I spend most of my week sitting at my desk in front of a computer, so the last thing I feel like doing on the weekend is being indoors. This weekend was unseasonably warm in Maryland for November, so I took full advantage and worked in the yard for most of Saturday. In the afternoon I pulled both of my spare inner fenders down from the attic in the garage and looked them over. Neither one is in excellent shape, but some close inspection showed just what condition they were in.
The passenger side is the worst. There’s a lot of surface rust over everything, and it’s pretty crispy down around the wheel well—to the point where I wouldn’t be able to save the lower half if I tried. I’d have to cut out the bottom half and weld in new steel—but the whole section is made up of a compound curve with several mounting points that I’d never be able to mimic.
The driver’s side is in much better shape, but there are a few places where it’s rusted through completely. I put the wire brush on it and got a lot of the surface rust off, and then used the DA sander to go at some of the smaller sections. It’s pretty clear that I’m going to need some POR-15 or another rust encapsulator to seal the stuff I’ve sanded to this point, but there’s a lot more to be done on this section before I call it done. I’ll most likely just put the passenger side back up into the attic where it’s out of the way.
On Sunday it was still warm, so I decided that I was tired of the dead lights in the dashboard and decided to tear things down to fix it. I pulled the dashpad and the fascia plate over the radio off and got into the back of the gauges. It’s pretty easy to pull the sockets out but it’s much harder to get them back in place; I wound up having to pull the hose off the defrost vent in order to get behind the speedo and then I was able to get the three bulbs on top of that gauge out. I used my 12-volt tester to check socket/bulb combinations before I replaced them with LEDs; all of this took much longer than it sounds like it did.
After the sun went down I tested it out, and I can see the speedo again, and it’s clear! The LED bulbs have a bluish cast to them that I’m not thrilled with, but I’ll take what I can get until I have to get in there again—because the bulbs in the secondary gauges aren’t lighting up at all. I did forget to check both the 4wD and the hi-beam indicator, so I’ll have to do that tomorrow.
I took advantage of a lazy Sunday afternoon to pull one of my two spare windshields out of the garage and throw it on some sawhorses. I’ve been hesitating on really digging in to the paint on the Scout until I get a firm date and commitment from my neighbor’s dad, so I thought I’d start on a windshield as a testing ground for new tools and my metal shaping skills until I can pin him down.
The tan windshield is the first one I bought, waaaaay back when I had Chewbacca, and I’ve been dragging it around with me ever since then. It came to me with no glass and a fair bit of rust, but the main panels weren’t in bad shape. I’d done some very light sanding years ago but stopped before I went farther than I was comfortable with. Today I put the flap wheel on an angle grinder, plugged into a podcast, and went to town on it.
The bottom edge is in much worse shape than the top, which I’d expect on any used windshield. Water collects inside the rubber gasket and eats away at the paint. There’s also rust on the bottom edges of the cowl where it sits on the top of the fender.
I went all the way around the edge of the windshield opening and cleaned both inside and out, and exposed as much of the bad metal as possible. Then I cleaned every other place I saw rust and was able to get about 90% of what I saw.
There are sections near the mounting bolts that I can’t get without a sandblaster, so that will probably be next on the list of tools to be purchased.
I covered everything visible with etching primer to keep it from flash rusting, and dragged windshield 2 out of the corner. This one came to me about 8 years ago, and it came with glass included.
On the surface it’s in better shape than the tan unit, but when you start looking closer, it gets ugly. A utility knife made short work of the windshield gasket, and once I’d made my way through that, the glass popped right out.
Both of the cowl edges are crispy.
When I move them both around, I hear the sound of rust and metal rattling around inside, so I know they’re both crispy inside as well; I’ve got a can of Eastwood Chassis encapsulator on deck for them both but I want to do some more investigation to see if I can access all of the interior through the holes I see.
So, next on the to-do list is to figure out what steel thickness I need for patch panels, summon my courage, and break out the cutting wheel on the tan windshield.
I took delivery of four bushings from Energy Suspension last week and carved out a half an hour to put one in on each side. It took some investigation online to know exactly what I was supposed to do, but once I found a couple of reference photos I got things organized and put them in properly. Both the bolts needed some PBBlaster to come off cleanly, but other than that it went quick.
The bolt on the driver’s side bottom has been replaced with a Grade 8 bolt, washer and locknut, and I have to get a little time next week to replace the bolt on the other side. She still rides like a truck, but the clanking from under the front suspension has disappeared, which is great.
Also, I had a little time last week to fool around with fill welds after I got my magnetic copper backer, so I ground some paint off a panel scavenged from our old washing machine, drilled some holes in it, and filled them with the welder. It’s obvious I’m a bit too zealous with the angle grinder, as the metal has warped a bit, but overall I’ve got the hang of it, and I think with some careful and judicious application of Bondo I can clean up most of the outstanding holes on the truck.
For the last month or so I’ve noticed clunking coming from the front of the suspension that’s been getting worse, and a couple of Saturdays ago I investigated. I haven’t touched the suspension in the eleven years I’ve had the truck, so I wasn’t going to be shocked if something was loose or broken. What I found was that the driver’s side top shock bushing had pretty much disintegrated and the passenger’s side was right behind it. The driver’s side was moving freely inside the mount, so I started researching repair options and replacement shocks. The ones I inherited are Black Diamond brand, which was a WARN industries sub brand up until the early 2000’s, when WARN got out of the suspension business completely. So there’s little to no information or available parts for these shocks.
Saturday afternoon I thought I’d do a little more research and tried to pull some serial information from the shocks themselves; what I found when I looked at the driver’s side was that the bottom bolt had come loose and the shock was banging around under the truck, completely free from the U-bolt pack.
I sourced a pair of new Grade 8 1/2″ bolts, washers, and locknuts at the local ACE hardware and ordered a set of Energy Suspension bayonet bushings from Amazon, which should be here on Tuesday. I jacked the truck up and reconnected the shock for the time being, and when I get the package on Tuesday I’ll take the wheel back off and put the bushing in properly on both sides.
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.