Chapter 10: What About Homer?


By now, you’re probably wondering about the second half of this story; the Trials of Homer. He isn’t forgotten, just been a slow process waiting for parts and a poor experience with a mechanic.

The last time I drove Homer was down the incredibly steep “paved” road down from the cabin mesa, the lack of brakes caused me to sign up for about 6 new religions on the way down. I ended up pulling it into the garage and putting him on jack stands. Where it sat.

Long Time Hover-mode

Upon inspection, I found the left rear axle seal was leaking grease onto the drum and soaking the shoes. In order to replace the seal, you have to replace the axle bearing. Fun!

So I pulled the rear axles and took the left one and the bearing I bought off the internet to a local mechanic. After a few days he calls back to say that he got the old one off, but the new one didn’t fit. Figures. He asked if I wanted him to source one. Sure. Why not? Well, 2 weeks go by and I finally have a day to run down into town and he’s sitting in the office with the shaft on the floor. He hasn’t done shit after removing the old bearing. He claims that no one can figure out which bearing to use. I take it away grumbling.

The first guy at the part store suggests the Set10 bearing, except they changed manufacturers so they look up the matching part. Take it out and it measures perfect. Well now, that wasn’t too hard. I guess the mechanic had a different parts store. :rolleyes:

I decided to do the right axle completely myself. It consists of drilling the collar and using a cold chisel to break it loose. Who doesn’t like using a cold chisel and big hammer? I take my time to make sure I don’t drill too deeply. It makes a satisfying POP! when it snaps apart.

Next is to dremmel the bearing race and pry it off. Then on to dremmeling the inner race and more cold chisel work. This is fun destructive work! It went surprisingly well. All that is left is to clean up the shaft.

I had ordered a couple of seals along with the incorrect bearing online but realized I had ordered just for one side; one outer and one inner. I measured them and at least they were correct. I head down and order parts for the other side. The inner is special order and I had to go to a second store to get the outer. The inner was quite expensive; 3 times the cost of the outer!

While I wait for the inner to show up, I decide to look at replacing the brake hoses. Of course, even after a couple of days soaking in PB Blaster, they don’t want to budge. Now I have to go find a good flair wrench and a MAP bottle.

As I am applying yet more Blaster to the nuts, I noticed that the right front hub is a bit loose. As in, it wobbles. Easily. Sweet! Another project.

Tearing into Homer

I quickly pull the locking hub. I notice that the bolts are stiff and sluggish when loose. When removed, you can tell that they are coated with a mix of grease, water and rust. Superb!

Now, I don’t have the 2 1/16″ spindle nut socket needed to remove the nuts, but “luckily” they are not torqued, so I can just spin them off. Great.

Taking it off completely does improve the outlook slightly, but you can see there has been water in this hub for a while. There was no gasket between the locking hub and the bearing hub. While realizing that to do this right I need to order parts, I decide to do a quick clean and repack of the bearings so I can get this thing on all 4 tires. I have a friend that needs some garage space for a day. Even with just new grease and proper torque on the nut it feels so much better.

I also decide to check on the steering knuckle grease level since I am in the area. There is some heavy grease here and there. Definitely not topped off. Consulting the great jeep philosophers of the internet reveals that this is a common dilemma. The stock grease is too thin and will leak out. Most people either mix there own 50-50 mix of wheel bearing grease and gear oil or use corn husker or corn-head grease, which is basically the same thing just premade.  I decide to punt on that for the moment. It’s not as if I am going to be driving it anytime soon.

I gather all the parts for the axles and press then on. Axles reinstall without a hitch. You have to love it when things just go together mechanically as they should. Makes me wonder what I forgot to do, but after much fretting, I see no extra parts and every checkbox is marked.

For the brakes, it seems the magic is 4 days soaking in Blaster and using a flair wrench. I replace the front 2 hoses, but my new rear hose has the wrong end fitting. I am sure there is an adaptor, but not in my garage.

I also revisit the brake lines at the master cylinder where the output lines were swapped. There was a balance block just forward of the master cylinder and I planned to swap the lines there. But alas no, the balance block is setup with larger fittings on the front. So the previous owner made custom lines from the master cylinder to the balance block. Customly wrong. Thanks for the effort.

