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Well, after I totaled my last car on a night drenched by an El Nino rain, I needed new wheels.   At first I drove a car that a friend loaned me.  This friend, Jan Hansen, really came through for me with this spare set of wheels.  While it worked it was not the type of car either of us would want gracing our driveways.  In short it was a Buick Skylark.
 
Jan and the Buick
To show you what I mean here is a shot of Jan as she is reclining - oh so elegantly - upon the hood of this fine example of General Motor's  automotive design excellence! 

Just for balance, here I am standing out in front of the same beast!

Me and the Buick
We are both smiling here because I am fresh back from purchasing my NEW wheels!  This is but the second vehicle I have ever owned so I made it a good one.  I made sure that it would be a nice, practical machine.  A machine that would suit my needs and had not an ounce of extravagance in it.

So, I bought a pickup truck!

Me and MY Truck! Damn, what a nice toy!  And damn don't I look white!

Looking back on this from some four years distance I am rather amazed they actually sold me anything.  My hair has now grown out to about the middle of my back and I would not be caught dead going out of the house looking like this guy here on the left.

But hey, the truck still looks cool!

This fine machine that is gracing my driveway is a 1996 Ford Ranger XLT Supercab.   It is the four cylinder, two wheel drive version.  I did not opt for the more powerful V-6 as it would have added too much to the cost.  Nor did I really want a four wheel drive machine as I have no plans for offloading with this truck.  I have been driving my new toy for several years now and I really like it.

The seating position in the cab is a real step up from when I was in my VW Golf.   Now I can see much more of the traffic in front of me and that has made driving much better.  I also like the utility of this utility vehicle.  I was always cramming things into my Golf and although it could hold an amazing amount of stuff, it really doesn't hold a candle to what this pickup takes in stride.

The Tie-Down Escapade

To assist in this hauling I decided to install some tie-downs in the bed of the truck.   As this is my truck, not just any tie-down would do.  Oh no!  These had to be special.  The ones I settled on are ProTracks made by Eagle Co. in Temecula CA.   They are well made and offer a good degree of flexibility in attachments.  The one thing about them though, was that they required using bolts for the most secure placement of the tie-down tracks.  This was a problem as I have full bedliner on the truck and did not want to cut big holes in it.

A friend of mine, Joel Vande Berg, solved this by suggesting I work up an attachment plate to hold the nuts in place once I had drilled the holes for the tracks.  To have these attachment plates made however, I would have to have them fabricated.  Just my luck that my boss's son is a metal worker here in town.  I discussed this with him and we settled on the spec's.  Here is what he came up with.
 

ProTrack and Attachment Plate   This view shows the relative size of this tie-down attachment track and the attachment plate I had Alan fabricate.   The ProTrack is on the right and the fabricated attachment plate is on the left.   That is a Quarter there in the middle to show the overall size of these items.   The attachment plate is a rather simple affair.  Just a 1/8th inch thick metal strip with three holes drilled in it that match the holes in the ProTrack.  At each of those holes in the attachment plate Alan welded on a Steel-lock nut.  He then painted the plates black and put on some adhesive tape. 
The tape really helped in holding the plates in place while I reattached the bedliner.  Here is a shot of the tape. The attachment plate is sitting inside the front of the ProTrack. Adhesive strip

One thing I did learn from trying to install these things in my truck bed was that I should stick to my day job!  I am pretty good with tools and have made a number of things out of wood.  This was the first time I had done much work with metal.  I learned, the hard way, that metal work requires a different approach.  After much sweating and frustration I learned that being off by even the smallest amount could really mess things up.  I am used to working with tolerances of no more than a sixteenth of an inch.  For metal work, even work so simple as this, that was too much slop.   Alan was real helpful with this and we got done what needed to be done.  As a result, I now have the tie-downs I wanted and things are great!
 
 

The Brake Job

Back in 1980 my dad decided that my future would be well served if we all knew what, exactly, my aptitudes were.  So, when I came home from college for Xmas Break that fall, he popped for having my aptitude tested at this little private testing company in Boston.  I would much rather have gotten more Xmas goodies with the money he spent on that testing but, hey, it was his money.  What we learned from all of this is pretty much what we knew going in to it.  Namely, that I'm pretty bright, have got good hand/ eye coordination, can read well, and have a good sense of spatial relationships.  From this the testing company said that I would make an excellent brain surgeon or lawyer.  As I was planning a career in the military at the time (flying jets in the Air Force!) I wasn't particularly interested in enduring the horrendous education process to become a doctor or a lawyer.  Not to mention that there was no way either of my folks could have put me through that sort of schooling.  I still have the test results report around somewhere. 

