Refreshing 2nd gen Dodge 4×4 steering and suspension trackbar

The inverted-y steering and front end of the 2nd gen Dodge 4×4 truck, tasked with suspending the heavy duty Cummins motor, needed a major refreshing. Even with a solid front Dana 60 axle and stock ride height, the tie rod ends and trackbar in the suspension were clearly tired.

Took the opportunity to replace all the steering and drag link, tie rod ends, and trackbar with greaseable Moog units. The factory trackbar design on the 2nd gen is an upper tie rod end to a bracket on the driver’s side frame rail, and a lower bushing end bolted to the axle. Worn or loose trackbars are notorious for causing steering death wobble.

In addition to refreshing the steering, also added a steering box brace by BD Diesel, which spans the frame rails and captures the steering box sector shaft in double shear with a pillow block bearing. The brace bolts to the frame under the factory sway bar mounts, so went ahead and replaced the oil and diesel soaked bushings with new Moog rubber. Lastly, wrapped up with a laser alignment to set toe angle.

Dodge CAD Dana 60 conversion to manual cable actuation

1994-2002 Dodge 4×4 trucks with the front Dana 60 use a vacuum actuated CAD: center axle disconnect. The system relies on a gear driven vacuum pump off the Cummins motor and plastic tubing leading to the external diaphragm and actuator in the passenger side axle tube, next to the low pinion differential. Inside the CAD assembly is a shift fork that slides a splined collar to engage and disengage the 2 inner axle shafts.

For a truck with cracked or leaking vacuum lines under the hood, the CAD does not engage (incidentally along with related HVAC mode selector), which then prevents the powertrain from reaching the front axle. Also, the open vacuum system will indicate an erroneous 4×4 engagement on the dashboard even with the transfer case in 2wd.

To resolve, added a 4x4Posi-Lok manual cable to engage the shift fork in the CAD housing. The benefit is firstly the manual actuation independent of the vacuum system, and secondly the ability to manually disengage even in 4×4 low range, to run 2wd in low range (similar to running a manual locking front hub axle unlocked in 4×4 low range).

Installation requires routing the thick actuator cable through the firewall and down to the axle housing. The diaphragm and factory CAD cover is eliminated in place of a new cover to reuse the fork and accept the push-pull cable, which then mounts to a bracket in the cockpit below the dash. Also took the opportunity to service and change front differential fluid.

Resolving overheating 12 valve Cummins turbo diesel

Truck overheated on a cool winter, late afternoon, while crawling up a hill in snarling Los Angeles traffic. Was slowly inching alongside a highway detour to bypass a wreck as it poured cats and dogs from the atmospheric river before Christmas 2021.

As I crested the hilltop, noticed a late model Dodge truck pulled over on the shoulder with its hood up, steam billowing out like a geyser. Ouch, I thought, that’ll slow down their journey. That’s when I glanced down at my own temperature gauge and saw the needle pinned in the read at 230*F !?

Immediately pulled over and shut the 12 valve Cummins down. What’s going on? The cooling system on the relatively new to me truck hadn’t yet been gone through, as it hadn’t exhibited any major problems.

Although, it did once spit out some coolant from the passenger side lower vent and onto the transmission tunnel carpet, months ago when first test driving and taking delivery of the truck from the desert. Coolant would never came out again. That indicated a heater core, so early on procured a replacement unit but was certainly not looking forward to the invasive procedure under the brittle dash to reach it. The original dash lived under a felt pad and was miraculously intact save a single crank.

Along with anticipating a heater core and the imminent day I’d open up the coolant system, had also procured a Cummins 180*F thermostat, Gates water pump, and 6 gallons of Zerex diesel coolant , the premixed red solution.

Prior preventative on the motor was simply a new radiator cap and fan clutch as the original would not spin freely by hand.

Waiting for the truck to cool on the side of the road from an overheat would take ages. So I flipped on my white & amber light bar to strobe over the cab and coasted down the shoulder at engine idle speed to get some air flow over the radiator, merged back into traffic all while willing the head gasket to hold together.

The temperature gauge still would not come out of the red, so in order to ram more air over the radiator, hooked a right at the end of the road and into the direction of reverse traffic. The motor finally started to cool as the truck got up to speed and I dropped the transmission into neutral to bring the RPMs down to idle while coasting.

Likely a sticking thermostat, at the most inopportune time on a trip before the Christmas holiday and hundreds of miles away from home in weather!

