There hasn’t been much going on with the Scout, other than trips around town. Frankly, we don’t get out much, so anytime I have to use a car I take the Scout. She starts right up and is always ready to go, and for that I’m thankful.
I’ve been slowly futzing with the ammo can toward the eventual goal of getting it permanently installed this summer. Where we left off was engineering a way to secure a hasp to the bottom of the can in the least obtrusive way possible. I’ve been thinking I’d drill and bolt it to the bottom to have the hasp stick out to meet the staple, which would be bolted to the bed of the truck. Where the can is positioned now, the staple would bolt down into the main crossmember at the rear of the bed, which would be perfect. But now I’m second-guessing myself and wondering if the staple should be on the can and the hasp be hinged and bolted to the floor of the truck so the staple isn’t sticking up when the can isn’t in place. I’ll have to go out and stare at it some more before pulling out the drill. In the meantime I bought some seam sealer to close up the gaps my shitty welding blew through, and found some flat olive spray paint that almost matches the color of the can for the welded sections.
My next project will be to install some heat matting on the inside firewall to knock some of the temperature back out of the cabin. She runs very hot in the summertime, and any thermal protection I can get will be welcome. So I have to pull any vestigal insulation out from under the dash, clean up the firewall as best I can, and then cut and roll the insulation into place. I’d love to put it all the way down the transmission tunnel but I’ll likely never add carpeting to the truck and I don’t want it to get chewed up. We’ll see how well this works. I’m also going to throw a patch on the inside of each door to reduce the sound they make in the cabin and when the doors close.
Finally I’m thinking about seating position. I put the bikini top on last night and remembered that it touches my head when I’m sitting at a light. This is because The PT Cruiser seats are an inch or two higher than the stock buckets.
Going back down a little to the stock height is a possibility. I’ve got two spare steel seat bases in the garage that could be cut and welded to sit lower on the floor; I just need to figure out how I’d bend the metal cleanly inside the box. I toyed with the idea of buying/building a small metal brake of some kind, but then I thought about how two short pieces of angle iron bolted to a bench would give me exactly the results I need at a fraction of the cost.
Due to circumstances beyond my control, I had most of the day to fart around when I should have been painting the house. So naturally I turned to the Scout and wiring the foglights. First I pulled the cowl cover off and drilled two holes to screw in the relays, then laid out the wires in their general pathways. The passenger side was relatively easy once the wires passed over the rat’s nest that are the bulkhead connectors. I routed the wire over the heater box, then under the washer tank and down the front of the fender to the lead for the light. The wire for the switch went up in through the two empty holes from the A/C hoses. There was already a ground bolt connecting to the transmission case directly under that, so I took advantage of the situation.
The driver’s side was more difficult, because space is a little tighter on that side and I wanted to both piggyback on the existing positive battery cables and avoid the hot areas around the brake booster and power steering pump. So that wire and the positive lead go around the back of the firewall, duck behind the battery and down the front of the inner fender to the other light.
As much as I want to trim the wiring down to fit exactly right, I don’t want to tear the looms apart just yet, so I zip-tied the excess into bundles and tucked them out of the way on both sides. None of the wiring in the engine bay is pretty, but that’s a project I’ll gladly hand off to a pro shop to take on in a couple of years when the whole truck gets rewired.
Finally I broke out my Horror Freight dremel and started widening the choke hole to the left of the steering column to fit the switch. But my last $.05 steel grinding bit broke and then so did the chuck on the tool, so that whole thing will go in the trash until I can get back there for another one.
This evening I took the trash out and while the dog did her business in the backyard I tested them out in darkness. First I used the running lights, which are very nice for extra illumination pointed at the ground.
Then I tried the full setting.
Oh my god.
This is blindingly bright. Like, I’m going to need to take this to a flat area, aim it at the side of a building, and adjust the direction so I don’t cause accidents if I ever need to use these on the road. But, success!
Meanwhile, because I am a dork and a brainless tool of our capitalist system, I had to spend money on a six-pack of this coffee to try it out and to have a couple of the cans. Entirely too expensive, and I’m embarrassed to admit it. But I had had a couple of beers, and I thought it looked cool.
I mailed off a check and an entry form for IH Nationals last week, and talking with Brian and Bennett, we’ve got a room reserved at the hotel in Ohio. Barring any major outbreak of COVID or zombie apocalypse, we’re definitely going to head west in August for the full event.
