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Do Trucks Have Souls? Because This Truck Is Evil

Posted in How To: Transmission Drivetrain on November 11, 2016
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Former 4WOR staffer Jerrod Jones used to have a project truck called Jinxy. With all due respect to him, after my latest adventure I am going to have to coopt that name for this Super Duty. After making a deal to purchase the Early Bronco of another former 4WOR staffer, Craig Perronne, I loaded my trailer behind the 2008 F-250 and drove down to Southern California from Reno. On the way the Ford was comfortable and powerful, making me regret having sold it.

I am getting ahead of myself. This 2008 F-250 lived a long, productive life with Daystar, dragging a trailer full of leveling kits, Cam Cans, and other polyurethane products to events and shows all over the nation. After 180,000 miles I picked up the truck with a hurt engine. Some new parts and sweat equity resulted in a powerful, reliable diesel tow rig that took me across the country to drag home a new project or cover an event for the Four Wheeler network.

I was parked completely off the road on the way to King of the Hammers when the truck was hit. The truck wasn’t even running and I did not have my seatbelt on, but fortunately the Fab Fours bumper took the brunt of the impact. Despite an impact of such force that the truck moved several feet, the airbags didn’t even go off.

Everything was going great until last February, when I loaded up my old Ford (Raymond from Cheap Truck Challenge) and drove from Reno to King of the Hammers. The roads were icy the morning I left town and I never got over 50 mph while driving with 4WD engaged. The roads were bad, with numerous vehicles off in ditches along the way. I kept reminding myself not to hurry; the conditions would improve as the sun came out and I headed south to warmer climes. After three hours the coffee was kicking in, and I pulled off the road to relieve myself. I climbed back in the truck and took a look down at my phone while still parked on the side of the road and—BOOM! I looked up to see what was left of a Hyundai Accent sitting in the middle of the road.

“Are you OK?!” I yelled as I jumped out of my truck.

“No!” replied the young girl who got out of the driver seat. I expected to see her holding her guts in her hands. But she just said, “I was supposed to sell that car!”

No “Are you OK?” No apology from her. Just concern for the car that she had plowed into me with. In fact, despite hitting me head-on, she was upset that she got a ticket. She justified her driving by claiming, “The speed limit is 70 here. I wasn’t speeding!”

When the local fire department arrived on the scene they disconnected my battery for safety. They had to search for the Hyundai’s battery—it was on the other side of the highway about 20 feet down the road from the collision.

This is the remains of the car that hit me. The driver was very lucky to walk away uninjured. Had her car rotated the other direction and the driver side impacted my truck, the results might have been tragically worse.

The Ford had a Fab Fours front bumper that took the brunt of the impact; it was shifted back and to the passenger side over 6 inches. Along the way it sliced through the intercooler, transmission cooler, and radiator, rendering the Super Duty undriveable. When you are nearly 200 miles from home with a totaled truck and another truck on a trailer, you learn who your real friends are. My buddy Will drove from Reno to pick up the trailer and drag me and Raymond back to Reno. He did so like it was no big deal, making me humble and grateful that no one was injured. It put the situation back into perspective. Moral of the story: Where there’s a Will there’s a way.

After the accident the Ford was torn down at a local body shop and then sat there for months as I argued with insurance companies over the value of the truck and whether or not the frame could be repaired.

After taking a rental car to King of the Hammers I returned to Hawthorne, Nevada, with yet another friend named Will. We picked up the damaged Super Duty and dragged it back to Reno. At that point I started a long negotiation, first with the other party’s insurance company and later with my own. I am a Boy Scout (literally) and don’t have any interest in padding the quote to cover my deductible or claiming that I was injured when I was not. This was my first experience dealing with insurance companies, and afterwards I could understand why people don’t lose any sleep over trying to soak them. After six months of negotiations the truck was considered totaled and I was cut a check for less money than I had into the truck with no hopes of buying a replacement. All from an accident where I was zero percent at fault. I ended up selling the truck to a friend who straightened the frame, installed new sheetmetal on the front, and put it back on the road with a salvage title.

I came for a Bronco but left with a whole lot more. I kept asking Craig Perronne and his father, “What are you going to do with those tires over there?” until I had four extra sets of tires and two winches loaded in the truck. When his father asked if I wanted a sandwich after loading everything up, I replied, “I haven’t said no to anything yet!”

Now we are back to where I started: borrowing the truck that I sold and kicking myself for having sold it. The Bronco was at Perronne’s parents’ house and came with a ton of extra parts. I think that his father was pretty excited to see the tires, seats, and winches that had filled up his garage go to a new home. I was grateful for the Ford’s longbed—it was full! After adding some pressure to the rear airbags to level the truck, I pointed it north on Interstate 5.

Everything was going great right up until the point it wasn’t. Pulling up the Grapevine, the rear driveline let go with little warning. This is the sort of thing that isn’t that big a deal until you are hundreds of miles from home with a trailer behind you.

