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  1. #1
    The Black Knight Domino's Avatar
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    Smile PinkPiranha Takes You into the Garage

    My favorite Cannibal Cupcake has asked for help so I thought that I should start a bit of a thread about "first things first" car maintenance. If you know little or nothing about a car, I understand how intimidating the prospect of maintenance can be. I hope I can make it a tad less mysterious for you, lovely lady!

    So here we go!

    1) The car, proper. Is your car one you're already familiar with? I.e. a family car that you've inherited that was being driven regularly? Is your car a "new" acquisition, i.e. you've bought it new from a lot or used? My suggestion about this is to never buy a car second-hand from a source that is uninsured. You WILL want the option of returning the car (based on your state's "lemon law") if things go terribly wrong.

    Buying from Joe Nobody will most likely leave you in the lurch, esp if it's a flood damaged vehicle or one that's been fixed up after having a nasty accident (you won't be able to tell the frame is bent unless you know what to look for and particularly if the frame is bent only moderately... ) Don't risk it for your every day driver car!

    Familiarity with your car is important. Look in your glove box. Is the owner's manual there? It's a great place for basic servicing information. If you lack a manual, buying a secondary manual (such as Chilton's) may help, though I've found them to be a bit spotty.

    Take her/him to a trained mechanic for a good going over (esp the undercarriage) looking for holes, leaks, or failures in components that you will not be taking care of, like CV (constant velocity) joints, tie rods, shocks, brake lines/pistons, etc. Have the belts checked and if necessary, replaced. (Believe me, you don't want to be improvising when a belt breaks -- or in my case, completely shred away to nothing -- while on the road. Pantyhose don't always do the trick, esp with newer cars.)

    We want to be sure everything is in good working order at the outset. While you're at the mechanic, have them flush your cooling system, change the oil/filter, flush the transmission (in case the car has been sitting or has had it's systems exposed to a great deal of moisture from a leak), flush the brake lines and replace the shoes after inspecting the rotors/drums.

    2) Ok! Mr/Mrs. Awesome Car has been to the doctor and passes inspection. You are the proud new parent of a four-wheeled baby. It will scream and spit up on you if you don't look after it.

    Basic rules of thumb:

    *Tires (or tyres for you wacky UK-ers....) : You will not drive on anything less than 1/4 inch of tread. Anything lower is dangerous. Look at a car, consider how heavy it seems, then realize that it is making contact with the road at only four relatively small points -- a small section of rubber at any given time. This is why only a few inches of water will lift a car and sweep it into a river. Your tread is a non-negotiable part of the car. For those of you living in the US... take out a penny and stick it into the tread with Lincoln's head down. If his head disappears into the tread, you're good to go. If not, time to change those tires.

    Regular tire rotation (it can be either two wheel, or four wheel rotation, based on your make and model of car) will get the most life from your tires. And tires can be expensive, so view them as an investment. You won't be rotating the tires yourself (trust me, you don't want to... after months of hugging tires and being covered in brake dust, you won't be charmed with the idea.)

    *Oil/Lubrication system: Negligence in this area will kill a car faster than any other. It's the pulmonary system of the car body. (I once knew a guy who bought a very old Subaru 4WD that never had it's old changed, only added as it baked or leaked away. To change the oil would cause the entire engine to fall apart. lol ) It's been debated between myself and my foreman many times about the whole "x,000 miles mandatory change" but playing it safe is best. Considering that many cars may inhale a great deal more dirt and dust than others, don't take a chance.

    Oil isn't just for floating the gaps between your main bearings or keeping the engine cooler, it's for washing away the sins of the road. It suspends grit and sends it through a filter which, depending on your car, will be able to filter anything from grit to metal shavings (!!!!, danger, Will Robinson!), but the gritty action of the nastiness floating in the oil will be abrasive to your baby's heart which makes frequent changes necessary.

    I won't advise about real vs. synthetic, but I will say, use your car's owner's manual for oil weight, and NEVER buy recycled oil. It will NEVER be fully rid of particulates. It's fine for two-strokes, like lawn mowers or chain saws, but never never a passenger vehicle!!

