Automotive

This is my extremely low-tech way to dim the very bright backlights that were in my car’s radio.

The back of the radio face

The back of the radio face

After removing the plastic back

After removing the plastic back

This is what I found when I turned it over

This is what I found when I turned it over

See the LEDs on the board?  I painted over them with dark gray equipment paint.

See the LEDs on the board? I painted over them with dark gray equipment paint.

After painting over all the LEDs (there were 15 or so on the board) the lights are still a little on the bright side, but much more tolerable in the dark.

We’ve mostly finished the cleaning up, and have moved onto organizing things and making repairs/improvements as necessary.  I’m also taking pictures/video as I go to eventually replace the video posted on our home page.

Here’s an update as to some of the things I’ve been doing, but that I don’t have enough pictures of for individual posts:

Built a 445MHz Slim-Jim to use for a repeater

Built a 445MHz Slim-Jim to use for a repeater

Built a PVC tower standoff (which I ended up not needing, but I'll keep it around for future use)

Built a PVC tower standoff (which I ended up not needing, but I’ll keep it around for future use)

Installed a 2m radio in the "new" 1994 Marquis

Installed a 2m radio in the “new” 1994 Marquis

Replacing the upper ball joints on aforementioned 1994 Grand Marquis.

Replacing the upper ball joints on aforementioned 1994 Grand Marquis.

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At the same time the upper ball joints were replaced, I also replaced the lower ball joints, outer tie rod ends, idler arm, stabilizer bar links, and one stabilizer bar bushing.  I had almost every automotive tool we own out before this was all said and done.

This is what it looks like when I work on a car...

This is what it looks like when I work on a car…

Also picked up this mobile darkroom.  More at a later date on this.

Also picked up this mobile darkroom. More at a later date on this.

If you have a 1992-1996 Ford Crown Victoria, Mercury Grand Marquis, Lincoln Town Car, or possibly others with a Ford 4.6L engine, these instructions are valid.

These cars have an EGR passage along the back of the throttle body that is know to frequently fill up with carbon deposits.  Usually the only symptom of this is a huge decrease in fuel economy, though it’s possible for this to cause a lack of power and/or check engine light.

It’s easy to clean, but in a tight area.  Here are some pictures showing where this passage is and what it looks like:

Here's the area we're focusing on.

Here’s the area we’re focusing on.

There are 8 bolts - 4 up here, the other four are indicated by the arrows.  Remove them, and this whole assembly comes off.

There are 8 bolts – 4 up here, the other four are indicated by the arrows. Remove them, and this whole assembly comes off.

Here's the removed gasket with a lot of carbon deposits caked onto it.

Here’s the removed gasket with a lot of carbon deposits caked onto it.

This is the passage that needs cleaned.

This is the passage that needs cleaned.

The only good way I know of the clean this passage is with a screwdriver and a shop vac.  Scrape the carbon out while the shop vac is running down there to keep it from falling down into the intake.  After the big pieces are removed, you can clean it with a small brush and either throttle body cleaner or carb cleaner.  There is also a tube that runs from the left side of this passage into the EGR valve – it’s not a bad idea to clean that out as best you can while it’s accessible.  A stiff wire can be run through that tube to knock as much as is possible loose, again using the shop vac.

These gaskets can generally be reused, but if for some reason they don’t seal new gaskets can be purchased for under $1 through the internet.  I keep several on hand and just replace them anytime I have it apart.

The Police Versions of a Crown Victoria came with a large round dome light between the visors that had both a red and white setting.  Mine kept coming off, I never used the red setting, and one of the three bulbs was blown, so I completely removed the light and got rid of it.  That only posed a problem when I went to sell the car – most people don’t want a large hole drilled through their headliner.  I covered it up with the factory dome light that comes in a civilian version of a Crown Vic, Grand Marquis, or Town Car.  All I had to do was install it backwards and it fits perfectly.  The colors even match, so it looks factory.

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This one was a whole lot more involved than the last dome light I converted.  Overall, I don’t think this one was worth the effort.  It was over an hours work and didn’t really make the car any brighter.

