1989 Ford F150
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This truck was found while searching for some final parts to complete an EFI conversion on a friend's 1979 Ford F100 pickup, and it turned out to be in too nice of a condition to part out, so I decided to bring it back from the near-dead and give it to my friend in exchange for his truck. It's a grey 2 wheel drive pickup with a 5.0L V8 and a 5-spd manual transmission. It has dual fuel tanks, delay wipers, and a tach dash. The body is in decent shape with only a few minor dings and the interior is in decent shape with normal wear and tear for an old work truck.

When the truck arrived on my doorstep, it had issues with the EFI system - mostly it looked to be some bad sensors (the computer is complaining about the coolant temp sensor and the O2 sensor) - along with some minor wiring issues. We figured we'd see what else turned up as we worked on it. We were also told it had a clutch problem - likely a bad clutch master or slave cylinder - and that was what was causing the clutch pedal to stick at a point half-way up/down it's travel. It also appeared to have a messed up ignition cylinder in the steering column that might need to be replaced. The starter would not engage with the key. The passengers side taillight was busted and needed to be replaced, and the tailgate handle needed to be replaced as well. For the purchase price of $300, it seemed it was not a bad deal. After all was said and done, in addition to the various little stuff that needed fixing/replacing, we ended up rebuilding a motor and putting it in the truck as well as getting the transmission rebuilt. It's basically the mechanic's installment plan for buying a vehicle! :-) I also decided to install some options (AC, tilt steering column, heavy duty radiator, cruise control, etc.) from the two parts trucks I had previously taken apart - a 1987 Ford F150 and a 1989 Ford F150 4x4. I figured that since I had the parts laying around, I might as well install them.



Here's the truck as it arrived at my house. A bit dirty, a few minor things wrong with it, in need of what we thought was clutch work, but basically intact and ready to be worked on.

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Here's the new tires and wheels I bought for the truck off of Craigslist. The first picture is the one the seller sent me to show me the condition of the wheels. The others are the wheels and tires sitting in the back of the truck waiting to be installed.

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Here's the new motor mounts and "expanding" rubber freeze plugs we installed to try and get the motor sealed up and mounted properly. We took these pictures after the work below had happened - aka, the heads were still on the motor when we replaced these items.

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After that didn't work and water was still leaking somewhere, we went excavating to find the problem. We took some pics of the distributor to remember where it was positioned so we could assemble the motor quickly and get the timing right. That turned out to be very wishful thinking...

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Here it is in all it's glory - The Real Problem. This is what happens when you leave straight water in an engine and it freezes. What happens when water freezes? That's right; it expands - and that expansion has to go somewhere. In this case, not only did it push two freeze plugs right out of the engine block, it also split the block from a water passage over to the lifter valley causing the approx 2"-3" crack right across the deck you see below. It actually split the metal apart like it was a piece of wood. The force generated by freezing water is amazing and can easily cause these sorts of problems. One little "oops" by a previous owner will end up costing us a few hundred bucks to get a replacement engine, plus the time and effort to install that engine. At least it appears that the clutch turned out to be OK. :-/

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While I was waiting to get other things done and ready for the engine replacement, I picked up a canopy for the truck for free - yes, Craigslist strikes again. It needs cleaning and a new front window, but other than that it looks to be in good shape. It even has a light inside on the right rear - I'll have to run some wiring for that. The canopy is an older Glasstite Campers unit that was made by Innovar Industries, and as near as I can tell, Glasstite is still in business and selling updated stuff. I found a dealer near me for the current line of Glasstite products - Canopy World. With any luck, I may even be able to get parts for this thing and not have to resort to getting a custom piece of glass made/installed...

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I also had a mobile glass replacement place come out and replace the windshield. Oooohhh...shiny... :-)

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Here's the engine compartment before being cleaned. The truck had sat for some time waiting for the rebuilt one to be ready.

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I also finally got around to installing the AC unit on the firewall from the 1987 Ford F150 parts truck. I had removed the original non-AC unit previously when the dead engine came out, and we also removed the inner fender to make it easier to work on. With the AC unit in place, I also put the inner fender back in. The biggest challenge here was finding all the nuts and bolts after stuff had sat for so long and gotten moved around.

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I got a gas powered pressure washer and went at the engine compartment to clean things up. The difference is quite noticeable if you compare to the previous photos. Not bad for a quick bit of work.

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While getting ready to put things back together, I had found what I thought was the correct engine plate (or dust cover), but I found out it was the one off the 1987 Ford F150 parts truck that was for use with an AOD. It's part #E7TE-6A37 and it's a two-piece unit.

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Here's the correct engine plate/dust cover from this truck that fits the Mazda-built M5OD 5-spd manual transmission. I could not find a part number on it. It's a one piece unit with no ventilation holes. It also has a nice rubber seal that goes against the back of the engine block to help keep grime out of the clutch area - a nice idea for high-mileage vehicles that might have rear main seal leaks and other drips in this area.

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Here's the new clutch slave cylinder installed on the front of the transmission.

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Here's the rebuilt engine installed into the truck awaiting it's final hookups and the initial firing and break-in process. To get the engine in, I had to remove the transmission, driveshaft, and exhaust, then install the engine, and then re-install the transmission, driveshaft, and exhaust. I had to build a custom transmission cradle to do the work.

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Here's the engine almost completely hooked up and ready to fire up. All that's left at this point is hooking up the heater hoses, filling the coolant, bleeding the clutch, hooking up the negative battery terminal, installing a new PCV filter, and setting the engine to TDC on the #1 cylinder. After that I can do the final oil prime of the engine, drop in the distributor, and try to fire it up.

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I even got a chance to re-install the shifter and shift boot, at least temporarily.

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Here's the door panels re-installed. It's starting to look like a real truck again, even on the inside. The sticky stuff that held up the splash shields was long gone, so I had to find a suitable replacement before I could do this work.

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I picked up a better canopy off Craigslist for $150. This one is beige, has a single handle in the back, and has a sliding window in the front. It's a much nicer canopy than the black one, and I'll use the black on one the 1979 F100. I had to futz with the lock and lubricate it to get it to work and it needed a thorough cleaning to look presentable. There is a small crack in the fiberglass above the rear window at the top right corner, but you can barely see it and it's not falling apart. A small fiberglass patch should remedy things there if needed. Overall, not too bad.

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Here's the connector on the battery cable where some of the smaller ground wires hook up.

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Here's a comparison of the warm idle oil pressure between the factory in dash oil pressure gauge and a mechanical oil pressure gauge. The mechanical gauge reads ~50PSI, the in dash gauge indicates oil pressure on the low side of the scale. I trust the mechanical gauge give the factory wiring goofiness for the oil pressure gauge.

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Here's a comparison of the warm 2500RPM oil pressure between the factory in dash oil pressure gauge and a mechanical oil pressure gauge. The mechanical gauge reads ~55-60PSI, the in dash gauge indicates oil pressure on the low side of the scale. Again, I trusted the mechanical gauge given the factory wiring goofiness for the oil pressure gauge. After some time had passed, I learned a lot more about the factory wiring on the oil pressure gauge - and how to fix it. Removing the instrument cluster is a pain, but it should be an easy fix once I get in there. Cool!

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Initial Start-up and EFI Testing

After installing a rebuilt engine and getting all of the various parts and pieces reconnected (a job unto itself since the parts got scattered so badly in the year or so that I was working on the engine), I was able to fire it up and break in the cam. Getting it started was a PITA, mainly due to how hard it was to get the timing set properly. After one final priming of the engine with the oil pump priming tool I bought, I installed the distributor and tried to fire up the engine. I had installed the distributor "off by one tooth" so it started and then died a minute or two later. Then I spent some time futzing with re-installing the distributor to get it close enough to right to get it to start. Then the battery went dead from the repeated starting attempts and I had to put it on a charger for a few hours - doh! I then hooked up a timing light and a hand-held starter switch to see what the timing was while I was running the starter. The timing marks on the balancer were obscured by heavy paint applied during the rebuilt, so I had to wire-brush some of it off of the balancer to be able to see it. After playing with the timing a bit it started and I was able to get a reasonably sane 20 minute run at ~2500 RPM to break-in the camshaft. I'll have to run it gently on the street for the first few hundred miles, but it's basically done. I did find out that I had one vacuum hose disconnected (at the "vacuum tree" on the top of the intake manifold) while doing the break-in, so that probably contributed to much of the somewhat-odd-running symptoms I encountered during the break-in. They were minor, but noticeable. The engine had trouble running right at idle.

