Introduction: Mustang Saga

Ever start a repair project only to discover you've hit the tip of an iceberg? What started as a squeaky clutch (a significant enough project on its own) escalated into a three month project winding its way from under the car, through the interior, out to pulling body parts, and along the way discovering that rodents really like the taste of your wiring harnesses. This instructable whisks you through an overview of a variety of semi-related repairs that started with bits of metal bouncing around in a bellhousing.

The steps below highlight some of the major aspects of the video. If you watch the video you can pretty much ignore the steps. Except for the warnings about the airbag. Don't mess with airbags!

Step 1: Squeaky Clutch

The clutch had been squeaking, and got pretty hard to depress. I suspected and confirmed that the throwout bearing had gone bad. Here are the basic steps to replacing the throwout bearing:

1. Disconnect the battery

2. Raise the vehicle, secure with jackstands or similar (be careful, cars can crush you)

3. Remove the exhaust (don't forget the oxygen sensor connectors)

4. Remove the driveshaft

5. Remove the starter

6. Remove the clutch cable

7. Remove the shifter from the inside of the car

8. Secure the transmission with a transmission jack

9. Remove all remaining bolts

10. Pull transmission back and lower to the ground

11. You now have access to the throwout bearing for replacement

12. While you are in there, you might as well replace the clutch and pilot bearing

13. Installation is reverse of disassembly

Step 2: Squeaky Dash

Since the console around the shifter was out in order to pull the transmission, I decided to keep going. A number of squeaks and rattles had formed over the years in the dash area. One major contributor to this is disintegrating foam padding. Another is warping plastic and loose spring connectors, both of which let parts that used to be firmly held in place rattle against each other. All of these can usually be addressed with new or additional foam padding.

1. Disconnect the battery (note the theme here)

2. Remove all visible screws (you may find more after the next step)

3. If you aren't sure where the various clips are, gently pry and rock the plastic pieces to determine where they appear to be held in place. Many will pull out with just your fingers, others may need a small screwdriver or even better the small plastic prybars made for this purpose. WARNING: You are practically guaranteed to break off some of the mounting tabs or create other cracks when doing this if your car is more than 37 seconds old. You may have to repair or replace those pieces as necessary.

4. You can buy stick-on foam weatherstripping from your local home improvement store. Peel off any existing foam and replace. For the pieces that just seem loose but didn't have foam, stick small pieces of foam on one of the surfaces to take up the gap. Trim the foam thinner if necessary with scissors so that it doesn't put too much outward pressure on the pieces.

5. Reassemble all of the parts. Make sure to apply pressure directly over each clip during installation, otherwise the plastic is much more likely to crack near that point.

Step 3: Cracked Interior Plastic

Even on a brand new car, removing and re-installing interior plastic pieces may lead to cracks and snapped off pieces. The likelihood of this occurring on a twenty year old car is almost guaranteed. These can often be repaired with two part epoxies specifically made for bonding plastics.

1. Dry fit the broken pieces together. Sometimes the pieces distort when they break, and need to be tweaked a little to line back up. Sometimes a little trimming with a sharp knife is necessary (be careful).

2. Clean and rough up the surfaces around the break. You can usually use sandpaper, or a knife, or a rotary tool to rough up the surface. This will help the epoxy adhere to the surrounding plastic. DO NOT rough up any visible surfaces unless you really feel you need the extra strength. If you do rough up the front you either have to live with the cosmetic issues or take on the fun of paint matching plastic.

3. Mix the epoxy according to the manufacturer's directions.

4. Apply the epoxy directly to the mating surfaces, press the pieces together.

5. If fixing a crack (where the pieces haven't totally separated), apply light pressure to spread the crack a little further so that some epoxy can be pushed in with a toothpick or pin.

