Fezzik: Life Begins at 200K

Placeholder. Might as well start one now.

The life and times of Fezzik, my 1998 CA-Spec #Mitsubishi #Montero. Starting with the new engine at 200,000 miles, Mother’s Day weekend, 2018. (I originally purhcased ol’ Fez a few years earlier, selling Rocinante, my 1989 Raider, SWB 2.6, to fund the purchase, but those are stories for another time.)

New engine, fluids.

After saving up a few bucks here and there, I worked out a deal with Brother Josh at Adventure Driven Design. He coordinated the parts and supplies. I drove over to his place on the far side of the Phoenix metro after work on a Friday night. We pulled the original, 199,9XX mile engine, Saturday morning.

It was a mad dash of several late nights in a row, ending in my leaving Josh’s place just before 1AM Monday morning. The alarm for work a few hours later was a real bastard—but Fezzik had a leak- and smoke-free engine under the hood. Things were looking up.

Here’s the full story on Gearbox Magazine back in the day.

Five Days Later
Shitting bricks en route to Overland Expo.

Aggressively climbing over the hill south of Camp Verde, AZ, I was passing a minivan at 80mph, when a giant cloud of smoke erupted out the rear. It was coming from under the truck—not the tailpipe—leading to immediate fears of oil starvation on a brand new engine.

Commodore Chef and Angie stayed on-site until the tow truck arrived, then rolled on to meet the AZ Crawlers up near Bearizona. I watched the tow truck driver unload a 2018 Toyota Highlander (which was headed for Lemon Law justice due to its third complete electrical meltdown in six months), load up Fezzik, then re-load the Highlander out back since we couldn’t rule out driveline issues on Fezzik.

I got home shortly after midnight. Surprisingly, the engine oil level was solid when I checked it at home. I test fired the engine and it idled just fine with plenty of pressure. So first thing in the morning, I limped over to the shop, where Josh and I crawled under to investigate. Turned out I was about 3 quarts overfilled on the transmission. Sheesh.

Five Days Later
The Camry Incident

Poor girl on her third day driving home from work after they moved into a new office. With pretty much bald front tires. Traffic stopped—as it does in rush hour. She panicked, had no grip, and slid about a country mile into my rear bumper, lifting Fezzik and I up into the air and into the back end of a Honda Accord.

14 months later, I still haven’t collected the insurance money from this, because while Allstate adequately valued Fezzik, they included $50/hr labor rates on the repairs, bringing the total to north of $4,000, making the claim a total loss.

I’ve been daily driving Fez ever since. Total loss means I have to provide a salvage title to the insurance company before I get my money. But this means my registration is void on the spot (salvage vehicles aren’t legal in Arizona), so I have to get a bunch of stupid, unrelated, little shit to pass the restored salvage inspection before I can do this. Cracked windshield (again), ABS light, working reverse light, horn button, etc.

I’m pretty close. Just need to make time out in the heat to do the work and schedule even more time off work to go get that inspection.

31 May 2018

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04 July 2018, brake job all around

Replaced all four rotors, pads, & shoes. Replaced all guide/lock pins on front calipers. Installed speed bleeders, bled to fresh ATE 2000 at all four corners. It was like having new car brakes for a while.

Things got a bit muddy at Overland Expo in May of 2019. The DF pad got clogged with dirt and squealed all the time—to the point I bought more pads. When I went to replace them, I found the dirt filling the slot in the middle of the pad was likely the culprit, cleared it, and reassembled things.

Unfortunately, the brand new guide and lock pins were already rusty, and no amount of impact, propane or MAP fire on the PF caliper bolts would free them, so I had to resort to smacking the caliper with a hammer until the dirt fell out the bottom.

A couple months later, the constant squeal has returned. Looks like I’ll be investing in new calipers. Might as well get braided lines while I’m at it. Had to do some emergency braking recently and, wow, it was a soft, scary affair. I’d rather have my tires lock up than just keep rolling in anger with the pedal on the floor.

