We started this column with the NRV News in June 2006 following other publishers in the NRV area-principally Floyd County. I hope not to repeat myself, but there are so many new readers that some overlap will happen. Bear with me. I maintain my own vehicles and in so doing they are all 30 plus years and in top shape. Having a residence and garage is a big help with the proper tools to do simple routine maintenance, necessary for performance.
Let us start with an oil change not only on your automobile but your lawnmower, tillers, snow blowers, and any other 4-cycle engines you have about. Winter use usually dictates in your owners manual 10-30W HD automotive oil- not diesel oil unless you have a diesel engine in your auto, generator or tractor. You will also need to change the oil filter assembly which today is just screw on canisters. Oil filters are easily removed with a special grabber chain tool or simply ram a screwdriver through the canister and twist left. Catch the oil in a large oil pan. Also the engine oil pan needs draining.
The problem with home mechanics is getting under the vehicle, which is a matter of grave safety. You must have a wheel jack stand under each wheel. You cannot use safely old wheels, logs and wobbly jack tire-bumper stands. You need a proper jack. Usually the inexpensive floor jack is sufficient to jack up each corner of the vehicle and slide a jacjkstand under each wheel axel following manufacturers instructions. Once the vehicle is elevated you can remove all sorts of interesting maintenance parts.
One of the major causes of engine failure is not changing the oil and filter. I change mine every winter no matter how many miles on the vehicle or use of the smaller utility engines since moisture collects in the oil, forms acids and this adds to the wear. Oil is cheap-buying a new vehicle is not cheap.
I prefer to use an engine 5-minute flush when I drain the block. The old timers view of using kerosene is no longer recommended in modern cars.
When the block is drained and the filter removed I turn the engine on for 10 seconds, which gets rid of the old oil in the oil pressure pump. As the old oil dribbles out into the oil collection canister you can be taking the brand new quality Percolator or Fran oil filter filling it up with clean oil and wiping oil on the rubber ring so that when you hand tighten it back on the block ¾ of a turn in tightness it forms a tight no leak seal.
Replace the drain plug on the block, if it seems to not tighten well you can in advance purchase an oversize threaded drain plug from ADVANCE AUTO PARTS or other auto parts store. Fill the oil filler usually at the top of the engine block on a valve cover with the recommended amount of oil. Start the auto to see if the oil pressure is coming up to par, and then shut off. Pull out the dipstick, wipe it clean and re-insert it and pull it out. You will probably be a bit down so just top off what you need to the FULL mark on the dipstick.
While you are looking at the interesting parts under the auto check the radiator to block cooling hoses, the big fat ones. They should be firm and not spongy soft, which indicates they are going to blow on you when you are in the middle of nowhere. Change them with new ones, preferably with a spring inside for collapse support. No radiator fluid means overheating. Actually the radiator needs to be drained-warm every two or three years and fresh antifreeze reinstalled. There is a petcock drain plug at the bottom of the radiator that will drain it. Remove the top radiator cap so a vacuum does not form. All radiator antifreeze solutions are about the same and in this area it is best to dilute to about 20 or more below zero protection. If you look down into the radiator and see lots of goo and clogs as well as overheating it is best to have a radiator shop pull the radiator and clean it properly as most of the 5-minute radiator cleaner additives are not efficient. What is often forgotten is your rear end differential- the fat center part of your drive axel and 4 wheel drives have one in front and back. The oil in these axels needs to be drained and restored every 10,000 miles and notice the little pop up cap on the axel, which is a pressure release valve. Clean this off. If you are an Off Roader and running through creeks you can slip a rubber hose over this cap, clamp it, and run it up above the floorboards with a lawnmower air filter canister. This keeps the water and sand out of the axel. (NOTE: carefully dispose of antifreeze, as it is poisonous to dogs, cats and wildlife).
All zert fittings need grease and the excess wiped off which collects grit. The 4X4 front axels, springs and such can be covered with White spray grease to keep the winter salt out.
