Sunday, December 4, 2005

New Truck, New Todo's

A used vehicle combined with my intolerance for anything other than mechanical perfection leads to one thing: a maintenance fest! Unfortunately I didn't have this new site up while all this maintenance was going on. Had it been up the following would have been much more detailed, but this will at least bring us up to date:

The first thing I needed to do was install a car alarm and remote start. Rather than pay some chump to install one for me I got to thinking... I could install it myself. I'm quite qualified in electronics and automotive electrical, if I do say so myself. Besides, nobody is going to take the same care with my vehicle that I would. Then I started thinking some more... There are companies out there that sell pre-FCC-certified transmitter and receiver combinations. I could fab up my own system! I did some more research and found out, in this case, I could buy an adequate pre-fab system at a fraction of the cost it would take for me to create a one-off. I ended up buying a Viper 791XV online. The price was very right! At under $200, it was a fraction of retail and I didn't have to pay some installer to screw up the wiring. The installation was a piece of cake, but keep in mind this is coming from a guy who programs microcontrollers and designs printed circuit boards for fun. Anyway, it is working nicely and is a real treat on those cold morning!

One item down!

The next item I had to deal with was getting a topper (a.k.a cap, lid, etc.) for the truck. First, let me go on record as saying I think toppers make trucks look lame! Only members of the AARP need to own toppers! I do however have a dog and rather than be one of those red necks that (very dangerously) let their dog ride around in a uncovered bed, I opted for the AARP-endorsed option.

I wasn't about to spend $1000+ on a new topper. After all, this is a used truck! I found one that was nice enough on eBay. It was structurally sound and was of approximately the style I wanted. I bought it (for a steal) and took it to my body shop guy at Hills Body Shop in Howard City, MI. He squirted on a nice coat of paint and it matches the truck's paint quite well. I told him I really didn't need perfection (on this job) as it was a used topper and a used truck and the topper wasn't even going to be on it in the warm months (unless the dog goes for a ride). That's the other advantage of a topper - it keeps the salt and crud out of the bed and helps a little with corrosion prevention in the winter.

Two down!

The remaining significant item that needed to be dealt with was the ABS. At low speeds (< 5 MPH) the ABS would activate. It was very annoying but also would likely have evolved into an unsafe condition. It is a known issue with these trucks and has a very simple cure. The problem is caused by one or both of the front wheel speed sensors being pushed away from the tone ring by corrosion on the mounting surface. It is almost like moving a microphone further away from your mouth. When the vehicle slows down to a certain point, the ABS computer no longer sees a signal coming from that wheel and assumes it has locked up. It begins to pulse the hydraulics and the vehicle stops.

The fix was simply to pull the sensor out, plug the hole that goes into the wheel hub with a bit of paper towel, then polish the surface with sand paper or similar abrasive. I greased the mounting surfaces liberally with synthetic grease to repel water (and prevent corrosion) and mounted the sensor back in the hole. Viola! Problem solved. And ABS works great too. I've "used" it several times now that the snow has fallen and the truck stops straight and smooth.

All done! At least until spring...

There are a few other items that I want to do when it warms up. I purchased a rust counteracting paint that I want to treat the entire frame with as I plan on keeping this truck for a long time. I also want to replace the door hinge bushings (another known issue on these trucks) to deal with some door sag. Of course, there are plenty of other things I want to do, but now I think I'm just inventing things to keep me busy!