Chapter 8: The One That Still Won’t Go

The Deuce

On one of the better days…when it ran

That night after work, we grab the tow bar from home and drag the Deuce back to its garage spot. It is now 3 to 1 on towing versus driving home.

Assuming that the hose that was crushed developed a leak, I grab some fuel hose while in town. The old hose ends were cracked and I have already trimmed back the ends on every piece. I did my usual check from the carb back, and every line is dry. Check the gas gage and it is just below half tank. The gage even wobbles as I hop out.

Did I mention that the shocks need replacement? It wobbles like jello when I jump out.

At the fuel pump, I pull the hose and put on a hand pump. Nothing. Seems to support the leaky line, or a bad pickup unit. Drop the left side and the tank. I’m really getting good at that. Pull the hose and plug the hand pump onto the outlet. Nothing. Must be the pickup. Great. Only that isn’t the word I used.

I disconnect everything and prepare to drop the tank completely. Just before lowering it, I drop the pickup of the hand pump into the filler neck to empty the tank. I get nothing. Huh? Is this pump working? Pull the suction end out, which is wet with gas, put my finger over the end and the pump works fine. OK. I get that annoyed feeling.

I drop the tank the rest of the way and don’t feel any sloshing. More than an annoyed feeling.

Loosen the sending ring and pull out the sending unit. There is less than 1/4″ of fuel in the bottom corner. Sure sheathing hatred.

Stop laughing Brian.

I should explain: Brian was my college roommate and we were best men at each other’s weddings. I’d call him my best friend, if guys had such things. It is a rather emotionally abusive relationship. At least it goes both ways.

Back when I worked for GM, I bought the cheapest S10 I could to drive to work, as the union workers didn’t share my affinity of foreign cars. While still under warranty, it sat in my driveway and refuse to start. I had it towed to the dealership only for them to tell me it was out of gas. Meanwhile, the gage happily indicated 1/4 tank. It was a known issue and they replaced the sending unit under warranty with a new, better part.

Or so they claimed. Several months later, it happened again, this time while driving. Let’s just say Brian thought this was hilarious. Like gasping for air, can’t talk, thinks he broke a rib funny.

His point was that we all know GM makes junk and that I trusted their gage… Twice. After that, I used the trip odo religiously.

I can not tell Brian that I just ran out of gas. Nope. In fact, I don’t think he knows that I bought a second CJ at this point. He’s going to have a field day.

At least there were some good points in dropping the tank. I can see that the return line brazing is cracked on top of the tank. The electrical connection to the level sensor is loose through the top of the sending unit. The fuel hose was getting old enough to replace.

Otherwise, I’m frustrated by not thinking of it sooner. Stupid gages. At least I can double check the gage before reinstalling everything and only relying on hope.

I decide to get a new sending unit after removing the old one. It looks old and used up, not to mention the cracked return tube. Get the parts on order and do my best to vent the garage of gas fumes. But I’m still fuming.

Dash Wiring Hell

While waiting for the parts fairy to show up, I test the gages. The stock gage does not have the right resistance, but then neither does the aftermarket gage. Great. I can make due until I find a gage with the right resistance. A quick internet search finds the same style as the one installed in my dash but with the correct resistance… and it is a completely different part number. Nice going PO.

When the sending unit arrives, I hook everything up and tighten the gas tank into place. Per my dad’s great suggestion, I refrain from installing the gas tank skid plate until I know it works.

While I was hooking everything up, I decided to change the oil. It was too late to fire this beast up without changing my neighborly status from “redneck” to “annoying redneck”. The oil looked clean enough from when I bought it, and I assumed the PO changed if before selling it, but I wanted to start fresh with a known oil.

Ever have one of those oil changes that just doesn’t go right at all? Yep, it was one of those. I pulled the plug and got the pan drained without a spilled drop. At this point, I should have emptied my nearly full drain pan, but naw, the filter only drips a little.  Right? 

I put some cardboard down and scooted the pan into place. Reach up and grab the filter… It ain’t budging. Arg. This is definitely one of my pet peeves. Just oil the new gasket a little and don’t over tighten the filter. How hard is that? But I am prepared and have the filter cap wrenches. As I reach up, the ratchet falls off the cap wrench and performs a decent dive into the full oil pan. Only a little oil goes everywhere.

