Sunday, January 18, 2009


This weekend I'm killing rust. It's about time I actually wrote about my van.

My van is a 1985 Ford Econoline E-350. Diesel engine, dual tanks, 6.9 litre, 420 cu. in. with a C-6 transmission, 3 speed automatic. 144,000 miles.

I paid $700.00 for this van. She may be ugly on the outside, but she is beautiful mechanically.

I can reasonably expect to get another 300,000 miles out of this engine, and closer to 500,000 if I treat her right.

I chose this van over a newer model for several reasons. Before 1985 vehicles had no computer chips. Basically this means I can fix it myself. Fords are abundant, parts are relatively cheap, and that was when Ford still manufactured vehicles using good ole' American metals. Things were built heavy, and built to last.

People say vans are difficult to work on. I have not found that to be the case. Anytime I work on this van, I am impressed by the simplicity and by the quality of materials that went into it. Granted I haven't done any serious engine work, but so far, so good. I have replaced the water pump, coolant hoses, accessory drive belts, thermostat, power steering gearbox, and done all the regular maintenance. The transmission fluid looked like a carmel milkshake.

My poor baby, I think she may have been a Katrina victim. Patterns of corrosion indicate she has been sitting for a long time, lonely and neglected. I'm not sure if she flooded and was just too stubborn to give up, or if she was just neglected.

After my minimal maintenance work, she runs like a dream. Gets between 20-24 mpg, which isn't bad for a van this size. Hopefully mpg will improve when I start running WVO/diesel blend.

But now, rust is the biggest issue. You don't really find vehicles 20+ years old that don't have rust issues. So I started grinding.

The process goes something like this; use variable speed sander/buffer with 5" wheel and 24 grit resin wheel. I started with my 12V drill and 3m abrasive bad, but it took forever, was tiring, and hard on my drill. The sander/grinder is a vast improvement, yeilding better results in less time. Vacuum dust with shop vac, apply naval jelly/rust stopper. Wait for it to work (2hrs) then scrub it with clean water and steel wool. Give it a sponge bath to rinse away residual crap/naval jelly/paint or rust flakes then dry thoroghly with a paper towel.

After air dry time, coat prepped surface with rust inhibiting zinc primer. This stuff stinks. I highly recommend a respirator, unless you really like killing brain cells. At the end of the day, I had pretty nice results.
My strategy is a unilateral attack against all rust, eliminating the weakest first. The areas of larger rust will be attacted individually later on.
I also installed my nifty, Ipod ready radio today, which involved much cutting and pounding and filing to make the bracket fit a foreign radio. But hey, you gotta have music. I work a lot harder if I can rock out to Clutch while grinding....
"Doctor or lawer, I'll never be. Life of a drifter, that's the life for me." -'Electric worry'/Clutch
Clutch rocks. Check them out.

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