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"WHAT EVERY DRIVER SHOULD KNOW!"--Chapter Three: The Daily Check!       DFO851_3       10 July 1979

       1. WHEN YOU GO OUT TO GET IN YOUR CAR, BEFORE YOU EVEN ROLL AWAY, YOU OUGHT TO TAKE A LOOK AT THE TIRES. And while the engine's cold, before you even start it, open the radiator cap & take a look. Make sure it's been standing overnight & has cooled off & hasn't just been driven by somebody else, or you'll go out & take off the radiator cap & steam & boiling hot water will blow up in your face!

       2. YOU THE DRIVER SHOULD CHECK YOUR OWN TIRES, OIL & WATER BEFORE YOU EVER EVEN START CAR. Look at the tires, check the oil & water, make sure it hasn't dripped out or leaked out during the night or a tire's air leaked out during the night. If there's a very small leak in the radiator or the oil pan or the tire or whatever it is, overnight it could leak out quite a bit. So it's good to check even before you start the engine. Check the oil, check the water & look at the tires. If one of 'em looks low, check it. If it is low, then go to the first filling station & inflate it.

       3. WHEN YOUR RADIATOR'S COLD & YOU OPEN THE CAP, IF YOU LOOK IN & YOU CAN'T SEE ANY WATER, or if you stick your finger down as far as you can & you still can't touch water, you need water.

       4. MOST RADIATOR MANUFACTURES RECOMMEND THAT THE WATER SHOULD BE WITHIN ONE OR TWO INCHES OF THE TOP, or the cap, because it has to have a little air room to expand. That water gets almost up to the boiling point & sometimes it does boil & creates steam, & it's gotta have room to expand. You can't fill it completely full.

       5. DON'T UNDERFILL THE RADIATOR & DON'T OVERFILL THE OIL EITHER ONE. Don't over-inflate your tires. If you put too much air in a tire, when it gets hot it'll expand & may blow out. And keep your gas tank full!

       6. MY POLICY WITH GASOLINE IS THAT IT'S NO CHEAPER TO RUN ON AN EMPTY TANK THAN IT IS TO RUN ON A FULL TANK. Keep your tank full. I never let a tank go below half-filled. When it gets down to the half-way mark, full it up again. You never know when the station might be closed or you might have a long drive you didn't expect.

       7. IT ALWAYS USED TO MAKE ME FURIOUS WHEN PEOPLE WOULD BRING THE CAR HOME ALMOST EMPTY. I made Emanuele drive with us all the way to town one time because he brought the car home with the gasoline gauge on empty, just because he didn't want to buy any gas.--The old rascal! He figured that the next time we'd go out we'd buy the gas.

       8. SO I GOT HIM OUT OF BED & MADE HIM DRIVE HIS CAR & FOLLOW US TO TOWN to make sure we didn't run out of gas, just to teach him a lesson! Never let your gasoline gauge go below half full if you can help it. Keep it above half.

       9. WELL, THOSE ARE THE MAIN THINGS EVERY DRIVER SHOULD KNOW: Check your tires, oil & water before you even start the engine when you go out to your car to go someplace in the morning. You say, "But sometimes I'm in a hurry & don't have time!" Well, then you're in too big a hurry. You should have gotten up earlier, started earlier. Never take off with a car without looking at the tires, checking the water & checking the oil to make sure everything's okay, & make sure you've got plenty of gas.

       10. NOW THAT'S WHAT YOU'RE TO CHECK DAILY!--& I mean daily! Don't ever get in your car without looking at the tires, checking the oil & water. "Well, that's a dirty job & I'll have to lift the hood & it's heavy for me. I'm a woman, & I don't like to get my fingers dirty on the dipstick."

       11. YOU HAVE TO PULL THE DIPSTICK OUT & YOU HAVE TO WIPE IT OFF.--If it's been standing overnight you don't have to worry about wiping it off. That's one job you save yourself, because the oil has all drained down into the oil pan. You can pull it out clean & it shows the exact oil level.

       12. OTHERWISE, IF YOU'VE BEEN RUNNING THE CAR & YOU DRIVE INTO THE FILLING STATION, he's gonna pull out the dipstick, wipe it off with a rag, stick it back in again & pull it out again to see the oil level. Whereas if your car's been sitting overnight & it's cold, the oil has all drained off of it & it shows the exact level of the oil without any problem. so it's easier to do it that way.

       13. TO CHECK THE WATER, OPEN THE RADIATOR CAP & STICK YOUR FINGER IN. Yeah, again you get your finger dirty. That's why it's always a good idea to keep some paper towels in the side pocket of the car, or a rag to wipe your hands with, because taking care of a car is a dirty job. You've got to constantly be doing dirty things like that, like wiping off your windshield or your dirty windows.

       14. I CAN'T STAND TO DRIVE AROUND IN A CAR WITH DIRTY WINDOWS! It looks horrible! Even the car can be dirty & look better if you wipe the windows off. The dirt on the windows shows worse than anything else, & you are a dirty housekeeper if you drive a car around with dirty windows.

