After practicing my mechanical skills last weekend, swapping out plugs on Saturday was fast and relatively easy. The only issue I had was getting the #6 plug started; for some reason it didn’t want to thread in to the hole. Once I got that, the rest were easy. I left the #1 plug for last, as the position of the power steering pump makes it difficult to get a ratchet on the end of the socket. (Pro tip: a 3/4 box end wrench on the socket does the job nicely). The Autolite 303’s came out oily and fouled, and that was only after 75 miles or so.
I did a quick test run after the engine bay was buttoned up, and she runs better than ever. Lesson learned: the 303’s are in the trash.
I spent a rainy Saturday futzing in the basement, and came upon the three horns I’d bought for the Scout sitting on the workbench, waiting for me to finish the mounting bracket. When last I looked at it, I’d cut down a piece of metal and bent it, but that was as far as I got. I cut the long edge down, ground down the sharp points, added two mounting holes in with the drill press, and painted it with some Rustoleum. While that was drying I pulled the headlight back out and soldered two connectors on to the wiring harness on the single Sprinter horn, then covered the wires with heatshrink tubing. When that was finished, the whole thing mounted up pretty quickly, and I grounded one of the leads to the headlight bucket. Now the horn sounds like an angry European delivery van—but it’s much, much louder. Definitely an improvement.
On Sunday I had some free time with Finley so I figured I’d show her how to change spark plugs. I’ve got a set of Autolite 303’s that I got with some other parts from Brian H. and figured I’d use them as a teaching tool. We started on the driver’s side and worked from front to back. I changed them back in August of 2012 and there was a wide range of wear on the electrodes, from carbon to sludge, so I was a little nervous to see how these looked when we pulled them out. The first couple came out looking clean with just a little tan carbon present, and as we went around they all matched up almost exactly—which means she’s running perhaps slightly hot.
I walked Finn through the basic way an engine works, the importance of firing order, showed her how to pull each plug out individually, hand-tighten the plug before laying on the socket wrench, and hook the wires back up.
The engine fired right back up but she runs a lot rougher now—I seem to remember reading on the old IHC Digest that 303’s aren’t recommended, as well as Champion RJ11Y/RJ12Y/RJ12YC’s, which are always the first to pop up on all of the auto parts websites. Strangely, when I put in Autolite 85’s I get big angry warnings saying THIS DOES NOT FIT YOUR 1976 INTERNATIONAL HARVESTER SCOUT but I ordered eight from Amazon and I’ll replace the 303’s next weekend.
The other thing I’m cogitating on is fabricating a mount for my bottle jack, which is a lot easier to use in a pinch than the Hi-Lift. Chewbacca had a mount on the inside passenger fender half, and even though it’s been twelve years I remember it looking factory-installed. There are no holes in my sheet metal that lend themselves to a mount. There’s no indication anything ever lived there, actually. There’s one threaded hole on the front wall that will be the jumping-off point for what I make—it’s the fender bolt directly to the left of the jack in the picture above. Cardboard bending and cutting will commence shortly.
I’ve been meaning to replace Peer Pressure’s starter for years now, but 2020 was the first year it appeared on my to-do list. Today was the day I decided to get it done. Work has paused on the porch project while we wait for polyurethane to cure, so I found myself with an overcast Sunday to work with. I figured the best way of getting access to everything was to pull the wheel completely off, so I used a bottle jack to get the wheel up in the air, braced it with a jack stand, and pulled it off.
Once that was done, it was a pretty simple job of pulling both leads from the old starter, loosening the mounting bolts, and letting it fall into my hand from above. Looking into the hole, it looks like the flywheel is in decent shape, so my guess is that the solenoid wasn’t engaging completely with the teeth and making that terrible grinding noise.
With that done I swapped the spacer onto the new Delco starter and clanked it around until it was in place. I cleaned off both bolts and tightened it up, then reconnected the wires and made sure everything was tight before replacing the wheel and putting it back on the ground.
Reconnecting the battery, I got in and turned the key: She fired right up, and sounded great! the starter has a different sound than the old unit, but it’s something I can definitely get used to.
After that was done, I futzed around with a couple of other small things I’ve been thinking about: the driver’s window is binding up again, so I pulled the panel off and replaced the front spring clip, which continues to come off, with a different one from my spares. Then I tightened up all of the bolts and put the door back together.
Next, I thought I’d fix the bent bedrail caps that have been bugging me since I got the truck. To explain: the soft top has a C-channel hinge mounted in the middle of the bedrail that serves as a mounting point for both of the hoops. The hinge is screwed into a metal cap that IH provided to cover the top of the bedrail. Over the course of several off-road excursions, the previous owner bashed the soft top into stuff and thus bent the caps all to hell. They have looked janky for years and I figured I’d finally straighten them out as best I could. Using a vice and a body hammer I got both of them as close to straight and level as possible, then hit them with some Rustoleum before replacing them and tightening everything down. It all looks worlds better now.
I’ve been working pretty much nonstop on stuff for work, going on late into the night, so I decided to take a little mental health time during the day when the sun was out to go get my hands dirty on the Scout. I have a long punchlist of stuff that I want to get accomplished, but today I had to choose some stuff I could accomplish in a few hours, which left mainly cosmetic improvements. The first thing I did was to adjust the parking brake, which has been weak ever since we did the rear brakes. This is a pretty simple matter of loosening two bolts attached to a wire running to each rear brake drum, tightening the wire, and then retightening the second bolt. After tightening, I tested it and it felt good.
