F100 Chronicles: If It’s Been Broken In Many Places For Years Maybe It’s Finally Time To Fix Them

If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.  I used to think that was my operating principle about many things in life, especially cars and houses. But if truth be told, it’s more like If it still functions minimally, don’t fix it. Case in point: in the last couple of years, my ’66 F100 had lost the following functions: heater and defroster, turn signals, one brake light, instrument panel lights, and any semblance of suspension damping and steering accuracy. In addition to these operating issues, rust had turned the floor boards into Swiss cheese as well as perforated the roof in two places. The windows rattled. Oh, and the battery was totally unsecured. And the windshield leaked. And…

Given that this summer involved a bit more staying at home and the rentals were fairly undemanding, I decided to break my modus (non)operandi, and tackle these issues. It’s really the first time I’ve done anything but just the bare minimum necessary to keep it running. No worries though; I’m not going to restore it. Just preserve it.

#1: Heater/defroster

Two years ago, I was greeted by the unmistakable smell of coolant when I turned the heater on, as well as a puddle on the floor. It was just heading into winter and I just didn’t feel like tackling it. So I bought a couple of rubber hose ends, yanked the heater hoses off the outlets on the engine, and plugged them.

I saw that as a temporary measure, as I was sure I’d hate not having a heater. But it wasn’t as bad as I expected. Our winters for the most part aren’t really cold, with typical January daytime temps around 40-45 degrees F. I don’t use the truck much in the winter, and when I do, they’re short runs to the transfer station, lumber yard or the yard materials outfit. And I had the dog along to generate a bit of warmth.

But when I embarked on this course of corrective measures, the heater was high on the list. So I ordered a core and yanked the old heater out. Yes, it had been leaking. And yes, this wasn’t the original, as there was lots of silicone in places where I wouldn’t have expected it to be, including where the tubes went through the firewall.

But it wasn’t just the core that needed replacing. A large quantity of organic material had found its way into the heater box.

I thought it might have been mice or rats, but it looks to just have naturally accumulated from falling in through the fresh air intake vents in front of the windshield.

I decided to do a bit more investigation, opened the floor fresh air vent (poor man’s a/c), and reached my hand down into the outlet drain in the wall cavity. It was totally plugged up. I slowly extricated a large amount of debris, and as I worked my way down lower, it was more like silt. Once I got it all out, I put a hose in there and flushed the rest out. I finally have functioning vent system drains again!

And I finally figured out why I haven’t been able to flip the lever between Heat and Defrost in quite a few years (fortunately it had been stuck in between, which is a blend of both). It was a stick in there that blocked the mechanism.

I even splurged for new heater hoses!

The original flexible ducting is starting to get a bit brittle and fragile, but it was intact enough to reuse.

The heater now works like new again, and I can actually switch between the various modes. What a luxury! I just took it out today, and it was so nice and toasty in there! I can finally retire the hairshirt.

 

#2: Battery Hold Down & Cable

 

I’ve gone through a few battery hold downs over the decades, and after the last one rusted away, I just didn’t bother. I avoid hard braking (or more like it’s incapable of that), and that applies to other G-force maneuvers. So the battery sat there quite politely. But hey, if I’m going to fix stuff, I might as well do this too. I ‘ve found these little anti-corrosion battery post felt things to work well. Oh, and I took the advice of a commenter who noticed that my positive cable had a funky clamp, and bought a nice new cable. I did replace the ground cable a few years back, so that’s got a few decades in it yet.

 

#3 Repair radiator:

 

(Some of you are going to moan and groan). Back in 2017, the slow leak in the radiator was getting worse and worse. I replaced the original with a $10 junkyard one about 20 years ago, but those days are long over. I took it to a couple of radiator shops, but their price to essentially rebuild it was shockingly more than a new one. The radiator repair business is history; in fact one of the two places shut down not long after.

So I went to Amazon and found one for under $100. Yes, the kind with plastic tanks top and bottom, with an aluminum core. If I’d looked a bit more and not just grabbed the cheapest one, I could have gotten an all-aluminum one for not a whole lot more, but I didn’t.

And sure enough, this past spring it started leaking, from a tiny crack near the filler tube. Jeez. It fulfilled all the stereotypes of cheap junky replacement parts. So I did a bit of YouTube research, and found that one can weld these. It just takes a soldering iron and some more of the right glass-bead filled nylon. So I bought a hose fitting for a couple of bucks, making sure it had the right kind of plastic. And then I ground away some of the existing material to expose the crack better, and then drilled two tiny holes on each end of the crack to help keep it from spreading. And then welded over it with material from the fitting.

There’s the end result. So far so good. But I’m realistic that it might not be a long term fix.

 

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