       15. SO YOU OUGHT TO HAVE A CLEAN RAG HANDY TO WIPE OFF YOUR WINDSHIELD, windows & rear window. It only takes about a minute to do the whole works. (Maria: With a dry rag?) Just a clean rag, something soft that will wipe the dirt & the dust off the windows. So that's another thing you ought to do before you even drive in the car.

       16. WHEN YOU GET IN & START THE CAR, LOOK AT THE GAS GAUGE. Some gas gauges don't work unless you turn on the key. So as soon as you turn on the key & start the engine, look at the gas gauge to see how the gas is. If you need gas or you found out you need oil, water or air, drive into the nearest filling station & get what you need.

       17. (MARIA: CAN YOU PUT YOUR OWN OIL IN?) Well, I used to buy my oil by the 5-quart or even 10-quart can. It was cheaper that way, especially when I was driving junkers that guzzled the oil almost as fast as they did gasoline.

       18. I COULD PUT IN MY OWN OIL. In that case it's good to have a little funnel or a special nozzle that fits right onto the oil can. On almost all cars there is a special cap, almost like a radiator cap, on one of the valve covers on the top of the engine through which you add oil. It's generally clearly labeled "oil."

       19. YOU CAN JUST CARRY A CAN OF OIL IN THE CAR, or in the trunk where it won't turn over & get everything messed up. Keep a lid on it tight. When you want to put oil in your engine, you take out the can & you take off the lid. You either use a funnel that fits into the hole or a filler spout that attaches to your can, & you just tip it over into the hole, and then you take it off & screw your lid back on tight.

       20. REMEMBER, BE SURE NEVER TO OVERFILL YOUR OIL. You're probably safer to measure a quart or a liter into another can first & pour from that, than to pour straight from a 5-quart can!

       21. USUALLY EVERY TIME MOST STATIONS LUBRICATE YOUR CAR THEY WILL CHECK 2 OTHER THINGS, besides greasing & changing the oil. They will check the oil level in your differential. They take out a little plug & stick their finger in there, & if the oil's running out or they can feel it's full, it doesn't need it. They'll charge you for that by the pint or the pound, if they have to add into the differential.

       22. THE DIFFERENTIAL IS THAT BIG BULB IN THE MIDDLE OF YOUR REAR AXLE, if you have that type of solid axle car. In Europe they have a lot of direct front wheel drive where the motor's right over the front wheels, & it's the front wheels pulling instead of the back wheels pushing. Therefore they don't have a long drive shaft back to a differential on the rear axle. In most American cars the back wheels push, in European cars the front wheels pull.

       23. SO IN AMERICAN-STYLE CARS YOU HAVE TO HAVE THE DIFFERENTIAL CHECKED, & THE TRANSMISSION FLUID. On lots of American cars they have a special dip stick that's in another place, usually on the other side of the engine from the oil dipstick, that goes down into the transmission so you can check the level of the transmission fluid.

       24. THE TRANSMISSION IS A GEAR BOX WHERE THE POWER OF THE ENGINE IS TRANSMITTED TO THE WHEELS THROUGH VARIOUS SIZE GEARS. And whether it's automatic transmission or manual gearshift transmission whatever it is, it's gotta be checked because it's gotta have oil & the oil has to be up to a certain level. Usually when they grease your car they check the transmission, differential & brake fluid.

       25. BE SURE TO ALSO CHECK THE LEVEL OF THE BRAKE FLUID. And a lot of the cars now have power steering, so they should check the level of the fluid in the power steering unit too. (Maria: Can you do all those yourself?) You can do all those yourself, although it depends on the car. Some of them you can see easily by sight.

       26. IN MOST CARS THE LITTLE RESERVOIRS THAT HOLD THE BRAKE FLUID ARE UNDER THE HOOD.--Very easy to find 'em. They make them out of plastic now so you can see the level without opening them. That, of course, you should keep an eye on too. Whenever the hood's up, stand around & take a look & see how your brake fluid level is, because if you suddenly spring a leak in the brake fluid system, that fluid can go out fast.

       27. IF YOUR BRAKE PEDAL SUDDENLY STARTS GETTING SPONGEY & all of a sudden it begins to sink slowly to the floor, you have a leak in your brake system. You'd better get it fixed quick, or you'll have an accident like I did!

       28. I WAS BORROWING SOMEBODY ELSE'S CAR & DIDN'T KNOW THEIR BRAKES WERE OUT & I had to pump up the brakes. When you have to pump up the brakes in a hydraulic system, then you have a leak or you need brake fluid. I was driving this V-8 Ford a lady loaned us. When a bus pulled out in front of us I slammed on the brakes, but there were no brakes! So we barrelled right into the side of the bus! One of the few accidents I've ever had was in a borrowed car with no brakes! This landed us both in the hospital, Mother & me.

       29. SO IT PAYS TO CHECK YOUR BRAKE FLUID, & if your brakes start acting funny any way at all--they don't grip tight or the pedal's spongy & starts sinking to the floor or you have to sort of pump'm up--then you're low on brake fluid & something's wrong. You could have a leak in the hydraulic brake system & have to have it fixed.