The other thing which that testing confirmed was that I have a high degree of mechanical aptitude.  I'm pretty good with machines.  I already knew this.  My mom already knew this.  My dad already knew this.  The testing proved an expensive way of confirming this.  But, he was paying for the testing.

Over the years my mom would frequently turn to me for help with something mechanical.  At work I got this a lot too. At my first professional job, working for MCI in Pentagon City, Virginia, I eventually got put in charge of all the IBM PC's in my department.  I got put in charge of the IBM PC AT's when we got those too!  (That's a referential joke meant to show just how long ago it was when an IBM PC referred to an actual piece of specific hardware and not just a generalized term.)  I've long prided myself on my mechanical systems knowledge.  I have usually been able to fix most things around my living spaces.  I've made a lot of things.  I've done a lot of work on my own cars too.  Mostly this was out of a dire need to save money but it was also something I enjoyed doing.

Cars were, however, new to me.  I'd never owned one when I bought my first car and I had no idea what it took to maintain them or what was an indication that maintenance was called for.  That proved an expensive process to learn as I went through at least one clutch in my VW Golf for not knowing that clutches periodically need adjustment.

Back in November of '01 I had another learning experience.

I pride myself on my mechanical abilities.  I also pride myself on being aware of mechanical things.  I knew it had been a while since I'd had a look at my breaks but their response still seemed fine and I thought it alright to let such things slide until I had both the money and the time to fix them.  Silly me.
 

A Bad Thing

This is NOT a good thing.

I took my truck down to the Dualtone shop in Pacific Beach and asked them check the brakes for me.  This, with the intention of letting them do the messy work of replacing the pads and perhaps turning the rotors if need be.  Well, it was worse than that.  Much worse.  It turns out that I hadn't just worn down my brake pads I had actually worn them out.  Almost through to the liner on the left side and completely through on the right.  The right side was so bad, in fact, that it had caused the brake caliper to seize up.  That's right, the right front brake was locked up in the locked position.  All the time.  That is not a good thing.

Aside from grinding through the brake pad and liner, this also caused the caliper head to start grinding through on to the rotor surface itself.  In the picture above here you can see what sort of effect this had.  The bright ring on the edge of the rotor head is where the caliper pistons had actually worn through the pad and were in direct contact with the rotor surface.

I was not happy about this.  The good folks at Dualtone wanted the better part of $600 to fix this.  Most of that was the labor involved.  That was about $400 more than I had to spend on this.  So, I had to make this repair myself.  A learning experience indeed.

So, I unlimbered my repair manual, not the one that came inside the glove box with the truck, and looked things over.  This was a rather basic bit of work that also involved no specialized tools.  It was something that, with a little preparation, I could do myself in the span of an afternoon.  And that I did.

I was a bit leery of mucking about with the brake system of my vehicle.  Even more important than making sure that my vehicle would go when and where I wanted it to was that my vehicle would stop where and when I wanted it to.  Maintaining that secondary ability is central to avoiding a life filled with unpleasant complications such a medical bills, lawsuits, replacement vehicles costs, and accident reports.

I read as much as I could about this and also had the good advice of a friend of mine, Joel (once again), who had done this sort of work on his own vehicles.  It wasn't exactly a "piece of cake" but it was pretty direct and straightforward.

The whole thing

Here it all is


In this shot I have already removed the old brake caliper and the rotor.  The new rotor is that shiny thing in the center of the picture and the new caliper is to the left of it and right next to the hammer.  I needed that hammer to pound on the ratchet there to the right of the rotor.  The bolts holding the brake caliper in place had locked in there pretty good.  Repeated heat stressing had seen to that.  It was a real pain to loosen those puppies.  In the future I'm going to have a breaker bar for such a job.  Ratchets are not made for intense pounding or stress.  Too much and it will break the ratchet mechanism inside of them, rendering them useless in the process.  I was lucky that such didn't happen here.
 
Looking at the new caliper next to the old one really showed how much wear the old one had endured as a result of it being seized.  That placed a large amount of mechanical stress and heat stress on it as well.  I'm glad it didn't fail as I was driving along.
 
The new rotor in place

This shot above is what the new rotor looked like when I finally had it mounted.  Placing the caliper onto that assembly was pretty direct.  I had to replace the rotors on both sides so that the braking action would be equal on both sides.  That was necessary but a pain.  That clear hose and bottle hanging off the side of the shock absorber there is the brake fluid I drained from the system and caliper in order to pry the brake loose on that side.  A messy thing this.  The stain in the concrete there is from what dribbled out before I got it plugged.
 

This was an interesting experience for me but also a real pain.  By ignoring one of the basic systems of my vehicle I managed to set myself back by about $300.  New brake pads only cost about $20 a set.  So, checking the state of the brake pads is now another thing on my regular to do lists.