Yeah, the engine got pretty muddy at OXW 19…

21 July 2018
Exhaust repairs on the trail.

After the Camry incident, the rear section of the exhaust was kinda munched. Was hanging loose behind the rear axle. On a simple 4-wheel trail to a box canyon SE of Phoenix, it got to swinging and banging around so much I was afraid it was going to cause more trouble.

John and Commodore helped me pull it back off the axle with a strap and then used bailing wire to secure it for the rest of the day.

12 December 2018

A few months later, I would go to replace the damaged exhaust, only to discover I don’t have enough jack to fully extend the rear axle so I could get it out. I took a sawzall to it in anger. Currently running a hacked-off rear section, pending installation of the replacement in my garage, courtesy of Eric.

I also wanted to replace the rear swaybar end links that day, but spent so much time dicking with the exhaust, I just bolted things back up and called it a day. Hard to believe it’s been eight months since that day and I’m still listening to the rear sway bar slap, rattle, and bang around back there—and yet, not hard at all, really.

02 February 2019
Installed another non-functional valet button.

This one looks better, though. (Does nothing. Go figure.)

20 April 2019
Removed decals from failed 2016 magazine.

Goo Gone appeared to work. Then didn’t. Oh well.

15 June 2019
Installed white-ball transfer case lever.

After having this sit in my garage for at least a year—and finding myself frustrated at not being able to get the damn truck into 4WD at Overland Expo (not that it was needed at all), I finally decided to do the “15 minute job” everyone told me was “a 15 minute job”.

It took me about three hours, but I did it. Now the 4WD indicator lights only flash at me a couple times a month. :wink:

Oil change, inspection.
After V&P went to bed.

Drained 3.5qts, old. Filled with 5qts new; conventional Shell Rotella 10w30, NAPA Platinum filter.

Watered the battery. Going to think real hard about AGM next time. SO DONE with corrosion.

Checked coolant overflow tank. Full! Bright green! That’s good! Checked radiator. Pulled vacuum when I released the cap. That’s good! (I think.) Took half a gallon of water. That’s not so good.

Still have quite the effing to-do list…

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Rear sway bar end links, LR ABS sensor
Saturday morning before it got too hot.


My rear sway bar end links had been shot for at least a year, but other repairs always either consumed all my time or otherwise pissed me off to the point of not giving a shit.

I’ve had the new end links about 10 months at this point. Interestingly, it was thinking about how I’ll need to be comfortable with constantly maintaining things if I’m going to live on a sailboat–and seeing JP dealing with a radiator fan failure on his TJ–that inspired me to commit to giving it a shot, so I decided I’d spend a few minutes tinkering.

Driver’s side was a piece of cake. Passenger side needed the slightest bit of leverage with a pry bar.

I kinda used my left elbow and forearm to apply pressure to the bar while my left hand steadied the end link and I assembled the unit with my right hand.


I tightened both sides down evenly, matching distance between top of the nut and bolts against markings on my 14mm wrench.

Having had such surprisingly good luck replacing these, I decided to crawl under and take a look at the LR ABS sensor. Just look at it.

Turned out the wire was cut. I don’t know if it was because of The Camry Incident or what, but it was clearly in need of replacement.

So I replaced it. Accounting for clips and popping the old connector out of the frame rail, this was about a five minute job.

A nice bonus, the ABS MIL came on, stayed on, and went out before I’d made it past the house next door.

Boom. One step closer to passing the ADOT Level 3 inspection for that restored salvage title (that means I can finally get the insurance money from The Camry Incident back in May of last year).

Speaking as a gearhead with a massive #todolist who’s been seriously questioning his interest in turning wrenches, all of the above was time well spent. I feel pretty good about myself today and find myself thinking about my next projects, however small they might be.


battery replacement

The Phoenix heat isn’t kind to car batteries. We tend to “rent” them. In almost 20 years living in the Valley of the Sun, I’ve yet to get more than three years out of any new battery. You install a new one, get the free replacement, then buy another, get the free replacement, and so on.

When it’s above 90°F/32°C, I’ll be lucky to see my voltmeter climb reach 12VDC, but at elevation where it’s cooler (or during our “Not-Hot” season—not to be confused with “Fall” elsewhere, by the way), the voltmeter hangs out closer to 14VDC, where it should.

