Garage Day: Titanium Hitch and His New to Him Ford

Another Saturday, another Garage Day. Wrenching on a old truck with your best friends in the middle of rural farm country is as American as America gets. This time the patient was Titanium Hitch’s 1998 F-150. According to TH the truck had been running pretty rough. It was in bad need of a tune up.

What started out to be an oil change, a brake job, and to investigate the rough running, became an all day ordeal. When we talk about project creep, this project not only crept, it grew as it did. What finally happened was a plug change, oil change, brake fluid change, two O2 sensors replaced, air filter change, and a final sorting out of the sound system problems from the last garage day.

First, the good news, the truck did not need brakes. The pads were deemed to be in satisfactory condition. So TH is going to shelf the pads he bought for another time. The brake fluid was sucked out with a syringe, fresh oil replaced. Then the nipples all got a turn as the bad fluid was evacuated from the lines.

This went exceedingly well with three pseudo-mechanics working on it. +EGD was at the wheels while I filled the reservoir. TH was relegated to pumping. The instructions were pretty tough to follow. Pump the pedal and say when he was pumping. This took a few tries to get perfected. But as with most things TH finally became an expert peddle pusher.

On to the O2 sensors. A lively debate was had betwixt the three of us regarding how many O2 sensors an F150 had. We quickly found what we later learned were the upstream sensors. Only through a parts search did we find out that it had a set for downstream as well. Well hoity-toity for them! We all were surprised and our theories of why it could only have two, like a Land Rover were dashed on the rocks of our hubris.

The codes that were being thrown were thought to be related to the downstream sensors. I’m still a little fuzzy on this but I went with it. Besides the down stream sensors looked to be the easiest to remove. Yeah right!

The driver’s side came out with out much of a problem.
The passenger side was…welded …frozen …rusted WELDFROZTED in.

A great many attempts were made with a great many tool configurations.

We first cut the lead so we could use a deep socket,

We then attempted to sawz-all the sensor,
Then a propane torch was tried,

Then the sensor was cut into pieces with a large bolt cutter,
Finally a socket with a large cheater bar was used to tear the threads off. To get the cheater bar in to play the truck had to be lifted up to the maximum height of 5 ton jack stands. I was quite worried about this, as one mistake and the state’s insurance agencies would be writing a bunch of checks to happy sad widows.

I’m surprised I don’t have a picture of the end result of the sensor. But suffice to say brute force won the day. You can well imagine that the threads were trashed. EGD remembered to grab a tap in the correct size when we went to the parts store to spend some more of TH’s beer money hard earned pay on auto parts. EGD managed to get a few threads cut back into the sensor port and the second was installed. The front sensors were looking pretty bad as well. They were probably WELDFROZTED in as well. None of us wanted to find out. Another problem for another day.
Next was plugs. We should have guessed we’d have problems. The first plug fell apart as the lead was being pulled from it. You can see the center conductor out of its plug in the following picture a long with what was left of the O2 sensor on the right side.
Half the plugs we pulled came apart in one manner or other. After examination of the plugs it was easy to say they were the originals. This was evident by checking what was left of the anodes for spark gap. The plugs were so badly eaten away and the gaps so large I was surprised the truck ran at all. One of the gaps measured .1000. Yes… point 1 thousands. The actual factory plug gap should have been .0560. Two of the plugs measured .0900. I didn’t measure the rest. I hope you can see the ends and how badly eaten away they were in the picture.

I gapped all the plugs with a feeler gauge and they were installed. At some point here a lively debate broke out about the parts we had just picked up. The replacement O2 sensors did not have the correct key on them. It looked to me what little key was there was half-heartedly cut off/ground down.

We looked at the existing up and down stream plugs for comparison. Then we compared them with the one upstream sensor which we could actually reach with out being a contortionist, the passenger side. Sure enough the replacements didn’t match any of the OEM ends. We installed them anyway, trusting that the AutoZone guy gave us the right parts and they were labeled correctly in the boxes.

The oil change was completed in short order. The truck was two quarts low on oil as well. The black stuff that was serving as oil didn’t even fill the five quart jug of the replacement oil.

I had to bail out before the speakers were addressed. I waited long enough until I got to hear the engine with all the new bits. They gave me the honor of firing her up. She roared into life and idled like she was meant to. I’m going to guess she gets 3-4 miles more per gallon of petrol.

About an hour after I got home I got a panicked call from TH asking if there was something I could think of that might have made her run poorly. Seems when TH tried to drive home although idle was good, any application of throttle caused coughing and choking and a poor running motor. It was probably dropping to “limp mode”.

I remembered I had pulled the passenger side O2 lead, but I hadn’t reconnected it. I relayed that and he was off to check it and indeed it was still disconnected. It was reconnected and he made it home.

I talked to TH the following Monday and he told me she was still running rough. During the Garage Day festivities we had had a lively discussion about the Air Idler Valve. If it was half as bad as the other parts, it most likely really needed a good cleaning if not an out right replacement.

It was fun to hang out with my old mates and swap stories and wrench a little in the sub-Saharan African hot Saturday in Oklahoma. I wouldn’t have rather been anywhere else, well perhaps in my pool with Mrs. Okierover, but I got that too so I was a winner all the way around.

Thanks for reading and Happy Rovering.

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