Thoughts on Rebuilding

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Well-known member
Jan 13, 2018
South West CT
Just thinking, what are thoughts on restoring a newer vehicle rather than getting rid of it for something newer. I have an 02 Dodge Dakota with 163K on it. 4x4, ext cab.4.7l, Runs good. Body rusty, frame is OK. I have had it 10+ years and pretty much know every squeak. Over the years replaced wear items like ball joints and because it was from Chicago, lots of stuff rusted. Driveshaft, steering column, fuel fill tube, and rear leaf spring mounts. With trucks now ridiculous, does it now make sense to sink some money into it to keep it running? I have body mounts that I plan do put in to replace the rusted ones. What about suspension components? I recently read an article about changing on old, tired springs improved ride quality. I am always worried about getting rid of it and dumping 20K+ on something that may have problems too. Only pending problem right now is a rusty oil pan. I understand it is a tough repair, lots needs to come off, or motor out. The truck is a semi daily driver, maybe 6 or 7 days a month, 16 mile round trip. Used for dump runs, building supplies. Another negative for a 20K+ truck. Interesting story, Son had truck at college and a, untethered beer keg slammed into the front of the bed bedding it. He was bummed telling me about it. I was like no problem. I do like this truck. Please let me know you thoughts. Jim
If you really like it, why not rebuild it? It’s old enough you should be able to find a parts truck with a bad motor or trans pretty easily enough. I’ve got the same thoughts about my 99 F150, unless something catastrophic happens I plan on keeping it because I don’t want to have to find a replacement, much less have to pay payments on a fixed income.
I'm probably not the guy to listen to, I have a bad habit of putting older bodies on those Dakota chassis and running the wheels off of them, but here is my opinion on the subject.

Money out of pocket, its cheaper to keep an old ride running then it is to replace it.
There are two different directions to go at that.

!) Just keep repairing it as the need arises. When something needs to be fixed, fix it to as good of condition as you can (this would include buying high quality replacement parts). The problem with going this direction is that it will seem like you are always dumping money into it. About every 4-5 months, you could drop $500 into it. I compare that to making a car payment every month, to see how I'm doing. Haven't lost yet over the course of a years time, but you may get that $500 repair for a couple months in a row, so you have to be ready for it. We have an 04 PT Cruiser that has been on this schedule for the last 10 years.

2) The other direction is to take the truck out of service, pull the cab and bed, and replace everything that can go wrong. Its costly up front ($3,000 -$4,000, or more depending on the trucks condition), and may be time consuming (if you can devote time to the project, it could be out of service for 6 months to a year depending on the truck's condition), but then you have something that is usually pretty much trouble free for about 5 years (there is always something that needs to be fixed, but its usually something simple like replacing a worn out part or a defective part).

Usually what ever I think I can skip repairing during the rebuild comes back and bites me. I tend to treat it like a new rod build. If I think something might quit working, break, or fail due to being worn out or due to old age, I replace or rebuild it. I replace wear parts on the suspension (ball joints, tie rod ends, idler arm, sway bar links, control arm bushings), I replace everything on the brakes (including hoses and hard lines, shoes, brake pads, calipers, wheel cylinders, return springs, drums and rotors, and all the fuel lines), motor (water pump, any questionable core plugs, belts & hoses, heater core, and radiator if at all questionable) & trans (seals and ATF fluid) parts, rear end(s) seals and noisy or rough bearings, drive shaft U joints, All of the rubber body mounts (and their bolts), patch up rusted stuff on the body or frame paint as needed (brush on paint is cheaper and has better coverage and adhesion), and buy new tires. New door and window seals, and a new driver's seat makes the ride a lot nicer. My 48 Plymouth coupe on a Dakota chasse had this done in 2012, we have driven the car 100,000 miles since it was 1st built in this way. In 2018 it went back in the shop for an update to fix things not done the 1st time. My 49 Dodge, on a Dakota 4x4 already has 15,000 miles since this was done to it in 2021. I just had to replace the water pump, guess what I skipped on the rebuild?
Yes, I rebuild the entire truck. If you can not do nearly all of the rebuild yourself, buy a different truck. Its probably not cost effective to pay someone to rebuild it for you.

There is a draw back. If you do the last option and the truck gets crashed out, you loose everything you have put into it. Its likely not a good investment to try to buy full coverage insurance to cover what it cost to rebuild an old truck, if it gets crashed, you will be fighting with your insurance company to get the $$$ coverage you paid for.

Just for the record, about the worst thing you can do to a car or truck is let it sit without using it. That does cause them to deteriorate faster.

pic or it didn't happen. The coupe on the Dakota chassis and the 49 Dodge truck on the Dakota 4x4 chassis.


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I concur with Gene. I preached to my four kids about choosing their first car to be one they love and that will become more appealing...and valuble... with age. Then set money aside for future repairs instead of making payments on a succession of boring cars. (they didn't listen)
Maybe find another one from a dry climate without all the corrosion issues? Of course it depends on budget but it looks like they're available for 5k and less. Especially if you're not tied to 4WD and / or a V8.

You may even find one that's rust free with a straight body that needs an engine and or trans that you have for real cheap?

Just my 2 cents[S
I'm in on the "keep it running" plan. I don't have anything here that doesn't have antique tags and plan on keeping it that way. If you go that way, pay attention to those little details over the years for an idea on what spares to keep on hand. Every time you get the chance to stash a part, do it!
Thank you for the responses. A lot of great ideas. I do most of my work but as I have gotten older I sometimes will have things done especially if it involves a lot of time under the vehicle or very heavy stuff. I used to be a weight lifter and it has taken it’s toll on my older self. A blown bicep tendon about 10 years ago started the decline. That being said things like pulling an engine or rebuilding suspension is no problem. Nice thing is it not being my DD it can be laid up for a while. I have to admit I do take my cars in for oil changes at my buddies garage. Cost about 20 bucks more but worth it and while it is up on the rack I get a great view of what’s happening under it and he always checks things. What really got me thinking about all this was a neighbor that bought a brand new KIA SUV and my Son’s friend buying a 2 year old F150. Kid paid 50k for the truck and my neighbor near 60k for the KIA! I bought a 95 Jerome Grand Cherokee that he thought had a bad trans for $700. Turned out to be a unjoint. Drove that gas guzzler for years til I got rid of it. So again thanks for the help. I think I am going to avoid the payments and start a little truck fund for things down the road. Thanks. Jim
Save about 1/2 of what that "new to you" truck payment would be every month, and your going to have enough money saved back you won't have to figure out where the repair money will come from.

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