My 1992 F250 Diesel

Some time ago I acquired a 1992 F250 XLT Super Cab Diesel 4x4 with ATS 088 Turbo kit, a good runner but with the suspension shot to hell — the shocks were physically beat and the front springs arced to the point where the vehicle spent most of its road time on the bump stops. In addition, the vehicle needed new rubber, was having charging problems, made terrible banging noises from the rear when driven over bumps, and developed a loud vibration at about 60 mph. In spite of all this, it was something of a steal at $2600 with a good, working turbocharger and 4WD parts, including some recently-installed stainless steel hubs. This is the tale of my ownership so far.

Ford charges legendary prices for parts (they are easily competitive with Mercedes in this regard) and so purchasing new springs from Ford was not an option. Re-arcing the springs seemed futile at best; Ford re-specified these vehicles with a three-leaf spring made of the same material as the two-leaf units installed on this vehicle at the factory. Clearly, simple parts replacement would be no solution here.

Once I discovered that OEM springs could not be had from the aftermarket, I began to look at vehicle lift kits. While searching for the stock units, I continually came across four inch lift springs at reasonable prices, but the front suspension of this truck makes a swap more complicated than just changing some shocks and springs and performing alignment. There is a Dana 50 limited slip in a twin-I-beam front on this truck, and the lift kit included drop brackets that produce the actual suspension lift, as well as springs to fit. The rear is lifted by simply adding some blocks between the stock units (which provide the rear bump stops) and the axle. Steering is altered with a new pitman arm which not only permits use of the stock steering linkage but also improves the vehicle turning radius (making it merely bad as opposed to terrible.) I also specified and installed a dual steering stabilizer for off-road use.

The lift, of course, necessitated or perhaps permitted the fitting of new tires. Due to a recall on some sizes, I got a set of Dick Cepek Mountaincat all-terrain tires at a quite reasonable price. These self-cleaning tires provide for the gross weight of the truck and still permit fairly confident off-road activity. They're wrapped around some old american racing Aluminum wheels, which are perhaps not the best option for four-wheeling but which were on the truck when I acquired it.

Shortly after I bought the truck, it decided it no longer wanted to start. I traced the problem to the fuel injection pump and replaced it with a rebuilt unit. This was a relatively simple job, and the truck unsurprisingly ran better than ever after the swap. Next, I removed the gigantic, ignorant air box that ATS used to include with their turbocharging kits and replaced it with a custom short ram intake I built from the 1997 Impreza intake I had formerly modified to fit on my 1993 Impreza LS, which now has a new owner and a stock intake pipe. This significantly improved accelerator pedal response, and made the turbo sound audible from inside the vehicle. The turbo is strong; provided the gauge is working, I've actually watched it pushing the advertised 11 PSI. The truck barely slows down if you add half a cord of wood to the bed, so obviously I'm not having problems with power.

Looking for the source of a significant transmission fluid leak, I discovered that a section of hard line had been abused by the exhaust pipe and probably broke; it had been replaced with a poorly-clamped section of flexible tubing which probably wasn't even safe for transmission fluid. I purchased some flare nut fittings, and installed a piece of flare tubing on the hard line. Eventually I intend to replace it in its entirety; it is not a particularly long section, and runs from the transmission to the cooler. Sadly, it also runs next to the positive terminal on the starter, so I wrapped it liberally with conduit. Some fluid is still leaking from the transmission, probably from the front seal, which is a bit of a job.

Sometime around this point, I discovered that my driver's-side frame horn was bent. I ended up having it fixed at a local body shop called "CARS"; they did the job quite promptly, and mounted the new bumper I had acquired from a yard (while also picking up a far nicer and almost color-coordinated tailgate.)

The next part to fail was the alternator. Ford's second-generation ("2G") alternator provides extremely poor output at low RPM, and that is indeed what was installed into these trucks. A 95 amp alternator seems like a lot for a pickup, but this one has power windows and locks, and more importantly it has the job of starting a 7.3 liter diesel engine. This one has a fairly new Nippon-Denso gear reduction starter, but it also has eight hungry glow plugs that together draw battery voltages well down. It seemed that a diode pack in the original alternator was failing, with my meter reading (as best as I could tell of the extremely cheap device) over 30 mV of alternating current coming from the alternator. In fact, from the generally poor ability to charge, it was likely that one diode in the pack had failed entirely and the alternator was missing a phase. I replaced it with a 130 amp unit sourced from a 3.8 liter Taurus or similar; beginning in 1994 the 3.8 liter has the 130 amp 3G to accomodate various options in that line like an electrically heated windshield, all-power-adjustable/heated seats, and the like. These vehicles have an alternator that will bolt in, although some wiring work is necessary. I used a 4GA hot lead to eliminate noise (nothing kills like overkill) and an AMG fuse block sourced from eBay for battery protection. Installed next to the starter solenoid, it prevents alternator or alternator supply line shorts from grounding out the pair of deep cycle batteries under the hood of this monster.

A few significant and insignificant problems remain. Everything in the interior rattles, and replacement of tons of plastic and metal spring clips is imminent. The transmission front seal and hard line are probably going to necessitate a trip to a transmission shop; I lack a transmission jack, especially one tall enough to reach up into a lifted 3/4 ton pickup, and for that matter the shop floor to roll it around on. I need to replace or repair the controllers for the windshield wiper, cruise control, and the blower fan (which only works on high, a common problem when the PWM fan control circuit fails.) The trailer hitch receiver needs to be drilled out to accept modern, short hitches. And the headlights are filled with condensation because they are cracked and yellowed, meaning they must be replaced as well. Having seen the over-$8,000 prices on trucks similar to the condition to which this one will be when that work is done, however, I can't help but feel that I got a hell of a deal.

Update, Fri Mar 19 08:00:42 PDT 2010
I got back home to find out that my radiator had failed, so along with the replacement (which came from a luckily handy parts truck, and which was a replacement part itself) I installed a coolant filter which hangs on a small custom bracket near the fuel filter.

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