Shop Talk – December 2014

By Ray Miles
Valley Bugler Columnist

We recently had an older Honda brought in that the customer wanted us to check out for a pre-purchase inspection. Don’t think I’ve ever had an easier inspection. The owner had kept every repair and maintenance bill on the car since it was bought. I spent maybe 20 minutes looking thru the various receipts and knew this was going to be an easy one.
Popped the hood and visually inspected the fluids, which verified what the previous paper work indicated and a quick road test to check for drivability and noise issues and the only thing left was raise it on a lift to look underneath and check brakes and suspension items.
From a mechanics point of view, these are the cream puffs. It doesn’t take a large effort on the owner’s part to retain these records, but when it comes time to sell, it can add hundreds, even thousands of dollars to the selling price because of this small effort.
As I’ve said many times in the past, an automobile should be considered an investment, not an expense. The way to ensure this is to perform all required maintenance as listed in the vehicle owner’s manual and the advice of your trusted mechanic, as not all drivers treat their vehicles the same. By this, I mean that different driving habits, distances traveled and weather conditions, to name a few, all contribute to the types and frequencies of service required over the life of the vehicle.
Some examples we are all familiar with, such as LOFs and air filter changes are routinely done, but other types of maintenance is often overlooked.
These can include transmission and final drive fluid service, brake fluid flushing, and coolant replacement. In the case of transmission fluid, it is imperative that dirty and overheated fluid be flushed when needed. This is often times much more often that recommended by the manufacturer as their schedule is based on “regular or average” driving.
Pulling trailers and extended mountain driving can create tremendous heat in the fluid which breaks down the lubricity very quickly and can lead to an expensive overhaul. Brake fluid is agroscopic, meaning it has an affinity for water and absorbs it readily. The reason for this is that water freezes which could cause a loss of brakes in colder weather.
By absorbing the water into the fluid, it won’t freeze, but it will cause corrosion to brake parts such as calipers and wheel cylinders, so it is imperative to flush these compromised fluids when needed.
This becomes especially true now that almost all cars and trucks have anti-lock features, which can dramatically raise the cost of repair if these components become contaminated.
Coolant replacement is another item to be on top of particularly now that manufacturers have almost all gone to extended life fluids. Yes, they can be left in more than a year or two, but when these fluids degrade, they seem to do it with a vengeance.
We have found that replacement on a two year schedule is still the best policy though with the proper testing, a shop can determine if the coolant will last longer. I tend to err on the safe side as opposed to the alternative.
All of this maintenance talk might scare you into thinking how much this is going to cost, but over the life of the vehicle, doing maintenance when it is needed is always much less costly than letting items go and having to perform overhauls.
As I’ve stated many times before, it just kills me to see people discard what could have been a very valuable car or truck because the cost to repair a major item is more that the vehicle is now worth. And it could have been so easily prevented, but for a little maintenance. Happy Motoring, Ray

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