I finally got a friend to weld up all those body cracks I had where the awning used to attach. But I've discovered some alarming new cracks.
This first crack worries me the most. It is visible inside the front passenger-side wheel well. It's about 2" long, in that rectangular-tubular section of the body right where it meets the frame-attachment bushing (or whatever it's called). I suspect this is why I now hear ominous creaking/groaning sounds whenever the front end flexes:
I also see another crack (a bit smaller) in the same wheel well - in front of where the shock attaches. Doesn't seem as important.
Finding these cracks made me decide to cut my Baja trip last month short.
Then my new radiator (1-year-old) cracked and started leaking just like the old one did last year while I was in Baja. I strongly suspect this is from the front end flexing more than it should. The water seems to be coming out of the black plastic "tank" crimped onto the bottom of the radiator.
A mechanic friend tells me the van may not have been designed to endure the amount of flexing my 4x4 gets exposed to.
Any of you also seeing cracks in the body of your 4x4 Fords?
I fear my old van may be nearing the end of its usable life...