My Girl: Gettin' After It!!

My Girl: Gettin' After It!!
My truck on her maiden voyage in Moab 2012

Sunday, November 22, 2015

It's a long way to the top...

Where we last left off, my truck was busted, had no front drive axles, had a shifted rear axle, and was leaking rear diff oil among other maladies. Veronica's story is one of redemption. I haven't posted in a while, because I am a central character in her that I pay for the parts and do a lot of the wrenching (and breaking).

So this post gets us back up to date.

 After seeing one of the FJ Cruiser owners tout this device's usefulness, it was one of my first acquisitions upon returning home. It is a combination bottle jack and jackstand. It is a nifty little thing to have. It aided me in resolving several of the issues with the truck and in doing so safely.
 I got home basically Monday morning at 2am and had to limp through the work week as the shift got progressively worse.
 So Angel taught me to distrust seeing shiny metal anywhere on a truck that is driven offroad. Basically it means that anything that is supposed to be exposed would already have a nice haze of mud, dirt, and road debris. Anything that is shiny is normally not exposed. In this case, here is a shiny portion of my truck's main drive shaft. It should not be this far out at rest. It can extend to allow the axle to articulate, but then it should tuck back away.
 And here is why. That hole is where the leaf pack centering bolt should be. And it should be in the CENTER of that spring perch assembly and capped nicely by the bump stop.

 The bolt was sheared into 3 pieces. It is almost impressive.
 AK gave me a heads up that this was likely what I was dealing with. So I already  had new leaf pack bolts on order. I also took this as an opportunity to do a U-bolt flip and ordered PRG's Titan flip kit. The purpose of this is to invert the positioning of the u-bolts that hold the axle to the leaf springs so that the nuts and the extra threads point upward out of harm's way instead of being oriented downwards where the nut is often impacted by rocks and rendered unserviceable.
 My old bolt.
 Flipped it. Just prior to cutting down the new U-bolts
 This positioning is MUCH better.

I no longer need you, Nissan Spring Hanger Assembly part

So that was one item down. I still needed to restore 4WD functionality.

People can be so inconsiderate
Flashback to this past summer. I was at a local Radio Shack looking for parts to help set up my buddy's radio. When I returned to the truck, some @ss with a red vehicle had carelessly swung their door into mine. They realized the damage and then quickly left the scene. I was only in the RS for maybe 10-15 minutes tops. No note or anything. I have obviously done greater damage prior to this and even more since, but I was incensed at this very moment. I immediately drove from RS to Home Depot and purchased copious amounts of camouflage paint. I had always toyed with the idea of camo-ing out some beater truck, but I wouldn't dream of doing that to a nice truck with a still somewhat decent paint job. (This is despite my frequent lamentations of how easily the paint on the truck chips). Anyway, once this happened, I just felt like, "if no one else has regard for my property, I don't either!"

When I had calmed down though, I realized I had no practical experience in painting a vehicle and was unsure of how well it would be maintained or how long it would last. In cooling off, I rationalized that I would maybe do a test project of a smaller scale first before committing to doing the whole truck. Before I got the cap, I figured I could at least do the hood which had suffered some rust staining from the bracket that was holding my hi lift. After I got the cap, I figured I could do the cap since it didn't match my truck anyway.

But then when I had beaten almost every part of the truck body in NH, "caution" finally gave way to "opportunity".

Fans of this blog will recognize this grill
 The day I went to visit the Duke was unseasonably warm. Before I had brutalized the truck, the Duke had offered up a steeply discounted smattering of components he had previously utilized on an earlier iteration of his truck's Titan Swap. At the price, it could not be ignored. I chimed in to express interest. After the disaster which was my drive train came to pass, his offer was a necessity. My suspension components were nearing 120K miles worth of use on the aftermarket portions; the stock components were at nearly 140K. It was going to be time to start replacing those parts anyway. And I had priced it up. The Titan Swap, although impressive, was a good ways outside of my desired price range considering quality components at a less extreme portion of the spectrum could be obtained. But with the discount the Duke offered, it was comparable in cost to what I was considering doing anyway.
 Although people seem to enjoy reading the blog, no one ever seems to enjoy being the subject of a photo. Case in point, the Duke.
 So I had driven up there with the intent of really just giving the man the money I had promised prior to the trip. I had asked if he could hold on to it until I got back from NH just because I couldn't forecast what all of my costs on that excursion might be, but I knew I could pull together the agreed upon funds within a few weeks of my return. Well, by the time of my visit, he was well aware of the calamity that had befallen the truck and that I was still grappling with how to extract the retained portions of the CV halfshaft splines from within the differential.

