Now that a vehicle was chosen in the second part of The Great Beater Challenge I need to get it prepared for the almost 1,300 km trip. At the top of the priority list is a working charging system. Given the the mountainous route having braking and cooling systems in top notch shape would definitely be an asset. Additionally given limited space and funds I need to decide on what tools and spare parts should make it into my emergency repair kit.
While we had managed to limp home the Aries without the battery charging I had two choices; I could travel with a trunk-full of cheap batteries or fix the charging system. While swapping through a supply of cheap junkyard sourced batteries would likely earn me bonus points it made sense to fix the charging system. I was working under a time crunch so I immediately ordered an alternator from an online vendor as it was much cheaper than sourcing locally. I should have done my research and troubleshooting before however. Comments byand both indicated that the car’s computer brain was more likely at fault than the alternator. Further research confirmed this to be a rather common issue. Rather than replacing a hard to source ECU an external voltage regulator from a Dodge pickup truck can be used. Sounded like a good excuse to head to the local junkyard.
The junkyard had a selection of five suitable Dodge pickup trucks but three had already had their regulators harvested. Since they are quite affordable I figured I would grab both of the remaining units. As a nice bonus the operator gave me a two for one deal so I snagged both for $10 + tax. The headlight lens on my wife’s minivan are rather opaque and yellow so I also managed to obtain a much better set at the same time. This screw driver was sitting on the ground next to where I parked which was a nice bonus as it can go straight into the emergency repair kit.
After studying the diagrams and instructions I temporarily wired everything into place.
Success! I just had to go back to properly protect and route the wires. Given that I cannot practically return the new alternator at this point I will stow it and the spare regulator in the trunk.
Treating the car to fresh oil and a filter is some cheap insurance. Given the color that the oil came out I would say it was due for a change. As you can see the front cross-member has been well lubricated by the engine over the years. Rust prevention like the British used to do. The murky looking coolant was also swapped out which is a job I do not particular enjoy due to the high likely-hood of mess creation. On the plus side the brake pads looked brand new so nothing to sort there.
I had also purchased a new timing belt but when I took the cover off the existing one still looked decent. Given the time constraints I decided to run the current one and tossed the new belt into the trunk. I would have ordered this regardless as it is a valuable spare part that I hope not to need.
The interior of the car was actually quite clean when I got it which is a minor miracle for a cheap vehicle but I did a slightly deeper clean. Usually in inexpensive vehicles there are some interesting items to find. After I acquired my old Lada Niva I did not even realize that the back seat was missing until I cleaned it. I also found a pair of used ladies underwear and a few random tools among the trash but no backseat. The Reliant Scimitar I owned briefly had a FuzzyBuster II early radar detector as well as some very rusty horse riding gear. The Aries however had no real secrets to spill. The trunk had some ragged seat covers while the interior held two old air fresheners, two screwdrivers, one pencil and a dime. I like the older look of the strawberry freshener so I hung that one the rear view mirror although any scent it once provided has long ago faded. The dime can be applied against my budget I suppose bringing the effective purchase price down to $299.90.
I got a bit of a surprise when I went to register the car as I had been under the assumption that it was a 1982 but it is in fact a 1983 model. There is not much of a specification or functional difference but there was a bit of an awkward moment at the registry (Alberta’s version of the DMV) when my bill of sale said 1982 and their computer said 1983. After some subtle cajoling the registration process proceeded. Unfortunately I could not buy just one month worth of registration as I planned but due to the particular rules about rolling expiry dates on plates and the first letter of my last name I had to purchase registration up until the end of October 2017. I will receive some sort of partial refund if and when I decide to sell the Aries.
I have driven the car a handful of times to give it a bit of test before heading out. Ideally I could have been driving it to work and back for the last couple weeks but hopefully any other bugs will surface over the next day or two. We had our first frost this week with overnight temperatures hitting the freezing mark which I hope is similar to what we will see in the mountains on Saturday night. The Aries started a little reluctantly and took a couple minutes to warm up. I suspect the auto-choke is barely functional or non-functional. However given my mixed track record of repairing carburetors I am not going to attempt a fix with only days to go.