Here are some pictures:

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Partly illuminated

Partly illuminated

Full power, but not yet installed

Full power, but not yet installed

For reference, here is a link to the last one.  It was worth doing – the style of dome light made it a lot easier to make this modification, and it was significantly brighter than the factory light.

There’s not much to this job.  In fact, if it weren’t for the face that I needed a 36mm deep well socket, this could be done completely with standard hand tools.

The only trick is that the large nut in the wheel bearing must be removed while the wheel is contacting the ground, but the weight of the car should NOT be on it.  So put a jack under the car and lift until the wheel barely contacts the ground before taking that nut off.

Nut is already removed in this picture.

Nut is already removed in this picture.

The brakes need replaced to.  I did that while I had them off.  After the caliper is off, the rotor and hub assembly slide right off.

The brakes need replaced to. I did that while I had them off. After the caliper is off, the rotor and hub assembly slide right off.

This is with the brakes, hub assembly and bearing all removed.

This is with the brakes, hub assembly and bearing all removed.

New hub assembly, which includes a bearing

New hub assembly, which includes a bearing

New rotor slid on over it

New rotor slid on over it

At this point, the caliper goes back on, the wheel is put on, and the car is lowered again until the wheel barely contacts the ground.  The large nut in the center of the wheel needs torqued to about 238 ft-lbs.

I did both sides in about an hour.  Since I ordered the parts online for both bearings and brakes, I saved about $550 versus having a shop do this job. I do recommend paying a good shop for an alignment after a job like this – If there was damage to the bearings that made them wear out, it could have knocked other parts out of line as well.

People that read regularly will notice that I am working on a series of posts on what to carry in a car.  I did this because I’m often asked what I carry for emergency gear and what I recommend others carry.  Basically, I think about what I would want if I had to spend the night in my car due to adverse weather conditions, as well as what I could use in the way of tools and spare parts, and keep those items in the car.  The reason for the series of posts instead of one is that I don’t feel like writing a post that long, nor do I think most people would read a post that long. It also gives me the opportunity to explain how some items could be utilized in more detail than I otherwise would. Anyway, moving on…

I recommend everyone that commutes any distance or drives regularly in adverse conditions carry a change of clothes, blanket or sleeping bag, and an extra pair of shoes or boots.

To give a person an idea of what I’m talking about, in addition to a change of clothes (including long pants, because shorts don’t count), I carry the following:

  • Gloves
  • Stocking cap
  • Extra socks (2-3 pairs)
  • Small toiletries bag (toothbrush/toothpaste, some soaps, razor and shaving cream, etc.)
  • Tennis shoes
  • Blanket
  • I also carry a set of BDUs, which includes
    • Trousers/blouse
    • Tan undershirt
    • Thick socks
    • Boots
    • Belt
    • A heavy coat
    • Hat (more properly referred to as a “Cover”

The BDUs fit loosely enough that they could be worn over my other set of spare clothes, which would be ideal if it were really cold and I were stuck somewhere, or outside having to work on something.

In the cold months, I also keep a sleeping bag in the trunk.  Depending on where you drive to and how often, it might not be a bad idea to carry a small folding cot or air mattress.   Hotels are nice, but you can’t always get to one.  If your work or school has a place you can camp, you have a nearby friend or family member, or you drive a van/truck with a topper, a cot could make your night a lot more comfortable.

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Wool blanket in a plastic bag.  Wool is good because it's warm even if it gets wet, and it doesn't take up much space.

Wool blanket in a plastic bag. Wool is good because it’s warm even if it gets wet, and it doesn’t take up much space.

See other posts with items I recommend carrying in a car.  Click on the tag Roadside Emergency Kit.

The things I’ll list here may easily be the most used items I carry with me, except a few basic tools.  They aren’t things needed only in an emergency, but that are useful all the time.  For that reason, I keep them in the car itself, and not the trunk.  The molded plastic holder was given to me, but similar ones can be purchased from the online store Galls.  They are primarily geared toward police use, to hold frequently needed items in the passenger seat.

