Repair information for 1989-96 Plymouth and Dodge Trucks is intended to teach you about the inner workings of your vehicle and save you money on its upkeep.
The first two sections will be used most frequently, since they contain procedures to carry out maintenance and tune-up information. Studies have shown that a properly tuned and maintained engine can get at least 10 percent better gas mileage (which translates into lower operating costs) and periodic maintenance will catch minor problems before they turn into major repair bills.
There are serious environmental considerations involving trucks, particularly the 4WD variety. By properly maintaining your vehicle, you pollute the air as little as possible and help keep the water table safe from oil leaks. Some aspects of even basic maintenance involve waste fluids, like used motor oil, which must be disposed of properly. Dumping waste oil down the nearest drain is not just irresponsible-it's criminal. Follow all the instructions carefully and take particular notice of the Notes, Cautions and Warnings regarding the handling of any toxic waste.
The other sections deal with the more complex systems of your vehicle. Operating systems from engine through brakes are covered. This guide will give you detailed instructions to help you change your own brake pads and shoes, tune-up the engine, replace spark plugs and filters, and do many more jobs that will save you money, help you avoid expensive problems and give you personal satisfaction.
A secondary purpose for this guide is a reference guide for owners who want to understand their truck and/or their mechanics better. In this case, no tools at all are required. Knowing just what a particular repair job requires in parts and labor time will allow you to evaluate whether or not you're getting a fair price quote and help decipher itemized bills from a repair shop.
Before attempting any repairs or service on your truck, read through the entire procedure outlined in the appropriate section. This will give you the overall view of what tools and supplies will be required. Read ahead and plan ahead. Each operation should be approached logically and all procedures thoroughly understood before attempting any work. Some special tools that may be required can often be rented from local automotive jobbers or places specializing in renting tools and equipment.
All sections contain adjustments, maintenance, removal and installation procedures, and overhaul procedures. When overhaul is not considered practical, we tell you how to remove the failed part and then how to install the new or rebuilt replacement. In this way, you at least save the labor costs. Overhaul of some components (such as the alternator or water pump) is just not practical for do-it-yourselfer's; but the removal and installation procedure is often simple and well within the capabilities of the average owner.
Two basic mechanic's rules should be mentioned here. First, whenever the LEFT side of the truck or engine is referred to, it is meant to specify the DRIVER'S side of the truck. Conversely, the RIGHT side of the truck means the PASSENGER'S side. Second, all screws and bolts are removed by turning counterclockwise, and tightened by turning clockwise (left loosen, right tighten).
Safety is always the MOST important rule. Constantly be aware of the dangers involved in working on or around any vehicle and take proper precautions to avoid the risk of personal injury or damage to the vehicle. See the section in this Section, Servicing Your Vehicle Safely, and the SAFETY NOTICE on the acknowledgment page before attempting any service procedures.
Always read carefully the instructions provided. There are three commonly made mistakes in mechanical work:
- Incorrect order of assembly, disassembly or adjustment. When taking something apart or putting it together, doing things in the wrong order usually just costs you extra time; however, it CAN break something. Read the entire procedure before beginning disassembly. Do everything in the order in which the instructions say you should, even if you can't immediately see a reason for it. When you are taking apart something that is very intricate (for example, a carburetor), you might want to draw a picture or use an instant camera to record how it looks when assembled at one point in order to make sure you get everything back in its proper position. We will supply exploded views whenever possible, but sometimes the job requires more attention to detail than an illustration provides. When making adjustments (especially tune-up adjustments), do them in order. One adjustment often affects another.
- Overtightening (or undertightening) nuts and bolts. While it is more common for overtightening to cause damage, undertightening can cause a fastener to vibrate loose and cause serious damage, especially when dealing with aluminum parts. Pay attention to torque specifications and use a torque wrench in assembly. If a torque figure is not available, remember that if you are using the right tool to do the job, you will probably not have to strain yourself to get a fastener tight enough. The pitch of most threads is so fine that the tension you apply with the wrench will be multiplied many times in actual force on what you are tightening. A good example of how critical torque is can be seen in the case of spark plug installation, especially when you are putting the (steel) plug into an aluminum cylinder head. Too little torque can fail to crush the gasket, causing leakage of combustion gases and consequent overheating of the plug and engine parts. Too much torque can damage the aluminum threads or distort the plug, which changes the spark gap at the electrode. Since more and more manufacturers are using aluminum in their engine and chassis parts to save weight, a torque wrench should be in any serious do-it-yourselfer's tool box.
There are many commercial chemical products available for ensuring that fasteners won't come loose, even if they are not tightened just right (a very common brand is Loctite®). If you're worried about getting something together tight enough to hold, but loose enough to avoid mechanical damage during assembly, one of these products might offer substantial insurance. Read the label on the package and make sure the product is compatible with the materials, fluids, etc. involved before choosing one.
- Cross-threading. This occurs when a part or fastener such as a bolt is forcefully screwed into a casting or nut at the wrong angle, causing the threads to become damaged. Cross-threading is more likely to occur if access is difficult. To avoid cross threading, it helps to clean and lubricate fasteners, and to start threading with the part to be installed going straight in, using your fingers. If you encounter resistance, unscrew the part or fastener and start again at a different angle until the threads catch and it can be turned several times without much effort. Keep in mind that many parts, especially spark plugs, use tapered threads so that gentle turning will automatically bring the item you are threading to the proper angle if you don't force it or resist a change in angle. Don't put a wrench on the part or fastener until it has been turned in a couple of times by hand. If you suddenly encounter resistance and the part or fastener has not seated fully, do not force it. Pull it back out and make sure it is clean and threading properly.
Always take your time and be patient; once you gain some experience, working on your vehicle will become an enjoyable hobby.