I spent a lot of time working on other things over the weekend but I did put a half an hour into planning out the wiring layout for the foglights. Because I am impatient, I hooked both leads up to the battery and flicked the switch—I didn’t realize this when I bought them, but the lights are actually dual-position: a small line of LEDs on the bottom work as running lights, and the other toggle is for the main bank of LEDs. They’re bright! I bought LEDs because the draw on the battery (and thus the alternator) is significantly less than incandescent Halogens and I’m happy with how they look.
As I mentioned earlier, the harness is set up in a way that assumes there’s space right next to the battery to mount the relays—which Scouts do not. The battery is up front, tucked next to the coolant overflow tank, and the rest of the driver’s inner fender is covered with stuff:
My plan is to lengthen the positive battery lead and mount the relays on the firewall. There’s a ground connection already available there, and the leads to the lights will drop down along the frame and up under the bumper. I sourced some 14AWG wire, clipped the connector off the harness, soldered the two together, and covered them in heatshrink tubing. I’m going to head back out and rough in the wiring to make sure everything works, and then I’ve got to figure out how to get the switch inside the cabin.
Also on the menu this year: a new battery tray. Having moved batteries around over the last couple of months, I was shocked to see just how lousy the tray looks (and how much has been chewed out of the inner fender).
The Scout ran fine over the weekend, although with the rain I really didn’t get the chance to drive her too much. I did mount the new fog lights on the bumper to start organizing the wiring under the hood. The way the harness is organized I can wire it directly into the hot/neutral leads in the battery, but the way they prewired everything the relays are right next to the battery leads and I have no place on the driver’s side of the fender well to mount them. What I’m going to have to do is start with the relay location in the middle of the firewall and lengthen the hot lead so that it wraps around the driver’s side fender and directly into the battery. Because I don’t give a shit about my purple dashboard (I have two spares in the garage) I’m going to open up the vestigal manual choke hole to the left of the steering column and make that the switch mounting point.
I also started looking at pulling the steering wheel off the spare column I brought back from Flintstone. The first order of business was to get it mounted to something so that it was attached to the bench, which was pretty easy. Then I put two bolts into the wheel, mounted the cheapo puller I got at Carlisle and started cranking down on it, but when I was faced with a lot of resistance I backed off to double-check my bolts and reconsider the puller. It’s not anything pressing, and I’d like to save as much of the column as I can, so I’m going to resist the temptation to break everything to get it apart and take my time.
I’ve let the Scout sit since Sunday with the battery connected, figuring four days would be enough time for a parasitic leak to drain the battery as it did last time. To recap: New battery, new starter, new negative battery cable. With fingers crossed, I went out and turned the key today at lunchtime: she turned over immediately. So I’ll do some short trips and keep an eye on the ammeter—but I think I’m calling this fixed.
I walked out to the garage on Saturday fully expecting to fire up the Scout and go for some supplies, and…the starter barely cranked over. All the air drained out of me like a leaky pool float. Annoyed, I put the trickle charger on the battery with the cables to the truck disconnected, and took care of some housework. An hour later, it still wouldn’t crank, so I put them back on and waited two hours—with the same result. I thought I’d try swapping the old starter out for the new one in the off chance that was the issue, so I put the tow strap on the CR-V and pulled the Scout out of the garage so that I could take the tire off and have level ground to work on. I’m getting pretty fast at swapping starters out, and I’ve now added a 9mm wrench for the ignition lead to my toolkit.
That, of course, did not change anything, so I put the smaller Honda battery in the Scout and found that it fired right up.
At this point, I’ve got two possible culprits:
- There’s a parasitic drain on the battery from something that has suddenly appeared; perhaps a critter got into the wiring in the last couple of weeks.
- I mistakenly reversed the polarity of the trickle charger and messed the battery up.
Because time was of the essence, I figured I’d solve for #2 and bought another new battery, which was not a cheap solution—but I didn’t have time to chase down wiring issues with other projects waiting. Once I put the new battery in, she fired right up. I let her sit overnight and she started easily on Sunday morning, so I put about 20 miles on her running errands.
On my way, I spied a new Scout sitting at the shop up the street, so I drove up to the back lot and peeked around. He’s moved the stuff that was there and pulled in some new trucks: the thing that caught my eye at once was a beautiful, beat up Metro that I think I’ve seen online in classifieds.
There was a red Scout that looked good from one side and kind of terrible from another—minus axles, engine, and front clip, and covered in interesting speed parts stickers. The inner fenders were in really nice shape but the more I looked the sketchier it got.
Near that was a 1980 in rust-colored primer, which looked like it was in very good shape from the outside. Peeking inside showed it was a manual with bucket seats, but I didn’t see any diesel badges.