"Alright, let's drop your diff and get it out there."

I was not expecting that at all. I became the Duke's helper as he guided me through dropping the skids, dropping the diff and ultimately getting the splines out of there. It ended up coming out in two layered pieces. Each time, he welded a scrap piece of metal to it, grabbed the scrap with vice grips, and yanked the spline shaft out. The internals appeared no worse for wear. He even tried to help me track down replacement seals while I was up there as he was willing to help me replace them there on the spot. What a dude this Duke is?!

The parts had to be ordered; no one had them in stock. I thanked him for his commitment of extra time to the cause of helping me get the truck back on the road. He also loaded me up with a cache of spares that he was no longer wanting to have kicking around the garage.

 With the weather being so nice, I thought it might be a good time to look into removing some of the decals.
 I hated the way the hood looked with the rust stains from the old bracket up there. Coupled with the dent on the door and the mismatched cap, I had reached my tipping point.
 I went out that night and bought more primer and more camo paint. I was going to try to tackle the whole truck.
 There were definitely some lessons learned. I don't know why I think I'll have good outcomes working on the truck at night. I only get anything done when others are sleeping. And then I'm probably too exhausted to either think of or follow prudent precautions.
 The temperature dropped over night. I started having adhesion problems with the brown color in particular. So that lead to some finish irregularities in a few spots.

Lighting was poor in my garage during the night which forced me to just chance it out in the sun during the light of day once daybreak came. That, of course, exposed me to wind and lead to some more diffuse patterning and overspray at times.

All in all though, it has grown on me, flaws and all. I kind of like it.

One of a few final 'BEFORE' pictures
 I got another warm weekend and decided to make a go at the swap. I took a Friday off to get a jump start on what needed to be done. I had hopes of having it buttoned up by Saturday afternoon in order to take it to get an alignment.

I had a work event Friday night for which I had to stop a bit early to get dressed for that. And (here's some foreshadowing), I ran into some trouble which extended me through most of the afternoon Saturday.
Sex on a blanket
 By Wednesday of this particular week, all of the key components had arrived. I had to order my own coilovers, tie rod extensions, extended brake lines, rear shackles and rear shocks. The Duke had provided me with the stock Titan lower control arms, some cloned after-market upper control arms, the extended CV half shafts, and some Titan outer tie rod ends which I am holding onto until I get some Titan inners to replace my original hardware coupled with the extension piece.
 I watched some YouTube videos; so, I was now a pro and ready to tackle the job.
 First I had to work on installing the new stainless steel extended brake lines. I watched a tutorial on how to bleed one's brakes. My Dad came over to make sure no one died. This was after I had used the torch to heat up the tie rod like the video told me to do. On the other side, I was just able to get it to budge using my sheer will. Maybe I should have tried harder on this side? I did attempt it without the torch, because generally I think I am stronger than I actually am. So says the 11th Strongest Man in the State of MD 2015 (in the under 200 lb weight class that knew about the event, trained for it somewhat, showed up, and competed. These are all of the qualifiers and modifiers that my friend Paul makes me issue anytime I speak of contest results. Paul is a lawyer. And a hater.).
 Thanks to Angel's coaching, I was now a pro at partially tearing down a suspension setup to allow for removal of CV shafts. Since nature had decided to aid my removal, that was just one less step.
 One difficulty I encountered on the first day was that the lower control arm bolts had seized within the bushings. A quick call to Angel confirmed what I had suspected; I was going to need to Sawzall those b*tches out. At first, I remember seeing Angel cutting all manner of bolts and fasteners off of his truck. I was thinking to myself quietly, "Man, this guy just does not want to use a wrench". But after trying to service my old u-bolts during the Flip Kit work, I realized that there are often times that the bolts become unserviceable and it is just more expeditious to quite literally cut your losses and replace with new.

