What started as a simple "point A to point B" truck has now turned into a full blown project. The truck is a 1987 Ram 50 with the 2.6L and 5 speed transmission. I bought the truck with the intention of strictly using it to get to work and back, but we all know how us car guys are. That is never the case.
Here is the truck the day I bought her:
She needed work. Previous owner said that he couldn't get her to start, but it would turn over. After looking over the truck, I realized that the spark plug wires seemed to be the wrong length for the respective plug and rotor cap. I quickly shook hands with an agreeing price of $200, figuring the worst thing would be scrapping the truck and getting back what I bought it for.
After towing her home and doing a little research, I found out that the spark plug wires were hooked up in the wrong order. With a glimmer of hope on the horizon, I ran outside and switched around the wires, said a silent prayer, and turned the key. With some hesitation, the engine began to turn over. After about 10 full seconds of hesitation, to my surprise the engine sputtered and fired up! I had a steal of a deal! I bought the truck for $200 and all that was wrong was the firing order!
Or so I thought. After the truck started, I decided to let the truck run for a little white since it had not previously been started since 2009. Ignoring what should have been some obvious signs of an impending problem, I shrugged off the white smoke coming out of the tail pipe as carbon buildup. After 15 minutes of it running and reving up the engine, I took it for a spin around the block. Boy did I feel like a fat kid in a candy store. I was ready to go tell my wife that I was right and the truck wasn't a money pit, blah blah blah. When I came back and parked the truck, 2 things were very evident.
Problem #1: She started smoking. Again. This time, it looked like a rain cloud behind my truck.
Problem #2: In my mood of excitement, I failed to pay attention to all of my gauges. (You know where this is going)
I quickly shut down the truck and the smell of hot metal hit me all of a sudden. In a worried panic, I opened the hook in an effort to cool the engine down enough so I could check the antifreeze level. To my surprise, the radiator was bone dry. So dry there appeared to be cob webs just below the filler neck. I sighed and smirked at my stupidity. I should have checked to make sure there was antifreeze. With a sign of relief, I decided to call it a night and get antifreeze tomorrow.
The next day I had training, so I work up early. After training I went to DMV to get the truck's registration current (it was last registered in 2007) and get the title in my name. (Did I mention that it was a clean title?) And of course, I stopped by my local friendly Autozone to get some 50/50 diluted antifreeze. I got home, filled up the radiator, and let it sit for about 4 hours. I wanted to see if there was a radiator leak, or if the guy before me didn't have it filled up. I pack up my things and start to head out to work, really excited to show off my "new" truck, now known as the "Pantydropper". To my pleasant surprise, there was not a drop of fluid on the ground under my truck, and the radiator appeared to have fluid in it still. I sat my happy butt in the driver seat, and drove the truck to work where it would ultimately meet its demise.
This time, I knew to pay attention to the temperature gauge. About 10 minutes into a 15 minute drive to work, I noticed that the gauge began to read hot again. I was only 5 minutes away from work, and was in a part of town that stopping would be against my better judgement. So I muscled her in and pulled up to my shop. I shut her off, and the smell of hot metal hit me in the face again. I began to get concerned, and figured I'd let her cool down and start her up in an hour.
When I come back outside, I check the radiator level, and it is dry. Again. I check under the truck, and couldn't see anything (it had began to rain on my way to work so it was hard to tell). When I go to crank her over, she wouldn't start. At this point a couple of my coworkers come out and help me out. One shot starter fluid into the carb, and after a few tries she barely started. This time, she was smoking so bad that we had to shut her off before we drew too much attention. (We are airplane mechanics. White smoke right next to a flightline full of airplanes tends to make people's hearts pound faster) That was when the inevitable was realized, I needed a new head gasket.
Fast forward to yesterday. I towed my truck to the shop and began to tear into her. I popped off the valve cover, and the oil was creamy white. Phew, at least I was on the right track and knew it was a head gasket! Right? So I continue pulling everything out. Carb, timing chain, distributor, etc. Even the exhaust and intake manifolds came off with very little convincing. (Just sprayed some WD40 on it aboutevery 10 minutes up until I pulled them off). I pulled off the head and my heart sank. Not only did the head gasket appear to not be damaged, but it appeared to be new.
So after some cursing and throwing wrenches, I decided to look at the head. And here is what I found...
Crack #1: A crack roughly one half inch in length, wide enough to get your fingernail in.
Crack #2: A crack that goes into the valve guide, once we got the valve out the crack was roughly 6 inches in total length.
Crack #3: A crack that goes between the intake and exhaust valves, Only a quarter to half inch in lengh, but very wide.
What had started off as a motivated day with a "can do" attitude, was abruptly halted. I quickly called around to the junk yards and to any auto parts stores around here that were still open, and nobody had any Ram 50s or MMs. What was I to do? I wasn't ready to scrap this truck. So I found a website, Auto Parts Warehouse. Not only did they have the exact head I needed (a new one, not used or refurbished) but they also ship to Alaska! So I went ahead and places an order on the following:
ReplacementREPC315801Cylinder Head - Direct fit
FelproES72860Cylinder Head Bolt - Direct fit:
AutoTrust SilverD312503Engine Gasket Set - Cylinder head, Direct fit
I am hoping that these parts will get here in a week or less, but I won't hold my breath. In the mean time, I pulled off all the usable parts on the old head and decided that I had enough for the day, and would work on cleaning them up later.
So here I am today, telling you my life story. I went back to the shop and decided to take a closer look at the valves and see if they were reusable or not. To my relief, they all were.
Here is what I started with. Carbon contaminated, gunk built up valves. It looks like there could be some sort of life form living inside of that carbon.
With time ticking away, I got to cleaning. I used the sandblasting cabinet and a wire wheel. The key is to be patient. 27 year old valves with 230,000 miles aren't going to be cleaned easily. What I did was sandblast each valve individually, to get off the built up gunk. When I got off all that I could, I took it to the wire wheel for a finer cleaning method. Once I wire wheeled off everything that was apparent to the naked eye, I sandblasted it one more time followed by one more wire wheel. This ensured that there was nothing left on there and left a like new feel of a finish to it.
Prior to sandblasting:
Post sandblasting, but prior wire wheel:
And here is the semi-finished product. (Still had one more step to do which I will explain momentarily)
The difference was night and day. Now, a second ago I said there was one more step. It was to grind the valve head to be an exact 45 degrees, and to flatted out the stem. I do this so if there was any warping or tweaking of the valve, it will be a direct seal on the new head. I used this machine to do that:
The finished product was night and day, and it saved me a ton of money from buying new valves. Here is a comparison:
I am now playing the waiting game. As soon as the new components get here, I will post an update. In the meantime, I plan to enjoy this 70 degrees Alaskan weather that I haven't had since last year. If you have any questions feel free to ask and if you have suggestions, I am always open to ideas. As you have guessed, this truck is going to be a full blown restoration. My plan is to do it right, starting with the engine. I'm sorry that this may not be slammed or lifted or have new shiny wheels just yet, but what good is a truck if it doesn't run?
I appreciate you guys taking the time to read this and look forward to giving you more updates!