During the break-in process, there was a steady wafting of steam out of the defroster vents - a dead giveaway of a heater core leak. The green liquid dribbling on the ground from under the heater assembly was another. After the break-in process was done and the truck shut down, I disconnected the heater hoses at the heater core and connected them together (to keep the coolant in the engine), and proceeded to pull the heater core. On these models the heater core removes very easily. You disconnect the heater hoses, pull the glove box out, move the vacuum harness aside, pull the heater core cover off (about easily accessible 8 screws), and then you pull out the heater core towards the seat and down out under the dash. That's it. The glove box was already out of the truck and the heater hoses disconnected, so I pulled the heater core cover and pulled the core in about 5 minutes flat. It was the fastest and easiest heater core removal I had ever done, and I've done quite a few. It turns out it was an OEM aluminum heater core - this was the first time I've seen an aluminum heater core, they're usually copper/brass. The leak was easy to see right at the seam where the center core met the top tank - a seam like that is a pretty typical place for a leak to develop. It turned out that one of the heater systems I had pulled from one of the parts trucks (not sure which one - it was in the parts pile) had a relatively new replacement copper/brass heater core in it, so I pulled it from there and installed it into this truck. The new heater core went in as fast and easy as the old one came out, and was soon hooked up and filled with coolant.

At that point I started the engine and warmed it up so I could properly set the base timing on the new motor (10 degrees BTDC with the SPOUT connector disconnected, as per the label on the air cleaner) and run all of the self-tests on the computer to see what it might be upset about. The timing setting went OK and the timing test on the computer properly read 30 degrees of advance, so that seems to be working. Below are the codes I got from the three tests.

  • KOEO test
    • No codes
  • CM test
    • 33 - EGR valve fault / Not closing properly
    • 96 - Fuel pump secondary circuit fault / High speed fuel pump relay open
  • KOER test
    • 33 - EGR valve fault / Not closing properly
    • 18 - SPOUT circuit open or SAW (Spark Angle Word) circuit failure
    • 52 - Power steering pressure switch open

The good news here is that the truck is running pretty well, and these codes seem relatively minor - at least none of these are turning on the "check engine" light. Working backwards from the "non-issue" codes up to the more interesting ones, here's what I have:

  • Code 52 is there because I couldn't turn the steering wheel during the test - the truck is still up on ramps until I get the clutch hydraulic stuff sorted out and done.
  • Code 96 is probably nothing - it was stored in the computer's memory and not seen again during the self-testing. I suspect it happened during the break-in process and did not re-occur, likely related to the low battery during the initial starting attempts. It will hopefully go away when I clear the codes later on.
  • Code 33 was in the memory and occurred during the test, so it seems it's "for real" - the EGR valve is probably toast or simply in need of cleaning. Both motors (the original one and the 1987 one I rebuilt) were high mileage and I did not clean the upper intake or throttle body assembly I used. I'm also not even sure which one I used, though I think it was the 1987 unit. They looked identical, and I basically just grabbed the one that was cleanest looking unit when I needed to put the motor back together. If the EGR valve is not closing, this could contribute to some of the rough running I experienced at times, so I will definitely want to look at this.
  • Code 18 is likely a problem in the distributor or in the wiring - or maybe I didn't seat the SPOUT connector properly after the timing self test. This is potentially he most serious problem. Luckily, I have several distributors I can install to see if this one is bad, so it's just a matter of time to verify the bad part and get the computer completely happy. The odd thing is that the computer is successfully controlling the timing, so I'm not sure what's up here.

All in all, not too bad. The truck was running and running pretty well. Next up was getting the clutch hydraulics sorted out, and they are notoriously hard to bleed. I replaced the clutch master cylinder to ensure everything was brand new and in good shape, and did a complete bench bleed of the clutch master cylinder and hydraulic line. I then installed the master cylinder and hose on the truck and hooked up the line to the slave cylinder. I gravity bled the system and it seemed to be working - I got fluid out of the slave cylinder without bubbles and the throwout bearing appeared to be moving properly when the clutch pedal was pressed. The clutch pedal still liked to stay down a little bit, but it was returning mostly to the top and things appeared to be working, so I started the truck and tried the clutch out - it was engaging very low in the pedal travel and seemed to be never disengaging even with the pedal all the way down. Oh well, there's apparently still more work to do here but it does work. I also found out at this time that I could not get the shifter into first with the truck running - it was hitting the dash?!? Maybe I installed the shifter wrong when I re-installed the transmission? I need to figure this out - starting in second gear is doable, but a pain. I'm going to have a professional bleed the clutch system to see how good they can get it.


Initial Test Drives and Problem Fixing

At this point I topped off the power steering fluid and took the truck for it's inaugural test drive around the block - and had to get the wife to come out in the Suburban to tow me home when the truck died and wouldn't restart. :-/ It would act like it wasn't getting enough fuel and sort of start, then die again. I think there's a loose connection somewhere - maybe that fuel pump voltage fault (code 96) wasn't due to the low battery after all? More to investigate. After sitting in the driveway for a bit, it restarted and ran fine, so I ran another set of KOEO and KOER self-tests to see what would come up. No new codes, but interestingly code 96 (the fuel pump code) did not re-occur. Very interesting. I need to go through the "wiggle test" to see what will happen when I jostle the fuel pump relay around a bit - it may be going bad, or there may be a problem with the harness somewhere. Also, code 52 came up again even though I moved the steering wheel during the KOER test. Either I moved the wheel at the wrong time or the system isn't bled properly (low pressure) or the pressure switch is bad. One more thing to figure out.

I also took some time to fix the shifter handle being in the wrong position - I couldn't get the truck into first gear because the shifter was hitting the dash. After pulling the shifter boot, removing the shifter, and staring at things for a few minutes, I found two problems - both of which turned out to be easy to correct. The first problem was that the "pin" that helps position the shifter handle (and prevents it from rotating around the shifter stub on the top of the transmission) was worn on both sides (from years of shifting) and that wear introduced a sizable amount of play into the shifting - allowing the shifter to rotate and get too close to the dash. To fix it, I drove the pin out with a drive pin punch and re-installed it turned 90 degrees so that undamaged portions of the pin are now riding against the sides of the guide slot - that ought to hold for the rest of the useful life of the truck. The second problem was that when I had last installed the shifter handle, I took up the remaining rotational and lateral play in the shift handle holding mechanism in the wrong direction - I had inadvertently pushed the handle towards the dash instead of away from it. Removing the clamp bolt and re-installing and tightening it with the shifter held as far away from the dash as possible cured the problem, or at least appears to have cured it. I did have to work the shifter a bit and keep re-tightening the bolt - there is a surprising amount of play in there even after the bolt first appeared to be "tight", but after a could of rounds of tightening the bolt and working the shifter, the play steadily got removed and the bolt kept getting tighter until it finally got completely tightened down with the shifter in the desired "away from the dash" position. The shifter is now much happier, but the shifter handle mount design is really stupid - quick assembly line work, I'm sure, but not much for longevity. The manuals also fail to mention and of this as a possibility, I had to figure it out by playing around and thinking about what was going on.

I investigated the parking brake problems to see if I could adjust it tight enough to make it work - it's kind of important on a manual trans vehicle if you want to work on it with the engine running and not have it roll away from you - or at you! The right rear cable or mechanism inside the brake drum appears to be seized or sticking, so I needed to pull the rear wheels and drums and have a look at things to see what I find. Finding the rear brakes in dire need of a brake job would not be unexpected. Luckily, the brake shoes were in fine shape with hardly any wear. The parking brake cable on the driver's side was snapped off inside the rear drum and the passenger's side was sticking and boogered up. The self-adjuster mechanisms on the brakes on both sides were also boogered in various ways. I got a hardware + adjuster kit for both sides and a new parking brake cable for the driver's side. It all went back in with limited trauma once I figured out the pictures and diagrams in the manual. They were a bit unclear, but it all made sense eventually. After getting it all back together, it turned out that the parking brake cable was adjusted reasonably well, so I left it as-was.

As a side note, Ford also used a real winner of a system here that attempts to "auto adjust" the tension on the parking brake cable. There is a special piece of metal at the equalizer that deforms past some level of applied tension. The parking brake adjustment procedure says to apply the parking break and then adjust it tighter until that piece starts to deform (aka, stretch it), and then it's set perfectly. The problem is that the special deforming piece of metal is now a wear item - wanna place any bets on it being reproduced anymore? Stupid Ford. Was the older style parking brake mechanism really in need of more useless engineering largess being applied to it? It must have worked too well for too long, so they had to come up with a way to screw it up. Planned obsolescence at it's finest. Yay.

