1973 Dodge Charger SE work log 2007

Work Log 2007


Another Season begins.  At least so I thought...

The weather here in NY finally began to get nice enough to consider taking my 1973 Dodge Charger out.  The snow was almost all melted and most of the salt is off the streets.  It seemed like Spring had finally Sprung!

I started up my '73 Charger and backed out of the garage, planning on going on a few errands with the car.  All of a sudden I heard a horrible "clanging" noise.  At first I thought I had spun a bearing or broken a piston rod.  The strange thing is that the noise was not steady but erratic.  Then I thought that perhaps the flywheel had broken away from the torque converter.  As I was running around to open the hood, the noise stopped but something just did not sound right. (If you have a car like this, I am sure you are very well acquainted with what sounds "normal")

I opened the hood to look around and did not see anything right away...until I noticed the alternator was 'wiggling' around and making a whining noise.  Then I noticed that the top mounting bolt was MISSING!  The only thing holding the alternator in place was the lower adjusting bolt.  I looked around and saw the (what was left of) top alternator bolt between the radiator and the fan shroud.  I figure that was what was making the noise.  The bolt had broken and part of it was still in the cylinder head (below the surface...of course).  I went out and bought a new bolt, some screw extractors and a few steel tubes (to use as the missing spacer between the alternator mounting ears).

I will add more as the repair moves forward, perhaps with some pictures.  For the moment I am attempting to figure out if the bolt broke from fatigue or if something caused the bolt to break.  I remember hearing something that sounded similar to a rock hitting the underside of the car, the last time I had the car out.  I was on the highway when it happened and was approaching a "Rest Stop".  I pulled over and inspected the passenger side rocker (where I thought I had heard it hit).  I had not seen anything on the road and I am usually VERY careful about not hitting debris in the road.  Then I thought that perhaps since I had the heat on, the new floor pan had expanded and stressed and a couple spot welds had broken, causing the sound.  I believe now that what I heard was the spacers from the top alternator bolt bouncing around under the car.


I was able to remove the broken bolt from the cylinder head.  Actually, it came out rather easily.  A couple things, I believe, aided this.  The bolt was removed within the past couple years when changing spark plugs on the passenger side (almost a necessity with headers) and after breaking off...there really is no tension on the bolt.  The "stack" of spacers and the ears of the alternator and brackets make up the tension on the bolt.

I decided to replace the belts while I was doing all of this since the belt were the same ones that were on the car when I bought it.  And after any abnormal stress they may have gone through with the loose alternator, I thought it best to change them.  I made the missing spacers for the top alternator pivot bolt out of some brake sliders.  These make nice spacers since you can cut them down to fit the distance you need between the cylinder head and the alternator ear, and the space between the alternator "ears".

I still have a low RPM intermittent knocking sound and I am hoping that it is only the fuel has gone 'weak' sitting in the car.  I usually add a can of Sea Foam and a bottle of 104 Octane boost before putting the car away for the winter.  This year I only put in the Sea Foam since I had not put it away till December.  I guess that will teach me.  I am just hoping that it is only bad fuel and not something more serious.


Catch up... I have a strange noise coming from the engine (I think).  This like nothing I have heard before.  It is an intermittent noise at low RPM.  Just touching the accelerator linkage on the carb will make it go away.  I thought I had found the source of the noise in a great deal of play in the power steering pump shaft.  But, after replacing the pump, I still have the noise.  The noise sounds like someone taking a screwdriver and banging it against an empty oil pan.

I have moved onto the water pump as a suspect.  I put the handle end of a screwdriver to my ear and placed the metal end on different places (mostly non-moving accessories) around the engine.  I could tell the noise was NOT coming from the alternator even though I have recently replaced the bolt(s) for the alternator and removed the piece from the cylinder head that had broken.  I tried the power steering pump, but nothing there.  Same for the valve covers, valley pan and distributor.

After talking to a few friends with different opinions, I decided to start checking some things out.  One was to remove the inspection cover on the transmission to see if any of the torque converter bolts had loosened up but they all seemed tight.  The next thing I did was run just the crank, water pump and alternator, noise was still there.  Then I just hooked up the power steering pump, water pump and crank...noise was still there.  Then I disconnected everything and just started the engine with no front accessories attached.  The noise seemed to not be there.  So, perhaps the water pump (even though the shaft seems tight) is the trouble.  I hope that it is not a rod bearing or other internal engine component and the noise is being transmitted through the belts.  Only time will tell...  I am currently working on replacing the water pump with an Aluminum Mopar Performance unit I bought from Jegs.  I have a set of March pulleys on the car and I am having a small issue with the pulley hitting the water pump mounting bolts.  This is very slight and I removed a little material from the back of the pulley and placed washers between the water pump fan mound and the pulley.  Between the two, I have just enough clearance now.