 

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In here, I have:

  • Small notebooks and pens
  • Clipboard with plenty of paper and a pen
  • Extra hand sanitizer and sunblock
  • Some local road maps, one of Wilson County and another of Tennessee.  They aren’t too detailed, but would be good enough if you were lost and could find a main road.
  • Owners Manual for the car
  • Flashlight (one of many.  Plenty of flashlights are good to have.  I have one better light, and several $0.99 flashlights from Tractor Supply.
  • Poncho (Used almost as much as the flashlight)
  • Reflective Vest
  • A hat to keep sun off.  It helps with rain too, if it’s not too heavy.

 

Here are some pictures of a recent mobile radio installation I did.  It isn’t mounted in the best place for ease of use, but it’s not hard to get to or hear and the bench seat can still be utilized.  The custom brackets are made from various parts of broken CB radios and mounts.  There are still a couple screws and a little excess metal (the part that sticks down below the body of the radio) that needs trimmed off, but it seems to work pretty well.

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photo 2

photo 1

 

It’s that time of year again.  Barely October and there’s snow on the ground in Chicago.A basic toolkit is good to keep in every car.  Even if you don’t know how to use the tools to fix your car, they could still be useful in the case someone that knows what they’re doing stops to offer assistance and needs them.

I usually carry a large toolbox with me, but here is an inventory of other tools that are kept in the car at all times for the occasions I don’t have others:

  • A couple rags
  • Some jumper wires
  • Tire patch kit/air pump
  • Fuses and relays
  • Channellocks/pliers/adjustable wrench
  • Assorted sockets and open end wrenches
  • Wire cutters/strippers
  • Spark plug test light
  • Gloves

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You don’t need much, and they don’t have to be expensive.  A basic toolset such as can be purchased from harbor freight is more than acceptable.  I actually found a set of open end wrenches and sockets on sale, brand new for $10.  That is the majority of this kit.

I used some of the SMD LED strip I mentioned in a previous post here too.  The result is more of a white light versus yellow, and a LOT brighter. These are the non-waterproof version.

Here's the dome light.  I took it out of the car and removed the light bulb holder from it.

Here’s the dome light. I took it out of the car and removed the light bulb holder from it.

A piece of cardboard of the right size was taped into it so the LEDs have a solid surface to stick to.

A piece of cardboard of the right size was taped into it so the LEDs have a solid surface to stick to.

Here they are with leads soldered to them.  You can see how I attached it, a really long wire soldered to each strip with negative going down one side and positive on the other.

Here they are with leads soldered to them. You can see how I attached it, a really long wire soldered to each strip with negative going down one side and positive on the other. It turned out blurry too.  Maybe I need to clean my camera lens.

 

Not that there's anything to compare it to, but here's what the car looks like in the dark with the new dome light.

Not that there’s anything to compare it to, but here’s what the car looks like in the dark with the new dome light.

Here’s something else I did – custom lights to light up the floorboards:

One has leads on it for power, the other is fed off of the first.  Power one strip, both light up.

One has leads on it for power, the other is fed off of the first. Power one strip, both light up.

Those just stick in the floorboard area somewhere out of the way.

This is the wire to tap into for dome lights in a Crown Victoria, by the way:

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It’s in the passenger floorboard behind the kick panel. That’s what I wired the lights in the floorboard to.

 

 

Here are some pictures of some auto body work I did.  It’s not perfect by any means, but it worked well enough considering what I have invested.  I used hydraulic jacks and a sledgehammer to straighten out the main crease, then an inexpensive auto body tool kit for most of the rest before finishing off with body filler and touch-up paint.  The bumper cover was replaced with one the same color from a junkyard.

The first picture is pretty much what it looked like when I started:

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This, by the way, officially totaled the car.

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Here are pictures of removing the bumper cover:

Nuts inside the trunk.  There are two on each side.

Nuts inside the trunk. There are two on each side.

There are some of these on top of the cover and some under the car.  All need removed.

There are some of these on top of the cover and some under the car. All need removed.

There are also bolts in here that have to be removed.

There are also bolts in here that have to be removed.

And here it is without a bumper cover.

And here it is without a bumper cover.

