I left on a business trip last Tuesday afternoon. Less than four hours later, Ariel had finished her work day and was ready to go home. “Not so fast,” said her un-trusty steed, Ringo. Instead of a cranking engine upon the turn of the ignition key, she got nothing but illuminating idiot lights. Fortunately, I had prepared for this oh-so-expected event and left the truck parked at the house just for her usage. Victoria rescued her sister and all was forgotten until Saturday morning when Ariel and I travelled in the truck with the towing equipment bouncing around the bed behind us. Upon our arrival at the mall lot, I inserted the key, gave it a twist, and, sure enough, nothing but two red lights. With the switch left in the On position, I walked to the car’s rear, popped open the engine lid, pulled out the dipstick, unplugged the purple wire, touched the end of the dipstick to the starter end of the now-exposed connector, and bridged the twelve volt circuit by brushing the edge of the dipstick against the positive terminal of the battery. Those gyrations were rewarded with a spin of the starter and an immediately running engine.
Having averted the hassle of dragging the car to the driveway, I instead drove him home. It seemed like every mile added another annoyance to the to-do list – squeaking speedometer, bad brake pulling when pushing the pedal, and intermittent blinker blinking were thusly noted. Later that day, I made a jumper wire with a ring terminal at one end that was attached to the S terminal of the starter solenoid. The other end was covered and routed to a waiting position behind the battery. The next time the key won’t start the car, touching the end of this jumper should get things spinning. On to the brakes.
With the assistance of the lovely Loriann, I confirmed the bad brake sounds was coming from the right front, so off came the wheel followed by the hub exposing the brake components. A quick inspection showed me the shoes still had sufficient liners on them, but the self-adjusting-ness hadn’t been working so these shoes had to travel a lot farther before they contacted the drum – not good. I disassembled all the parts, cleaned things up, lubricated the adjusting screw, put a dab of grease on each of the backing plate’s six contact points, and put everything back together. I spun the adjusting screw widening the shoe spacing until I could just barely slide the drum over the shoes. As expected, given the wear of the drum, once the drum was seated on the spindle, the wheel spun freely. I hand-tightened the bearing nut and did a pedal test of the brakes. The system passed the hard, harder, hardest test and then I seated the nut and retained it with a cotter pin. The wheel was bolted back on, the wheelcover banged back into position, and the car came down off the jackstands. On to the blinkers.
These leaky, old vehicles end up with damp carpets under the dash which accelerates corrosion of any uncoated metal surfaces above. The blinker unit presses into the fuse block and it’s not unusual for this connection to go bad over time. I pulled and reinstalled the blinker a few times thus cleaning off the contacting surfaces and this fixed the intermittency – moving the stalk resulted in a blinking arrow every time. On to the speedometer.
Lying on my back with my legs dangling over the back of the driver’s seat is not the most comfortable position, but it’s what has to be done to remove the speedometer cable and spray liquid graphite onto and into the speedometer’s bushing. Thankfully the can came with a little red tube that one hand could aim while the other pressed down on the spray button. Back on went the cable, and then I was able to unfold my body and fall out of the car. On to the celebratory beer.
PS Ringo’s has started with the key every single time since I used the dipstick bypass Saturday.