Fezzik: Life Begins at 200K

Fezzik is looking tough with that bumper and the fresh wrap.

Bummer about the leak(s). Hopefully not too bad to change the pan gasket and filter on the trans?

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OPSU can leak to Exxon Valdez levels.

Does it smell like gear oil?

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I think it might smell like gear oil but I didn’t think to sniff the paper towels I used to clean off the skid plates before they went on. I’ll be dropping them in the next couple days to pressure wash so we’ll see.

I’ll also order another OPSU this morning just in case. Cheap as they should be, it’s simple insurance and can’t hurt to replace either way.

Thanks gents.

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Okay. Picture dump from the Turkey Creek run on 4/4/21!

I was really looking forward to a chance to try out my new gears. Turkey Creek did not disappoint. All in all, it’s about a 20 mile trail—but it took us six+ hours to do it. Yeah, there were many stops, but only because it’s a bit bouncier than we expected.

First, Pixel “Night Sight” with colored flames. Man, I just love this shot.

Some trail shots. We should have known a trail crossing a creek back in the bush would be mostly rocky riverbed, but you live and you learn. (And you get shaken like that lady in Airplane! for six hours.)

Coming upon active mining operations and literal red tape, John went upstream to scout alternates. In the end, we went right across here, to the right of the tree with the red tape tied to it.


P had a blast.

During a break under some giant cottonwood trees by the creek, I walked ahead to check out a big rock feature that looked like it could make for some good pictures. If we’d had more time, I could have stayed in this little valley for hours, trying different lines and stuff. Alas, we had to move on, so I dropped off the step below and smashed my rear bumper cap up.

A few minutes later, I crossed the stream and packed up my due-for-replacement-this-summer BFG ATs with super slick mud and couldn’t get up the bank on the other side. With no alternate route, I could have backed up and made a run for it, but decided to let the girls out and ride the strap up.

And John wanted to try out his new snatch strap, anyway. (Mine was buried under all my camping gear in the back because why would I need a strap on dirt roads? Assumption is the mother of all fuckups.

About halfway through the trail, we climbed out of the delightful, riparian riverbed, and up into the dusty mountains. Here’s one of those must-do climbs.

Here’s a video John took. He stopped recording to spot me through that bit. I made it.

“The Ledge”, as they call it, seems to be the most remarkable obstacle on the trail. It’s a narrow slot in the end of a ridge. It’s off-camber, with big, off-camber steps, and while you can’t really see it here, has a pretty gnarly dropoff on the outside.

You gotta keep your wheels close to the rock wall and take it nice and easy so as not to get tippy. If you get tippy and you’re lucky, you tip over into a 3-foot tall rock formation. If you’re not lucky, you do a slow rollover down into the creek.

My outer tailgate latch broke on me. I think just the little plastic doodad that clips the rod to the handle broke, but I had a zip tie on the handle when I realized this was a perfect job for a Titan Strap. new handle is already in-hand. Might install it this weekend.

We had lunch under more cottonwoods by a bend in the creek. I watched about a dozen Jeep and side-by-sides crawl up the other side with their lockers on. When John rolled out and took that line, too, I realized I was gonna have to take that line.


I spent a LOT of time in 4L on this trail. The new gears made a huge difference in slow speed control. It was tricky managing the gear changes in 4L, as they were pretty abrupt—even with an automatic—but I was getting the hang of it at the end.

Where I was stopping at the base of hills to grab L and lock the diff at first, toward the end, I was climbing hills in 2 to bring the revs (and torque) down to reduce wheel spin, switching the locker on and off as I was moving.

And when things flattened out between obstacles or hills, I let off the gas, let the truck coast to idle speed, then shifted into D and drove on. If we were doing 15mph at any point on this trail, we were hauling ass.

A F*cking Nightmare

:arrow_up: V’s exact words.

V loved the riparian bits, but V gets car sick. Always has. We were both expecting a mostly dirt roads experience with a couple climbs and obstacles in between. If we had known this was going to be six hours of being tossed like a rag doll, she would not have gone.

By the time we crawled out of the valley, three hours in, V was fully sick and trying not to throw up. She thought she’d just get out and walk when things got that rough, but most things were that rough, it was pushing 100°F/38°C, and she’s recently been diagnosed with plantar fasciitis.