Here’s what it looked like when we were finished:

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It’s definitely still a little off, but since there was nothing wrong with the car but cosmetic damage it worked out pretty well.  It’s one of those 50/50 things…It looks really good 50 feet away at 50 mph, and not too bad when it’s sitting still.

 

The trunk light in this car in particular didn’t light much up.  It was located on the top of the trunk, directly over the spare tire.  I wonder who thought that was a good place for a light?

I replaced the original with strips of LEDs.  These can be purchased for around $8/roll, a roll being 5 meters. They’re available from various online sellers, the cheapest shipping from China or Hong Kong, but if you spend a little bit more there are places that sell them in the US.  The advantage to these is that there are places every 3 inches marked to cut the roll, and you can cut the roll and solder leads onto it at any of those.  There are multiple colors available, and there are even waterproof versions.  You can buy a RGB LED strip that will a controller lets you choose what color(s) you want. Having used both, the waterproof LED strip is definitely harder to work with.  I probably wouldn’t mess with it unless you need a waterproof version.

Anyway, they’re pretty simple.  I tapped into the power wire for the existing trunk light, so they come on when you open the trunk.  The wires were soldered to the LED strip and then heat shrink tubing slid over them to prevent shorting if metal touched it. All the strips are adhesive backed, but the waterproof strips are heavier and don’t stick as well.  I’ve had good luck using clear packaging tape to hold them on in addition to the adhesive back, and nothing has shifted yet.

It’s hard to take pictures of lights, but here they are anyway:

I located the lights on the inside of the trunk lid, so there's nothing to block the light.

I located the lights on the inside of the trunk lid, so there’s nothing to block the light.

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Now it’s easy to find things in the trunk at night, and the cost was similar to that of a new light bulb for the original light.  And it took a little less than half of the roll for the trunk, so there were extra for a future project.

This A/C repair includes a new compressor and receiver/dryer for a 2000 Ford Crown Victoria. It’s not too hard, but rather time consuming to do the job right, and doing it wrong could ruin a new compressor. Most of these procedures are the same for any car, the only things that change are mounting location for each component. In older cars, there is an adapter needed to use R-134a  in the system designed for R-12.  These can be purchased for $10-$12 at any auto part store.

Note that if there’s any freon left in the system, it will have to be properly recaptured before you can do anything.

First thing I did was remove the receiver-dryer and all the hoses:

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The other hoses are all held on with a similar quick disconnect to the one pictured above, so I went ahead and removed them all to set aside. Next the orifice tube needs pulled out and replaced.  It’s located in the metal tube that goes to the evaporator (one of the hoses removed in the last picture):

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There’s a lot of metal stuck to it from the previous compressor’s failure. All this has to be flushed out of the system before any new parts go on, or they will likely fail as a result very quickly.

That’s why you always replace the orifice tube.  Even if nothing catastrophically failed like this one did, there can still be bits of metal stuck to it.

Slip the new orifice tube in the same way the old one came out.

Next thing I did was unbolt the compressor and remove it.  The pictures from under the car were terrible, but they can give the general idea of where the bolts are:

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Here’s the compressor out of the car:

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This manifold needs moved to the new compressor before it’s installed.  Lubricate all gaskets and O-rings with the appropriate PAG oil for the compressor.  If the compressor needs additional oil, pour it in now.

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Flush EVERYTHING.  Any components that weren’t replaced need flushed with an approved A/C system flush.  Follow the directions on the can.  I flushed a LOT of metal out of the evaporator, but not nearly as much out of the condenser.  The hoses need flushed too, so you’ll probably need at least two cans.

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With everything flushed, I went ahead and replaced all of the o-rings for everything I took out, again lubricating them with PAG oil.  If the system needs more oil than is in the compressor, pour it into the correct port in the receiver-dryer. Go ahead and install the compressor, receiver/drier and hoses.

Now is the part where you pull a vacuum on everything.  If you don’t have a vacuum pump, find a good independent shop and they’ll be happy to “Evacuate and Recharge” the system for a reasonable fee. If you do this yourself, you need a vacuum pump and set of manifold gauges.

