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Common Problems With Sweptline Era Trucks

Door Locks on '67-'71 Trucks
One problem that I've had with my '67 is the door locks. In particular, the symptoms were that the lock cylinders would not operate the lock latch. What caused this? Inside the door, the mechanism consists of a small metal rotator on the back of the lock cylinder and a thin rod that connects to the lock latch. For some reason, the rods can get malaligned in the small hole where they fit into the rotator. When this happens and someone attempts to lock the door via key or by shutting the door with the lock button down, the rotator will break off of the back of the cylinder. Hence, no rotator, and no possibility of locking the doors on the failed side since the doors can't be locked without the key (unless someone is in the truck).

After buying a couple sets of door lock cylinders, the second pair coming from Mid South Auto Sales, it was high time to remedy the annoyance. To do this, I simply looked at how the whole thing works. If you are attempting to repair the same problem, there is one easy way to fix the breakage with a little awareness. Simply remove and reinstall the lock cylinders, and when you do, be careful with the rod that connects the rotator to the lock lever. It is usually the cause of the breakage problem and should be reshaped so that the lock cylinder and rotator freely moves the lock lever up and down. If it doesen't work smoothly, don't force the mechanism. Instead, keep playing with the rod until it is bent so that the rotator moves freely. Feedback on this subject is gladly acccepted.

I've also noticed slightly different behavior of the lock mechanism in cold weather. This is most likely caused by contraction of one or many of the metal parts inside the door lock system, but shouldn't be a worry. The rod inside probably just needs a little bend one way or another. Still, never force the locking procedure. It's not worth the price or wait for a new set of door locks. I learned the hard way.

Headlight Switch Removal
This information was also discovered via the "hard way". Members of the A-100 Van and Truck Association may recognize this tip, it was in one of the newsletters.

    To remove the headlight switch from the dash, here's the procedure:
  1. Remove the gauge panel if applicable, on trucks this is necessary.
  2. Find the headlight switch housing on the backside of the dash, then find the small, spring loaded pin on the housing (it should be facing the passenger side of the vehicle).
  3. Depress this pin, then carefully wiggle the switch knob and shaft from the outside of the dash until it releases from the switch.
  4. The switch can now be removed by turning the large chrome screw that the shaft went through. This is on the outside dash panel.
  5. Be careful when removing the switch and its wire connection. The rotating parts of the switch can fall out, which makes it difficult to try and figure out what order they go in.
  6. To replace the switch, use the screw to put the switch body back in the dash, then replace the shaft carefully while depressing the pin. Turn the shaft once it's installed to verify that it has reseated within the switch.

Left-Hand Threaded Lugs
It is believed that Dodge Trucks through 1971 were manufactured with left-hand threaded lugs on the driver's side of the vehicle. This wouldn't seem like a very special dilemma, but there are many good reasons for some to want to remove the offensive reverse threaded lugs and replace them with right handed versions.
    Listed below are a few good reasons to swap left handed lugs for right handed versions:
  1. You can no longer purchase wheel locks for left handed lugs to protect those ultra cool American Racing wheels you just bought.
  2. We've all heard stories like this: "The dorks at the tire shop broke my left handed lugs by trying to take them off with the impact gun!"
  3. Some of us are so forgetful that we forget which way to turn the lug nuts when winter calls for those studded snow tires.

In any case, here are a few recommendations for those who wish to take out their left-hand threaded studs and replace them with some that are right hand threaded.

  1. NAPA sells the proper studs for 8 3/4 rearends and undoubtedly has them for the larger Dana 60 rears. Rear studs are easily removed by carefully tapping them out with a hammer. Then, using an electric impact gun with spacers and a spare lug nut, the right hand threaded studs can be installed.
  2. From my experience, NAPA offers two types of studs for the front of the half ton trucks. One type is serrated while the other has a smooth friction fit surface. I tried to use the serrated studs they offer in the OEM drum by simply swapping them out. Consequently, when the NAPA right hand threaded studs were compared to the OEM left threaded versions, the NAPA studs had a slightly longer pressure-fit surface that sticks out of the hub and drum when installed. The resultant length difference caused the drum to separate from the hub and cause major brake problems. It turns out that I was supposed to use the non-serrated type of stud (for the 11" drum). Just be sure to compare the studs before you install them in the front hubs. My rear studs work fine, and they are also from NAPA.
  3. If possible, try and find a good used drum from the passenger side of a similiar truck. The hub will match, and you won't have to worry about removing old studs and installing new ones. Swapping studs is not an easy task, but can be done with the proper procedure and correct parts.

Correcting Hood Misalignment at the Cowl
Below are some messages which had been posted on the `61-`71 Dodge Truck Swap Forum some time ago. They give an excellent way to fix the "hood rise" problem common on these trucks. Special thanks to Andy for the advice!

Posted by Andy on April 21, 1998 at 05:00:07
In Reply to: "Hood doesn't sit down tight in back" posted by David Jensen on April 20, 1998 at 08:25:42:
"I had/have the same problem with my '70. The back edge of the hood will not sit flush with the cowl. There are two causes for this. First the hinges are worn. To determine if your hinges are worn, open the hood until the hinges hit the stops then push the hood up with your hand. Watch the hinge and you can see how much play is in the hinge. Once this problem is corrected (good luck finding good hinges) the hood will have to be shimmed. Put shims between the FRONT hinge mounting hole and the hood. I used some flat washers. You can put as much as 3/4" shim stack before shimming no longer helps."
Here's what David Jensen thought of Andy's advice:
Posted by Dave Jensen on April 22, 1998 at 09:05:53:
In Reply to: "Re: Hood doesn't sit down tight in back" posted by andy on April 21, 1998 at 05:00:07:
"Hey, either the plastic jesus I glued to the dash kicked in or that washer trick really works! It's such a change, I'm leaning toward the miracle-explanation at the moment. But I'll keep the washers there just in case. The hood fits great! I've noticed three hoods I have here have had the nuts pulled through that front hinge mount hole on the hood. Had to weld a nut into the one that I'm using now. Must be some tension at that point, so I'm planning on replacing the little washers I used with bigger ones for more surface area. Thanks for the tip!"

