Now that I’m just a bike ride away from work, I no longer depend on Studie for daily driving obligations. The transition from a 25-mile to a 2-mile commute has been a very welcome one, but at the same time it doesn’t come without certain sadness. I loved being woken up by her rumble on the drive to work and welcomed into home for my long journey back each day. I liked seeing her smiling at me from the parking structure at work. What I didn’t like were the pricey gasoline bills, daily time wasted, and inability to pay heed to nagging issues getting worse over time.
It’s been a year now since I compression tested Studie’s 383 Chevy engine, and it was no bueno. Cylinders 1 and 2 were way below what they should be (I think the intake gasket may be the culprit). She gets overheated very quickly in traffic – making getting any sort of distance in Los Angeles a harrowing outing. Although I now have the freedom to put her in the garage and do my first real engine-work on her – money, other projects, being a newlywed, and increased responsibilities at work have all kept her in a less-than-ideal state. (Did I also mention that my writing duties at work have also kept me from posting as much as I’d like here at GreaseGirl? Again, a welcome change of a career writing within the automotive realm…but an unwelcome one of not having the steam to come home and write for myself!)
Hopefully it won’t be much longer before Studie gets some good garage- lovin’ – but in the meantime, I recently pulled her in for some basic maintenance I’d been putting off. While maintenance is usually a “have-to” sort of thing, I was surprised by the enjoyable evening I had climbing under and around her.
First order of business was giving the upper control arms a good tightening. I’d discovered one of the bolts to be very “hand-loose” recently and wanted to thoroughly check the front suspension. The only clue I had to the loose suspension component was a slight catching feeling when making a tight right-hand turn. I first thought the extremely loose bolt meant that my front suspension could have fallen apart – but my mechanic husband assured me it wasn’t that dangerous, there are a number of things holding the suspension together…but no doubt, something important to fix and routinely check.
Speaking of things that should be done routinely, my friend Lori lubes all of her car’s zerk fittings each time she does an oil change. I hate to admit it…but I’ve *never* done this on my car (and I have the gall to call myself GreaseGirl!) It’s one of those things that every time I said to myself “I’m sure it’s fine”….but months turn into years and the last time these parts were greased would have been a few years ago, when I helped to rebuild my front suspension.
So I carefully poked around under Studie until I found each and every one of her zerk fittings and used a grease gun to get important lube into Studie’s “joints”. (If you don’t know what a zerk fitting is, one is pictured below. They’re also known as grease fittings and are essentially a small nipple valve that allows you to squeeze grease into it under pressure, and then is sealed.) Be sure to clean off the fittings before squeezing grease into them – this ensures you’re not putting crud internally and also enables you to see that the grease is actually going into the fitting. Of course, while I was greasing the near-dozen zerk fittings I was also letting the oil drain for her oil change.
Next, it had been too long since I’d checked the brakes and could feel she need a brake adjustment. Taking off the tires enabled me to get at the drums – and just as suspected, she doesn’t just need adjusting, she needs new brake pads – so that will be added to her near-future garage time as well.
But in the mean-time, a little adjusting was in order. Ethan showed me a good mechanic’s trick to secure the drum: using a couple of closed-ended wrenches (or any similar item such as washers or a spare bushing) as shims, fit over the lug bolts and secure them with your wheel’s lug nuts (spread them out rather than putting them on adjacent bolts, you want to evenly spread out the pressure). Now you’ve got an open wheel well to work in, and also an evenly-tightened drum!
Brake adjustment was a bit of a hassle, as it always is for me – more practice will continue to make this job easier. If you’ve never done brake work on your car, I highly suggest shadowing an experienced mechanic your first time through – and then having someone watch you the second time…these aren’t things you want done incorrectly!
When everything was buttoned up, it was time to put the wheels back on. I’d always been a casual tire-putter-back-on-er, using a lug wrench and putting my weight into tightening each lug nut. Ethan says that’s unsafe though, so Mr. Husband has convinced me yet again to work safer and smarter Besides I have a fantastic Gearwrench electronic torque wrench in my garage!
Super easy to use, and extremely accurate, you electronically set how many foot-lbs of torque needed. Applying smootly-applied pressure to tighten with, you’ll get a read out of how many ft-lbs of pressure you’re currently at and then a red light with beep will let you know once your target-torque is reached. Tires should always be tightened with a torque wrench, to insure safety as well as avoiding under- or over-tightening.
One more tip for those of you who might be beginning their wrenching journeys – if you find the weight of a tire is a challenge (or just to help keep your back protected) – use your legs instead of your upper-body to lift a tire back on your car. Sit on the ground and use your legs/feet to help get the tire re-positioned and lifted into place…although you should probably be wearing more protective shoes than my moccasins while you’re doing this!
After completing these few simple tasks, I felt like a much more responsible classic car owner and I know Studie benefited by this maintenance lovin’. Regularly scheduling some time to complete these more mundane tasks is an important part of owning any car – but particularly an old one. As much as I love working on my car, it’s the bigger and more exciting projects that have me rushing to do them. This evening of lovin’ on Studie helped remind me that routine car maintenance is a good opportunity for a relaxing few hours in the garage!
Car maintenance is the perfect chance for people who have an interest in working on cars to get started in turning a wrench… so whether you have your dream classic or just a daily beater, schedule a little garage time and get to work!