Gone Exploring, Part Two. Mea Culpa.
|photo source: turmarion word press.com|
Yes, It's all on me. Sorry.
I'm more than willing to accept my part in this fiasco. It would have been better if I had changed out that serpentine belt and pulleys.
Of course, something else could have happened anyway. But I broke my cardinal rule: never take off on a long trip with a vehicle that you know has problems. I'd heard that belt whispering (!) to me.
I'm a big believer that vehicles telegraph their potential problems and imminent failures. The owner just has to pay attention and take the proper preventive actions.
Like not taking that car so far from home. But I did it anyway, leaving myself open for the wrath of the Road Gods to smite me.
Years ago I wrote a post about the trust factor, and how to have it with old cars. It can be a very difficult thing to achieve.
A new car is a new car. Obviously. All of it's parts and pieces are brand new. They've still got their entire original service life ahead of them. The original buyer enjoys that sense of security and reliability and if something should go wrong, at least they are covered by the warranty. What exactly is the original, trouble free life span of a car?
Opinions vary, but my estimate is between 75-100,000 miles.
Once the miles accrue past a certain point, problems are sure to develop. Things wear out.
Does this mean that owners of older, high mileage cars can never go on a long road trip? First issue is, how long is long?
The second is...
How far are you willing to walk? ...Cue the rim shot!
The most critical thing is, do you really know what condition your car is in?
I mean really know.
Later on I'm going to develop a post about documentation. I am notorious for lack of documentation and records keeping.
Besides records, it's important to become in tune with your machine. As I've said, I really do believe that failing components will give some type of warning.
Usually a noise, vibration, miss, or leak. Or a failure to perform as it should.
Sometimes the driver will notice a stumble, hesitation or vibration in the motor, transmission or chassis.
Or a malfunction, such as the a/c not cooling, the heater not heating, or the power steering pump not providing the needed boost.
Leaking is a good indication of an impending problem, especially if the component should run out of oil or fluid, leading to disastrous failure.
Back in the Day if an accessory unit like the a/c pump, alternator, or power steering pump went out, it was possible to isolate the unit and run the V belts to the needed accessory like the water pump. Now with serpentine belts that's almost impossible.
There's no excuse for running a tire down to the cord, or for ignoring a leaking radiator, gasket or hose. Who wouldn't notice a corrosion caked battery terminal?
Somethings will fail without warning, their only indication being their age and mileage. Fuel pumps and batteries are like that.
Other things are regular service items. These are items that should be changed at a specified interval to avoid sudden failure. "Whaaaaaaaat? You mean that I should replace something before it breaks?
photo source: memegenerator.net
It's not like you didn't know that there weren't any free rides!
You do have a choice, pay up front or pay later, but know that you will pay! If not immediately in money, then in hassles and aggravation.
If you want the ultimate in reliability then you pay for a brand new car. Everything else is a compromise, to varying degrees.
It all comes down to the green, how much money do you have available to spend, and how much money are you willing to spend?
There are some people that never drive an old car, they lease a new one every two to three years. Some might call them the smartest people. Then there are those that buy, but trade it in well before the vehicle reaches 100,000 miles. You might call those the most practical people. Then there are those that buy at the over 100,000 mark, You might call those the people that are forced to live with risk. That leaves those that buy 10, 20, or more years old! Those are usually hands on hobbyists. They claim to know what they getting themselves into. This reminds me a a somewhat cruel joke.
A little boy asks his Mother a question. "Mom what happens to cars when they get so old, so beat up, and so worn out that they don't run anymore?" The Mother gets a tired expression on her face and answers,"Someone sells them to your Father!"
It's your choice and your chance.
When I bought my Explorer it was 20 years old with over 230,000 miles on the clock. It started easily and idled smoothly and steadily at 600 rpm. Only a healthy motor does that. It had just passed the smog test, that told me that the motor wasn't blowing clouds of smoke out the pipe. The motor was clean and didn't leak any oil. The a/c worked. There was a thick file of repair and maintenance work orders. The front control arms had been replaced within the last couple of years, the a/c compressor also. The rear brakes had just been done and there was a work order and receipt for a transmission rebuild. It had been done almost 100,000 miles before, but at least it had done!