Made it home in the middle of the night after avoiding further gridlock traffic and without further temperature spikes. No evidence of water in motor oil, nor oil in coolant. Now to diagnose.

First, started with a coolant flush by uncorking the radiator petcock and draining out the very dark green fluid. Next, added a coolant system detergent and topped off with distilled water to begin flushing process. The cooling system for the 12 valve takes a total of 6 gallons including reservoir capacity, and about 3 gallons come out at a time from the petcock with closed thermostat.

Upon 2 cycles of flushing and topping with distilled water, both test drives on the freeway exhibited erratic temperature where it would climb to 200*F on its way to overheating, then the thermostat would finally open and drop the temp to normal 180*F operating temp. Happened at exactly the same freeway exit both times so exhibiting consistent behavior.

Next, by passed the heater core by taking one of the 5/8″ ID heat hoses to the firewall and creating a u-turn back to the motor. The truck still continued to show erratic temperature.

Finally, time to break the seal on the thermostat housing and get to the likely root cause. Thankfully on the 12 valve Cummins it is relatively easy to get to, requiring removing the accessory belt, unbolting and loosening the alternator bracket to pivot it out of the way, and 3 bolts that fasten the thermostat housing.

The intent now is to isolate and test the thermostat in boiling water, and continue to flush the system now completely open without a thermstat.

Interesting how the flushing drastically changed color once rust tinted water from the cast iron block is drained, as opposed to only from the aluminum radiator.

To test the thermostat and verify it sticking, simply boiled a pot of water on the stove and used a pyrometer to measure when the thermostat was in fact opening. Turns out it indeed didn’t open until over 200*F.

Continued flushing the open coolant system with water and detergent. The diesel motor certainly does not like starting after sitting all night in the 30’s*F temperature, and of course will not warm up without a thermostat even on surface streets.

Took the opportunity to also verify the new thermostat, rated to open at 180*F, indeed operates normally with the stovetop boil test. Final phase of flushing was to use a garden hose and flush the radiator with lower hose disconnected, and also open the petcock drain and poke it clear of any debris; then likewise flush into the motor from the upper hose.

Wrapped up the resolution by installing the new thermostat and seals, reconnected the heater core with new hose, topped off the coolant, and recycled used engine coolant at a proper disposal facility.

Cummins 12v turbo diesel joins the fleet – April 2021

::Welcome to the Fleet:::

1997 Dodge Ram 2500 4×4 5.9L 12 valve Cummins intercooled turbo diesel, extended (club, sail B-pillars and non suicide doors) cab long bed, 47RE 4spd automatic transmission, ball joint Dana 60 front axle, NP241 t-case, Dana 70 rear axle and 3.55 gears. Fleet truck white with a lined long box interior.

Drove this 2nd gen Cummins home the 450 miles from Death Valley, where it spent at least the past 10 years as a work truck on a desert resort property, hauling heavy trailer loads and campers. The previous owner has since moved on to 3500’s and up.

Needs some TLC and a thorough mechanical baseline. I like to get to know my rigs and touch all the systems this way. Here’s how I get down my first Cummins turbo diesel, a 12 valve 5.9 liter inline 6. I start under the hood, and then pull each wheel to service every corner of the truck.

Before we even begin, right away, initial accolade is mad respect, for this is the first vehicle that has made it from Death Valley to the SF Bay Area on a single tank of fuel, as taken delivery of. 35 gallon capacity this truck

12 valve Cummins, inline 6 cylinder intercooled turbo diesel

Started with a basic oil change, using a blend of 10 quarts of 15W-40 Motorcraft plus 1 quart of 5W-40 Rotella T6, and a WIX oil filter. Interesting to note that a 12 valve Cummins only takes 11 quarts of oil, compared to the 7.3L Powerstroke that requires 15 quarts. I have found that the Cummins 12v warms up and reaches operating temperature way faster than the 7.3L Powerstroke. Waaay faster.

Next up, WIX fuel filter and 3 new o-rings for the canister filtration system, and learning to prime the P-pump fuel system using the air plunger attached to the lift pump.

Upon taking out the unknown fuel filter that came with the truck, and am taking precautions to treat algae and microbes in the fuel system with Biobor JF Diesel Biocide and Lubricity Additive. 1 fluid ounce treats and ‘shocks’ 40 gallons of diesel.

fuel filter that came with the truck compared to new WIX filter

The 2nd gen Rams are set up with a single tank of fuel, 32 gallons capacity according to the owners manual. I often run HPDE B20 which is a 20% biodiesel blend by Propel Fuels.

