Tuesday, September 18, 2007

New truck and camping

Zeke's girlfriend, Vicki, gave us her 97 Dodge Dakota. I have been spending a lot of time on it. Probably too much time as
there are much more pressing chores around the house to get done.The first thing I accomplished was just throwing away garbage. That was the easy part. It paid well too as this truck seems
to be stocked up pretty well with spare change.One of the first things that had to be fixed on the truck was the headlights. The worked intermittently. The windshield
wipers were busted too. The wipers where as simple as a trip to the Autoparts store. The lights took more digging.Following wiring around a vehicle is not an easy task. I started by checking the connections to the lights themselves.
Playing with that didn't seem to affect whether or not the where on.I then checked the wires leading up in to the truck and I couldn't find anything obvious.I then decided to check from the switch inside the truck and see what I could find. After unscrewing a bunch of stuff I
discovered that the assembly you use to turn the lights on and off had a burnt out plug.I first took the part up to Discount Auto Parts. The guy there said it was a dealer item and they where likely to charge me
over $100 for it. I was hoping this was just the kind of advice you would get at a discount store and headed up to NAPA.
The guy there seemed skeptical they would have it and told me that I may have to go to the dealer and pay over $100 for it.He searched on his computer and wrote down a bunch of number. After a while he came back with the exact right part.when I plugged it in I still had problems as one of three wires that had been crimped together had come undone. I bought
some new crimps at Wal-Mart and promptly lost them so I fixed it with a little electrical tape.The same day I fixed the lights one of the lights went out. After I replaced it I was in good shape.Now that the truck was in a condition that I could drive it without having worry about it raining or being dark I started
using it a lot. The girls really love riding around in it. It's a very family-like fealing having the two girls piled up
next to me (with their seatbelts on of course) in the bench seat.On an attempt to leave town for a camping trip the truck stalled out and wouldn't crank. The engine would turn over but it
wouldn't start. After a 30 minute dinner at Burger King it cranked back up and took us home. It has never done it again
since then, but now I don't trust it.For good measure I changed out the spark plugs. This turned out harder than I expected only because the wires did not easily
unfasten from the plugs. It was a real pain getting each one off. The rest of the work was very simple.One problem is that a lot of Zeke and Vicki's stuff is in the back. It has a cover over the bed, but it wasn't sealed
properly and leaked when it rained. I had to unfasten all of the clamps and push it right up against the cab, but after I
refastened the clamps it stopped leaking. I tested it by taking a water hose and drowning it. Not even a drop came through.The cigarette lighter doesn't work either. This is a big deal as I use my laptop to play music while I'm driving because it
doesn't have a radio in it.Using a voltometer I narred the problem down to the lighter-unit itself. A positive and negative wire leads up to a plug,
which the lighter-unit itself plugs in to. I verified good current on the two wires.I went to three different stores and none of them had the lighter-unit that goes to this truck. I found one that has to
plugs, in the wrong position. It also came with some cables that you can easily use to just fasten to any hot & ground
wires. As soon as I plugged that up and plugged something in the fuse blew. I have no idea what would have caused that. I
am going to have to get a new fuse and do some more playing in that area.In the middle of this I did all sorts of cleaning. I scrubbed the floors with generic lysol and made the dash shine with
some generic Armor All. Aside from the wires hanging out where the stereo system goes it looks really good from the inside.On the outside it is in good shape too except for some dents in front and back passenger side from an accident by a previous
owner.Next month I will get a much needed passenger-side mirror. The parking break also doesn't work well on steep inclines and I
will have to look in to that. The tires are getting near their time to be replaced and they drag pretty hard to the right.One of the deals of taking on this truck is that I don't want to poor money in to it. If I want to fix it up, buying parts
is unavoidable, but I am going to do all of the work myself. If at any point this truck starts costing too much we are just
going to get rid of it. So far all of the work has been pretty simple. I feel pretty good that I can tackle the parking
break problem. I'm not so confident about the alignment issue. The mirror will be fairly simple. I've replaced a few of
them before.I think instead of getting a new CD player I am going to right the wires up to run in to an RCA plug that I can simply plug
anything in to like an MP3 player. I don't have an MP3 player but it would make a nice Christmas or birthday gift.