After many days with my truck looking like this, I’ve finally got it back to the state it was in three weeks ago, before I stupidly broke the thermostat housing bolt!
I’m counting this as a self-induced victory.
That there is the replacement thermostat housing bolt. I ended up shredding the old bolt to smithereens in the process of drilling out an oversized hole. Then I tapped the hole and put a helicoil in.
It was my first time tapping new threads, and I was worried that I wouldn’t align the tool properly and end up with cross-threaded threads or something. Fortunately the tool seems to self-align, because it was turning perfectly with absolutely zero wobble after the first few turns.
I was also worried that the hand-steadied hole I drilled out would be too askance for the bolt to sit flush, but the bolt head is looking level, so I think I’m good there.
A big reason why I got this truck was being able to wrench without fear of mistakes, so in a way I’m glad I’ve made a big mistake already. I’ve got some hard-earned lessons:
* give bolts at least a few turns by hand to make sure you’re not cross-threading them
* as soon as you realize you’re cross threading something, back it out!
* if you can’t thread it in properly after that, you need to do something about the threads.
* you might not need to drill a new hole if you drill out the bolt with left-hand threads.
* tapping new threads isn’t hard.
Plus it gave me the excuse to buy tons of tools.
Many thanks to all the oppos that offered advice as I worked on this. Probably wouldn’t have gotten through it without y’all.
Now that it’s running, I’m planning to do a few smaller repairs before starting the rough idle investigation. The parking brake release cable snapped, so I have a replacement from the yard to plumb in as soon as I feel like wrestling with those damn plastic tabs (in the mean time I can’t park on hills). I also seem to need a new engine temperature sensor for the gauge in the dash; despite replacing the broken connector, the gauge doesn’t go above 160 or so (I know the gauge is good because it goes all the way over when I ground it out).
It sure feels good to have a working vehicle again after weeks of stumbling in the general direction of progress.
P.S.: sorry I didn’t take process shots, I’m really bad at remembering to take those. I’ll try to get in the habit.