Peer Pressure rolled out of the Jiffy Lube on Saturday morning with new oil in the engine, pumpkins, and transmission, and… the transmission still sounds shitty. I was hoping $30 of new 50wt. racing oil would quiet the chattering in the box, but it was not to be. So, I called a transmission shop on the other side of town, who come highly recommended (who also replaced the throwout bearing in my Mazda B2000 about 25 years ago) and talked to the owner, who could not have been more accommodating. When I told him my situation (upcoming vacation, IH Nationals in early August) he told me to bring it in Friday before we leave town and he’d put it in a covered storage facility across the street where he keeps street rods and other customer vehicles that can’t be outside. While we’re away he’s going to look it over and let me know what’s going on. It’s not going to be cheap, but I’ll feel better driving 500 miles after the pros fix it correctly.
Look what showed up in my Amazon Prime box this afternoon: an AMT Scout model.
I’m going to tuck this away for the cold winter months when I can’t get in the Scout and drive it.
Meanwhile, I’m looking at getting Peer Pressure in to the local Jiffy Lube for a fluid change this weekend. She’s only had about 12,000 miles on her since I bought her, but the last change was in 2012 and the transmission is beginning to make a disturbing clunk between 3rd and 4th gear. It could just be low gear oil, or it could be that the transmission is slipping. I’m going to try the $100 fix first before I have to deal with a $1000 rebuild, and we’ll see how that goes.
After some back and forth and miscommunication, I dropped the Scout off across town this morning for caster correction surgery. I was a little nervous after the initial efforts failed, but I trusted the online reviews and an hourlong conversation with the owner in April and handed them the keys. At about 10:30 they called and the mechanic had an honest conversation with me: He said he’d worked on many different lifted trucks and because the tires were the size they were, he couldn’t promise the correctors would do much, especially as he figured it would take two hours a side to get them in. I figured I was in for a penny, in for a pound, and told him to go ahead anyway.
They got back to me at about 2:30 and said it had taken a lot less time than they figured—only one hour per side. He took it out on the road for a test run and said the tracking was much better, and that he was surprised at what a difference it made.
On the ride home, I noticed a big difference in the way she handled at speed. Where before every bump sent the wheels in a different direction, and expansion joints unloaded the suspension and sent the whole truck sailing on a random course, the steering is staying straight and true. Before, I spent a lot of time anticipating what I thought the truck would do and adjusting for it, which made for some white-knuckle driving. Now the small stuff is negligible and the expansion joints are tolerable. Because I was on mostly elevated highway around Baltimore I didn’t have a lot of flat straight sections to test the hands-off results on, but what I did try was straight and true.
It’s not perfect; the only thing that’s going to fix everything is a taller wheel and a thinner tire. But that’s something I’m not going to spend money on this year.
It’s the cleanest thing on the Scout, and it’s hidden in the engine compartment.
Saturday morning I made a pile of hash browns for the family, cleaned up the kitchen, and ran a bunch of tools out to the garage to get a long-awaited project started: installing a new aluminum radiator.
I’m always conscious of starting projects that I might not be able to finish in a weekend, and this time I was under the added pressure to getting it done by the afternoon, because we had family plans for Sunday. Additionally, I’ve got an appointment next Saturday across town to have the caster correctors installed, so I wanted to have everything road tested and ready. I have anxiety about having a broken-down truck sitting in the driveway with an appointment on the horizon.
First, I drained the coolant. It came out relatively clean, a little milky from age but not black. I got about two and a half gallons out from the stopcock and the lower rad hose into an old cat litter pan. Then I pulled the lower hose and the upper hose, disconnected the shroud mount and pulled that apart into two sections, and loosened the body bolts. Everything came off smoothly; nothing needed PB Blaster (although I used it) to get started, which was a blessing.
Once that was done, the old radiator came out easily. The bottom was getting corroded but it wasn’t as bad as my spare, where the bottom rail is disconnected from the frame.
