Killer Kong Project Mini Update: Wiper Motor Resurrection

If there was one thing that we’ve tried to keep from our ongoing ’69 Dodge Charger project car “Killer Kong,” it would be unnecessary bells and whistles. Although rolling out of the factory with a center console, we opted to go without. The AM/8-track player? Same thing. We’ve got one of Classic Industries‘ radio plates instead. Air conditioning? Nope. Power steering? No thanks, skinnies up front don’t require it. Hey, how about power brakes? Yeah, we ditched those too.

No radio, heater, A/C or center console! It's as primitive as can be. While we're still not done with Kong's interior, you can see that the once A/C-equipped Charger is now free of all that extra stuff that'll just weigh us down from running 10-second passes.

We’re not going to lie, we were pretty up-in-the-air when it came to running windshield wipers on Killer Kong up until we got the email back from Jules D’Addio, “The Wiper Motor Man.”

Yea or Nay?

Having taken the dashboard apart, we were looking at ways to whittle away unnecessary weight while keeping our ’69 Dodge Charger looking – at least to the untrained eye – pretty stock, and doing away with the wiper motor, drive links, arms, and blades was a quick way to drop a few pounds without much ado.

The problem was that we kept looking at that big gaping hole in the firewall thinking, “Man, we should’ve welded that up before going to paint.” The same went for the wiper holes in the front cowl. Seeing that we hadn’t filled these when we had the chance, we fell back on our, “When in doubt, leave it stock” philosophy. Coming from Ma’ Mopar with a handful of creature comforts, included on that list was Chrysler’s 3-speed wiper motor.

Forty-two years can have a toil on a piece of equipment. Our wiper motor's wiring was all but non-existent and every surface was grimy and blackened. From this first glance, we had a lot to do.

It might not look too rough here, but this was taken after a couple hours of scouring with some pretty caustic cleaners. The armature barrel had lost its finish and was oxidizing inside and out.

The armature barrel's factory dichromate zinc-plating has all but faded over its 42 years. The complete 3-speed was disassembled to assess the condition of all the internal components. Note the rust on the rotator, the cracked and/or non-existent shrink wrapped wire sheathing. No wonder it wasn't working.

The base trim-level Chargers – as well as other Chryslers – typically came with a simple two-speed wiper motor, while higher-optioned models came with the snazzier three-speed. While this might be riveting stuff to you performance lovers, it was a nice find on our project car, particularly as a cursory search on eBay Motors showed that similar motors in equally rough shape went for a few hundred dollars.

With all of the hard parts back from the plating shop, like the armature barrel, motor body, end plate, and motor plate, Jules D'Addio began reassembling the wiper motor back to original condition using new brushes, brush springs, wire insulation, shrink caps, and gaskets.

Seeing that we had a pretty pricey part on our hands, we figured it was best to give it a new lease on life and get it back to like-new condition. That’s why we reached out to Mr. D’Addio.

Enter: The Wiper Motor Man

Jules started off as just like many in this industry, as an enthusiast tinkering with his first Mopar, a ’69 Dodge Charger R/T. A fastidious stickler for detail, Jules slowly started taking apart everything that he felt needed restoration.

This snowballed over time, as more and more components were being disassembled, restored and completed. His efforts began to get noticed too, leading to friends asking Jules to restore their parts too.

Seeing how his passion had become a new-found source of income, Jules began restoring wiper motors and selling them on eBay. From that point, Jules branched out into steering columns, heater boxes and E-Body Rallye dashes. And the rest, they say, is history…

The poor condition of our 3-speed wiper motor was really only cosmetic, save Jules valuable time. The rotator needed only to be walnut blasted to bring it back to as-new. Being reassembled with the newly replated components, the replated base plate was attached to the rotator. The wire windings were cleaned and rewrapped in new sheathes. New cardboard sleeves were inserted as well.

Jules uses both plastic shrink wrap and nylon sleeves - just like the factory did - in rewrapping the wires. Even NOS shrink end caps were used to complete the wiring.

That was 27 years ago. Jules is still known among the Mopar crowd as “The Wiper Motor Man” and deservedly so. Simply bouncing around a handful of classic Mopar forums and seeing all of the happy clients made our decision easy, we were going to Jules.

With the armature fully assembled, we tightened down the two long screws that run the length of the barrel and thread into the aluminum motor body.

Bit By Bit

Disassembling the motor started with removing the plate covering the gear set. Noting the small tab marking it, we used this point to mark where to reassemble it.

Inside of the housing, the lever attached under the cover fits into the mechanism operating the gear. Jules studiously cleaned and restored each component to ensure its operation for another 42 years.

The larger components like the armature barrel, aluminum motor gear body, end plate and motor plate were sent off to the plating shop, the rotator was walnut blasted to gently remove the surface rust thus enabling a better conducting surface.

Once returned, the end plate – which was clear zinc plated – is outfitted with new brushes and new brush pressure springs. Reattaching the rotator to the end plate, the windings were cleaned and wrapped in new wire sheathes.

The armature barrel, now freshly plated in dichromate zinc, was polished to remove any surface blemishes before being reinstalled. New short circuit-protective cardboard were slipped in between the armature base and the rotator before seating the barrel.

Reassembling the wiper motor went rather quickly. A new worm gear was installed as our original was pretty rotted, but the original shaft, arm, and other components only required a little cleaning and some fresh machine grease to ensure another 40-plus-years of life.

The insulation on our wiper motor’s wires had all but crumbled off. Since they’re small, solid wires they’re prone to breaking. New OEM-colored nylon and shrink-wrapped wires were installed, connected by NOS shrink cap connections.

The final step in the restoration of our 3-speed wiper motor was a liberal dollop of ochre red sealant. This keeps the soldered wire points from the elements.

This allowed the armature to be fully assembled and buttoned up, leaving the motor to be completed.

Reassembling the motor drive went together rather effortlessly as Jules has done this countless times before. With the head reinstalled with a new replacement worm gear and restored shaft (the gear will require a little wiggling to get it back on), all of the components were properly lubed and capped with a new switch plate gasket.

The switch plate – which was correctly plated – was rewired with each of the new wires soldered in their original factory locations.

With both the armature and motor reassembled, Jules buttoned up the wiper motor, and installed a new NOS foam gasket for where the wiper motor mates to the firewall. When returned to ‘Kong, it was, by far, the most factory-correct piece on our car. Jules did truly an amazing job, and is worthy of every word of praise his near-30-year career has earned him.

 

 

About the author

Kevin Shaw

Kevin Shaw is a self-proclaimed "muscle car purist," preferring solid-lifter camshafts and mechanical double-pumpers over computer-controlled fuel injection and force-feeding power-adders. If you like dirt-under-your-fingernails tech and real street driven content, this is your guy.
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