My Girl: Gettin' After It!!

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

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

So much to cover...

Deep breath....

I set out to build a new bumper in 3 days. I got nearly done, rushed to mount a solenoid on the third day and drilled a hole in what I thought was my radiator. Panic. Call Dad. Rush to nearest Autozone with radiator in stock 20 miles away. Return home. Open box. Tear down half the truck. Got stuck. Got confused. Phoned friends. Nearly disassembled and the parts aren't the same. Duh. Right part but the wrong thing was damaged. I drilled through the A/C condenser coil, NOT the radiator. The truck will run without AC. No problem. Disaster averted. Button up truck. Return part.

Another day.

Driving around and alternator is screaming. It dies and the truck dies. Call Dad. Pushed into McDonald's lot. Tear down the truck. Swap out with spare that I kept in the back. 5 hours later, it is back running. Great. 5 hours because it is dark and it started snowing. God wanted to punish me for not heeding early warning that alternator was unhappy.

A few weeks later. On a trail showing new guys the ropes. Crash through frozen water crossings. Ice packs up and cracks the radiator at the bottom of the mountain. I get dragged up and back down the mountain. Call tow truck. Wait several hours. Get towed home. No one is happy with me. I'm not happy with me. Really rethinking things.

Epic snowstorm Jonas approaches. Order new radiator and AC coil. Tear down truck. Much more confident now since it is literally the third time in 3 weeks I have removed the air intake and other components. Rip all the guts out. Repaired some bent things. Put new guts in. Jury Rig a new bash plate. Finish truck in time for snow. Save everyone and dig out tons of snow.

That's the short version.

Here is the longer version if I can get through it before either the baby, or the dog, or the wife beckons.

I had to beg, borrow, steal a lot of time from friends and relatives to cover some of my Dad duties so I could make up for the mistakes, short-sightedness, and just plain bad luck I've endured over the past few weeks.

The last FULL post before this one, I see that the truck is still white in the beginning and the first run post camo is covered at the end.

Nick, Dave and I ran trails another weekend and linked up with Ian and Saul down in GWNF. It was good times. I still didn't have bump stops, but those would be coming soon.

I was still running the stinger bar on the second outing since NH tried to rip it off of my frame. At this point, it was definitely on the verge of wanting to separate from the truck. I could not trust it to perform any recoveries. Fortunately, I was also only running easier trails to get some of my buddies acclimated to their trucks and to also flex the recently completed (junior) Titan Swap. On this run, I had just finished adding the top mount spacers. (We'll come back to the topic of 'easy' trails very soon).

So I had one concept of how I was going to redo the bumper. I finished the job that nature started, removing the actual frame horns. And then what I actually saw behind those plates changed my approach. I only had 3 days from start to finish to get something done before my wife's work schedule intensified.

 These brackets were literally tearing away from the frame at the weld. I thought I could clean them up and reattach, but they were too far gone.
 I was not expecting this little internal stiffener plate. Hello, little surprise plate.

 Carnage and mayhem.
 My beloved stinger.
 One of the opportunities I had hoped to take was the chance to weld new weld-nuts to the frame where the prior 4 had all sheered loose. Well, that plate was in the way. I was basically live-tweeting (but on facebook), my progress. Chema suggested cutting this BS out of the way. He was right. It needed to go.
 I had some lengths of this stock tubing remaining from my past bumper concepts. I decided to make frame extensions to help ease some of the geometric considerations of getting the winch as high and tucked in as possible. I inserted these extensions into the frame about 2" or so and then welded to the ends of the frame. From there, I could drill holes through the tubing to make bolted connections to what was left of the front receiver hitch. That was my new plan.

 The solenoid box was in the way during the test fits.
 Used some left over battery cabling from the first iteration of the dual battery setup to wire up relocation extensions. Basically the Superwinch mounting tabs doubled as electrical conductors and the 'mounts' were actually the terminal posts. I had to use the mounts as terminals and devise a new mounting approach. Ultimately my haste led to the errant drill bit hitting the AC condenser in the final moments of the build. It was an avoidable and costly  mistake.

 Decided to use some underbody paint on the grill. I had removed the plastic liners and put split loom on all the brake lines and cables that were exposed. I had paint left over. It's holding up reasonably well. Better surface prep would have improved the results.
 Initial welds. I carried the bead up and over the top and down the other side.

 Multiple test fit efforts.

 The moment my heart sank.
 Ripping everything apart trying to get the 'radiator' replaced.
All the reclaimed coolant. This would have been the triumph shot. Instead this was the "well, it could have been worse" shot.

 Some following weekend, I was back out in the garage getting stuff done. I invited a new member, Niko to swing by to look at his new-to-him truck and see what he might need for recovery points. I set him up with some tools and some stuff I had to donate and put him to work.
 Meanwhile, i worked on finalizing my bump stops and adding front spacers. The spacers were needed in the front to help me clear the spindles while running snow chains. We were planning a joint run at Twin Mountain Offroad Park and there was a chance that the conditions would warrant the use of chains.
 My old man came by for the second time in as many weeks to help watch our little guy so I could get this done.
 The Steves got to town the night before the run. Steve B hung back while Lowbrau eventually made the trek over to the park. I swung by their hotel to deliver a spare wheel that Dukes had sent down with me to give to Steve B. I also gave him my old front tow hook so that he could have one mounted on both sides of his frame.