    How are we doing so far?
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  2. #2
    The High Priestess Amargith's Avatar
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    I actually like this idea. Anti social one told us about the Earth and geology, since he studies it, now Pink is sharing what she knows about cars. I would love to see this trend continue
    ★ڿڰۣ✿ℒoѵℯ✿ڿڰۣ★





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  3. #3
    Once Was Synarch's Avatar
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    Where do I put the liquid stuff?
    "Create like a god, command like a king, work like a slave."

  4. #4
    Artisan Conquerer Halla74's Avatar
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    Yay! Awesome post!

    I just had the brake drums (sp?) ground down on the family min-van. The guy who did the brake job is an honest, reputable mechanic. He told me something I've never heard before. He said to have the lug nuts on the tires hand tightened to the manufacturer's specs (77 pounds for the Sienna mini-van), and that when tire shops use the air gun on all the lugs, they are (a) usually locked down too tight, and (b) not all tightened to the same tension. He indicated that such erroneous work done when tires are simply rotated or installed sets the brakes up for premature wear and tear.

    Do you have an opinion on this info I have just been pitched, oh wise and powerful Pink one?

  5. #5
    The Black Knight Domino's Avatar
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    Since I've touched on the Lubrication system, let's stop there and take a look at what you can do to keep it happy!

    1. Get your owner's manual, flip to the section about routine maintenance. The suggested interval for oil changes should be listed there. You won't be changing your own oil unless you're feeling brave and want to get dirty (so I can tell you how if you want to! haha! It requires a case of oil, a filter, a drain pan, and enough clearance to wiggle under your car? Already hate the idea? Good!).

    The manual will also tell you which filter to use. Now, over the years, I've had many conversation with my foreman about filters that use an emergency override vent plug -- those are only for those of you planning to severely neglect your baby!! (Or to have a catastrophic melt-down of one's blower during a road race having the engine inhale vast amounts of metal shavings that clog the system... ahem...) You may use one of those filters, but be advised, if a clog THAT BAD occurs, and the override plug pops out, it will be allowing oil to bypass into the system again, complete with vile nastiness that may further damage the engine.

    2. There should be a diagram of the engine bay. It will show you where your dipstick is located. Be sure your engine is cool when you do this check so you can get a good gauge of what's actually in the car. Hot oil is thinner. With clean rag handy, pull out the dipstick and observe where the oil line hits. The dipstick should have a very convenient demarcation on it, telling you how low you are on oil. If it indicates a need for a top off, locate your oil cap. Unscrew the cap, and start by adding clean oil half a bottle at a time (over filling is also bad news so take it in stages). Check the stick. Add a little more. Check the stick again. When levels are in the "good" range, replace the dipstick and be sure the oil cap is on tight.

    YAY! You just checked your oil system!
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  6. #6
    Seriously Delirious Udog's Avatar
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    Awesome post, The Pink! Thank you.

    Do you have any thoughts on how to differentiate between an honest mechanic and one that devours the souls of little baby children?

  7. #7
    The Black Knight Domino's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Halla74 View Post
    Yay! Awesome post!

    I just had the brake drums (sp?) ground down on the family min-van. The guy who did the brake job is an honest, reputable mechanic. He told me something I've never heard before. He said to have the lug nuts on the tires hand tightened to the manufacturer's specs (77 pounds for the Sienna mini-van), and that when tire shops use the air gun on all the lugs, they are (a) usually locked down too tight, and (b) not all tightened to the same tension. He indicated that such erroneous work done when tires are simply rotated or installed sets the brakes up for premature wear and tear.

    Do you have an opinion on this info I have just been pitched, oh wise and powerful Pink one?