Then I pulled the new one out of the box and slid it right in place—this time I stood and straddled the fenders to drop it in from the top. Hand-tightening the body bolts, I put new hoses on above and below. The lower hose needed a 2″ trim to avoid a bad kink in the bendy section but other than that they both slid right on. Next I hooked up the overflow tank for the first time since I’ve owned it: the old radiator was missing the brazed nipple on the cap valve. Then I installed and adjusted the shroud mount and shroud itself, tightened the body bolts down, and checked all of the fittings.
The only thing I didn’t have were two blockoff bolts for the automatic transmission inlet/outlet, so I ran around town to find a set and found them at Advance. They’re brass but I wrapped them in Teflon tape and tightened them into place.
Finally, I put about 2 1/2 gallons of new 50/50 antifreeze in the system, topped off the overflow tank (I need a new one, because the plastic mounting brackets have both snapped off), said a prayer, and started her up. I idled in the driveway for 15 minutes, pausing only to cap off the radiator once the bubbles stopped, and let her get up to temperature.
I had to stop at that point for dinner and other family stuff, so Sunday morning I took a 20 minute ride around the neighborhood to shake the hoses around and see how things held up. I chose a route that featured lousy roads (there are no shortage of those) and lights to stop at and some long stretches and banged her around a bit, and I didn’t see any leaks or steam. The temp gauge stayed pegged to the left side of the horizontal bar. Success!
Should I have flushed the system while I had it open? probably. In the fall I’ll have Jiffy Lube do it for me when I get the oil changed. Could I have saved money mixing antifreeze myself? definitely. But I was in a hurry and I had nothing else to mix it in.
Special thanks go to my pop, whose tools I inherited, which made everything much, much easier. Happy Father’s Day, Dad.
Peer Pressure has been running strong and smooth the last couple of weeks; I’ve had her out every weekend since the top came off. She’s hauled bags of dirt and mulch from the store, garbage to the dump, and run multiple errands around town—basically whenever I have an excuse to go out and get something. I’ve been poor at shooting any pictures, because I haven’t ranged far from home, so the sights are all the same. But I’ve got some plans for her in the next couple of weeks, stuff that’s making me excited. The first thing is replacing the old radiator with the new aluminum unit I bought back in March.
This should be a straightforward procedure. I don’t have any extra cooling gear hooked up to what’s there right now (no transmission cooler, although adding one eventually would be a wise move) so it should be a matter of draining the block, pulling the hoses, detaching the shroud and shroud mount, and unbolting it from the body. Hopefully it’ll pull out without any fuss. Next I flush the block with a kit I bought and clean everything out. Then I put the new unit in and bolt everything back into place. Hopefully the shroud I fabricated will install with little fuss; if anything I’ll have to drill two new holes to adjust for the new radiator. I’ve got this coming Saturday blocked off to accomplish this, and I hope it goes smoothly.
Second, I’ve got an appointment with an alignment/front end shop over on the East side of town to put the caster shims in, as well as go over the front end and tell me what’s in need of repair. This will happen in two weeks, and I’m going to wait there while they work on it. Hopefully we won’t need to order out for any parts, but you never know. I have a feeling they’re going to find some bushings and other parts that are worn, and that will almost certainly require new parts. In which case I’ll just Uber home and wait for the work to be done.
With those two things completed I’ll feel much better about a drive out to Ohio for Nationals this year. I’m really hoping the caster shims help out the handling issues, because I miss having a Scout that tracks straight. If things don’t improve dramatically, I’m going to start saving up for some 16″ steel wheels I can mount a skinnier tire on, and I’ll have to take a loss on the wheel/tire combo I’m running right now. But that will come next year.
It was somewhere near 90˚ today so Finn and I got the top off the Scout today in record time; about an hour and a half. It took a little longer to get the soft top on, but when we were done we took a celebratory ride: her first in the front seat. I also took about 20 minutes and scrubbed 20 years of dirt off each of the fiberglas inserts and hung them up on the lift next to the top. It’s good to feel wind in our hair again.
When we came back out of the grocery store someone had scrawled, “NICE RIDE!” on an envelope and dropped in on the passenger seat. That made me smile.
Here’s a quick video of a drive I took in the Scout last fall (it was stuck on my GoPro) sped up about 15X normal speed. There’s not too much that’s special about it; I just wanted to get it off my desktop.