After replacing the EGR valve and getting the brakes done, I cleared the trouble codes from the computer and re-ran the self tests. The EGR code (33) was gone and stayed gone, but now I had a new one (code 29 - speed sensor input failure) in addition to the long-standing power steering pressure switch failure code (52). At this time I also noticed that the battery was not always charging - the alternator was acting kind of flakey. Sometimes it would charge, other times it wouldn't, other times it was sort of OK. A "wiggle test" of the wiring didn't turn up anything obvious. Once more thing to figure out. For now, I put a battery charger on the truck to ensure the battery was topped off for later work. The truck had also developed a habit of jumping out of first gear when you tried to get rolling - holding the shifter in place seemed to solve it, but something is definitely amiss here. I'm hoping it's related to the clutch needing to be bled or that the trans is simply out of alignment - aka, cheap fixes. If it needs a rebuild, that's going to suck. (And it did...)

A second test drive was much more successful. I needed to go get a full tank of gas, so rather than shuttle back and forth with gas cans, I just took the truck down to the gas station. It's finally registered, so I'm legal and can drive it on the road and the stalling problem seemed to be gone with the new distributor. I found out really quick that the tilt steering column got installed with the wheel exactly 180 degrees off, so I need to fix that. Out of two possible positions to hook up the steering shaft (it's a double-D style), I picked the wrong one. Figures. The truck ran great on the trip, the only problems were that the serpentine belt was slipping due to being too long (and thus not tight) and the "jumping out of first gear" problem caused me to stall the truck a couple of times trying to start out in second gear. Other than that it went fine. The heater works great and it defogged the truck quite nicely once the engine got up to temperature. The temperature on the gauge stayed nice and even, so no problems there. The steering and brakes were fine, no tugging, pulling, strange noises, or stuff not working right. The headlights worked properly (including the high beams), and the turn signals were fine too. Once you got the engine rev's up and held them steady, the alternator would even start charging properly, so I was suspicious of the belt being the problem here. After replacing the serpentine belt with the correct one, the charging problems cured themselves quite nicely - now that the belt was not slipping, the alternator is working quite well. It turns out that using the 1987 AC and bracket assembly means I need to use a belt for a 1987 F150 with a 5.0L engine - it's shorter than the belt for a 1989 F150 with a 5.0L engine. This is a "good thing to know" for the future.

A trip to a local transmission shop netted me a newly rebuilt transmission and a big bill. Easy to do, hard to pay off. It's done - no more worries about the transmission. Somehow I apparently managed to get the clutch pretty well bled - the transmission shop said it didn't need any more bleeding. It's still not quite perfect for my tastes, but it's not too bad overall. Maybe their work popped out the last air bubble in the system when they checked it? Who knows. It works and it's drivable.

After driving it around a bit, I knew that the front end had worn ball joints, and a visit to Les Schwab for a front end inspection confirmed this. I picked up a new set of upper and lower ball joints locally and put them in. I also put in new front brake pads - the existing ones were pretty worn with only about 30% of the pads remaining, and I was already in there so I just did it. I also lubed the front end (new ball joints + tie rod ends) while I was down there. It drives much better, but there is still play in the steering/front end, so I'm going to keep looking into it. Some parts places seem to have the ball joints mis-cataloged - the first set I bought was bogus, and parts of the RockAuto.com catalog were also messed up. (I have all the luck...) The units that I got that worked were McQuay-Norris pieces from Schucks Automotive. The uppers were #FA1626 and the lowers were #1627. Be aware that the 4x4 ball joints are different - these part numbers are for the 4x2 (aka, 2 wheel drive) trucks. Also, one of the upper ball joints came with the proper pinch bolt to hold in the alignment shim and one didn't. I think one was an older box that had been on the shelf for a while, so maybe the newer ones come with the bolts and the older ones didn't? I re-used the existing bolts but if you need new ones, this could be a big deal, so check the packaging.

To test the steering system, I jacked up the front end and tried to move the tires while checking for play in the steering linkage from underneath - they were all tight. Then I had my wife sit in the truck and turn the wheel back and forth slowly while I watched things from the top and the bottom. As soon as I watched things form the top when she was turning the wheel - I saw the problem instantly. The major source of remaining play in the steering system was the collapsible coupling shaft that goes between the steering column and the steering box. Apparently it was pretty beat/worn out and thus had some slop in in to start with. The original column was pretty worn out also, so it's not a major surprise that more stuff in the steering system is worn out. The two shafts (one coming down from the steering column and one coming up from the steering box) fit together with one inside the other and it's a double-D arrangement so that they don't have too much play the assembly rotates with the steering wheel. There is a small plastic piece around the inner shaft that takes up what little slop is left between the pieces and a rubber seal to keep grit out of the space between the shafts. The whole thing can collapse together in the event of an accident - it's part of the collapsible steering column system. Anyways, when I had separated the coupling shaft twice while working on the steering column, I apparently ended up not getting it back together correctly, which made the existing wear problems even worse. The plastic piece had gotten shoved all the way up at the end of the outer shaft and was not sitting between the two shafts where they met. This let about 5-10 degrees of play get into the steering system. By bending up a section of old coat hanger, I was able to extract the plastic piece from the outer shaft and properly re-assemble things, but it still had a few degrees of slop in it when I turned by hand on the bench, so replaced it with one from a 1990 Bronco and that helped a lot. I also found a missing piece from my original one and once it was put together properly, it was pretty decent, but still not nearly as tight as the steering shaft from the Bronco, so I'll save the original one for a "just in case" spare. I also opted to replace the steering box with the spare one from the 1987 F150 since it was in decent shape and didn't appear to be leaking much if at all. I also used the longer metal return line from the 1987 because that acts as a heat sink/cooler to keep the power steering temps lower.

Something on the engine was squealing in a most annoying fashion when the truck was running - the alternator or smog pump were the likely culprits from an initial listen under the hood. Since I had spares of these parts, this was another "get it from the pile of spares and replace it to see if it changes/solves the squeak" item on the todo list. Investigating this with a mechanics stethoscope was not very helpful, so I tried simply replacing the alternator since it's readily accessible and I had two spares. I tried them both and each one changed the squeak a bit, and the first alternator didn't charge properly at idle, but it's still not fixed, so there was more to do here. :-/ For now it has an alternator out of a 1993 Mustang in it. Some searching on the internet revealed that most squeaks on serpentine belt drives are caused by a worn out belt tensioner and discussions with my favorite local auto parts store people confirmed this, so I bought a new one and installed it - but there was no change in the squeak. That left the smog pump. I had a few spares, and they were all in kind of rough shape, so I picked the best one and applied a liberal dose of Kroil to the front/rear bearings/bushings and I sprayed a liberal dose of Kroil into the intake hose connection. This improved the hand-operation of the pump significantly, so I installed it to see what would happen. So far, it seems to be working. The previous continuous "stuck pig" squeal is gone, though there is still a intermittent but regular small low-volume squeak somewhere. It's happening rhythmically, so I think something is still squeaking once every time it rotates, but it's not engine RPM, so I'm not sure what it is. Also, the previous smog pump looked like it's pulley may have been slightly misaligned with the crank and alternator pulleys, and that may have contributed to the squeak.

I took the truck out on a brief "around the block" test run and it was doing much better, so I decided to wrap up a few more small things and then take the truck on a solid hour long shakedown cruise to see how it was doing. I did some freeway driving, around town, back roads, and even some slow-speed parking lot driving to test out the power steering system. All in all, the truck did very well. It tracks straight, the engine runs good, and the brakes work well. I even had tunes courtesy of the new radio. Nothing spectacular, but it's got tunes.

One item of note here is the oil pressure gauge - it never gets much above "L", but the truck doesn't make any weird sounds like it would on low oil pressure. A close inspection of the wiring diagrams and manual shows it's likely not a true gauge - which is very odd since all the parts are there to make it one - Ford basically did extra work and spent extra money to, in effect, screw up a perfectly good system. The diagrams and text of the manuals show it has a fixed resistor in-line with the gauge to force it to read somewhere in the middle all the time, and there is some cryptic text in the manual to this effect. To verify things were really OK, I hooked up a mechanical oil pressure gauge and checked the actual pressure. It has ~50PSI at warm idle and ~55-60PSI at 2500RPM warm. (Apparently I used a pretty good oil pump when I rebuilt the motor...) This is just fine, so I'm making a note of it and moving on.

The truck then went in for an alignment - my ball joint install was darned near perfect - just the tie rod ends needed adjusting to even things out. Good thing too - if you have to adjust the caster/camber on these trucks, you have to buy replacement sleeves that mount the upper ball joints and have them adjusted differently, and they're ~$25 each. It's a basic $60 alignment without that, and it jumps to a whopping $150 alignment if you have to adjust the caster or camber. Way to go, Ford...

At this point,. I was driving it to work and on errands to make sure all was well, and it had no problems. It's a good work truck that's reasonably comfortable, runs good, drives good, and works like a basic truck should.