 In the case of the lower control arms, I had already opted to order new camber bolts from PRG as well. So I had ready replacements on hand once the old ones proved they would otherwise be inextricable.

I had a few struggles with the lower retaining bolt which connects the spindle to the lower control arm. A few other fasteners resisted me a bit as well. My main struggle which had me ready to phone a friend was the installation of the inner splines of the CV half shafts.I had a serious case of beginner's luck up in NH when I first succeeded in getting the passenger side to slide into place on only the third try. I did issue an SOS over facebook. The members of my club were compassionate and concerned. But they also largely told me to nut up and do it myself. Haha. I actually gave up for a while on the driver side and started tearing down and rebuilding the passenger side. Then the passenger side gave me a bit of trouble for maybe 3 minutes before plunking right into place. By then, I had regained my mojo and the driver side quickly followed suit.
 My alignment was terrible though. I cheated the tie rods on the driver's side way, way, way in just to get that wheel kind of sort of pointing the same way as the other. I was fortunate to have a Sears near me that had an auto shop that was open on Sunday. I was able to secure a noon appointment the night before.
  My wife had something to do or something; so, I had to get the boy up and ready and drag him along to the shop. Even with a wonky alignment, the truck rode great.
When I got there, the techs were all like, WTF. One simply walked away after muttering, "Do an alignment...on THIS?!" he hadn't even seen any of the components up close. My truck was getting subjected to paint color prejudice. Another tech was up to the challenge. J and I walked around Sears and then played in a nearby field while it was getting worked on.
Junior Titan Swap problems
So I know they usually drive your vehicle afterwards to make sure it worked out well, but this one tech in particularly must have really been exhilarated by driving the truck. He was throttling the hell out of Veronica.
 I didn't get around to putting the shackles on in the rear. I have a family of ball busters. If I spend too much time by myself, they start bothering me. Like, "When are you going to shower?" "Why haven't you gone to sleep?" Who worries about those types of things, honestly?! Not when there is painting or sexy suspension work to be done.
I do have wheel spacers to even out the stance in the rear. I wasn't in any particular rush to jack up the back since the front suspension really just leveled out the truck. The shackles would restore the rake, I guess. I'll probably get to that over Thanksgiving break.

With the alignment done, I was looking for an opportunity to confirm that 4WD was in fact working and to test out the suspension travel under controlled conditions.

Another guy had posted in the group about going to GWNF. I was a bit hesitant. When Nick chimed in separately about really wanting to get out in his new Jeep, it encouraged me to reconsider...provided I could finish some trimming that appeared necessary following the alignment. I also wanted to try to get new bump stop positions figured out.

 Once again, I was working through the night on Friday in hopes of being ready for Saturday morning's shakedown run in GWNF. We would be going to Dictum Ridge and Second Mountain trails. I've run both before and knew the terrain wouldn't be too severe. I wanted to make sure I had cleared enough metal to prevent rubbing during full suspension travel.
 I started with fitting the skids back up. And that proved challenging since many of the skids had been banged sufficiently hard to result in deformation. In this instance, I had to use a floor jack (to hold the skid) and jack stands to support a hi-lift used in vice mode to compress it to align with the mounting studs.

I had a failed attempt at getting a bump stop in place on the driver side. There was too much free play, and I feared it might shift into interference with the CV shaft. Ultimately, I cut it off and figured I just wouldn't wheel too hard. I hadn't seen my buddy, Nick in a while. I was anxious to see him and the new Jeep in action.

 We met up at a West Marine that was central to both of our locations.
 Ultimately, the third party ended up bailing. Surprise, surprise. But we ended up having a great day on the trails.

 Gassing up at the end of the day. We ran Dictum first from top to bottom. Then broke for a late lunch at the intersection of the two trail heads before heading down and back up Second Mountain. J mostly was chill on this trip. He got a bit fussy for the first mile of Dictum before settling down.
 With the front wheels now extending a good bit beyond the wheel wells, there was considerably more spray along the body.

 Since my decals arrived, it seemed like a good opportunity to clean up a portion of the truck to allow them to be applied.
Already a long post, but I feel like I might have omitted some detail here and there. Truck is back up and running in 4wd. But I do feel like I'm getting back to where I want the truck to be.