Cummins Canoe (A Stepvan Story)

PlethoraOfGuns

Adventurer
Finally got around to attempting the fix on this cylinder head repair. While the coolant is all drained, I'm also re-plumbing the crazy coolant/aux heat/block heat/Espar system. So it will be a few more days before we fire the engine up.

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I think I did it as best as one could. We'll see what happens when we put coolant back in and fire it up.

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But I'm not sure I 100% trust the whole brazing thing. And since JB Weld is holding the crankshaft together, I figured why wouldn't it work here? So I gooped a thin layer over the whole braze job. Figured it couldn't hurt.
 

PlethoraOfGuns

Adventurer
Good thing this rig isn't actually a boat, because it would be sinking. Getting coolant back in the system and leaks galore. So the cylinder head repair went "ok". I have confidence that we have stopped the crack from spreading. It is no longer dripping coolant out, but it is seeping just a tiny bit. I have some Blue Devil Block Seal I might through in there and that might fix that. If that doesn't work, maybe I'll get some K&W Block Seal as I hear that stuff is serious stuff, but it is quite the procedure. I've heard good things about sawdust from some shady used car dealership friends of mine. And I also have lots of extra JB Weld we can squirt into the coolant. Any suggestions, I'm all ears on this one.

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Of course the radiator also decides to quit. Leaking between the plastic side tank and the aluminum core, down at the very bottom.

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Those plastic tanks are garbage. Lets see how an all aluminum one does for us.

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While wrestling the radiators around, a hose for the windshield washer fluid also sprung a leak. I was wondering why I was being squirted in the face while tightening the lower hose clamps on the radiator. But it's cold, in the teens, and I'm tired of dealing with all these wet fluids.
 

PlethoraOfGuns

Adventurer
Heater core is no big deal. They are relatively inexpensive and mine is who knows how old. Least of my worries. I'd gladly clog a dozen heater cores to get this engine back in working order.
 

Florida Native

Active member
I’ve not done it myself, but I’ve heard of others that rig up some hoses to bypass the heater core while they run the block sealant through the system. Then, once everything is stable, re-connect the heater core.

-Mike
 

PlethoraOfGuns

Adventurer
I already have all the heater hoses ripped apart and ran everywhere. I guess I could bypass the heater core, hot tub heat exchanger, water heater, air heater, and diesel boiler just to be safe. I have all new fresh coolant in there so I might drain all that, save it, and just fill engine with water and then try to get this leak sealed up. It's 15 degrees f right now though, so maybe I'll wait a lil longer until temps come back up above freezing.
 

llamalander

Active member
in my experience, using block sealer for anything other than a small leak was just forestalling the day the plug would fail and the big leak would return in inconvenient glory. Small leak fixed, small failure later, big leak fixed...
 

PlethoraOfGuns

Adventurer
It's a small leak. Still drivable, but coolant is expensive. So is a new cylinder head! Any recommendations on which sealer to use for my application?
 

Scotty D

Active member
We should send people to this thread that are thinking of getting into this type of rig.
If OP did not have an absolute mountain of skills and patience , this journey would have been over long ago.
People need to have a realistic understanding of the resources they have and the resources required for maintaining an older rig
 

PlethoraOfGuns

Adventurer
Oh criminy, it's getting cold. One thing that's as bad in the cold as molasses in January is LiFePo4 batteries. I'm afraid if I don't run the heat, the batteries are going to get too cold and then they will blow up.

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Through some easy research, I find that I can get this temperature probe that communicates to the other Victron equipment, and now if the batteries get below 40 degree, the charging is shut off! Self adhesive to the top of the battery and fused right to the battery. Perfect, I'll be able to sleep at night when I don't run the heat.

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While I'm at it, got some low voltage protection too. This is a shut off relay so all the loads from the battery are disconnected if the battery gets down to 10%. Cut and bent my own busbar to attach to circuit breaker. Only thing this doesn't shut off is the inverter.