Steering Column Swap

I checked into it, and it looks like I need a tilt steering column out of any '87-'91 F Series, a '87-90 Bronco 105" wheelbase, or any '91 Bronco. As long as it's a floor shift, it'll work fine for me. They should all bolt right in and hook up to what I have. I have an automatic tilt column out of a 1987 F150, but I'd like to not use a column from an automatic if I can avoid it, at least on a long-term basis. Yes, you can remove the shift lever from the top of the column easily enough by driving out one roll pin and yanking it, but the shift collar can rotate freely at that point and the key will only come out of the column when it's in the park position. Blargh. I also found out that the trim is slightly different right where the column meets the dash. Not a huge deal, I used the automatic trim for now. Even with the lever removed, it still looks dorky to have the shift collar on the column and the shift lever sticking off the bottom of the column in the engine compartment, so I'm watching for a tilt column from a manual transmission truck to show up on Craigslist.


Fuel Gauge

It was reading way past full all the time, no matter what tank was selected. At first I suspected an open circuit between the gauge and sender is causing this, and because it happened no matter what tank is selected, I suspected it was in the dash wiring. It turns out the wiring was fine and the gauge itself was toast. I had a replacement from a non-tach dash, but that required swapping the gauge mechanism between the clusters, and that meant removing the needle and reinstalling it. It seems to work, but I have no real idea what the current calibration is, so I've got the dash installed without the clear faceplate so I can adjust the fuel gauge needle (aka, remove and re-install in the right position) after I get one of the tanks filled up. Then I have an easy "full vs. almost empty" comparison. I could also jury rig a spare sender to the wiring and experiment that way.

These gauges are different than the traditional Ford F-series or E-series (van) gauges. The traditional ones use an IVR (Instrument Voltage Regulator) on the back of the cluster to supply ~5V to the gauges and the gauges use a bi-metallic resistance movement. The ones in this truck do not use an IVR, run on a full 12V, and use a magnetic movement. They both use the same style of three wire hookup - power, ground, and sender. The trick here is that a full 12V is supplied to the sender with the magnetic movement arrangement. The change in movements is also when the fuel senders changes in resistance and were "inverted" - aka, the meaning of high vs. low resistance is the opposite in the two different movements - and the range of possible resistance values changed. The bimetallic movement gauges use senders that are 10 ohms for full and 70 ohms for empty. The magnetic movement gauges use senders that are 160 ohms for full and 15 ohms for empty. See what I mean about the inverting of the values? 

This change in movements meant that it was really easy to test gauges. The sender wire should be getting a full 12V when it's not connected to anything and the gauge has power + ground. In my case the fuel tank switch was the easiest place to check this, and I was only getting ~6V on the sender wire. The two senders gave reasonable resistance values for how much fuel was in the tank, so I knew they were OK. I yanked the gauge and did the two resistance tests specified in the manual - it was shot. (power to ground and sender to ground - basically measuring the resistance of the two windings to see if they were in spec.) For the new gauge form the non-tach cluster, I hooked up power and ground, and then grounded the sender and left it open. The gauge did a proper full sweep and seemed to be working, so I yanked the needle from each one, swapped the movements between the faces (they mount from the back), and re-installed the needle when the gauge had power and a grounded sender (way past full) to try and get it reasonable well calibrated. I was hoping it would work, but no such luck.

I ended up getting another tach equipped cluster off and swapping out the fuel gauge + oil pressure gauge assembly to get it working. Not cheap, but not terribly expensive - but it worked and was pretty easy, and I kept my original speedometer/odometer, so no problems with the mileage changing to something different and likely very wrong.


Air Conditioning Stuff

I installed an AC system from the two parts trucks. The wiring is from the 1989 F150 and the evaporator + receiver/drier + housing on the firewall, compressor + mounting bracket, condenser, and refrigerant lines are from the 1987 F150. The control panel inside the truck is from a 1990 Bronco via Craigslist. I installed the AC setup but left the wiring to the AC compressor disconnected so it doesn't turn on accidentally and get damaged by running without oil and refrigerant in the lines. At some point I will replace the receiver/drier (it's been open t the air too long and needs replacing), convert it to R134A, and get it charged up so it works. For now, I'm limiting myself to verifying the wiring and making sure all is well with the basic mechanical/component installation.

When I went to verify the electrical wiring on the AC system I installed, and found a curious problem. The wiring diagrams say that the power should flow from the control panel to the pressure switch on the receiver/drier, and then over to the compressor clutch. The clutch wiring was still disconnected, so even bypassing the pressure switch should have done nothing but activated a piece of the wiring out to the engine so I could verify it had power. Instead, the engine stalled whenever I hooked up the bypass jumper. Something is amiss here, or the wiring diagrams are wrong (again). At some point, I need to dig deeper into this and see what's up.


Factory Manuals

The factory manual set for this truck has been invaluable in getting it going again, but it was very expensive. It is also is one of the worst manuals I have run into because so much information in it is just flat out wrong and not updated from previous model years. Add in that Ford wiring diagrams generally stink and are hard to read and it's making for a lot of fun solving electrical issues. One particular item I've seen is that for 1989 Ford changed a lot of the wiring compared to the 1987 and 1988 models, but the manuals didn't get touched at all. I have 1987 F150 parts laying around, and I have examined a couple of 1988 F150 trucks plus a 1990 Bronco being parted out via Craigslist, and I have gotten a pretty good idea of what has changed on each year. 1987 and 1988 are basically the same, and 1989 is mostly the same as 1990, with some differences. The problem is that the 1989 manuals show the 1987/1988 parts and wiring quite well, but not the 1989 changes in many cases! Cruise, AC, and other key details are just flat out wrong. That's very not cool, especially considering what this pile of dead trees cost me. Way to go, Ford! :-/


Parts Replacement Information

Since I used parts from a couple of years to make this all work, I wanted to keep a note of it all in one place for later servicing.

  • The engine long block is a 5.0L from a 1987 F150. The cam is the correct 1989 F150 5.0L unit to match the original computer in the truck and be emissions compliant. These speed density truck ECM's really don't like changing cams underneath of them so I played it safe and kept it stock.
  • The piston rings are special "shallow" (I think for lower drag) units that came in some 1987 F150 5.0L trucks. They are listed as "shallow" in some parts books, and not all parts books have them listed. The pistons in the engine are the original standard bore 1987 pieces and will only accept these special "shallow" rings.
  • The column is a tilt column from a 1987 F150 with an automatic, with the shifter lever removed.
  • The AC compressor and mounting bracket are from a 1987 F150, and this seemingly innocent change means you need to use a serpentine belt for a 1987 F150.
  • The cruise control setup is mainly from a 1990 Bronco with a 5.0L and an automatic, but the "cruise control brain" is from a 1987 F150 with a 5.0L and an automatic.
  • The AC/Heater control panel is from a 1990 Bronco. It appears to be 100% identical to the 1989 F150 units, but it might be different, so it's worth noting here.
  • The AC housing on the firewall along with the condenser and hoses are from a 1987 F150. The wiring on the AC housing is from a 1989 F150, though not this 1989 F150 - we swapped AC onto this truck.
  • The heavy duty radiator and (I believe) the shroud are from a 1987 F150.


