I make no bones about it: I am, at best, a novice wrench, a shadetree mechanic. I know what I’m doing, but I’m not a professional. I wrench because in order to spend the time behind the wheel like I want, I have to pay the piper at some point, and paying some other piper to fix what I broke gets pretty damn expensive. I’ve learned how to diagnose issues with the cars I drive. I go out of my way to listen for new or different sounds, to properly feel how the car’s suspension is working, and have calibrated my butt dyno to detect if the engine isn’t running to it’s full potential. I also spend time looking over a car, checking fluids, tires, lights and other areas that need attention. It’s something I picked up in the military…there, PMCS (Preventative Maintenance Checks and Services) are the rule of the day, with the idea being that you find problems before they become a problem. Sometimes this works, sometimes it doesn’t. But here’s a couple of examples as to why you should learn these traits, too.
First up was the Chrysler 300C we know around here as Angry Grandpa. For my birthday a while back, my wife paid the fee to get me on the track, and a combination of luck and lukewarm response from other gearheads gave me a wide-open playground at the National Corvette Museum’s Motorsports Park…and I took full advantage of it. Not only did I take a few hundred miles off of the life of the tires, but I certainly took out some components in the front end, as well. That’s not because I went too hard or went off of the pavement…2005-2008 Chrysler LX cars are notorious for eating tension struts and outer tie rod ends. Before we took the Chrysler to Wilmington last year, we bit the bullet and installed SRT-8 tension struts and the tie rods had been freshened in the spring of 2014. But there was no doubt that something had called it quits after playing all day, so up on a rack it went. By some miracle, the tension strut’s large bushings were still in one piece, but as for the tie rods…well…
Truth be told, they were functioning just fine, but the rubber boot covering the joint on both ends was beyond destroyed. Since the car was slated to make a 400-mile road trip in a couple of days, these were changed out. They might have worked, but I’d rather not have an issue when I’m a state away from my house, and I’ve had enough fun with failing steering components for one lifetime. They were cheap, didn’t take long to swap out, and it adds to peace of mind. As far as that “looseness” I had picked up? That was due to the front tires managing to pick up 10 psi worth of pressure compared to the rears…blame the heat. Purging out some air brought the feel back to normal.
Now, let’s focus on a car that only appears sporadically here on BangShift: my wife’s 1980 Ford Mustang. There isn’t much special with this car, but a two-year hibernation and two rear-axle swaps haven’t done this four-eyed Fox any favors. This car is a case-study on maintenance…brakes, engine tune, even simple things such as functioning idiot lights have been addressed. But after putting the original rear axle back into the car, I had felt like something…I don’t know, like something just didn’t feel right. My wife picked up on it, too. But it wasn’t until earlier tonight that I’ve been able to get a good look underneath the Mustang to see what’s really going on…and the answer is not what I wanted to see. As I moved the car around the yard I heard this strange rattle noise coming from the back. Once parked with the emergency brake set, I walked back to the rear of the car and started shoving the tail side to side and sure enough, the rattling was coming from the rear axle. I crawled onto the ground and moved the car some more, and about choked when I saw the bolts in the upper control arm move. That is NOT supposed to happen. As soon as I have the time, the Mustang will be going up in the air and I will be underneath, trying to figure out why the control arm bolts backed off. I’m just glad I discovered this in my front yard and not while out on the road somewhere.
In short, CHECK YOUR RIDES. A little time spent goes a long way towards keeping everyone happy and your wallet out of danger.