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Last: The Third Rebuild

Winter 1997-98

Sometime in October or November I finally got around to taking that old engine out of the jeep. I stripped it down to the short block and had Ted drop it off at a machine shop for me (since there was no way to get it delivered in the back of the CRX).

It turned out that it wasn't just the rings. It was everything. The machine shop said that dirt got in the engine and the crank was bad as well as the rings, etc. Shit. Probably got sucked in past the air filter somewhere or by the PCV valve, or whatever. Total cost to rebuild the engine was going to be about $1000.

I decided to think about it and told the machine shop to put the engine aside for a bit and I would get back to them. Maybe it was time to give up on the V-8. It was major overkill for such a small jeep and it didn't fit to well in the engine compartment anyway.

Since I didn't want to mess around with bellhousings and transmission adapter changes I decided I needed to stick with a chevy engine, but a V-6, so I called up Fitz (local junk yard) and asked them for a price on a V-6 vortech. Intially they said $800. Wow, perfect. Less than a rebuild on the V-8, and I could probably sell some of the old V-8 parts like the heads, carb, etc. at the swap meet and make up some money. But, it turns out that $800 was assuming that I had a vortech core, the wiring harness, computer, alternator, etc. For $1500 I could get the full conversion which includes the computer, harness, etc, etc and they even had one available.

This was early December and I decided to think about it some more.

In January I called Fitz back and they still had the same engine so I decided to go for it and put $300 down. My plan was to spread the costs out a little and pay for the rest of the engine the next month. So about mid February I borrowed my brothers Cherokee, went up to Fitz, picked up the new engine and brought it home. With the help of a rented engine hoist I gently lowered the engine to the ground on an old tire in the middle of my garage. It sure looked nice.

So what happened to the other engine? I almost forgot about it. The machine shop called me back in January and I told them I didn't want to do the rebuild, so I borrowed a friends pickup and brought the engine pile back to the garage. So it was sitting in a pile near the new engine which made it much easier to justify the nice new 1995 V-6 vortech sitting in my garage.

Now came the hard part and step one involved getting the full set of manuals for that engine. A quick check of, a phone call, and about a week and a half wait got the $90 set of manuals on my doorstep and there was no way I could start without them.

Well, there was one thing I could start on. The vortech I got came off a '95 Blazer with an automatic transmission. The manual flywheel I had wouldn't work due to the changes Chevy made with the rear main seal, so I went up to Fitz and they gave me a manual flywheel for that engine. Cool, no charge either (since I put down a wad of cash already for the engine).

So, all I had to do was pop off 6 bolts, get the automatic starter gear plate off, and bolt on the flywheel. 3 came off OK, but they sure were on there tight. I started to strip #4 because I was using a 12 point 1/2 inch socket. I didn't have a 6 point 1/2 socket, so I switched to a 6 point 3/8 socket which I managed to snap in half. So I got another 6 poing 3/8 socket and snapped that one to. Shit. Went back to the 12 point 1/2 and proceeded to strip 4, 5, and 6. Shit, shit, shit!!!!

OK, no problem. I really don't care if I destroy the bolts getting them off, just as long as I get them off. So, bring out the big guns, the welder. I tried welding a rod onto the end of the bolt and use it to turn the bolt but both times I tried, I just broke the weld. Shit. Well, time to get a different tool. I need to go to Sears to replace the two sockets I had split so while I was there I got an impact driver and a 6 point 1/2 inch impact socket. With this combination and a large hammer I was able to get one of the bolts off but ended up stripping the other 2 so that a socket was never going to work.

Next came the large hammer, a chisle and a lot of swearing. Finally I had to call Don and have him bring over his grinder which did the trick.

Cool, now I can bolt on the flywheel, the bellhousing, attach the transmission...well, I didn't get to far. I put on the flywheel and then started to put on the bellhousing, was too small. I checked the size of my old flywheel and sure enough it was about an inch smaller in diameter. A quick call back to Fitz got them searching for the smaller one and after some looking out of state they found one.