She has gotten over her fears of rollovers, body damage, and being stranded, but even Dramamine didn’t touch the nausea she had going on in the final hours. Imagine feeling like you’re gonna hurl and your only option is getting out and climbing a loose, rocky hill in the heat when every heel strike feels like a red hot nail being driven into your heel. (Did you see her and Penny and the dog walking behind Fezzik in the video up there?)

Yeah. I’m surprised we’re still married. She’s a trooper, though. After a very quiet drive home, we talked about what happened, what she’s up for in the future, and how we can factor her needs into our trip plans.

Not only did the crawler gears work a treat, my ADD armor really saved the day. Wait 'til you see the fresh scars on my skid plates. Wow. Pics to follow. For now, here’s some shots of tire damage. I sacrificed the tires on my side to keep her as close to an even, semi-shoulder ride as possible. All this damage is on my driver side tires.

The chassis took a beating on this trail. If I hadn’t had my armor, I would have destroyed my engine pretty quickly. Just look at some of these impacts at the frame level.

At one point, we hit something on the front of something else and it straight stopped us dead in our tracks. I don’t know what it was or where it hit, but there was a very large clump of mud on my passenger LCA where it mounts to the frame.

In the end, though, this was probably the most extreme off-roading I’ve ever done. I was in 4Llc most of the day. I had to use the locker dozens of times. And I had to get pulled over an obstacle to continue. V will never do anything like this again, at least, not for this long—but I will.

I might even see when the other Monteros are doing the Rubicon. Maybe I throw sliders on there and go.

Fezzik can handle it now.


Dang man! I have got to do that trail! I didn’t realize how cool it was!
Fezzik is a monster!

That sucks that it’s so hard for V. But it can still be a daddy daughter activity!

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Do0d. It’s a pretty incredible trail. We’re getting to the end of the best weather to do it, but it’s less than an hour from your driveway. If you were out the door by 0600, you’d be on the trail by 0700, and leisurely spend 6-7 hours out there, before dumping out on Crown King Road near Cleator.

Just be prepared for a good tossing around. :slight_smile:

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Jealous of this trip! I still need to get some more off road miles in out here. I guess I need to hurry up and get a truck!


My diff mount still isn’t fixed from my January 2nd expedition, kinda waiting to finish a few other projects, then I’ll go all in on another round of having stormy torn apart for several months.

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  • timing belt service
  • new spark plugs & wires
  • new valve cover gaskets
  • new intake manifold gaskets
  • new water pump
  • new trans filter & pan gasket
  • new trans mount

$2,406.90. :grimacing:

When Ernest re-geared Fezzik back in November, he mentioned it looked like I had a coolant leak behind the water pump. When I had Auto Air & Electric on Bell Rd. fix my power steering and replace a couple trans cooler lines a couple months later, they made a similar observation.

Being less than 5,000 miles away from a 240k timing belt service, I figured I’d plan on replacing the water pump as part of a timing belt job.

The passenger side valve cover was also starting to leak (again), so I figured I’d do that while I was in there.

I started buying parts. Gates timing belt kit. Felpro intake manifold and valve cover gaskets. NGK Iridium spark plugs. A new PCV grommet.

And then I pulled the front skid plates to change the oil before the Turkey Creek trail run on Easter. Oil everywhere, definitely from the OPSU, but maybe from the axle too. Turned out the trans pan was leaking now, too.

I called up Mike at Auto Air & Electric and got a quote for the job with my parts. $1,500 was the estimate. I cleared it with V, who said she was happy to spend the money to not have me sulking about in misery for a weekend plus.

Mike’s got TWO techs. I dropped Fezzik off last Wednesday morning. MJ, the senior tech, worked on Fezzik Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Monday, and today. For a solid one and a half days of that, all he did was work on Fezzik. The rest of the week, he worked on Fez until he needed to order parts and then tagged out on smaller jobs while they waited for them.

First call, Wednesday afternoon, Mike asked if I knew most of my electrical connectors were missing their little metal wire clips. I said yes, and asked if he had them. He did not. Note to self for next junkyard trip, right?

Next call, Thursday afternoon, it turned out the coolant leak was behind the water pump. It looked like an o-ring failed on the main coolant pipe. The V under the intake was a lake of nasty coolant gnar.

