I just drove nearly 700 miles in my 1985 Jeep J10 pickup, and encountered a failure so absurd, I’m still not sure I believe it: My speedometer is leaking buckets of oil onto my feet as I drive. While this may not seem like a big concern, it could actually be quite dangerous, which is why I will mend this seemingly impossible fault as soon as possible.
As the curator of a collection of old, cheap vehicles, I’ve come to expect certain mechanical failures. Bad wheel bearings, worn suspension parts, leaky transfer cases, worn out brake parts, compromised cooling system components—it’s all par for the course. But sometimes a car fails in a way I could never have anticipated. That’s what happened to my Jeep J10.
Shortly after rebuilding and installing its four-speed manual transmission, I noticed that the truck’s speedometer began bouncing. It seemed to become more erratic each day until, eventually, it reached a point where the gauge read over 100 mph when the vehicle was slowly crawling through a parking lot. The speedometer is useless at this point and, while that would be a much bigger deal if the vehicle weren’t so overweight and underpowered, it’s still not great.
But not knowing how fast I’m driving isn’t even remotely my biggest problem.
Around the same time that the speedometer started acting up, I noticed dark fluid dripping from the base of the dash. I’ve been living with it for a few months now, allowing the oil to saturate my shoes and pants legs, figuring that whatever oil was in the speedometer would eventually run out and I’d just pull the gauge and rebuild the clearly broken speedo later. But the oil never stopped gushing. It was a seemingly endless geyser that, during my trip to North Carolina, became a significant problem.
On Monday, after pulling off the highway and driving slowly around truck stops on my way from…