restoration series number 1: MV zombies page 2

Continued From Page 1.


    Anyway, you have arrived in the morning with all the necessary stuff you think you will need, including a helpful and enthusiastic companion who won’t spend all day laughing at your folly or complaining about missing the game on TV. There sits the object of your desire in the field, in the barn, or under the trees… looking twice as battered and rusty as you remembered!

    You might as well admit it—no matter what its former owner “recollected”—there probably was a good reason why it was parked. If so, it is likely you’ll discover that reason very soon. No doubt, your new treasure would look more impressive with air in all of its tires and the weeds and vines cleared away, but the first thing you should get to is the heart of the matter…will the engine run?

    If it was free to begin with and hasn’t acquired another gallon of “oil” since you filled the radiator, you can skip the next paragraph. However, if the engine was stuck, here is my 50/50 success method of getting it loose in the field: First, remove all the spark plugs and fill each cylinder with brake fluid. Of all the formulas and preparations ever advised to free up frozen engines, I have found that ordinary brake fluid works best—and the cheaper the better.

    If the spark plus are located in “wells,” such as on most L-head engines, be sure to clean all the dirt and debris away so it doesn’t fall into the cylinders.

Examine the frame for cracks, breaks and twists, as well as things like this. Someone
attached a bracket to this frame by welding – the frame is now ruined, as the heat from welding,
whether torch or arc, removes the temper from the frame. A weak, easily bent, area now
exists and can never be fixed.

    A good stout screwdriver or pry bar applied to the flywheel teeth has more turning force than most starters; and trying to turn a stuck engine with the starter may damage the starter. With the cylinders full of brake fluid, put the transmission in neutral, get underneath the vehicle and try to turn the engine. If it moves even a little, keep rocking it from one direction to the other with your screwdriver or bar. Chances are good that it will gradually turn a little farther in each direction until finally you get a complete revolution. Turn it over a few more times this way, then hook up the battery(s) and turn it over a dozen times with the starter to blow the brake fluid out of the cylinders and loosen things up. Beware that the brake fluid may spout or spray from the spark plug holes—don’t let it get in your eyes, and be sure to warn your companion!

    Clean and replace the spark plugs after checking for the correct gap, or install the new plugs you may have brought.

    About the only thing I can add in regard to your present situation is to check the carburetor to make sure it isn’t heavily varnished or badly corroded inside, and the float and needle valve are free and operational. Use your oil squirt can to lubricate all the carburetor, accelerator, choke and throttle linkages; and make sure the return spring closes the carburetor butterfly because you don’t want the engine to rev out of control when started.

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    When you have spark at the spark plugs and fuel being delivered to the carburetor—even if your fuel source is a gravity feed from a jerry can—you are just about ready to attempt a start up. But first, drain the old oil and put in the new. Also service the oil filter if you came prepared to do that. Make sure the cooling system is full of water. If the starter, generator, or distributor have oil cups, fill them. If the water pump has a lube fitting, grease it. Make sure the fan and accessory drive belts are tight.

    Next, examine the exhaust system. That old engine is going to blow a lot of red-hot rust flakes out of the pipe. If the vehicle is sitting in a field of dry grass, it would be very wise to find out exactly where the exhaust is going to come out, and clear that area of flammables. It is also possible that there is a rat’s nest of dry leaves and twigs up the exhaust pipe or inside the muffler. Of course, you have a fire extinguisher and extra water? I once had a WWII half-ton Dodge pickup set what was left of its bed-boards on fire because of hot rust flakes blown out the exhaust pipe. It makes an amusing tale now, but it wasn’t quite as funny at the time to be driving a vehicle with a bonfire in back! Be sure to clean the engine exhaust manifold of any leaves or flammable debris that might have accumulated over the years.

    Just prior to startup, pour a thimbleful of gas down the carburetor. Beware that if the engine backfires, it may blow flame from the carburetor throat. Keep your face away and your fire extinguisher handy. When the engine starts, do not rev it any higher than is absolutely necessary to keep it running. The oil has long since drained out of all the bearings and internal parts, and you need to give the engine lots of time to pick up and circulate the new oil.

Most MVs, and other vehicles, which have sat derelict for any length of time will have
tires suffering dry rot, as seen here. The sidewall of this tire is badly damaged by dry
rot (ozone cracking). Tires with this type of damage are not useable, and as a rule are not
considered to be salvageable. Extremely large tires (such as those on a GOER) with this
damage can be repaired, but the repairs are expensive. Slight checking of the sidewall from
dry rot however is not enough to cause the tire to be removed from service, especially
on a non-steering axle.

    If the reason the vehicle was parked was a loose connecting rod or a broken piston, you’ll find that out soon enough without blowing it out through the block and destroying your chance of rebuilding the engine.

    As soon as the motor can be idled without your attention at the carburetor, hop into the cab and make sure there is oil pressure indicated by the gauge. If you have a companion, he or she should have already been instructed to watch the gauge. If the gauge doesn’t register, immediately shut off the engine and find out why. A line could be broken to the gauge or oil filter, or an oil gallery fitting or plug might have been “borrowed” and oil is spurting out somewhere. If you suspect the gauge itself is bad, loosen a fitting somewhere on its supply line and restart the engine. If oil squirts out, then you know there is pressure in the engine and the gauge just doesn’t work.

