Nicholas Fluhart

April 21, 2013

Project Loadstar: Brakes Part 1

Filed under: Project: Loadstar,Trucks & Equipment — Nicholas Fluhart @ 7:59 pm

In the second installment of the Loadstar project, I will be addressing the brakes. To make it possible to at least operate the truck around the yard, and certainly anywhere else, I figured the first mechanical repair attempt should be the brakes. It appeared that all the rear brake lines were replaced recently before the truck was taken out of service, however the front lines appeared to be original and in poor condition. I inspected the master cylinder. The fluid was low and the piston was stuck at the bottom of the bore. I knew I would probably need a new or remanufactured master cylinder if I couldn’t get the piston unstuck in order to rebuild it, but why was the fluid level low? The previous owners told me the brakes worked when they parked the truck, but they were having to add fluid regularly due to what they said was a leaking wheel cylinder. I began looking for leaks. I check the inside of the wheels/brake drums for leaky wheel cylinders. No sign of a wheel cylinder leak now or ever. Also, the brake shoes looked really good. I checked the firewall around the master cylinder location, and again, no sign of a leak. Oh well, it will all come out in the wash when I repair the master cylinder.

Turns out the master cylinder was beyond repair. I ordered a remanufactured unit with a 1-year warranty and front brake lines from Bumper to Bumper/Crow-Burlingame. You see the brake master cylinder in the photo below; it is the one on the left and the clutch master cylinder is on the right.

Master Cylinder

The front rubber brake lines were still available, but I couldn’t find the intermediate lines around the vacuum booster which is located under the driver floor on this truck, so I used steel lines there. Below you see one of the new rubber lines connecting from the frame to the wheel cylinder.

Rubber Brake Line

Results: Well there is good news and bad news. The good news is the brakes bled out and the master cylinder works fine. The bad news is that the vacuum booster is not working and I have no power brakes. At least I can move the truck around the yard and stop, although stopping requires me to fully stand on the brake pedal. This most assuredly would be difficult if the truck was loaded. Looks like I’ll be addressing the booster later on, but first I definitely need to power wash the frame and chassis; it has years of caked on mud from the oil field.

Until the next installment…

April 14, 2013

Project Loadstar Supplemental

Filed under: Project: Loadstar,Trucks & Equipment — Nicholas Fluhart @ 7:37 pm

I’ll start this post by writing a little about my thought process on this whole thing. After the truck ran so good on the drive home, I was somewhat convinced to keep it around to haul junk or the occasional load of…whatever I could fit in the back. It’s just so handy having a dump truck around the house, ya know? The problem is that this old rig needs some, what I thought to be at the time, “minor mechanical attention” as well as a cosmetic makeover. Maybe it’s just me, but I wouldn’t want to be seen driving this thing around with junk hanging out the back, smoke bellowing from the exhaust, and looking like the Beverly Hillbillies. So the question is what type of work will it need and to what extent would I “restore” the cosmetic condition of this abomination of a truck? Would it even be worth it?

Well, “worth” is a subjective term. If time and money are the only considerations, then the answer is maybe to probably not. The fact is I could buy one already in usable shape for what it would cost me in time and parts to restore this one to roadworthy status, but there are other factors to consider. First, I’m a weirdo. I love old trucks and equipment, and to me there are few things in life more rewarding than bringing one of these old rigs back to life as a functional, usable, apparatus. Second, projects require study and learning which are a lot of fun when the topic interests you. Further, the experience gained from such endeavors lends to a greater depth of wisdom concerning future projects. Third, since I’m qualified to do virtually all the work myself, my primary real-money expense will be parts, and I think the parts bill on this thing would be less than the cost of buying a working truck. Also something to consider, when I’m done with this truck I’ll know exactly what I have as opposed to having bought one for the same money and really knowing nothing about its reliable mechanical condition.

So, in light of the above reasoning, I’ve decided to go for it. My plan is to review the mechanical condition, fix what needs fixing (within reason and scope of my intended use), and put a moderately decent paint job on it so I don’t look like Uncle Jed driving this thing around. In other words, it will be a Jeff Bradshaw “Redneck Restorations” type of project: fix what needs fixing, and get it looking decent.

