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One Thing Leads to Another: An Update on Fixxing My Truck

So my Craigslist truck turned out to be less of a good deal that I had hoped. You know what they say: if it’s not one thing... it’s six things. But it’s getting better, one step at a time.

A new set of tires was one of the first things my new purchase required, and a good alignment was crucial to tire longevity. Aside from new steering components, there turned out to be one more unexpected obstacle before getting my new tires aligned. The camber was still way out, and could not be adjusted. Bent frame? Nope: GM knockouts.

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When these trucks were assembled at the factory, the upper control arm camber bolts were inserted through holes in the frame brackets, positioning the alignment right where it needed to be. Camber angle could not be changed without removing semi-perforated “knockouts”, which transforms a hole into a slot. Once the slots are opened up, the cam-bolts can be turned to position the control arms right where they need to be.

Illustration for article titled One Thing Leads to Another: An Update on Fixxing My Truck
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In this truck’s twenty years and 288,000 miles, no one had ever bothered to remove these knockouts. This resulted in unevenly worn front tires, which had been rotated to the rear axle while the poor alignment began to slowly destroy two more tires all over again. Somebody’s been spending way too much on tires for the past two decades because of this oversight.

With that done and out of the way, I needed to focus on that fuel leak, which was coming from the (presumably original) tank. But if I’m replacing the tank, I’m gonna put a new pump in it. Wait, how old is this truck again? Fuggit, I’ll throw a new sending unit in there as well. Hmm... those straps don’t look so great, either...

So I started rounding up some more parts while waiting for the weather to get back above freezing. The fuel tank came unpainted, so I grabbed a couple rattle-cans from the store, took everything to a neighbor’s heated garage, and put a few coats on it after cleaning the oily residue off of the metal.

Illustration for article titled One Thing Leads to Another: An Update on Fixxing My Truck
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I assembled the new parts together, and set out to drain and remove the old tank. Where there had once been steel fuel lines, I found several feet of rubber hose, clamped onto what little remained of the steel tubing. Not cool.

So I decided to replace all the fuel lines, rear to front and front to rear, with nylon tubing. (This also gives me the opportunity to install quick connects to make filter changes a snap.) While pulling out the old lines, I nudged the rear main brake line, which responded by puking out fluid. One little bump! Better now than later. I quickly cut the brake line further upstream, then smashed, folded, and smashed it again to minimize leakage.

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Illustration for article titled One Thing Leads to Another: An Update on Fixxing My Truck

I topped off the reservoir and grabbed some NiCopp tubing, running new line all the way from the front, carefully bending and routing it along the frame.

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(BTW, if you ever have to replace steel lines, you gotta try this NiCopp stuff out. It’s fantastic. Easy to bend; easy to flare; no rust... I’m not going back to steel. No way.)

Unfortunately, I wasn’t done buying parts yet. Penetrating fluid wasn’t enough to keep the bleeders on the rear wheel cylinders from snapping right off. So instead of trying to extract what was left to install new bleeder screws, I just bought new wheel cylinders. At less than $10 a pop, there’s just no point in trying to make the old ones work.

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The brake fluid in this truck was due to be changed anyway, so after bleeding the rear lines, I started cracking on the front. These lines had been replaced at some point and weren’t nearly as rusty. But just like the rear, the front caliper bleeder screw twisted right off. I would either have to dig the rest of it out and install a new bleeder, or replace the caliper.

But that’s the nice thing about this truck: not only are so many parts easily accessible, a lot of the replacement parts are inexpensive. A new caliper cost me less than $20 upon trading the old core in.

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So new tires led to some steering parts and a sorely overdue modification. And a fuel tank replacement led to a fuel line job, which led to new brake lines, which led to new wheel cylinders and calipers. Good thing the brakes themselves are in good shape. This is one of those vehicles where replacing front rotors means re-packing the wheel bearings. Oh joy.

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