Thursday, April 10, 2014

Thoughts on Project Cars and Never-Ending Repairs and Upgrades

Project cars are a wonderful thing. They provide you with a chance to tinker on a vehicle in an effort to build a rig the way you want it. Of course, they also provide an endless source of things to do both from a repair and upgrade perspective. And often times one project can lead to many more.

Case in point: Last weekend I intended on installing my new front skidplate on the Teal Terror, aka, project 1995 Suzuki Sidekick. The plate installs using only four bolts, and should have went on in no time flat. However, just as I was about to go out to the driveway and begin working, I remembered that my beefy skidplate would cover my oil pan and filter and the trucklet was due for an oil change. Well, looks like an oil change is now on the docket, and of course, I didn't have the oil I needed at home. 

Off to Bi-Mart I went in search of oil. Bi-Mart is like a K Mart, but a lot better and far less depressing. Well, while im there, I might as well pick up a few other things I need: thread lock, oil for the WRX, cold medicine, cleaning products, toothpaste, and a few other things.

An hour later, I'm home. Let's get this oil change done. Oops: my oil change drain pan is still full from the last change. Got to drain that. Alright, onto the actual oil change! 20 min later, we're changed out and ready to get working on that skidplate.

The four 12mm bolts simply screw into existing holes on the frame. I've learned to test out those unused holes before going at a project, especially on the Suzuki because 1) it's 19 years old and 2) it sees off road duty. Those holes can get rusty, the threads can get screwed up, and so on. Sure enough, the holes were filled with mud and the threads were rusty and a bit chewed up. Out comes the 8mm 1.25 tap. I went and cleaned up all four holes. By the way, a tap and die set is a worthwhile investment if you've got an older project car. I use this way more than I ever expected.

I attached the rear two bolts, but now there's a problem with the front. I had bent my frame last year on an off-road trail. And despite having it professionally straightened, it was a couple millimeters off. In order for me to get it to flare out a couple millimeters, I used a floor jack to get the skidplate in place. Then, I banged on it with a rubber mallet to position it. Et viola! Success. Accomplishment. I am all that is man! 

Now onto some maintenance. I decided to redo the bolts on my WARN 4WD hubs, which have been backing out. I used some red thread lock and my newly purchased hex sockets to torque them down. How did I live without these sockets before? No more measly little allen wrenches!

With that done, I needed to start the search for the illusive reverse light switch. Why? Because my backup lights aren't working. This switch is annoyingly located in top of the transmission, is difficult to reach, and is now coated in 19 years worth of crud. While I did locate it and was able to unplug it, I decided not to pull it in the interest of time. It will need to be tackled soon.

While on my under-truck expedition in search of the reverse switch, I discovered I had a broken exhaust hanger. That would answer one question: What's that damn rattling from under the car? Well, it's more like only one of the rattles, but I'll take what I can get. A trip to the Internet yielded none of these nonstandard rubber hangers for sale. On Monday I called our former Suzuki dealer and was able to order one. I was told it was one of six in the country. Lucky me.

Later that day, encouraged by my discovery of the broken hanger, attempted the futile task of trying to reduce some of the squeaks and rattles inside the truck. Although I wedged some rubber bits into nooks and crannies here and there, I'm not sure any of my pseudo handy work paid off as the truck still rattles as if only half the bolts in the car were ever installed. I did successfully make my finicky rear tailgate close properly, however. It did require countless little adjustments, some lubricant, and animal sacrifice, though. Hey, you need to celebrate the little victories.

As evidenced, the work on a project car is never done. But the Teal Terror serves as a nice bit of garage therapy from time to time, and has been worth every penny, every drop of blood, sweat, and tears I've put into it. Now I just need to get those darn rock sliders installed that I've had for months!

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