The next call was to tell me they had to replace all the little coolant lines all over the top of the engine because I’d used fuel hose, it wasn’t compatible, and they were all hard and brittle now. (Sigh.)

When Mike called me late Friday afternoon, he told me Fezzik wasn’t ready yet and that it looked like I could use some new plug wires. They were only $80 installed, but the total for parts and labor had crossed $2k, to the tune of $2,200. I told him I’d have to pass because cost containment at this point.

He called back five minutes later. “MJ said to call you back and make sure you’re sure about that. He wanted to make sure you remembered you’d have to pull the intake manifold again to do it.” And just like that, we were installing new plug wires.

Monday afternoon around 4PM, Mike called again, telling me they went to drop the cross member to access the trans pan—the final piece of the job—when the trans mount just fell apart in their hands. He asked if I wanted to put a new one in for $80. I asked if that included labor. Mike said, “The old one literally fell out, dude. No labor.” And just like that, we were installing a new trans mount.

The final call came in around 2PM this afternoon. “Fezzik is all done. $2,406.90.”

They showed me the massive pile of old, filthy shit they took off the engine on a bench in the corner. I almost took it with me and then I thought, “Nah. I trust these guys and don’t need any more messes.”

Then I walked over and shook MJ’s hand.

I told him I knew how much it sucked working on this engine at times. The intake manifold. That EGR connection. And all the little oddball things that never fail to creep up on you and give you a headache. He seemed to appreciate that.

I paid $2,500 for Fezzik five years ago. I’m glad we didn’t cross that line.

When I asked Mike how much of an outlier I was with this job, he said I was getting up there, but they had also recently put a new engine in a beat, POS Ford Ranger with >300k on it. Most people though, he said, didn’t put this kind of money into older machines like this. Kinda made me sad.

There isn’t much left to do at this point.

I have manual hubs, new axles (albeit one might be leaking), new gears, new tcase with new gears, trans has just been resealed, all trans and oil cooler lines are new, the radiator is less than a year old, and the 35k engine just got a fresh tbelt, plugs, wires, and should not leak a drop of oil or coolant for some time.

I still need to replace the TPS sensor (so I can pass emissions this month), and I’ve got a new OE OPSU from Dubai sitting here on my desk, but beyond this, I really just need to do suspension bushings and brakes and Fezzik is—dare I say it—mechanically 100%?


I went into this project thinking $1,500-$1,700 was my rock sliders and Thule Atlantis money. For $2,400, it was rock sliders, Thule Atlantis, and 3.8L swap money. But it’s peace of mind. This may be the first summer I’ve had in well over a decade where I won’t be worrying about my daily driver.

When you know, you know.


Man, that’s nuts. I desperately need to get stormy as sorted as you are quickly achieving with fezzik. Need to get a few projects out of the way and then I can pull the motor on stormy and redo everything on it in the garage.

+1 for MJ being the man.

Wishing my trooper was 95 or older so engine swaps would be a lot easier to plan for, but that obdii requirement for 96+ just makes it such a pain.


I am fortunate I was able to do this, but while it moves Fezzik forward significantly, it also sets me back financially. (This is also the most expensive repair I think I’ve ever done.)

Being a 97, I’m pretty sure Stormy would pass without 100% readiness. Fez is a 98 and my catalyst readiness tests have never been 100% done when I’ve passed.

Edit: Here’s the readiness info I’d originally got wrong.

It’s a thought.


But it’s the “needing obdii” in the first place that is the hang up. Trying to buy an engine with a complete harness and ECU is tougher than it ought to be. If stormy was 95 or older, I could just do megasquirt and I could build a custom harness, and decide what made sense to keep from the trooper or keep from the motor.

It’s not the end of the world, it would just open a lot of options.

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Random wheel ideas…

Black Rhino “Rumbler” in gold, bronze, and matte black, crudely photoshopped for giggles…

Not entirely in love with any style, really. Wonder if I could run Delica or Triton wheels…

Like these sharp, 17-inch jobbers off the Series 5 L200 (Triton)!

I dunno. Just figured I’d experiment a bit.

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I like the black the best, which’ll be the easiest to keep “clean” too. Not just because I love black wheels, as I love gold/bronze wheels too, I just have a tough time mixing different hue’d metallics on a single project.

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