Bronco Broko

I took my "new" bronco off-roading this weekend. Er... "wheeling" that is. Gotta get the lingo right. It broke. Which is apparently to be expected of a new truck. It turns out that there was a bolt missing from the bottom of where the radius arm is supposed to attach to the front axle. I bet whoever did the lift forgot to put it back in, and, well, it turned out to be kinda important. So... wheeling turned into a back-woods mechanic extravaganza. Sage's bronco broke too, his transmission got unhappy and dumped all it's fluids. So, we had to bum a ride back to Ojai in Steve and Shaun's jeeps. Once there, we collected parts for my truck and a trailer for Sage's, grabbed some burritos and headed back up to Apache Canyon, along with Steve, who had already replaced the leaf-spring in his jeep in the time it took us to scrounge up parts and tools. We got back to my truck around 11pm and had it hacked back together in under an hour, which I thought was pretty darn fast. It was good enough to get us out of the tricky parts of the canyon that required 4wd, but came loose before we were all the way out. This time, we stuck a washer over the bolt to hold the lower bracket in place and with Ryan's awesome driving made it the rest of the way out. We didn't bother replacing the drive shaft to the front and just put it in the back of the truck for the ride home. Once we got back to the campsite (and Sage's truck), Steve and I tried to do something about my alignment which was pretty messed up from the front axle rolling around all uncontrolled like. We also tried to tighten my alternator belt, since I'd been having electrical problems all day. The belt is on pretty darn tight now, but it doesn't appear to have solved the problem. Ryan thinks it might be a bad battery, but I guess we'll figure it out next weekend. Anyway, we managed to yank my tie-rods back into some semblance of right and the truck became slightly less un-manageable. We headed out on the road with me behind Steve and Ryan and Sage following me. Or at least they were for a while. I eventually noticed the lack of headlights behind me, stopped, waited for a bit... and then turned around and went looking for them. I found them walking up the road towards me, and a short way behind them was Sage's truck, still on the trailer and Ryan's truck... not really on the road anymore... but pretty well connected to a tree. Apparently towing stuff when you have a spool type locker in your rear axle makes for difficult to non-existent steering. At least when you're driving like Ryan was. :) About this time I started wondering where Steve had gotten off to. Anyway, we hooked up my bronco to the trailer and managed to get them un-stuck. That's when we discovered that the pittman arm had shorn clean off at the steering box. Hmm, that's pretty broken. Fortunately, we had a part truck on the trailer, so we could cannibalize a replacement steering box / pittman arm from it. Halfway through the repair, Steve showed up again. He was pretty pissed. Apparently he'd been off wheeling around and gotten his jeep stuck on it's belly. He was wondering where we were and thought we'd buggered off without him. Eventually he managed to get himself unstuck and came back looking for us. About this time I realized that having radios installed and working would be a Good Thing. This is particularly lame since I bought radios (both a CB and a 2m) for my truck over a month ago. Anyway, I crawled off to nap in my truck while Ryan and Sage worked on putting the stuff from his truck into Ryan's. About an hour later they were done and we were back on the road. I guess it was around 3 or 4am at this point and everyone was pretty happy to see the pavement. My truck was a heck of a lot less squirrely on the pavement, but the alignment was still bad enough to keep me awake for the drive. We crawled up Pine mountain at about 10mph with Ryan's truck running pretty darn hot from the towing. That part was fine with me, but the longer trip, back down the other side of the mountain was a heck of a drive. Imagine being in a truck that pulls either one way or the other, depending on where you weight is. When you correct, you shift your weight which makes it pull to the other side. Braking exacerbates the problems, so the only solution is to just keep it slow. Annoyingly, the speed I wanted to go was faster than 1st gear engine braking would give me an slower than 2nd gear engine braking. So I had to alternate between gas and brake in 2nd gear. Needless to say, it was a rough drive. Fortunately there wasn't anyone else on the road for the entire duration of the trip, except our sad convoy of limping trucks. By the time we got back to Ojai, it was starting to get light again. We parked our busted broncos at Ryan's farm and Sage and I bummed a car to drive back to Carp where we crashed at my place for a few hours. The morning after (well, technically later that same morning, but after we were washed rested, fed and feeling human again) I drove my STi and Sage took the loaner back up to Ojai and then we enjoyed Casitas Pass in the STi on the way back. What a world of difference between driving that and driving a bronco with ruined alignment.