As far as driving impressions go the Aries is softly sprung and does not want to be pushed hard around the corners but floats down the road in a reasonably pleasant way. It sort of oozes up to speed with a rather mushy throttle pedal. You give it a bit of gas, nothing happens. A bit more gas and still nothing. Then a touch more and it downshifts, roars and slowly builds momentum. My fuel injected 1986 Chrysler LeBaron was no sports car but felt like it had double the power. I am not a stranger to slow cars (having owned a Mercedes 220D and Nissan Micra among others) but I am a little worried that I will be crawling up the mountain passes with the engine screaming in second gear.
The final budget sits at:
- 1983 Dodge Aries SE: $300
- Oil and coolant: $33.56
- Filter: $8.70
- Found money: -$0.10
- Junkyard voltage regulators: $10.50
- Salvaged electrical wire: $2 (fair market value)
This brings the total to $354.66 Cdn which is approximately $269 US at the current exchange rate. It appears that I managed to come in at around half the allowed budget. I am not including the alternator and timing belt that I bought since they never made it onto the car but those were an additional $82.65.
Packing a road kit for the trip is an important task with a questionable condition car. I have to balance weight and bulk against the likely-hood of using a particular item. A contributing complication is the fact that I also need to bring camping gear for the Saturday overnight stay but do not want to overload the Aries. Given these constraints I have the following earmarked for inclusion.
- Spare battery, alternator, and voltage regulator.
- Booster cables.
- Oil, coolant, transmission fluid
- Selection of wrenches and sockets. Tire wrench. Jack.
- Screwdrivers, pliers.
- Electrical tape, spare wire, a few electrical fitting ends.
- Tube of gasket maker.
- Zip ties.
- Cell phone and charger.
- Spare tire.
- Spare timing belt.
- Tire pressure gauge.
- First aid kit.
For the team name I have stuck with ‘Special K’ like the cereal with the car nickname ‘Dodgey Aries’. As far as a costume goes I have a cigar and a vintage green suit jacket that I hope looks enough like Lee Iacocca. I am hopeful that I will not need to make any emergency roadside repairs but given there are eleven or so teams participating chances are high that someone will need to do some roadside work during the event. Anything you would add or subtract from the kit? Wish me luck as I head out Saturday morning!
The whole series:
CC Road Trip: The Great Beater Challenge, Part 1 – Vehicle Selection
CC Road Trip: The Great Beater Challenge, Part 2 – 1983 Dodge Aries Purchased
CC Road Trip: The Great Beater Challenge, Part 3 – Vehicle Preparation
The Great Beater Challenge: Day 1, Part 1 – Off To A Slow Start
The Great Beater Challenge: Day 1, Part 2 – Rain, Rain, and a Hotel with Character
The Great Beater Challenge: Day 2, Part 1 – The Big Climb
The Great Beater Challenge: Day 2, Part 2– Finale
I am enjoying the excitement as you prepare to head off into the unknown. You seem to have all of the problems identified. Keeping those parts in the trunk should guarantee that those are not the ones that will fail. I am convinced that my keeping a spare ballast resistor in the glove boxes of my many Mopars over the years was cause of having no more than one failure – which happened before I started carrying the spare.
I guess you can think of that dime as the kind of rebate that you can expect when buying a car in this price range. It doesn’t seem right to buy a Chrysler of the Iacocca era without a rebate of some kind.
Buy a car, get a dime! 🙂
A surprisingly pleasant little car for a beater challenge.
Your ten-cent rebate is probably a gimme. I once bought a 15 year old 1972 Pontiac, and found an old wallet stuffed between the carpet panels when I installed a stereo. I can’t remember the total, but it contained over $200.00. In your case, that would be quite a claim to make to the officials.
(I bought the car from a flipper, and it appeared the money had been in the car since 1975 based on the dates on the bills. From what I knew, the original owner was deceased. So, I kept the rebate.)
A free stereo!
Check your windshield wiper blades, replace if necessary, then keep the old ones as a spare during your trip. Washer fluid bottle. Empty gallon jug and funnel, in the event you need to add water or fluids. I had to replace my old brittle wiper blades during a snow storm in Bryce National Park during my earlier Spring 2016 cross country trip, be prepared. Also stock spare fuses in your glove box. Add a in-car charger for your cell phone. A roll of duct tape, self explanatory for all sorts of repairs including hose repairs.
Good luck to you and Dodgey Aries, David. I look forward to reading all about the trip.