With a fuel pickup all the way down to the bottom of the tank, the top ranges based on MPG averages:

32 gal tank @ 20mpg = 640 miles (1030km) range maximum

32 gal tank @ 15mpg = 480 miles

32gal tank @ 12mpg = 384 miles

32gal tank @ 9 mpg = 288 miles range (460km) range maximums

Front unit bearings and disc brakes

On to the front axle, replaced front hubs the Dana 60 with MOOG unit bearings. These are similar to what are found on late model jeeps and 4x4s that do not have a manual locking hub (which is more common on Ford drivelines) and instead use vacuum actuation.

Front wheel hubs bolt to the outer knuckle of the truck’s Dana 60, using a total of 4 M14x1.5 bolts. Previous owner had indicated the passenger side bearing seems to require more attention, which upon replacing, discovered was loosely attached with only 3 of 4 bolts. Note, the thread pitch is strikingly similar to the English tread 9/16″-18 used for wheel studs, yet are not to be interchanged. The factory bolts are 12pt and 14mm socket fits well; the replacements are 6pt hex also 14mm.

Coming from the high pinion Dana 60 (hpD60) balljoint axle with manual locking hubs used on the OBS Ford, I’ll have to take the Dodge version on the trail to evaluate my preference.

It seems possible to swap outer knuckles at the u-joint, so the Dodge can run a set of manual locking hubs, instead of relying on only the 4×4 Posi-Lok cable actuation.

All new front slotted and vented disc brake rotors and pads. Spindle lock nut is removed by a Powerbuilt 1-11/16″ spindle nut socket.

Rear hub bearings and drum brakes

In the rear, found a leaking hub seal on the driver side and leaking wheel cylinder on the passenger side. The Dana/Spicer 70 got fitted with new rear axle seals and Timken tapered roller bearings and races, 80W-90 gear oil and 4 ounces of Yukon limited slip additive in the rear differential, all new ACDelco rivetted brake shoes, ACDelco wheel cylinders, and Carlson drum brake hardware.

Rear hub lock nut is removed with a 2-9/16″ socket by Alltrade.

These nylock nuts to hold the rear hub bearing assembly on the full floating spindle, can be purchased new by Dorman.

2008 KTM 530 EXC-R Water Pump Weeping | Seal Replacement

On the new XC-4 motors that KTM introduced in 2008, it was found the water pump seal was installed backwards from the factory, with the spring oriented in the wrong direction. It seals, but eventually fails.

My pump developed a leak shortly after a week of King of the Hammers 2021. x hours and x miles

To access the seal,

  1. Remove the water pump cover bolts 8mm and cover to expose the impeller
  2. Remove the impeller bolt 10mm
  3. Pry off the impeller and spacer

Now the water pump seal will be visible, and if installed backwards, the spring will be pointed towards the engine and out of view.

To remove the seal, force compressed air up the weep hole to pop out the seal.

7.3L Powerstroke diesel – Rapid cold start reliability

06:50 outside of Capitol Reef National Park, Utah

14* Fahrenheit (-9* Celsius) ambient temperature

Elevation 5200 feet (1580 meters)

14*F 06:50 outside of Capitol Reef NP

Cold starts taking longer, requiring several glow plug cycles, and also first notice of an oil leak originating from the oil cooler in the mornings. In this video, am running Motorcraft 15W-40 synthetic oil (https://amzn.to/39hTMX8) along with factory glow plug relay and plugs, valve cover harnesses, and a remanufactured alternator.

Batteries are Optima red tops (over a year old, replaced both at the same time) and starter is a non Denso unit purchased retail from an O’rielly’s part store.


Improvements made for rapid cold starts

10:30 Plumas National Forest, California

15* Fahrenheit (-9.5* Celsius) ambient temperature

Elevation 5900 feet (1800 meters)

Truck now has a brand new oil cooler and gaskets (https://amzn.to/3t3tRui), see my separate write up about this repair, which requires draining motor oil and coolant.

New oil filter and refilled with

This is a California emissions truck with a factory shunt at the GPR, and the shunt was eliminated with the new GPR by stacking the wire terminals on the GPR post.

This setup has produced by far the fastest, most reliable, rapid cold starts. Batteries are Optima red tops over a year old, alternator is a high output 220 amp unit, and starter is a lifetime warranty unit (non Denso) from a retail O’rielly’s parts store.

