Big Red

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CB Radio in Big Red
Solar Project
Big Red
Christmas Time
Every Mile a Memory
Exploring the Apartment
Me & Eli

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Since April, I have added a voltage-activated low-voltage battery disconnect relay that I sometimes refer to as a “protective relay” which protects my truck’s accessory battery from overdischarge. While the accessory battery when discharged doesn’t impact the starting battery (much), it does ruin the accessory battery chemistry by causing the battery plates to sulfurize and warp. Only one or two extreme discharges can greatly reduce the maximum charge and discharge of the battery – even with deep cycle battery that I use for accessories.

While wiring the optional reset switch was a bit confusing, the relay itself was quick and easy to wire. It monitors voltage on the wire going from the battery to all loads inside the truck and in the cap, and when the voltage dips below 12.1 volts for more then 30 seconds, it drops all loads. While this leaves the truck cap and lights running off the inverter dark, 30 seconds after I start the truck and start charging the battery, the relay resets and connects the load. The relay resets when the battery voltage rises above 13.5 volts for more then 30 seconds. This gives the battery a chance to start charging before a load is connected to the system, and minimizes stress on the truck’s electrical system.

It seems to work well at protecting the battery and avoids the annoying chirp of the inverter at low voltage. I like how it works without further action on my part, and I don’t have to worry about monitoring battery voltage to avoid overdischarging the battery while camping. Moreover, it automatically resets about 30 seconds after I start the truck, so I don’t have to go digging around to find a reset switch.

The model I got was $50 from Cabella’s. There are other models out there, but this model has an integrated relay and has an easy to use voltage cut off adjustment and reset button, and automatically resets. So that’s what I use.

One of the other problems I have with my lifted truck is it’s constantly getting covered with mud, dirt and in the winter with salt. In the winter, the salt often gets so caked on the windows, it can be hard to see out of them. I can wash it, but just going through a mud puddle on a dirt road gets it’s soaked. It also seems like I end up throwing a lot of stones, and I’m chipping the paint in places, and a few times I’ve had stones hit windows – but so far none of them have broke.

Right now, the tires on my truck, after lifting it, stick out from the body. Rather then much of the thrown gravel, rocks, and mud hitting the wheel well, they go fly out from the truck. Installing aftermarket wheel fenders would help with that. I’ve never been that much of a fan of the aftermarket fenders, as I think they are kind of ugly, but they would keep rocks, salt, and mud from being thrown.

It also would make the truck legal in many more states. New York doesn’t require wheel fenders on lifted trucks, you can have the wheels stick out form the body. That isn’t true in some other states, namely Maryland, which I have to go through to get to West Virginia. Sure, they’re aren’t a lot of cops looking for that, and if you not speeding, chances of getting pulled over are small. And it’s only like 10-20 miles to cut through that state.

One of the wheel wells has started to get some salt rot, like all GM trucks do after a while. There is just this spot over the rear wheels in the truck bed, that there is no good place to clean the salt and mud off of, and over time, it eats from the inside. It’s not so noticeable right now, but it will get worse over time. Fenders would cover the rust, and make the truck look sharp for a lot longer. Plus control the mud and salt that covers the outside of the body.

But the salt and mud covered windows are a real pain. I hate seeing the rust on my nice truck. I’ve looked online, and I can get a nice set of the fenders for about $150, and if I order out of state, I can probably avoid paying sales tax, not that I would dare to forget to tell the state about my expenditure. Or I could see what one of the local performance shops would charge to have them bought there and installed – that would ensure they were installed nice and straight. I’m not crazy about drilling my own holes through the quarter panel – there is no turning back if you screw up yourself.

I think I will decided by mid-autumn what I want to do. I want to have fenders on the truck before winter if possible, to keep the salt from coating my truck nearly as badly as it normally does in the winter. I want to not find myself cleaning off the windows so I can see where I am driving in the winter.

About a month ago, I noticed a squeaking noise every time I released my rear brakes, especially in stop and go traffic. I decided to take my truck to a local brake shop, as it was most convenient for me – I knew I could drop it off in the morning, and have it to drive home in the evening. I had previously replaced the front brakes in October, because I was told during an inspection that they were getting worn, and I didn’t want to risk problems during my November vacation.

The brake shop told me I should be on four new pads and rotators, for an absurd price, something like $1,200 or $1,300. I said absolutely no, because I had just replaced the front brakes. The strongly pushed me towards doing the front, insisting the only 9 month old pads were glazed due to the heavy lifted truck, and that would reduce my stopping power and might cause noise. I know they are cheap pads, and probably the lift kit works them hard, but I knew they still had a lot of life left. I said no, but I agreed to do the rear.

Replacing the rear was supposed to be like $650 final price including tax, but the shop lied about not including tax which came out to like $720. I was pissed about that. Sure, I could do it myself for less, but rear drums are a pain to get apart. I figured get it done now, and move on with my life. By dropping it off at the brake shop, I could have it off before work, catch the BusPlus express to work, and then stop at the shop before the closed after work. No time or fuss required. Replacing the rear brakes got rid of the noise, although I have a sneaking suspicion that all I really needed with some grease. I should have asked more questions before telling them to proceed, demanded my old parts back, and gotten a written estimate. You live and learn.