Time to check it out and see what I’m in for…

Loadstar Inspection

April 7, 2013

Project Loadstar: The Purchase

Filed under: Project: Loadstar,Trucks & Equipment — Nicholas Fluhart @ 7:33 pm

So I ran across a deal on an old dump truck. It’s a 1966 International (IH) Loadstar 1600. I was purchasing a Mack winch truck, and really had no interest in this Loadstar, but they made me a deal I couldn’t refuse. Now, after looking at this old, abused, neglected truck, the question for most people would be “to scrap or not to scrap”. By the way, this truck actually runs, so it would have been easy to drive it across the scales, put a few hundred bucks in my pocket, and call it a done deal. However, if you’ve ever read any of my posts you would probably realize that scrapping old trucks and equipment is a sin. I won’t get into that now, you know, the whole thing about crushing these old classic machines and sending them to China to be returned as cheap tools, but suffice it to say that scrap was not on my mind when I bought this truck. In fact, lots of things were on my mind: using it for a yard truck, or perhaps to haul an occasional load of who knows what, or maybe even putting a halfway decent paint job on it as to not look like the Beverly Hillbillies when I drive it down the road. Whatever I may have been thinking, I was NOT thinking of doing all the things I actually did to this truck…things you will be seeing in upcoming posts. I had no special spot in my heart for Loadstars. In fact, I thought they were kind of ugly. My, how things change. The Loadstar saga begins here.

As I Found Her

This old truck has had a hard life. It was purchased new in 1966 by the City of Magnolia, AR street department. It faithfully fulfilled it’s duties hauling asphalt there for a number of years on the “Pothole Patrol” before being purchased by a Magnolia trucking contractor which used it to haul gravel and such. Once they used it up, an El Dorado based oil field drilling/production company bought it, and this is where it saw the toughest work, and subsequent abuse, it ever encountered. While most trucks enter into an easy retirement of occasional use on a farm or something, this elderly rig was put through the paces on the rough oil field roads of southern Arkansas hauling an oily sand mixture to be spread on said roads. The truck was sidelined from business use in 2005. It was then only used by the oil company to occasionally haul a load of scrap iron. When I found it in May of 2010, it had been sitting in the spot you see pictured for at least two years without being run during that time. It had a flat tire, collapsed leaf springs, no brake pedal pressure, missing glass, severe rust…you name it. With the missing driver window and rolled down passenger window (probably for 10 years) it had rained in the truck and rusted up most of the controls and knobs as well as rusted holes in the floor big enough to operate the truck Flintstone style. Nevertheless, I bought it, so now I have to do something with it. It’s one of those “ran when parked” trucks so I figured I could get it running and drive it up on a trailer or maybe even drive it home if I were brave enough.

The first order of business was to see if she would crank. Believe it or not, with a hot battery and some gas, the old girl fired right up. The engine ran smooth and was actually quiet, however it did smoke. Before I could test drive it, I had to get the tires up on it, or see if they would even hold air, so my buddy came out with his F-600 4×4 which has on-board air.

Backing up to the Truck

We aired up the tires and they held. Amazing.

Airing up Front Tire

Next I checked the vitals to see if she would make a test run down one of the oil field roads. While the clutch seemed to work good, the brakes where nowhere to be found. I’d have to go slow, gear down, and use the emergency brake. I also checked to see if the dump bed would operate. The PTO did engage, but the dump wouldn’t work. Oh well, I’ll take a closer look at that later.

Pre Trip

Well, the short of it is that the truck drove as good as could be expected, considering. Some positive things: the transmission worked good. The engine seemed to have enough power. I couldn’t test the 2-speed rear because the switch was corroded and stuck in low range. Anyway, I figured she was good enough to drive home. One of the guys that worked for me was a former truck driver, so he volunteered to drive it back to the Omni Complex. It was a least 8 miles, and then partially through town mind you, but he made it back. I stayed right on his tail in my truck, kind of like a smokey and the bandit thing, in case we encountered opposition to our “you-risk-it of Omaha” insurance policy. I was certainly tired of breathing the fumes from that old beater; however, it all went smooth. Made it home.

Made it Home

Next time we’ll go over the truck more closely and I’ll decide what to do with this old rig. Until then…

March 30, 2013

Ditch Witch R40 Drive Chain

Filed under: Project: Ditch Witch,Trucks & Equipment — Nicholas Fluhart @ 6:48 pm

After using the Ditch Witch a few times, it became evident that it would be much easier and quicker to get around on it if the main drive chain was fixed. The 40 feet per minute, or whatever it is that the hydraulic drive produces, just didn’t cut it. So, we pulled it up in my shop and Philip began removing the damaged sprocket from the transfer case. The large sprocket coming from the transmission was fine, so he just needed to remove the small one.

Ditch Witch in the Shop

In order to do this, the brake rotor must be removed from the rear drive shaft and the transfer case has to be loosened and moved forward slightly to allow enough clearance for the rotor to drop out. The sprocket slides on the transfer case shaft on a key way and is held in place with a set screw. Upon closer inspection, it became evident that someone had tack welded the sprocket on the shaft. So Philip had to grind the weld off, which was not easy in such a tight space, then the sprocket slid off. In the next photo you see the shaft where the sprocket was removed and below the shaft, you see the loose bolts where the brake rotor was removed.