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Easy as pie. With all the bluetooth stuff we can easily monitor everything from the phone. The Victron stuff is worth the extra cash I think. Very well built units and love how everything can be tied together.
 

Bikersmurf

Expedition Leader
We should send people to this thread that are thinking of getting into this type of rig.
If OP did not have an absolute mountain of skills and patience , this journey would have been over long ago.
People need to have a realistic understanding of the resources they have and the resources required for maintaining an older rig
I’m always amazed by @PlethoraOfGuns and everything he accomplishes. Age of the rig is a factor, but it seems he has also had a lot of bad luck. It makes me wonder how well the rig was maintained. It also reminds me of something I heard years ago… a single loaf of bread seems light, but a truck load is extremely heavy. I suspect his Canoe was worked hard for many years, and then put out to pasture to RIP.

I’ve got a ‘74 Fj40. When I bought it in ‘91 it was a rusted out parts heap. In hindsight, I should have saved up more and started with a $3000 rig rather than a $1000 one. It needed on average $1000 a year for the next 10 years. Since then, it has only needed $100 every few years (other than tires & oil changes). Getting to the point… on an older (possibly neglected rig) the deferred maintenance needs to be caught up. It may seem like a bottomless pit for money, but it’s not. Once the worn out parts are replaced, the maintenance is all done, and it is reliable, it’ll be a reliable rig.
 

Bikersmurf

Expedition Leader
In contrast I also have a ‘97 E350 Ambo. We bought it about 8 years ago. It’s a heavy rig that was maintained sparing no expense for the first 10 years & 200k miles. For the next 7 years & 35k miles it was privately owned and had some maintenance, but it needed an alternator and a rear spring pack when we bought it.

We bought it for $1000, replaced the alternator, rear springs, and all the brakes (& a couple brake lines).The O-rings on the fuel bowl needed to be replaced in the first year & I replaced the fuel filter at the same time. The glow plug relay housing was cracked and it didn’t work, so it was replaced. For comfort we’ve replaced the front coils with progressive coils, and shocks with Bilstein shocks. It’s needed upper and lower ball joint’s, a wheel alignment. When the vacuum pump was getting noisy I replaced it with an aftermarket one. A year or so later I replaced it again with a Re manufactured one because the aftermarket one had never performed great, and wasn’t able to create enough vacuum at idle. I got a mountain of parts for free so I ended up swapping in an ‘01 booster & master, and an ignition switch.

Aside from those things, I found 6 rims that hadn’t even been installed on a vehicle for $100 so I had tires mounted on them which eliminated the shimmy at around 70 mph. It has a seam or two in the roof that leaked. I replaced the flooring in the back, have added seats, and done a basic build. Now it’ll cruise along smoothly and drives as well as many new vans (perhaps even better).

Maintenance hasn’t been any more than a newer vehicle. It needs oil changes, batteries, tires, etc. but nothing unusual. One rear axle seal leaked and I replaced the bearings while it was apart. An emergency brake cable was very stiff and the end eventually broke off the cable. Also one of the front brakes needed to be cleaned up at one point because the brake was dragging. Again, nothing unusual for a van that sat for a while.

By now you’re wondering what’s my point. My point is that unless you buy a new van with a warranty, it’ll need some work and maintenance. If you buy a well maintained rig it’ll need some work, but it can be very reliable. If there’s been some neglected maintenance & hard use, the worn out parts will need to be replaced and maintenance caught up. Wether a rig is a ‘74, ‘93 (like the op), a ‘97, or even say a 2017, it’ll need maintenance and attention. The year alone isn’t what I’d be most concerned about… but age, mileage, and maintenance are all considerations.

Anyone getting into this sort of things should expect about $1000 a year in maintenance regardless of the age. If you are mechanically inclined you’ll save money, otherwise you’ll need to have deeper pockets. Also keep in mind that a low price may not be a great deal… but paying more won’t necessarily be better. 🤷‍♂️
 
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