Work Already Done

  • Installed a brand new battery. The one the books kept listing had the terminals reversed from what the truck appeared to need, so I did some custom parts book hunting to find a reasonably closely sized battery that had the terminals in what looked to be the correct orientation.
  • Fixed starter problem - after much tracing and troubleshooting, the simple fix was bolting the starter solenoid down to the fender again. Some previous dolt had unbolted it leaving it hanging in mid-air, and because it is internally grounded through it's mounting bolts, it was not working at all until it was bolted back down again. Then it worked perfectly. Doh!
  • Replaced passenger's side taillight with a new one. The existing one was completely busted out.
  • Replaced tailgate handle with a new one. The existing one had been busted - it turned out that the latch release mechanisms on either side of the tailgate had (apparently) never been lubricated, so the added friction caused them to stick, which in turn caused the pot-metal handle to twist and break when excessive force was applied to it. After I bolted in the new handle, lubricated everything, and made sure it was working correctly, I replaced the cover on the inside of the tailgate.
  • Bolted on a new set of tires/rims.
  • Attempted to top off the coolant, only to find it was leaking out of the block on both sides as fast as we could pour it in. Two freeze plugs had been popped out - not a good sign. To get at the freeze plugs, we had to remove the exhaust manifolds (which we needed to do anyway - one was cracked and needed replacing), then we had to jack up the motor and pull the motor mounts off. Both mounts were trashed and falling apart, so we replaced them. We installed a pair of the "expanding" rubber freeze plugs to try and get the motor working, and then attempted to top off the coolant again. There were no more external leaks, but there was a steady sound of internal leaking and the coolant never got full. The oil level appeared to be slowly rising as well. To track this down, we pulled the intake and found no problems there. Then we attempted to fill the engine through one of the open water passages in the head, and saw that it was leaking from what appeared to be the driver's side head gasket area into the lifter valley. We decided to pull the heads, and when we pulled the driver's side head, we found a 2" long split in the deck from the middle water passage over to the lifter valley area- right where we spotted the leak that we though was coming from the head gasket. Doh! The block is basically toast. Sadly, the interior of the engine was pretty clean with no sludge and only limited gunk in a few places. I now have lots of F150 engine parts to use on various projects... :-(
  • Got a free canopy for the truck. It needs keys for the back, and a replacement window on the front - but it was free and in relatively decent shape overall.
  • Installed working hood release from 1989 Ford F150 4x4 parts truck. Now I can close/latch the hood - that's important progress!
  • Removed door panels to prepare for replacing/re-keying door locks, replacing vent window, and installing new speakers.
  • Installed replacement driver's side vent window from 1987 Ford F150 parts truck.
  • Removed door locks, took them to a locksmith, got keys cut for them, and re-installed them. Now I can lock the doors and close/latch the hood - that's really important progress! :-)
  • Got the windshield replaced with a brand new one.
  • Bought new hold down clamps for the canopy.
  • Removed the old heater-only blower motor assembly from the firewall and installed the blower motor and AC evaporator assembly from the 1989 Ford F150 4x4 parts truck onto the firewall.
  • Replaced the clutch slave cylinder and throwout bearing assembly.
  • Installed a rebuilt engine with a new clutch on it.
  • Installed all of the remaining engine compartment AC components (condenser, compressor, and hoses) from the 1987 Ford F150 parts truck.
  • Installed the heavy duty radiator from 1987 Ford F150 parts truck.
  • Did the required "20 minutes at 2500 RPM" running time to get the camshaft in the rebuilt engine properly broken in.
  • Replaced the heater core with one from one of the parts trucks. The one in this truck had a small leak in it which was promptly found during the break-in process for the rebuilt engine.
  • Scraped off all of the stickers on the back window of the truck and gave the window a good cleaning inside and out before the canopy was fastened down.
  • Fastened down the canopy.
  • Removed the latch assemblies to see about getting them re-keyed and to get a latch arm for the driver's side - it was missing from the canopy when I got it.
  • Replaced clutch master cylinder and bled the clutch system enough to make it operational. It's still not right - these things are notoriously hard to bleed. Way to go, Ford! :-(
  • Topped off the power steering fluid - it was pretty low from dribbling while the truck was sitting.
  • Installed new wiper blades - the existing ones were wasted beyond belief.
  • Took the truck for it's inaugural test drive around the block - and had to get the wife to get the Suburban and tow me home when the truck died and wouldn't restart. Ugh. No firm suspects, but something is amiss.
  • Fixed the shifter handle being in the wrong position - see notes above for details.
  • Lubricated everything that moves in or on the doors - window regulators and tracks, lock mechanisms, inside handle mechanism, vent window pivots and latch mechanism, and hinges. Much better!
  • Installed new handles and locks on the rear hatch for the canopy, along with a new latch arm to replace the missing one on the driver's side. (Thanks, Canopy World!) I can lock the canopy now. Yay. I replaced the original corroded machine screws with new stainless steel machine screws and nuts from my local Home Depot. I had to buy new machine screws anyway, and the stainless stuff was an extra buck or two, so I sprung for the stainless stuff to stave off any future corrosion.
  • Installed new headlight and wiper switch knobs. It's much easier to operate the headlights and wipers with real knobs rather than bare shafts. Though I'll never know how the old ones got removed/broken/lost, I suspect the previous owner was a bit of a gorilla and broke them. The decided lopsided groove in the drivers seat indicated that a pretty big dude used to own the truck and that he dropped down onto the outside edge of the seat with a fair amount of force on a regular basis...
  • Installed a spare inside rearview mirror I had laying around so I have something in there to actually see behind me. It's cracked, but it works for now. I have at least two or three other mirrors laying around from other vehicles I've parted out - I just have to find them...
  • Investigated the parking brake problems to see if I could adjust it tight enough to make it work - no luck yet, but now I know I need to pull apart the rear brakes and have a look at them next.
  • Ordered a new EGR valve for $96 with shipping from RockAuto - ouch. If was going to be $160 from my local parts store - double ouch - that's almost double what I got it for online! It's still a rip-off for this simple part to be $90, but it sure beats $160...
  • Installed a spare distributor to (hopefully) cure the SPOUT trouble code. Set the base timing and verified it via the KOER test procedure.
  • Cleared existing trouble codes by 1) using the code reader to clear the continuous memory codes and 2) by disconnecting the battery and waiting a few minutes with the headlight switch on (to force any capacitors in the computer to discharge whatever power they may have been holding onto). This also clears the computer's learning so it can start fresh now that the truck was running right post-break-in.
  • Re-did the KOEO and KOER tests and see what codes I get - 33 (EGR) and 52 (power steering).
  • Assembled an "emergency test kit" and put it in the vehicle to be able to test for any problems if the truck stalled out on later test drives. The kit contains the following:
    • Multimeter with several test leads with alligator clips (to test various stuff for voltage)
    • Noid light test kit (to check if the injectors are firing)
    • Spark checker (to see if I have spark)
    • Starter switch (to test starting the truck from under the hood)
    • Code reader (to see if the computer is freaking out or otherwise unhappy)
  • Did a brief second test drive with no major issues - the only stalling was from my clumsy usage of the not-fully-bled clutch. :-)
  • Fixed dome light so it works. The bulb was burned out and some previous dolt had removed the fuse from the fuse box. (Dolt-ish behavior is something I've seen a lot of on this truck...) After those minor fixes, the door switches and headlight switch worked perfectly. A small issue, but it's kind of nice to have a working dome light in the truck, especially at night.
  • Fixed turn signals so they flash - the flasher was missing. I installed one from my pile of spare parts and I had turn signals again. I originally suspected the under-dash wiring of having a problem, but I should have known better - more dolt-ish behavior from a previous owner/occupant/user of the truck.
  • Gave the inside of the truck a thorough vacuuming and cleaning out to remove trash and get up any glass shards left over from when the windshield was replaced. This made a big difference for very little effort.
  • Gave the truck a thorough exterior bath with a scrubber and the pressure washer - including the canopy and the bits between the cab and the canopy. It's very dirty from sitting around for so long and was starting to grow moss in places. Yuck! It looks much better now.
  • Removed the rear wheels and brake drums to check on the rear brakes and parking brake cables inside the drums. The bad news is that the left rear parking brake cable was snapped off just inside the backing plate and the right rear self-adjuster mechanism was completely boogered. The good news is that the pads and drums were in fine shape and the right rear parking brake cable was working fine. I just needed a new hardware and brake adjuster kit (local part store, in stock), plus a replacement left rear parking brake cable (in the parts stash from trucks I had parted out).
  • Found out that the key-in switch in the ignition is flakey, causing the warning buzzer to sound even when the truck is running. The switch has a lot of slop in it, which would explain this. For now, I just disconnected the buzzer. The previous owner had removed the fuse and rendered a bunch of stuff unusable. How about just fixing the problem? Yeah, that'd be too hard.
  • Bought a new AM/FM/CD unit made by Dual that supports HD radio and some 6-1/2" speakers to go in the doors. The total was around $230 with tax and the proper install kit and adaptor harnesses - not too bad. The setup is nothing spectacular and won't win any stereo competitions, but it's good enough for decent tunes while driving. According the Crutchfield the radio on this truck is size code I or K with a maximum of 6-9/16" of depth available. The door speakers are 6-1/2" round units. This means an in-dash CD-player fits without cutting, and they're pretty cheap these days. You can get a decent/basic receiver for around $100. That sure beats the first AM/FM/CD unit I bought when car CD players where the hot new thing and I paid over $400 for the dirt cheapest unit I could find...
  • Picked up a replacement seat from Craigslist. It's grey vinyl from a 1990 F150 and reasonably clean and in good shape. The original is grey cloth and has pretty beat springs. It's close enough, especially for $25. :-)
  • Installed the new speakers so we'd have something to listed to when the new stereo goes in.
  • Did a test-hookup of the new stereo to verify the wiring and that everything worked properly. I'll do the final install after the wiring under the dash is sorted out. The factory wiring harness had been cut pretty short behind the radio by the previous owner, making hooking up the new wires a real pain. We had previously found a power wire going under the carpet and to a place under the seat, starting at the battery and going through the firewall. During this work we found a blue wire going under the carpet from a place near the radio and heading under the seat. Since blue is the normal color for a "turn on" trigger wire for an amplifier, all of this leads me to believe that the previous owner had an aftermarket stereo in the dash with an amp installed. I would suspect that he had some speaker boxes behind the front seat as well - there was no evidence of extra wires going to the front speakers from an aftermarket amp under the seat.
  • Replaced left rear parking brake cable and the rear brake hardware + adjuster mechanisms on both sides. After the cable was replaced, the parking brake was already adjusted pretty well and it seems to hold the truck in place like it should, so I've calling that good and leaving it alone.
  • Replaced the EGR valve and verified it cleared the trouble code (33) for that. Once less problem for the computer to worry about!
  • Got the truck tabbed and registered - it's now legal to drive on the street which means I can do things like take it on a longer test drive, get more gas in it, and go get the clutch system bled properly.
  • Re-installed the door splash shields, inside door panels, window crank handles, door lock knobs, and other associated pieces.