       30. FREQUENTLY BRAKE PROBLEMS ARE IN THE LITTLE BRAKE CYLINDERS IN ONE OF THE WHEELS. One of the little rubber seals goes bad & it begins leaking. But they can tell it when they take off the wheel. That's another thing, when they take off the wheels to repack the bearings & check the brake linings, also go around & inspect those little brake cylinders. (I don't know about disc brakes.)

       31. THEY'RE A SMALL THING ABOUT THE SIZE OF A FILM CAN with two little plungers at each end that push out the brake shoes against the drum, & if one of them is leaking, then it'll usually show it. It'll be all dirty, it'll be sort of oily & you can see the fluid leaking down, sometimes a drop hanging on the bottom of the cylinder.

       32. SO ANY MECHANIC SHOULD KNOW WHAT TO LOOK FOR WHEN HE TAKES OFF THE WHEELS. He's supposed to check all those things, but it pays for you to know something about it too, & look & see. I always used to watch the mechanics & look over their shoulder & learn & double check. If I saw that one of the brake cylinders in one of the wheels was leaking, why then of course we had to get it replaced. Usually they just replace the rubber seals.

       33. SO THOSE ARE SOME OF THE THINGS YOU NEED TO DO EVERY DAY: Wipe the windows, check the oil & water & gas before you ever start the car. Then if you need any of those things, go to the station.

       34. EVERY TWO OR THERE THOUSAND MILES OR MONTHS, whichever comes first, get it lubricated, which includes checking the transmission fluid as well as greasing, checking the differential if you have one, checking the brake fluid level, power steering level. Some of these cars have windshield wiper washers, & you should occasionally check that water level--of course that's not vital but it's good to have when you need it.

       35. A GOOD MECHANIC OR A GOOD GREASER KNOWS THEY'RE SUPPOSED TO CHECK ALL THOSE THINGS every time you come in for a grease job or lubrication, & they should check 'em. But I've often known 'em to skip 'em or get in a hurry or forget. I'd have to remind them, "Oh, your forgot to check the transmission! Oh, what about the brake fluid? Oh, what about the differential?" Any little thing like that they try to skip over if you don't know what they're doing, because it's a little extra trouble, especially differentials. You gotta have a special wrench to take out the plug to see if it's got enough oil. So most of that they're supposed to do while it's up on the rack.

       36. THE TRANSMISSION FLUID LEVEL IS EASIER TO CHECK when it comes down from the rack. Some cars it's underneath the floorboard. I had one or two cars that you had to take up a special little door in the floorboard to check the transmission. It had a little dipstick right under the floorboard, under the driver's seat. That was a little difficult. Most of them now have the dipstick for the transmission where you can check it in the engine compartment when you lift the hood. That's a different one from the oil, don't forget.--And the transmission fluid should be changed about every 10,000 to 20,000,miles.

       37. THEN ABOUT EVERY TEN TO TWENTY THOUSAND MILES I'D SAY YOU NEED TO HAVE THE WHEELS PULLED, bearings repacked, brakes checked, relined if needed, & the brake cylinders checked to make sure they're not leaking. If they're leaking, replace them, or replace the brake cylinder seals.

       38. SOME PEOPLE RECOMMEND CHANGING THE TRANSMISSION FLUID EVERY 10,000 MILES. It depends on the car & the manufacturer's instructions. They will drain the transmission & then will refill it. And it really takes a lot of transmission fluid, usually 8-10 quarts of transmission fluid, especially automatic transmissions. But if it looks like it's getting pretty dirty, then it's time to have it changed. Usually about every 10-20,000 miles you drain the transmission & put in new fluid.

       39. IF YOU FIND OUT YOUR TRANSMISSION IS RAPIDLY LOSING FLUID & every time you check it it's low again, then you've got a leak somewhere, & you need to have the bolts in the pan of the transmission checked to make sure it's not leaking down below. Have them tightened. I've found loose bolts around the pan of the transmission.

       40. IF YOU'RE LOSING OIL & FREQUENTLY HAVE TO ADD OIL it could be several different things. It could be just the engine's wearing out & you're losing oil through the motor, right through the cylinders, pumping out of the cylinders.--You're burning oil!

       41. WITH A NEW CAR OR IN GOOD CONDITION, YOU SHOULDN'T HAVE TO ADD MUCH OIL AT ALL between changes. On a new car your cylinders & your rings & pistons & everything are in such good shape that they hardly use any oil at all.

       42. BUT AS A CAR GETS OLD THE CYLINDERS GET WORN & the rings are worn & the pistons are worn & it begins to burn oil. It leaks right through into the cylinders, & burns oil at the same time as burning gasoline, & you'll notice that the exhaust begins to get black & smokey.

       43. I'VE SEEN SOME OLD CLUNKERS GO DOWN THE ROAD POURING OUT SMOKE! They were burning almost as much oil as they were gasoline! In which case, you've either got to buy a lot of cheap oil & keep putting it in, or you've got to afford a complete engine overhaul or a new engine.

Copyright (c) 1998 by The Family