As a temporary measure, I disconnect the lines at the master cylinder (same size!), give them some gentle persuasion and swap them. The front circuit is now really tight and the rear has multiple gentle zig-zag bends. I’ll custom bend some new lines in the future, but I know I only have one of the two size nuts needed. At least it is a closed system now. I decide to bleed the brakes, but have to take a moment to figure it out. You see, the master cylinder isn’t mounted on the firewall. No, it is mounted to the frame rail, behind the steering box that is under the exhaust header. After a short WTF? moment, I find the little plate under the pedals that open right by the reservoir. I pull the plate and the reservoir cover out and shine the light in to see how the fluid looks. Both reservoirs are dry…well, they glisten with leftover fluid, but have nothing to push. At least that explains the complete lack of brakes. So much for the PO having “all the fluids topped off”. In their defense, this was not something easily checked. 

While not the easiest to fill, I manage with a hilariously oversized funnel for the job. I was able to do some mechanic yoga and bleed the left rear with a left foot on the brake pedal, left arm holding the roll bar and right arm turning the wrench. It was so satisfying to get all the air out. No more bubbles! Looking around I find the perfectly sized 2×4 and proceed to bleed the other corners by myself. The seat cushion provides just the right amount of spring to the 2×4 to make it work. And I get the other corners  bled.

Except the right rear. No fluid comes out at all. Not a drop. Well, I am running late and put that on my figure-it-out list. I figure 3 brakes are better than none!

Now that it is on the ground and it has some braking power, I decide to fire it up and drive up and down the driveway so I can move it over to the other side of the garage. Cranking leads to nothing. No fuel to carb. Huh. This thing ran when I parked it.

Fuel Line Look Fine

A check of the fuel lines reveals that, at the hardest to reach spot, the fuel hose has cracked completely in half. How did this run before? All I can think of is that the outer shell was cracked when I drove it last, as it sure looks like it cracked a while ago. And the inner kept it together just long enough. While bleeding the brakes, I did move the fuel line around a bit as it goes through that area and it must have finished the rupture then. Otherwise, I’m at a loss. Whatever.

I cut off the cracked portion back to good hose and stick it on as a temporary measure. Yes, I know…there are a lot of “temporary measures” going on here. I’ll get back to them. I promise.

After fixing the line and inspecting the rest (which look surprisingly good), I use a hand pump and get fuel to the pump. I spend some time cranking and it actually fires! I drive it out of the garage (no point in burning the place down) and park in the driveway.

It isn’t running real well. It runs, but acts like it is flooded. It finally stumbles to a stop. I jump out and check the engine bay…and the carb has fuel leaking down three sides. Sweet. That is when I remembered that the return fuel line was capped at both ends. I guess as long as you burn all the fuel the pump brings up, it’s a great system. Sigh.

Since I am playing with the fuel system, I decide to rebuild the carb as it looks like it hasn’t been touched in a while. After waiting a day for the carb kit to be ordered in, I am treated with a laugh. The box it comes in looks like it was printed in the 70s. Or at least designed then. The colors and graphics are wonderfully colorful and the edges of the box show enough wear to indicate their decade spent on a shelf, waiting for a buyer.

Just a minor gas leak

The kit is unopened and complete, which I consider a minor miracle. I dive right in. Now, i had rebuilt a carb back in college on my 83 Mazda RX-7, and I figure it will be just as easy. And it is. In fact, it is easier. That doesn’t mean that there were no issues.

First off, the throttle return spring is attached by 3 inches of bailing wire. Either the spring is really short or there was something missing. Next, I can’t find the little pull clip that connects the float to the needle. Huh. Finally, the float was not even close to the proper adjustments. All I can think of is that the high float position helped to offset the missing pull clip by holding the needle up, but it seems backwards to me. This thing must have been running horribly rich. Who knows?

After the reassembly, I run a line from the back to the front for the return fuel line. I also replace the fuel filter. The parts guy sold me one of those clear ones you can see through to watch the fuel, which I actually think is a good idea. Copious amounts of zip-ties help hold everything in place.

One last inspection and I hit the key for a short crank. Immediately, I see fuel flow into the filter. I hit it again and it fires right up! It even seems to idle decently. I hop in and drive it out of the garage.

