BangShift Power Laggin’ Project Truck Update: Fixing More Hackery And Making Some Improvements!

BangShift Power Laggin’ Project Truck Update: Fixing More Hackery And Making Some Improvements!

Welcome back to our coverage of Project Power Laggin’! Follow along as we take a tired 1979 Dodge W150 Power Wagon we found in Central Maine and transform it from a derelict roadside attraction to a dependable, powerful weekend workhorse that lives up to it’s given name! In this installment, we continue to perform some much needed repairs, as well as making a few improvements to this old hauler!

Last time we checked in on the ol’ Wagon of Laggin, we ended up fixing a lot of things wrong with our truck that were either the result of it being a 40-year-old vehicle or by the grubby hands of its former owner, who we not-so-affectionately dubbed the Wire Nut Bandit. Even though we repaired a lot of its issues, there’s still plenty more stuff to fix and improve before we can really have fun with it. That said, let’s dive in!

Where to begin? How about something simple like replacing the ancient shocks. These things were old enough to drink, and they were starting to rot off the truck. Onto the scrap heap you go!

All four shocks got replaced, and while they are nothing crazy, they vastly improved the ride and driveability of this old rig, not to mention they aren’t rotting in half. Later down the road, we’ll likely upgrade these to something a little more suiting to the truck, but for now, this is a welcome upgrade. It loafs over bumps nicely now.

Another quick and easy fix was replacing the headlight switch. The gauge lights were not working, and the headlights were finicky as well. This is a common issue on just about all old Chrysler products, and after replacing it, most of the gauge lights came back on and the headlights work consistently now. I suspect there are a few bad bulbs and/or sockets in the cluster. Still no dome light either, but we’re working on that.

Speaking of gauges, we added a tachometer. With 4:10 gears and a 3-speed automatic, I was curious as to how high this thing spins at higher speeds and where it wants to shift.

A while back, we scored this gauge cluster from an old ’74 Sno-Fiter at a local junkyard, which came with a factory oil pressure gauge. Since the Power Laggin’ only had an oil warning light, this was a good find, and we swapped it in.

The other half of the oil pressure gauge swap is installing the correct oil pressure sending unit meant for a gauge. This was as easy as going to the local parts store, plunking down some pocket change, and screwing it in where the old one went.

While we were on a gauge-fixing marathon, the most important gauge that needed to be fixed was the non-operative fuel gauge. After testing the wiring and confirming power at the gauge, we had a sneaking suspicion that the fuel sending unit was the culprit. Even though these old trucks have a plastic (!) fuel tank, the sender is still susceptible to both time and the elements. We ordered a sender up and got ready to pull the bed.

You’re probably asking yourself why we are pulling the bed instead of dropping the tank. The tank strap bolts were spinning in place, and the straps themselves looked a little suspect and are hard to obtain, so this was the easiest way to do it. And honestly, it wasn’t bad! There were 4 mount bolts to loosen and the taillight harness needed to be unplugged. Everything shockingly came apart without issue. After that, we hoisted it up enough to get to the sender.

While the sender itself appeared fine with no evidence of rot on the outside, who knows how bad it could be on the inside. To get those Philips head screws out, we had to carefully slot them and remove them with a flat head. They all came right out. Tech Tip: make note of how the sender screws are oriented, as there is unique spacing between them and the sender only goes in one way.

While most of the sender was in shockingly good condition, the float was the culprit. As you can see, it’s cracked and was filling up with fuel. This causes it to sink to the bottom of the tank, showing that the tank is empty on the gauge. Technically, you can just replace the float, but since we had a new sender, we tossed it in the tank and boxed this one as a spare, as they are getting harder to find these days.

“New sender, who dis?”

And hey, the gauge works! Also, you can see the new (to us) oil pressure gauge gauging oil pressure!

After re-installing the truck bed after the sender swap, we were having trouble getting the old and busted license plate lights working. Upon further examination, we found more evidence of the Wire Nut Bandit’s work. Scotch locks, wire nuts, and bare wires could be found on this harness, and the sockets were FUBAR as well.

A quick trip to the parts store netted some new sockets with LED lamps, and we fabbed up a quick harness with some spade terminals in case we needed to service it in the future. Much better, and more functional!

One thing we wanted since it drove its way onto the trailer on day one were some proper dog dish hubcaps. After trawling swap meets for a few months, we came up dry. Thanks to a guy named Kev Sweckard on the Dodge Trucks and Ramchargers Facebook Group, we were able to get our paws on a set. Thanks Kev!

