Saturday, September 6, 2014

The trust issue in cars, how do you achieve it? I posted an entry on the HAMB (Hokey Ass Message Board) several years ago when one of the guys was asking about driving his old station wagon to a car show a couple of hundred miles away. He wanted to take his family and he was wondering if his car was road worthy enough to make it. Safety is always the biggest issue, but any breakdown can be a huge inconvenience and hassle. Being stuck on the side of the road with your wife and kids will be a huge ordeal. You know you will hear about it for years. You might miss a day of work if you cut it close, it might be a good idea to factor in an extra day for the return trip. You could make the trip in a caravan with a buddy or two. This way your buddies could help out or at least get your family home while you stay behind with the car. Triple A is also a good idea, especially if you have the two hundred mile tow range. (You can also string together two tows to double the range).

Preparation is always the best idea though. My 96 Mustang has around 180k and I figure it could easily run above 200k (probably around 250k ). If it can last for at least another 20k why wouldn't it do two or three thousand miles at once? The pistons and valves aren't going to wear out overnight. If the oil pressure is good then the chance of throwing a rod should be minimal. If the compression is good than the headgasket should stay together. Pulling the head, cleaning up the combustion chamber, and replacing the head gasket is not too difficult on an older car, Changing the timing chain is also good insurance.

I answered the guy's question this way:

Any long trips are just a series of shorter ones. If your car can handle a 100 mi. trip reliably, without requiring the following:adding multiple quarts of fluids, (except gas in the tank) changing fouled plugs,clogged gas filters,flushing the radiator, replacing the thermostat, fanbelts, water pump, jumping the battery,replacing blown fuses,rehanging the exhaust system, patching the gas tank,rebuilding the brakes, replacing tires worn to the cords, the clutch isn't slipping, the auto trans is still automatic, rebuilding the brakes, replacing the generator/alternator, your turn signals, headlights, signal lights, windshield wipers, heater still work, you may have a driver!

I think that it is real important that the car track as straight as possible, and that the steering have only a small amount of freeplay, (although I drove some sloppy junk when I was younger). This is important, because while you may feel that you can live with it on short trips, on a long trip, due to fatigue you might let it drift way off line and then suddenly overcompenste to pull it back in the lane. Every bad trait in the steering/suspension will come out and bite you in the ass and you could lose it! Don't take a chance with your and your families' lives, not to mention anyone unfortunate enough to be around you if that should occur. Be sure you have good seatbelts.

A final thought. If you drive the car for an hour at freeway speeds and then stop, and it idles smooth, doesn't heat up, and will start right up in five minutes, that's a good sign. Enjoy the drive.

Monday, September 1, 2014

This summer I'm taking a long roadtrip so I'm taking  one of my newer vehicles.. The first leg of the trip was from the SF Bay area to Klamath Falls Oregon, a distance of around 430 miles. The drive made for a long day after a late start and I was pretty tired when I arrived, even with working a/c. I remember I made the same trip about fifteen years ago in my 1966 Buick Riviera. The ROA (Riviera Owners assoc.) was having their annual get together in Klamath Falls so I wanted to attend driving my Riv. I was taking my wife and two kids so I was really concerned about reliability, safety, and comfort (maybe not so much). Yes the car did look kind of ugly, the paint was splotchy and rusty and the windows were sealed with duct tape, but it was slammed running wide whites with Moon discs. In a twisted way I thought it was cool in a "rat roddy" kind of way. Mechanically it was in good shape. It didn't  leak or burn much oil (no smoking exhaust). It ran cool so no overheating worries. Of course the a/c didn't work. I found that the "flow thru" ventilation didn't and my kids almost had a heat stroke before I opened the windows. The biggest problem was that the fuel gauge didn't work, so I figured at ten mpg I could go right around 200 miles. Well the odometer worked so I should have figured on only about 125 miles range but I pushed it of course. What I didn't realize that there wasn't a gas station every other block that stayed open all night. I had a couple of very tense episodes looking for gas. I only ran out of gas once, and that was in front of the hotel. The return trip was uneventful.

I had taken this car down to Paso Robles before and used it for daily commuting and local round trips of around sixty miles or so, but you never know...

The vehicle I'm driving right now broke down on me last summer on the way back from Las Vegas, over three hundred miles from home. (At least it waited until then!) The a/c compressor seized up on me with only about 79k. Still you fix it and move on.  So the question is "How can you trust your old car?"   That's a good question.

If you can't reasonably trust your car then it's nothing but a big toy. You can drive it around town but no further than you care to walk. This of course makes perfect sense. My Dad always reffered to fixed up or restored cars as "Sunday cars" because that was the only time they are ever driven. He reffered to customized cars as "homemade cars." This was not meant as a compliment. My Dad would work on and fix anything, he just didn't see the point of making more work for yourself.

I think it all depends on the condition of the vehicle. If it is clearly worn out then it makes sense to stay close to home. But the question is how worn out?  If you go to buy new tires the salesperson will always reccommend a four wheel alighnment and new shocks and struts. I asked him why, this was for one of my good cars that had only about 60k on it, this was the first set of replacement tires. He said oh, the shocks are at least half worn out and it would be a good idea. I told him that the car tracked perfectly straight so why the alignment?  If the shocks are half worn out, then why not rebuild my motor too, since it also is half worn out? Obviously I am not the ideal customer.

My old 66 F250 had a very worn motor, the oil pressure would drop enough that when hot, the oil pressure warning light would come on. I put a new oil pump in it and used 40 weight oil and this cured the problem, sort of. It would use a quart of oil every fifty miles. It didn't leak and it didn't even seem to smoke except on hard acceleration. I drove it on a 250 mile round trip to Santa Rosa to pick up a replacement motor and used five quarts of oil.That was the single longest trip I made. Still I put at least six or seven thousand miles on it driving it to the dump and to work. I fixed the brakes, and the tranny was fine. I replaced the turn signal switch and had it painted. I kept that truck for three years before I sold it to a buddy of mine with the replacement motor in the bed. Now I knew that if I put the boots to that motor with a heavy load and high speeds there was a good chance that I would blow that motor, so I kept it down to 55-60 mph. So if your car has good oil pressure,idles pretty smoothly ( indicating  fairly good compression) doesn't smoke, under normal driving, make knocking or clanking sounds  or overheat than I would consider driving it to a car show several hundred miles away. (As long as the brakes, tires and chassis are in similar condition).