Project MJ: Parts Is Parts

Once I discovered failed lifters for the #2 cylinder it was clear that we would not be able to use the Comanche to complete our move to our new garage home as we’d hoped. The truck went in the garage and on the back burner until the move was done. (Our Ford Flex saved our butts on this one!) Now that the dust is settling, I can order some parts and turn my attention back to Project MJ.

My biggest concern was the oil warning light that recently turned on and stayed on. My oil pressure test gauge arrived, so I removed the stock sensor and screwed this into its place. I set the valve cover back on top of the engine but didn’t bolt it down, just to avoid a mess under the hood, then started the engine and checked the gauge. The needle barely moved. Naturally this concerned me. But when I blew some air into the gauge to test it, the needle still barely moved. Is this gauge accurate?

I examined the stock oil pressure switch, and noticed that half of the opening facing into the engine was covered in gunk. That would certainly explain the lack of pressure on the switch. So I cleaned it and reinstalled it. Knowing that the oil currently in the engine is quite old, I also took some advice from the many Jeep forums and poured a little automatic transmission fluid into the oil. ATF is basically a detergent, and since I’m going to change the oil anyway I figured it wouldn’t hurt. It’s no different than running Seafoam in the oil for a short while, plus I happened to have a little ATF in one of my old garage storage bins I just uncovered from something like five years ago. Sure enough, when I started the engine the oil light turned on and went right off again, just like it’s supposed to. Pressure is good! This means I don’t need to drop the oil pan and replace the oil pump.

Knowing that I hadn’t run the motor on low oil pressure gave me more confidence in the work of pulling the head and replacing the lifters being worth doing as opposed to replacing the motor. In fact, theoretically all of my remaining engine issues – the lifters and the oil leak – could be fixed by this job. I found a useful post listing all the parts I would need, so I ordered up the parts to start diving in and doing it. Rock Auto was the most affordable source I could find for most of the parts, including all 12 lifters. I figure if I’m pulling the head anyway I might as well replace them all while I’m in there – it’s almost no more work. I also ordered a gasket kit, including new head, intake/exhaust, and valve cover gaskets, and a single replacement pushrod for the one that got bent when the rocker turned to one side. But for some reason I couldn’t find replacement head bolts, so I ordered them from Summit Racing instead. While I was there I also snagged a lifter removal tool, which should hopefully work better than needlenose pliers. The other parts I either already have (like oil/filter and a torque wrench) or will pick up locally (coolant and assembly lube).

The next step will be unpacking and clearing my workbench near the Comanche to keep all the parts organized while the engine is disassembled. The replacement parts arrived earlier than I expected, so once that’s done I’m ready to dive start turning wrenches. I’m appreciating the luxury of a garage, being out of the cold and the element,s and not having to scramble to put everything back together before dark when the sun is only up for three minutes a day during winter.

The New England Region SCCA will be holding a winter RallySprint event at the new Club Motorsports track in NH on February 27. I’d like to help with radio communications, and beyond that I want to take the Jeep. Whether conditions are snowy or muddy, the Jeep will be able to handle them a whole lot better than my BRZ. My goal is to have the Comanche reassembled and on the road by then, with at least a temporary ham radio install if I haven’t finished enough of the interior for a more permanent job. It doesn’t have to look pretty, as long as it works. Since I’ll need to drive more than a few miles to from home to Tamworth, NH the leaky gas tank should be replaced, too. But I won’t tackle that until I know the engine is in good shape after the lifter replacement.