Next, I wanted to clean up the janky speaker wires I installed ten years ago when I swapped the original stereo for the new one. When I put it in, Finn was a baby and I had the duration of a nap to get any project done, so I hurriedly carved metal out of the dash, quickly ran wires from the holes hacked in the tub up to the transmission tunnel, and ran them out of the transfer case boot up into the dash. They’ve been there ever since. This was a pretty simple fix, but took some time, as I had to disassemble part of the dash, disconnect the stereo, and re-route the wires through an existing hole in the firewall. But once I was done, it cleaned the dashboard up really well.
While I had that apart, I put some new LED bulbs in two of the light sockets in the speedometer, which has been dead for several years. Getting to all five of these bulbs is a royal pain in the ass, because the only really good way to get the speedo out is to disconnect the hardline and unplug the speedo unit, which is dangerous, because the 50-year-old pins on the back of the units are notoriously brittle. So I fought with the lousy angle and the tangle of wires and the tiny bulb sockets and got two of the LED units in place. Then I buttoned up the dash and left a complete rewire and rebulb for a future day.
Then I tested the parking brake, and…it’s still weak. Two out of three isn’t bad.
I got a very heavy package delivered to the house yesterday: a shiny remanufactured starter motor from AC Delco. The weekend forecast is for warm weather but showers and thunderstorms, so I probably won’t be able to take advantage of the time to put it in.
Top: original crusty starter motor pulled in 2011. Bottom: sexxxxxy new reman unit. Y’know, I think I’m going to bust out the pressure washer and see if I can clean the old one up.
One of the things I’ve been thinking about are the points of failure and wondering what they might be. It’s been so long since we pulled the last unit, I don’t remember what the issue was—if it was making the same noise, stopping intermittently, or something else.
There’s the possibility that there are missing teeth on the flywheel, based on the sounds the engine is making when I turn the key. It could be that the solenoid isn’t working correctly, and getting stuck could be the reason I get a grinding sound. It could be that the contacts aren’t clean enough, which means there isn’t enough juice getting to the starter (the single biggest current draw on the whole truck). One other thought is that we didn’t get the bolts snugged tight enough in 2011 and they’ve come loose.
Once the contacts are clean on both sides, and the new starter is in place, I should be able to walk through the rest of the symptoms and figure out what’s happening. And hopefully, there will be no more grinding.
I’d started planning for a spring workday here at the house a few weeks ago. I sent out an email with a calendar poll for weekends in April and had pretty much settled on a day—then the virus hit. So I sent a follow-up email to postpone until May, in the hopes that things will have blown over by then.
In the meantime it looks like I’ll have some time on the weekends to get things done, and I’ll need to get outside for sunshine every day. So I ordered a part for the truck: a new (remanufactured) starter motor to replace the used unit Bennett and I installed in 2011. Mine has been grinding intermittently for years now, and I’d like to get ahead of it before it craps out completely at an inconvenient time and place.
Next, I’d like to fix my turn signal cancel cam, which has been broken since the day I bought the truck, and while I’ve (theoretically) got the wheel off, I can replace the ignition key cylinder with a new unit and new key. I’ve got a wheel puller I bought at Carlisle years ago ready to go, so it’s just a matter of setting up the puller correctly and taking things apart.
Finally, I can take some time to reroute the speaker wire that’s been hanging down below my dashboard and stuck under the transmission tunnel cover and properly send it out through the firewall and down the frame rail. It’s a small thing to clean up an ugly truck, but every little bit helps.
Finn and I got the Scout out on Saturday for the first time in two weeks to go get breakfast. She took a little time to get started but once she was running everything sounded good. It’s been averaging around freezing temperatures for the past two weeks, so my window to enjoy the soft top has slammed shut. To celebrate, the driver’s window on the Scout has stuck itself at the bottom of the well. No amount of coaxing would get it to come back up, so we enjoyed a blustery ride down to Ellicott City with the heat blasting on our feet.
That window has always been tricky. At some point the PO did some butchery to the doorframe and drilled out one of the mounting points, so there’s more give to the scissor mechanism than there should be when the crank is turned, which translates to resistance in the mechanism. The passenger’s side goes up and down like butter (I took them both apart and cleaned/lubed the channels a couple of years ago), but the driver’s side takes more work. I’m going to have to break the door down and see what’s going on in there when I get a reasonably warm day and an hour’s time.
The Scout is finally home after two weeks in Essex having the rear driveline worked on. The issue, as mentioned before, was that the rear U-joint was beginning to disintegrate, taking the yoke and driveshaft along with it (and in the process one of the rear brake cylinders). The shop rebuilt the U-joint and yoke, had the driveshaft rebalanced, and repaired the rear brake line.
Jen drove me out to Essex this morning and we picked it up; the transmission shop (Jim Jennings, who I recommend highly) provided some pictures of the damaged parts before sending me on my way.
The work made a huge difference in how she drives. Shifting into and out of gear is smooth and crisp again, and the repair to the brakes also made a big change in how she stops at speed.
So, that’s good news. I’m going to clean her up and get things ready for the drive to Ohio, which means stocking up on oil, coolant, and ATF. I did smell coolant on my way home from Essex this morning, so I’ve got to look over the coolant system and see how full the radiator is (and if the overflow tank is pulling correctly).
I also called a company in Columbia to inquire into adding a kill switch sometime in the future; they figure it’ll take about an hour and be a pretty simple procedure. Scouts are getting more and more desirable, and I’m conscious that it’s a rare vehicle with a 1970’s-era ignition lock and no roof. And opening the hood to pull the coil wire all the time can be a drag.
The word from the transmission shop is that the problem is not actually the transmission: it’s the rear driveshaft/U joint. Apparently it was in such bad shape the U joint had almost disintegrated and the driveshaft is out of balance. So the shop is rebuilding the joint, sending the driveshaft out for service, and putting everything back together. It’s going to be expensive to fix, but when compared to the cost of rebuilding the transmission, it’s a fraction of the cost I was expecting I’d have to pay.
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.