Chapter 11: Homer’s Enlightenment


Homer on the Loose

So, he runs. Well enough for the moment, at least. Time to knock off a few items before the first drive. This shouldn’t take long, right?

Let’s start with the fluids.

I manage to perform an oil change without coating myself, the floor, the ceiling or either CJ with used dino juice. I’m actually rather impressed by this feat. I check both transfer case and transmission and neither is full enough to get a finger on. Doah! Pull the plug of the transfer case and a fair bit comes out. What comes out is gray and a little metallic. It looks like the fluid has been in there for ages. Draining the pan into the used oil container shows a few small metallic bits, but no chunks or slivers. Just minor tiny flecks. Pump it full of new fluid.

Pull the plug on the transmission. Hardly anything comes out. Son of a bitch. I am going to eventually have to pull the trans and go through it. This fluid is the same as the transfer case, just with a bit more bits in it. No teeth yet, I think as I grasp for some hope. When full, the transmission holds its fluids, but it appears that the rear seal is leaking on the transfer case. There is also a stud that is for mounting the emergency brake drum (MIA since before I bought it) that appears to be releasing oil around the housing. Great. Now it looks like I get to rebuild both when I have time to pull them.

Both front and rear diff need topping off on fluids. However, when the front is full, the pinion seal leaks, and not a small amount. I grease the front end, but it actually appears to one of the few things that was done before I bought it. Go PO!

While subconsciously ignoring drivetrain issues (OK, maybe rather deliberately), I turn my focus to the electrical system.

I check the brake lights. I think I already mentioned that the PO had re-engineered the brake light switch. And by re-engineered, I mean hacked it into something no engineer would have done. The plastic momentary switch was placed inline of the brake lever along the frame rail. It doesn’t look remotely wet-weather resistant. Well, since I bled the brakes, and by that I mean filled the brake system with fluid, the pedal didn’t travel as far and the switch never got tripped. Luckily, the PO graced me with a slotted bracket, so I loosened the bolts and slid the switch until it would trip. Why didn’t I just go back to the stock design? Because the PO had cut the old connector… Right at the connector. So I would need to replace both the front and rear connectors and then figure out what the PO did with the wiring. Punt! Moving the bracket only took 5 minutes and was functional. For now. I promise to fix it later.


Well, that got one of the brake lights working. I pull the other lens and the bulb looked good. Start tracing the wire back and it eventually flickered on and off as I got close to the split where 3 wires came together. Under the electrical tape revealed something astounding. At least to me. Two of the wires were connected with two halves of a disconnecting barrel connection and the third was just the bare wire strands wrapped around the male end of the connector and shoved into the female end. I shook my head, tore it all apart, soldered it together and shrunk the heat shrink.

Hey look, both of brake lights work now. Amazing.

While I was tearing into the brake light wires, I noticed a loose wire with a ring terminal . Tracing it back, it went to the top of the fuel tank. I tucked it under the body mount to the frame and turned the key on. While initially nothing happened, eventually the fuel gauge moved up off empty. Then I remembered that the stock gauges are liquid filled and react slowly. So, that’s why the fuel gauge didn’t work… They never bothered to hook up the ground. Arg.

Since I am tired of using my arm to signal direction changes, which is really fun when you also need to shift for the said turn, I decide to look at the turn signals. They currently do nothing. Under the dash is a maze of wiring. Some original, some hacked together after the fact, some that go nowhere. There are 2 solid state switches. One traces to the 4 way hazzard switch. I pull it and nothing happens. Then I thump the switch** and MAGIC! I hear it click. It actually makes the parking lights blink. Turn off, turn on, thump switch… It works! After a few more cycles, I only have to thump the switch 1 out of 4 times. Positive progress.

** Note: this is a tried and true mechanical engineer problem solving technique. Doesn’t work? Just hit it. Maybe that’ll teach it. Particularly effective on electrical components.

Headlight Switch

Turning back to the turn indicators, I grab the 3 wire solid state switch and while trying to figure out which wire goes where, it falls apart and all 3 wires come off the back of the holder. Well now, this will make it more difficult. Time for the electrical meter. Nothing has 12v going to it. I trace the red wire back because red is always power, right? And it is joined to another slightly older red wire that heads up under the dash. I should note that both wires are coming out the far end of the female bullet connector. No sign of the male.

