Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Automotive Preparedness

If we’re going to be ready, our cars need to be ready too.

Recently I published a post on the trunk bags I created for my cars, recounting the process I went through in building them.

I have also done some posts on possible bug-out vehicles in a half-serious, half-humorous tone to explore possibilities.

The reality, though, is that vehicles are expensive and not everyone can afford to buy or build the ideal bug-out vehicle.

I’d love to have a Ram 3500 4x4 dually with the turbodiesel, but spending $70K on a pickup is too steep for me.

For most of us then, our bug-out vehicles are the ones parked in our driveways.

Is yours ready to go?

I am guilty of not checking tire pressure as often as I should, though I generally do a good job of tire rotation.

Once a month—maybe the first Saturday of the month—we should get into the habit of checking tire pressure and inspecting the car’s tires for any damage that could cause premature failure.

Not only does correct tire pressure contribute to better gas mileage and tire wear, it also causes the tire to run cooler. Under- and over-inflated tires can run hotter, increasing the risk of a blow out.

Tread depth is also another area where we should be mindful. Tires have tread wear indicators (TWI) for a reason and when tires are worn down to the TWI, it is time to get a new set. If you live where it rains more often, reaching the TWI could even be dangerous.

Front-wheel-drive cars need more frequent tire rotation for even wear.

Remember that in a front-wheel-drive vehicle, 60-70% of the weight is on the front tires and those tires not only drive the car but steer as well.

Back-to-front and front-to-back tire rotation on front-wheel-drive cars should probably occur every 5K miles.

These days, car manufacturers recommend oil changes every 7.5-10K miles, much longer than 3K miles that used to be the norm. The argument is that oil is better now so it lasts longer. MY argument is that oil and filters are cheap, so I will continue changing both at 3K miles.

These days, car manufacturers are downsizing engines and adding turbochargers in an effort to improve mileage.

Turbochargers put a lot more stress on an engine via increased heat and the turbochargers--themselves--are prone to self-destruction.

How to live with a turbo? Change the oil and filter more often than the manufacturer and use the correct oil for a turbo.

Also, let the oil temperature get hot by driving gently when you start in the morning before doing an banzai acceleration runs.

Then, before turning the engine off, let it idle a few minutes to allow the oil to cool down. This reduces the risk of the hot turbocharger “coking” the oil (i.e. burning the oil from a liquid to a sand-papery, gritty, solid).

On the anniversary of the purchase of your car, check the belts and hoses if you are competent to do so, or have you dealer do the oil change so you can take advantage of their “free” examination of your vehicle’s status.

If you buy a used car, my advice would be to invest immediately in new belts, hoses, antifreeze, oil, filter, and battery.

Also, have the brakes examined and if the pads and rotors are at half of their usable life or less, invest in replacement.

Car maintenance is expensive, but you depend on your vehicle to be reliable and to serve at a moment’s notice.

Spending a little more to make sure everything is in tip-top shape not only brings peace of mind, but also gives you an advantage in a true crisis situation.

Prepare to motor!

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