Either way, earlier this year I decided I was on my last leaky, lead acid shit-show battery. Corrosion everywhere. Greasy, melty terminal connections. Checking and adding distilled water every couple of months—not worth the piddling savings over AGM.

So when ol’ Fez barely started yesterday morning when I went to take P to school (it was a lovely 65°F/18°C at the time), and then again when I went to leave school and get gas—but was showing closer to 14VDC on the meter—I knew the time had come.

Time was of the essence, so I posted up in the Montero group on Friendface, asking what size tires fit, er, what’s the hot setup on AGM batteries these days. The response was quick: Bosch Platinum AGM, P/N 24-710BAGM.

Thank you @haolepinoy, Eric, and JBFP!

I don’t usually shop Pep Boys, but this was where to go, so I started calling around. Turns out they’re being phased out in favor of Champions (probably the cheaper of the two now-made-in-Mexico parts). I had to drive about 30 miles across town to get one while V was getting chemo.

The new hotness chillin’ on the Juke floorboard.

I ordered the Toyota terminals Eric recommends, but had to get the battery in before they arrived so I could, you know, go places. Here’s a couple pictures of the leaky old bastard being replaced.

Believe it or not, I cleaned everything thoroughly with baking soda mix just a couple weeks ago. Also, the brown coloring of the engine in the background is mud left over from Overland Expo West back in May. #dontcare

Anyway, I dropped all the battery tie-down hardware into my disposable plastic container full of baking soda water before I removed the old battery and scraped, scooped, and rinsed everything in a very fizzy baking soda bath.

I dried things out in preparation for the new battery.

The clean, if not painted battery tray.

The new battery.

Here’s where things get stupid, I mean fun.

I tend to be a clean-as-you-go kinda guy, so once I had everything clean, I threw all the dirty stuff in the trash—including my disposable container which just had a large blob of nasty, foamy bubbles in it.

Turns out the two wing nuts that actually hold the battery down were in that blob.

Fortunately, Wednesday was trash day, so I was able to quickly fish the nuts out of the bottom of my poly cart with my magnetic grabber tool. Nice!

They were coated in foam, dirt, and whatnot from the trash, so I walked around back, grabbed the hose—and immediately blasted one into the great unknown somewhere in a planter filled with Brittania.


I must have tried half a dozen different nuts from the stash. None were the right pitch. So I put the old core in the back of the truck and carefully drove to (a much closer) Pep Boys to dispose of the old battery properly, collect my core deposit, and buy a new battery tie-down kit.

They were sold out of the tie-down kit.

The retainer bolts they had were too long (and weren’t threaded far enough I could trim to fit).

They had wing nuts, but none that worked.

Apparently, the tie-down bolts I had were somewhere between M6x1.0 and M7x1.0, but also somewhere between 1/4-20 and 1/4-28. Ugh.

So I carefully drove to Auto Zone, where I bought a pair of new tie-down bolts with nuts and washers, finally securing my new, $160 AGM battery.

Once the new Toyota terminals arrive, I’ll be replacing the lingering nastiness.


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Where did the name Fezzik come from?

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As you wish. :wink:

Fezzik is the biggest vehicle I’ve ever owned. Compared to Rocinante, my 89 SWB 2.6, the 98 LWB felt like a brute to Roci’s wheezy farm implement vibe.


And there you have it.

With the exception of my brick red 86 Volvo 245 and a pair of GVR4s I merely referred to by their badge numbers, I guess I’ve named all my dailies–the two Pajeros and Daisy, my 97 Talon.

front #brakes job (fail)

I installed new rotors, pads (PowerStop Carbon/Ceramic), ATF Blue, and speed bleeders at all four corners in July 2018.

They started squealing on me while turning shortly after Overland Expo West in May, so I bought another set of pads and pulled the LF wheel. Turned out the slots on the pads were packed with mud. Nice! I cleaned the LF pads, cleaned things up, and re-installed.