Manual transmissions, automatic transmissions and gearboxes on 4X4’s need to be drained and refilled with manufacturers weight oil. This is done every 10,000 to 15,000 miles.
Check your shock absorbers for oil leaks, rubber bushings that are worn, and any general leaks especially if you are always replacing motor and transmission fluid. Tightening the bolts on the pan helps, however if it is a worn rubber front or rear bearing seal you will have to drop the pan and simply exchange to a new one- not a big deal. Buy an extra thick new gasket for the pan. Clean the pan well. Clean the rim with the boltholes and lay a film of automotive GOOP ™ on the gasket and pan rim and align the gasket so the holes match up. When set, apply another layer of GOOP on the block side of the gasket, lift off the pan and align and insert the pan bolts, tightening evenly back and forth, crossing the tightening sequence so that it is evenly tight. A torque wrench is a good investment.
Check the belts for tightness and if you hear squealing you have a loose belt, and a drop in performance. If the belts are cut, frayed, or worn -replace them. They will surely break out in the boonies. I carry spares. New cars use one big serpentine belt. You will need a picture diagram of the way it is interwoven among the pulleys before you change this or you will get lost.
If your auto runs cold in the middle of the blizzard and you want better heat, you can put in a new thermostat with gasket easily. New cars have electric fans for the radiator and a thermostat on-off heat sensor that usually gives out and sticks. Older cars have a fan/clutch mounted with the fan blades that wears out and needs to be replaced eventually.
Water pump leaks usually start with a dribble at the bottom of the pump which is belt driven. Most of the time to replace a water pump, everything has to be pulled out including the radiator and fan/shroud assembly. Have the shop do this all in one swoop. Do not skimp. Change the hoses, stainless steel clamps, fan clutch, fluids and put a lever lock radiator cap on the radiator to save your self a scalding.
Your local auto parts store sells Haynes™ picture books for all this maintenance on your specific vehicle. This is important with the new cars that have computer circuits on everything including the oil filler bolt and gas cap.
Basically lawnmowers and small engines need to be drained of old oil every 20 hours if there is no filter. Read your owners manual for bigger rigs. Always fill the new canister oil filter with oil and wipe oil on the gasket ring when changing.
If there are grease zert fittings, do give them some grease from your lever gun.
Belts in snow throwers will fail sooner than you think and it is wise to have an extra two on hand for this winter. Snow throwers work best if you spray some WD-40 ™ on the inside of the rotating blades to get the snow to slide off when running. Pick up all the hoses and toys before it snows and point the snow blower nozzle away from your windows.
All small engines are best drained of gasoline for the winter or the carburetors will gum up in the spring. Another good idea is to use a gasoline additive in the gas tank such as STABLE ™, which will keep the gas fresh and less gummy. That is what I do. If you use an additive top the tank off with gasoline or water accumulates. Also if there is a shut off valve on your small engine, shut this off and run the engine dry.
Sparkplugs for small engines are cheap since you only will replace one or two. Have extras and preset them for next season. On the automobile I have tried dozens of plugs and find different manufacturers work better than others- it becomes an exchange experiment over the years. Avoid Brazil and Mexican made plugs. Figure 5 or 6 bucks a plug for good ones.
Grease all the cables; wash the salt off, and wax your machines-they will last longer. For your automobile or truck, run it through a car wash next spring so you can get the salt out from underneath.
We have been thinking of a new modern luxury automobile and have recently driven some rentals. They are very nice. We did discover that the car rentals sell their cars after a few thousand miles and the dogs go to the auction houses. The best ones are sold to the public usually far under Blue Book. Diane did see a Hummer listed for me, but I am getting so old I prefer a Buick. I do not night drive and probably will get a horse in a few years. If I fall asleep the horse knows how to get back to the barn.
Drive safely and buckle up. We buckle up so that in a collision we are not thrown out onto the road and run over.