While it is idling, I grab the timing light. I have to shut it down to repaint the mark on the crank, but I am giddy by how quick he refires. Go Homer!

At first I think the light isn’t working. I pull it back and point it at my hand and, yes, it is lighting up. Double check that I have it attached to the #1 plug wire and all good. It is bright out so I lean over closer to block some light. Now I can see that it is flashing and by leaning in, I can now see that it is lighting up the timing mark, it is just that the timing is very advanced. The spec is 5 degrees BTDC and the indicator by the crank goes up to 12 degrees. The crank is flashing about 20 degrees BTDC. ??? FFS.

Homer’s Heart

So I start to go grab a wrench to loosen the distributor when a thought hits. I grab the distributor and give it a gentle twist. Of course it turns. Why would that bolt be tight? Bringing the timing to 5 deg makes the motor just sound happier. I do an ear tune on the carb using the mixture screws since I am without a tach. It sounds even better! I actually adjust the idle speed down. And he is purring like a kitten.

Screw it. I jump in and take it for a ride around the block. It runs smooth and stops well. I jump on the brakes once and notice a very slight pull due to no right rear brakes, but nothing really life threatening. I want to drive it more, but I know I need to drain and replace every fluid, bleed the right rear brake line, and figure out the gauges.

Either the alternator isn’t charging or the wire to the dash is broke, or both. I know the speedometer won’t work because there is no cable. Fuel gauge…I highly doubt that does anything as it hasn’t even twitched. The temperature gauge is one I want to make sure works before I run it long.

I also notice that the right rear tail light doesn’t work, and now that the brakes are stiff, the make-shift brake light switch only comes on when you are really deep into the pedal. Backup lights? Surely you jest!

But I am ecstatic…Homer runs! And sounds good. Not loud, since I tightened the one header bolt that was halfway backed out, but a pleasant gurgle. The next day I fire him up, hell yeah, and back Homer out of the garage. After some stumbling around, he starts to idle nicely. Kind of like me in the morning.

Homer not at Home

After a few minutes of warm up, I pull back in and drain the oil. All looks good and it actually (almost) all goes into the drain pan. Filter comes right off and goes right back on. An easy oil change.

While the oil was draining, I decided to look at the gages. The oil pressure gauge is mechanical and works great, but could use a bleed. The voltage gauge doesn’t budge. As I look under the dash I see why; 2 wires leave the gauge but only go 8 inches before terminating. Just cut straight through. There is nothing close for them to attach to.

As I try to trace some other wire, I brush up against the hose from the heater box to the defroster. It promptly desintegrates. The internal wire holds on to all the pieces, but duct work is shot. Looking over at the heater fan, I notice it isn’t flush with the dash.

I check in the engine bay and all 4 studs sticking through the dash are without nuts. There is a single nut holding the duct box to the firewall. I take it off and disconnect the fan wires and just pull the whole thing out. Heater fan, duct box and what’s left of the hose. Looks much cleaner under the dash (at least it is easier to see the wires) but there is a large hole in the firewall where the fan would pull air from.

I should mention that there are a couple of vacuum actuated flapper valves without the vacuum hose attached. I find it hanging there, just rotting away. I should plug that.

I can see all sorts of wiring trauma now. Spliced in fuse holders. Most of them there. One end of a fuse holder is attached to 10 inches of wire that goes nowhere. A few of the gauge light sockets are dangling out of place, some with bulbs. Slices into splices. You can tell the original wires because of they feel brittle. In short, a nightmare. Joy.

Rat’s Nest

As I drive to work, in one of my more roadworthy vehicles, I realize that I am enjoying all these little nightmares. These are things I can fix. It is just mechanical or light electrical. I don’t need a computer to diagnosis what sensor is giving an error code. No chance of having to question whether the problem is a sensor failure or a real issue. Luckily, there isn’t a problem on these that hasn’t been dealt with for decades. Although, sometimes that means weeding through 40 years of potentially bad advice. Not everyone is a genius; the previous owners of these CJs were anything but.

All in all, I am enjoying this way too much. Sure, I want more time to play with them and might as well wish for more money for upgraded parts, but why waste worrying on things that aren’t going to happen.

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