Maintenance

Maintaining a vehicle is something that never goes away, it’s a constant concern, especially if you are living in, or out of it.  Sure, when a vehicle is new, it can go for quite a while before anything goes wrong, but usually when things start to go wrong, they start falling like dominoes.  Everything is so closely engineered now to last for a certain length of time.  Of course, environmental conditions, and driving habits can hasten the need for maintenance on a vehicle too.  But, once a vehicle has passed the first few years, it will be necessary to keep an eye on all the systems, and try to avoid being left in the middle of nowhere with a broken down vehicle.

When you’re starting out with an older vehicle, it’s sometimes hard to decide what needs to be replaced, and what might last for a good while.  It’s especially hard if you don’t have deep pockets, and you will get many opinions on what you should do.  Those opinions usually vary from belts and hoses, along with a change of fluids, to, getting a full mechanical inspection, and replacing everything that the mechanic suggests.  Some of these suggestions will depend on how handy you are at doing the work yourself, if you’re like me, and don’t have the deep pockets.

It really turns out to be a balancing act.  You try to get, what you feel are, the most important things done, with the financial resources you have available, and that will be different for everyone.  But you have to keep in mind that, just because you got some work done, doesn’t mean that you can sit back and forget about it for a while.  Rust never sleeps, so it’s a good idea to have a routine check on your vehicle at reasonable intervals.

It shouldn’t be something you constantly worry about though.  Life happens, and no matter what we do, challenges will arise, and that includes vehicle break-downs.  We can only make, what we feel is, a reasonable attempt to avoid the inevitable.  However, there are some vehicle systems that deserve more attention than others.  One of those systems is the brakes.  It’s bad enough if you get stuck on the side of the road, with a vehicle that won’t run, but I can guarantee you that it’s even more of a problem if your vehicle won’t stop.

So, to that end, I would say that, if you only have a certain amount of money, it might be a good idea to consider putting it into making sure your braking system is functioning properly, and keeping an eye on this system in particular, to make sure it remains that way.  This is not an area you want to cut corners on.  I had a full brake job done on my truck, even though I probably could have gotten away with a lesser amount of work.  Going is optional, stopping is a necessity.

I’m also going to be upgrading my suspension, because I feel that, with the added weight of the RoadArk on the back, and all the extra weight I’ll have in the truck, it would be a good investment.  I’m installing these suspension enhancements called Timbrens.  I looked at other methods of beefing up the suspension, but these Timbrens seemed,to me, to be the most ideal, and the simplest way to get what I was after.   Most every vehicle will have rubber bumpers attached to the axle or the frame somewhere, so that, if the suspension ‘bottoms out’, it will hit the rubber bumper, and lighten the blow somewhat.  The Timbrens replace those rubber bumpers, and they are higher, so that, once the vehicle is loaded to a certain point, they start to take some of that load from the suspension.  When the vehicle is under no load, there is about a one inch gap between the top of the Timbrens, and the frame.  This allows for the normal operation of the vehicles suspension, so that you don’t get a rough ride when unloaded.  It’s really the best of both worlds when you can have a soft normal ride, when unloaded, and a well supported suspension system, when fully loaded.

Along with that, they are quite simple to install, since there is no drilling or special tools required.  They are made to just bolt in place of the existing rubber bumpers.  The only problem I can see is that taking those old rusty bolts out may be a challenge.  I’ll give them a good douse of oil a few days in advance of the job.

I also decided that I would replace the serpentine drive belt.  This is not a really difficult job, and I can save the old one for backup.  It’s always good to have a few extra parts on hand, just in case.  Most of the fluids in the truck have already been changed fairly recently, so I will just be doing my regular oil change this spring.  I will say here that I only use Mobil 1 fully synthetic oil in my vehicles.  It is more expensive, but I feel that it’s worth it.  You will get better gas mileage with this oil, and the money you save on gas will easily make up for the extra money you pay for the oil.  I noticed a full mile per gallon when I first switched to this oil.  Not only that, you will also extend the life of your engine, so it really is worth it in the long run.

There’s only so much you can do, before it starts to become an obsession.  In the end, you just do what you feel will work for you, and you get on with it.  Having said that, I’m satisfied that what I’ve done is reasonable, and I’ll deal with anything else when it happens.  There is no need to create challenges before they happen.  Life will make sure we get our fair share.

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