With a volt meter in the cigarette lighter of the truck (https://amzn.to/369gKO4), batteries at rest read 12.3 volts.

  1. When the wait to start (WTS) light and glow plugs are energized for their duration the voltage reads 10.9 volts.
  2. When cranking the voltage drops all the way down to 9.0 volts.
  3. Lastly, when the alternator is charging and motor is running, voltage reaches 14.3 volts.

Driveline resonance |OBS F350 7.3L Powerstroke SRW 4×4 rear driveshaft to pinion yoke ujoint repair

The truck developed a nasty driveline vibration at about 2000 RPM going down the freeway, causing the dashboard in particular to rattle and resonate.

Stabbing the accelerator up to 2500 RPM, or simply lifting and coming off the pedal, would bring the truck out of resonance with an audible metallic clanking as the driveline unloads.

These are symptoms of a worn universal joint (u-joint) in the rear driveshaft. Mine was the link to the locked 10.25″ Sterling rear axle pinion yoke.

Thankfully when caught, the u-joint hadn’t completely sheared apart. The cups first wear into the u-joint crossshaft, causing the needle bearings to fall out and for the crossshaft to wedge itself off-center in the yoke under the u-joint straps.

Single rear wheel 4×4, double cardon front and single u-joint rear driveshaft, regular cab long bed.

Found a replacement in stock at a local parts store and changed the u-joint right in their parking lot.

Napa Auto Parts p/n UJ331

Tools needed:

Torx T-45 bit to remove the 4x driveshaft strap bolts,

Pliers to squeeze and remove the inner retaining clips,

Large socket as a drift and

Hammer to extract and reinstall the ujoint caps.

Disassembly

  1. Mark relationship between balanced driveshaft and pinion yoke, to reinstall in the same orientation.
  2. Apply penetrating oil to the ujoint caps at the yoke ears
  3. The u-joint only has internal retaining clips outboard of the caps. Remove with pliers, and knock out the caps with the large socket and hammer.
  4. Knock out one u-joint cup at a time, in the same direction. The u-joint comes out between the yoke ears.

Assembly

  1. Install new cups one at a time, using u-joint cross shafts to hold needle bearings in place.
  2. Strike hammer against socket only, do not hit the new u-joint cap directly with a metal hammer.
  3. Insert new retaining clips and ensure u-joint pivots smoothly.
  4. Smack driveshaft yoke ears with the hammer if u-joint is tight and binds.
  5. Reattach balanced driveshaft in marked positive relative to rear axle yoke.
  6. Retorque bolts after test drive and wear in.

CEL P1391 & P1393 |OBS 7.3L Powerstroke | Glow plugs, valve cover gaskets & wiring harness, glow plug relay

Addressing check engine light for DTC’s P1391 and P1393: Glow Plug Circuit Low Input Bank 1 & 2.

Started by replacing all 8x Motorcraft glow plugs, but after checking resistance of each plug, found them all to be acceptable, low ohms.  Went ahead and checked resistance of new glow plugs and installed all new.

Next, replaced both valve cover gaskets with units from Napa Auto Parts (p/n 600-3501) which integrates the wiring harness between the gasket and under valve cover harness (UVCH) to eliminate the 2 connectors under the valve cover. 

For valve cover installation, there are tabs molded into the gasket to indicate the bottom orientation of the gasket. 

It is important to manage the wiring under the valve cover to ensure wires do not get pinched and short circuited above or below the gasket. 

A pinched injector wire causes a miss and can fry the glow plug relay and cause the truck to run terribly.

California emissions 7.3L Powerstroke glow plug relay with shunt.

Replaced factory glow plug relay (GPR) with a White Rogers unit https://amzn.to/3rlKmB5, and eliminated the shunt by connecting the ring terminals to the GPR post.

Creating a Craiglist saved-search for specific vehicle criteria

Use keywords and search criteria for specific vehicle features. A Craigslist saved-search can be setup for an email alert every time listings are posted that fits all search criteria.

For example, if I’m in the market for the newest possible California diesel manual 4×4 long bed rigs that are smog exempt, a saved CL search would look like the following:

  • Category: Cars & Trucks
  • For Sale: by Owner
  • Max Year: 1997
  • Fuel: diesel
  • Transmission: manual
  • Drive: 4wd
  • Keywords: long bed

Even with zero results with these criteria, CL will email an alert once a fitting ad is listed.

Another example, I’m in the market for a California smog-exempt manual Jeep to build as a trail rig: