for a truck I only use sometimes, I declined their kind offer.   Now however I was in “fix it” mode, so I tried a simple fix by replacing the starter solenoid for twenty bucks.  Guess what? That was all it took, and it starts just fine now… go figure.  One would think the dealer could have figured that out… or maybe they did. Makes you wonder.

I also put in a new power window motor since the driver’s side was mostly dead. I say mostly because it had been intermittent for a couple of years and had not worked at all for over 6 months. I swear I didn’t touch it, but that silly window motor magically started working after I bought the new motor!    Here’s a shot of the driver’s door with the panel removed- the window motor is between the outer and inner door frame!

Replacing the motor seemed like an extravagance as a “nice to have” item, but there’s no other way to open the drivers window without it… and if you’re like me, how can you drive a truck around without hanging your arm out the window for half of the year!?! :)   But that old motor would have stopped working again anyway, so I replaced it.  It was a little painful trying to squeeze my arm inside that door panel to get to the motor.

Ah, but that was another education as I took everything apart, stereo speaker out, etc. and then trying to squish my arm and tools in all kinds of directions to undo the dang thing. It finally dawned on me that the door was put together at the factory with the motor inside, and the bolt locations were marked so it could be replaced easily… duh!

I finally saw the two tiny dimples (I marked with yellow dots in the first picture) in the door frame to mark where the bolts were attached…. and to show me where to drill holes to get the bolts undone. After that, removing the motor was simple.    Here’s a photo of the old motor- they’re sealed units, but after 17 years it had a lot of rust all around.  Maybe I can use it for something?

How many things in life are like that? We struggle and look and wonder, sometimes wasting a lot of time and energy, and even giving up, simply because we just don’t know any different?   I like to do things myself if I have time, and I don’t mind paying a professional if you can afford it, or really need one.

But I’ll say one thing… if I’ve got a question or can’t figure something out, the internet is an amazing place to find answers or ideas.  Yeah, some of it’s good, some of it’s pretty bad.  But it’s a place to start.  Lots of folks share their lessons learned and it can really be helpful.   I can’t help but wonder if the pace of human evolution and change is increasing much faster now in proportion to the degree of shared information and ideas…

It does feel good to have the truck running normally again without spending a fortune.   I think it was $56 for the clutch slave cylinder, $20 for the starter solenoid and $49 for the window motor.  Would have been way past $500 at the dealer including labor.  Something to be said about old cars… the new ones just throw computer codes, and look a lot harder to work on.

So off we went the other day to get a load of straw for the garden.   I’d like to try using it for mulch and keeping the weeds down this year. The boy got to play in someone’s barn for a bit, and then back on our own driveway he tucked himself in up top for a short ride.

Before that night’s rainstorm I had some straw down between the rows to help prevent the soil washing out. We’ll add a bunch more as we go along…  Next week we can get those potatoes and peas in the ground!   Hey, maybe we can use some of that straw to make a scarecrow?!

12 Responses to “On the Road Again”

  1. Good for you. I use to enjoy working on old cars–pre-1980s–when I knew how they worked. I can’t imaging trying to fix a clutch today.

  2. Vince

    I suspect it burns more fuel than a tractor, but it looks remarkably fresh for almost twenty years old.
    This year I’m going to try extra wide beds, we have a tradition of they they call ‘lazy beds’ in Brittany Wales Ireland and Scotland. Basically a four foot trench, a spade spit deep, filled to the gills with compost and muck, then back filled. You have a drill or bed about twenty inch high from ground and a good 30 from the bottom of the trench. Then all through the summer I’ll put any grass clippings etc and reverse the process next year.
    I think this way I can get 4 for the space and as I’m doing it by hand anyway it will be no harder.
    Best of luck with the early stuff.

  3. Ed

    I remember my first car with the manual pull choke and I could almost stand inside the engine compartment when working on it. Now when I open up the hood it is all just a bunch of wires. I must say, I forked over $100 a bought a car computer which is a big help in diagnosing today’s modern cars. It has paid for itself many times over by saving me the $50 fee the shop charges me just to hook their car computer up to it. But since I got rid of my last non-Honda car, it mostly has just gathered dust in my toolbox. Brand loyal…. yep.

  4. I’m afraid the days are long past, where one could work on a vehicle and fix problems, without troubling a mechanic. Oh for the days when I drove my dad’s 1963 Chevy Bel-Air, with the straight 6, a vehicle and engine that required one adjustable wrench, one screwdriver, and one ball-peen hammer in order to fix any issue. Nowadays, forget it. You have to be a NASA engineer to get the job done.


  5. josie

    The most I remember about the inside of a car was in’47 when the family car would stop I’d have to get out and hold down the butterfly valve to get it started again….memories.

  6. Sage- Yes, the nature of technology perhaps. Given the time, I’m glad there are a few things we can still do.
    Vince- Thanks, I’ve tried to take care of it; pictures make it look nicer than it is :) But heck, it still runs well enough. I like your “lazy bed” description- that sounds fascinating, and would provide such a fertile, rich bed for vegetables. Very deep though!
    Ed- I may have to get one of those diagnostic hook-ups, at least to find the codes. I like the truck in that it has no computers, no airbags, and no really technical stuff to worry about!
    Randall- A ’63 Bel Air! Imagine having that still… those old engine compartments were huge… with not a lot of stuff inside going on :)
    Josie- That’s pretty neat… I still do that on some old lawnmowers, but I’ll bet it was kind of fun for you. I’m trying to find ways for the boy to learn some basics in a similar way :)

  7. Vincent

    Well basically it’s dumping the contents of -in your photo- drill one, in between drill two and three. I think it will give me a huge increase in available tilth. Hopefully.

  8. Ed

    In the interest of fair disclosure, when I got into my car yesterday, the check engine light came on for the first time in 13 years. Murphy’s law for bragging about Honda’s I guess. I retrieved the fault (P0135) so now I have to do some Googling to figure out what it means. From the computer book description, it is either an O2 sensor or plugged catalytic converter.

  9. Holy cow! That’s funny… (sorry!). Hope it’s something simple.

  10. Ed

    According to my Google research, it is the front oxygen sensor but one of those OEM is $200 and I’ve had bad luck with generic/cheaper ones. Since my engine is running fine, I’m just going to monitor the mileage for the time being and go ahead and drive it. Hard to justify $200 for a car that isn’t worth much more than that when all it sees these days is five or six miles a day. The only drawback is that with my CEL permanently on, I’m blind to something more serious should it happen.

  11. Well, if you did get one from a parts store like AutoZone, it might come with a lifetime warranty. Think they’re $50-$80 bucks online… but I’d probably just drive it too :)

  12. Ed

    I did erase the code and it hasn’t come back as of yet, so there is a possibility that it might have just been a hiccup.

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