Attach the gauges to both the low side and high side, and open all the valves completely.  Attach the yellow hose to your vacuum pump and start it running.  After the gauge goes as low as it will (I got around 25 in-hg), continue to run the pump until there is no steam coming out of it or for the next 30 minutes, whichever is longer.

IMG_2768IMG_2771Once you’re done pulling a vacuum,close the two valves on the manifold itself.  If you have a leak, the system will lose the vacuum and you need to start over again after fixing said leak. If not, close the other remaining valve and remove the high side hose altogether.  Coil up the high side hose and put it away.

—SAFETY NOTICE—

CHARGING THROUGH THE HIGH SIDE IS EXTREMELY DANGEROUS AND CAN CAUSE A TANK OF FREON TO EXPLODE.  ONLY CHARGE THROUGH THE LOW SIDE PORT.

Now is the time where they system can be charged up.  You can use cans of freon from any auto part store or Walmart, or you can charge it from a tank.  Start the engine and turn the A/C on high while you’re charging the system. Either way the process is the same, except the small cans will come with their own hose and won’t need the manifold gauges.  If you use a tank, hook the yellow hose to the tank and just open it up. Again, charge the low side only.

The acceptable pressure range varies based on ambient air temperature, but is typically around 45-50 PSI on the low side.  Once you’re close to the range, add freon until the air blows cold but without exceeding the high end of the acceptable pressure range.

I was (pleasantly) surprised at how easy it is to change the fuel pump on certain year Buicks of various models.  There’s actually an access cover in the trunk, so you don’t have to drop the gas tank.

—SAFETY NOTICE—

DISCONNECT THE BATTERY! AND DO NOT USE ANY TOOLS THAT COULD CAUSE A SPARK IF THEY SLIP! USE BRASS AND RUBBER TOOLS IF AT ALL POSSIBLE!

I don’t include needless safety warnings, so when I do include one it’s for a good reason.  Gasoline vapors easily ignite and explode.  You’re taking off a fuel pump that is immersed in gasoline, on top of a tank full of gasoline.  It has electrical contacts, bolts, and a spinning metal ring that holds it on, any/all of which could easily product a spark.

This is the access cover.  The trunk needs completely emptied and the carpet pulled out.  If the car has seats that fold down, it’s much easier to access the fuel pump that way.

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After removing the access cover, this is the pump:

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Here’s another up-close of the hoses. It’s easy to see in the picture how they’re removed.

Both plugs need disconnected, and so do all three hoses.  Keep track of which hose went where.  Only after they are all disconnected and pushed as far out of the way as possible, there is a large metal ring the diameter of the pump that needs spun counter-clockwise.  After this ring comes off, the pump will pull right out.  If there’s a full tank of gas, the pump may pop out on its own since it easily floats.

There are no pictures of the pump after removal or the new pump, because at that point my hands were covered in gasoline and I didn’t want to touch the camera. Start to finish, this job should only take around an hour.  That’s pretty nice, compared to 4-6 hours dropping the gas tank (and that’s if you know what you’re doing!).

Certain years of the Crown Victoria, Town Car, and Grand Marquis had this security flaw.  The emergency release (in case you get locked in the trunk) is right next to a backup light, and the backup light is easily replaceable from inside the trunk without any sort of shield.  It was recently drawn to my attention that it took only a few seconds to break the backup light, reach through the hole, and pop the trunk.

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Front side

and back, with the emergency release visible in the corner

and back, with the emergency release visible in the corner

I cut out a piece of metal the right size and screwed it on to prevent a person from taking advantage of that flaw:

 

The metal I used - it was part of the case from a broken two-way radio

The metal I used – it was part of the case from a broken two-way radio

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The final product can be removed to change the bulb, but should make the trunk much more difficult to break into.

Newer models of the same car had a metal shield already installed, and some were recalled to install a shield such as the one I made.  I’m not sure exactly when they started coming from the factory like this.

Here are the new straps installed, and a picture with a car loaded.  I was impressed as to how well it pulled, the dolly tracked straight and it wasn’t difficult to stop.IMG_2506

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Here are pictures of a rather unsafe way to use a tow dolly that I saw in town a few days ago:

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It was a truck pulling a trailer pulling a tow dolly, but the hitch for the tow dolly appears to be homemade and attached to the trailer with some chains. I’m just glad it was stationary when I saw it.

