Annual Moab Canyonlands Trip. M715 and Blue Cherokee Take us to the Needles district! The preparation story.

Once again life, work, and other responsibilities got in the way of getting the diesel Wagoneer ready for Moab. But, the show must go on…. and so it did. Prepped the trusty old M715 and added a military style canvas bed cover not so much as to keep things dry as keep the red dust off all the camping gear on all the back roads we were going to travel. The happy blue ’88 Cherokee we have been driving for years got prepped for the trip and only needed fluid changes and a few adjustments. Its already pretty well set up for overland travel and has a number of awesome trips under its belt. It is locked front and rear, has 4.88 gears, a Rubicon sourced Dana 44 rear axle, Slip yoke eliminator, 33 inch super swamper radials, heavy-duty steering parts, reinforced steering mount area on the frame, onboard air, even a poo-bucket mount on the roof rack. Yeah, they make you have a potty in the back country…The M715 got a new tilt steering column donated from an XJ Cherokee….It’s hard to find a manual transmission FSJ tilt steering column. Turns out that a XJ one is pretty easy to swap in..  You carefully cut off the Cherokee firewall mount, use the FSJ firewall mount that clamps on same as stock once you cut the XJ one off.. use the FSJ column mount and it bolts right in. Even the wiring plugs right in and works right. I used the new columns high beam switch to turn on the KC Daylighters….super handy when some jerk wont turn off his highbeams… At some point I’ll add a delay wiper module and use the stalk mounted wiper switch too.. The only hard part is making the column connect to the steering shaft. The U joint is different at the column connection. I used the xj Ujoint and fabbed up a new shaft to connect it to the lower joint. I had gotten rid of the “rag” joint years ago. Finally wired the electric cooling fan to a thermoswitch…been meaning to do that since I built it years ago. Had just wired it “on” anytime the ignition was on. Mucho better now…it hardly ever comes on unless you are crawling along real slowly….I’m certain the alternator thanks me…good electric fans pull a lot of amps! Had to replace one of the front draglink ends that had gotten loose and sloppy…these gotta be the most expensive tierod/draglink ends ever…and not easy to find either! Napa wanted $75 ea. for them but didn’t actually have any…..anywhere….Found the part on Rockauto.com for less than $50! In case you care, the Moog part number is ES235R for the righthand thread one and ES235L for the leftie…. put that # into their part number search and it comes up. Ever tried getting parts for a truck that doesn’t exist as far as the parts companies are concerned?I don’t usually plug anybody’s company but I’m so super pleased to have somebody actually stock parts for a 45 year old army truck that I gotta say thanks! The trusty 6BT Cummins got the oil changed, new filters all around and the air filter cleaned. Checked and topped off the fluids in everything else on the truck and while it was on the lift  I undertook a task I have been meaning to do for years…..fix the fuel gauge. This at first seems like an easy enough task…You can buy a gauge and sender kit and just make it happen….or…since I wanted to have the gauge in the swapped on J truck cab dash work I had to do some sleuthing. A 70’s J truck or Wagoneer fuel gauge wants to see something between 68 and 12 ohms resistance from the sender. The  gauge would read empty all the time..till just before you ran out…when it went to full. ARGH. The commonly available universal senders have ohm ranges that are nowhere near the same…but…. a VDO one has a range of 10-180 ohms. the scale also reads backwards compared to what the gauge wants but the arm on the one I got can be installed backwards….making it “right” again. I then limited the up travel on it so it cannot get past about the 70 ohms spot. I used a much longer float arm to “recalibrate” the sender to my needs….I’m only using about half its range of movement now to do what I want. It works! The first half goes away faster than the last half because the sender is not being used as intended but I’m still much happier than before… actual use has shown that when it reads 1/2 it only takes 10 gallons to fill the 28 gallon tank back up. So I have some “reserve”. Finally made a skid plate for the tank…. had been meaning to do that for years! Hard to believe the factory never bothered with one.. I need to figure out something for front hubs. The only available (and expensive) locking hub for these old closed knuckle Dana 60 front axles is a Selectro brand one. These hubs are probably way awesome with the stock 125 hp Tornado 6 popper beating on them… with a Cummins putting ~400 hp and near 900 ft-lb into them they die. And quickly. I have been running the stock drive flanges till I come up with something better. With the swapped in 4.11 gears it isn’t bad to live with but you can feel the powr-lok diff cause a bit of feedback in the steering. Amazingly, the stock axle shafts have managed to live. Not sure why. Seems like they’d have busted by now…I got spare ones at least. When summer comes around I just swap the shelled out Selectros back on. Gonna have to swap in that modern Dana 60 one of these days. I’ll get disk brakes too. Next installment….the trip!

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