 
The Leaky Cab
By 2016 I began noticing that the headliner in the truck would get wet after my truck had been through any rain or even a car wash.  This was much more noticeable toward the rear window of the cab.  At first I thought it might be water leaking in through the backup light mounted to the rear of the cab roof.  So, I looked it up and bought a new seal ring for it.  The replacement was quite simple.  

First I gently unscrewed the light unit from the back of the truck cab.  The whole assembly is made out of plastic and I didn't want to crack it by torquing the screws holding it in place.  It took a little wiggling to unadhere the seal around the unit's edge but it was easily enough done.  Then I used car in disconnecting the light bulbs from the unit.  That plastic can get brittle with age and the tabs holding the bulbs in place can snap if you're not careful.

That safely removed I set about removing the old seal ring from the unit.

Backup Lighting Unit and Old Seal Removed

It came out quite cleanly.  Then came some cleanup of it and I next inserted the replacement seal.  

New seal ready for insertion.  The white strip is covering the adhesive on the seal.

Here I've got the lighting unit with its new seal inserted and properly adhered to the unit.  I then carefully reinserted the lights into their respective positions and then carefully fed it all back into the cab.

All ready to go

At that point the replacement was ready to go back on to my truck.

Nice and tidy and ready for closing up

Again, I had to take care not to torque the screws too tightly lest I crack the plastic.  I snugged things into place, pushing the wires ahead of the unit as I pressed it home.  Just a little care applied and everything fit back nicely.

All buttoned up!

And it was all over and one.  I figured getting twenty years out of this seal was pretty good, all in all.  The replacement was a simple thing and involved no special tools.  I found the replacement seal online and it was a cheap enough replacement part.

Unfortunately, it didn't solve the problem.  The headliner was still getting wet when it rained and such.  And the truck cab would smell like wet carpet for days afterward as it dried.

So, one fine day in September 2016 I decided to replace the seal around the rear window itself.  This was a much more involved effort.  Looking up the task on the various online Ranger Forums, the guys there advised that to make things practicable, I  should remove the seats entirely first.  In hindsight, they were right.  I thought that I'd save myself the time and effort by leaving the seats in place.  I did save the time and effort of removing and replacing the seats but in the interim I had to put up with a very cramped and difficult space to work in.  


That work inside the cab consisted of 
removing the interior trim pieces that were covering the various bolts that held the rear window in place.  The rear window of the cab comes as a single unit.  And it's attached to the cab by some several bolts around its circumference.  Those bolts are covered by the decorative trim panels.  And those panels are held in place by the automotive industry's standard "snap rivets."  I really hate those things.  They're a single use fastener that is also precious hard to remove without gouging the trim piece it's holding in place.  Even with the specialized lifting / removal tool the damn rivets often tore apart rather than come out and / or left me carving into the trim pieces as I was popping the damn things out.  Plus, getting replacement rivets that were of the right size and match in color as also a pain.

Eventually though, I got all the trim pieces out of the way and found all the several bolts that needed to by loosened.  The bolts themselves are permanently attached to the rear window framing so it's only the nuts on the inside of the cab which needed to be removed.  That done, I then gently pried the window unit off of the truck cab.  The assembly is a pretty stout thing but the last thing I wanted to do was break it at this point.

In this image I've already got the window assembly removed and you can see the old seal hanging down a bit.  I'd stuffed my truck blanket in between the gap of the bed and truck cab as a precaution.  I didn't know how unwieldy the window unit was going to be and I didn't want to risk it slipping from my grip as I worked on it and it then sliding down between the cab and bed.  Turns out I was over cautious but that was alright.  You can also see where I unbolted the latches for the rear side windows.  Those had to be undone to remove and loosen the trim panels underneath them in order to get at the window bolts.

Rear window removed

Here's the rear window unit.  As I said, it's a pretty stout piece.  You can see bolts projecting around its circumference.

Rear window unit

Here's another view of the unit from a different angle.

Different angle of the rear window unit

The window seal material really wasn't sticking to the material of the window unit.  Instead, it very much stuck to the metal of the truck cab.  Getting the old sealant material off was a pain.  Some of it had clearly degraded over the years and was almost dry and brittle.  I figure that's where the water was getting through as it was located along the top of the window sill.  The rest of the stuff was still very much flexible and sticky like a long rope of tar.

Removing the old sealant

I tried removing this stuff like pulling up chewing gum.  It had much the same consistency and stickiness.  I used a plastic scrapper to help things along.  I didn't want to use a metal one lest I end up scratching into the paint as I did so.  I used paint thinner to remove the last of the bits of sealant material and to ensure a nice clean surface for the new stuff.  

