Chapter 5: The One That Won’t Stop


A few days after my near death decent off the mesa in Homer, I decide to look at the brakes. Put it on jacks, pull the wheels off (only 4 styles and 2 sizes of lugs nuts) and instantly notice that there a lug nut loose on one of the front wheel spacers. No biggie, there were 4 others holding it on. Grab the 21mm and… Huh? It won’t fit into the hole. Check the lug I just removed. 21mm. Grab my thin walled socket… No dice. At this point, I have no idea how they got these lugs tight, much less how I’m going to remove them. I leave it be as I have to run off to work.

This is my first major instance of brain malfunction on my part (ignoring everything that happened previously). I had worked on cars that were either relatively new (all metric) or old and foreign (all metric) with the exception of a 96 Camaro Z28… which was a bastard child with all the new components metric and all the old tech being SAE.

But it took a few days for my two brain cells to connect. Try standard sockets, dumbass. Well, I was used to 3/4″ and 21mm as the substitute. Neither of which would fit, either in the spacer hole or on the lug nut. It wasn’t until digging under the passenger seat box, where I found an old socket on an extension, and read 13/16″ that there was a mental spark.

SOAB. Step back, stare at the socket (nice and thin walled 12 point) and the spacer, and try a test fit. Let’s just say it was a tight fit. But it fit and it took off the lug nuts. Some had to be “tapped” on with a hammer, but they all eventually succumbed to the impact.

During the tapping on, some didn’t sit correctly on the lug nut and damages the top part of the hex. Like I said, it was a tight fit and the socket would not rotate freely as it engaged the nut. After the 2nd one, I learned to hold the socket with a monkey wrench and slowly turning it as I tapped the end with a hammer. After that it was quick work. Welp, I would need some new lug nuts to reinstall them, but it wasn’t as if all 10 of the spacer nuts matched anyway.

Homer, Disassembled

With the spacers off, the drums were easy to remove and the inspection showed that they looked functional, just poorly adjusted. Nothing looked too out of the ordinary. On 3 out of 4.

On the left rear that was locking up, sure enough, there was grease leaking from the axle seal. That was expected, giving the locking issue. Made awesomely quick left hard turns when braking. 

Trying to figure out if the brake system was just horrible or if there was something wrong, I jumped on the interwebs. After days of reading about possible upgrades and rusted horror stories, I ran across someone with a similar issue. One of the helpful replies said to look at the master cylinder and check that the front and rear weren’t hooked up backwards. It sounded silly, but kind of described the feeling of Homer…like the rear had more brake than the fronts.

Sure enough, some previous owner had hooked the forward most master cylinder outlet to the front brakes and the rear-most to the rear. Ugh, that’s not how a master cylinder works. At least that would be an easy fix.

Sadly waiting on parts

The rear axle seal, on the other hand, was going to be fun. You have to pull the axle shaft and then remove the bearing. I guess it was time for new bearings! Besides being caked in old grease, dirt and brake dust, it was easy. The old trick of using the drum loosely installed backwards on the lugs as a slide hammer worked so good I wasn’t prepared for the axle to come out.

The seal was definitely worn and leaking but the bearing looked and felt good. A shame as it has to come off. So, I order the parts and sit back and wait.

Oh wait, I have this other CJ to play with.

WTF is that???

But before abandoning Homer for the new girl, I put together a list of things to check or that needs work.

  • Brakes: as discussed these need improvements. While fixing everything should help, I am not convinced that the little 9″ drums are going to cut it with 33″ tires that came with the jeep. We shall see.
  • Exhaust gas leaks: cracked headers, leaks after muffler and maybe header gaskets too? Tons of holes in the floorboard that need boots or filled.
  • No e-brake. It has the handle and cable, but is completely missing the drum off the back of the transmission.
  • Engine and trans shifted: they are about 1.5″ to the rear which may have something to do with the 2″ square tube spacer on the right side of transmission skid plate to frame.
  • Left rear lockup: known issue, parts on order. Hopefully they fix the problem.
  • Gages: what works, what doesn’t, and can they be trusted.
  • No heater ducting: not a high priority.
  • Shocks and springs? It feels like I need them. Badly.
  • Grease shackles and rest of suspension.
  • Replace all fluids. Check diffs and cut open oil filter.
  • Need to inspect forward driveshaft as there is some play in it

See? That’s not too bad. It’s not the entire CJ that needs fixed…

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