Sunday, March 16, 2008

Glow plugs

Today I finally bit the bullet and started installing new glow plugs. Since switching to biodiesel, the van has been really hard to start in the mornings. I guess the biodiesel congeals a little more in the cold than dead-dinosaur diesel does.

So I did the first side-- four plugs. I've made a decision not to use foul language in this blog, but it's really hard when talking about this project. I guess it's enough to say that I now remember why I decided to get rid of my cars 8 years ago and take public transit instead. Working on internal-combustion vehicles is no fun (although, I really really want to build an electric car, and I suspect that soon I will do exactly that).

Things I do like about this van is that the engine is INSIDE the cab! Much nicer for vandwelling! Instead of standing outside in the freezing cold or rain-- and in plain view of everyone who passes by-- I can do a lot of work on the vehicle from inside of it.

Also, when running biodiesel, the inside of the engine smells yummy! Instead of the sulfurous stench of diesel, or the alcohol-y stink of gasoline, the valve compartment smells like fresh motor oil, a hint of french fries, and that's it.

If you have to replace glow plugs on a 1998 7.3L Ford PowerStroke, the key is to remove the stupid hose clamp that blocks access to the front valve cover bolt. Then you can get a socket wrench in there and turn it to get the bolt off that also holds the engine-oil dipstick tube too.

I was surprised to find that the bolts on this van are metric! A Ford-- metric. Wow. The glow plugs are 10mm and the valve cover bolts are 13mm (not 1/2").

Also, do NOT use a 3/8" drive deep socket for getting to the glow plugs. It's too wide and as the plug comes out, the socket will get wedged in against the rocker arm ball. Ouch. I found a thinner socket and it worked better that way.

But, what a PITA! Lots of difficult bolt access. Luckily, the Ford engineers angled the glow plugs so that they were easy to access with a socket wrench extension. That was the easiest part. Getting the valve cover off was the hardest part. Also, whose decision was it to have electrical components in an area completely bathed in engine oil? Trying to get a good solid electrical contact when putting the new plugs in was nearly impossible. The tip was completely coated in oil. I hope they work-- I ran out of daylight and will have to wait for the morning to torque bolts and put the air filter assembly back in.

I did the passenger side first. If you number the bolts 1-10, with 1 starting at the leftmost side of the valve cover, bolts 1-5, 9, and 10 were easily accessible from inside the cab, bolt 6 from under the hood (after removing the hose clamp that was in the way), and bolts 7 and 8 from underneath the van.

When I started, the passenger side looked easier, but now that I've done that side, the driver's side actually looks like it might be easier, once removing the oil filler hose and stuff. Seems like there might be more bolts accessible from inside on that side.

Also, when buying auto parts, I stumbled upon a dollar store, and finally found a spray bottle! Works very well-- an indispensible tool for water conservation in vandwelling. Should have been the first thing I bought.

No comments: