A Dodge Dakota Military Truck, a vehicle oddity.

Called the “Hybrid Electric High Mobility Scout Mongrel Vehicle with Active Suspension” This was on ePay in 2017, I wanted it but they wanted too much for it at $16,500. It was quite capable, a prototype made for the Army, it was ” inadvertently launched the vehicle into the air during its climb of a 60 degree slope. The vehicle reportedly landed on all four wheels and sustained no damage.”.

Still wondering what happened to it. It was built to get a government contract and you can see that many ideas from the vehicle are used in autonomous military vehicles today.

A diesel, series hybrid, it had independent suspension and electric hub, planetary geared, motors at each wheel, it could also actively control its suspension height on the fly with magneto-rehological (MR) dampers at each corner.

It had 1.5 million in development costs into it and was started in 1997 with an SBIR Grant by Davis Technologies International, Inc.

It was controlled by a F-111 fighter joystick and could go across train tracks at 55mph without spilling your coffee.

Why removing the clutch fan on any 4.7L Dodge Dakota or Durango is a stupid idea.

If you have a 4.7L removing, ie: deleting your clutch fan, is a death sentence and a guarantee in the southwest.

The E fan only turns on when the truck is close to overheating (PCM temperature reading of 220 deg on and 216 deg off) or when the ac is on. It does not have any shroud. It was never made to be the main fan for the motor. Its purpose is only to supplement when the truck is close to overheating or help to suck air through the radiator stack when the AC is on so your condenser can run more efficiently. Water boils at 212 degrees and properly mixed coolant in a functioning, pressurized, system will boil at 223 degrees. Do not use the stock e fan alone. If you want to do an electric fan conversion properly there are many options. A charger or challenger shrouded dual eFan will work great. Taurus e-fans and Lincoln e-fans work great. The electric puller on our trucks has no shroud, is massively undersized and only pulls from a small area. It was never engineered from the first place to cool the entire vehicle and only to supplement.

Rebuilding my first automatic transmission a 45rfe .

This is my first attempt at fully rebuilding an automatic transmission, I have messed with valve bodies and entire trans replacements in my teenage years but after the Dakota ate its second transmission I realized that rebuilding one was was something that I needed to master as I had no control in the quality of rebuilt replacements and junkyard specials were not holding up.

I pulled the first transmission out a few years ago because it started shifting extremely hard with the 2-3 shift it had a transgo HD2 shift kit and line pressure mod.

Once the front pump was removed, taking apart the transmission was extremely easy, I did the entire thing with one straight blade screwdriver and a dental pick.

Everything inside the first old transmission was perfect except for this planetary reaction plate that cracked… that explains the hard shifts, I got 80K out of this transmission.

No clue on why the transmission was designed with so little material around the area that cracked.

The second transmission was a used one out of a Durango, I left it unmodified, it lost all gears going up the back-way to crown king after overheating, I got 30K out of it.

Here you can see that the 4th clutch had a major failure, the snap ring that holds the spring plate came off and the transmission started to grenade itself by lathing the 4th clutches, retainer, thrust bearings and ring gear. You can see friction material from the clutches were all over the place, there were chunks of metal in the pan and metallic, burnt fluid everywhere.

This is a cracked reaction plate, it looks to have been damaged for quite some time.

There have been some variations and changes between the models of 45rfe, 545rfe and 66RFE transmissions throughout the years.

The first version was the 45rfe, it came out behind the 4.7L in the 1999 WJ Jeep Grand Cherokee and was used in the Rams, Dakotas and Durangos. In 2001, for Jeep the transmission was changed to include 5th speed and called  the 545rfe, the only difference is the transmission control module that uses a kickdown for the other gear.

In 2002 there was a change across all models with the pump fluid pressure spring, all post 2002 transmissions run at a higher pump pressure, this may throw a code when a later year TCM is used with a pre 02 transmission or vice versa.

In 2005-2007 there was a change to the front pump, this new pump has a seal in the cover of the transmission, an updated pressure spring and internal plate that solves the no move issue if you let your vehicle sit for a while and it does not build pump pressure. Chrysler got rid of two bolts that were leaking fluid back into the transmission. I used the updated front pump for my rebuild.

In 2012 there was a major change to the transmission with the introduction of the 65RFE and 66RFE. This FRONT HALF of this transmission IS IDENTICAL IN EVERY WAY to the 45rfe and thus can use the same front pump and torque converter, most other parts will not interchange. The new transmissions have an improved torque converter that is 1″ larger in diameter then the older units.  Larger torque converters have a better mechanical advantage, hold more fluid and are easier to cool and have more clutch capacity. This generation also used crappy plastic valve body pistons to cut down noise.

Many torque converter rebuilding companies, MOPAR and transmission builders I contacted said that the two torque converters are NOT INTERCHANGEABLE IE: WILL NOT FIT IN A 45RFE /5-45RFE TRANSMISSION. I was laughed and told that they were physically completely different. I ignored the advice of the “professionals”, studied diagrams and schematics of the design changes and purchased a 2017 Ram torque converter for my build, it paid off as it physically bolted to my 2001 Dakota’s flex plate slipped into the updated front pump and never hit any areas of the casting of the 2001 45rfe.