Removed from Shaft

And here’s a shot of the old sprocket. Definitely time to replace…

Sprocket Removed

Philip took the old sprocket to the bearing supply house to find a replacement. We also did some measuring to determine roughly how long of a chain we needed. He was able to order the parts easily enough and a couple days later we were going back together with it. First the new sprocket was installed in reverse order of the disassembly. Next, we needed to cut the chain to the correct number of links to obtain the proper tension. Below you see Philip removing excess links in the chain before installation.

Removing Chain Links

Then he installed it. The next two photos show the lower and upper sprockets with the new chain installed.

New Lower Sprocket & Chain

Upper Sprocket New Chain

And that wraps up the drive chain installation. This thing will cover some ground now. I’ll put it this way, in 4th gear it runs as fast as you would want to go on a machine with hydraulic steering and no suspension. Anyway, running it as such seemed to amplify an existing problem we’ve been having with the engine, and that is the backfire from the exhaust when it’s under a load. It encounters a severe power loss when this happens. We’ve adjusted the ignition timing to no avail, so we’re leaning toward the possibility of carburetor problems or a sticking exhaust valve. But that’s for another day. Maybe sometime down the road you’ll see posts on the engine repair and of course the cosmetic restoration. But in the mean time, the machine still works good enough for the occasional small job.


January 13, 2013

Ditch Witch R40: Trenching Job

Filed under: Project: Ditch Witch,Trucks & Equipment — Nicholas Fluhart @ 5:06 pm

Well, after a successful first run, it wasn’t long before Philip had a job lined up for the R40. He’s building a shop and needed to cut a trench for electrical utilities. Before heading to the work location, we went over the machine and hit all the grease points, changed the fluids, and tightened the chain. Ready for business.

The trench was to be 80 feet in length through very dense clay, which is much more difficult to cut than the soil we tested the machine in at my facility. Of further challenge was the depth of the trench which was to be 30 inches. We will be trenching from the building up to the white stake in the ground seen in the photo below.

Job Site

We began cutting at the building where the power meter would be located. The operator’s manual recommends starting the trench about one foot from the slab of the building in case the chain snags something hard fixed in the ground and pulls the entire machine backward and subsequently into the side of the building. This proved to be good advise. Since this area was previously heavily wooded, there were a few roots that were too big to trench through, so we cut them manually. In the photo below, you’ll see the starting point and you’ll see how hard the ground was.

Starting Point

The chain essentially carved through it, bringing up shavings of clay and the auger neatly piled the small clumps beside the trench.


It was very slow going, and we had to use a low trenching gear and a very, very slow wheel speed. In fact, we had to be careful to keep the trenching from rattling the tractor to pieces. It rattled the bottom cap off of the air cleaner, and below you see me reattaching it while Philip continues the trench.

Reinstalling Air Cap

Finally, we were able to complete the trench without any problems from the Ditch Witch. Below you can see the trench and the types of hard, dense clay we carved through represented by the different colors of the material.

Trenching Through Clay

Next, we begun to assemble and lay the conduit for the electrical wire. To meet code, it requires a two part epoxy to be used in the joints. Below you see them applying the epoxy to assemble the conduit. Then it’s just a matter of setting it off into the trench.

Assembling the Conduit

Once the conduit is set in the trench, we can begin backfilling. Philip uses the four-way blade on the front of the Ditch Witch to backfill.


Below you’ll see the finished product. Now we’re ready to place a string into the conduit and await the power company to come and run the electrical wires to the meter.

Finished Backfilling

There are a number of ways to run the wire through the conduit. You generally place a string through first. This can be done by either attaching a vacuum at one end of the pipe and sucking the string through (I’ve even seen someone tape a ping pong ball to the end of the string and reverse the vacuum which would blow the ball through, bringing the string with it) or by using a type of snake. Once you get your string through, it’s just a matter of tying the string to your electrical wires and pulling them through.

Machine Analysis: Overall, everything went well with the machine. I was very impressed. This was an exceedingly hard job for the machine, and after having been setting up for years before this job, the Ditch Witch did it almost flawlessly. However, such a heavy load on the engine as this job placed on it revealed the need for additional fine tuning. We seem to be getting a backfire through the exhaust under heavy load, which was most of the time here. This could be caused by a couple of things: Either the carburetor main jet is a little lean which causes a “lean pop” (this can be determined by inspecting the spark plugs), or the ignition timing is slightly off which can be adjusted at the distributor. Whatever the case, it should be a relatively easy fix…I hope.

Until next time…

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