6. If any epoxy gets on a visible surface, wipe off immediately to minimize cosmetic issues.

7. Apply additional epoxy on the surfaces adjacent to the cracks to increase bond strength.

8. Wait the manufacturer recommended cure time. Then wait a little more. Are you really in that much of a hurry?

9. Carefully reinstall into the car. Be sure to apply pressure directly behind any clips or posts to minimize the chances of cracking the surrounding plastic.

Step 4: Cruise Control

One day my cruise control just stopped working. There are a handful of things that can fail that don't require a lot of disassembly, so I checked those first. None of my fuses were blown, the mechanical switches on the clutch and brake pedals operated correctly, and there were no active ECU codes. So I decided to start disassembling things. WARNING: YOUR AIRBAG CAN MAIM OR KILL YOU. You really ought to take your car to an actual mechanic anytime you even think about taking anything apart that is vaguely related to your airbag. The following is what I, the untrained, uncertified, and totally unqualified individual decided to do with my own car on my own property. Don't take this as advice or guidance; it just happens to be a description of what I happened to do...

1. Take your car to a qualified mechanic (did you think I was kidding above?)

2. I disconnected my battery and waited an hour before touching anything.

3. I removed the airbag (two screws on each side of the steering column, and two wiring connectors)

4. I checked the operation of the steering wheel buttons with a DMM. I disconnected the wiring harness so I could probe the connector contacts. The buttons are multiplexed onto a small number of wires, basically presenting different resistances depending upon what button is pressed. Refer to a repair manual for the specific values. My buttons were all fine.

5. I removed the steering wheel (one bolt) as the clock spring is directly behind it.

6. I removed the ignition lock (insert key, press button on side, pull out) in order to be able to remove the steering column trim (more plastic to break) that covers the sides of the clock spring.

7. I disconnected the clock spring wiring harness, pressed in on a few clips, and pulled off the clock spring. The clock spring and steering wheel have to be reinstalled in the same orientation later, so from this point forward I was really careful not to turn the steering wheel shaft for any reason.

8. I then checked for continuity of the wires from the connector on the steering wheel side to the connector on the back side wiring harness. Surprisingly, everything was great. So the problem was elsewhere.

9. The cruise control actuator is under the driver's side fender, so I pulled the inner wheel well. I could see that rodents had chewed up my wiring harness, so was pretty confident I had found the problem.

10. To get the fender off, I first had to pull a headlight, disconnect the bumper on one side, pull some other trim, then finally the fender.

11. I unwrapped the harness (cut off the tape with a knife) to see the damage.

12. I cut all the wires at the worst points so that I would be able to slide heat shrink tubing onto each.

13. I put heat shrink tubing over any places where just the insulation was damaged.

14. I cut the wires apart where they were frayed, then soldered each joint back together.

15. I wrapped the wires with electrical tape, and had cruise control again.

16. I put everything back together, but really this ought to be your mechanic doing all of this.

Step 5: Headlights

I had to pull one of the headlights in order to pull the fender to fix my cruise control. While doing that I noticed how yellowed my headlight plastic had become. So I decided to pull the other one too and clean them both up. The plastic had crazed so a simple washing wouldn't do.

1. Remove the headlight clips (two vertical fasteners near the back you pull out by hand)

2. Disconnect the wiring harnesses (twist and pull the connectors, not uncommon for the plastic clips to break)

3. Wet sand the plastic starting with a coarse grit (around 220) and progressively down to something relatively fine (around 600 grit). I was feeling lazy so I grabbed my rotary sander. If you aren't careful this can result in swirls on the surface of the plastic. You don't want to go to an ultra-fine grit as you want some roughness to help the paint adhere.

4. Thoroughly dry and wipe off the surface.

5. Paint with a crystal clear, high gloss spray paint made for plastics. I applied two coats. The paint should be available at your local home improvement store.

6. Installation is the reverse of disassembly.

Step 6: Miscellaneous

There were a bunch of other minor things I did, but I'll just let you watch the video rather than describing it all in boring text. I hope you enjoy the circuitous path I took that all started with a squeaky clutch...

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