To rebuild the transmission I used a Mopar master kit, which contained borg warner clutches. I then purchased molded pistons, the updated “white” mopar solenoid pack with slider, new Sonnex aluminum valve body pistons, 66RFE torque converter, new style front pump, 545rfe TCM from a 04 grand chero car, steel filter nut upgrade (to replace the plastic one).

I was able to scrounge parts from the two failed transmissions to rebuild one good one.

To rebuild the transmission I followed this video, it is in Spanish but if you are not blind it should not matter. Make sure to install the snap rings in the correct direction, many are tapered to fit into specific machine grooves in the transmission. Be sure to measure and adjust your clutch clearance as well.

I used a cheap transmission press to remove and install the springs and assemble goo to hold components in place.

https://www.amazon.com/EWK-Automatic-Transmission-Compressor-Compression/dp/B00H8K7X46/ref=sr_1_6?keywords=transmission+press&qid=1554745338&s=gateway&sr=8-6

Luckily my transmission worked perfectly the first time I bolted it up in there, take your time, mark directions and positions of all snap rings, thrust bearings and plates before you remove them and reinstall them in the same direction.

Why a BMS for LiFePO4 cells is a bad idea.

Back when I was entering the EV game, before any Nissan Leaf came out, before Tesla had and vehicles sold the the public I thought I knew everything about batteries. After all, I was a great “internet engineer” read many articles, forums and youtubed the shit out of lithium batteries.

I installed many China sourced lithium LiFePO4 batteries in various applications with BMS with no issues. Over the next few years I noticed a disturbing trend, many cells would be discharged to zero, destroyed and bloated, and the culprit, every time, was the BMS causing the failure. I noticed a disturbing trend that the BMS allowed the cells to become overcharged or undercharged which led to diminished capacity and cell swelling/bloating. Unfortunately, many of the BMS’s out there, available to the public, fail over time, leading to more harm than good. They fail because of galvanic corrosion on the PCB, and usually overdischarge the battery.

Here is an example of over or under discharged, bloated batteries. These cells are no longer good, they have diminished capacity, dangerous and are ruined and were destroyed by a malfunctioning BMS.

In 2014, I met Michael at EV West, and asked him if he had similar issues with LiFePO4 batteries and he said yes. I asked him how he got around the issue and he told me not to run a BMS, I was shocked!

However, after installing many more systems in prototype vehicles, test stands and even my own solar systems I have seen ZERO CELL FAILURES. He was right. LiFePO4 batteries are not self balancing, but you can easily balance them yourself, by disconnecting them and wiring them in parallel, once a year every ~300 cycles or so.

From Mild to Wild: Wiring

Nicholas Bauer, of Slicknessindustries, can handle all of your wiring harness needs from mild to wild.

Here is a Renault Twizy EV harness, Nick extended, and modified to fit into a vehicle twice the original wheelbase and track width called the Local Motors, Strati.

The harness came from a vehicle with a chassis ground and transplanted into a composite vehicle. This harness had to function properly, the first time, at IMTS 2014 for demonstration, it was developed in 40 days under impossible deadlines and limited resources.

It functioned properly and the vehicle wound up driving around the streets of Chicago, turn signals, brake lights and all; this was the first test of the vehicle.

Nicholas also led a small team to assemble, fabricate and test the STRATI vehicle at Oak Ridge National Laboratory and on the floor in Chicago with the help of Brandon Klingaman and Kyle Heart.

Living in a Duramax pickup until the dragon wagon is ready.

I left home to take on a new challenge, although I was working on the SlickCrawl I put in a couple applications for some cool startups and I ended up with a cool job offer from Thor Trucks as the fabrication/shop lead Engineer.

I partially put in the application because the Dragon Wagon is parked in San Bernardino and the job is in North Hollywood, so only an hour and a half away. However I need to find a place to parke the Dragon Wagon so to prerun the area I decided to build a stealth camper out of my current Daily Driver. I purchased a surplus, salvaged 2004.5 Silverado 2500 from Local Motors a couple years ago and fixed it up. The Silverado has a quarter million miles on it but with the Isuzu based 6.6L LLY Diesel engine and Allison 1000 transmission it is perfect for LA traffic.

I found a commercial truck cap for sale on Tucson Craiglist and snagged it up, it is an extra tall superduty model and I had to trim it to fit the Silverado. I gave it a quick spray with some crappy paint because I only had two weeks until the new job started.

Next I cleaned out the truck bed, added a 3/4″ plywood floor and topped it with some cheap laminate flooring and under-lament.

I was pretty happy with the rusults, I think it came out nice.

I added a four channel ebay special securety camera system, two group 31 semi truck batteries, a MPPT charge controller, a 100W solar panel, a PWM controlled Maxxfan, Xantrex prowatt SW600 power inverter, 1600watt Frys electronics special square wave inverter and a vintage half pint microwave.

The bed is made of extra plywood, a folding cot mattress from amazon and gas pipe as a folding mechanism.

Additional cool things litter the interior, I also dropped a line for a future refrigerator/freezer.