2022 was a challenging year for the Great Dale. It felt like we went back in time to the beginning when nothing worked.
The brakes are finally working correctly and I decided that I would do a quick project every year to update it. The front torsion bars have been set at the maximum possible setting for years and we always rode low. I never had it replaced because I know McPherson struts are expensive and hard, and I figured torsion bars were the same.
It turns out that it is super easy, barely an inconvenience. Doctor Diff (the guy who helped get the brakes sorted) put me in touch with Firm Feel, who are Mopar front end specialists. They recommend I upsize the torsion bars to a 1.06″ diameter from a 0.88′ stock diameter to compensate for the weight and I agreed.
The Dale rides a little rougher once the bars were installed, but we have inches of extra clearance. I tried the middle range torsion bars, but the clearance was better with the stiffer ride, so that’s what we settled on.
Changing the suspension opened a can of worms that I did not want to open. Driving in the city was fine, but it bounced around the highway like a pinball. It looked like we needed a new pitman arm and a stabilizing arm, and we replaced them and got it re-aligned; but that didn’t make the problem go away.
Rather than try something, get an alignment, and find out it didn’t work, we decided to replace the entire steering system from the column to the wheels. I loved the loosey-goosey 1965 steering, but Lina has always hated it, so we decided to get a more modern steering box. The job looked too big for me, so we hired the alignment guys to switch it all out. Turns out that that was a nightmare with too many problems to go into here. In the end, we paid over $5,000 and problem was only slightly better.
Our trial run was to Grand Lake, CO and I would have given up and turned around if there was an exit between when I decided it was too dangerous and my turn to Grand Lake on a slower highway. I was talking to our friend Pele, who had just bought the station wagon version 1965 Doge of the same year and he suggested I check the tire pressure.
We always run the tires at full pressure because of the extra weight, but we had installed new tires just before we found out about the brake problem in 2019 and never took it out on the highway. If I was able to drive on the highway when we got the tires, I would have noticed that something was wrong immediately and figured out. But because there were two years between the new tires and the highway, I figured the problem could be anywhere, hence the drastic measures. Changing the tire pressure fixed most of the issues.
The mechanical added an extra stabilizer (as I requested) to the steering box that may have been causing problems and I went to remove it. It should have been a two-minute job, but the mechanic cross-threaded the pitman arm threads and it took hours and a breaker bar to get the stabilizer off and get the original pitman arm bolt back on.
The we went to the Rock and Rumble. I noticed the steering wheel wasn’t aligned properly when we were leaving. I had Lina turn the wheel and I looked underneath and everything looked fine. Then I remembered to look from above, and it turned out that the bolts holding the steering box to the frame weren’t tight. I torqued them down and we should hopefully be good to go next year with a more modern steering feel.