This is Uhaul part # 37126003.  They’re listed on the website as Tow Dolly Strap Retainers, with no pictures.  The description says: “Tire strap retainer, L/H, R/H, inner and outer.”.  I couldn’t find any information about them online, so I’m posting it here.

The website suggested I needed these parts when I placed an order for new wheel straps, but I was unable to find any information as to what they were.  I called customer support and I spoke to multiple people at the local dealer and none of them had any idea what the item was or who to call to find out.

Because there was a promotion going on where you would get free shipping over a certain dollar amount, I ordered two of these retainers to get to that amount assuming I could return them if they weren’t useful.  If I had known what the items were, I would have ordered four.  These are the brackets that hold the straps to a tow dolly, and they’re made much better than the originals.

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Here’s another bag I’ve put together.  Completed, it probably weighs 50lbs but it’s easy enough to load into the car when it’s needed.

The box with magnetic lights, a portable winch, and the mounting plate

The box with magnetic lights, a portable winch, and the mounting plate

Power cable for portable winch

Power cable for portable winch

Switch for portable winch

Switch for portable winch

Handle for portable winch, In case we have to turn it manually.

Handle for portable winch, In case we have to turn it manually.

Spare dolly straps - they're pretty worn out, but they're still usable in a pinch.

Spare dolly straps – they’re pretty worn out, but they’re still usable in a pinch.

A light duty come-along

A light duty come-along

The only thing I don’t have in the bag is a recovery strap, but I always keep that in the car anyway.

Here's what it looks like after I've pulled off the metal sides and the wood floor.

Here’s what it looks like after I’ve pulled off the metal sides and the wood floor.

The wood was nailed on.  I've never heard of nailing wood directly into metal, but it apparently worked since we've used the trailer for over 8 years with the same floor.

The wood was nailed on. I’ve never heard of nailing wood directly into metal, but it apparently worked since we’ve used the trailer for over 8 years with the same floor.

The outside of the trailer was fine, but the inside was scraped up and had some light rust because of things being loaded and unloaded.  I ended up painting the inside but leaving the outside alone.

The outside of the trailer was fine, but the inside was scraped up and had some light rust because of things being loaded and unloaded. I ended up painting the inside but leaving the outside alone.

Some of the new hardware

Some of the new hardware

More new hardware

More new hardware

Light gauge angle iron attached to the end we load from keeps the edge of the wood from chipping away.

Light gauge angle iron attached to the end we load from keeps the edge of the wood from chipping away.

Finished product

Finished product.  The new wood was painted on both sides before I put it on, whereas the original wood wasn’t painted or treated against moisture as far as I can tell.

 

 

 

Here are several pictures of the car dolly I brought home last week and the repairs I made. It needed nothing but new straps, some hardware, a ramp, and some welding.

What it looked like when I brought it home, but after the old straps were removed.

What it looked like when I brought it home, but after the old straps were removed.

These brackets hold straps to the dolly.  I pulled them off to change the straps, and decided to replace the bolts too.

These brackets hold straps to the dolly. I pulled them off to change the straps, and decided to replace the bolts too.

The broken ramp, which has been discontinued by the manufacturer.

The broken ramp, which has been discontinued by the manufacturer.

The ATV ramp I built a replacement ramp out of

The ATV ramp I built a replacement ramp out of

The replacement ramp looks ugly, but it should work.  I'd still purchase a new one to match the original if I found a source.

The replacement ramp looks ugly, but it should work. I’d still purchase a new one to match the original if I found a source.

The bottom of the ramp, with some reinforcements

The bottom of the ramp, with some reinforcements

Painted, so it looks just slightly less ugly

Painted, so it looks just slightly less ugly

I welded this bracket onto the tongue to hold a portable winch.  That should assist in loading vehicles that don't run.

I welded this bracket onto the tongue to hold a portable winch. That should assist in loading vehicles that don’t run.