 John's Unimog.
 Park Landrover.
 We ran into Potter on the highway heading over. I wasn't sure whether or not he was still coming. We hadn't linked up since the last trip to a WV park.
 Nick comes to ALL of the runs.
 Maddy and Marlow got to meet. They're still sorting one another out.
 We linked up with a few of the VAXC guys as well. Ian was all too anxious to recover Shane's Xterra at this obstacle.
Instead of the dense snow or slick sheets of ice we were expecting, we were instead treated to a washed out, permafrost type condition where one could barely get any traction. The off-camber sections of the trails that were cut into the mountainsides were all but impassable. We generally just stayed up in the proving ground area by the park entrance and tested various traction aids. I got my first experience mounting tire chains (incorrectly). But proprietor John Bradshaw was very helpful in helping me get myself sorted out and generally offering advice to all the participants. Many of us are looking forward to returning under drier conditions.

 A couple more of the guys' rigs.
 Since the riding day was a bit shorter than we anticipated, about half of the group rode into town for grub before heading towards Harrisonburg, VA where we were going to rally for a 2nd day of trail riding.

 At the lunch, we talked everyone into considering a night run up Flagpole to even out the day's wheeling opportunity. We would then run Dictum Ridge and 2nd Mountain trail the next day.
 Gassing up at Sheetz.
 Airing down prior to Flagpole.
 The next day, half of the group had camped in the woods. The other half had hoteled or were coming into town to join us. We met at the intersection of 33 and 612.
 Lading the group up Long Run.

 We were all having a good time on this "easy trail", made more interesting by the cold temps and recent snow fall.
 We got to the bottom of the mountain and I jumped out of the truck to play parking attendant in getting all the rigs down to the bottom and turned around. When I got into the truck, the temperature gauge was basically off the dial and the engine was laboring angrily. I thought maybe because I was angled slightly up hill with minimal airflow, maybe the engine had gotten a bit hot. I also thought maybe that air bubble had shifted and was allowing the fluid to get superheated without proper circulation.
 I shifted the truck around to point her down the mountain and popped the hood. This did not help things. I shut her down and hopped to the bed to retrieve my spare fluids. My heart sank as I went to top off the coolant. Fluid immediately rushed out the bottom of the truck. As I looked down, it was immediately apparent why. I had about half of the damn ice from all of the water crossings lodged up into the engine compartment. I had presumed I had enough stout metal in the front of the rig to effectively serve as an icebreaker. It certainly broke the ice. But I had nothing in place to divert it away from the internal components. And it all lodged and wedged until finally something gave way.
 Potter immediately jumped in to help diagnose where the leak(s) were. Here I am performing CPR on the truck. Antifreeze is highly toxic. I probably should NOT have put my mouth directly on the radiator. We were trying to push the last of the fluid out so that we could attempt to JB weld along the crack to make a temporary seal.
 Unfortunately, the failure point was not accessible, and our efforts to dam up the bottom proved unfruitful. Ian put his workhorse to work and dragged my truck almost entirely up the trail. There was only one section where I had to add a bit of coolant, fire up the truck, and help amble her up and over a particularly vexing rock ledge. I've done that trail numerous times without incident. I've not done it completely dead before though. Steering an unpowered truck was a workout and a half.
 Potter helped control the descent of my truck as we meandered down the switchbacks of Long Run. Saul called around once we got cell reception to identify the best value for a long haul recovery service. Nick called out directions for changes in upcoming terrain so that Ian and I could coordinate our maneuvers. It definitely ruined the second half of the day and took well into the evening to resolve. The one positive is that I learned that the bumper and bracket extensions were indeed up to the task of supporting vehicle recovery. The whole ordeal was essentially a multitude of successive snatches and recoveries all the way up the mountain. I was certain that at least the bolted connections might have shifted a bit where I had oversized the holes for better tolerance. It didn't shift not one iota of an inch. I was at least happy about that. Another photo of the truck at the Pilot gas station where the driver stopped for fuel became internet famous on the Mid Atlantic Overland Society. Mike recognized my truck and added me to the group. I was able to offer up a quick synopsis of the harrowing journey that had led to that point.

 I was immensely grateful to the guys that hung back and helped get me out of that tight spot. I owe those dudes big. I was once again in the position of my truck being incapacitated on the eve of a time where I might need it most.

Wednesday  night, a small clipper system breezed through and completely paralyzed our area. It was embarrassing because it was literally 3/4 of an inch. I was in my dad's Pilot that he loaned to me, and it took all of my learned offroading skill to keep it on the road and avoid others who were haphazardly revving and spinning wheels. I knew I had to get Veronica back at whatever expense was necessary.

I ordered replacement radiator and condenser coils and worked all morning Thursday to get ready for the snow. I had no assurance she would even start for me once I got the parts in, but I had to try. Friday, in between bouts of snow, I worked up a temporary bash plate to block the void that had allowed all of the ice to logjam into the engine bay. In between bouts of shoveling snow, I readied the first prototype and took her on her first maiden voyage. I wanted to test to see if the added strain of operating 4WD in heavy snow might cause the temp to spike. Fortunately then and all this week, she's maintained steady operating temps.

I took her on a short road trip back up to see Dukes and buy the Titan half shafts off of him. No temperature spikes or erratic operating the full way up or back.

I've got a few emissions codes to clear and some general, preventive maintenance to knock out. But I think she's back. And I'm glad. This is the year of our epic return to Moab. And I want to make sure that the first truck to introduce me to offroading and escort me to Utah the first go round is ready and able to make her triumphant return 4 years later.

Fingers crossed.

Wish us luck.