Time for Rear Shocks on the E-350

After a particularly nasty freeze-thaw cycle here in Michigan, the roads are destroyed and I need new shocks on the rear of the tow vehicle. Go figure.

I installed a pair of Gabriel Ultra on the rear in March 2016.  After almost two years and roughly 34,000 miles they crapped out.  I don’t know if the dampening system was shot, but the mounting bushings on both top and bottom were completely torn away.

Bottom bushing worn out and smooshing out the side.  The bushing was completely gone on the opposite shock.

At the top mount, there’s two rubber bushings that are clamped down either side of the vans mounting bracket.  The top bushing on both shocks was completely gone.  The shocks were basically just banging around back there.  No dampening.  Pot holes at highway speeds were treacherous, the back end would hop all over.

2 years/34,000 miles doesn’t seem like much, but whatever.  I bought Gabriel’s because I like the name.  Besides, they got a lifetime warranty.  The only problem was changing them out in 25° weather.  But, it’s an easy job.

This time I picked up some washers to fit inside the lower bracket against the rubber bushings.  It looked to me like if there was some lateral support it wouldn’t fail so easily.

Aftermarket washers either side of the lower bushings, inside the mounting bracket

One less thing to worry about.

See You Down the Road!

F.ound O.n R.oad D.ead

Since the Airstream is in the driveway being serviced (see previous post), we had to find someplace for the Econosaurus (our 15 passenger FORD E-350 Power Stroke Diesel) because leaving it in the street on a trash pickup day would not only inconvenience the garbage men, but get me a $25 fine.

No problem, my dear wife moved the E-350 over to the nearby school parking lot.

Following afternoon, after the refuse, recyclables, lawn bags were collected and street swept, she went to collect the van.

Turned the key- totally dead. No chime, no dash lights, nothing.

It did this maybe three times prior, over the past several weeks.  But, after waiting a few minutes it would start like nothing happened.

This time, nope.


  • Turning key forward for the “WAIT TO START” light would either dimly light the dash lights with a chime that sounded like a dying cat, or nothing at all.
  • The batts would read 12.0V until I tried to start, then they would drop to 8.0V, and there was no action/crank/start at all (massive amp draw?).
  • Jumping it with a V-10 Super Duty, batts on Super Duty read 14.0V, while batts on my van read 12.4V. Attempting to start just gave me a clicking starter motor (heavy duty jump cables got very hot).

Start with the easiest, most obvious. Check the batts.  The old girl had two new batts in her, and the connections were clean, so this was going to be something a little more involved.

Next, was the Transmission Range Sensor. If that’s out of alignment, it will prevent starting. That’s easy enough to check, number 158 on schematic below.  There’s a little hash mark that says “NEUTRAL”. When the gearshift is in ‘NEUTRAL’, it needs to line up. It did. I also pulled the plug connected to it, and cleaned it with electrical solvent just to be sure.

4R100 schematic


The FORD service manual “pinpoint tests” call for checking the resistance on the starter motor solenoid. A reading of .95 ohms is good, with any high or low indicating a bad unit. Bingo! My Klein voltmeter returned an out of range high reading.  I figured it was the starter since buying her a couple years ago, her start crank was very lethargic. Picked up a new (not remanufactured) Motorcraft at NAPA for $200 with AAA discount.

When you’re dealing with ignition stuff and 8GA cables there’s three ways of doing repairs: reckless, hasty, or safe. ‘Reckless’ would be swapping out the starter motor with both batteries connected. ‘Hasty’ would be disconnecting the negative cable on the front battery, then disconnecting the auxiliary battery feed from the positive clamp, and hoping there’s no crossover somewhere else. ‘Safe’ would be disconnecting negative connections on both the front and auxiliary batts. I’m sure you guessed, ‘safe’ is a P.I.T.A. Dropping the auxiliary battery off the passenger side frame rail is way more cumbersome than it sounds, especially when you’re working on the ground in a school parking lot- believe me.

Once the batts were safely disconnected, pulling the starter motor was pretty straight forward. (3) wire eyelet on post connections, and (2) mounting bolts are all there is.  Pull the new starter out of the box, and reverse the procedure.

Four and a half hours later, I get in the driver seat, and turn the key. Nothing. Same problem. Dadgum. Either my voltmeter is busted, the service manual is wrong, or I don’t know how to read resistance.

Next step: Google-Fu. Known issue on this model is faulty ignition switch. Will create strange issues similar to what I’m seeing.  That’s an easy part swap. $25 and 20 minutes later, it’s replaced.

No joy. Still same problem.

Which leads me to the final solution. Take off and nuke the van from orbit. No, seriously. What else could it be, right?  I’m thinking it’s a bad ground, bad wiring somewhere (short), bad alternator, bad glow plug relay, heating element short in either the fuel or air, or bad starter relay.

Starter relay behind front battery on passenger fender


I go with ‘bad starter relay’, and whadayaknow? She starts like a BEAST.

See You Down the Road!

Vacation Save or How I Repaired Bad Brakes 300 Miles From Home

Now that we’re here enjoying the beautiful beaches and gorgeous weather of St. Joseph’s Peninsula State Park, it all seems sweeter after being faced with the possibility of having to cancel the vacation on the trip down.

Yes. That’s right.  Just over the Kentucky border I noticed a problem with the van brakes.  When I braked, it initially felt fine and would begin to decelerate, but then after a couple seconds the pedal would become rock solid and the brakes would completely fade away.  This is what we refer to as a vacation “show-stopper”.  Fortunately, I avoided rear-ending anything because the four wheel disc hydraulic brake system in the trailer provides enough braking power for a rig three times my size.  This is how I was able to backtrack to my brothers place in Indiana, where I could diagnose and repair the problem.   Plus, my kids getting to visit with their cousins would soften the blow of a scrapped Florida trip.

Full fluid reservoir seemed to indicate it wasn’t a leak.  But, the red “BRAKE” dash light meant there was a pressure problem.  Was thinking it was a power booster or master cylinder, until I pulled the main tube from the vacuum pump to check for suction- there was none.  That would also explain the HVAC controls acting up.

Diesel engines don’t produce any vacuum on their own, so a mechanical pump is used on the serpentine belt.  The replacement is pretty straightforward.  Tools you’ll need:

  • 10mm socket
  • 14mm socket
  • Pliers
  • 1/2″ Breaker bar
  • Pulley remove/install kit


 Remove the intake filter shroud, and cover the air intake (don’t want to accidentally drop anything down there).  Remove the bolts that attach the top of the radiator and auxiliary cooling screen.  You’ll need to pull the shroud/radiator away from the front of the engine to make room for the pulley-puller.  Pull the vacuum pulley.  If you’ve got another set of hands, having somebody use the breaker bar to release the tension on the belt will help.  Remove the main vacuum hose from the pump that leads to the manifold.  There’s only (3) bolts holding the pump, remove those and you’re in the home stretch.  Reverse for installation, and you’re done.

  It was immediately evident the old pump was bad when I checked suction on the main tube.  It’s not like golf ball thru a garden hose suction, but it’ll grab your thumb.  That’s my scientific measurement.  Start to finish, about 3 hours, and that was never doing it before.

So, we’re back in business, with Yours Truly as the hero for the week.
See You Down the Road