In our last post we promised we’d have decided which route we’d be taking through or around the Bighorn mountains by the next day’s deadline, and we did. We’re ready to reveal that route to our readers now, but we think it deserves a little discussion on our rationalization.
Since our trip began 11 days and over 1,100 miles ago, you may have noticed we’ve been spending quite a few days in the mountains and that was by design. Were we adverse to mountain touring we would have opted for a more southerly route but then we’d be baking in this heatwave everyone’s going on about.
During our tour in Yellowstone it became apparent the ’11 wasn’t pulling it’s weight and the ’10 started complaining. It wasn’t obvious at first, just a few little annoying things that any car going through midlife crisis might do, but soon it became more apparent that the ’11 was no longer interested in chasing the ’10 up the hills like it used to and instead would happily drag itself up the hills in low gear but sulk and complain high gear was too hard.
In the ’11s defense, it can only choose between high and low gears to climb, whereas the ’10 has an aftermarket, but original for the time, Ruckstell two-speed rear end which gives it the advantage of having two additional gears: Ruckstell high, which is the same ratio as Ford high, and Ruckstell low, which is between Ford high and Ford Low. In other words, the Ruckstell rear end has an intermediate gear, which allows the ’10 to climb with more speed. Ford low and Ruckstell low allows it to climb buildings…
The ’11 had the usual excuses: very low (85) octane gas at high altitude, a misfiring electrical connection to the #3 cylinder, or the added weight of luggage slowing the car down. But none of those excuses held water when examined closely, and besides, the car seemed to have the same top speed as always, would climb okay in low gear and only complained when in high gear, bogging down on the hills.
So Saturday morning, after some late night/early morning rain had passed through, we started looking closer at the ’11’s engine with Scott and Althea Conger, local Wyomingites whom we had met for breakfast.
Scott and Althea live about 30 miles north of Cody on the banks of the Clarks Fork of the Yellowstone River, where Scott keeps his collection of Model Ts and had offered (via our blog) advice about roads through Wyoming suitable for the Ts as well as any assistance we might need while passing through.
Having unwittingly committed himself in such fashion, we called Scott asking whether he might have a few spare inner tubes we could travel with since we wanted to restock our inventory, (Due to certain circumstances, including our new-found lack of interest in holding to a schedule plus our typically late arrivals each evening at our next destinations, we found it difficult to commit to any particular mail-drop that our parts vendor could send them to. Plus, we weren’t in any real hurry since we weren’t yet foolishly low in supply).
Scott said no but we invited him to breakfast anyway since he had also mentioned he’d like to see the cars when we drove through, and there was a chance we’d get a free breakfast in return of our offer.
By now we had put together a pretty clear picture of what wasn’t ailing the ’11, leaving us to consider this was a bit more serious than a quick fix in a motel parking lot. Scott was drawing the same conclusion after we described the symptoms and remedies we had tried, but probably mostly after watching our efforts trying to start the car for an hour after it had been soaked by the previous night’s rain (we had left it uncovered). Also, using a compression tester he brought with him it appeared we had no compression in the #3 cylinder.
For those of you unaware, an internal combustion engine generally* operates by rapidly building up pressure inside each of the cylinders in turn, and then using that pressure to rotate the crankshaft which is attached to the drive shaft and wheels. Since one of our cylinders appeared to be unable to do that we were effectively driving a 3-cylinder car instead of the original 4 installed by Henry Ford, although fortunately for us everything else associated with that cylinder (valves and lifters and springs) all seemed to be in order.
*There is significantly more going on than what’s being describe here, but in the end you just need to know we want the engine to move the wheels.
At any rate, we got the car started and drove the 30 miles to Scott and Althea’s garage where we tore into the engine after we had lunch and let the engine cool. Within about 40 minutes we had the cylinder head off the car and the engine block (with pistons and valves) exposed to reveal what was going on inside the ’11’s engine that was preventing it from climbing as it should. The #3 exhaust valve had been so eroded by the extreme environment it operates in (heat and pressure) that it couldn’t seal the exhaust port well enough to hold pressure inside the cylinder each time we were trying to explode some gasoline in there to raise the pressure really high. We also found that we had another exhaust valve that didn’t look too happy about it’s working environment, either, although so far it was still faithfully doing it’s job but may have wanted to quit any day now.
To make a long story short, Scott, it turns out, had some spare valves on hand without which we’d be spending several days in Cody awaiting delivery of new valves from our parts vendor. He also had the machine shop and tools needed to do this ‘valve job’ correctly and by last night we had the new valves installed and taken in a live rodeo, although Scott didn’t attend the rodeo with us because he had tickets to go to the next day’s event plus he was busy installing the second valve for us while we were at the rodeo.
So this morning we’ll button everything back up, reunite the two Ts and set off for our next destination, which we will now also reveal to you: someplace around Billings, MT, probably, but maybe a little further depending on what time we actually depart later this morning.
We can’t express enough our sincere thanks and appreciation to Scott and Althea, and we plan on writing another post describing in more detail the repair work that was done. The methodology Scott uses is worthy of documenting for others who never thought they could do such a critical repair by themselves, although certain tools and fixtures are required. Regardless, with Scott’s approval we’ll capture that for others to use.
That’s the news for now, and we’ll keep everyone posted on our progress today when able.
(NB. Our “parts vendor” remains anonymous only because there are several potential vendors and we have no loyalty, plus they have reputations to uphold.)