Monday, November 30, 2009

The secret to Ford 7.3L diesel survival

I have finally figured out the secret to surviving with an old Ford 7.3L PowerStroke diesel, and not getting bankrupted.

1) Buy ordinary stuff (oil, basic stuff) from Kragen, or wherever it is cheap.

2) Buy Motorcraft stuff (filters, seals, non-engine-related parts) from a distributor, NOT from the dealer. I've found one locally whose prices are excellent.

3) Buy all diesel engine parts from International directly. This one is the key. The aftermarket Ford/Motorcraft places don't carry it. The dealer buys it from Ford, who buys it from International, and each adds an insane markup.

I am pretty sure now that the source of my leak was what Ford calls the "fuel filter vacuum indicator switch". It had failed, and started leaking.

It was $68 from the Ford dealer... and $24.50 from the International dealer.

Sweet! Now I know where I'm getting my parts in the future.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

The dogs

When I'm in the city, the biggest threats I face are car burglars, car theives, and teenagers with cans of spraypaint.

When I'm in suburbia, the biggest threats I face are cops, and the NIMBY homeowners who call them.

When I'm in rural areas, the biggest threats I face are: dogs.

Dogs take violent exception to my being in their neighborhood. I park, and I can hear them immediately become completely unhinged.

Seems like, in rural areas, everyone has a dog, and everyone's dog does not like me being around.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

The "just a little dirty" theory of graffitti-avoidance

One of the more boring and annoying games that I have to play while living in a big white box truck, is "cat and mouse" with teenage chowderheads armed with illegally-obtained spray-paint cans.

It sucks.

But I've noticed something. When my van was clean, white, and new, it got tagged all the time. I got bored of scrubbing it completely each time, so I'd clean it enough that you could still tell there was grafitti there at one time, but it was mangled beyond recognition-- you couldn't actually read what it said. It was more like dirt and grime than actual grafitti.

And then, I stopped getting tagged so much. Now, this may be coincidence, because I also might have gotten better at finding spots to park where there weren't ass-clowns wandering around with spraypaint cans. But now I'm beginning to wonder.

I've been parking in the same places as I've done, places where I never got grafitti'ed. But I did get a spare can of Acetone recently and cleaned off the remaining "smudges" on the van, and cleaned it up much closer to white. Still dirty, but not looking like it had been recently cleaned of grafitti.

Once I did that, I started getting tagged again. In places where I never got tagged before! This could be coincidence: maybe crime is increasing, maybe the places I'm used to parking in aren't safe anymore, maybe the recent theft of a good deal of spraypaint from a hardware store somewhere has caused a sudden rise in grafitti.

So I cleaned up the most recent grafitti, hastily, and not completely. It looks dirty again, but you can't read what it said. And I'm parking in the same places again. And... I'm not getting tagged anymore. I basically am not cleaning their grafitti, I am ruining it, but leaving its remains there so people can see that someone tried and failed. Maybe that's a better deterrent?

Maybe a van that looks like the grafitti is not going to stay on it, is not an inviting target for teenage morons with spraypaint cans?

Whichever way it goes, for now I'm grafitti-free.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

The edge of storedge

At the recommendation of several fellow vandwellers, I obtained last month a storage unit. Got a small cheap one that I could afford, only $20/mo. I was advised that I'll need a storage unit equal to roughly 4 times the size of my van, because I'll need to collect about 4 times the crap that I'll actually use. Well I couldn't afford that so I got what I could. It has been very useful so far; I'm in the middle of my ceilng, counter, and sink projects, and it is VERY nice to not have to be tripping all over the materials in my van. They're in storage until I finish the project, then they'll go in the van, obviously.

But the storage is already packed to the gills. In a way, maybe it's good to keep it small, to not encourage me to acquire stuff I don't need.

There's a plastic fuel tank there, waiting to go in. It's not urgent now that I discovered my galvanized fuel tank is not so bad off. I wasted a hundred bucks buying it though. That plastic tank might be waiting a few years, clogging up my storage, costing me hundreds of dollars! Maybe I shouldn't have rushed out and bought the first one I saw, and it isn't even the correct one for the vehicle. So part of the problem with storage is that it can be a cost that creeps up, and also covers-- or even encourages-- costly mistakes. Why am I paying to store something I don't need and shouldn't have bought in the first place?

Once I get this ceiling in, I'll be very happy. I'm moving stuff around, putting in a countertop and sink, more cabinets, putting in conduit and proper outlets/connectors for my electrical cables, etc. It's a big project, and it is all interconnected so it has to be done together.

Sunday, November 1, 2009


Once again, I misread a series of instructions, and possibly caused damage (I hope not).

The Ford service manual gives no torque spec for the fuel pressure regulator assembly when reattaching it to the fuel bowl. Various instructions say only "be careful not to over-torque it", but don't say what torque exactly to use. There are two steel screws, holding a cast aluminum fuel pressure regulator housing onto a cast aluminum fuel bowl. Aluminum cracks and steel is harder, so care is warranted.

In my desperation to get the fuel bowl project complete, I pored over the manual and found a spec for "fuel pressure regulator"-- an insane 35 ft/lbs. Seems way too much for a little 8mm bolt and a tiny aluminum part, but, that's what it said. I could barely get it to that torque, it seemed WAY too tight.

Looking through the manual again today, I see that I made a grave error. What the manual cals the "fuel presuure regulator" is just ONE bolt, a very large one, that has a spring and a check ball in it-- apparently that does the actual fuel pressure regulating. It does NOT mean the whole assembly! So, I have a little overtorqued time bomb in my vehicle. I may have stripped the threads, or cracked the aluminum housing.