The portable winch attached to aforementioned bracket

The portable winch attached to aforementioned bracket

A newly welded crack in one wheel pad

A newly welded crack in one wheel pad

Another newly welded crack in the same wheel pad

Another newly welded crack in the same wheel pad

All of the bolts I had to remove were rusted in place, so I cut them off. Here’s an easy way to do it with an angle grinder:

Slot the top like so

Slot the top like so

And chip off the four pieces with a heavy duty chisel.

And chip off the four pieces with a heavy duty chisel.

 

I’ll add another post with pictures of the whole thing once the ramp and straps are attached.

In the end, it’s fully functional and heavy duty, but it only looks good 50/50.  That is, 50 feet away and rolling 50 miles an hour.

The sets of towing lights places like Harbor Freight, Northern Tool, and Tractor Supply sell are generally a good value for the price.  Our set should last many years, no more often than I plan to use them.  They all use a standard flat 4 pin connector, so there’s no wiring to do unless you need a different connector.  My only complaint is this: the wires are all loose.  The 8 feet of wire between lights just hangs there, all the wires separate, as does the 20 feet that runs to the tow vehicle.  Considering the price, I still bought them but decided to wrap the wires so they would stay together.  One could use plastic conduit to hold them all together, but I used about an inch of electrical tape every several inches and that seems to work quite well for less money.

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The last 10 or so inches is wrapped completely with electrical tape.  In my experience, that's the part that usually wears out fastest and the tape really helps.

The last 10 or so inches is wrapped completely with electrical tape. In my experience, that’s the part that usually wears out fastest and the tape really helps.

And they all fit neatly into a small toolbox.

And they all fit neatly into a small toolbox.

 

A belt tensioner is an easily changed, inexpensive, but important part of most modern cars.  The only thing I’m aware of that doesn’t use an automatic belt tensioner now are some Nissans.

Changing one only requires removing the serpentine belt, removing the bold that holds it on, and pull the tensioner out.

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This engine had started squeaking frequently, but went to squealing anytime the A/C was turned on or the alternator was under a load.  The spring had totally stopped working, allowing the belt to slip anytime it was under a load.  After replacing the belt tensioner, I’m unable to put it under enough load to make a belt slip.

A side note, not really related but same vehicle. 1999 Chevrolet Suburban had just started making a tapping sound on every cold start that would go away a few seconds after startup.  Everyone that heard it agreed it was harmless, but the noise was still irritating.  Someone suggested that it was probably the valves tapping – due to carbon buildup, it was taking a little while for oil to lubricate them.  I think it turns out he was right, because I poured a can of Seafoam (motor treatment, it claims to fix almost everything) into  the engine oil, ran it for a little while and haven’t heard a sound since. The same guy mentioned that it was pretty common with the Chevy 350, so this could potentially happen to any GM truck or full sized car.

This one can go in the list of weirdest items to break.  Part of the lower shock mount broke off the Suburban – in order for that to happen, the nut has to have come off the bolt, the bolt work its way out, and that weld fail, with the bolt coming out and the weld failing at about the same time, making this failure essentially unheard of.  Alternately, the bolt could have broken, but I think if the bolt had broken it would have come out and left the rest of the mount alone.  Even more unusual, there was no rust at all in the area that broke.  If it were rusty, I could at least explain why it broke.

(on a side note – if anybody finds an odd shaped piece of metal and a bolt near the 4500 block of Cainsville Rd, I may know what it is. I think we heard it hit the pavement there, not knowing what it was until a few days later.)

Needless to say, since it’s almost unheard of, the only repair would be to  replace the lower control arm.  Replacing the control arm for is a lot of trouble and major expense considering there was nothing else wrong with it, so once I figured out it was missing I went home on the back roads and found a piece of scrap metal with a hole in just the right place:

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Just for reference – here’s  what it looked like when I found the damage:

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Here’s the new piece of metal cut to size:

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Welded on and then with a new bolt:

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Using two nuts lessens the chances of one working its way off.   While that should never happen to begin with, it must have done just that at some point.

Using two nuts lessens the chances of one working its way off. While that should never happen to begin with, it must have done just that at some point.