The RF corner was another story. The caliper guide and lock pins refused to budge. Once my breaker bar setup started wanting to either snap my wrench or round the bolt, I switched to propane. And then I switched to MAP gas. Despite soaking things overnight in PB’laster, despite heating/shocking with more, despite cooking the bolt head to the point the boot on the other side began smoking—these bastards refused to budge.

In the last couple weeks, the squealing got worse, to the point of clearly being metal-on-metal. Not wanting to end up on r/justrolledintotheshop, I decided to replace the front calipers while I was replacing the good pads.

Recalling local Montero Guru, Kevin, once say he would never rebuild another brake caliper again, I cashed in some Amazon gift cards and points and ordered fresh remans.

Here’s what I got:

The one on the left (LF) looks good enough, right? But that right one? The one sitting on top of the clearly newer box, is clearly mismatched, and covered in enough dust to suggest it had been sitting out in an attic or something for a decade or more.

I posted pictures to Instagram and the consensus was "install it and run it anyway. So that’s what I decided to do. I told V I needed about two hours to do the job, and she tagged me out on parenting duties for the Saturday morning.

Once again, I settled into the LF corner.

I cracked the brake line first with a 10mm flare nut wrench, and the brackets securing it (12mm).

I took a regular 10mm to the dust shield bolt (after I realized it was the only thing holding the caliper on. Doh!)

With my old, original caliper gently weeping from on-high, I got to work installing the new caliper. Strangely, once the bracket was torqued, the rotor wouldn’t turn. I don’t mean it was sticky or tight, either, I mean it was clamped doooooown.

I mean, just look at this shit. Either the bracket was wrong, or seriously damaged to be bent like that.

It was clear on the backside, though.

At that point, I made a couple calls around the valley in search of options. Nobody had anything, so it was back to the original calipers, and decided to throw in some cheap, $40 ceramics from AutoZone while I run down proper caliper cores for rebuilding (and powder coating).

The LF went back together in a hot minute and I was on to the RF, fully expecting it was going to be this kind of brake job.

Which it was. After bumblefucking my way through getting the new pads into the caliper and bracket while separated from the rotor, I finally got the new pads installed. I cleaned and greased things best I could given the access I had, then torqued everything down.

You can see how worn the pads were. And how unevenly between left and right sides.

As I was doing my final torque on everything RF, I decided to give the guide and lock bolts one more try. Can you believe they both cracked loose?

You know I chased ALL the threads, cleaned everything up with carb cleaner, then brake cleaner, then compressed air, before applying the Sil Glyde. All’s well that ends well…

but those new pads are already squealing all the time.

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#tach replacement, door #lock, & #voltmeter repairs

To own a second gen Montero is to know the pleasures of twitchy power door locks. You turn the key once to unlock the driver’s door, and a second turn is supposed to unlock the other four. And it does! It just immediately re-locks all of them.

This issue is compounded when attempting to be gentlemanly and open your passenger’s door first, as you have to quickly kinda twitch the key to bump the solenoid in a feeble attempt at getting it to unlock all the doors and leave them that way.

And it’s further compounded when you leave your wife and kid in the car with the AC running while you run into a shop for something real quick, only to have your wife have to tickle the lock button on her door half a dozen times or more to unlock yours—because they all immediately re-lock.

Shortly after buying Fez, I opened up the original actuator solenoid and repacked the rubber bumpers within (at the time, the consistency of road tar). It worked for about a week. Anyway, I finally took @kurek’s advice and bought the finest new units I could find direct from China on eBay.

It was less than $40 and an hour to solve this problem once and for all. (sigh)

Here’s the original, driver side unit next to the XLINGDONGs. (Note the orientation of the arms.)

And here’s the passenger side comparo.

I am pleased to report my power door locks work excellently now, albeit in need of some fine tuning. There’s apparently a little wiggle room when it comes to the linkages in the door wherein too far one way results in continued lock twerking and too far the other means the occasional bound-up lock cylinder. Still, I consider this a win.

With the door card off, I noticed my front driver side speaker had been pinched all this time. I smeared a little black RTV on those tears to hopefully reduce that blown speaker buzz (that I had not heard). If it works, it works. If not, well, I might as well yank the entire interior out over the winter anyway, right?