Tailgate Latch Woes
Problem: The latch on the tailgate turns, but the gate won't open.
There are a couple of things that can fail with the tailgates on Mid-'65 thru '71 Trucks. Inside, there are two rods that are attached to the catches on each end of the gate. These are attached to a center shaft connected a diamond shaped adapter that, when turned, pulls the shafts in--thereby releasing the end latches. What can happen is the cotter pinned rod end can loose the pin and washer, causing one or both latches to be inoperable. Also, one of the other parts inside can fail, causing similiar symptoms.

To repair the problem, simply remove the hex nut from the bottom of the latch handle, then remove the four phillips head screws from the support panel. The latch bolt is kinda tricky, so be sure to notice how it works as you take it apart. Once the latch and support panel are out of the way, find the rods and center shaft. Find a similiar cotter pin and washer to fix the failed connection, then replace the latch and center shaft. The shaft has to be turned under a slight load as the mechanism is put back together. It may take a few minutes to figure out, but with patience it will all go back together like new.

Gas Tanks
Most are familiar with the main tanks on these trucks, however, the auxilary tanks are of interest when it comes to customizing or frequently driving these vehicles long distances. In the case of my truck, the auxilary tanks were clearly a backyard job; each tank was made of thick welded steel that had been custom fitted to the truck. They were warped beyond belief, so I doubt that anyone other than a farmer threw them together.

Auxiliary tanks from aftermarket companies can be seen on these trucks, especially the Camper Specials. Some tanks were even mounted inside the bed, but with the camper mounted on the box they were out of the way and made use of wasted space. More commonly, auxilary fuel tanks are seen mounted in front of the rear wheels on the outside of the frame under the bed. The fuel intake spouts are mounted halfway up the bodyside and the hole for the spout is covered with a bright door panel attached to the body. Both metal and plastic tanks have been observed on various trucks.

This subject needs more attention and I'd like to hear about the auxiliary tanks on your truck if you have them. If possible, I'd like to know all the specifics (size, location, general setup) as well as the names of companies that made the tanks, especially if tanks are still available for these trucks. Please submit an Online Response with any information you can provide.

Windshield Wiper Weaknesses
Problem: As the windshield wipers on these trucks get older, they develop excessive play in the joints resulting in poor operation.
Order a wiper update kit from Mid South Auto Sales. This kit includes the arms, blades, and fasteners necessary to make those floppy old wiper arms history. At approximately $60 bucks, the upgrade is a positive improvement with no compromises. Imagine how many more Dodge Trucks you'll be able to spot in bad weather with a decent set of wipers!

Power Steering Woes
If this isn't a popular subject, I don't know what is. In regards to Dodge Trucks, especially those manufactured in the Sweptline Era, power steering is the one option that everyone wished they had. Unfortunately, the power steering units simply aren't very easy to locate. If your truck came with the system from the factory consider yourself extremely lucky. The number of trucks produced with PS is unknown, but I believe that the numbers were quite low through 1971 (from what I am beginning to see on the '61-'71 DT Swap Forum). I have a couple of suggestions and thoughts on the matter. Since I don't have PS and have never really dealt with the item, I know very little about the actual setup on these trucks. Here's the info...

Many of us want power steering for our truck. I think that we all do. The only way to get a power setup if your truck didn't have it OEM is to:

  1. Search junkyards and steering component rebuilders for the parts
  2. Adapt a unit from another vehicle to your truck
  3. Completely revamp the suspension system (Swap to IFS if 2WD; otherwise fabricate new system, etc.)
If you own a 2WD vehicle and are willing to swap to IFS, you could go a number of routes, most of which are listed below in the Lowering Your Truck section below.

Considering the fact that the OEM units seem to be rare, my opinion is to wait and search endlessly for the parts if you REALLY badly want the system. I choose to stick with what I have until I can afford to put an IFS unit under the front end of my truck. This only applies to 2WD truck owners, but if I owned a 4x4 I might try and find a way to fabricate a new setup. After reading the '65 service manual section on PS units for these trucks, it looks like the actual PS cylinder unit sat on the I-beam and the control valve unit was located between the steering knuckle arm and the steering arm. This seems very different than any other system I've seen, studied, or heard of. So, it may be difficult to try and reproduce this kind of setup with existing parts from other manufacturers.

I also discussed the Power Steering topic with Richard, the owner of Mid South Auto Sales. He believes that the units were somewhat unique and rare, and when found the cost of repair outweighs the service that the system will provide. He also said that he's seen some power steering boxes from other vehicles adapted and doesen't recommend this type of setup for a number of reasons (modifications necessary, OEM non-PS setup and box location, reliability, etc). There really isn't much you can do with these trucks in regards to power steering unless you drastically modify the trucks and/or their front suspensions. If you have engineered or know of a power steering setup that works in these trucks and is reliable please let the author know with an Online Response.

Also, if you know of any businesses or individuals that offer a solution for the power steering dilemma on these trucks, please let the author know by sending in an Online Response. I will certainly post any other helpful info that I find, and remember that you are helping fellow enthusiasts when you submit something to this site. We can all be wiser from the valuable information you may have.

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