Update:  I found the noise...  While that bolt from the alternator was slamming around under the hood.  It must have hit the timing mark tab.  This attaches to the timing cover on one of the bolts and it positioned over the harmonic balancer.  I was just about to drain the radiator and start removing accessories to get the harmonic balancer off.  That is when I spotted the timing tab flat against the harmonic balancer.  Apparently the noise I was hearing was this metal tab piece tapping against the timing cover when at a certain RPM.   This was an odd noise and I had never heard anything like it before.  At least I am glad I found it before I re-drained the coolant, etc...

I also put a balanced flow thermostat in while I was at it. 


This is going to be a BIG one!

It has been almost a month since my last entry however, I have been VERY busy on my Charger.  I decided to move on to changing the valley pan and valve covers since they are starting to get a little rusty looking (cheap chrome on the valve covers).  Of course this requires removing the carburetor, intake manifold, linkage, etc...  I am also looking for a vacuum leak (or what may be a vacuum leak). 

This started with...I bought a new tool box and was putting away all my most used tools in their new homes.  I came across my torque wrench and decided to check the torque on the intake manifold bolts.  I was surprised to find that the first bolt I checked went about 1/2 turn before hitting 45 FT. LBS.  The next one that I tried to put the socket on actually moved just putting on the socket.  This was my first indication that I needed to address this A.S.A.P.

So, I removed the carb, intake, valley pan, etc.  I figured that since my intake was looking a little "ratty" I would get a polishing kit and polish it up. (there will be an entire page with pictures posted soon).  I ordered a new set of valve covers, a valley pan, stainless steel intake bolt set, aluminum intake manifold polishing kit from Eastwood, etc.

Polishing took MUCH longer than I had originally anticipated but I believe part of the reason was reading the instructions that I got with the polishing kit and following them.  The other issue was the condition of the 'rough casting' of the manifold.  And of course you just know that the worst part has to be right in the front.  A great deal of my time was spent getting rid of the rouges that the 80 grit rolls and tapers put in the manifold.  Another large part of time was spent coming up with tools that did NOT come with the kit that were needed.  I have to tell you that my most valuable tool for this project was my Black & Decker Mouse with the small "finger" extension.  I go into greater detail on the polishing an aluminum manifold page.

So, I have polished the intake manifold.  Fabricated new end rails for the ends of the valley pan, disassembled and cleaned and then reassembled the carburetor,  and I am now in the process of changing the valve covers and fabricating an accelerator cable bracket.  I did not like the way the original accelerator cable bracket attached to the engine via the intake manifold bolts so I am making one that bolts to the carburetor mounting studs.


This is a little "catch up".  I have decided to replace a few things that have been bugging me for a couple years. 

Took off the old valve covers and installed the new chrome Edelbrock valve covers. I must say, I did a great job of installing the last set of covers.  I had to pry them off with a screwdriver.  And even that was not easy.  They were really sealed on there.  I hope this set seals as well.


I fabricated the new accelerator cable bracket. After polishing it up, it look very nice.  I clear coated the two pieces and baked them in my toaster oven (only used for baking parts) at 170 degrees for 1 hour.  I installed the bracket and decided to paint the end of the accelerator cable flat black.  I will put the cable in tomorrow.


I finally removed the burned up wire from the alternator (field wire) to the harness on the firewall (the wire eventually attaches to the voltage regulator).  I soldered the new wire in and used shrink tube to cover the repair.  I also removed the old coil wires, distributor wires and plug that was left over from the original ignition controller. After the installation of the MSD ignition control box I had left the old wiring in the harness just in case I ever had to put the original stuff back in.  I decided that after 7 years, if I have not needed them, I was most likely not going to need them (hopefully) any time soon.

I tidied up a few other connections that need a little attention.  I have not decided if I am going to put on new convoluted wiring harness or use something else.  The jury is still out on that one. 

I found that the new thermostat gasket was weeping out the back towards the block.  Since I have to drain the coolant down...again...I have decided to replace the upper hose with the stainless convoluted style hose.  I have also decided to 'detail' the engine compartment with either polished aluminum, chrome or paint it black.  I had and still have a few accessories that are anodized red, but I will change them or fabricate new pieces as time goes on.


I removed the fender support bars and have decided to see if I could sand out some of the rust pits and polish them up.  I will decide if I am going to polish them or paint them after they are sanded down.


I removed the heater hoses and ordered a new heater control valve.  I believe the old one was leaking a little and was starting to look nasty.  I also had the cheap braid covering on the heater hoses and the upper radiator hose (one of the reasons that I did not like the upper hose).  When I had originally covered the hoses with this stuff, they looked great.  Then again, that was 7 years ago and I have been tolerating the "tarnish" on them for the past couple years.  I would be better off with plain rubber hoses than the way these things have gotten so, off they came.


