Saturday, June 19, 2010

Yet more truck fixin'

I had to repair our 1990 Chevy 1500 truck today. Again. I've had soooo much trouble with trucks over the past several months. It started last fall when this truck and the grain truck, a 1973 GMC 6500 both just quit running. I left both until spring as I didn't really need either one over winter. I also had plenty of trouble getting our 1997 GMC Sierra 2500 started most of the winter. As the weather warmed up in March I started work on the trucks to get them all running properly again.

If I remember correctly I started with the GMC Sierra. It has a 6.5L turbo-charged diesel engine that has glow plugs that preheat the combustion chamber to help start the engine. When you turn the key on, a light on the dash says "Wait To Start". When that light goes off, then you turn the key the rest of the way to turn the engine. Well, in our case that wasn't doing what it should. I ended up having to spray starting fluid (ether) into the air cleaner to get the thing going, which isn't really safe for this truck, but it got it going. I had changed the glow plugs last fall with some I found for cheap on eBay, but obviously that wasn't helping. I changed the glow plug controller after that is supposed to send power to the glow plugs, but that didn't help either. I then installed an override button in the cab that let me add more time to the glow plug warming time. No dice. So in March is when I dug into the engine and changed the injectors, which spray fuel into the engine. When they're worn out, it can cause hard starting, too. Well, much to my dismay after a hard two or three days of work (and building my own injector socket), I found that didn't help either. This is when I wanted to just push the thing into our garbage pit and set it on fire. But I started testing my 'new' glow plugs and found most of them didn't work! So rather than just buy eBay junk again I bought name-brand plugs from a diesel shop and lo-and-behold that truck fired up right away! I was so relieved! Now on to fixing the next truck.

The 1990 Chevy has a 5.7L gas engine (the venerable Chevy 350 cubic incher) so it has spark plugs and I came to discover it wasn't sparking. I started with changing the ignition coil but nothing improved. She'd turn over but not fire. After a bit of research I learned there's an ignition module under the distributor cap. Changed that and away it went. Thankfully a little simpler fix! But I found that I had a fuel leak on the back of the throttle body. I figured it was a little nylon washer that was wrecked from me checking for fuel before I found it was an ignition problem. Apparently GM will only sell me a whole kit for $60 just so I can get an five cent washer. No thanks! I checked all over for this washer or something like it until I learned that a place called Fastenal could order just a washer for me. Cost me $2.33 for two of them. turns out it wasn't just the washer that was screwed. It was the threads on the back of the throttle body where the fuel line attaches that were messed up because I cross-threaded the line. Ooops. Well, luckily my neighbor wrecks trucks for parts so I got a used throttle body from him and everything was just fine and I didn't even need to use my $2.33 cent washers!

So, next was the grain truck. Holy s**t, what a pain in the a** that thing turned out to be! This truck has a 366 cubic inch big-block gas engine. Again, it had no spark. This being an older engine it had the old-style points in the distributor rather than electronics. I had a huge amount of trouble getting enough spark to the spark plugs on this engine. I changed the point set twice, cleaned up or replaced corroded wires, changed the ignition coil. To make it all an even worse job was having to climb up into the engine bay to do most of this work as it's a big truck. Anyway, I ended up giving up on the old distributor and points and took an electronic ignition from one of my retired trucks and put that in, thankfully not before discovering that the oil pump drive on the bottom of the distributor shaft was different and swapping those parts from the original shaft. The last think I needed was to get the thing running only to wreck the engine because of no oil pumping around inside it! Anyway, after getting that distributor installed (and getting new plug wires that fit this distributor and engine combination) and wiring it up, which by the way turned out to be easier than I thought it would be, the truck was up and running again! Yay!

Now you'd think I had three trucks up and running again! Ha! I'm not that lucky. One day while checking cows with the diesel truck I heard a bit of rattling under the hood. As I turned and wondered what it could be, it got worse for a couple of seconds and then the truck stopped running. Uh-oh! Well, what turned out to have happened was that the positive battery cable between the two batteries (one in each front corner of the engine bay) had come loose from it's clips over the radiator and dropped into the fan, gotten wrapped up and shorted to the point of melting the connections out both batteries. What a f***ing mess! After some contemplation (and removing the fan to unwrap the cable) I came up with a plan of action. I always buy batteries that have both side posts and top posts because I never know where either one might come in handy. The truck used side posts, but both positives were melted out, so I would buy a length of bulk welding cable and clamp on some top post ring terminals. One complication was that the started cable used the same post on one side so after cutting that I put a ring terminal on that cable that would attach to the tightening bolt on the top post clamp. The other side had a smaller wire that came from the fuse box so I did the same to that one and got that truck back in action.