This was a good thing because what I really needed to do was get the motor mounts on and start figuring out the wiring mess. When I finally got the manual set I had this bad feeling I was way in over my head and nothing seemed to make sense. I decided to start with the simple things, like trace the alternator wire to the battery and highlight that in the wire diagram. Then move on to something else. In the beginning it was hell, but after I figured out what all the sensors were called and where wires were going it went pretty well. I had a pretty good start on the wiring when the flywheel arrived. Time to make some progress.

With the flywheel I was able to get the bellhousing on and with some help from Don we were able to get the transmission attached on the garage floor. Then with an engine hoist we swung the engine in place and marked the location of the mounts. After a little welding and attaching the rear transmission crossmember, the engine was in place on the frame. WOHO!

Next came the exhaust and after a couple of quick runs to Fitz and some more welding that was done. Piece of cake.

The radiator was a little more work. The fan that came with the engine was a little bigger in diameter so the bottom fitting was not going to work right. Also, the top fitting was on the wrong side. Also, where the hell was I going to find hoses that fit? I decided to just go and get the stock intake and output radiator hoses for the engine. This worked like a charm and I just marked the intake and output places on the radiator and had a radiator shop move things around. No problem.

Time to get back to the wiring. After many more nights of tracing wires I was finally at the point where I could start cutting out stuff I didn't need. One big section was a bundle going to the automatic transmission. In the end there wasn't much that interfaced with the rest of my jeep, just some power type wires that needed to go to a fuse block. Most everything else routed to or from the computer.

The wiring was to a point where I needed the body back on to continue any further and before I put the body back on I needed to get some more stuff done, like the fuel delivery system. This turned out to be a major headache which still hasn't been solved correctly.

The fuel injection system needed fuel delivered to it at 50psi and in the Blazer the pump was in the tank. Well, that wouldn't work for me because I had two tanks and I would probably never find a pump that would work in the tank under my seat. After shopping around it also became clear that the pump was going to cost a bunch, and I really didn't want to by one for each tank.

In the end I got a Mallory 60FI pump from Jim Greens for about $200. Ouch. I was able to mount it on the crossmember between the transfer case and rear gas tank which was below the front gas tank which was good, but above the rear tank which was probably not going to work. I didn't have much choice on location so I figured for the moment I would just run off the front tank for testing.

On other problem with the high pressure system was it needed return lines. I had a place on the rear tank where I could put a return line, but nothing really on the front tank. After thinking things over a bit, I figure out I could tap a hole in the top of the fuel level and make a return line fitting. This worked great.

Now I just needed a double pull, double throw gas tank switch for both the intake and return lines. Ahhh, another $50. Turns out some Ford truck has a fuel injection system with two tanks. I also needed to have a custom hose made to go from the fuel pump to the fuel injection system on the top of the engine. The fuel pump had a standard double flair, but the injection intake was a weird o-ring fitting. Another $40 and I had a nice neat hose.

So now that the fuel system was pretty much in place I could put the body back on and start working on some other stuff. This went pretty well, but I had to take it off and put it back on about 4 or 5 times to get everything fitting correctly with firewalls, fuel lines, etc, etc, but it was nice to see the jeep start looking like a jeep again.

One thing I hadn't figured out up to this point was where I was going to put the computer. I didn't want it in the engine compartment because it wasn't sealed up to well, but I didn't quite know where I was going to stick the damn thing. I wanted to make sure it was up pretty high just in case I got in some deep water. Under the seat was too low. I started thinking about putting it in the battery box and moving the battery to the engine compartment, but that would have been a pain. Then it all came together. After poking around I found out that there was a space, about 2 inches wide between the battery box and the dash panel plate and the computer slid right into this space just like it was meant to be there. With a little rubber and duct tape I was able to wedge the computer into this slot. Perfect.

The other thing I was not sure on was the air cleaner situation and this was another thing that just fell into place. I got a cylinder type K&N filter and used PVC pipe to make a duct to the air intake. This all routed nice and neat up and around the alternator, over the radiator input hose to the aircleaner which was mounted on the driver fender. What was even cooler was that the cylinder filter fit right inside a big coffee can so with a little modification the coffee can provided the perfect shield to keep the filter clean from sprayed dirt, mud and water.