I would toss in -two- of those cans of ‘Fix-a-Flat’ stuff, to be sure you never need them. A can of starter fluid is nice to have for cars that don’t like to start on cold days. I like to have a small roll of decent gauge electrical wire, a wire stripper, and a few yards of ‘baling wire et al’ for rehanging exhaust pipes or whatever. Finally, I don’t see a roll of duct tape in your list..
Sir: an old car should never travel without a roll of duct tape. Geelongvic is correct about that, the new wiperblades, and the fuses too…
Oh – and a small pillow for your back… lotsa miles in 35 year-old seats that weren’t very comfortable new are coming your way
Special K…..what could go wrong….?
Duct tape is definitely necessary; might want to make it the high-temp stuff in case you need an impromptu hose repair. And speaking of belts, what about a spare serpentine belt or v-belt(s), whichever is appropriate?
Spying the stock radio, for those long stretches where you won’t have any reception, might want to load some music onto your phone and bring a bluetooth portable speaker. Or, if it has a deck and you want to be period-correct, cassettes? (This is assuming you’re not the type of person who doesn’t like music in the car. I don’t understand those people. I doubt an ’83 Aries has the type of musical exhaust note that you’ll want to hear for hours on end…)
And it’s already frosting at night up there? Wow. I don’t think we’ve broken 50 (Fahrenheit) yet, and most nights it’s still in the 60’s.
Here in southwestern Indiana it is definitely still summer, highs in the mid to upper 80’s with oppressive humidity. Typically the first frost here is not until late October/ early November, although there have been years where we have seen frost in the first week of October. There have been maybe five nights we have been able to turn off the A/C since June (I like sleeping with the windows open but do not like trying to sleep in a puddle of my own sweat).
As a general rule no matter how many spares you take you probably won’t have what you need when something quits. If it were me I would just travel light and hope for the best Good luck!!!
Also, not sure if this has happened to anyone else but the past several days new articles posted here no longer show up in my email inbox. Before I would get a notification when a new article was published but no longer. Not sure if I did something to change this (don’t think I did), or if something changed on the site and I need to make an adjustment. Not a major issue to be sure but just curious.
Also, not sure if this has happened to anyone else but the past several days new articles posted here no longer show up in my email inbox.
New posts on threads I have posted on are not showing up in my e-mail.
I receive the e-mail from CC and click the link to subscribe to notifications for the thread, and see the listing showing I am subscribed to the thread, but I never receive the notifications.
I’m seeing the exact same problem. I was wondering if it was just my email or if something else has gone sideways. (Replying three days later because I didn’t see these replies except by manually going back through the comments…)
Speaking of timing, if you haven’t yet I would check ignition timing. Could be a source of the low power if it’s off.
Duct tape. Make sure it’s good quality, not the cheap stuff. Never leave home without it. So far here 47 degrees is about as low has it’s dropped.
Maybe starter fluid if your worried about cold starts.
Only $300 for the car? Can’t beat that!
Too late to edit. Also check for plugged cat convertor if timing is correct..
I beat that.
I bought a 1972 Dodge Dart for $400.
I sold it, when it would not back-up for $195 and I had driven it 100,000 miles.
Thank you all for the feedback. I will definitely be adding a few items like duct tape. A funnel is definitely another must have item.
Music is definitely an idea. I’m not sure what facilities I have to charge devices on the other end. Not sure the cigarette lighter works on the Aries as it has a cheap Bic lighter sitting in the ash tray. Thankfully no trace of cigarette smell in the car itself.
You should be able to find a multiple 12v + USB power point to double stick tape under the dash. Easy enough to find a safe place to tap into power even if it is the quick and dirty fuse tab.
I think you’ve got what you need covered (though the HT duct tape, fuses, and fix-a-flat are great suggestions).
If it had been me, I would sourced a spare carb and fuel pump as those like to play games(I think on the carb Aries the fuel pump is on the engine block.
Also make sure you have a couple of flashlights and batteries
Good luck to both you and the Dodgey Aries. I’ve made a similar trip in the past: in 2003, I bought a ’73 Marquis Brougham, flew to Denver and drove it home to San Francisco, only replacing the brakes and tires before the trip began. It was quite an adventure with only one unscheduled repair — the alternator gave up on the first leg of the trip, and I fixed it in an AutoZone parking lot in Laramie, WY, with the “help” of a drunken local. I know you’ll have a great time.
What about your fuel and air filters? I’ve been taking a spare fuel filter on my trips in the Galaxie.