While I was pulling over the pass, the truck started vibrating. Before I could pull off the road, the truck tossed the rear driveline, knocking off the exhaust in the process. Once stopped on the side of the road, I could not get out of the Super Duty because even with it in Park and the emergency brake on, the Ford was trying to roll backwards. I couldn’t even get out of the truck! I ended up cranking the wheels until they were up against a berm and I was able to exit the truck and chock the wheels. The carrier bearing had failed and taken out the driveline.

The carrier bearing failed in the truck, causing the two-piece rear driveline to turn into a giant jump rope at 60 mph. There was little warning from the truck that the part was failing, although after 190,000 miles it had lived a long life.

I called my friend Aaron Lechner from Axleline, knowing that he could make me a new driveline in Reno, but I was hundreds of miles from home with a truck full of parts and a trailer. As cars whizzed by, I pulled what was left of the rear driveline and locked the hubs, hoping for the best. I fell in behind a semi truck and put the hazard lights on, traveling over the Grapevine at 40 mph. Once off the pass I stopped and checked the brakes, diff, and driveline, all of which appeared to be in good shape. I did not have a lot of options, so I continued north in front-wheel drive. My hope was to make it 300 miles north to Sacramento, where I could meet Lechner with a new driveline. The road was flat, and if it took me all night to get there so be it.

There was some debate about which failed first: the carrier bearing or the rear U-joint, which was also hashed. It is unknown, though, if this damage was done after the driveline parted ways with the vehicle or if a simple U-joint was the source of all the resulting carnage.
The bolts in the T-case worked themselves loose, eventually resulting in a cracked tailhousing. Fortunately, both the transmission and the T-case have their own seals and no fluid was lost, so neither component was damaged.

A mere 100 miles into the 300-mile drive the truck started making horrible noises and I coasted to the side of the road. I was thinking that the front ring-and-pinion had eaten itself, but upon closer inspection it seemed to be fine. Then in one of those “Well, there’s yer problem!” moments, I noticed that there were no more bolts holding the transfer case to the back of the transmission! The crossmember sits under the tailhousing, which was now cracked, and the transfer case was completely unsupported. The combination of weight and torque had finally taken its toll.

The crossmember runs under the tailhousing, but the T-case is entirely behind this point. All of the leverage from the engine torque driving the front output loosened the T-case bolts when asked to pull a truck full of tires with a loaded trailer behind it. Aaron Lechner from Axleline rebuilt the T-case, making it as good as new.

I checked into a hotel room in Visalia, California, and called Sam Cothrun from Samco Fabrication. “Hi. Uh, the trip is going OK. I had a few issues with the truck . . .Well, the rear driveline broke, so I drove it in front-wheel drive and now the transfer case is falling off. Other than that, everything is fine!” Cothrun was the model of grace and told me that he was glad I was safe and we would get it all fixed once I got the truck back to Reno.

What are we on now? Plan D? My friend Dave came down from Tahoe to pick up the Ford, and I got a one-way rental from U-Haul to get the Bronco and trailer home. I was grateful that everything I had left on the truck and trailer was still there in the morning.

My buddy Dave came down from Tahoe in the morning with a 30-foot bumper-pull trailer to load up the dead Super Duty. Meanwhile I rented a U-Haul box van to get the trailer and the Bronco home. “Do you want the insurance?” the lot attendant asked. “Definitely!” I replied. The way this trip was going who knew what was going to happen next?

Napoleon Dynamite isn’t the only guy whose friends have skills. Lechner from Axleline has gearing skills, and transmission assembly skills, and driveline building skills. He had a new rear driveshaft built for the Super Duty before I even got it back to Reno.

We made it to Reno that night without issue. The guys from Samco Fabrication were able to source another tailhousing from the local Ford dealership. Jones West Ford actually had the best price we could find and had the part in stock, so it was a pain-free buying experience. Lechner from Axleline already had a new driveline waiting for me and went through the front diff to ensure that it was not damaged. In the end, the U-Haul rental was the biggest expense of the entire ordeal and Sam was able to get the truck back on the road quickly. While I am not eager to repeat the experiences I have had with this Super Duty, I am grateful for friends with diesel trucks and trailers who are always willing to help. Who needs AAA? Still, I don’t want to push my luck. I think that my next purchase will be a new diesel truck instead of an old rockcrawling project.

I bought the truck back from insurance with the intention of selling the newly installed engine to another unfortunate 6.4L owner, but Sam Cothrun from Samco Fabrication ended up purchasing it and put the truck back on the road as a chase truck for his desert racing team.

Sources

Fab Fours
Pineville, NC 28134
866-385-1905
www.fabfours.com
Samco Fabrication
775-856-4100
http://www.samcofabrication.com
Jones West Ford
775-829-3200
jwford.com

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