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2003 1500 QC 4X4 SLT Refresh

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2003 1500 QC 4X4 SLT Refresh

  #1  
Old 12-12-2018, 12:23 PM
ScottJ175
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Default 2003 1500 QC 4X4 SLT Refresh

Hey, forum, it's been awhile since I posted. I'm starting this thread to tell the story of refreshing my 2003 1500 4X4 Quad Cab with a rebuilt engine (and other stuff). First the backstory: I bought the truck in 2007 with 48K miles on it. The first problem came Mothers' Day of the next year when something holed the radiator. I replaced it but things were never quite right after that. The heat being weak was the first sign. The core failed in 2009 and I replaced it (yeah, dash out and everything). In 2010 the radiator was leaking again and the cooling system started showing overpressure issues by pushing the lower hose off the radiator once and splitting the upper hose in two once. At the time I thought maybe the system was just clogged so I flushed it.

In 2012 I moved twice (upstate SC then back to our original home in AL once we realized the grass wasn't greener). I had another hose popped off the radiator event on a cold, wet February day towing a trailer through Commerce, GA. I buttoned it back up in a truck stop parking lot. In May after we'd settled back home I discovered a radiator tank cracked again. So I flushed and flushed and replaced the radiator. Later on that year is when I realized I was getting combustion into the cooling system and coolant into combustion because I'd make steam when cold and it would very slowly lose coolant. In the Fall of that year the recirc door failed in the HVAC box so I tried stop leak and a new core in hopes to get a little more time out of it. It didn't work. I had adequate heat for 3 days and then everything returned to where it had been.

In 2014 after another hose off radiator event while I was wearing a boot on a busted up ankle and had to do a parking lot repair in that shape I decided to retire it from daily driver duty. I bought a Toyota Matrix and decided to keep the truck to use as needed and planned to repair or replace later on.

In 2015 on a trip to my in-laws in downstate SC things went really sideways. A severe miss developed because I'd pushed the plugs too far and possibly a bad coil. Unfortunately #3 plug was seized in the head and stripped the threads. I wound up having to Heli-Coil in my in-laws front yard and limped home. The repair seemed to do OK though and the truck returned to its duties (hauling stuff and occasional towing) and it would keep on running so long as I kept it under 4,000 RPM (any more and a hose would blow).

In early 2016 I decided we needed to do something (repair or replace) and I wanted to try to keep whatever we did at $5K or less. All the used trucks I could find at that price point had just as many issues or potential issues as mine so after much discussion with my wife the decision was to put in a rebuilt engine. My initial thought was to just buy one already built. The average price was around $2,600 +core but then I'd be under pressure to get it done so I could get my core money back and I wanted to take my time. Then the opportunity came to get a reconditioned block, crank, heads and rods for $1,500 from a friend who owned an engine shop. So I went that route after figuring out most rebuilders use made in China components. I bought premium brands (Felpro gaskets, Michigan bearings, Sealed Power rings and pistons, Cloyes timing, Melling oil pump) and wound up spending just as much as the complete engine but at least I'd know what was in it.

I didn't get much done that year. I gathered parts through May & June and by the end of the year I'd only managed to chase the head bolt and bedplate holes and get the crank in.





 

Last edited by ScottJ175; 12-12-2018 at 12:38 PM.
  #2  
Old 12-12-2018, 12:49 PM
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2017 was basically a lost year. We traveled a lot to begin the year then in June my younger brother had a major heart attack and triple bypass and due to complications spend three months in the hospital. Plus a busy action pistol competition schedule, more travel for the eclipse and my wife needing a hysterectomy that November.

I also got caught up in some analysis paralysis. I downloaded a factory service PDF from the web somewhere and it contains conflicting info on the ring gap spec. There's one listed on the engine specs page and a different much tighter one in the procedures section for the rings. This same conflict was also found in aftermarket service manuals. I even made phone calls to Dodge tech support and Sealed Power tech support and couldn't really get a straight answer.

My business spilled on into 2018 with a full competition schedule in the spring and more travel in May but I was determined this was the year I was going to get it done. I wound up going with the larger of the two conflicting gap specs since it's closer to what you get when you calculate using the formula of bore X .0035.

By July 5th I had all 8 pistons in with properly gapped rings.


 
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Old 12-12-2018, 12:53 PM
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Over that hurdle I started moving along pretty well. Heads were next but it was not without issue. I manage to let the left side slip during install and that cost me a head gasket and I had to have my friend clean up the surface (thankfully at no cost). But by July 20th I had both heads on and torqued.





 
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Old 12-12-2018, 01:02 PM
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Next up was doing the oil pump and timing components. This trick from Airram.com with the zip ties worked really well. http://airram.com/faq.php?categoryid=37#Q1 I also had cost increase and delay because I realized I didn't have fasteners for all this and had to buy them online. But by mid-August I had a fully assembled long block that would turn over by hand without binding and line up the timing marks correctly.



 
  #5  
Old 12-12-2018, 01:58 PM
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So by September I was at the point it was time to start thinking about pulling the truck into the garage for teardown and rebuild. I still had to spend big money on a big box from LMC Truck because I was going to replace the dash that was a crumbled mess from the last time I had it apart in 2012. The new dash arrived on October 3rd so I displaced my daily driver to the outside (yeah, I'm spoiled parking indoors) on the 4th. It would be awhile before I parked inside again. I was already taking the dash apart when I took that before pic but the upper tray with the defroster grilles isn't removed. It hasn't existed since 2012. That piece crumbled apart back then.



 
  #6  
Old 12-12-2018, 02:00 PM
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Then it was all the work to get the dash out so I could get at the HVAC box to replace the core. You'll note the sad looking weatherstrip. That will become important in the next post.




 
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Old 12-12-2018, 02:06 PM
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I mentioned the sad looking weatherstrip. Well, this was also the case with the blend doors. After 15 years and a couple of heater core failures the foam on them was a mess. I bought replacement doors from Dorman except for the lower door under the core which Dorman made wrong so I had to find an OEM. There was much delay sourcing the little clips that the doors rotate on. Mine broke coming out and they are discontinued. I had to call dealers all over the Southeast to get replacements. The Dorman doors did have nice metal replacement ones though but the OEM required replacement.




 
  #8  
Old 12-12-2018, 02:12 PM
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Once I finally had the HVAC box rebuilt I started in on the dash. There was delay there because the weatherstip on top of the box is also discontinued so I sourced what I could find calling around and used household stuff I bought at Lowe's where I couldn't find any. I also had issues with cluster lighting. I had the idea to upgrade to some LEDs I found on Amazon. Only once installed none worked. The original lights also didn't work when reinstalled so I wound up having to order all new OEM lights from my local dealer. But finally come November 13th I had the HVAC plenum and interior restored.







 
  #9  
Old 12-12-2018, 02:16 PM
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Now it was engine time. So out came the radiator and evaporator, hood and core support then fan and clutch. I was amused that I was able to stand inside the frame and work. I went ahead a stripped the intake and head covers. I swapped the covers onto the new engine before install.







 
  #10  
Old 12-12-2018, 02:21 PM
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Since I have a 4X4 the driver's side mount ties into the front axle and transmission. Getting at the three bolts to the axle was a chore and they were VERY tight with limited room to work. The best solution wound up being a long handle, flex head ratchet. On Thanksgiving evening the old engine with 190,519 miles on it left its home.




 

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