  • Removed the steering column, instrument cluster, and the dash to work on the wiring and replaced the dash wiring with the harness from the 1989 Ford F150 4x4 parts truck. The previous owner had smoked, so the dash was full of ash and smoke dust. The ashtray area in particular was really filthy. During the windshield replacement, the previous windshield shattered and showered glass shards all over the dash and the interior. After the dash was out, I spent some quality time with an air hose on the dash itself and on the firewall and heater/AC system. It helped out a lot. I will have to re-vacuum the interior out when I'm done with the dash work, though.
  • Installed the AC harness from the 1989 Ford F150 4x4 parts truck. When I installed the AC assembly onto the firewall, I apparently used the one from the 1987 Ford F150 parts truck - incorrectly. The connectors that connect to the dash harness are completely different between the 1987 and 1989 models, and the under-hood wiring is slightly different as well. I didn't realize that I had grabbed the 1987 unit until I closely examined the dash harness from the 1989 Ford F150 4x4 parts truck and the one from the 1987 Ford F150 parts truck side by side. At that point, a search of my parts stash turned up the correct 1989 AC unit and I was able to grab the harness off of it and install it on the truck. It appeared that the physical AC pieces on the engine compartment side of the firewall were the same between the two years and just the wiring was different. I previously had a small rant up on this page about how Ford was lame for having different wiring for the AC and non-AC trucks. Now I have to write up the fact that I suck and failed to keep track of which parts came from which vehicle and it was my fault. It's been one of those weeks... :-/
  • Installed an aftermarket radio in the dash while it was out of the truck - it was much easier to work on that way. The new harness from the 1989 Ford F150 4x4 parts truck had intact connectors for the radio so I was able to use the adaptor harnesses and make up a nice little Ford -> aftermarket radio adaptor harness and be able to just plug it in instead of hard-wiring the radio to the original cut-up dash harness.
  • Re-installed the dash and hooked up the wiring.
  • Picked up what looks to be a correct AC/heater control panel from a '90 Bronco that was advertised on Craigslist as being parted out. He may also have the pieces I need to make the cruise control work; we'll see what happens with that.
  • Installed AC control panel and verified heater works.
  • Installed the steering column from the 1987 Ford F150 parts truck that has tilt and cruise control buttons on it. That was an automatic truck, so I removed the shifter lever and just left the shift collar in place. It looks a bit odd if you know what to look for, but it functions just fine. The only oddity is that the shift collar can be rotated out of the "park" position rather easily, and the key will only remove if it's in the park position. The ignition cylinder in this column seems to be in much better shape than the original was.
  • Figured out the fuel gauge problem and attempted a fix. See notes above for details.
  • Finished bolting down the dash and hooking up the wiring to the pin switches in the doors.
  • Installed the white canopy from Craigslist. The black one went onto the 1979 Ford F100. I pressure washed the canopy to clean it up - it was pretty grungy from sitting.
  • Figured out that the serpentine belt I was using was too long, causing the belt to slip because the tensioner was at it's limit and couldn't get the belt tight. This seems to have been the root cause of the alternator not charging all the time. It also caused a mild but unpleasant "burning rubber" smell if you revved the engine too much.
  • Took the truck out to get a full tank of gas in the front tank so I could have one full and one nearly empty tank to compare with for the fuel gauge. The fuel gauge is still not working - so much for my repair attempt. :-( The good news is that the truck ran perfectly on the trip, so it appears the distributor change fixed whatever was wrong that caused it to stall out and not restart before. I still need to pull the trouble codes and verify all is well, though.
  • Replaced the serpentine belt with the correct one. It turns out that using the 1987 AC and bracket assembly means I need to use a belt for a 1987 F150 with a 5.0L engine - it's shorter than the belt for a 1989 F150 with a 5.0L engine. This cured the charging problems quite nicely - now that the belt was not slipping, the alternator is working quite well.
  • Replaced the fuel gauge + oil pressure gauge assembly in the instrument cluster with a Craigslist-sourced replacement from another tach-equipped vehicle, in this case the donor was a 1990 Bronco. I also took the time to clean the cluster before reassembling it, and to polish the lens to remove any major grit/grime and most of the minor scratches. It's not perfect, but it looks a heck of a lot better than it used to, and now the fuel gauge works - woh-hoh!
  • Fixed the steering column installation. The connection to the steering shaft was 180 degrees off from when I swapped in the tilt column. It was drivable, but was very disconcerting to have the bottom of the wheel at the top when going straight and the turn signal canceling mechanism didn't work. Now it's much happier.
  • Hooked up the warning buzzer and verified the ignition switch in the new column was working right for the "key in" sensor.
  • Figured out why the radio wasn't coming on - I suspected power issues in the "ignition" circuit since the red alarm LED comes on just fine when the faceplate was out so I knew the "battery" power circuit and ground are connected properly. It turned out that when I plugged in the adaptor harness the terminal for the switched power wire got bent sideways and was not connecting. Once the connector was disconnected, it was very obvious what the problem was and the terminal was easily bent back into place and things reconnected.
  • Hooked up the antenna connection to the radio - somehow I missed that previously, so I was only getting "really strong" local stations. Oops.
  • Installed the ash tray assembly correctly - the back edge was hanging down and not sitting over the locator pins properly.
  • Fixed speed sensor error code from the computer and the speedometer. Neither was working, so I suspected a common cause. It turned out the speed sensor was split in two with half inside the transmission and connected to the mounting point and half connected to the speedometer cable and wiring harness. It looks like the crimp the two halves together when they make the sensor, and something caused this one to split apart. I had a replacement laying around from some other Ford I'd taken apart (no clue exactly what) so I swapped the gear onto the replacement sensor and installed it.
  • Re-installed all of the various faceplates and trim pieces on the dash and around the instrument cluster. I also re-installed the knobs for the headlight and wiper switches.
  • Re-installed the glove box and verified the light + switch works properly. The latch assembly was boogered up, so I swapped on the one from the 1987 Ford F150 parts truck.
  • Replaced the inside rear view mirror. The only one I could find laying around previously was cracked and hard to see out of. This one is much better - it's intact and looks to be in much nicer shape.
  • Ran through the various self-tests on the computer and verified the speed sensor code was gone. There is still a code being thrown for the power steering switch, but it's mostly harmless and doesn't turn on the check engine light, so I'm ignoring it for right now and declaring the engine to be running right and the EFI issues sorted out.
  • Installed the cruise control equipped center section onto the steering wheel and verified the horn was working properly.
  • Installed the cruise bits I got via Craigslist from the same 1990 Bronco that donated it's instrument cluster and AC control panel. It turns out that both of the proper holes were already drilled through the firewall and plugged with flat rubber plugs. The vacuum release valve is mounted to the brake pedal assembly along with the plastic piece that activates the release valve. The vacuum line for the release valve is run through the firewall and out to the servo assembly. The servo assembly is mounted to the driver's side fender and the cruise cable is hooked up to the throttle. The servo wiring is plugged into the needed places in the engine compartment and installed through the firewall behind the parking brake pedal. I'm missing some of the inside wiring to complete the hookup, so it's not functional yet and I still need to hook up the vacuum tank for the cruise along with the rest of the vacuum lines in the engine compartment.
  • Re-keyed the glove box lock to match the door key. It's a small thing, but it needed to get done and it was only about $20, so I had it done while I was thinking about it. It's a plastic lock and cylinder, so it's pretty lame and fragile - if you tug on the key too hard in the "unlocked" position, the cylinders are prone to come right out of the latch assembly along with the key! Oddly enough, it only seems to happen in the locked position. It's cheap, but I guess if the dash is all plastic, why bother making the lock any stronger? If someone wants into the glove box badly enough, they can just bend the door back until it breaks and get in that way.
  • Installed the wiring assembly for an under-hood light from the same 1990 Bronco that donated various other parts. It's not working, but it's there and should be easy to fix. Bad switch, maybe? Or maybe I used the wrong bulb?
  • Fixed the lock on the canopy so it can be locked. The keys the canopy seller gave me were correct, but the lock was just flat out gummed up internally from sitting outside unused for so long. A healthy dose of spray lock lubricant followed by working the key in and out and turning it back and forth as much as I could quickly freed up the internals of the lock cylinder and allowed it to lock properly. It actually works quite smoothly now. I got a pair of keys from the seller, so I now have two complete sets of keys for the truck.
  • Figured out that I needed to get replacement plastic clips to hold the trim panel under the steering column in place. I only have one left and it's pretty busted up.
  • Took the truck to a local transmission shop (Kirkland Transmission) to have the clutch hydraulics sorted out and to fix the "jumping out of first gear" problem. They quickly figured out that the transmission needed a rebuild. Crud. At least it'll have a warranty on it now... And bleeding the clutch is covered as part of the transmission rebuilding work. My Capitol One card and I aren't going to be on speaking terms for a while... :-/
  • Got the truck back from the trans shop and had the front end inspected by the local Les Schwab to see about the wander. It needs ball joints, but the brakes are in great shape in back and still have 30% remaining up front. The tie rods look worn (typical/expected) but should be usable.
  • Paid a visit to the 1990 Bronco that donated the rest of the cruise control pieces and found out that the 1990 Bronco wiring is a bit different and won't work directly on this truck. The connection inside the firewall is totally different. Blargh. I'm guessing it's the year difference that matters here rather than the Bronco difference.
  • Replaced the front ball joints and tossed in a new set of front brake pads while I was in there. I had to pick up a ball joint installer/remover to get the job done, it was $30 at Harbor Freight and worked pretty well.
  • Greased the new front ball joints and the existing tie rod ends.
  • Did a test drive to verify the new ball joints and brakes. The brakes are fine and there was a big improvement from the ball joints, but it's not quite right yet - there is still a decent sized "dead spot" in the center of the steering, so the steering box swap is next along with more inspection of the tie rod ends to see if they need replacement.
  • Re-installed the passenger's side cover plate that seals up the fresh air plenum on that side so it can't leak outside air right into the cab.
  • Re-installed the passenger's side kick panel - it turns out it uses two of the same clips that the door panels use, so it's a good thing I bought few extra of them.
  • Installed the replacement front seat from Craigslist. It turns out the seat adjuster on the replacement seat works even better than the original one. Also, I found out that to remove and install the seatbelts from where the pass through the bench seat you need to unbolt the from the floorboard and remove/install them that way.
  • Installed a missing rubber body plug from behind the seat. It was approx a 1" hole that was wide open to the undercarriage, letting dust, noise, and water come in freely. Minor, but it all helps.
  • Thoroughly cleaned the interior, including vacuuming the under-seat area while the seat was out to be replaced. It was very dirty from sitting, from blowing out the dust and junk from the under-dash area, from me pawing things with dirty hands while working on it, from it being used and abused as a work truck in a prior life, and from being previously owned by a smoker. A good vacuuming followed by a scrub of the floor mat, and a good cleaning of all of the hard surfaces did wonders. I even broke out an old toothbrush to clean out various cracks and crevices and I even remembered to clean the "top" of the sunvisors - they typically collect a lot of dust from sitting unused. I even wiped down the door frames and jambs to clean up them. It's not going to pass for a show car, but it's a heckuva lot better than it was before. The amount of grime I collected simple with a scrub brush, damp sponge, and a bucket of warm water was astounding. I had to keep emptying and replacing the water in the bucket because it got so dirty and had so much solid dirt accumulated at the bottom of the bucket. Yuck - and to think I was laying on that floor working under the dash...