A test drive verified that this had been a well cared for vehicle. The front tires were good and they never showed indications of uneven wear even after the five years that I owned it. It tracked and steered straight and steady. The interior was clean with only the front seat bottoms cracked, the body was straight and the paint was almost 70% presentable. A little cleaning, polishing and detailing and it was something that I was proud to be seen in. Even my Wife was not ashamed to be seen in it.
My Wife has always been cool with my cars, she is one of those people that only judge the pilot on the landing, so if we make it back from a trip without incident, that's her measure of success. She doesn't concern herself about the car, it's my job to deliver a serviceable vehicle for our needs, she has never second guessed my assertion that one of our cars is "good to go."
It takes work and money to keep a vehicle in reliable shape. Lately it has been my energy and commitment that has been lacking. I've been slacking off. I didn't change the belt and tensioner pulleys even though I had the parts in hand, and the opportunity. I suppose that we could have taken the '07 Mustang or even the '96 for that matter, It just would have been a cramped trip. It might have been an uneventful one though, but then again, maybe not.
The Explorer did not complete it's mission, while fixable, it just wasn't in the cards. The best option was to sell it to a dismantling company, Pick Your Part. We had to return to Riverside to complete some family business and I brought the pink slip with me and completed the deal. They sent a flat bed to pick it up.
Since I am one of those people that build a relationship with their vehicles, the parting was bitter sweet. Though the companies tow operator cut me a check for 770.00 right at the curb. That lessened the sting, but didn't completely erase it.
It isn't completely over, it never is.
Earlier this week we needed the truck to pick up a washing machine. I hadn't driven the truck in several weeks. The last time I looked closely at the battery terminals was when I had used the truck to jump start the XJS last month. They looked a bit encrusted, but the truck had been starting fine. I knew that I had replaced the battery a while back, but it wasn't that long ago. I remember that I was going to lend my truck to my oldest Daughter and her husband to haul their boat back to the delta. I was getting the truck ready and it wouldn't start, the battery was pretty old and wouldn't hold a charge, so I replaced it. That couldn't have been that long ago? Could it? I always keep the battery receipt in the owners manual which I keep in the glove box. Truth be told, it's the only receipt that I really keep track of.
We ended up stopping to get gas first, and wouldn't you know it, the truck wouldn't start! It had started fine several times that morning. I didn't have a single tool with me! I used to keep a little basic tool kit with me in every car. If I had a wrench I could have taken off the battery terminals and cleaned them off, maybe then it would have started. I have jumper cables, but I never carried them in my "New Cars," they were hanging on the wall in the garage. My new cars are now 14 years old and each has around 150,000 miles on them.
What I do have, and have had for many years is, Triple A. We called them and the ETA for the tow was an hour and a half. I thought that maybe I could jump the truck, so I went across the street to the other gas station with a bigger quickie mart, I didn't find any tools for sale there, but found a cheap set of jumper cables. Our youngest daughter was enroute, if the truck was towed we would need a ride home, anyway.
Triple A had a quicker response with a battery service truck, the tech removed and cleaned terminals and checked the voltage of the battery it was only around seven volts! It's very possible that the dirty terminals prevented the battery from charging properly. I found the battery receipt and was surprised that it was almost four years to the day that I had previously replaced the battery! How time flies.
The truck started with a jump and it's possible that it would charge itself up and be fine, at least for awhile. But how long would it last? Batteries pretty much only last five years at best and they fail suddenly and completely. I figured that I'd get a new battery at my local auto parts store. The tech said that they carried new batteries, but being the cheapskate that I am, I wanted to shop around first. My Wife asked why don't we just buy the battery right now, he would install it right there. We could be done with it. She wasn't mad at me for the truck's problem, although I think that if I'd kept the terminals clean and checked the battery regularly, we might have avoided the situation that we were currently in. Deferred maintenance slaps me in the face again!
Of course the battery might have been on it's last legs anyway. I didn't even have any tools with me. We ended up buying the Triple A battery. Was it more expensive than the auto store battery? Yeah a bit, but the battery that I bought for the '07 Mustang last year was 135.00, four years ago I paid 117.00 for the truck battery. My new battery set me back 175.00 but at least it came with a pro-rated warranty.
My embarrassment over my deferred maintenance and lack of tools stung worse than the price of the battery.
What kind of car guy am I anyway?
One who'd better get his act together, and soon.