The other red wire heads up to a light on the dash above the speedo. OK. Looking in the other direction, there is one part of an online fuse holder that terminates at the headlight switch. If you have never seen the back of a CJ headlight switch, just imagine Medusa. It appears that ever wire under the dash makes an appearance here at one of the various posts. This one appears to be tied to the always-on circuits. Just for fun, I loosely twist a wire in place. Sweet, the dash light works. All the time. There is no way to turn it off, short of disconnecting the battery. I think I’ll hook it to a different post. Try the turn signal and click click click…the signals work! At least the fronts do. I notice nothing going on at the rear. Huh. Time to call it a night and figure out the rest later. I unhook the battery.

In the morning, I disconnect the dash light and wire it to the parking light circuit. Now I’ll be able to see the speedometer at night. Not that it works. For the other wire that powers the turn signal, I splice in a fuse, add a good ring terminal, heat shrink it all and hook it to the always on circuit. After taking the light switch off the dash, I realized that there isn’t a key-on circuit, at least not at that point. Anyway, with power to the turn signals and a new solid state switch, turning the turn signal stalk results it a nice clicking. I admire the reflection of the front signals off my garage cabinets. Then I look at the rear. Nothing flashing on the right. Huh. Try the left… Both flash.

Uh, whaaa? I shouldn’t be surprised anymore, yet I am.

Checking the rear, it seems that the three wires that were hacked together and I assumed were for brake lights (which it does light up) and then soldered together, were never meant to be joined. So, I found the left rear brake and turn light wire, but soldered in the right lamp wire to it also. Only because that was where it was attached by the PO. Silly me.

Looking on the right side for any other wires lead to more confusion and consternation. There were wires loosely wound around connectors and another 4 wires twisted together, all hiding under old, rotten electrical tape, that had halfway unraveled.

This Looks Safe

I decide to go back to the start and go through everything brake related. I checked the brake pressure switch, currently not hooked up to anything. Works as expected: no continuity with no brakes, continuity when brakes applied. OK, sweet. So I check the stock connector on the wire harness and see that they cut the 12v to the connector, about 1/16″ from the connector. Gee, thanks PO. I jump the 12v to the stubby connector wire, hook the connector to the pressure switch, and step on the brakes… And the brake lights come on.

So… Why did the PO cut the stock connector and weld up a new bracket with a cheap plastic, non-waterproof switch? Some mysteries will die unsolved when our sun goes nova.

It took me about 15 minutes to pull the short wire out of the connector, de-crimp the stubby wire, soldier on a new wire with fuse, connect it to the stock harness and heat shrink. Shaking my head and muttering under my breath the whole time.

I also found another 2 post connector tucked up onto the left frame rail. Judging by the length alone, it would make it to the reverse switch on top of the transmission. I connect it up but it didn’t work. Investigating further, I found the switch was functional, but there was no 12v making it there. I traced the wires back toward the ignition switch and as I did, the reverse lights came on. Wiggling the wire going into the inline fuse connector confirmed a poor connection. Time to replace another fuse holder, but I’m all out. Set that project aside until later.

Moving around the vehicle, I remember that the right front side marker light wasn’t working. (I apologize for my fit of ADD as I jump from one problem to another. It’s just part of my charm.) I had seen where the wire fell, or was never attached to the fender, and it dropped onto the tire, ripping away the light socket.

While looking at it, I suddenly remembered seeing one like it unused at the rear. Some PO had removed the rear side marker lights and bondoed over the holes. I’m not sure I approve. But the good part is that I can use one of the rear side marker light harnesses. A simple unplug of one connector and remove the ground screw and the harness was promoted to front fender duty. I had to rummage for a bulb, but finally found one that worked. I made sure to attach the harness clamp to the fender. Yeah, getting stuff done.

I eventually move back to the disaster at the rear and replace every splice and knot of wires. It take a fair bit of time and considerably more swearing to undo the errors, but in the end everything works and makes sense. I also yanked out the 4 wire trailer connector as it constituted a fire hazard…and right under the gas filler tube. Don’t worry mom, I replaced the cracked and leaking fuel filler hose after the first fill up.

Ignore the Missing Insulation

While getting the turn signals working, I had noticed an issue under the dash. There are several 3 way Y-connectors for the lights and all of them had 1 wire that was stripped to bare wire outside of the connector. I assume that was an attempt to connect trailer wiring to the stock harness, either being towed or towing. Regardless, those got pulled apart and fixed correctly.

After a parts run, I get the reverse lights buttoned up. Sure, they need some new gaskets, but they work. In fact, all the lights are working as advertised. I even replaced the tiny bulb in the turn signal stalk so I can tell when the blinkers are blinking. Hot damn!

There are a couple more electrical issues to fix, but now the cops have no reason to pull me over. Well, for lights not working, at least. The amp meter is not connected to anything, but I am deciding if I am sticking with that or going to a voltmeter. I take time to sit back and toast my success.

Now… Onto more mechanical concerns.

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