Laugh it off and try again, but the motor mount is in the way. While trying to get at the filter, two fun things happened. I managed to slosh a quart of oil over the edges of the pan moving it around. Chalk it up to be tired. Thank goodness for the cardboard. The second is not oil related. Trying to find a better angle to loosen the filter, I tried reaching in from the top.

At this point, I’ll revisit the wiring situation for you. The PO had installed a 12 circuit fuse block and wire harness. Some wires must have been too short because near the terminal there would be 3 splices and 4 wires, sometimes multiple colors. Fun stuff. The wires were not the worst I have ever seen, but it merits an honorable mention spot. I had already removed the coil and electronic control module it in lieu of a single wire HEI setup, which removed a lot of wire mess.

Engine Bay Electrical Obscenity

So back to the point that I am reaching for the oil filter from behind the alternator from the top. Suddenly, it’s the Fourth of July. I don’t remember pulling my hand back, but I was all good. No burnt hair or anything.

At this point, no strands of wire were left connected, only a thin charred string of insulation and a nice welding ghost on the header. Hey, that explains why the battery wasn’t charging!

Alternator to Starter Wire – aka The Spark Maker

Quickly disconnect the battery and investigate. It seems the power wire from the alternator to the positive battery side of the starter solenoid was twice as long as it needed to be and had rested up against the exhaust header. Needless to say, the wire insulation was no match for the heat of the header.

I take off dead wire and get back to the oil filter. Wiring can wait.

For removing the oil filter I have another alternative, the gripper style wrench. I hate using it as it crushes the filter can and I was planning on cutting the filter open. Luckily, it takes the filter off without crushing the filter too much.

As I take the filter off, the motor mount gives it a high five in passing, causing it to slip out of my oily fingers and swan dive into the full oil pan. A belly flop is a good description. There is now oil 3 feet in every direction, except where my face stopped the splatter.

At this point, I can only laugh. With my mouth closed.

After cleaning up the Exxon Valdez II, I finish up installing the new filter and filling the crankcase.

I scrounge around and make a new, much shorter alternator wire. While installing it, I also clean up the existing wiring with electrical tape, conduit, and copious amounts of zip ties. All in all, I am happy with all the progress I’ve made, ignoring the effort expended to get there, and can’t wait to see if she runs in the morning.

I wake up all hopeful and do a check double check on everything I touched. It was a late night. With everything looking good, I try to start her up. Crank. Crank crank. Crank crank crank. Nothing.

I pull the fuel hose at the pump and it is dry, but it was also a little loose. Huh. I check all the other hose clamps, and they are all a little loose. Just loose enough to suck air.

I purposely hadn’t over tighten them, as the PO had and caused one of them leaked where the hose clamp cut through. I expected the new hose to set a bit, but didn’t expect them to be that loose. Lesson learned about new rubber taking a set.

It was all easy to tighten… Except the two on top of the tank. Had to drop the left side of the tank… Again. But after it is all retightened and bolted back together, we try again.

Crank. Crank crank. Crank crank… Vroom! Haha hahaha! What a lovely sound. Not my maniacal laughter, but the motor. I back the Deuce out of the garage and let her idle. Check under the hood and back by the gas tank and no drops, drips or sprays anywhere.

Before the wife heads off to work, I throw an empty gas can in the back and drive to the gas station. It actually makes it down and back, running well. I am stoked. But will it keep running?

Later that afternoon, I decide to risk a little trip and head up into the hills for a hike. It would be nice to purposely take a hike instead of being forced into it by a broken CJ.

It was a wonderful hot summer afternoon for a drive up to cooler temperatures with a beautiful sunset coloring the rocky cliffs out here. Just the perfect evening. That’s not saying that The Deuce was perfect, but she got me home.

Issue 1: it ran a bit hot after a while, enough to boil out some coolant out the overflow bottle, although I had overfilled the system and it was 102F out. Issue 2: As I pulled into my neighborhood, and heard a distinct metal “tink!” from the suspension that I will have to investigate. Issue 3: it pops and bangs on downhill deceleration. Running too rich? Issue 4 which occurred after I got home and cut open the oil filter: glitter.

Well, that was fun. Seems that I’m not quite done yet. Not that I expected to be.

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