A few spare bulbs for brake lights and turn signals may not hurt.
Get a spare Hall effect sensor for the distributor. They are known to fail with regularity. $25 or less.
God luck and have fun !!
Highly recommended as that was always one of the top reasons that era of Chrysler would leave you stranded.
Several gallons of water or your favorite tea, and some energy dense compact snacks like nuts or granola bars. Check the stereo- a CD player is a good thing or at least a radio unless you want to converse with your companion or just be alone with your thoughts the whole trip.
One of the first things i do when I buy a car is change the fuel filter because there’s no way of telling how long it’s been since its was changed. And check the air filter. Only other thing I would do is add a bottle of Lucus fuel treatment when you stop for the gas the first time. Have fun and keep us updated! I wish I was going!
Many of the steel can fuel filters that I’ve used have the date and time of mfg printed on them. Yeah it doesn’t give you when it was actually replaced but you know it can’t be older than a certain date. Of course after time that ink may fade to the point that it isn’t readable anymore.
A nylon tow strap (if the law allows it in Canada). Many’s the time it saved me a towing bill in my beater days.
Hey David – From personal experience if the secondary is seized up it’ll make it doggier than usual.
I love your spirit of adventure! Can’t wait for the next update!
We’ve had some light frost here in southern Ontario and the temps at night are getting quite chilly. I am excited for your journey! I think the Dodgey will make it ok and should be pretty comfy too as it has the upgraded split bench seats with armrests – they were way better than the base bench ones.
Don’t remember if you mentioned it in episode 1 or 2, but…………..Check your spare tire!
Wish I could ride shotgun with you. Been doing the “fantasy” version of your adventure. SoCal used car prices made it tough, but I found a 1986 Ford Escort for $350 US on Craigslist. Running, registered, newer tires, brakes, and struts. Charging system issues. Really crappy respray. I think it would have fit right in. Cheering for your success!
+1 for the fuel filter change. Cheap insurance.
Fitting an inline fuel filter is a good precaution and one I do on most old used bombs I have bought but Ive set off on longer trips than your challenge with just checking the oil airing up the tyres and a full tank and made it usually in cars I’d already driven for a few weeks and got the ‘feel’ of though not always, a few hand tools are worth it but spares? unless its something known to be a problem what ever you carry wont break just take gear to bypass problems and get it running again, good luck/
Have a safe trip.
I would ensure tire pressures are where they should be and windows are clean (outside and inside) as it helps eliminate eye strain. And don’t you want a clear view of the scenery anyway?
“Special K” for Chrysler K Car! They’re Special alright! LOL!
The cars were absolutely essential to Chrysler’s survival; loan guarantees had been granted based partly on the existence of the K-cars in the engineering rooms, and the existing products could not sell well enough to keep the company viable. It was absolutely essential to sell hundreds of thousands of the little K-cars, or Chrysler would fail, and tens of thousands of people would walk the unemployment lines, slamming America’s economy. Chrysler had lost nearly $2 billion in 1980.
Thanks to the K-cars, they were profitable by 1983.
I’m still curious if yours is a leaded-fuel model (no catalytic converter, no “Unleaded Gasoline Only” labels on dashboard or near fuel filler).
I had a 1980 Dodge Maxivan that was a leaded fuel model. Used to stall randomly if you used unleaded. Not sure when they stopped selling the leaded models. 1983 seems a bit late but its really hard to get Canadian specific information. No owner’s manual came with this car.
Amazing what people leave in their old cars.
I was looking at an 8 year old VW Rabbit a few months ago and, when inspecting the spare tire, found in the tire well several pieces of candy, odds and ends, and a very nice small Mag-lite flashlight, which immediately found a new home in my pocket.
Looking for the missing jack retaining bolt in my beater Focus, I found about half a dozen pens and a pad of post-its, but not the bolt.
Pulled up the console in my old beater Civic several years ago, and found several dollars worth of change that had fallen through the slot for the e-brake handle.
When my Aunt asked me to sell her Civic, I asked if she had cleaned it out. “Oh yes” she said. I opened the console and found several dollars. Opened the glove box and found several dollars more. Can’t remember how much was in there. Probably at least $20.
Happy driving in your Dodge-y Aries. 😀 Hope you arrive at your destination with as little fuss as possible!
Found a similar one on Craigslist for $495 if anyone wants to take a chance. I’d buy it but my parking lot has reached capacity.