|Home||Diplomat Info||Registry||Upgrades||Photos||Links||Farley||Site Tools||Manual||Forum|
Article as it appeared in Bottom Line Personal. Image scans of article at bottom of page.
|Frank Billington's Car Still Runs Smoothly After
His Car-Care Tricks That Have Kept It Running Well for 20 Years Now. - -
One of the best ways to save money on a new or used car is to make the car you own now last as long as possible.
With proper care, a car can last hundreds of thousands of miles. I still drive my 1979 four-door Dodge Diplomat - even in the Wisconsin winters - and it now has 306,000 miles on the odometer.
While I'm not an auto mechanic, my father was and I have worked on cars since I was a teenager.
Here are my secrets for keeping a car running for 20 years or longer - many of them I learned from my father...
� Fix small problems right away. Little problems become expensive repairs in the future.
Helpful: I budget $500 to $1,000 a year for maintenance and repairs. Having the money already set aside keeps me from dismissing what needs to be done immediately.
Example: I fill in the nicks in my windshield before every winter and summer. Temperature changes can cause a chip to spread into a crack as the glass expands and contracts. A new windshield can cost as much as $1,500. But a windshield repair kit, available at auto-parts stores for about $10, will do the job.
My favorite: Permatex Bullseye Wind-shield repair kit 877-376-2839. Under $10.** See commentary at bottom of page
� Install a screen behind the car's front grille. It prevents gravel, road debris and bugs from plugging up your condenser and cooling system. Replace the screen once a year
� Install a mud flap behind each wheel - to prevent debris from flying up and scratching the car's body.
� Check belts and hoses. Belts snap and hoses leak at the most inconvenient times. Reduce the odds of either problem occurring by examining their condition once each season.
To check your hoses: Wait until the engine is cool. Then use your owner's manual to identify the cooling-system, vacuum and power steering hoses. Grab each hose near the hose clamp, and make sure it is tight and doesn't turn. Then look for bulges and swelling in the rubber. Squeeze it slightly. If the hose feels soft and mushy, it probably needs to be replaced.
To check your belts: Look for shiny or frayed rubber. Twist the belts a bit to reveal any cracks. Make sure each belt has the tight amount of slack. Push the belt gently. If it can be depressed more than one-half inch between the two pulleys that hold it in place, the belt needs to be tightened or replaced.
� Keep a record of how many miles per gallon your car gets. A 10% dip in mileage is an indicator of potential problems, such as a clogged fuel filter, a failing oxygen sensor or more serious problems. The earlier you troubleshoot a problem, the less damage it will cause to your car.
� Keep the exterior and interior looking sharp. Most people get rid of cars because they look terrible-not because the engine has become unsound. Steps to take...
Fix exterior scratches yourself with touch-up paint. A three-ounce bottle of your car's exact color can be purchased at a local auto-paint dealer for about $20. It comes with an applicator brush.
Trick: Before you start painting, cut the bristles of the paintbrush with a razor blade at a diagonal angle. This will allow you to be precise when painting. After the paint dries thoroughly, gently sand any high spots or ridges with 400- to 600-grit sandpaper. This gentle grit won't scratch older cars. For newer cars, use rubbing compound. If in doubt, contact your dealer.
� Consider replacing the interior of the car. A new interior can make you feel as if you have a new car. The best place to look for interiors-seats, dashboard, etc.-is at a local wrecking yard. Many nearly new cars are totaled in collisions that do almost no damage to the inside. Items usually cost 75% less than retail prices.
� Stick to your long-term maintenance schedule. Here's when and what your mechanic needs to do...
� Every 3,000 miles: Change the oil, and check your tire pressure.
� Every 10,000 miles: Check the brake system, not just the disks and drums.
� Every 15,000 miles: Check the air filter, fuel filter and PCV valve. Check boots for cracks and repack CV joints with grease.
� Every 30,000 miles...
Check the spark plugs and the condition of the wires leading to the plugs.
�change the coolant after flushing the system.
�get a wheel alignment. Do it sooner if you've had even a small accident
�change the transmission fluid and transmission filter.
� Every 60,000 to 90,000 miles:
Replace the timing belt and water pump.
Helpful: AC Delco's Web site (www.acdelco.com) offers a free on-line Driver's Log. It allows you to create a personalized car-maintenance schedule and track the procedures for up to seven vehicles.
� Drive defensively to extend longevity. There are several little things that can extend your car's life...
� Take your foot off the brake if you are headed for a pothole that you can�t avoid. Keeping the brakes applied could lock up the wheel as it hits the hole, making the impact more damaging.
� Treat the driver's side door carefully. Don't open it so hard that it bounces off the hinges, particularly when you're parked on a downhill slope. Squirt liquid-graphite oil into each lock at least twice a year to lubricate the minor parts. Squirt in WD-40 or silicon lube spray. Work the key in and out. Lube each door hinge at the hinge pins as well as the doorstop device. Spray WD-40 in the recesses of the door mechanism.
� Keep the radio off during the first five minutes of driving - so you can listen for abnormal sounds.
Examples: Clatter under my right front wheel once alerted me to a loose tie rod and worn ball joints. A squealing sound when I applied the brakes, accompanied by a slight shiver in the steering column, told me it was time to have the brake pads replaced.
� Avoid heavy key chains. The weight, hanging from the ignition switch, can wear away at the switch and cause the key to get stuck or malfunction.
Bottom Line/Personal interviewed Frank Billington IV, who drives a 1979 Dodge Diplomat and works for MPEX, the energy marketing division of Minnesota Power, a major Midwest utility company. His wife drives a 1987 Chrysler Fifth Avenue that has 167,000 miles.
** Commentary on "Permatex Bullseye Wind-shield repair kit"..... there are a few items in this article that I did not actually write or say when interviewed, that were apparently added by the magazine's writer from comments he picked up from other sources and subsequently attributed to me, and this was one of them. I was contacted by a reader of Farley's Page regarding this product, and he gave me the following report on his experience with this product:
"I applied it on my windshield last week and the result is that it doesn't work. The resin does fill in the chip, but the chip is still very visible. The resin which is now in the chip is a white color compared to the glass which is transparent. I still cannot see through the chip which makes this product useless. Now my chip on my windshield is simply a white colored chip. This stuff is almost like putting some Krazy Glue onto the chip."
So, I am leaving the article up in its uncut form, but felt it worthy gesture to post this true life experience from one person who actually used it, and was not satisfied.