I worried a bit about what the shop told me about the front glazed brakes. I started to wonder the quality of both the front and rear brakes I got replaced over the past nine months were lower quality, further reducing my stopping power over OEM brakes. But at least I have a lot of pad life left, and supposedly the hydraulics are good on the brakes.

Since lifting my truck, the stopping ability of my truck has been reduced. But so has the acceleration due to the lower gear ratio and handling is worse from being higher off the ground. But I do like the increased viability. I downshift aggressively going downhill – and always have – that’s why I changed the transmission fluid at 50,000 miles. I won’t do that again, but that was an expensive mess with some broken parts found during the change and filter replacement, but I should be able to make it as long as I own the truck.

Roughly 800 to 1,000 miles later, I’ve not noticed any real issues. Sure, the truck doesn’t stop on a dime, and it takes some force on the brakes to make a hard stop happen. But under normal driving, it seems fine. I’ve done expressways, city driving, up and down mountains and hills, and all over, with no noises or noticeable problems except one time I thought I smell brakes, immediately after descending a hill and parking – but it could have been somebody burning garbage up the road or some other smell like some dry leaves or crap getting stuck on the muffler. I downshift regularly on the hills. Parking brakes sets easier, which is good, because I often use the parking brake at lights, and when I’m parked on hills, because with the lift kit’s weight and all that heavy camping gear, it’s sometimes difficult to get out of park, without some force.

Eventually, I think I will take it to another, hopefully more reputable shop and get their assessment of the brakes – especially if I notice issues with stopping. I guess I could also pull the pads and look myself, but I’m not really experienced with working on brakes. If I need to upgrade, I won’t put just OEM or basic after-market pads back on the front if they say those brakes are truly glazed and worn as the sleezy brake shop insisted they were. I’m sure they mostly trying to sell me brakes – probably ones cheap – and would glaze back over. If I do need new front brakes, eventually, I’ll look at bigger brake kits with ceramic pads and slotted rotators. I’ve heard thiner brake lines can also increase caliper pressure, which means more braking with less force. Front, disc brakes are relatively easy to service – I could probably order and install premium pads and slotted rotators online for under $500 and install myself. Maybe my best option is to go to the lifted truck shop in Schenectady, and see what they suggest for brake performance upgrades. I doubt a regular shop would be as familiar with lifted trucks with big heavy wheels to stop.

But despite my lingering questions about a future undiagnosed brake failure coming down the line, I think I will be fine. Glaze on brakes won’t promote premature brake failure – indeed if anything the brakes will run cooler rather then hotter – because they aren’t sticking well enough. All the evidence suggests that things are fine for now. I will make sure to continue downshifting on steep hills, and keep an eye on the stopping power of the brakes. But with no noise being produced, and brakes stopping well enough for now, I can’t even be bothered to look towards spending more money on a second opinion. I might think about getting a second opinion though in October before I go to West Virgina, and explore those steep hills. I will see – I don’t want to waste money on my truck unnecessarily – but I want to keep it in top condition for when I am on the rough back country and steep mountain hills.

Shop said the reason why my brakes are squeaking upon release is due to excessive glaze due to heat build up, due to increased stopping power needed with the larger, heavier wheels with the lift kit.

They suggested I install bigger calibers and ceramic brakes pads, better able to withstand the heat. Other then that, they said the hydraulics and springs were fine but could use a cleaning and lubrication. I agreed to upgrade the rear brakes, and I would hold off on front, because the front pads and rotators are not even a year old, and they are stopping fine, even if are a little weak on hard stopping. I didn’t previously upgrade them, because I had no issues with the first two and half years of lift kit.  The noise I had noticed was from the back, so I think there was more of an issue with the rear brakes then the front.

Eventually though, I will upgrade the front brakes, especially if I notice they are running hot or are getting excessively glazed and having more problems with smooth stopping. They just have a lot of life left on the pads and rotators, so I see no reason to upgrade them when they are working just fine.

Maybe I’ve just been scammed out of money over the back brakes (like most things in the automobile industry), but the repair seemed like a probable thing to keep things in good maintenance, and I don’t want the brakes to fail while I’m out in vacation.

nycmap $id

LED Light Test

On the shelf in my truck cap, under the gun rack I have a series of LED strips that allow me to adjust the brightness and color inside my truck cap.

LED lights are very energy efficient and inexpensive -- the newest set of color changing lights can be changed to eight different colors, different brightness settings, and a series of flash and fade patterns. I also have a strip of lights along the roof that provide full illumination of the truck cap, hooked to a dimmer, so I can adjust the brightness to fit my mood and light requirements.

I don't think I've ever spent more then $15 on any of the LED lights in the cap, the dimmer was maybe $8, and the newest set I have comes with a remote and many color choice settings that I got on Ebay for $11.