Family and I went camping Joshua Tree this weekend. Took our trusty Toyota Tacoma 4-Door/Crew-cab. Cooked marshmallows, made s’mores, pitched a tent, and hung out around the camp fire. Also did some photography, hiked a few places, and thought to myself most, if not all of my customers, we provide this level of freedom. And since road trip season is upon us, here’s a few tips to go more confidently.
- Check your battery. Has the battery/starter sounded weak recently? Is the battery older than 3 years? Modern vehicles require some electricity to keep the computers alive.
- Pull every dipstick available. If your engine oil is dark brown and/or black, or low time to have it changed. If your transmission oil is not bright red or golden brown/green for CVT transmissions, have it serviced.
- Crack open that radiator cap, but please do it when the car is absolutely cold. Water/Coolant look murky? For Toyota it should be pink, Honda should be blue, and Nissan should be regular/generic green coolant, unless your vehicle has had a full coolant exchange (AKA flush, laymen’s term) and had it replaced with generic green. Even if it’s bright green, red, or blue, if it’s been more than 2 years, it might be acidic. Many shops (including ours) have coolant PH strips to see if PH, Alkaline, and contamination levels.
- Check the rubber components. Belts and hoses have a pretty good shelf life if they aren’t exposed to 212 degree under-hood temperatures. Hoses if squeezed by hand should not sound crackly. If old they will also look bloated or ballooned near the hose clamps. Belts typically have a dark matte black finish to them (think about how new tires look) as they age some do so by looking glossy black, a phenomenon known as glazed. Another way they go bad is by cracking on the inside. Take a typical belt part number such as 6PK2160, 6PK means the belt has 6 ribs (2160 denotes the length BTW.), make sure those ribs look smooth. Tires should have plenty of tread. Use the old penny test where you dip Abe Lincoln’s head in between the tread. If you see a portion of the 16th president’s head covered then it means you have more than 2/32 tread left and typically you’re OK. Other problems in Tires stem from tires being too old and petrified; as tires age they do not retain the flexibility they used to, often the symptom is cracks in the rubber. Yet another problem is a bubble in the sidewall or tread separation, often felt by driver as a severely unbalanced tire evidenced by shaking or vibration of the vehicle. If this is happening replace the tire. Also remember to check the tire pressure. Recommended pressure is typically on a sticker on the door sill on driver’s door.
- Brake fluid is a hygroscopic fluid meaning that it absorbs moisture. As it ages and takes on moisture it’ll turn brown and potentially rust your brake hydraulic components from inside out. The beauty of living in So Cal is low humidity, so we see less of a need for brake fluid exchanges, but we have a test strip to check that too.