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.
In related news, the guy who owns one of the two Scouts I saw back in January has listed the darker Scout II for $3500 on Craigslist. Not that I need a rusty carcass. But those door inserts would be cool.
So I did find a welder within easy rental distance, and on Sunday morning, after we were walked and fed, I ran out with Finley and grabbed it, along with some stuff for her fort. When that project was done, I turned my attention to the bumper.
I knew I was going to be getting something not quite as good as Brian’s gas-shielded MIG welder, so I wanted to practice and get things dialed in before I messed up my good metal. This was a Miller 120 wire-fed MIG, so I made sure I had the right thickenesses dialed in and started messing with some scrap on the bench. After some welding and grinding and welding and grinding I had what I thought was the right setting for the machine, and moved out to the driveway where I had the bumper set up on some sawhorses.
The first bracket went on reasonably well on the front, and I filled the back with about four passes to make sure it didn’t go anywhere. I think I had to do three in front and four in back, pausing to grind and brush between each for clean metal. The second went on a little smoother in the front and I got enough of the back filled to feel comfortable. Let’s be clear, there was a lot of booger and spatter and I missed the joint several times completely. This was not perfect.
Then I used a stepper bit to drill two holes into the bumper itself (shudder) and then welded two captive nuts to the outside for a license plate directly in the center. Once that was done and cleaned up with the flap wheel, I mounted the whole thing on the truck and test-fit the lights.
So the next step is to fill the gaps with a little bondo, sand things down, and get ready for paint!
I stopped in to the Harbor Freight and picked up the cheapest auto-darkening helmet they had along with some small welding magnets, but the guy at our local Home Depot rental counter looked confused when I told him they offered welders on the website, and assured me they didn’t have any. So I’ll have to take a day off, go to our rental outlet, which isn’t open on weekends, and get one there.
Sunday was supposed to be wet all day but shaped up to be sunny and warm, so I took advantage of it and pulled the roof off the truck. This year I’m modifying the setup in the garage a little to move the top backwards so that I can pull the truck in a little further, but I need another set of ratchet straps and a 2×3″ to finish it up. We then took a ride to the Home Depot with the top off and the entire family enjoyed the sunshine. I didn’t have time to pull out any of the soft top hardware and install it, so next weekend I have to decide which color I want this spring: black, nutmeg, or tan?
Otherwise, she’s running smoothly. There’s an intermittent squeal from the power steering belt that alarms me, so I’ll put some belt dressing on that to see if it helps at all. The manifold bolt I replaced makes a huge difference in the engine note; everything is much quieter now. She is being a little finicky on hot starts—it takes some cranking to get her to catch, which tells me there’s something in the carb that needs adjusting.
I made a little progress with the bumper project over the last week, up to the point where I need a welder. To recap: I originally bought 1/4″ box steel which wound up being way too thick, and bought another length of 1/8″ box steel which worked out perfectly. After a little coaxing I cut the edge off the bar and then cut two sections from that, leaving me with a pair of C-shaped sections ready for pilot holes.
I used a stepped drill bit in the drill press and then ground off about 1/8″ of each edge to get them flat, parallel, and shallow, then test fit everything on the bench.
As for welding, Brian took his rig back a month or two ago so I’m without anything here to use (and truth be told, the welds I was making before he came and got it were terrible). I called a local mobile welder who quoted $125 just to come out; while everybody’s got to make a living I’m having a hard time rationalizing that when I could spend another $150 and get a decent 110-amp starter MIG for myself. Or, I could spend $40 and grab a simple 110 MIG from the local rental center, and I wouldn’t have to deal with yet another large tool taking up space in my already cramped garage….perfect!