Yup, dog dishes RULE. We also side mounted the spare, just like Mother Mopar intended.

We also added these little Bully steps to the truck so shorter people (like my wife, sorry honey!) can actually get in the truck. Simple and effective.

Speaking of having passengers in the truck, the passenger side seatbelt mount was, uhh, missing. The only real rust on the truck was in the floorpans, so this needed to be addressed immediately.

After fabbing up a new chunk of floor, we added a reinforced seatbelt mount and a new bolt, welded it all in, and seam sealed all of the welds. It’s probably stronger now than it was back when it was new!

Feeling like we were on a roll, we decided to tackle the front brakes. The inside of this rotor was chewed up bad from a frozen caliper at some point in its life, so we opted to replace everything. How hard could it be? Turns out it was quite the ordeal!

While at first glance, it looks easy to do brakes on this truck, but I assure you, it is NOT. Since this truck is equipped with a Dana 44 with the full-time 4WD NP203 transfer case, the rotor is sandwiched in between the inner and outer hub assembly and held together by press-fit bearings. It’s almost a lost art trying to figure out how to get this apart. While we found a couple hints online that almost led us to ruin, we had to consult a service manual to get the correct procedure on how to get this bearing and rotor sandwich apart. And now we’ll tell you how to do it!

First thing’s first, remove the caliper. Then, get a hub puller and attach it like you see here. You effectively need to split the hub in order to get everything apart. The outer flange, rotor, and outer bearings will come off with the puller, leaving the bearing retainer (the inner hub) and the inner bearings will stay attached to the spindle.

Here’s the bearing retainer, still attached to the truck. a 1/2″ 12-point socket is needed to remove it, while the bearing and bearing spacer will come out by hand.

Another shot of the bearing retainer, this time off the truck. There’s something important missing here, but we’ll get to that in a minute.

And here’s what’s left on the other side. The bearings almost never come off nicely, so make sure you buy a new set for each side when doing the brakes, just in case. You basically have to pull (or pound) these off and pound out the wheel studs to get it all apart.

After removing the bearing and seal from the flange, this is what you are left with. These flanges are no longer made, so be careful with them! You can see the entire bearing-seal sandwich on the right. It’s kinda like a bearing/seal Big Mac. Instead of bun/burger/bun/burger/bun, it’s seal/bearing/spacer/bearing/seal. As it turns out, one of those seal “buns” is a bit moldy, as you will see in the next picture.

After hours of messing around with bearings and seals, we found out the hard way that the Wire Nut Bandit was in here too! That green seal you see there is actually the wrong seal. To the Bandit’s credit, most of the parts houses list this as the correct seal, but it’s not. This explains why the inside of the rotor was covered in grease. This is AFTER cleaning most of it off!The correct seal fits properly up against the inner flange keeping grease where it needs to be, while this one just hangs out and doesn’t do much sealing.

Speaking of the incorrect seals, the bearing retainer seal was completely missing on both sides of the truck. These are a press fit seal, and the same as the ones on the outer flange.

There’s also one more seal pressed into the spindle itself. This one was still doing its job, but the other side was mangled so it needed to be replaced.

40 years ago, one could go down to your local Dodge dealer and order up a C-4398-1 Seal Installation Tool, but unless you have access to a time machine, that’s not happening in 2019. We rummaged through the garage and came up with a combination of a chunk of 3″ straight exhaust pipe , a hammer, a block of wood, and a screwdriver to get the seal into the spindle. Sometimes, you have to “run what ya brung” to get the job done.

You’ll need a shop press to get those bearings installed on the hub flange. Make sure to install them facing the correct direction, or it’s gonna get weird real fast!

With the new rotor sandwiched in between some new bearings, it was finally ready to be installed back on the truck.

To get the assembly back on, you need to line up the splines and bolt it on with those previously mentioned 12-point headed bolts through the hole in the flange in a criss-cross star pattern until it’s properly seated. After what seemed to be an eternity, the new rotors were installed, along with fresh bearings and pads. The truck rolls and stops much better now.

While we are nowhere near done with fixing all of the issues with the truck, it’s coming along very nicely. It starts, runs, rides, drives, AND stops much better now, and having the ability to keep an eye on revs, oil pressure, and how much gas is left in it are essential to keeping it going. We even had time to give it a little style upgrade with those dog dish poverty caps, side mounting the spare, and adding those smaller steps to replace the old aluminum running boards. We hope you are enjoying this series, and we’ll hope you will follow along in the future, as we continue to fix up this old rig! As always, feel free to add a comment below!

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