Conscious that I was trespassing, I was careful to stay away from them as much as possible, shoot some quick pictures, and then leave quietly. I figure driving a Scout up to see other Scouts means I’m not just some rando, but I don’t want to piss anyone off, and it’s not hard to find the guy in the purple Scout around here. The rest of the trip went without a hitch, and I was able to slide 4 sheets of 4’x8′ beadboard in the back, using several bits of scrap wood to make sure nothing got scratched or dented.
The plan now is to let her sit in the garage until Thursday with the new battery connected, and if she starts without a problem I’ll call this fixed. If she doesn’t, then I’ve got to pull her back out and chase down a parasitic drain, the concept of which does not fill me with joy.
One of the first things I did when I was having starting problems was to clean the contacts on the battery and then work my way through each lead to its end. After cleaning the contacts on the starter and then replacing that, I pulled the negative lead off the engine and disassembled it as much as possible to clean the leads there. Because the bare wire at the connector was frayed and green I snipped about 2″ from the end, cleaned the parts, and reconnected the lead, but it was about 1″ too short to reach the battery.
I made it out to Advance for a new negative battery cable last night and put it in with little fuss, then left the battery to charge overnight. This morning it fired right up. I pulled it out and let it idle until it was warm, then shut it down—with the cables connected—and let it sit for a few hours. When I went back out and tried it, it fired right up. Another test a few hours later got the same result. So I guess the negative battery cable just decided to crap out? Strange, but I guess it was probably 40 years old at this point. The new one is a fat 12 gauge wire, so it should be plenty strong for the load. I put it back in the garage with everything connected, and if it starts tomorrow I’m calling it fixed.
With a little time to kill this evening I put some snaps on the new (to me) tan soft top over the window posts. This follows the snaps I put in on the black top to keep things snug on the frame, and should make summer driving with the tan top a little more manageable. That top was manufactured with snaps around the bottom perimeter, but I’ve never put the bars on that go with it. Maybe I’ll give that a try this year.
So: the Scout was not starting yesterday, after having been on the trickle charger since Tuesday. I tried it first thing this morning after having been on the charger overnight, and got pretty much the same result—a chattering from the starter but not enough juice to keep it going. I started diagnosing by cleaning the contacts on the starter and all the positive wires, with no change. Then I tested the charge at the ignition wire on the starter to see if that was getting juice from the key, which it was. I pulled the battery and brought it to AutoZone to have them test it, which showed no problems. After a trip to the hardware store to buy some supplies, I rigged up a test jumper and bench-tested my two spare starters. The one that was making intermittent noise tested fine so I put the Scout up on jacks, pulled the tire, and swapped it out for the year-old unit.
Crucially, I disconnected the positive battery cable and put the battery on the trickle charger for the hour that took. After hooking it back up, the truck fired right up. I left everything in place, put the tire back on, dropped it onto the pavement, and cleaned up my tools. Then I went to start it up and move it—and had barely any juice.
So, a slow leak in the electrical system? Maybe a critter climbed up underneath on Wednesday afternoon and started munching on wires? Maybe the bulkhead connectors, which always have looked like they were blasted by Godzilla, finally melted?
The sky had turned gray around noon, and it began drizzling as I tried one last time to jump it from the Accord with no luck. So I used gravity and the gentle slope of the driveway to coast it back into the garage, disconnected the positive battery lead, and put the trickle charger on it one more time. Then I came inside and cracked a beer.
So the good news: the bumper is on! I shot it with a can of etching primer and then a final coat of heavy implement black, and it looks great! The whole front of the truck looks much better now. The license plate looks great in place. Overall I’m stoked with how this worked out.
The problem is that sometime between Tuesday and today, she developed a starting issue. I got absolutely nothing from the starter at first, so I checked the battery with a multimeter, which was giving me a little more than 12 volts. After looking over all the wiring and finding no breaks, I pulled the Accord in and was able to jump the engine with some difficulty—lots of chattering from the starter and then some slow cranking. I let it run in the driveway for the 15 minutes it took to swap bumpers, shut it down, and was rewarded with chattering again. I was meeting Brian in Annapolis for dinner, and, disappointed I couldn’t take the Scout, I set it up on the trickle charger and left. When I got home, nothing had changed.
Tomorrow I’m going to have Jen help me test the leads on the starter, clean them off, and see if that does anything. If that’s no good, I’ll take the battery back to AutoZone and have them replace it for a new one under warranty. And if that doesn’t work… I’m not entirely sure what to do after that.
Here’s a time-lapse I set up using a GoPro, stitching together photos of the whole process.