As per the discussions on the forums, I went out and bought a package of 3M "Window-Weld" round ribbon sealer.  The stuff is sticky as all get out but pretty workable.  For my rear window I went with the fifteen feet package but use just a bit more than half.  I pressed the ribbon on to the circumference of the window assembly rather than place it on to the truck's window opening.  This way I was sure not to obscure the bolts and such.

I don't have any further pictures of this project as it proceeded pretty directly once I'd gotten the new ribbon sealer attached to the window unit.  I then got the unit lined up properly and pressed it home.  The ribbon sealer adhered both the window unit and the truck cab but  didn't waste any time getting the nuts back on to the window unit bolts and tightening things down.  There was some back and forth where I made sure to press the window unit firmly onto the truck cab and progressively dog down the bolts on the inside.  But in just a few minutes it was all over said and done.

Then came the laborious process of reattaching the trim pieces and then replacing everything inside the cab that I'd removed to open the space up for my work.  All in all, it was a couple of hours worth of work on a weekend day's afternoon.

The reward however, was to once again have a nice and water tight truck cab!

After I got the cab squared away and had given the sealer some time to properly be in place, I took my truck down to a local car wash and ran her through.  I kept running my hand along the headliner at the upper rear of the truck cab.  Previously, this is where it'd be soggy wet from water leaking through.  This time it remained nicely bone dry!  Yay me!  It worked!

This was a simple fix if a bit of a pain in the ass to get done.  Not having a leaky cab that smelled like wet carpet was worth it however!
The Road's End

Well, this didn't go as planned...

20 Years of Service At The Road's End

Friday, March 2nd, 2018 I learned how effective the steering wheel airbag was on my truck.  After twenty years of service my truck is now well and truly done.  The only injuries I sustained were from that airbag's deployment.  There was some minor abrasion on my left wrist and at the base of my thumb
as I was grasping the steering wheel.  The airbag's inflating in just twenty five milliseconds imparted a pretty good whacking there as it smacked into my hand.  That's it, however.

What caused that airbag's deployment was my truck's impacting the "Mansfield Bar" of the semi-trailer ahead of me.  The driver of that truck had to stop short abruptly as he was cut off by a car suddenly running in front of him.  The driver of that car wanted to get into a parking lot to the right of our vehicles and didn't want to bother waiting behind us to do so.  This took place at the intersection of South Central Ave and Artesia in Compton.  It was a cold and rainy day so the road wasn't only slick which definitely didn't help with stopping traction as I jammed on my brakes.

That big vertical crease in the front center of my truck's hood was from the right pillar of that safety bar.  The pillar's left bar is what took out my left headlight and did the rest of the damage.

Clearer Front View

I had my truck towed back to my house in Lakewood and put up into my driveway there.  It was a sunny day on that following Monday so I got some pictures of the damage done.  The front of my Ranger is well and truly staved in.

Mashed Front End

The left front side took most of the impact and wound up crushed and crumpled as a result.

Crumpled Side

In this image you can see how the left front quarter panel impacted the driver's side door.  The door doesn't really close now without being hefted into place.  The frame is that torqued.

Deployed Remnants

And here's the inside of my trusty Ranger.  That airbag's deployment was a very unexpected thing.  Startling, in fact.  It's happening left no doubt as to how total the collision was.  And it meant clearly that my truck was no longer usable.  This, even without getting out of it and seeing the extent of the damage to its front end.  That was a very depressing thing at that moment.

Even after twenty years of use and having put over a quarter million miles on it - 283,358 total with 258,223 being the miles I'd put on it myself - the truck still ran fine.  The paint was fading, the clearcoat on the roof and hood was oxidized away but other than that, it was still a very serviceable vehicle.  I had plans to replace it but not immediately.  Perhaps in the coming year or two.  Not now however.

On Friday morning, March 9th, at just past 09:00 the tow truck from the salvage company finally showed up.  It took just a couple of minutes and the driver had my truck hooked up and on the flatbed.

On the flatbed

A minute or two later he had finished securing my truck to that flatbed and with nothing else left to do, he drove off.

I stood out in the middle of the street and took this one last image of my truck as it was taken away for good.

Last Sight

This truck is but the second vehicle I've owned in my life to date.  It was the one which I drove off to Aurora in and had loaded to its gills coming back.  It's the vehicle I moved my life up from San Diego to Los Angeles in.  I had a lot of history with this vehicle - twenty years will tend to do that.

Broken Truck, Broken Emblem

And that's the Road's End for my Truck and its tales...

If you would like to learn more about me – just ask!   Drop me a line and we’ll see what happens.  I can be reached
here at: madoc@madoc.us.

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  Page Last Updated On: 09 March 2018