    If you do have oil pressure, check the water level in the radiator and top off if necessary. Some vehicle cooling systems can’t be filled all the way if the engine isn’t running or the thermostat isn’t open. Also look for bubbles in the radiator which could indicate a leaking head gasket. If everything seems okay, let the engine run at a fast idle to warm up…this is when having a hand throttle is nice. If the generator is charging, as indicated by the ammeter or voltmeter, that is a plus. Check to see if the temperature gauge is working. If so, it should start rising. However, if it keeps on rising and the radiator begins to boil, then the thermostat is probably stuck and you will have to remove or replace it to drive the vehicle home.

    If the engine temperature stabilizes in a normal range—usually somewhere between 160° and 190°, or midway up the gauge dial—try to shift into gear. If the clutch disk is free, you will know it now for sure. Shift into first or reverse and, even if the tires are flat or sunk in the dirt, just see if the vehicle tries to move. (Also be sure that the transfer case is in gear.)

    If, however, the transmission just grinds horribly every time you try to shift into gear, the clutch disk is probably rusted to the flywheel and/or pressure plate. Sometimes it can be broken loose by shutting off the engine, shifting into high gear, and holding the clutch pedal down while trying to restart the engine. If that doesn’t work, try having your companion hold the clutch pedal down (or block it down with a stick) then get under the vehicle to see if you can loosen the disk with a broad-bladed screwdriver or large knife. I once did this with a machete. Try not to damage the clutch facing material. If that procedure doesn’t work, or can’t be attempted because you can’t reach the clutch disk, about the only other thing that can be done in the field is to tow the vehicle a few hundred feet with the transmission in high gear and the clutch pedal held down.

    If the clutch does work all right and the vehicle seems to want to move, or if you’re going to try to tow the vehicle to free the clutch, then now is the time to attend to the tires. You haven’t wasted any time on them so far because you have done things in a logical order, first getting the engine started, and then finding out of the vehicle will move under its own power. Now air up or change the tires… whatever it takes to get the vehicle rolling.


    If you are working in a flat area, you probably won’t need the service brakes at the moment. However, if you are on a hillside, you will probably want to get the brakes operational as soon as the tires are fit to roll. It is possible that the parking brake is rusted in the “on” position. If so, then deal with that now. Oil its lever or handle and linkage with your oilcan.

This is an all-too-common problem on recovered historic military vehicles. This tire has
been damaged by being allowed to remain mounted on the vehicle even though flat.
Unfortunately the sidewall has been permanently bent out of shape, and more than likely
the sidewall cords have been broken. Tires like this should be replaced—the expense of
which one should factor into the total acquisition cost of the vehicle.

    I have driven many old vehicles home with only the parking brake to stop them, but that was back in my careless days and I don’t recommend doing this now. I have no regrets of putting myself in danger back then, but I’m rather ashamed that I didn’t consider the safety of others.

    Hopefully, you can get the vehicle’s service brakes operational by simply adding new fluid and bleeding them. While I assume that anyone attempting a field resurrection project would be familiar with basic hydraulic brake systems and how to bleed them, here is a condensed overview:

    There are two basic methods of bleeding brakes. If one is working alone, the simplest way is to buy an inexpensive vacuum pump kit. For those who have the benefit of having a useful companion on your resurrection trip, the two-person bleeding can be used.

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    What happened to the fluid in the vehicle’s brake system? Well, no sliding seal is perfect, and sliding seals are what wheel and master cylinders are all about. Over time, the brake fluid gradually leaked out and air got into the system. If the vehicle’s master cylinder is not completely dry, the air in the system will give the brake pedal a spongy feel, but you might be able to pump it enough to partially activate the brakes. Even though it will probably require some frantic pedal-pumping every time you want to stop, the vehicle might be driven slowly and cautiously home. It is even possible that by adding more fluid and doing a lot of pumping, the air will eventually bleed itself out, escaping past the wheel cylinder seals. However, and most likely in a case where a vehicle has been sitting for years, the master cylinder and brake lines are completely dry. Simply filling the master cylinder will only trap air in the system; and since air compresses (while liquids do not) it won’t transmit the force of your foot on the brake pedal to activate the brake shoes on the wheels. What you have to do is bleed the air from the system so it will be completely filled with new brake fluid.

    Bleeding brakes is a simple, step-by-step procedure if correctly. On the other hand, it can turn into a shouting-match between (possibly former) friends if one or both of them doesn’t do their job right. Watching two people trying to bleed brakes when neither is really quite sure how it’s done can be excellent entertainment! But, the procedure is simple. First, make sure that the top of the master cylinder is clean so that no dirt falls in when you take off the cap. Then fill the reservoir with new brake fluid.

    Replace the reservoir cap hand-tight because sometimes air will bubble back when the brake pedal is pumped and the fluid will spew all over the place. Your companion will sit in the driver’s seat to pump and hold the brake pedal…when you tell him to do so!