Since I had some time to tinker—and had such good luck with the doors—I oped to replace my defunct tachometer. As Fezzik’s a 98 model with the adjustable suspension system and the replacement tacho is out of a 2000 Endeavor which did not have this, there were additional screws on the back of my cluster which secured said indicator daughter board.

Original tach on the left, replacement on the right.

Well I’ll be damned. It worked. Can’t even see my ham-fisted fingerprints on the new tach face though the sand-scratched cover. #winning #alod

Not used to being successful on the first try, I attempted re-installing the almost microscopic LED behind the compass the upper dash pod. I failed at that. (It’s like the old game Operation, but in reverse, and then, after you’ve carefully placed the tiny LED into the hole, you get to strip the plastic back side trying to lock it into place.)

Undeterred, I cracked the nuts loose on the back of the pod and immediately re-tightened them. (Another @kurek tip.) Boom. Just like that my gauge consistently hangs out around 14VDC instead of 11VDC. #goodtimes #success

I think next up I’ll get that insurance business from May 2018 settled (since the statute of limitations runs out in May 2020).

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Looks like you’ve put some serious work into this one. Also, I love that you named him Fezzik!

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Before ever meeting @Brian I toyed with naming my rig Inigo, but figured somebody had to have used that pun already (My name is Inigo Montero…get it?). Still waiting for my kids or some friend to name it something memorable that sticks.

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Yes! Inigo Montero. You killed my Strada. Prepare to die. :stuck_out_tongue:


Damnit. P0120. TPS. Again.


  • Brake pads (again)
  • Windshield sprayer
  • Oil change

I replaced the front pads less than four months ago. Almost immediately, they started squealing again. Bad. And I’ve started hearing what sounds like a metal feeler touching when I’m not braking, leading me to believe I had a stuck caliper.

Was hoping I could let it ride until I get a set of donor calipers back from Detective Coating, where I’ve been offered a hell of a hookup from an old forum buddy who’s been on the podcast, Justin Mohney. He made me an offer I can’t refuse for a set of four, rebuilt & powder coated calipers. And one I’d be a real d-bag to discuss in detail. Suffice it to say, it’s cheaper than buying a set of new calipers.

Anyway, the noise—and having the pedal go to the floor on me the other night pulling into a parking lot—suggested I don’t have that kind of time. So I decided to replace the pads. Only, when I took the side suspected to be sticking (the one that wouldn’t come apart last time), I found this.

Plenty of life left in those pads.

The metal-on-metal action prior to the last pad change is evident in the scoring on the rear pad.

But the guide/lock pins looked great?

I decided to swap the pads side-to-side. Probably doesn’t matter.

Getting to the driver side, things looked similar, albeit with their own slight imperfections.

Check out those rusty guide/lock pins. Sheesh. I’d replace them, but I didn’t have another car at the time and since the new calipers will come with fresh hardware, I didn’t think it was worth worrying about.

I cleaned everything within an inch of its life, applied mass quantities of SylGlide to everything, and pumped the pedal a good 30 times before it was firm after. Fluid level looks good, so probably needs bled again. I’m going to wait until I get the new calipers to do that with fresh fluid and speed bleeder.

Since I had the wheels off and easy access to the fender area, I decided to make sure it was secure for my upcoming Level III inspection (insurance money from 2018). That also meant I could easily access the washer sprayer reservoir to replace the dead pump.

It was $16 from the local NAPA. Not bad. Washer now works again. YAY!

And, finally, I changed the oil. Fresh Rotella T4 10w30 and a NAPA Gold filter with a couple old hard drive magnets stuck to the side of it. 5,555 miles on this interval.

Coming up next:

  • steering wheel airbag replacement (for an original horn button)
  • adjust rear tailgate latch so the door’s easier to open (to pass inspection)
  • get money, buy stuff for the truck

And I’ve been thinking about pulling out the rear interior to clean the sunroof tracks, install insulation, and maybe pre-wire the house?


