CC Maintenance and Possible Refurbishment: 1991 Dodge Power Ram 150 – Feel The Heat!

Recently I came to a crossroads of sorts with my old Dodge.  It was losing coolant at an alarming rate.  Typically there are only two locations coolant will evacuate the premises – onto the ground, which was dry, or out the tailpipe.  This wasn’t good and I could easily see my figurative line in the sand regarding the old girl.

However, one mustn’t forget about that third, highly obscure and inexpensive possibility – the radiator cap.  A bad one will allow coolant to mist out when the engine is warm.  There were no signs of it doing so and the seal looked neither old nor rotten.  Despite that, a $9 radiator cap solved the problem.

Figuring the old girl now had another lease on life, I figured it was time for some deferred maintenance and repair.  Goodness knows that is cheaper than buying something else, which I was seriously looking at doing.

My first order of business was getting heat restored after its three year sabbatical.  My trusty multimeter had told me long ago there was no power to the blower motor.  Sometime after that, a sweet smelling mist blasting into the cabin one cold morning indicated the heater core had retired.  The lack of heat was obviously a two-fold problem.

Thus, the Dodge journeyed to a Coworker’s house.  Coworker has a respectable auto repair business on the side.

One day while the Dodge was at Coworker’s house he stopped by my office.  After talking about a few work-related things, he pivoted to the Dodge.  Coworker said the rust above the rear wheels had been fixed and he would not charge me for it.  I was compelled to ask how that came about.

It seems Coworker had been approached by an auto-body man seeking referrals.  Coworker, one of the more disarmingly shrewd people I know, asked auto-body man to provide an example of his work.  Auto-body man could not do so.

Coworker then said something along the lines of “Well, what can you do with that two-tone Dodge sitting out there?  And don’t mess up that pin-stripe.”  And that was that.  Coworker said it’s not perfect, the patch is pure body filler, but it should last a few years before I have to worry about it again.

Works for me.

As a quick aside, a week or so earlier I had been looking for used beds on the Facepage Supermarket site.  I got excited one evening when I found a guy in Boonville who had two perfect beds for sale.  Both were already off the chassis.  Boonville is an hour away, so I was getting excited.  Then I looked closer.  He was in Booneville… Mississippi.  That superfluous “e” made my trip escalate from 50 miles to 450 miles.

The route to Booneville would take me through Corinth, Mississippi, home of Corinthian Leather.  Last I was in Corinth, a lady had a storefront where she was selling awesome tamales for $0.25 each.

This picture is not my truck, but of another Dodge.  It was provided to me upon asking about the replacement process on a Facepage group.  Coworker got the heater core replaced and my heat will now make your cheeks burn.  It’s awesome and the blower motor has never gone above its lowest speed setting.  One could likely smoke meat in the cab if you placed some wood chips in front of the vents and the heat was turned up full-blast.

Life is full of coincidences.  A while back I stumbled upon this YouTube channel.  Somehow it got my attention.  Further capturing my attention was this Jason has a 1987 Dodge pickup and an ongoing series of videos about it.  One of the more recent ones inspired me as he discussed overlooked maintenance items on one’s groovy Dodge pickup.

This led to my next two projects, both of which were completed within an hour.

Sitting on the passenger’s side valve cover is this thing.  It’s the crankcase breather.  Mine was still sitting there, ignored and unmolested since having been placed there at the factory 30-odd years ago.  I obtained the new one from or some such website for about $5.  Likely less.

The inside of my old crankcase breather was really black and sooty and nasty looking.  It just needed to go.

While it is impossible to quantify, and perhaps it is the placebo effect, but the old Dodge seems to be running a bit smoother now and it seems happier at highway speeds than it had been.  Granted, I also replaced the air filter, but I’m guessing the old thing simply breathes better now.

The other maintenance item, which makes tremendous sense, is changing the power steering fluid.

This little thing is awesome.  I’m not advertising it as other fluid extractors are available.  This just happens to be the one I bought.  It’s a big, long straw that will suck fluid out of pretty much anything.

Despite the power steering fluid reservoir being deep in the engine bay on the Dodge, this gadget worked great for removing the incredibly dark and sludge-y power steering fluid.  Since the job was so simple, I also changed the power steering fluid in our 2000 Ford Econoline.  Both still had the factory fluid.

This picture was taken a few days later; the area beneath the cap is wet only because I topped it off immediately before taking this picture and did not use a funnel.  That protective coating on the engine block is not as bad as it appears in this picture.

A week or so after doing these tasks the six year-old battery gave up.  The starter had been laboring to turn the engine over for a couple days and a battery test at a big box auto parts store revealed the battery was down to 325 cold cranking amps despite its 650 amp rating.  325 amps is not enough for a Chrysler 318 in 30 degree Fahrenheit temperatures.  So I spent some time yesterday installing a new battery.  It has like 900 cold cranking amps.

The old thing turns over considerably faster than it did.

Here’s another video without all the buzzers.  I’m not sure why I called it “door ringers”.  Oh well.

While I was there, I thought I’d look at the PCV valve on the driver’s side valve cover.  It was plastic, meaning it’s been replaced.  The problem is I don’t remember having done so, although I’m guessing I did.  Regardless, I wanted to check it out.

Plastic is wonderful, isn’t it?  This gave me the chance to inspect the innards of my PCV valve, which is obviously ruined, but I also had the privilege of using pliers to extricate the stump from the valve cover.  Thankfully I had another valve to install… also plastic.  But I got it for $0.59 on close-out, so there is a positive in this.

So where do I go from here?  My wife and I agreed spending a few dollars here and there on this pickup is much cheaper than buying something different.  Plus, I still don’t put that many miles on this thing, which further diminishes the need for something different.  But now that the rust is (temporarily) fixed, my mind wanders to the “what if?” territory.

The four grille inserts are looking mighty washed out.  They are removable and could easily be painted.

They were quite black when new.  A little spray paint would do wonders.

But the grille itself is cracked or frayed in multiple locations.

When changing the battery yesterday, the delaminated chrome-y layer was getting caught in my shirt.  Replacement grilles, without the four inserts, can be had for less than $100.

Plus, the wheels are begging for attention.  Do I paint them?

Or do I do something different as seen here?  Frankly, I would prefer a set of factory, non-steel wheels.  I did find a set 20 minutes away from Booneville, Mississippi, so I could make the trip more worthwhile.

Regardless, the old Dodge is back to being in good overall health.  Why would it not be?  These were the best American pickups made from 1972 to 1993, and it takes a lot to keep a good thing down.