Now I ask myself what more could happen to these trucks! Well, a couple of days ago checking cows again the 1990 truck started hesitating or cutting out for a fraction of a second as I drove. I stopped once and checked the battery connections which were tight. Hmmm...well I drove on and not two minutes later it quit completely and smoke started coming out from under the hood. That's not usually a good sign. I took a peek and guess what? My battery cables are melted! You gotta be kidding, you say! Well, I'm not! We had a couple of days of rain so I let the truck sit for a while and got back to it today. I got a couple of cables from one of the neighbor's wrecks and headed back to the pasture. It appears that the positive cable was resting against the exhaust manifold and melted the insulation shorting the electrical system and melting the cables. It didn't take long to get it back running with the 'new' cables.

So...I'm thinking I need to just give up driving these trucks so they don't break down again! I've come to learn that things only break down when I'm using them so as long as they're just sitting here in the yard they'll be fine. :)

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

My long awaited photo opportunity arrives!

You may recall that the last time I posted photos I mentioned waiting since last year to take some particular shots involving morning dew. Well it happened. Let me share a few with you.

This is the first shot I took that morning, probably about 6:45am. We're looking east along a fenceline buried in caragana trees. In the distance is our neighbor's farm. The air is hazy and moisture-laden. The grass shines with the dew laying on it. I pumped up the saturation and contrast more on this one to bring out the green in the trees.

This one is from a slightly different angle and I left it with a softer look. I also cropped it for a "widescreen" format.

As I walked back to the house I took note of the drops of dew hanging on the long leaves of the grass I was walking through and thought it would make a good closeup shot. This is as it came from the camera - no editing.

I'm not sure which of the three I like best, they all have good points and bad points. The top one is the best for color and light I think, but I like the angle of the second one better of those two. The third is a different sort of picture so perhaps I shouldn't try to compare it to the others, but I like the color and to me it's a simpler picture...less going on if you know what I mean.

I hope you enjoyed my latest pictures. It was fun making them even if I did get wet feet!

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Daddy's not-so-little helper

A few days ago I wanted to go replace some posts on a pasture fence and noticed I had a flat tire on the post pounder, a tractor-towed implement that literally hammers posts into the ground. Mitchell asked if he could help and since I wasn't in a big hurry I figured it would be fun for him and he could do a few things within his abilities. I took a few pictures as we worked.

In this photo Mitchell is raising the hydraulic jack so that we can pull the wheel off the hub. If you look closely you can see he has already got the wheel bolts off.

After we had the wheel off Mitchell rolled it into the shop. Please excuse the mess. Shop cleaning isn't my speciality, but I hope to take a day this year sometime to clean it up. Anyway, we patched a hole in the tire tube and replaced the tire as well as it had a crack through the sidewall. I keep worn out 15-inch truck tires as they work well to replace implement tires.

In this photo Mitchell is filling the tire with air. This was one of the more difficult jobs for him as it was sometimes hard for him to line up the air chuck with the tire valve stem so that it sealed properly to allow the air to go in. Once I helped him line it up he was good to go!

Once we had about 35 PSI of air in the tire Mitchell rolled it back out to the post pounder and we hung it on the wheel hub again. I started threading the bolts for him and then he turned them in with the ratchet as you can see here. I made sure they were tight and we let the jack down. We're done!

Mitchell is doing more and more jobs around the farm now. He's done a bit of lawn mowing with a push mower on small areas and yesterday he picked a few rocks with his brothers. I ran the skidsteer while they threw the rocks into the bucket, or rolled them on if they were too big to carry. On a couple of occasions he's also driven a truck by himself around the farm. He's driven often with me beside him but a couple of times I had to walk behind some cows or needed a truck moved through a gate or across the yard and I trust him enough now to move small distances at low speed by himself.

Good work Mitchell!