Don’t sweat the level 3 inspection. You need a horn, blinkers, headlights, and a windshield. It’s mostly a glorified VIN check. My truck was held together by zip ties. If that thing passed I don’t know what would fail.
If you did a motor swap though, you’ll need paper work for the purchase of the new motor to show it isn’t a chop shop deal.

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I’ve done it before, but they also check that all OE safety equipment is installed and functional. No cracked windshield, doors have to open/shut easily, and yes, receipts for any repairs.

VIN on my engine doesn’t match, but it’s not related to the accident repair. The only accident repairs I have are the reverse lights and bent trailer hitch.

Here’s my plan:

  1. Pass L3 inspection, get paper
  2. Request salvage title, take pictures
  3. Hand over paper, get restored title
  4. ???
  5. Profit

Now you’ve got me worried about the engine VIN. I’ve got a stack of receipts, but still. Don’t think anything related to the block. And if that VIN comes up at all sketch, I’m in a pickle.

That’s a neat trick. Where’d you pick it up?

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I couldn’t justify spending $50 on magnetic drain bolts, and I had the hard drive magnets laying around, so I just figured I’d give it a try, I guess.

Probably due to my working at a data center at the time, where we had to physically destroy hard drives from time to time (hand crank, hydraulic press with a giant, steel spike). I noticed the magnets were so strong that if you got them too close to one another they would stack. Permanently. Figured that was strong enough.



Salvaged, Restored Salvage titles issued

Fezzik passed the level 3. Great success!

Scanned copy sent to Allstate. Asked them, kindly, to show me the money. We’re Jerry McGuire stylee right now, but I’m not afraid to go full Stewie Griffin if need be. Here’s hoping it doesn’t come to that. :slight_smile:

Now, the passenger side foglight had been dead since I bought the truck… in April 2015. Being a self-ascribed lighting nerd all my life, this has bugged me. So much so, in fact, I attempted a bulb replacement while being a road block where the High Desert Trails Rally stages intersected the Pacific Crest Trail in 2015.

PS: My all-time favorite rally volunteer gig, @webkris. :wink: #73

Anyway, having been able to practice bulb replacement on the spare bumper Kurek gave me before he moved, I was emboldened to order a pair of fancy, yellow, Osrams. (Still have those LED units in my Amazon wish list @MrGalantguy, just not ready to pull the trigger yet. Might be a different bumper in my future…)

I sat down in front of the foglight, removed the trim, and discovered everything in there was a complete, funking disaster.

The lens was sandblasted to hell. The assembly was all dorked from the Camry Incident punting Fezzik into an Accord. I didn’t wanna replace the entire bumper, but…

Sheesh. On the plus side, Fez looked pretty good under there, all things considered. :slight_smile:

I tucked the headlight sprayer hoses back toward the radiator–not that the reservoir has anything in it or a functioning pump (#soon)–and hung the new to me bumper on that bad boy.

But not before installing said nifty, yellow Osrams!

Because that all took longer than expected, I had to wait until the next day (today) to do the headlights.

And what. The actual. Fuck.

Koito bulbs appeared factory, but there’s just no way that could be possible after 22 years and 220,000 miles. See also, one of the connectors read AMP while the other did not, suggesting someone replaced the pigtails due to shitty, mock HID bulbs likely melting the original connectors. And both were CAKED in grease.

I needed a wire brush, toothbrush, simple green, and a pick to clean these things up. What an absolute mess.

Trying to reassemble things nicer than they came apart --WW @boostedinaz D–I cleaned things up and did a couple practice installs with the old bulbs before donning fresh, clean gloves, and installing the new Osram Night Breakers aus Deutschland.

Fezzik now has a fresh bumper and lights, with a $2k budget on the way.

Man, I’m stoked. Might have to get me one of them cool battery deals @PajEvo mentioned, maybe that Smittybuilt roof rack all the cool kids are talking about, all the maintenance items, and, if I can do it right, I’m thinking I’d like a fridge.

Progress is progress. I’ll take it.


Finally! :grinning: :grinning: :grinning:

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Yes. And now to figure out how to spend that money.

I could blow it all on a proper roof rack, awning, and fridge, but there are foundations to be tended to methinks.

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