    He's very correct. General run-of-the-mill (and even sometimes dealerships... *steam*) will be lazy and use air guns to tighten a whole SLEW of things they shouldn't. I discovered a gradual and UNFIXABLE leak in my Silverado's oil pan (I'd thought it was the gasket, but NO!!) because some dork had gunned it, permanently warping my pan out of shape just enough to weep oil everywhere (the smell of oil burning on a hot exhaust pipe will make you mad enough to go back to the servicer and bite their ears off).

    There's no excuse but laziness for abusing an air gun.

    Lug nuts should be hand tightened, yes, initially, but if you aren't a trained mechanic, you won't know what 77 ft/lbs of torque feels like. Tighten the lugs with your hand, and then get out your torque wrench. You'll be going up in stages, not 77 ft/lbs all at once. There's also a pattern to follow. Like a star. Cross, cross, cross, cross... Not in a circle!!

    He gave you good advice, Halla.
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  8. #8
    The Black Knight Domino's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Udog View Post
    Awesome post, The Pink! Thank you.

    Do you have any thoughts on how to differentiate between an honest mechanic and one that devours the souls of little baby children?
    This has been a huge point of frustration even for me. I know several guys still in the business who are reputable, but only because I know them personally. Dealerships may "train" their mechanics on their own cars, but I've found a LOT to be desired with dealership mechanics (esp with dealership prices which can be outrageous).

    The trouble with cars now is that they've become so sophisticated that your average grease monkey isn't going to be adequate to the task.

    The INTP I used to date is a master tech, gets shipped all over the country to train and retrain because the cars keep morphing.

    Nowadays, word of mouth is a big deal. I know in Triangle area of NC, there's at least one or two sites that include ratings from actual users who include their experiences. When I was still in the business, I felt good about being able to talk to women about their cars and point them toward a good mechanic who wouldn't rip them off or spew car jargon at them like they were stupid.

    My mother's mechanic, Boyce, finally retired. It was very depressing. He could fix most anything and not overcharge.
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  9. #9
    in-game Gamine's Avatar
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    I heart you Pink. So much.

    So my new baby passed all the tests, they told me things were working just fine. Bought it from a dealer, brand new, went from 10km on it to 400km in two weeks haha. I'm so in love. But otherwise, are there diagnostic ways to recognize a problem myself? I have a lot of traveling to do this summer on my own, are there things I should look out for in terms of my baby's health? I know to watch for my oil light (but by then, isn't it usually too late?), but what else?
    "Beware Those Who Are ALWAYS READING BOOKS" - Bukowski

  10. #10
    The Black Knight Domino's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by TwinkleToes View Post
    I heart you Pink. So much.
    I heart you too. *takes a fingerful of your pink icing*

    So my new baby passed all the tests, they told me things were working just fine. Bought it from a dealer, brand new, went from 10km on it to 400km in two weeks haha. I'm so in love.
    hahaha, holy moly! You're a drivin' fool! I loved being out by myself driving around. I did a lot of running up and down the road.

    But otherwise, are there diagnostic ways to recognize a problem myself? I have a lot of traveling to do this summer on my own, are there things I should look out for in terms of my baby's health? I know to watch for my oil light (but by then, isn't it usually too late?), but what else?
    Let me ask you - what year, make, and model are you driving?

    The oil light will usually come on when it's getting below the last mark on the dipstick. It's not too late to add oil, just obey the light the first time you see it. I know how it is getting really busy and forgetting to check the oil levels. Everyone does that, so don't blame yourself if the light comes on.

    I once had a mysterious situation with my Silverado. I couldn't clear it up no matter what I did. It was a "no power" problem. I rolled the dratted thing into the garage every day, even went so far as to bend a paper clip, override the rudimentary on-board computer and pull logged codes from the system. No help at all! There were no less than six boys and two foreman under the hood with their butts hanging out, scratching their heads in puzzlement.

    The answer: I ultimately struck on it. OIL. You have no idea how stupid I felt. The truck had been eating oil, burning it, globbering it out. I had topped the oil not too long before, but had no idea I had such a consumption problem. That was part of the "getting to know you" phase, I guess! *laughs*

    I'll make another post about "gonna be driving around like a drivin' fool this summer"!
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