I decided to do some paint work under the hood.  I finished off the fenders under the hood in burgundy metallic and the inner wheel wells, etc....in satin black.  I also started sanding and buffing the fender support rods.  Instead of chroming them this year, I am going to buff them and clear coat them.  They are easy to remove so if/when I decide to have them chromed in the future, they will just need to have the clear coat stripped.


Picked up the heater valve that I had ordered from NAPA.  Also picked up some pre-bent heater hoses.  I have an idea to use these coming off the engine to the heater valve.  If I can position them right, it will look better than the long "swoop" of hose that you usually have to do to get to the heater valve. 

Finished buffing the fender support rods.  Unfortunately, you can not just buy these chromed (like you can for a Camaro, etc.) so I buffed them and clear coated them.  I like the clear coat for bare metal that I bought from Eastwood (came with the manifold polishing kit).  So far, it seems to dry fast, self levels fairly well and is very clear.  If it sticks to the metal over time and resists scratches, we may have a winner.


Fabricated new stand offs for the spark plug wire holders out of aluminum.  The old ones were chromed and they were actually made for spark plug wire stand-off legs.  I am just waiting for the clear coat that I ordered from Eastwood to arrive.

I removed the hood latch "plate", wire brushed and sanded it.  Interestingly, I actually found the original green color of the car on the plate.  So you can figure that paint was pretty hard to remove.  After all, it is 34 years old.  I decided to paint the plate the same color as the rest of the car.  I think this will look better than black...at least for this part.


Well, another 'catch-up' session;

I mounted the new gauges.  I have relocated the tachometer to the under side of the upper dash area.  This puts it in the line of sight in front of the clock (which does not work anyway), so this way I can still see all of the important factory gauges.  I still have to hook up the lights for the gauges.  I am going to put them on a toggle switch.  I had considered attaching them to the O.E. switch but I am concerned about adding more stress to an old switch so, I am putting them on a toggle switch in the car that I am not using for anything else at the moment.  I have added a Volt gauge to the replacement Temp and Oil pressure gauges.  That was one of the reasons I decided to move the tach.

I put in the new upper radiator hose and started installing the pre-bent hoses.  I have a new heater valve that will get installed.  The only thing that I am missing at the moment is the hose clamps.  I looked at some "high-end" clamps but the price is even more "high-end" than the clamps!  And since I would need 8 of them, it is just money that I could put to better use elsewhere.

I am leaving the hoses 'natural'.  It will still look better than the corroded metal sleeves that I had on them before.  Most of the other stuff I have added has been clear coated with the Eastwood clear coat for bare metal.

I stripped the upper fender parts under the hood (again) and repainted them.  The first time through, I had gotten some issues with the primer so I had to strip it to finish it properly. 


I finished installing the heater hoses and the heater valve.  I started the Charger up and looked for leaks.  After all of the stuff I have changed hoses and oil pressure gauge sender, etc.  I figured I should be ready for any leaks.  Surprisingly there was only one that was resolved by another 1/2 turn on a hose clamp.  One of the heater hoses on the heater valve.  It should be 1/2" but I had used 5/8" before and did not have a problem.  So, I decided to use 5/8" hoses for everything again.  The only thing about doing this is you have to keep track of the 1/2" fitting on the water pump base and make sure you connect that to the upper inlet of the heater valve.  The upper inlet is the one that actually controls the water to the heater core when you move the heater control in the car.

I hooked up the wires for the tach and the lights for the new gauges.  I already had an unused switch that I could use for the lights on the gauges so I wired that in and used it.  Since it is raining outside, I did not start the car up today.  I will wait for better weather so I can open the garage door.  I did try the lights and they do work.  I know that the temp and oil pressure gauges work so now it is just the tach and volt gauge. 

I clayed the car since it has been dirty and with painting under the hood, I had some overspray on the car.  I then did a preliminary cleaning on the car.  I will polish it and clean the glass in the next few days.  I also have to polish the wheels and treat the vinyl top, but I save those for last. 


Today was a cleaning day.  I polished the car with Wizards breathable polish (for the places that I painted) and polished and waxed the rims.  I also started cleaning the glass outside the car.  I still have a list of things to do, but I will just keep chipping away at them. 


Took my Charger out today to get it inspected.  I figured out that since New York State keeps track of mileage (and you get a printout of the inspection results), I could track my yearly mileage.   I drove 350 miles last year.  Now keep in mind that I spent a few months wet sanding and polishing the paint.

This year may be about the same.  I spent a great deal of time fixing the broken alternator bolt issue and replacing parts.  I also spent a few weeks polishing the intake manifold and fabricating parts.


I received a Mallory 140 fuel pump today that I won on Ebay.  From what I had read, this pump should be a little quieter than the Holly Red or Blue that I have on the car now.  I will be selling the Holly Red and Blue on Ebay if the Mallory 140 works out.

See you next year!