This should last for the life of the vehicle, just as the first one should have.  If for some reason it breaks in the future (which I’m not expecting, since it’s already been driven quite a bit after the repair) then I won’t be out anything but an hours time.

A simple but very time consuming job, it’s a common repair made to almost any car with a Ford 4.6L engine.  This includes most years of the Crown Victoria, Grand Marquis, and Town Car from 1996 up.  It’s also the same intake used on some Mustangs and Thunderbirds, so the job could be the same  for them too.  The original intake on that particular engine is all plastic, and is now known to crack along the front where coolant runs through it.  If you buy a replacement part, it has an aluminum coolant crossover, which makes me think Ford recognized it as a major design flaw.  That being said, there are no current recalls in place for this intake.

I took many pictures of the disassembly, primarily so I would have something to reference if I forget where a hose or connector goes.  It’s not a bad idea to mark everything with tape and a permanent marker, but I didn’t think it was necessary in my case.  Two other notes – I installed a used intake with the aluminum crossover.  Because of that, I chose to use RTV sealer in place of all the gaskets to decrease the chances of leaks.  I have had no issue with this, but I would probably use all new gaskets if I had a new intake. The other not – if using a Dorman aftermarket intake, the alternator bracket may be different.  I had no issues with this either, because I just used the bracket off the car the intake was on.  It is, however, another consideration to make if you were buying a new intake.

This post will be mostly pictures – it’s very simple to do, it just requires a lot of time.  I had help removing the used intake I installed, and we had that off in about 45 minutes.  It took me around 6 hours to install it, but that’s counting two hours of letting RTV sealant set.

The leak on  the old intake.  It was running into the #1 injector and spark plug, causing a severe misfire under certain conditions.

The leak on the old intake. It was running into the #1 injector and spark plug, causing a severe misfire under certain conditions.

The new intake.  I removed the aluminum crossover and replaced the gaskets with RTV sealant to ensure a good seal before installing.

The new intake. I removed the aluminum crossover and replaced the gaskets with RTV sealant to ensure a good seal before installing.

Both of these sensors were also removed and cleaned, before reinstalling with liberal amounts of new thread-seal tape.

Both of these sensors were also removed and cleaned, before reinstalling with liberal amounts of new thread-seal tape.

First thing - remove the intake and upper radiator hose, after draining the radiator.

First thing – remove the air filter housing/intake duct and upper radiator hose, after draining the radiator.

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These hoses are removed

These hoses are removed

All the COPs were disconnected, as were the fuel injectors.

All the COPs were disconnected, as were the fuel injector and PCV valve/hose.

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The entire EGR valve could be removed, but the metal exhaust tube is difficult to get off.   I just disconnected it from the throttle body and left it hanging.

The entire EGR valve could be removed, but the metal exhaust tube is difficult to get off. I just disconnected it from the throttle body and left it hanging.

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Remove these hoses and the alternator bracket.

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There are 5 bolts on the throttle body. Two are on the front, the others are on the back but I marked the approximate locations.

There are 5 bolts on the throttle body. Two are on the front, the others are on the back but I marked the approximate locations.

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At this point, it got too messy and I had to stop taking pictures.  Essentially, the only thing left to do after this picture is remove the fuel rails, unbolt the intake, and pull it off.  There was a lot of grease underneath the intake that all had to be cleaned before the new one could go on.  I changed the spark plugs while the intake was off – one of the plug wells was full of coolant and another was full of oil (presumably from an old leak or a spill as some point). I removed as much as I could before pulling the plug out, but there was still some that got into the cylinders.  After everything was put back together, it ran very poorly at first and misfired hard on two cylinders.  After 3-4 minutes of idling it started to smooth out, and 15 minutes later it was running as smooth as could be.  This whole time there was  lots of white smoke coming out of the tailpipes, which I assume was the oil and coolant burning off.

One last thing – the intake bolts have to be torqued to 18 ft/lbs in a specific order.  Here’s the diagram:

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The completed job.  So far I'm at 100+ miles with no leaks of any kind.

The completed job. So far I’m at 100+ miles with no leaks of any kind.