  • Investigated the squeak while the engine was running. The prime theory was the alternator, and I had two spares, so I tried them both. It changed the squeak some, and the first alternator didn't charge properly at idle, but it's still not fixed. :-/
  • Changed the oil and filter after an adequate amount of break-in time.
  • Installed a new belt tensioner to try to fix the squeak - no change. So much for the prevailing wisdom on the web. All that I have left to try is the smog pump at this point.
  • Tracked down the part # and a source for the fasteners that mount the trim piece under the steering column and in front of the fuse block. I only had one left that I could find, and it was in pretty sad shape from being crushed in a box of random other stuff for so long. The local body shop supply can't locate them and neither could the local parts store, so I started calling local Ford dealers. I found out they are Ford part #N804536S, and they are a discontinued part. Luckily I found a few of them still in stock at a reasonably local dealer, so I can go get four of them for a whopping $.98 each. I'm going to spend more in gas getting the darned things than they will cost me. Yay. At least it's simple to install the cover panel once I have the clips.
  • Fixed the under hood light so it works. It was a combination of me not realizing the parking lights have to be on for it to work (?!??) and the connector on the firewall being dirty from not having anything connected to it since the truck was originally built. Some conductive battery contact gel plus some cleaning of the contact and some disconnecting and reconnecting to help rub the corrosion off the contact in the connector did the trick. I figured out that the parking lights needed to be on by analyzing the factory wiring diagrams. The under hood light is wired into the same circuit as the clearance lights if the truck is equipped with them, so it was obvious on the diagrams what was going on.
  • Inspected the joints on the tie rod ends and drag link and verified that they had no play in them - this is not the source of the play in the steering system. They are in pretty good shape, all things considered.
  • Figured out what the major source of play was in the steering - it was the collapsible coupling shaft that goes between the steering column and the steering box. Details are way above in the "fixing problems" section. Now I just need to fix the problem.
  • Replaced the steering shaft with a used one from a 1990 Bronco - and it helped a LOT. I also figured out that there was a small metal spring that was supposed to go in between the two pieces of the shaft - I found it laying on the frame next to the steering box. Once I installed that in my old steering shaft it was tolerable, but the one I installed form the 1990 Bronco was super-tight. It turns out that it was from a low-mileage truck. I'll keep the old one as a "just in case" spare since it's tolerable now that it's assembled correctly.
  • Replaced the smog pump with a spare one I had laying around to try to fix the squeak from the front accessory drive while the engine is running. All of the ones I had were a bit rough in operation, so I applied a liberal dose of Kroil to the best one and installed it. So far, it's doing pretty well. There is still an intermittent low-volume squeak tied to engine RPM - it's tolerable, though, unlike the previous "stuck pig" squeal from the other smog pump.
  • Installed the steering box from the 1987 F150 parts truck. The one in there was leaking very badly and the one I had laying around is supposedly in good shape. So far, so good... Before installing the new box, I took the time to clean it up with a small wire brush and a rag to make sure it was reasonably clean and that any leaks would be easy to detect. I also did the same quick cleaning to the area of the frame the ends up behind the steering box. The old box leaked enough that this areas was incredibly filthy. Dirt, rocks, leaves, and God only knows what else combined with power steering fluid to make a nasty black substance that looked like cake frosting with gravel in it. Yuck. I just wanted to get the bulk of it off, not make it sparkle, and the wire brush and rag did the trick nicely. My driveway now needs a pressure washing, though...
  • Installed the extra-long steel hard line used for the power steering return hose from the 1987 F150 parts truck. The original one in this truck was very short and the one I replaced it with had a longer length of line with a few loop in it and it all mounted compactly along the engine crossmember using factory drilled holes. Why do this? The extra length of line down in relatively open air acts as a cooler/heatsink and keeps the power steering fluid temps down. When the truck is loaded, turning the steering wheel at low speeds put a lot of heat into the power steering fluid. This extra bit of line helps the pump, steering box, hoses, various seals, and the fluid itself to last longer by keeping it cooler. It was cheap and free since I already had the parts laying around, and it was a direct bolt-in. This may be one contributing reason why the original steering box was so leaky - the fluid may have simply cooked the seals if it got too hot.
  • Installed a new pressure and return hose for the power steering. Before I made the final hookups, I flushed as much old fluid and gunk as possible out of the steering box and the return line. I put a temporary long length of hose onto the return line and dropped the end into an oil pan. Then I cranked the engine with the coil wire unplugged for a while to let it pump out most of the goo. I topped off the reservoir and repeated this a few times until it came out reasonably clean and the steering felt more normal. Then I started the engine and turned the wheel lock to lock a few times and let it pump out more goo. It helped a lot, but even after all this, the fluid has a weird chocolate mocha color to it. I think some water got into the steering box while it was sitting, so a full fluid flush may be in order here to help clean things up.
  • Installed a battery hold down from NAPA. It's a standard Ford "wedge" style and the NAPA universal Ford replacement worked great. The factory battery hold down was MIA when I got the truck, and I needed to put something in there to keep the battery from bouncing around. This works perfect and looks factory.
  • Fixed the ground wire connections at the battery. The negative battery cable I got from Ford has a separate small connector on it for some of the wiring to connect to, but the connector doesn't fit the connector on the truck for this purpose, so something was amiss. I think someone had spliced in a non-1989 F150 connector to the factory harness to try and use a non-OEM style battery cable, and in the process they cut off the original connector. For a while I had the ground connection made with a green test lead with two alligator clips on it - it was very classy. I couldn't find the right connector to re-splice into the harness, and I found out that in the 1990 Bronco, this wiring went to a existing ground on the radiator support, so I put on a proper ring connector to the wiring stub I had and grounded it that way. So far it's working fine.
  • Attempted to fix whatever was causing the idle to miss occasionally and whatever is causing the idle speed to not be steady right when you put the clutch in, between shifts, etc. Basically, I hosed down the throttle body with spray carb cleaner while the engine was running to clear out most of the gunk. It was not terribly dirty, but it had some accumulated black spooge in there. Then I pulled the IAC valve and motor off of the throttle body and thoroughly cleaned out the valve and the passages in the throttle body, again with spray carb cleaner. It's idling better now, but it's still not perfect.
  • Installed one of my many extra Ford bolt pattern wheels and tires into the spare tire carrier in the back. Up until this point there was no spare in the truck, which for me was tempting fate... It turns out that I had an "odd man out" tire with usable tread on a steel rim, so I used that. Every other Ford bolt pattern wheel + tire I had laying around it was in a matched set of 4 rims, so I didn't want to break up a sellable set of rims + tires for this.
  • Installed the plastic bushing in the clutch linkage to clutch master cylinder rod hookup to remove the last bit of slop in the linkage. I had previously installed it before coming home from the trans shop, and it popped out a few shifts later and popped the linkage apart leaving me to coast to the side of the road with no clutch. Easy fix, but annoying. It turned out that I was trying to install it backwards, and once I fixed that, it went together properly and stayed together. There is still some slop in the linkage due to worn bushings in the cross-shaft under the dash, but it's not bad.
  • Took the truck out for a good hour long shakedown cruise that included freeway driving, around town, back roads, and some slow-speed parking lot driving to verify the power steering system. Overall, it did pretty darned good. The steering wheel is off center, but the truck tracks straight, doesn't wander, and drives pretty well.
  • As part of the test drive, I did a couple of panic stops to test the brakes and see if I could get the rear antilock system to activate and verify it was working. I couldn't get the rear anti-lock system to kick in, or if it did, I couldn't feel it in the pedal. I'll have to try again on a wet road with no one around. Overall, it did very well. It does pull to the left on panic braking enough that I want to get an alignment done on it.
  • Re-checked the trouble codes from the computer - and it's still complaining about the power steering pressure switch, so it looks like that needs to be replaced. Thankfully, nothing else came up, so things are generally working properly.
  • Temporarily removed the oil pressure sender and installed a mechanical oil pressure gauge to verify the actual oil pressure - and it's got plenty of pressure. The gauge in the dash is reading way too low for the actual pressure.
  • Did another washing of the underside of the truck and of the power steering bits to clean up any residue from the work on it. This should make it easier to see if any leaks show up. Unfortunately I couldn't use my pressure washer because it wouldn't start, so I had to settle for some Castrol Super Clean plus the regular garden hose. It helped a lot, but it still needs a good pressure washing.
  • Got the truck aligned. The steering wheel was about 20 degrees off to the right, and although the truck did track straight and the steering felt tight, it pulled to the left just enough on panic braking that I'd want to get it checked out and adjusted. I suspect the old column and steering shaft were so beat that whenever the last alignment was done it was just off to one side. Also, since I removed the steering box and replaced it, it could be sitting slightly differently on the frame (higher, lower, forward, rearward - or some combination of these) which was causing the tie rod ends to be positioned slightly differently. I didn't want to wear out the tires on the truck due to a goofy alignment - they're in pretty good shape - so I got a basic alignment done. Caster and camber were fine, so they just adjusted the toe in via the tie rod ends and made sure the wheel was pointing straight when the truck was going straight. It's much better now - it's the little things that make a big difference sometimes.
  • Drove the truck to work and on errands for a few days to verify that all was working well and there are no other problems to resolve. So far, so good, so I'm moving this item to the "done" list even though I'm continuing to drive the truck and keep an eye on it. The only item of concern is the radiator - it has a small leak on one of the seams, enough so that you can smell antifreeze occasionally, but not enough to leave visible drops under the truck. For semi-regular use, it should be fine for now.
  • Found and installed the upper mounting bracket for the AC compressor. It works without it, but this gives is a bit more strength and reliability. It was laying in the back of the truck along with all the other spare parts and random stuff associated with this tuck or one of the parts trucks.
  • Emptied the back of the truck of all parts and swept out the truck bed. Labeled and/or boxed up all of the parts and separated them into a "save for this truck" pile that goes with the truck (the largest one), a "save for other work" pile that stays with me, and I tossed out a few odds and ends that were just trashed. I put everything that goes with the truck (including a few things from the garage like the original non-tilt column and the original steering box) back in the bed, stacked and sorted as neatly as possible.
  • Modified the oil pressure gauge to work correctly. I found it was easiest to solder a new wire to the existing solder connections on the resistor.
  • Replaced the power steering pressure switch and re-tested the computer for trouble codes - and it finally came up clean on the KOER test - woh-hoh! It droves OK and the power steering worked, but the trouble code in the computer bugged me and it turned out to be leaking from the old pressure switch, so replacing it will help the power steering leak. Also, without the computer able to tell when the power steering was being used, the idle dropped a good bit when you turned the wheel, which is what the pressure switch is supposed to help prevent.