    This is the most important point to establish up front: the person—in this case yourself —who is crawling around under the vehicle is commander-in-chief of this operation! If you want to keep your blood pressure down and a friendship intact, make it clear that your companion is to do exactly what you say, when you say to do it…no more and no less. It’s also less trying of both folks’ patience if you establish what each order means and what your companion is expected to do when he or she hears it.

Engine parts for some vehicles, such as Jeeps and M35A2, are readily available and relatively
 inexpensive. Other power plants, such as the Mack ENDT-673, tend to be much more
expensive to repair.

    There are only three basic commands for your helper: “pump,” “hold,” and “let up” (or “release”). The only two things your helper should say to you are “up” or “down.” This is not a time for a political discussion!

    Make sure you have the proper size wrench to fit the bleeder vent screws on your particular vehicle, and be aware that some vehicles have different size bleeder screws on the rear wheels than on the front. These vent screws are often rusted in place, so a six-point combination wrench or a deep six-point socket is usually your best tool, though you may have to resort to small Vise-Grips to break the screws loose. If so, try to do as little damage as possible to the vents. It’s wise to make sure that all the vent screws on every wheel can be opened before you start the bleeding process.

    You may also want to remove them completely to make sure the passages are not clogged or rusted shut. A piece of your bailing wire should ream out any clogs or rust.

    I have heard many arguments over the years about whether one should begin with the wheel cylinder farthest from the master cylinder (which is the right rear on most left-hand drive vehicles) or whether one should begin with the wheel cylinder closest to the master (which is usually the left front). It seems more logical to start with the right rear because that is where most of the air is trapped, then move on in the order of decreasing distance to the master cylinder…which would be left rear, right front, and finally left front. The same logic applies to three-axle vehicles.

    With the master cylinder filled with new fluid and your wrench on the bleeder vent screw of your choice (which you know for a fact will open) tell your companion to “Pump.” This means that he will pump the brake pedal up and down with slow, full strokes until he at least begins to feel some resistance, at which point he should say “Up.”

    You tell him, “hold.” This means he will keep pressure on the pedal with his foot. Open the bleeder screw…be careful of your eyes. Air, or air mixed with brake fluid, should spit out of the vent. If your companion was able to get an “up pedal,” the pedal will now sink to the floor beneath the pressure of his foot as the air/fluid mix spurts out of the bleeder screw’s vent, at which point he should tell you “down.”

    He will now hold the pedal to the floor until you tell him to “let up” or “release.” Close the bleeder screw, then tell your companion to “pump” again. When he calls “up,” tell him to “hold,” and open the vent once more, letting additional air/fluid squirt out until your companion calls “down.” Again, you tell him to “hold,” close the vent, then call “let up” or “release.”

    Repeat this sequence until a solid spurt of brake fluid without any air bubbles comes out of the vent. When this finally happens, close the vent securely, tell your companion to “let up” or “release,” then slide out from under the vehicle and top-off the master cylinder with fluid.

    Now move on to the next wheel cylinder, which would be the left rear, and do the whole procedure all over again. Remember to top off the master after bleeding each wheel, because if you let the reservoir get low you’ll be pumping air back into the system and will have to start all over from square one. Likewise, if your companion isn’t paying attention and “lets up” when he should be “holding,” air will get into the system again. However, if you’ve worked together as a winning team, then you should now have functional service brakes on your vehicle.

    In some cases where the brake system is totally dry, you may have to run though the whole procedure twice before the wheel cylinders are completely bled.

    As mentioned previously, an option for loners (like myself) is a hand-operated vacuum pump kit, usually available at around $50 from most auto parts stores. With these, you simply fill the master cylinder, open a wheel cylinder bleeder vent, attach the hose and the pump sucks the air out. There is no need to pump the brake pedal, but always remember to keep the master cylinder full.

    For vehicles such as the Chevrolet G506, International M-3-4, Ford GTB, and GMC CCKW or DUKW with vacuum-boosted (hydrovac) brakes, the bleeding procedure is the same except that one bleeds the vacuum-booster first, and you should usually have the engine running to provide vacuum. For larger MVs such as the GMC G749, M211 and Reo M35 with air boosters, one would also bleed the booster first. For vehicles having two wheel cylinders per wheel, bleed the upper cylinder first… or the one that’s farthest from the axle brake line.


    You should now be able to drive the vehicle clear of the poison ivy. Now check the oil levels in the transmission, transfer case and differentials, and add new oil if necessary, or change all the oil if you came prepared to do that.

    Use your grease gun to lube all the drive-train, steering system, and chassis and suspension components. If the vehicle’s lighting system works, so much the better, even though—hopefully—you won’t be traveling after dark. If the resurrection process has taken longer than you thought and sunset is near, it would be smart to come back tomorrow rather than risk a journey at night. Even if you have a chase vehicle, it would be wise to get your MV’s stop light(s) working.

    Once on the road, take it slow and easy, checking the tires and wheel bearings frequently (stop, and put your hand on the wheel hubs to see if they are getting hot). Keep a close watch on the engine temperature and oil pressure. It’s really amazing sometimes how little it takes to call up an old MV zombie. Of course, the real adventure will start when you get it home!