The steering needed a little modification to get over the motor mounts, but with a reciprocating saw and a welder this was no problem.

Somewhere else in this time frame I took my roll bar down to a friend of my brothers who owned American Powder Coating and had it done up in flat black. I also had my new tire rack done the same color. Now there would be no more paint rubbed off from trees or from the bikini top.

Everything was coming together nicely and it was about time to try and start up the engine. First thing was to put a little gas in the front tank, fill it up with oil and water and double check all my fitings, wires, etc, just to be sure I didn't forget something major that would screw things up starting the engine.

Well, it was now or never and just to be safe I had my fire extinguisher ready. The first thing I did was turn the key to ON. What happens at this point is the computer turns the fuel pump on to pressurize the system, and will shut the pump off if the engine doesn't start in 2 seconds or if the oil pressure doesn't come up. Well, the pump turned on, I waited, and the pump turned off. Cool! Check around all my fuel connections, to make sure nothing was leaking or spraying. Everything was fine. Time to crank it over. I turned the key to START and the engine fired right up and my oh my was it SMOOOOTTTHHHHH.

I didn't have the gas pedal hooked up yet, but I really didn't need it to start. The computer controled the idle and when it started to stall out a bit, the computer would just give it more gas to keep it going. It was great. I reved the engine a bit manually and everything seemed to work well. Turned the engine off, then fired it back up again, no problem.

Well, there was a minor/major problem. After a bit of warmup, if I reved the engine I would get a ton of blue smoke out the exhaust. Shit. This isn't happening. I decided not to worry too much at that point and just concentrated on getting everything together so I could take it for a real drive.

Before I could do that I needed to get the jeep insured again so I called up my agent. They said no problem, just stop by and fill out the paperwork. So I drove up (in the CRX) to the agent and filled out the paperwork. But there was a snag. The CRX and the Jeep were both in the preferred category before because of my driving record, age, etc. But, I had let the insurance expire on the jeep in December. This meant that the Jeep would have to go back into the non-preferred category. What the hell? I called bullshit (well not really) and said it was in a state of disrepair and insuring it made no sense at all because it couldn't physically go anywhere. Luckly all I needed was a receipt for work that was done to the jeep. "No problem, will an engine receipt work?"

So I zipped home and got the receipt for the engine. "Oh, the date on this is February, and it's April now." "So." "Well, we need a receipt from within the last 30 days." I couldn't believe it but I was able to talk her into accepting the fact that it took me 3 months to put the engine in, and if she wanted receipts for smaller stuff all the way up to the day before, I could provide them. Anyway, I got the $280 a year policy instead of the $440.

Back to the jeep. A little more work on the brakes and gas pedal, a full fillup on the front gas tank, and I was ready to go for a spin. I decided to go up 98th street by my house which is a rather steep hill. The jeep had plenty of power going up the hill, but behind me was the biggest blue cloud of smoke you have ever seen. Damn, damn, damn.

I talked to Don, a friend at work, and some other people. Maybe it was left over oil in my exhaust from the oil engine and it would just take a little to burn off. Jason, a friend from work said to try a different brand of oil so I drained out the normal stuff that I had and refilled it with Mobil 1. It's a new engine, better just go with the good stuff from now on anyway.

About this time I was in real need to get some landscape bark for around the house so I hooked the trailer up to the jeep and drove to get a load, trying to stay to the flat roads so I didn't polute the world too bad. I made it to the bark place without any problems, but on the way back I had to go up a long gradual hill. Well, might as well see what happens, so with a full yard of bark in the trailer, I gave it some go, and raced up the hill, plenty of power, smoke.

I talked to the guy who sold me the engine at Fitz a week or so later and I told him about the smoke problem. He apoligized for not telling me, but that it would smokes a while because when they store the engines after taking them out of the junked cars, they fill them with oil to preserve the engines, so it would just take a little time to burn off all the oil.