Parts Needed

A reminder of what I need to find, buy, trade for, or otherwise obtain to complete the work on this truck. There's not much left here now...

  • Twist in plastic trim clips for the panel under the steering column and in front of the fuse block
  • Tilt steering column from a manual trans truck


Stuff Left To Do

The ever-present list of things to that need to get fixed. The good news is that there are no remaining items that need addressing before I press the truck into more or less regular service - all of these things can be done "sometime soon".

  • Replace the ear window on the canopy - it got busted out while carrying a lawnmower. The driver (who shall officially remain nameless) took off a bit too fast and the mower rolled back fast enough that the handle smashed the rear window into a million pieces - ah, the joys of safety glass when it breaks.
  • Flush the power steering system again to remove any remaining moisture and gunk from the system.
  • Pressure wash the new steering box and the underside of the engine compartment - particularly the back side of the engine crossmember - to remove the last remnants of grease and oil from them. It's very hard to detect a leak or locate it's source when everything is already coated with a fresh layer of power steering fluid and/or old engine compartment grime, and the first few months of driving after a big repair like this truck has seen includes keeping an eye out for leaks.
  • Install dash lower trim plate under column and in front of fuse block as soon as I get the correct twist-in clips to hold it in place.
  • Replace the electrical switch for the parking brake warning light. The current one only works part of the time (or if you jiggle it), thus making it easy to forget the parking brake is on and try to drive away.
  • Finish the cruise control installation and get it working. I suspect that I need a small wiring harness for inside the cab, or that the 1990 Bronco wiring is slightly different than the wiring on this 1989 F150. I need to find another 1989 F-series or Bronco with cruise and compare with what I have.
  • Re-install the driver's side kick panel after the cruise control is installed and working.
  • Verify AC wiring is correct and that the compressor and associated components get power at the proper times. Right now is stalls if the pressure switch is jumpered around, so I think something is amiss somewhere.
  • Charge AC system and get it working. It will almost assuredly need a new receiver/dryer since it was open to the air for so long. Perform R134A conversion at this time as well.
  • Install a full muffler and rear-exit exhaust system. Right now it ends under the bed after the cat. It works, and is reasonably quiet, but it's kinda annoying and sounds weird. If I could find a pre-bent tailpipe assembly with a muffler for cheap enough, I might do this myself.
  • Verify the rear anti-lock brake system is functioning properly.
  • Keep an eye on the radiator - the passenger's side tank has a small leak at the seam between the tank and the core. You can smell antifreeze if your nose is in there and the engine is hot, and it gets a little damp from the seepage, but it's not dripping - at least not yet.
  • Replace the steering column with a tilt column from a manual transmission truck.


Purchasing Order

This was vehicle #29. This vehicle was the first "nearly a parts-car" type of vehicle I attempted to bring back from the dead. Some might argue that most of my projects are one step away from being a "parts car", though. It was also the first major vehicular project I did for a friend.

Comments? Kudos? Got some parts you'd like to buy/sell/barter/swap? Nasty comments about my web page so far? You can email Mike or Debbie.

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Page last updated 01/02/2009 01:51:39 PM