MAINTAINING A SECOND HAND CAR
Once a keen motoring man has bought a second-hand car, it takes all his wife's efforts and most of his friends to get him away from it. The beauty of the old car is that there's always something interesting and fascinating to do with it, and most of the things can be done by the owner himself, so long as he knows which way to turn a nut or a screw.
But there are some repair and maintenance jobs which the home mechanic cannot touch, because they need equipment outside his range of wrenches and screwdrivers. When it comes to fitting new bearings the fitter needs more than a good eye and a set of shifting-spanners, and the tough job attempted at home usually ends up with expensive noises under the bonnet and a visit to the garage anyway.
So let's start with the maintenance that can be done by anyone, then move on to the simpler of the bigger jobs, and end with those that can be attempted by the amateur mechanic with a good deal of experience and a well-equipped workshop.
First there are the every-day and weekly checks. Petrol should be checked in the tank, or the tank run dry, to find out whether the petrol-gauge is accurate (but don't run the engine quite dry—switch off before it stops, to leave sufficient in the carburettor and pump for re-starting). After this check it should be enough to look at the gauge every day. Surprising how many cars are towed off the Sydney bridge every week, at a fiver a time, just because they have run out of petrol.
The water level should be checked daily, and also the oil level on the dipstick. And while driving the wise man will glance now and again at his oil gauge, to make sure that there is at least 10lb pressure when hot. Any less, and the motor needs an overhaul, or there is a leak somewhere. If there is a sudden drop to zero, stop the car at once and find out the cause—usually shortage of oil or a leaking or broken pipe. And the final daily check should be a quick look round the tyres; your eye will tell you whether one seriously needs attention.
Now for the weekly check. Most wives believe that their husbands disappear under the car on Saturday mornings to escape worse tasks, but the truth is that half an hour spent on checking can often save many pounds in the garage.
If the owner wants to do his own greasing, the weekly check is the time to give all the grease nipples a shot from the gun. Enough grease should be pushed through to bring out the old grease and the dirt and water that may have accumulated. Greasing need not be done every week, but it is best not to let more than 500 miles go by without greasing an old car. Grease is cheap, new bearings are not.
The points which should be greased every 500 miles are all the suspension nipples, those on steering and universal joints, and at the same time the oil level in the gearbox and differential should be checked by unscrewing the plugs in them and making sure that the oil is almost level with the hole.
At the same time places like accelerator and choke joints, brake linkages if the car has mechanical brakes, and door locks should be given a trace of light oil and the level of water in the battery checked. All tyres should be checked for pressure, and looked at closely for cracks, rough stones in the treads, or nails which may not have worked through.
Finally the owner who is prepared to do all this every week will want his car to look good too. If the paint is in good condition, use of a silicome polish every few months will bring up the paint with no more than a wash each week. And don't forget to brush out the inside. A regular weekly brush saves the mats, keeps the car looking better, and prevents the mats being worn to shreds by gravel brought in on dirty boots.
Every thousand miles the oil in the sump should be changed and every 5000 miles a major check must be carried out, a check we'll leave until the next article.
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