Now it was time to take it on another little ride, this time up to the montly Cliffhangers meeting. I jumped on I-5 and headed North up to Dale's house. When I got off the freeway and stopped at a light, I could hear my fuel pump screeming. This wasn't right. I kept driving and a couple of times the engine started to stall out, like it was running out of gas. This wasn't good at all. I made it to Dale's house and checked things out. Nothing seemed obvious other than the fuel pump was making lots of noise. After the meeting I headed home. The fuel pump noise seemed to go away for a little while but came back once I got off the freeway down by my house. I almost didn't make it home, as the engine kept starving for fuel.

I called up Jim Greens the next day and asked them what could be the problem. The gas tank was above the pump so that shouldn't be any problem. I thought maybe it was a bad pump, but to send the pump back would take 2 weeks.

I decided to just take a break for a little and think over the problem. Then I got an idea. My fuel level was down to a half tank. I limped up to the gas station and filled up the tank. Everything worked great after that.

My guess on the problem was that the high pressure pump and fuel injection system suck fuel at such a high pressure (and probably volume) that with a half full tank, gravity feed isn't enough to keep the pump happy. Just for grins I tried to run off the rear tank which was below the level of the high pressure pump. No go at all.

What I decided to do was get two small electric fuel pumps that could feed the bigger pump, one for each tank. This seemed to work...sort of. The rear tank worked fine until you got down to about 2/3rd full. The front tank still acted weird below a quarter. To this date the fuel system is still giving me problems. I think the solution is to get a bigger "primer" pump. The ones I have are pretty small, and probably still can't suck the fuel fast enough to keep up with the big pump.

Oh, ya. There was one other problem that baffled me. After I had taken it for some test drives it was getting harder and harder to crank over. Almost like the battery was going dead. Well, at this point I didn't have all the guages, and instrument light hooked up, so I finished this off.

Sure enough, the battery showed 11ish volts and when the engine was running, it didn't go up. Shit, I must have a bad alternator. I took it in to 3 different auto parts stores and nobody could test it. It was too new. What the hell? I even tried to take it to the chevy dealer, but they wanted to test it on the car. "Well, it's really not in a '95 blazer, the engine is in a '52 jeep." I really didn't want to futz with the dealer so I took it to an alternator rebuild shop and dropped it off. They tested it out and it worked fine.

I was stumped. All the wires were hooked up, even the alternator light, but it didn't come one. I looked over everything, looked at the wiring diagram. I just couldn't figure it out. Then I looked at the wiring diagram again...real close.

There were two wired coming off the alternator. One went to the battery, and the other went to the light. The way I had it wired was from the alternator, to the light, to ground. WRONG. The circuit worked the other way. You put power to the light, and the ground was in the alternator. If the alternator wasn't running, or wasn't working, it would ground the circuit, and turn the light on. Made perfect sense when you thought about it and I just had it backwards. Once I fixed this and fired up the engine, the battery shot up to 14 volts.

There was one other very minor problem. To me, the engine seemed pretty quiet, but there was a high pitched whine that seemed to be coming from the AC pump. I drove the jeep to work one day, and a friend took a listen and said for sure the AC pump bearings were shot. So I just took it out, went back up to Fitz, got a different one, plopped it in and fired it up. Now that was quiet. At idle you almost couldn't tell it was running.

Next: The Current State of the Jeep
My Jeep Adventures
The Beginning
The First Day
The Maiden Voyage
Trail Jamboree
The Worst Day
Slick Hill
Christmas Tree Run
Winter Repairs
Elbe Hills
Swap Meet
Transfer Case
High Rider Trail
Canadian Jamboree
Deep Mud
Rear End
Lake Cavinagh
Getting Away
A Home for the Jeep
Crossed Up
The Island
Jeep Thoughts
Trail Jamboree II
Knock Knock
The Second Rebuild
Legalizing Trailers
Tick Tick Tick
Island Rock Crawlers
The Third Rebuild
The Current State of the Jeep
For Sale
The End